July 16, 2009

San Francisco's Chinatown, part 1

click photo for full-size image
photo by Donald Kinney

It all boils down to free and available parking, but one of my favorite things to do very early on Sunday mornings is to go over to Chinatown and wander around with my camera.

I'm pretty easy to spot -- at that hour I'm the only white person on the streets.   I probably stick out like a sore thumb, but am generally ignored unless a shop owner decides I am getting a little bit too up-close-and-personal, whereupon I shrink away in embarrassment after hearing those two fatal words -- usually in English but sometimes in Mandarin -- "No pictures!".

click photo for full-size image
photo by Donald Kinney

Starting after the influx of Chinese gold-mining laborers in the 1850's, it was no accident that the Chinese ended up in this section of town -- it's land that nobody else wanted.   Discrimination was backed by laws and ordinances.   Chinese were legally allowed to operate only certain types of businesses, and heads were routinely "cracked" if immigrants overstepped their bounds.

The following text is from Wikipedia:
Not unlike much of San Francisco, a period of criminality ensued in some tongs on the produce of smuggling, gambling and prostitution, and by the early 1880s, the white population had adopted the term "Tong war" to describe periods of violence in Chinatown, the San Francisco Police Department had established its so-called Chinatown Squad.   The squad was finally disbanded in August 1955 by Police Chief George Healey, upon the request of the influential Chinese World newspaper, which had editorialized that the squad was an "affront to Americans of Chinese descent".

click photo for full-size image
photo by Donald Kinney

For some reason the eyes of these dried fish looked amazingly fresh for being stiff-as-a-board and light-as-a-feather.

click photo for full-size image
photo by Donald Kinney

These look like Anchovies to me, but you never know what kind of mysterious delacacies you're going to run across in Chinatown.   It's common to select your favorite fish while it's still alive and have it whacked over the head on the spot.

Stop by tomorrow and I'll have more Chinatown photos.

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Marcie said...

Love..love the exquisite detail of the fan. Wonderful China-town images.

tangobaby said...

Yes, Chinatown in the early morning is wonderful. Also in the evening when the shops are closed and you might be the only person walking around. Please share more... I love chinatown!

Rhett Redelings said...

I get that "no pictures!" thing too and, being white, six feet tall and shaven of head, I too stand out in Chinatown (well, pretty much everywhere, actually). The thing is, taking pictures from the street is legal and the shop owners have no legal right to say anything. The other thing, however, is that in Chinatown, the "benevolent societies" still function and U.S. law or no, one might find oneself disappeared for working up the ire of the locals.

Tough call. I'm impressed you got these, in any case!

Mari said...

Can´t wait till tomorrow... Exotic to "nortern people" like me.

Brad said...

Love Chinatown...

And snapping against the grafittied produce trucks on Stockton.

Louise said...

Wonderful photos. I'm glad you got SOME pictures. And now I'm curious as to what you get yelled at for trying to take pictures of. But although not much of a meat-eater of any kind, I think much time there would make me give it up altogether (fish included).

My uncle lives in Shanhai 3/4 of the year. He says it's best to not ask what you are eating. I think I'd be skinny there. (Maybe I should move.)

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