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!

September 11, 2014

September 9, 2014

  • Back to Back Reception this Saturday at CHSA: John Jung and I

    chsa reception

    I am honored to be having a reception right after John Jung’s speech and presentation about his book, Chopsticks in the Land of Cotton at the Chinese historical society of America this Saturday, September 13th starting at 1pm with John Jung. There will then be a reception for my photo exhibit at the Yick Gallery after starting at 2:30. I will be making dumplings in the gallery with my electric skillet. FREE!

September 7, 2014

  • Moon Festival 2014


    I know I posted this photo before. But I just re-enhanced this photo. It was shot in 1977 in the alleys of Yaowarat (Chinatown Bangkok. It was one of the most memorable mid-autumn festival I have ever experienced.

    I had a pretty good moon festival this time around. Jest Jammin’ played at the Moon Festival in Chinatown.


    We went to porkchop house afterwards. PCH made a special prime rib for us.


    I didn’t get around to going up to coit tower this time. I guess the thought of getting bitten by mosquitoes was not good.

    So here I will remember the many people I have met on my travels in far distant lands. Remember those who are no longer around. Just stopping to think about them. We have cross paths in our lives and each of them have a special place in my life.


September 1, 2014

  • #Chinatown: Leland Wong’s Photographic Sketches

    #Chinatown: Leland Wong’s Photographic Sketches
    Reception September 13 @ 2:30 pm – 4:00 pm

    September 13 Saturday 2:30pm – 4pm
    CHSA Museum, 965 Clay Street, SF

    The CHSA Museum is hosting an opening reception for Leland Wong’s new exhibit #Chinatown: Leland Wong’s Photographic Sketchbook. This photo grid series spans two of decades of photography of people he comes across while walking around the neighborhood. This exhibit is part of his year-long residency project Leland Wong: Chinatown Studio. There will be dumplings and light refreshments.

    Leland Wong is transforming the CHSA stage gallery into a working artist’s studio. The prolific artist will be a CHSA artist-in-residence, with works-in-progress including photography, painting, t-shirt silkscreening, dumpling making – whatever is on his creative radar at the moment. Wong is an SF Chinatown native and still lives a few blocks away decades later. His artistic focus is on his community – the streets, cafes, and people that have shaped his life and artwork.


August 29, 2014

  • Dragons #2, #3 and #4





    Once I was kind of finished with Dragon #1, I am moving a lot faster now. I blocked in dragons #2, #3 and #4 with primer. Not quite finished with #4 yet though. I’m not going to paint the rest in metallic gold as originally planned. It’s just taking too much time to paint 4-5 coats of gold on it to make it really shimmer. Looks nice, but time precious too.

August 25, 2014

  • The 9th Session; Dragon #1


    Got a lot of work done doing an eight hour session. Went in at around 10pm and was out of there after 6am.

    I drew in the rest of the scales and fixed a lot of the lines. Then added bronze gold onto the scales. It gives it a lot of dimension. I don’t know if I wanna put another coat of bronze on the spots with bronze, but it does looks a bit brushy.

    Next step is the red for the tongue, flames, around the eyes, spots on the horn. I don’t have this paint on hand and gotta go out and buy it.

    Time to begin thinking of the other dragons too. I’ve decided not to do metallic gold on the rest of the dragons as originally planned. It takes too much time to layer five layer of that gold on. It looks nice though. But not sure if I want to spend a whole year doing this mural.

    I am not painting in the eyes till the very end. Something about the dragons not becoming alive till the eyes are painted in. I’m thinking of making it a little party at Utopia…food and all for $35 per person. The night the dragons will all come to life with a small dab of red paint on the eyes. The eye opening ceremony. Where we’ll dot the eyes and cross some tea.

    I think I will just start on Dragon #2 at the bottom of the stairs while trying to remember to buy the red paint.