Wednesday, September 26, 2012

More on Allegiance

An AA Journalist responded to Chin's latest article regarding the new play Allegiance. Here's Chin's reply.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Friday, July 27, 2012

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

EDSEL FORD FONG & SAM WO

Elizabethan England censored the Catholics and Catholicism out of the English in used at the time William Shakespeare, a Catholic in a Protestant world, wrote his poems and plays. The poetry and plays made money. The metaphors and similes so loved as devices invented by Shakespeare, were also invented to disguise the Catholic feeling being expressed in public. Literature as activism.

An injustice perceived by an individual created Shakespeare’s poetry. Writing is fighting. Writing is fighting has been an essential of Chinese writing since the Ming, and the emergence of Kwan Kung, the Exemplar of War, Plunder, and Writing.

The world was witness to the Chinese people’s response to government censorship of information and the knowledge that results, at Tienanmen in 1989.

The people of China have fought the censorship of the state since before the creation of the first empire.

The Chinese approved by state censorship has kept the writing of the people from Chinese readers in America.

The Chinese-Americans have been censored for 140 years. The Chinese-Americans have no complaints. Whites say Charlie Chan is Chinese and there is no Kwan Kung, and the Chinese-Americans say “yes,” to Charlie Chan and they’ve never heard of Kwan Kung in their 140 years in America.

EDSEL FORD FONG-CONFUCIUS- &
THE CAMERON HOUSE OF HORRORS

Responses from people who claim Chinatown as home. The question was “What is the name of the restaurant where Edsel Ford Fong (May 6, 1927 - April 1984) a Chinatown-born waiter worked?”.

Edsel Ford Fong and Sam Wo came to my mind because of George Woo and his appetite for Chinese food taken in old old restaurants on Washington Street. He took Tom Wolfe to dinner in an old old restaurant across the street from Sam Wo. Looking through Wolfe’s article I see he’s heard that George is the “reincarnation of Kwan Kung” but sees the manly walk of Chinatown boys as mimicry of the Blacks, as the Chinese never had their own style of manhood. In the same vein the Chronicle and Examiner insisted the two man dancing lion was a many footed “Dragon” Chinese new years after Chinese new Year and probably still get the Chinese wrong because the White papers are insistently White., and the Chinese-Americans lie good servants never correct the White press.

I didn’t know that Sam Wo was in its last days. It was built in 1907. The year after the Earthquake & Fire.

Sam Wo has no structure of its own. Its three stories are supported by the walls of buildings on either side. Sam Wo is a structural hyphen between China and America. The name of the “hyphen” Chinatown born Edsel Ford Wong. When Sam Wo goes, the “hypen” suspended between permanent walls goes.

Have we understood the “hyphen” or just removed it from our lives, and eventually our cultural identity (a more accurate term for “race.”)

Edsel named after the son of an auto manufacturer yielded a curious variety of reactions to the place, to the rep or act or performance, and the food. I got a lot more than the name. I have more than enough to Sherlock Holmes examine and sniff for every fact.

Edsel Ford Fong, the White God of Frisco love him, was the living unmentionable waiter jeered and smeared and generously tipped of by the same whites that enthroned Jade Snow Wong, FIFTH CHINESE DAUGHTER, and Cameron House in the reams of prose singing their praises for civilizing the Chinamen into Chinese Americans.

Edsel Ford Fong was the closest thing to an unspeakable Chinaman that made the White papers of San Francisco. He was Chinatown gas and a regular character of gassup in Herb Caen’s Baghdad by the Bay, and Jade Snow was society on the Society Page, and literature on the Books & Arts Page. She made the radio news when Arthur Godfrey, the father on his CBS family show joking with Haleoke, of Hawaii, Irish tenor, Dennis Day, the three singing McGuire Sisters and the Italian singer Julius LaRosa of his radio-tv family who became involved one of the 3 McGuire Sisters. The self-deprecating “Old Redhead” told a joke about having four redheaded daughters but “the fifth came out Chinese.” Everyone questioned in Chinatown about the ukelele playing Arthur Godfrey’s joke said they liked Arthur Godfrey and his joke was a funny and friendly.

The Chinatown responses to Edsel Ford Fong come from personal experience. Unquarded personal experience. Whites never ask a Chinaman about the food or service at Sam Wo, or Edsel who works there. If they do, no matter what the Chinatowner says, the Whites correct him with their knowledge. Whites know from talking to Whites or reading Herb Caen. Add to this all white brew the Chinatown personal experiences in the words of the speakers themselves and a more complete portrait a more accurate picture of Chinatown begins to blur into shape.

Let’s say the different Chinatown reactions to the question of Edsel Ford come up in a discussion between Confucius and his students.

The Beats –Kerouac, Ginsberg, looked on Chinatown the other side of Adler Alley from Ferlinghetti’s City Lights Bookstore, looked on Chinatown as a foreign country and treated Edsel Ford Fong as a testy and comic servant. San Francisco White still regard Chinatown as a lower class of human than the Whites. The White papers make remark on the Beats frequenting Sam Wo and having fun with Edsel. This is the Chinatown reaction to Edel and Sam Wo.

Confucius dealt with people high or low, face to face, eye to eye He insisted his students be eye to eye honest. He gave contradictory advice to different students to achieve the same behavior. He didn’t seek uniformity, but “harmony.”

How to find harmony between the different reactions to Edsel Ford? That’s the problem for Confucius to solve. How does Confucius apply his five books summarizing the works of civilization?

Connie C. on EDSEL FORD FONG & SAM WO

Sam Wo, the jook place.

Scary restroom.

My friend was his nephew and lived with him briefly, said he often had hookers over.

Shirley Fong Torres bought Sam Wo shortly before she died. [Shirley Fong-Torres (November 16, 1946 –Fong-Torres died of leukemia on June 18, 2011. The Fong-Torres emigrated from the Phillipines to Oakland. Philippine discrimination against the Chinese forced the Catholic name of "Torres," on the family, for the privilege of limited citizenship on the island nation. Shirley Fong Torres had two older brothers: Ben Fong-Torres- editor of Gordon Lew’s EAST WEST JOURNAL and editor of the rock journal ROLLING STONE, then the Broadcast column in the Chronicle. He’s forgotten that once upon a time, he published CHINK! A book that did not do what the title promised. Her older brother Barry Fong Torres was Oakland cop who became head of a Frisco project to clean Chinatown of youth gangs just as the youth of Chinatown were increasingly from Hong Kong.]

AN OPEN LETTER TO THE CUSTOMERS OF SAM WO,
FROM JULIE HO

To Our Loyal Customers & Fans:

After a century of operation, Sam Wo is forced to close. Our last day is Friday, April 20th 2012. As of yesterday, the SF Health Dept has deemed the restaurant unsafe and hazardous since the building is not up to code. And yesterday was when we negotiated to have the restaurant open to as late as Friday. We are not ready to close shop but have no choice.

Sam Wo has been opened since 1907, after the 1906 earthquake, when Chinatown was rebuilt. Since then, it has stood on the same location as a restaurant with the same name. Over the decades, the restaurant had been known for the infamous "rude" waiter, Edsel Ford Fung who harassed and ordered around the customers, and not to mention the groping and kissing of unexpected female customers (especially blondes). Later came Mr. Lee, Becky a.k.a. "Mama San" or "Mama", Becky's sister- Annie who were labeled "rude" but not to the same degree as Edsel. The remaining quasi-old-timer waitresses and waiter are Fanny, Julie, and Jason.

After Friday, all the things that scream "Sam Wo" would be just memories. Hopefully, this can be a place where we can keep some of those memories around. Generations of customers, their family, friends, co-workers, strangers, ex'es have gotten together in this cramped up space. Please share with us your memories, stories, photos, video...anything! Let us remember: the dumbwaiter, walking through the kitchen and up the narrow staircase to the dinning rooms, the BYOB, the wooden stools, the graffiti- filled bathroom- with the sink outside (which many of you seem to overlook), the marble tables, the low second floor ceiling, raw fish salad, chow mein, chow fun, "jook", NOODLE ROLLS (with or without the mustard), eavesdropping on the next table, canned sodas, the non-itemized bill, the screaming down the dumbwaiter, the screaming ladies from the kitchen, the cash only, the late-night reminiscing of the "good old days", things you don't wanna tell your children about Sam Wo and much much more...

This is a very emotional and shocking time for us and we will miss all of you dearly. Please come and share with us the remaining time of Sam Wo with us. Today, Fanny (11a-9p) and Julie (8p-3a) will be there. Our final day/night: Fanny (11a-9p), Julie (6p-3a), and Jason (9p-3a). There are no official plans; like always, we're just going to go with the flow. So just come out and have your final noodle rolls, jook, chow mein, chow fun, won tons, canned sodas and whatever with us.

Friends of the restaurant- we have been through all sorts of times with each other. May those memories live on and we not forget one another.

-Julie Ho
Owner of Sam Wo

RUSSELL LEONG
On Edsel Ford Fong, a waiter at Sam Wo

Edsel with the white cap,
a mile a minute,
just standing tied to the
dumbwaiter's rope.
A plate of sliced raw fish
on the table,
whiff of green onion slivers.
You dipped in soy sauce
or vinegar
depending on your taste.
The wood chairs and tables
Had been wiped down 10,000 times,
at least.
The dumbwaiter was a moving tray
that carried
thick flat restaurant plates of fried rice noodles,
or bowls of congee with ginger and meat
floating on the white pebbly surface of the broth.
Footsteps up and down the narrow
staircase, dumbwaiter's dance,
Edsel, intuitive, in two-step with
time, shouting until he was hoarse,
never out of breath until finally
he reached his last one:
the dumbwaiter didn't stop this time,
carrying his body still in apron and cap
past the second floor, up and
up shredding tar paper and tiles
and denting pipes, up and up to
absolute, greaseless blue sky,
leaving corpses of living customers
with empty bellies and loose change,
mouths agape—
Edsel Ford Fong moves,
is
moving,
gone.

Russel Leong /NYC

ANONYMOUS on THE OLD DAYS and EDSEL FORD FONG

Yes, I've eaten there a thousand times, and experienced his groping white girls, although not the white girls I'm with...He knew the gang I hung with. We would have thrown him off of the second floor balcony.

One of the guys that I hung with was murdered on Jackson street by unknown rivals that were preparing to challenge Hop Sing Tong, during the Wah Ching period. He was a member of Wah Ching. And later he robbed the Suey Sing Tong's gambling house in Sacramento. I went to Los Angeles Suey Sing Tong to tear down their flag! All this happened while I was in the Air Force. He knew the white girls that we were with, then were prostitutes. But he didn’t didn’t grope or joke with them when they were with us.

Edsel might have been be crazy but he was not suicidal !

Anonymous

CONNIE H,

I had no idea that Sam Wo was closing until I saw the article last night on the Chron Website edition. Have not been there in decades.

I grew up in Chinatown. I read about Edsel the waiter but never encountered him in the one or two visits to Sam Wo.

I always thought of Sam Wo (after it became famous due to Edsel Ford Fong), as a place for tourists to gawk at this Uncle Tom so they could have something memorable to talk about afterwards to the folks back home.. Patronising and demeaning. No Face.

Connie H

KGO-TV SAN FRANCISCO

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Sam Wo restaurant in Chinatown has a rich history and a building that's in disrepair. The San Francisco institution is closing its doors.

Every day, in a cramped kitchen, the cooks at Sam Wo make fresh rice noodles, fry them up and then lower the dumbwaiter by hand to send them upstairs. It's been that way for almost a century.

Loyal customers have been eating there for decades. Very little has changed in that time.

Related Content

Story: Historic Chinese restaurant closing

"It's the same old marble tables and the old stools; nothing has changed since I was a kid," one customer said.

Not even the recipes. But the rice noodle rolls being made on Friday could be some of Sam Wo's last.

"We're shutting down the restaurant and it's just like the end of an era," Julie Ho, whose father owns the restaurant, said.

The health department is forcing them to close -- possibly forever.

"Both for public health concerns and issues, and also equally important, the worker safety issues that exist in the old structure here in Chinatown," health inspector Terrence Hong said.

The concerns about Sam Wo's structure are interesting; Chinatown historians say, by some definitions, Sam Wo isn't even a building.

"It's basically an alleyway," Chinatown Ghost Tours owner Cynthia Yee said. "This building has no walls and it's basically supported by the bldg to the right and to the left."

It's been that way for 100 years.

It was a beatnik hangout in the 50s and home to man known as the world's rudest waiter -- Edsel Ford Fong.

"He would get mad at the cook downstairs and shout down the dumbwaiter until you think he was going to have apoplexy," customer Palmer Kimball said.

Some say he still haunts the place.

"Edsel was such a playful ghost," Chinatown historian and tour guide Chuck Gee said. "He would slide the teacup across the table."

But ghosts are the least of the problems. Never mind the citations for rats and cockroaches, bringing the place up to current fire code would be nearly impossible.

Then again, for the food, some patrons don't seem to care.

"It's well worth it; it's well worth dying for," a customer said.

Friday, customer lined up around the block for a chance to eat what could possibly be their final meals at Sam Wo. But there is hope; on Tuesday, Sam Wo's owners will plead their case before the Department of Public Health for an extension on the deadline to fix the violations.

(Copyright ©2012 KGO-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

Ben Tong, PhD: CONFUCIUS & EDSEL FORD FONG

As for "style of manhood," two things come to mind. One, Confucius was enraged one day that some guy holding court to a large crowd was teaching lies in broad daylight. Lies about what virtuous living was supposedly all about. The Sage went straight up to the man and struck him dead with one blow to the heart. "That man lied. You all come and do tea and talk with me sometime. I'll tell you something different." True story.

Second, turn on your computer and go Netflix , and John Woo's "The Battle of Red Cliff” from the Ming Dynasty novel of the fall of the Han, “Romance of the Three Kingdoms.”

I was in a 90-year-old Chinaman's house in the Richmond District (SF's 'New Chinatown')with other Yellows both young and old when Gwan Gung came on scene. The old dude leaped to his feet and nearly blew out his lungs shouting (in his Cantonese dialect), "That's it! That's the very exact the look of Gwan Gung! That was exactly the way he swung his Gwan Doh, the way he dispatched enemies so boldly and efficiently. I never thought I'd live long enough to actually see on a screen what was only described to me by gung fu people, old relatives, picture books and storytellers back in the village."

Benjamin R. Tong, PhD

From: KOON WOON: More on closing of Sam Wo

To whom it may be of interest:

Personally I have been to Sam Wo only once around 1971 or 1972. A fellow student at the University of Oregon, H.F.Lee (from Hong Kong) and I went to eat at Sam Wo after drinking at bars during our visit to SF. Edsel did wait on us and I had spilled a pot of tea due to my inebriation and clumsiness. Edsel without blinking and without hesitation threw a towel at our table. He did not offer to wipe it; I did. He was flirting with a white patroness. I knew he was Edsel from my friend Lee who told me so.

Later on that night, my friend H. F. Lee drove his Jaguar to Oakland where his brother lives. His brother was a graduate student in physics at the University of California at Berkeley. But before we could enter the house, I had to vomit and out came all the noodles I ate at Sam Wo. That was about it.

But I feel a kinship with Edsel and Sam Wo because my family operated a small restaurant in Washington State in the coastal town of Aberdeen. I been a waiter as well as cook, as well as chief bottle washer and manager. Restaurant work is hectic. Yet for many first generation immigrants, this is what they are consigned to and it is still the case for newly arrivals.

Therefore, I feel that this is part of our heritage in America that we should have some memory and mementos of.

We may be doing well now as a group, but we still are not given full credit for what we contribute to this country.

There is a little quote from Nietzsche that I like to quote lest we forget our heritage:
"'I couldn't have done that,' says my pride.
"'But I must have done that,' says my memory.
And so the argument is inexorable.
Finally, Memory yields."

-- Nietzsche

Here is my poem in memory of Edsel and Sam Wo
and a tribute to all who have worked in Chinese restaurants:

Chinese Waiters
Edsel of Sam Wo is forgivably curt
and flirts with single, white patronesses.
He smiles, dabbing sweat with a restaurant towel,
like Louie, Louie Armstrong.

And Sam of Tai Tung
smiles, smiles smiles of an imperial fool, but no fool is he
thinking of his kids in school and his wife in a garment shop.

I haven’t forgotten this when tourists ask
to see the Chinese menu. (The menus are the same, actually.)
I wear a waiter’s yellow jacket
that has been worn for three generations.
My smile is almost genuine –
You like our food, we like your money.
And with tips I buy a brand new Nietzche.
(I figure someday I’ll want to be a writer, not a waiter.)

On the stone of my great-grandfather,
The grass has grown (it’s hard to find).
And I see for a moment that Nietzche has written
the inscription: “History walks on the back
of those like so many stepping stones.”

Koon Woon
Seattle