The Floating World

Middle class Asians are rediscovering the joys of residing in the old neighborhood.

By G.W. Miller III
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 1 | Posted Jul. 23, 2008

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illustration by KRIS CHAU

On the TV, a blond couple caresses each other as they sit in the thick grass on a gentle hill adjacent to a small pond. Her hair blows in the light breeze as she disinterestedly stares ahead. The Ken doll beside her stands up slowly, dramatically dragging his hand across her shoulders as he exits the screen.

"You don't bring me flowers," croons Anita Fung, reading the lyrics that accompany the visuals on the 50-inch television.

"You don't sing me love songs," bellows her husband Raymond, his deep voice reverberating through the tinny speakers.

"You hardly talk to me anymore, when you come through the door at the end of the day," Anita sings back.

On the TV, the blond couple strolls around a European-looking village of pale limestone walls and cobblestone streets. When the instrumental part of the Barbra Streisand/Neil Diamond 1978 classic rolls around, the couple splits apart without looking back.

"Is very nice song, isn't it?" Anita, 59, asks me over the microphone as the violins rise and the piano hits the crescendo.

Then she and Raymond, 60, belt out the end of the melancholy tune.

"You'd think I could learn ... how to tell you goodbye," they wail together. "'Cause you don't bring me flowers anymoooooore."

As the couple extends the "more" for several seconds, the dozen people gathered in the Fung's penthouse apartment at the GrandView Condominiums in Chinatown begin to applaud and hoot.

But there's no time to soak in the cheers.

Anita hustles to the karaoke machine and pops in the next tune. The party is just getting started.


Five years ago Anita and Raymond operated a pair of restaurants in Chinatown--the Cherry Street Kosher Restaurant and South East Chinese Restaurant. To get there they'd drive an hour each way from their home in the northern reaches of Bucks County. They'd arrive at the restaurants early in the morning and leave 12 or 13 hours later, exhausted. It was a commute they made for more than 20 years.

"The suburbs are calm and peaceful," Raymond explains. "You have a nice lawn. It's like a dream to some people."

When the couple came to America from Hong Kong 34 years ago, Chinatown was crowded and dirty with a hint of desperation. It was a place for new immigrants, and when people could afford to leave the neighborhood they did.

Things have changed.

When their grown son left the family home in 2004, the Fungs decided to sell their suburban home and join the Chinatown community full-time. They first looked at converted lofts at TenTen Race Street, then discovered the GrandView, which is about the time the wave of middle-class Chinese people started flowing back into Chinatown.

"Right now there's a new trend of people who just stay in Chinatown," Raymond says. "It's totally different than 30 years ago."


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1. Andrew said... on Jul 25, 2008 at 12:30PM

“You mentioned two people moving to Chinatown. That hardly merits your headline.”

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