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Otakuthon DollFest, 08/05/2018: Chinatown

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On Sunday morning, the last day of the con, I hung around Chinatown before Otakuthon opened at 10:00 AM. I took some pictures of this small, ethnically diverse neighborhood of comparatively poor people and cheap goods [including lots of delicious food] that is being relentlessly reduced by the rich forces of gentrification that have subsumed the rest of Centreville.

Chinatown offers an amazing amount of public art crammed into a small space. I especially liked this relief sculpture of dancing players of various instruments. By Studio Drew Lui, 1988, according to the sculpture’s signature. Click to enlarge for nifty details. Check out those solemn, angular faces and ornate, swirly hairdos.

Looking up Rue de la Gauchetiere toward Le Palais de Congres.
Looking down Rue de la Gauchetiere into Chinatown.
Where we had dinner on Saturday. The last time I checked, fondue involved melted cheese or chocolate sauce, so I don’t think fondue = shabu shabu.
Where we had food on Friday.
Where we had our first bubble tea on Friday. The vividly glowing neon menu was impossible to resist. So was the sugar + caffeine hit from the bubble tea!
Lyrajean’s bubble tea, representing all the bubble tea we consumed on the trip.
Place Sun Yat Sen, on the corner of Rue Clark and Rue de la Gauchetiere, offers stone tables with barrel-shaped stools, a temple/gift shop, a statue, and another relief sculpture, mostly of waves and stuff this time.

The building labeled HOTEL at the far right of the picture is The Wyndham Travelodge where we stayed at 50 Boulevard de Rene Levesque. The entire block of Rue Clark behind the Travelodge contains derelict buildings that are boarded up, papered over, dusty, for rent, or otherwise neglected. It’s particularly sad that the Center for Chinese Culture in Montreal has apparently ceased to function here.
An empty facade, with only architectural details remaining, seems like a too-pointed commentary on the way that this area has been progressively evacuated of its unique character so that only the outer semblance remains, without substance.

Foo dogs guard a shuttered restaurant on Rue Clark. The cardboard boxes at the bottom of the frame protect someone homeless sleeping beneath them that I didn’t want to photograph without permission.
Lyrajean says that there used to be many more shops like Hui Tack Wing Ginseng et The, offering traditional herbs, medicine, remedies, etc. Most of them look like Hui Tack Wing does today, dusty, empty, and yellow around the edges.
I have never seen a fire escape on the street front of a building before, only the sides and back. In some way it metonymizes Chinatown’s overall rundown condition…like people didn’t have the money to move the fire escape to a more functional, less obvious place. Or maybe the city didn’t care? Note all the boards in the windows to the left of the one with the fire escape. Pretty sure the sign in the lower left plate glass window says A LOUER [FOR RENT].
Yet another closed restaurant, La Maison VIP, has fancy golden Corinthian columns and nifty red-framed windows in unusual shapes.
Nonfunctioning clock, unexpected little balconies, and the sign of an apparently flourishing restaurant suggest the mixture of businesses, architectural styles, time periods, etc. you can find in such a small neighborhood.
A sunflower, full of vitality and beauty, delighted me on the property of the Montreal Chinese Pentecostal Church!
What’s this? New construction? Revitalization?
Oh… A bunch of small apartments with big prices. Fuckin’ gentrification.
As I completed my walk, this ghost advertisement, which touts the “elasticity and strength” of Cardinelli’s “sewing silk,” caught my eye. I’m totally serious — an opportunity for a strained metaphor just descended from above. Naturally, as a writer in love with figurative language, I took advantage of it. I wondered if Montreal’s Chinatown, which has changed so much over the years, might exhibit similar elasticity and strength as the people, inhabitants, business owners, and visitors, face future challenges.

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