Thursday, May 28, 2009

Chinatown My Chinatown

Chinatown, My Chinatown.
Written in 1910 by a couple of white guys - who, I have no doubt - were not from Chinatown.

Taking into consideration the political-social atmosphere at the time, the words to the song probably typifies how outsiders viewed American Chinatowns. It was 1910 - to be sure, plenty of **** going on in and around the Gilded Ghettos. People didn't get it. They still don't, but that again is another post for another day.

One has to wonder if Chinatown residents were bemused and/or chagrined by the inane lyrics of 'Chinatown, My Chinatown', which, to my thinking - greatly serve to perpetuate the exotic myth of the Mysterious Orient ... more so in the early 1900's - when the enclave of Chinatown was viewed as a world very much apart.

Maybe no one paid attention to the words.
They were probably much too busy bop bopping to the catchy tune to take note.

I grew up in San Francisco's Chinatown.
We didn't live deep within the bowels of ChinatownMyChinatown, though my Mom did - back in the 20's, 30's and 40's. The rental flat of my youth was located on Mason Street (major claim to fame being that the Powell-Mason cable car line ran right in front of our building). We bordered North Beach and Nob Hill, but 'three blocks up' from Grant Avenue was Chinatown all the same.

As a kid, one of my elementary school teachers at Jean Parker School had the lot of us Chinese-American kids (our school's student population was close to 99% A.B.C.) sing the refrain of 'Chinatown My Chinatown' for a school assembly. Now, that must'a been cute...or patronizing.... or matter...

At home, my Mom hummed this song with her cronies for a lark. Heck, Mom and I even sang it together a few times.

So - in spite of the politically incorrect lyrics, I do hold a bit of a fond memory.
Go figure.

Now here's your chance to sing-a-long.
Go ahead - - - put that in your 'pipe' and smoke it.

P.S. .....'wing wong' that'sa T-A-C-K-Y.

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