We love going downtown. Down where the streets are no longer laid out in straight lines, numbered, and are orderly, but instead, they bend and wind, and have names instead of numbers. This part of the city layout dates back to the early days of Manhattan’s development. It is so easy to get lost and turned around here. We are talking about SoHo, TriBeCa, Little Italy, and…..
By far, the most colorful, intriguing, and festive of the city’s areas, Chinatown! The sidewalks are packed with people scurrying about in all directions. Small shops, packed floor to ceiling with touristy souvenirs, line the streets with brightly colored awnings covering the doorways. Huge neon signs in Mandarin hang from the buildings. I was wishing that Xiaying was with us to read them.
This scene goes on for blocks and blocks. The buildings are old with an immigrant tenement look and feel. There are alleys in some of the blocks that have a seductively foreboding appeal. Maybe a place where Humphrey Bogart would meet with a nefarious gangster in a 1940’s movie.
As we wander back toward the ACE subway line, we come through Columbus Park. The character of the area doesn’t lessen. The park is full of benches and tables where crowds of Asian Americans are gathered around game boards of Mahjong and other table games. Men are gathered at their tables, women are at theirs, a separate table. Players are intently concentrating on the next move while the observers cheer or moan each move.
On a grass field, young boys are locked in a full blown soccer match while an older gentleman is practicing Tai Chi adjacent to the field. Off in the distance a group of elderly musicians are playing Asian music on native instruments.
Chinatown is wonderful. The entire area drips in a mystic charm