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Life In The City
Date posted:03-29-02

Turtles, Frogs and Chickens...Oh My!

Story and Photos By Jonathan Kui


“The city that never sleeps,” certainly has enough hot spots to keep insomniacs entertained all night. Chinatown, one of many tourist hot spots, is a place loaded with diversity and entertainment. Contrary to popular belief, Chinatown isn’t just good for food and fake Nikes. It’s hard to miss Chinatown, but it is surely easy to fall into stereotypes of it. Stereotypes of Chinatown being dirty, and unwelcoming are, for the most part, inaccurate. Sure, Chinatown is reputable for having great food, but when it comes to other ares of entertainment, Chinatown is overlooked. Fear not my friend, Chinatown has a diverse culture that makes it one of the best places in New York.

If you’ve ever taken a walk in Chinatown, then you’ve probably seen your fair share of animals on display as food. Restaurants hang dead chicken on hangers in their windows. Fish markets put fish, lying in their own pool of blood, on sheets of ice. Some fish markets have perfectly live frogs all grouped up in a big gray tub filled half way with water. This, among others, stands out to people.

On a lighter note, there are some animals that aren’t being displayed for food. Many little stores have been selling small turtles for years. These turtles are no longer than three inches and have a soft shell for a turtle. After inquiring about the cost, the vender informed me that it was “4 dollars a piece.” I’ve had a small turtle myself. They’re good for kicks, but about as dirty as a public bathroom.

Chinatown was given its title because it’s a place primarily composed of Chinese people and Chinese culture. However, what was known as a place dominated by Chinese culture, is now a place faced with an invasion of American products and culture. McDonalds, Duane Reade, and Popeye’s are just a few American stores that have found a new home in New York’s own Asian “village”. Chinatown is not about getting an order of chicken from Popeye’s or a $3.99 toothbrush from Duane Reade. Chinatown has always had its own mystique because it was unique. The recent intrusion of Starrbucks kills any thought of Chinatown being unique; once upon a time, there was nothing else in New York quite like it.

Chinatown has held its ground for years. The closest thing to American culture was McDonalds and Burger King. Chinatown had a certain mystique that places like Time Square or Harlem would not have. Chinatown was different in that sense. However, that mystique is slowly going away, as American culture is steadily creeping in.

Since I’m on the makeup of Chinatown, bootlegging keeps Chinatown up and running. Almost every corner, every small store and every person is selling something counterfeit. For example, Chinatown is in a “Gucci” frenzy. Almost every small store is selling some sort of Gucci item, whether it be hat or bag. The majority of stores are selling Gucci hats for $25; while an authentic Gucci hat could go for $120. Oddly enough, with all the bootlegging apparent in Chinatown, there are very few things being done about it.

Moving on to the athletic aspect, handball is one of the more popular sports among the Chinese. Ahandball costs around $1 and the color ranges from blue to yellow. Handball has developed in Chinatown because it is cheap, easy to learn, and fun. It is also not physically demanding, as handball requires the least physically, of all sports. You need not be tall, strong, fast, agile or anything in particular to play handball well. Thus, handball, among other sports, has grown incredibly.

Chinatown is multifaceted. It’s not just good food; it’s not just bootleg items; it’s not just crowded on Sundays. Chinatown is a great place that has its ups and downs. Tourists fill the streets that are already dirty and filled as it is. The apartments in Chinatown are surely not the best thing Chinatown has to offer. However, despite all the bad things Chinatown brings, it is still one of the attractions in New York because it offers a different lifestyle. A walk around Chinatown will reveal things to someone that reading a book or sitting in on a class couldn’t reveal. Walking around Chinatown isn’t just a normal walk; it’s an experience.



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