Jewish World Review May 8, 2003 / 6 Iyar, 5763
Duck Peking, but not Chinatown
http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | NEW YORK "You're lucky I picked you up," said the cabbie. "Usually I don't pick up in Chinatown anymore."
"So why'd you pick up me?"
"You don't look Chinese."
Well, I'm not. But I am a New Yorker, like most everyone else in Chinatown. And like them, I'm bummed that so many people are avoiding the area like, well, the plague.
The plague called SARS.
Duck Peking, if you must, Mr. Cabbie. Give Hong Kong the gong. Leave Toronto pronto. But Chinatown? Let's look at the facts:
There have been only two probable cases of severe acute respiratory syndrome reported in the city, and 18 suspected cases. None of these people died. In fact, said city Health and Mental Hygiene spokesman Greg Butler, "I wouldn't be surprised if none of them even has the SARS virus."
In any event, not a single one - that's right, zero - came from Chinatown. So let's all go back already!
Easy to say, I know. Look, my husband didn't want to go there for dinner, either. "Why risk it?" he said.
But now that I've oh-so-bravely revisited the nabe, loaded up on a week's worth of (cheap!) vegetables and talked to a bunch of perfectly healthy people in stores that were ailing from lack of business, hubby has been informed: We're going for dumplings, dam-it!
The place we're going is the Sun Dou dumpling shop on Grand St., where, according to manager Victor Tang, the place is usually hopping - and not just because they serve frogs legs.
"We have special dumplings and buns," said Tang. They're made fresh at a factory right in Chinatown. "American peoples like the buns - you bite in, they're nice and juicy. And seafood dumplings, that's the house specialty."
Now, however, business is "slow, slow - everyone is afraid. A couple weeks ago, they said they have SARS in Chinatown. It's not true - I don't know who's telling those lies."
Neither does Paul Leung, a manager at Optical 88 on Mott St. But when he heard the rumors - about a restaurateur dying - he went to the restaurant himself. "I personally talked to the owner that supposedly passed away because of SARS," said Leung. (Good reporter!) Nonetheless, he admitted, the rumors p ersist. "The facts are in, but it still takes time to sink in."
That could be because Chinese people are simply used to bad news, said Chung Lo, executive producer of the Chinese Community TV Network.
"Chinese people always suffer many difficulties," said Lo, philosophically. "They don't complain much because they're used to it. In China, there's bad weather, floods, drought, wars, fighting. Then there's corruption and all kinds of disasters. So whatever comes up, they take it."
Well, they shouldn't have to take any more bad news simply because some cabbies and other New Yorkers refuse to accept the truth: Chinatown is safe.
It's also cheap and fun and, like its dumplings, filled with surprises. Bite in!
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