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Chinatowns: New York, Philadelphia and my Love

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Boston, Massachusetts, USA
August 8, 2007

Wet with morning dew
I go in the direction I want
Taneda Santoka

Chinatown in New York City.

After another long week of digging holes out at the archaeology site I excitedly took the train into Boston to begin the weekend. I did not have much money to my name; and if I hoped to make it back to work the next week I did not even have enough money to eat. But I did not despair– something would come up. It is funny that I have been working for three weeks and I am owed thousands of dollars but can not utilize it yet as I have not yet been paid. So I am a pauper with a full-time job. Oh well, something would turn up. It did. A Food Not Bombs table in Boston Commons. “Clutch.” I go up to the table expecting to be met by jovial servers and conversation, as I have always known in FNB, but was instead scowled upon by the middle aged “hippy” woman with the big serving spoon. Though I accepted the unfriendliness with a smile, as I knew that I would be fed. I tried to mention that I have periodically worked for various FNB chapters in an attempt to break the ice, but was just met with a grunt and a scornful look from the ‘hippy.’ Alas, I took my heaping bowl of free food with appreciation, and gobbled it down in the lawn. Henceforth, my belly was full and I walked on with glee. One meal down. . .

After an hour or so of wandering around Boston in search of a cheap bed I realized that I did not want to be there at all, let alone pay between $35-$60 for a bed in a dormitory. So I rushed over to Chinatown and hopped the Fung Wah bus to NYC for $15. I was on my way to be with Mira.

Chinatown in Philadelphia.

It was around quarter past seven at night and I did not know exactly how long it would take to get to New York City but I did not really care- a $15 bus ticket and an adventure to find my Love always beats a $60 YMCA dorm bed. But the only crinck in my plan was that Mira was in Philadelphia and I did not know what time the Chinatown buses stopped running. Oh well, I was moving on the highway into a thunderstorm smiling at Boston fading fast behind me. To travel is glorious.

I have the tendency to immediately be lulled to sleep in all forms of transportation. By the time the bus found its rhythm I was dreaming. I awoke as we were entering the lee side of Manhattan’s Chinatown with the man next to me exclaiming that we arrived late. I glanced at his clonk and it indicated that it was well past midnight. I clenched my teeth because I did not know where the Philadelphia bus terminal was, and severely doubted if it would still be open so late. But anyway, it would be fun to search for it in the gloomy Manhattan night. So I jumped off the bus, tried to take my bearing, and set off in the direction that I was pointed towards by the half-English speaking bus driver. A little African immigrant attached himself to me and we set off looking for the Chinatown bus to Philly together in the night of the city.

We walked around some bends trying to assemble some directional heading from our memories of previous trips through this giant Chinatown, and nearly started jumping up and down when we saw the huge bridge that the Philly bus left from. We made it . . . but for little effect. The street was deserted and there would be no Chinatown bus to Philadelphia that night.

So I bid farewell to the little African and set off through the dark deserted streets towards Grand Central Station. Something has to be going from there. I walked past the Bowery, Broadway, Madison- all the fanglory romantic streets of stage and screen. Grand Centrals trains did not seem to be the quickest way to my Love’s arms in Philadelphia, so I made way to Eight Ave to ride out the grey hound from Port Authority. I waited a few long hours in lines, watched an old white guy try to pick a fight with some gangstas who were trying to cut in front of us, and eventually was on my way to Philly. I arrived at six in the morning; just in time to step out into the street and meet Mira strutting my way smiling. I missed her. Now we had an entire day to frolic, eat Chinese food, and talk about how much I love, and she hates, the Orient.

After years of living and travelling in East Asia, I must say that it is a land much more disposed for men, much as many women find Latin America to be fertile ground. “If you can’t get laid in Japan, you must have a wooden dick,” I was once told and knowingly confirmed. “A man never brings his wife to Japan,” I remember reading somewhere. Two sentiments that echo what is readily observable in the region- foriegn dudes with pretty Asian women (who presumably cannot tell that they are ugly). I find this to be a rather nice phenomenon, and it almost warms my heart to observe.

It is interesting to note the attractions to certain parts of the planet that people have through the lens of their sex. It is also interesting to think that this could have much to do with the sexual attention that is wrought upon them from the local inhabitants. I was just talking to a girl the other day who loves Brazil. Further in our conversation I found out that she was showered in promiscuity there, and loved it. She also added, quite bluntly, that she had no interest in Asia. People like attention and to feel attractive. And these feelings have an obvious affect on how one precieves a country. I suppose it also adds an extra layer of excitement to bask in the potential of finding love on the road. Travel is romantic.

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Filed under: Asia, China, Cities and Urban Development, Japan, New York, North America, USA

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 76 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to Forbes, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3048 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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Wade Shepard is currently in: Polis, Republic of CyprusMap