Kickstart the Eastern Addition!

The masterminds behind Poleng Lounge, The Summit SF, SOM, and the WoW Truck bring you a pop-up series that will feature unheralded chefs cooking some amazing Asian dishes in the Western Addition at Vinyl Cafe. That was a long-winded way to just say check out the Eastern Addition, if only for the witty name (get it? Eastern tastes in the Western Addition?).

Kickstart the campaign here: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/easternaddition/the-eastern-addition

Grace Lee Boggs Double Header in the Bay Area

Can’t make today’s Grace Lee Boggs event in Berkeley that we posted a few days ago? Well then, lucky you, cause the Chinese Progressive Association is holding another GLB event on Saturday, March 3rd:

March 3, 2012 | Building the Next American Revolution: A Celebration and Tribute to Grace Lee Boggs

Building the Next American Revolution: A Celebration and Tribute to Grace Lee Boggs
Saturday, March 3rd, 2012
1:00 PM to 4:00 PM
Chinese Culture Center
750 Kearny Street, 3rd Floor (in the Hilton Hotel)
San Francisco, CA 94108

Ticket price:  $5-$20 sliding scale. Purchase tickets in advance online.

As CPA celebrates our 40th anniversary this year, we are excited to begin 2012 by honoring the legacy of an Asian American movement shero, Grace Lee Boggs. We will co-host a very special event, “Building the Next American Revolution: A Celebration and Tribute to Grace Lee Boggs,” which will take place on Saturday, March 3rd, 2012 at the Chinese Culture Center in San Francisco Chinatown from 1-4 pmwith a reception and book signing.

This event will feature Grace Lee Boggs, who will reflect on Asian American activism and our movement during the current political times and key issues affecting the world today.

Born in 1915 to Chinese immigrants, Grace is a long-time activist and writer who has committed over 70 years of her life to building a movement for social change. She is a legendary figure in the civil rights and Black power movement. Now 96, she continues to devote her life to developing new young leaders and a vision for the 21st century.

The program will also include cultural performances, long-time friend and actor Danny Glover and Scott Kurashige, Professor of American culture and history and co-author of her book, “the Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the Twenty-First Century.

Learn more about Grace’s work at: http://graceleeboggs.com/

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!

Best Asian Themed Halloween Costume of 2011

Goes to Desi of San Francisco. The man was a Filipino Presidential Portrait for godsakes. How can you beat that?

Second place goes to Canadian MGMT. For more Desi, please head over to The Summit SF for coffee, tea, art and wifi.

Street Eats Benefit for OneVietNam

What can be more street than eating dinner created by all the best chefs in SF at the Ferry Building for a benefit to raise moola for OneVietNam? I guess this isn’t the best example of being street, but they’ll be slanging street food for this benefit and what better restaurant/chef can do that than Charles Phan from the Slanted Door? Peep this link to see the list of restaurants (of which, Dosa, Hapa Ramen and Nom Nom are BcB approved) and to cop tickets!

The Left Coast Parties Right

This Sunday join AzN, King Most, Props Radio and Brooklyn Circus for a party… on a boat. That’s right. On a boat. Also enjoy food by The Attic Restaurant and maybe you’ll get a free issue of Wax Poetics from the sponsors. Or if you don’t have your sea legs ready to sail, come out to the afterparty: sfnyconnect.com.


My Like/Indifferent Relationship with the City of Oakland

The following is a tirade by AzN and does not reflect the overall feelings of all BcB writers. Past and present.

Let me start by saying, I really like working in Oakland. I enjoy the warm, sunny side of the Bay, Monday-Friday. 9AM-6PM. Sometimes 9-10PM. But I gotta say, I’m not a fan of much else. I realized that this weekend when I was at the Apple Store in southside San Jose. Right before walking over to another part of a mall to watch a movie in the theater. My realization: Oakland is just so damn difficult. Everything is difficult. Its not easy to live in Oakland. You gotta LOVE Oakland to live in Oakland. Props to folks that live in Oakland, cause they really are down. Great to be you, I’m so proud. But for me, it would be hard.

Why? Oakland has the worst attributes of a suburban city and ALSO all the side effects of an urban city.

Suburban problems: suburban tract homes, dependency on cars, poor public transit, disconnected neighborhoods with separated land uses, long commutes to work (cause you probably don’t work in Oakland), fast food stores everywhere, things to do in general, and highways/highways/highways.

Urban problems: access to conveniently located stores (1/3 a TARGET doesn’t count), parking, traffic, crowded/ill-timed buses, crime or perception of crime, Race Wars!, rioting, downtown Oakland after 11PM, active parks, and Piedmont (need I say more?).

You wanna go shopping? Oaklanders drive to Emeryville. Wanna go see a movie? That’s in Alameda. Wanna work? Take the ferry to SF. Nice romantic dinner for two? Better hop on BART to Berkeley. Eventually wanna raise your kids up in a good public school? That’ll be Albany. Wanna take the kids to the mall? BART over to Union Square or Hilltop (if you’re adventurous). Wanna see Doug E. Fresh or De La Soul perform, oh wait, you can stay in Oakland for that and head to Yoshi’s in Jack London… Oh Shit, they’re not performing at Yoshi’s in Jack London, they’re at the new Yoshi’s in SF… damn.

I’m not saying Oakland isn’t a great city, I’m just saying it doesn’t have any the benefits that a suburban city provides a family and it ain’t got the benefits that an urban city provides it yuppie DINC couple (dual income no children). Sure, Oakland has San Jose and San Francisco beat when it comes to diversity cause there aren’t many Black folks in those other cities. But what about that couple from Germany you run into when you’re in SF or that family from Japan that’s on a 1 year contract to work in San Jose? I consider that diversity as well.

So I’m not sure what any of the counter arguments will be, cause I’m sure I’ll see some. But all I can say is for now, while I’m single and looking for an urban environment, I’m happy in The Mission. I can walk to cafes, bars, grocery stores and BART. And when I want to settle down and get coerced  by the missus to move to the suburbs, I’d go to San Jose where I can shop at Target and CostCo and take my kids to soccer practice, all without leaving my car. I’m not saying I would actually want to do any of this, mind you, cause I f’n hate the suburbs. But I’m just sayin’, Oakland is going to attract the folks that want a little urban/suburban mix. But getting a little of both means you’re getting both sides of a shitty coin. And the look in my friends’ eyes after happy hour in Oakland when they have to ride AC Transit or hop in their car (usually drunk) to go back home while I hop on BART to continue the party in the Mission. That shit is priceless and I’m glad I’m walking those steps to BART and not waiting for the #18 to never come on Broadway.