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Another Portland Blog

Monday, July 11, 2005

 

One last trip to Hung Far Low (?)

A cover story from today's Oregonian delves into Hung Far Low's final days and the changing face of Portland's Chinatown. Daunted by parking problems, rising rents and the creeping menace of the Pearl District, the neighborhood's iconic businesses are all high-tailing it out to SE 82nd. Money quote:

"Yet Chinese Americans in the area have long known what they call the Chinese Chinatown has emerged on 82nd, where the newer wave of immigrants settled and opened businesses. They say the Old Town Chinatown with the Portland Classical Garden and restaurants that cater more to Western tastes is the 'tourist Chinatown.'"

An Eastside Chinatown mixed in amongst the 82nd Wal-Mart and its strip mall offspring? Sure, there's plenty of free parking but screw practicality. What about all the mysterious ambiance? The frayed-at-the-edges '50s decor in all those places in and around NW 4th Avenue? As a character on the Simpsons once put it, "where's the dank"? My "Western tastes" prefer a Chinatown sprinkled with ancient neon signs, an element of danger and the slim possibility that I might encounter a mogwai.




Can't we at least have both versions? A real-deal Chinatown on the Eastside and a kitschy, crime-ridden downtown one for adventure-seeking clubhoppers? The eclectic crowds, celebrity sightings and semi-amusing anecdotes (see below) aren't likely to follow these businesses after they all leap over the Willamette River. C'mon, won't someone please think of the children hipsters?

Anyway, I made what will probably be my last trip to Hung Far Low a few weeks ago for dinner. After diving into a booth in the lounge, a half-dozen Suicide Girl types and their male cohorts entered. It was someone's birthday and they were celebrating by going on a bar crawl through Chinatown. As I waited for my chow mein, they tossed around lewd wisecracks and sang "Happy Birthday." While divvying up the bill, one suggested that they all take off their tops and march down to the Magic Gardens. "It's totally legal," one claimed. "There's nothing the police can do to stop us."

Coincidentally (honest!), my bill arrived around the same time. I headed back to my car and as I drove down 4th Avenue, sure enough, at least a few of them were going along with the plan. The bouncer outside the Magic Gardens had stopped them at the door. One was rolling her eyes as she put back on her t-shirt. Apparently even strip clubs adhere to the "no shoes, no shirt, no service" rule.

Hung Far Low, you will be missed. Sure, you're moving about a mile away but it just won't be the same.

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