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October 13, 2012 / Katie

Chinatown, You’re My Sweetheart

I’ve been standing on Canal and Bowery for what seems like my whole life. I’ve fallen in and out of love on walks through the park, and lead friends on bar-hopping excursions through the snaking midnight streets.

Chinatown was my first home in New York and the years I spent there have been formative in my young adulthood. I heard a song on the radio that reminded me of this. But life is ever-changing and sometimes we outgrow the places that made us. I knew when I started this blog that some day I would have to leave Chinatown behind, at least physically. That day has come and gone. I don’t live in Chinatown anymore; in fact, it’s been a year and a half since I moved. It’s taken me that long to be able to write it here.



A friend asked me recently if I miss it. The short answer is yes. Whenever I’m back in the hood, I feel like so much has happened in my absence, like I’ve missed all the action. Trendy new restaurants have popped up, strips of park have been revamped, tenement-dwellers have been evicted to make way for luxury apartment complexes, and the hipster spill-over from the LES seems to have increased considerably.

But there are some things that never change. Like running into Zhu Wei, the black monk who was my neighbor on Eldridge Street, and wishing him ami tuo fo. Or the sidewalk carts piled high with exotic fruits–where else can you buy a giant pomelo for $4? I have to remember, Chinatown is only a subway ride away.

In my mind’s eye, I still see myself standing there at the crossroads on Bowery and Canal, bundled up in a black peacoat and a pashmina wrapped around my neck, with one eye to the traffic flowing down Bowery, the other waiting on the signal. The thing about home is that no matter how far you travel, when you return it feels as though you never left. It becomes second nature. You can take the girl out of Chinatown, but you can’t take the Chinatown out of the girl.

I don’t think you’re right for him
Look at what it might have been if you
Took a bus to Chinatown
I’ve been standing on Canal
And Bowery
And she’d be standing next to me

I belong with you, you belong with me, you’re my sweetheart
I belong with you, you belong with me, you’re my sweetheart

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