Chicago Chinatown 1964 - Who runs Bartertown?

I bought this postcard for $2.50. That's more than I try to pay for a single postcard. Some antique vendors try to charge up to $5 for just one frikkin postcard. I'd pay that much if it were the postcard that Hitler sent to his boyfriend wishing him a merry Siebenschlafer, or something of equal historical significance. I betrayed my own rule of postcards because I really like Chinatown.

This is the view looking north on Wentworth Avenue in 1964. You can barely see, in the distance, the cool pagoda style gateway that, in my mind, marks the coolest street in Chicago. Dissenters may dissent, but they can also get their own blog and shut up.

One year in 1999 or so, it was a Thursday. A buddy of mine came over because we both had nothing going on, and hanging out was always inexpensive and pretty funny. He said "wanna go to Chinatown?" The drive to Chinatown from where I lived at the time was about 26 miles, so it was more than a jog across the street but less than an epic road trip. It was something to do.

Now, this friend's brother was, at the time, training to be a cop. I can't remember why he was on the phone with him, but he insisted that Chinatown was dangerous, as if we might get messed with by the triads or something. We had both been to Chinatown a handful of times before, and had never felt as though we were in any particular danger, except for the danger of finding non-authentic Chinese knickknacks at affordable prices, and possiby seeing gross things in fish tanks. So, yeah, we went to Chinatown. I brought a minidisc recorder (the only one ever bought), and a pair of stereo microphones that looked exactly like a pair of earbuds. We recorded ourselves driving to, walking around, and driving back from Chinatown, thinking we'd be funny. The whole time, calling it Bartertown - the rough and tumble city from Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, where you could buy anything, if you survive! We did our imitation of Master and Auntie looking at plastic gods and jade elephants. "Me buy imported brick-a-brack! Me king A-Rab!" "Who run barter town?" "Mahster Blahster runs bahtah town." Etc.

I do not have these recordings any more, which is fine because these are things that are funny when they happened, but don't deserve retelling after the fact. Wups.

So what's there now? Here's the same view in Google Maps.

View Larger Map

You can see that Won Kow is still there, but the orient Shoppe and the other cool neon sign across the street are gone. Booo.

If you go to Chinatown, I recommend the Three Happiness restaurant and Joy Yee Noodle.


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