When I was elementary school aged my dad sometimes took my brother and I to Chinatown on the weekends. We would buy butterfly pastries from Phoenix Bakery. (They're fried wonton-ish twists oozed in gluey corn syrup and sugar. They are amazing.) We would wander around the Central Plaza, throwing snappers at the ground and eating rice candy with the edible paper wrappers. Back in the day, these trips made what I knew as Chinatown very familiar. DTLA was not what it is now, it was dirty from border to border and my dad used to walk with his car key in between his fingers in case a mad raving hobo decided to mug us, because back in the day that definitely could have happened in downtown Los Angeles. Chinatown became a little stomping ground for my little feet. Is it odd I feel it's a little like my first home away from home?
Now I'm a big girl with grown up feet and I still like going to Chinatown for the snappers and butterflies. When I visit, I'm filled with nostalgia. A part of me feels, yes, it's nostalgia for my early years in this life. Another part of me thinks I was definitely Chinese in past lives (yes, multiple) and I've got this forever yearning for all things Chinese. I know it's weird to say that because Chinatown isn't real China and I've never even been to real China. But you see, my logic is failing me now (my intuition doesn't, I'm convinced). Corn-syrup on fried pastry dough will never fail me though. And Chinatown you might one day because you're kind of changing but kind of not. I'm entirely convinced the same souvenirs I probably touched twenty years ago are still at the bottom of a box in one of these stores. But we don't know how much longer we'll have together...so I bring my daughter now to pass on this weird nostalgia for a place that is hardly a wisp of the ghost of old China, but dammit, if that's all there is, I'll take it. Is there anyone else out there that feels this way about Chinatown?