November 1, 2014

  • That Dragon Mural….

    here’s the last set of photos of the dragon mural at Utopia Restaurant.

    Utopia Dragon

    I haven’t touched the mural in about ten days. I have been trying to sit down and do some accounting and filing my overdue taxes. All which require using the left hemisphere of my brain, the logic side. What I consider linear thought. Something that has a beginning, middle and end. 1 + 1 will always equal 2 no matter what.


    Doing art takes the right side of the brain, the creative side. As I get older I find it harder and harder to jump from each side of the brain. What I consider circular thought. Something that has no beginning or end. It is something that is always in motion. Something where I hop on at anytime. Stay on when the creativity is in motion. Not a clear logical definition of time and space. Depart when I’m too tired and must rest to get back on as soon as I’m awake. Reality can be bent in anyway.


    Anyway… I last blocked in dragon #7. But I want to change it a bit because I don’t like his form. I painted it over with the green.

    I spilled the white primer when I tried to strap it onto my pony (motorcycle) on the sidewalk in front of Utopia. Now I have to buy another gallon of primer in order to block in dragons #8 and #9. I’m struggling with how to place the remaining two dragons. At the moment I think I should paint one on the angled ceiling and the other one crowded in with the dragon #6 on the right side.

    I have keylined in dragons #5, #6 and #7.


    I am also thinking of just going back to the original plan of doing all of them in gold and silver. The drawback to doing them in metallic colors is they will take 4-5 layers of gold in order for it to shimmer.

    So….here’s an outline of what I need to do from here to finish;

    Buy another gallon of white primer. Buy a quart of latex red, orange and yellow. Buy three more tones of metallic gold.

    Block in dragon #8 and #9. 2 days

    Retouch with primer on some spots of other dragons. 1 day.

    Add keyline to dragons #8 and #9. 1 day.

    Retouch details. 4 hours.

    Color 4-5 layers of metallic paints on to the remaining eight dragons. 18 days.

    Color other parts which require color. Underside, flames, eyes. Two layers. 3 days.

    Re-draw in black keylines and add details to all dragons. 3 days.

    Add color details to dragons. 1 day.

    Touch up green areas. 1 day.

    Add gold lines for clouds in green areas. 2-3 coats. 2 days.

    Final touch ups. 1 day.

    Unveiling and eye opening ceremony.

    Add clear coat vinyl varnish. 2 days.

    Thirty six days! And that’s not doing it every night. I am juggling the CHSA mural which I am trying to start. I still have to deal with taxes and all that legal stuff too. I cannot project a finish date right now. This may go into next year.

October 16, 2014

October 14, 2014

  • 3rd Annual Gaimosou Night at Porkchop House


    What?! Synthetic gaimosou’s taking over the traditional chicken feather gaimosou’s ?!?! Don’t let this happen! Bring your feather gaimosou to our 3rd Annual Gaimosou Night at Porkchop House on October 18th, Saturday and let them know we mean business!

    In the meantime… let’s get Francis to make us some prime rib for $15.99 for a big thick slice! You can order off the menu if you prefer. This is a no host dinner, so bring enough money.

    Did someone mention an Eastern Bakery famous coffee crunch cake?

    If you’re coming, please let us know if you want prime rib so that we’ll have enough to go around. We will assume medium rare. Last time we were short and someone got really pissed off and wanted to whip everyone with his gaimosou but he was outnumbered.

    The place can only hold forty people….so please get your reservations in early.

  • A NJAHS Order

    njah2014_006 – Karl Matsushita portrait
    njah2014_018 – Principal Rosa Parks
    njah2014_037 – Rosa Parks Elementary School
    njah2014_042 – Sandy Mori portrait
    njah2014_057 – Gerard & Sen Akaka
    njah2014_065 – Sen Akaka
    njah2014_068 – Pres Yagi Gerard & Sen Akaka
    njah2014_073 – Bob Hamaguchi & Sandy Mori
    njah2014_092 – Bob Hamaguchi portrait
    njah2014_097 – Bob Hamaguchi family
    njah2014_107 – Sandy and Karl
    njah2014_109 – NJAHS Board & honorees
    njah2014_152 – Karl Matsushita award presentation
    njah2014_158 – Bob Hamaguchi, Sandy Mori award presentation
    njah2014_165 – Bob Hamaguchi, Sandy Mori hugging
    njah2014_175 – JBBP award presentation
    njah2014_186 – Akaka award presentation
    njah2014_228 – Hula
    njah2014_240 – Akaka performance
    njah2014_262 – Staff and Akaka
    njah2014_249 – Ukelele troop and Akaka
    njah2014_233 – Staff and Volunteers
    njah2014_158 – Awardees Bob & Sandy w Bryan and Ros

October 5, 2014

  • White People Love Chinatown


    White people love Chinatown. The hipsters love it. The tourist love it. Even the homeless love it. The Chinatown residents are so tolerant.

    Building owners would rather rent to White people than to Chinese. White people do not cram a lot of people into the apartments like the struggling poor Chinese. White people don’t cook as much as Chinese, so the building doesn’t smell like simmering soup and Hom Yu. White people are willing to pay high rents too and have no problem coming up with the money.

    A struggling Chinese working for minimum wage in a restauant kitchen or some sweatshop have trouble coming up with the high rent. Chinatown sits on prime real estate. With it’s proximity to the financial district within a short walk, it’s a dream come true for the hipsters. With the high rents and decline in business, Chinatown businesses which catered to the Chinese are having a tough time.

    Chinatown is no longer the neighborhood in which I grew up. The neighborhood where there are Chinese families. We all went to the same neighborhood schools, played in the same playgrounds, went to the movie theaters, restaurants…. that is all gone and it doesn’t seem like it’s going to ever come back.

    Pretty soon there will be more and more businesses that will cater to this hipster crowd if it’s not already happening. The Four Seas restaurant recently closed it’s doors after many years and will reopen as a hipster restaurant with some hot shot chef. The longstanding Chinatown institution, Sam Wo Restaurant closed over two years ago and it doesn’t look like the restaurant will open again anywhere. The Empress of China, the home of countless banquets and weddings for so many years is closing at the end of the year to make way for techie offices. Chinatown is pretty dead after 9 o’clock. There is not a single restaurant open pass midnight.

    On the other hand, there are many “Chinatowns” appearing in many parts of the city. The new Chinese immigrants find our old Chinatown antiquated and living in a time warp fifty years ago. Chinatown seems to be still fighting a Chinese civil war that ended sixty five years ago. Have the Chinese abandoned the old Chinatown?

    By the way, this person in the photo is not a hipster…he’s homeless and found a home on the streets of Chinatown. A bath, a shave and a change of new clothes, he’ll talk his way into a well paying job and soon will be moving into a nice apartment in Chinatown.

October 2, 2014

  • It’s October Already?!

    These months are going by soooo fast!


    It’took me about two weeks to get back out to Utopia Cafe to continue working on my mural. This is dragon #5. I’m just block in and keylining the dragons. Then I will color them in.

    At the same time… CHSA is breathing down my neck to get the mural there going.

    Gotta get my accounting together also.

    My income tax for 2013 is due this month too. I got an extension and it’s due! I’ve yet begun!


    Someone said this guy is Leland Yee’s lawyer…. is that true?


    OK….time to get to work. I get so tired so easily nowadays… I fall asleep at the desk so often. ngoi lou lah…

September 22, 2014

  • Former Sam Wo Restaurant Front Door

    sam wo

    My favorite restaurant in San Francisco’s Chinatown has closed for about two years now.

    The city shut it down for health violations. There were building code violations. Then the landlord of the building jacked up the rent. The building got sold. The new owners began remodeling without a permit. The city put a halt to their remodeling till proper permit procedures were followed. Since then nothing has moved.

    Remodeling that building is not that simple. One side of the building has no wall and the building next door is the wall.

    In the meantime, a homeless woman is camping out at the front door.

September 19, 2014

  • My Shoe Shine Box 1960

    My Shoeshine Box 1960

    I shined shoes when I was about eight years old. This is my shoeshine box from around 1960.

    When I was growing up in Chinatown, a bunch of us kids shined shoes for pocket money. This box was made by the mean brother in law. I remember going with my mother to Kaye’s Footwear on Grant Avenue to buy all the supplies for the shoeshine box. I really didn’t know much about shining shoes but I learned fast.

    The brother and I each had a box. We first went to Union Square to shine shoes. We found that there were already a bunch of Chinese kids already there doing the same thing. A handful of the kids we knew from Kin Kuo Chinese School. They greeted us newbies asking to see what was in our box. Next thing we knew there were a swarm of kids coming up to our box and pulling things out of it and scattering it all over. Some of them took my things. That was our welcome. From there on I learned that it was a hostile place with a lot of competition.

    I don’t know how many times I went to Union Square, but it wasn’t much because the competition was fierce and I don’t remember shining much shoes there.

    The area around Kan’s Restaurant on Grant Avenue in Chinatown became my favorite area to shine shoes. It was only half a block from the store where I lived. There were a few other kids that did the same but it wasn’t as bad as Union Square. I recall there was a Raymond Lee. There was also Katreena’s mom and her brother whom spent their money at Eastern Bakery as fast as they made it.

    Sailors used to ask us where can they find girls. I didn’t know what the hell they were getting at but I heard Raymond Lee telling them to go to the Rickshaw Bar in Ross Alley. So when the sailors asked me I learned how to say the same without a clue what it meant.

    I only charged 15¢ but most customers paid 25¢ or more. I remember even getting a dollar. After awhile I went out at night and on the average I made $2.

    I don’t know exactly how long I was out there shining shoes but I don’t think it was that long. A year…maybe two? It was not very consistent neither. I wonder if I can do the same nowadays. At the rate of inflation, 15 cents is now $1.21. That’s a lot of shoes to shine to make minimum wage.

September 17, 2014

  • Keylines for Dragon #3 and #4


    It took me more than a week to get back to Utopia Cafe to work on the nine dragons mural.


    Got in there because there were two customers still there after 10pm. I worked on the dragons number #3 and #4. Added keylines and white in more of dragon #4 all the way till past 2am. Didn’t finish whiting in dragon #4′s body. Dragon #4 is not completely keylined.

    I got to get on the mural at CHSA too. They have been breathing down my neck to get it done. Amidst dealing with putting together the accounting, doing 2013 tax return, finding out the soft structure form is overdue. And to top it all…I haven’t slept yet. FML

  • #chinatown: my photographic sketches reception


    A big thank you for all those who came to my reception last saturday for my photo exhibit at the Chinese Historical Society.


    Sorry if I didn’t get to talk to you. Making those dumplings and potstickers was pretty intense and took a lot of concentration. Thanks to Nancy Lim-Yee who helped wrap the dumplings. There was no way I could have done it all myself.


    I really appreciate a lot of old friends showing up. A few stuck around pass the end and sat around talking. I feel with the recent loss of an old friend makes me feel the times with old friends are precious.


    Photo credit: Stan Lew, Mehrban Jam
    Really appreciate it….really!