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On Grand Street, March 4, 2016

Went to Grand Street today to get a haircut ($5 + $2 tip = $7) at the Chinese barber. I saw the man who would be after me reading the newspaper. Mitt Romney was on the front page. He let me take a picture when I was finished. Mitt Romney’s Trump-bashing is getting around. Even in Chinese.

How do you say “Donald Trump is dangerous” in Chinese? Thanks to Joanne Wang I know: “听我的,特朗普是个危险人物”.

Chinese American didn’t used to vote, but they do now. Two Chinese Americans, in fact, are on the NY City Council (Margaret Chin and Peter Koo), and John Liu, formerly a City Council member ran for mayor against de Blasio a few years ago. Margaret Chin, whom I’ve met, is councilwoman for District 1, part of Chinatown and the Lower East Side. She is the daughter of an undocumented worker; her father worked as a waiter. Prior to winning the 2009 city council election, Ms. Chin had run and lost in the primary elections in 1991, 93, and 2001. But that’s American gumption for you. She didn’t give up.

Margaret Chin

Are Chinese-Americans going to vote for Trump? Asian Americans (not just the Chinese) in general, even when they become rich, remain liberal. This is very frustrating for the RNC, and they are thinking very hard about it even as we speak. But Asian-Americans, statistically, making a quarter of a million dollars or more, believe the richer you get the more responsible you are for the common good. Is this altruism a reaction to the governments that they’ve come from? American immigrants are more optimistic about the American Dream than native born Americans are. They also create more new businesses than the native born. Those who aren’t born here seem to see more clearly all the possibilities.


Kossar’s Bagels at Grand and Essex

After the barber, I walked down past Essex on Grand to Kossar’s Bagels and had a lox and bagel with the works and a pickle ($8.25 + tax) and thought about Irving Berlin. He used to be a waiter on the Lower East Side when he first heard the African American music called Ragtime, and Berlin, who was a Russian refugee escaping the pogroms, not only loved the music, but felt a kinship with the blacks because like him they suffered persecution, like his people their people had been slaves. Irving Berlin, born Israel Isidore Baline, stepped off the boat onto Ellis Island at the age of five in 1893. If not for African and Jewish Americans there would be no American music, no Blues, Jazz, Broadway, Tin Pan Alley, no Rock and Roll.


Irving Berlin

Yesterday, in 1931, the Star Spangled Banner, based on an English tune that is very difficult to sing, became the National Anthem. 85 years ago it was a Tuesday not a Thursday when Herbert Hoover signed it into law. Other songs had been considered including God Bless America. But folks on the right including the KKK strongly opposed God Bless America because Irving Berlin was an immigrant and worse yet a Jew. The KKK is still around. The Chinese folks on the Lower East Side read the paper and know all about it.



This week I had the good fortune through the generosity of a friend to see the Broadway show, Hamilton. Hamilton, a Jamaican, was an immigrant, and a poor one. But he worked hard. Harder than anyone. And if not for immigrants like him and Lafayette there would be no United States of America; the French, God bless them, won the American Revolution. The show was great. The only disconcerting thing were the cops going through ladies’ purses as we went in and then a bomb sniffing dog attached to a cop stood there sniffing all of us. Wednesday night, anyway, no bomb went off.

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