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Best Back Alley San Francisco 2003 - Ross Alley

Ross Alley is the oldest alleyway in Chinatown and therefore in San Francisco, and as such boasts phantoms both benign and sinister. It was here that Fung Jing Toy (aka "Little Pete"), Chinatown's criminal mastermind, maintained most of the cribs, opium dens, and gambling joints that so enriched the city's coffers. (An amazing 1898 Arnold Genthe photograph of the alleyway can be studied at www.tfaoi.com/mn/mib/mib39.jpg.) In later years the alley was best known for its now-defunct Rickshaw Bar, where, legend has it, the Beatles knocked back a few in 1964. Today's Ross Alley is more placid than in the past, but it still gives off enough of a labyrinthine, Old World vibe to stand in for the real thing in movies like Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Among its attractions are the vintage single-chair Old Yee Barbershop, where proprietor Jun Yu has clipped the locks of Sinatra, Como, Eastwood, and other devotees, and the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory, where you can watch two women pluck circles of dough off a Jules Verne carousel apparatus, tuck fortunes on top, and fold them into cookies. Call Chinatown Alleyway Tours at 984-1744 to learn more about this history-rich back street.

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Karl G. Smith II
Karl G. Smith II

CHINATOWN LOWDOWN1974


It is amazing what you can get off the Worldwide Web.  Chinatown San Francisco
and Wo Fats in Honolulu.  It seems like it was just yesterday!  It sure beats surfing
www.craigslist.com for beat-up women and many curvy chicks who advertise themselves as BBW or BWB, whatever the nomenclature is; the big women do not put their picture up for all to see and the good looking Asian women are very shy and don't answer your e-mails anyway since they spending all their time studying hoping to go to Business School or into 'The Law'.  Some of them have aspirations to go to Architecture School, but they usually go to Berkeley, Yale, or Harvard and then go to work for Anderson Architects, New York, MBT Architects, Philadelphia, or 4240 Architecture, Denver . You good architects always get first choice!

I enjoyed reading about Ross Alley in San Francisco's Chinatown.  On one occasion I took Ross Anderson there to the 'Rickshaw', a former opium den, 'Yee Shee'; another time I took Howard Junker, of Zyzzyva Fame there.  The bartender, Tony, was a "Poo Tau Choi" otherwise known as a 'little hatchet man' who would 'sock nita tow' or 'chop your head off' if you danced too many times with the same girl serving Hong Kong cocktails to the patrons.  I have not been back there recently, but I doubt if it is still there, it having gone the way of Wo Fats in the Honolulu Chinatown.  I used to go there, during my drinking days, young having lived in Hong Kong several years before; the place felt like home; I knew the bartender, on an infrequent basis.  I remember Ross, on the occasion that I took him there, asked if the place was 'real'.  Howard Junker was also flabbergasted
because the same woman who he danced with two times in a row, to a slow dance mind you, asked him if he wanted to 'get married' at the conclusion of the
second dance.  Ross was likewise propositioned not by one, but  by two women, who held court there.  I knew Yale and Harvard were never like this, but the 
"Rickshaw"' was the place to be for any aspiring young Architect or Editor. I now know why the place went out of business; people I used to take there would sneak back in and take the girls out, make them promises that they couldn't keep, having been heavily sedated with the remains of the opium or alcohol.  Poor Tony always used to complain to me that that my friends were coming back and stealing his girls.  I never did though!


Karl G. Smith II

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