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|The Latin Meets the Oriental
In that spot where Chinatown merges into the Latin quarter there must be, I think, a Director of Delightful Situations who holds dominion there. For instance, can you imagine anything more subtle than a group of large fat women haranguing, in Italian-American, a poor thin Chinaman over some bargains in vegetables?
In a place which marks the line of cleavage between the two quarters is a picture store containing in its window religious pictures, enlarged family photographs of Filipinos, and, of course, views of the Point Lobos cypress. There is something very appealing about that window. Pictures of Jesus, no matter how lurid they are, never fall short of dignity. And it seems not at all incongruous that He should be there in the midst of all those strange human contacts.
There are not only contacts between the Latin and the Oriental, but anything unusual may come to light in that particular neighborhood. A buff cochin rooster was wandering about the street the other day. Stepping high and picking up choice tidbits and showing off before his harem of hens who peeked at him from their boxes, he strutted about exactly as though he had been in his own Petaluma barnyard.
One day I saw an enormous negro running through the streets with a piece of new, green felt bound around his stomach. Now why should a huge negro run through the street with a piece of new green felt around his stomach? No one knows. And another time a small Chinese maiden bumped into me because she was so absorbed in that great American institution, the funny sheet.
On one of those side streets, in there somewhere, one of those streets untoured by tourists, I saw some Chinese boys, dressed in American "Boss of the Road" unionalls, playing baseball and calling the call of Babe Ruth in sing-song Chinese. Then near them was an empty lot and what do you suppose it was filled with? Scotch thistles, and edged with wild corn flowers. Even Nature enters into the fun.
There is a story of an Italian who went through the streets somewhere on Leavenworth, calling, "Nica fresha flowers," and from the opposite side of the street a Chinaman with flowers would call, "Samee over here." All went well until the Chinaman began to outsell the other, when the Italian remonstrated. "Yella for yourself, see," he said, to which the Chinaman answered, "Go to hellee," and went on as before.
This story was told to me by very reliable eye witnesses. The buff cochin rooster and the huge negro and all the others I saw myself. And many other strange things which I have not room to write, I saw in that spot where Chinatown merges into the Latin quarter.