Honolulu Chinatown

A Photo Fiction Journal and Character Sketch

What Stays in Chinatown


Brett Paufler

Honolulu, ChinaTown - Brick Finial Architectural Accent in Wall

I went for a walk in Chinatown recently with the intent of taking a few pictures that I hoped to weave into a story and/or character sketch of sorts.

Thus, ALL comments and observation should be treated as fictional. The photo's are real (as in, I really took them). But all commentary should be considered fictional and unrelated to any given image

ChinaTown - 2 -GIF of Walk Photos

I took a lot of pictures only a few of which made their way into this story -- or whatever you want to call this sort of randomly inspired fiction. Sometimes what's left out is more important than what's included.

Honolulu, ChinaTown - Wu Fat Building Honlulu, ChinaTown - Wu Fat Building, Detail of Loft

Based on the exterior signage, I call this the Wu Fat Building. There appears to be a loft available for rent. And when I saw this, I decided my protagonist would move in and rent the space.

ChinaTown - Power Wash Street Cleaning Crew

Unfortunately for my protagonist, this was the next thing that caught my eye -- street cleaners.

ChinaTown - Power Wash Street Cleaning Crew ChinaTown - Power Wash Street Cleaning Crew ChinaTown - Street Cleaning, Man Pushing Broom

Probably the weekly cleaning or some special road work detail. But in story, it was clear (to me, at least) that someone had died. So, I was working on a Murder Mystery -- or so I thought.

ChinaTown - China Cups Bowls & Tea Ware ChinaTown - China Cups Bowls & Tea Ware ChinaTown - China Cups Bowls & Tea Ware

There were other things to do on my outing other than daydreaming and taking photos. It was in part (in large part) a shopping expedition. Reasonably, the newcomer protagonist to our story needed to stock their apartment with basic kitchenware supplies.

ChinaTown - Pair of Tea Cups with Blue Scenes

I often find dirt poor characters to be more compelling than rich ones, because in their poverty the basic fight for survival becomes more compelling. Rich folks can buy their... whatever. Poor folks have to be a bit more resourceful in getting what they want.

This is all they (/I) left the store with: two new teacups with scenes of old painted on them. I expect to stare into these often in the nights to come... as shall my character.

Is truth stranger than fiction? If so, this probably means you're reading the wrong sort of stories...

ChinaTown - Kitsch Art of Old Time Mounted Chinese Warrior

There are lots of knick-knacks for sale in Chinatown. But most of the time, I would rather have the picture and the memory of the moment, than the item. This item looks to be an ancient warrior. I'm thinking that's what our protagonist saw when they stared into those tea cups late at night -- home alone, all alone in the dark.

And at this point, I was thinking (perhaps correctly) that our character was going to die. The only question being how? On some vision quest? Past life regression trip? Modern day Yukuza? No matter that this was Chinatown and Yukusa is a Japanese gangster thing. Of course, maybe that's why she (our character had become a girl) had to die! She knew her linguistics. Or to put it a different way...

Clearly, she knew too much!!!

ChinaTown - Clothes Shopping - Clothes on Racks ChinaTown - Clothes Shopping - Clothes on Racks

Though, if you've ever gone shopping with a girl and witnessed the indecision first hand, it might be hard to believe they ever know too much.


And as our protagonist is leafing through dresses looking for the right one (I guess she's got a hot date coming up or something), the narrative voice over will cut in with:

In a place like this, a person could die before their life even started.

I, of course, would be referring to dying of boredom, but our protagonist may not be so lucky.

mannequin - Close Up of Ribbon Around Neck Holding to Wall

I've gone years (literally years) without killing a character (even a minor one, off screen or pre-story). But in the last one of these photo-fiction projects that I did, someone one (or two died). And last weekend, I went through a good dozen extras just for the joy of a experiencing a good old fashioned killing spree. So, I don't know what's with that.

Who knows? Maybe there's something about Honolulu that I find unsettling.

Maybe I watched one too many episodes of Hawaii 5-0 as a child. Though, since I don't recall particularly liking the show, that does seem unlikely. Unless, of course, by one too many, we mean any...

Or maybe (just maybe) if you are going to do photo-fiction, be true to form, and let the events guide your musings, well then, a cord, ribbon, fish line, or whatever around the neck of a mannequin is a pretty good indication that someone has been killed by strangulation -- or at least, slow suffocation.

Happy thought, that.

Honolulu, ChinaTown - Clothes Shopping, Silk Jackets & Robes

Any way, I shop. So the protagonist shops.

Honolulu, ChinaTown - Clothes Shopping, Silk Jackets & Robes - Highlight of Gold Dragon

These designs mean something. They always mean something.

Of course, what they almost always mean is 'Happiness', 'Good Fortune', or something of the like. But where there is Ying, there is always a Yang.

I wonder what sort of person wears a 'Bad Fortune' symbol on their shirt?

I wonder what sort of person stocks that sort of shirt?

Honolulu, ChinaTown - Clothes Shopping, Silk Jackets & Robes - Highlight of Butterflies

Butterflies are a good sign. Even a Haole knows that butterflies are good sign.

Somebody just bought themselves a new pair of PJ's. Not saying who.

Vertical Rows of Costume Jewellery Vertical Rows of Costume Jewellery

This is just jewellery. I like the way it looks. I could say -- or better yet, the narrative voice over guy could say:

Yada. Yada. Looks can be deceiving...

Pile of Sea Shell Pooka Jewellery

All that glitters is not gold...

Pile of Sea Shell Pooka Jewellery - Close Up

And sometimes the best deals can be found in the bargain bin...

Costume Jewellery - Fake Gems

If you're lucky, you can find an old and discarded diamond in the rough.

Dried Something - Sponge or Spleen - Food.JPG

But some things are exactly as they appear and are best left alone.

I think this is supposed to be food: dried tripe or something of the like. Maybe edible sponge. Truthfully (as with most things), I haven't a clue.

Honolulu Chinatown - Interior of Dim Sum Restaurant - Old Man Eating Alone.JPG

It was Sunday, so Dim Sum was had. At $2.25/plate, it was well worth it.

The old guy was eating alone... as I image would our protagonist. In truth, if she's going to die of anything, it might be loneliness.

Yo! Author dude! Where are the other characters? Yeah, sure. I'd like to go on that hot date, but with who?

Honolulu, ChinaTown - Wu Fat Building - Wide Shot

And nearing the end, here we are back at Wu Fat's, back where we started. So, I guess our protagonist is going home along.

Honolulu, ChinaTown - Wu Fat Building - Corner SHot

I'm guessing the date didn't turn out as she expected. Maybe she got stood up or was never made in the first place -- another outing alone coming to a close.

Honolulu, ChinaTown - Wu Fat Building - Detail Second Floor Window with Art Showing Through - Lion Honolulu, ChinaTown - Wu Fat Building - Detail Second Floor Window with Art Showing Through - Abstract

Turns out there's all sort of art peaking out of some of Wu Fat's windows.

I guess the girl is an artist. It's not hard to see her painting at home alone in the dark, sipping tea out of her new cup, looking for inspiration. (She bought two -- wishful thinking.) And sighing, she returns to her work: a painting of some Samurai of old that haunts her dreams.

Honolulu, ChinaTown - Wu Fat Building - Detail Loft - Broken Shutters

Feel free to image the building at night, a half moon rising on the horizon, stars twinkling about overhead, with a lone candle lighting the interior, setting the room a'glow.

She can't even afford electricity, not yet.

ChinaTown - Shop Tinkets - Statue of Golden Dragon - Detail of Face

And here we have my last stop before I left Chinatown, so perhaps it is time for some resolution.

Dragon's figure prominently. So that warrior dude, the Samaria warrior, remember him? Perhaps he is fighting a dragon.

You know, the girl is a dragon -- in her heart.

ChinaTown - Shop Tinkets - Buddha on Necklace - Fake Amber

And if she loses to the demon, that night terror, that ghost -- then she is lost, like all the millions who have come before.

ChinaTown - Shop Tinkets - Shattered Buddha Fragmented Glaze

But there is always hope.

And one must always try.

There is this Buddhist saying, "The cup is already broken." Don't know where the words originate, perhaps some best selling book by some well known author, perhaps some prophet of old, perhaps I heard it on a date or during the day's outing. But whatever the case, the basic concept is simple enough. The cup is already broken. It will happen. You can't prevent it. So, enjoy it while it lasts. Enjoy life while it lasts.
Cartoon Graphic of Green Legs Triangle Girl - Green Triangle for Body - Heart for Eye - and if the truth be told the whole thing about butterfly tattoos is a total lie, saw a girl with cool tattos, but not butterflies, you know, change the details to protect the innocent, which would be this author, from needless hassles

And that's pretty much the story -- shattered and incomplete. So, let me fill in the holes.

One of the great joys of walking around Chinatown (or anytown for that matter is looking at the girls). And one of these girls, that I saw on this walk, was quite special indeed. She had done the tattoo thing right -- Butterflies. Butterflies taking flight, starting as caterpillars on her toes, they worked their way up her legs, climbing branches, climbing trees, disappearing under her dress -- that wasn't much there, as what she was really wearing was her skin, her heart her soul, for all to see...

And up and under and through that dress on the other side thereof the butterflies sprang free, fluttering forth in a storm from every conceivable angle.

THe tattoo covered one leg, one arm, and not much more, what she could reach with her own hand, using her body as the tapestry -- alone at night, how long it must have taken, and the result: pure magic, pure beauty, a life taking flight.

And from there, I will let you piece together the edges. For, I have told all that I know.

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© 2014 Brett Paufler