This ‘nice lowfon boy’ has been getting his hair cut on Doyers Street since he arrived here 40 years ago. My 1st wife was Chinese American. Her mother was born and raised in Chinatown. Her mom, my grandmother in law or ‘Po-po’ was born in British Columbia as the daughter of a cherry tree planter. She got a visa to attend nursing school in Chicago in the 1920s. She was allowed to stay in the USA because she was a nurse and therefore a skilled worker.
Po-po’s husband was a professional gambler in a neighborhood where everybody gambled. To this day, buses pull up on Bowery every morning to take people down to Atlantic City for a day of gambling.
My mother in law’s husband ‘Rocky’ had been a bodyguard for a warlord in Shanghai until the Communists took over. This was about 1950. He learned to cook in Taiwan, all that was left of the Republic of China. Then he immigrated to NYC and got a job as a Chinese-food cook in Chinatown.
Rocky found that he could supplement his meager income – no, quadruple his meager income – by becoming a fixer for gamblers.
He would find and rent basements that were safe from the police over on Elizabeth street. He was very proud of his crowning achievement: He bribed someone in the Corrections department to rent jail cells on weekends for his future father-in-law.
The Corrections Department is separate from the Police Department. The police couldn’t break into the jail, which was directly across Columbus Park from Chinatown. Easy commute.
My wife and I met in college upstate. When we graduated we got married and moved down to the family house in Flatbush. I’ve been getting my hair cut in Chinatown ever since. The fee for a haircut has never been as much as ten dollars. People in the know come in from Brooklyn and Queens for a Chinatown haircut. They all know Doyers Street.