The New New Chinatowns

For years I’ve been hearing folks talk about gentrifying Chinatowns. This is a real concern in Chinatowns like Oakland’s, where an underutilized BART station (Lake Merritt) is going through a community planning process that can potentially lead to some pretty high buildings, higher population and higher rents and Chinese folks hightailing out.

Oak-rand

Oak-rand

Now, I could spend this whole blog post writing about how to protect Chinatowns, but to be honest, what does that mean? Part of it means keeping rents low (rental protections), keeping Chinatowns for Chinese folks (street signs in Chinese) and making sure the local amenities appeal to Asian folks and not Audi-driving yuppie parents. But what happens when a business closes (Chinatown knickknacks, boba tea cafes, Chinese breakfast restaurants). What do you replace it with? Another Chinatown staple? A Starbucks with Chinese signage? Should we maintain the look, feel and economic pulse of Chinatowns? What if a family business that’s been running for 40 years suddenly closes and sells to 3rd generation Asian Americans? What if a business gets passed on, within the family, to a 2nd generation Chinese kid? What if a Korean American kid takes over a family Chinese restaurant and turns it in a fusion Chinese spot that’s voted one of the top ten new restaurants in the country like Mission Chinese in San Francisco? What if MC opened up in the heart of Chinatown SF? What would the local CBOs and Chinese Chamber say? So that’s the dilemma I’m proposing to you. What does it mean to be Chinatown: Geography? Tenure? The things you sell? And how Chinese do you have to be to be Chinatown: Full Chinese? Chinese American? ABC? Asian? Asian American? Vietnamese/Filipino/Korean American? 2nd/3rd/4th generation? Angel/Ellis Island Asian?

I don’t know the answer to all of this, but I do know that folks like me who hang out in Chinatowns like second homes need to be thinking about this shit cause our generation and younger need a PLAN. To start, I’d like to provide you a few examples of what Chinatowns might look like a few years from now, businesses I’m calling Chinatown 2.0 cause these aren’t your typical paper money shops. These are hybrid old school/new school uses, Asian American type businesses, or just hip (probably gentrifying) uses that we need to pay attention to before Chinatowns become ethnic Disneylands crossed with Portlandia: food trucks, secret dive bars, and two girls/two shirt stores everywhere. I’ll be including a gentrification meter rating between 1-10 that’ll predict how this business will affect the pushing out of Chinese folks from the premises (1 being 中文地狱 and 10 being American Apparel next door to a Anthropologie).

Li Po Lounge, San Francisco California. Made famous by the latest Anthony Bourdain Layover SF episode and Sweater Funk (a sweaty/grimy soul party every Sunday night). How legit is this place? Old school chinese bar up top with Tsing Tao bottles and the soul party downstairs. Gentrification Meter: 4 before Bourdain, 5 post-Bourdain. Its grimey and the hipsters are hidden downstairs.

San Francisco's Li Po Lounge

San Francisco's Li Po Lounge

Fortune Sound Club, Vancouver, British Columbia. I don’t know much about Van City other than I like everything about it. I especially know nothing about the City’s Chinatown if only cause I learned early on you gotta go south to Richmond to get a taste of real Chinese food. So I don’t know why there’s still a Chinatown in the City and who actually lives there. But that didn’t stop me from including the only real CLUB I’ve ever been to in a Chinatown (sorry Grand Star, which comes up next). Gentrification Meter: 6? On one hand, you got Saul Williams coming up in March at Fortune, but on the other hand, are there Chinese folks that actually live here? Any Vancouverites wanna fill me in?

Can you spot an Chinese folks in this crowd? Oh there's one! Two, three.... Three...

Grand Star Jazz Club, Los Angeles, California. So hip, Blacklava sells a shirt for this spot. New York tribute night be damned, this spot is so cool and confusing. On one hand, you have Britney making cameo appearances and on the other hand, step one foot outside and you’re a drunk walk away from a big bowl of steaming jook. Gentrify Meter: 7. Did I mention Britney Spears in the same sentence as jook in the previous sentence???

Still see a lot of Asian American folks here no matter what party is going on.

So what can you do? If you’re Chinese, open up a new business in Ctown, USA. Just be culturally sensitive and if you’re gonna sell food, it damn well better be good. And please, no more vinyl toy shops. The ones in San Jose JTown and Chinatown LA haven’t been customer magnets unless you want 12-yr old kids loitering and playing street fighter on your in-house Super Nintendo. I really wish I could have showed you some viable Chinatown retail businesses that fit this Chinatown 2.0 category, but I really don’t know any. Please send them our way if you do know!

BcB Caption Contest

I always thought Caption Contests were lame, if only because I was never able to come up with a non-offensive witty caption that could get published. But when I ran across this picture (don’t ask me what I was trying to Google Image when this popped up), I knew we had to start this on BcB.

So here are the rules: There are no rules. Wait, actually, don’t put up anything offensive (that’s OUR job). And winner gets a Jeremy Lin Sports Illustrated. Saves you $4.99 and a trip to the dime store. LET THE CAPTIONS BEGIN! Wait, did I say no puns in the rules? I didn’t? I’ll expect pLINty of puns then…

Want to submit random pics that pop up in your own Googly searches for captioning by the BCB masses? Send to: bicoastalbitchin(at)yahoo(dot)com.

Ben Henderson New UFC Lightweight Champ

via UFC.com

Even if you don’t particularly care for fighting or start squealing at the sight of blood, who doesn’t appreciate a couple of ripped tough guys flexin and wrasslin around and kicking at each other! Hence the beauty and widespread appeal of MMA. One of my favorite fighters to watch is Washington state’s own Benson “Smooth” Henderson, who is as fooyynne as he is talented in combat.

Challenging lightweight champion Frankie Edgar for the title on Saturday, the two battled it out for all five rounds, with Ben inflicting plenty of damage while his own mug stayed so fresh and so clean.

Photo by Al Bello UFC/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

After five rounds, Ben Henderson was declared the new UFC lightweight champion of the world by unanimous decision. Then he went to go hug his mom, Song — as I squeee’d and submitted my application for president of the Benson Henderson Fan Club, South King County Chapter.

photo by Tracy Lee for Yahoo! Sports

Congrats Ben! Check out some more info and highlights on Ben Henderson here.

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Children with Swag aka The Cool Kids

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I never really saw the point of dressing childrens in designer duds or name brands. Baby Gap and Rocawear Kids seemed like a waste of money to me. Kids don’t know any better, dress ’em in a burlap sack! More money for Costco and community college, and they will thank you for it.  At least wait until the pre-teen years, when they actually start caring (or getting teased) about what they wear.

Shoot, I wore my cousins’ hand-me-downs from Hong Kong till I was damn near into middle school. Sure, they were boy cousins, but I was the only chick rocking Transformers velcro shoes and brown cords and pilly chinglish dinosaur sweaters. BOSS. And if half a school year typically passed before teachers realized I was actually a girlchild, I think it only made me stronger and not sour or weird or anything like that ok. OK? AT. ALL.

Uh, anyway, the Tumblr site Children With Swag may just change my mind about all that. I guess I didn’t realize how screamingly magical everything — bowties and ’90s pop culture references especially — becomes on a tiny, squat body.

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Plus the Asian kids are KILLIN’ it — throughout and thoroughly:

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Including BCB buddy A Rex’s nephew Goni:

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This makes me think the nerdy Asian kid stereotype will be extinct in about 10 years. Swag is the new nerd.

Thanks Erica and Alex!

Race and Jeremy Lin: A Compilation of the Best Articles This Month

There are a lot of Jeremy Lin articles out there. And by a lot, I mean A LOT. I was going to write about how we’ve followed his game from the Harvard v Santa Clara U match up with his parents all wearing We Believe shirts sitting in front row and the whole arena (which seats 2 people) chanting “Over-rated” to the time we saw his first play in a Warriors uniform (2 steals!). But instead, I decided to take all the articles I found the most relevant and interesting and wrap them up Christmas Eve-style for your viewing pleasure. I especially liked the ones sent to me by my friends who do not follow sports. So a few of these go deep into racial theory, which is still very new to me. So read these, and skip all the superfluousness ones about “Chink in the Armor” and enjoy. And if you need a quick primer to the Jeremy Lin Show (or basketball in general), check out this Linfographic and I promise you that will be the one and only Lin Pun I use:

Linfographic: Jeremy Lin’s journey, illustrated

Linsanity: There Goes the Neighborhood by Rembert Browne of Grantland

Asian Men Can Jump by Gish Jen of The New York Times

Will Lin-sanity tame Tiger Moms? by Jeff Yang of The New York Daily News

‘We Don’t Have Anything to Call Our Own Yet’: Jeremy Lin and Narratives of Achievement Among People of Color by Ryan Davis, Negro Sunshine (People of Color Organize)

Why Jeremy Lin Matters: Asian Male Image in the Media by Ky Phong Paul Tran of New America Media

But easily my favorite is the SNL opening last week that pointed out the double standard that the media has enjoyed when it comes to being political correct for African American athletes while totally disregarding Asian American ones. GO SNL: Saturday Night Live.

Friday Fuckery: Obama Booty Grab

While on a West coast fundraising tour, President Obama swung by unannounced to the Great Eastern Restaurant yesterday in San Francisco’s Chinatown to nab some takeout.

What ensued was a gaggle of ecstatic customers, a lot of handshaking, and a few old Chinese ladies partaking in a fistful of Presidential rumpus:

The expressions of the guy in the tan shirt and the Secret Service agent are the next best things about this photo.

Susan Walsh, Associated Press

That’s right, Chinese matrons appreciate a good ol’ rear squeeze as much as the next law-abiding, Buddha-revering civilian. But they have the cahones to do it brazenly in front of Secret Service, the American press, and their grandkids. And repeatedly:

Nothing woos a Prez like a flossin' COOGI sweater

Saul Loeb, AFP/Getty Images

Some onlookers will claim that such sweet seniors are virtuously bereft of all bawdy intent (or just short), but I say: THEY KNOW WHAT’S UP. If anyone is hip to using physical and social stature to honey badger through life — whither cutting in line at the bakery, running you over with a laundry cart, or taking the liberty to cop a patriotic feel, it’s your gangsta ass Ee Ma and Pau Pau. You know they’re gonna be bragging about their Mack Meemaw skills at the mah-jong table til next Lunar New Year.

Get some, golden gurls! I can’t wait til I’m an old Chinese lady and I can just grope with abandon, up to the very highest echelons of the American political system. Thus is the beauty and true meaning of democracy.

Cheers to Obama and the Granny Grab!

Thanks Sherilyn! – This seriously made my year.

source (and more heartwarming pics!): San Francisco Chronicle

ThrilLIN’: My First Knicks Game

It’s hard to believe that during the 5 years I lived in NY, I never saw the Knicks (not really, I’m the worst person to take to a sports performance. Er, sports show? Game, I mean sports game). But I finally had a big reason to go yesterday, and I’ll tell you what…all this hullaballoo about Jeremy Lin is called LINSANITY for a reason. And it wasn’t just Asians or my shameless butt going Linsane at Madison Square Garden last night.

Spot the CREED sign.

For real y’all, MSG was packed. The crowd was waving giant Jeremy heads, chanting “We Want Jeremy!”, rocking the 17 Jersey, and screaming “MVP!” in the streets. The knockoff Lin shirts being sold out of a duffel bag on 7th Ave were fought over like Tickle Me Elmos on Christmas Eve. A guy on the 6 train gushed that he had touched Jeremy…and I slooowlllly reached my fingertips out to his, E.T. style, as his girlfriend cut her eyes at me.

One of my favorite side effects of LINSANITY is the bumper crop of clever puns, written on countless homemade signs and displayed on the JumboTron. Some of my favorites:

“Every Day I’m HustleLin”

“Lin Yo Face”

“Lin be IlLin”

“Lin ‘Sync”

“Lincredible”

“To Linfinity and Beyond!”

“Lin-ternational Sensei-tion” (RACIST)

Although I was in section Pluto, row No Hopes of Ever Catching a Freebie From the T-shirt Cannon —  with the wizardry of an iPhone camera coupled with a pair of binoculars, I was able to capture the following JLin action shots:

YOU’RE WELCOME! I know it’s just basketball, but for me and many others, it feels like so much more. I can’t think of another time folks were so kray and ecstatic over an Asian American, and to see Lin’s face on display and hear his name shouted by thousands felt extraordinary (if overdue) on a visceral level. It felt like history was being made.

Thanks Vu for the last sign!