© 2024 WYPR
WYPR 88.1 FM Baltimore WYPF 88.1 FM Frederick WYPO 106.9 FM Ocean City
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Chinatown ID, Seattle, part 1

Seattle’s Chinatown International District is a bustling, pan-Asian neighborhood of immigrants from China, Japan, Vietnam, and The Philippines.  It’s also a mix of generations, where Americanized children navigate a complex family dynamic with their non-English speaking elders.  Tradition is in a tug-of-war with modernity on the streets of Chinatown ID, where multi-generational family businesses stand side-by-side with the startups of young, artistic entrepreneurs. It all amounts to a beautiful, mutable monument to the American Dream.  This episode was produced in collaboration with KUOWand made possible by a generous grant from The National Endowment for the Arts.

Funding for podcast production provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and PRX, the Public Radio Exchange. Out of the Blocks is produced with grant funding from the Cohen Opportunity Fund, the William G. Baker, Jr. Memorial Fund (creator of the Baker Artist Portfolios), Sig and Barbara Shapiro, Patricia and Mark Joseph, Jonathan Melnick, The Andy and Sana Brooks Family Foundation, The Hoffberger Foundation, Associated Jewish Charities,  The John J. Leidy Foundation, The Kenneth S. Battye Charitable Trust, and The Muse Web Foundation.


Various Voices: From WYPR and PRX, it’s Out of the Blocks. This is the CID, the Chinatown International District, Seattle, Washington. One neighborhood, everybody’s story. 

This area, pretty diversified. We not only have Chinese, we also have Vietnamese, Japanese, Filipino, Korean, so that’s why they call this area the International District, Chinatown.

This neighborhood — it’s, in a way, a little bit of a bubble. You can come here and not here a lot English-speaking folk and not see a lot of Caucasian people around. You’re surrounded by people who look like you, and are speaking the same language as you, which is really cool in a sense that you just have this kind of sense of community. We’re you’re here you just feel a little bit like home, in a way, which is kind of strange to say because, you know, Seattle is my home. But in a way, like, this little neighborhood is a home within that bubble.

From the minds of Aaron Henkin and Wendel Patrick, in collaboration with KUOW, it’s Out of the Blocks, the CID, Chinatown International District, Seattle, Washington.

Ken Daffon: My name is Ken Daffon, I’m from Seattle, Washington. I grew up here in the International District and right now we are sitting in Hing Hay Park. Lots of places to sit, and just relax. A lot of times you’ll see pigeons just flying through the park and it’s just a really amazing sight.

Aaron Henkin: As you’re talking, there’s a guy over there on crutches who’s got a crowd of pigeons around him. He’s feeding those pigeons. Is he a regular here? Look, there’s one on his shoulder.

K: Yes, he’s definitely a regular here. I mean, you can just tell by the way he interacts with the pigeons. They know that he’s the man that gives them food.

AH: Look, he’s got one on his head. There they go.

K: Hing Hay Park is pretty much my front yard that I played in growing up. I grew up in the apartments across the street. My parents and my grandma live in that corner apartment right up there. My dad, he’s from Leyte in the Philippines, and my mom is from Los Banos, Laguna, which is also in the Philippines, and my dad’s father, he served in World War II. I heard a lot of crazy stories about my grandfather, about how he was captured by Japanese soldiers and held in prison, and how he escaped. So, after the war, they allowed my grandfather to come to the U.S., and from then, that’s how my family came. My dad, he started working in Alaska, in an Alaska cannery. They put together fish, they put them in cans, and they ship them off.

AH: So, he would live here, but there would be a season where he would ship off to Alaska.

K: Yeah, usually in the summertime, he’d go out for about three months and then he’d come back here. After my dad worked in the cannery, and until this day, he works as a janitor. My dad didn’t really get a formal education when he was back home. My dad is sixty-seven years old. So, I just started working with this non-profit organization here in the International District called Interim Community Development Association. What they do is they help to preserve the International District and to help to keep it affordable and help keep it a place where Asians, Pacific Islanders, refugees, immigrants, keep it a place that they can grow and thrive, and protect them from large developers. So, every day I wake up and get to come here. I no longer live here in the International District—I have my own place now. I just had to move out because there was just no space in this tiny apartment that I grew up in. It was a one bedroom apartment and I grew up sleeping on the floor, and a couple steps away from me was the kitchen, and then a step was the bathroom, so I just needed my own space. That’s the reason why I moved out, but I love it here, don’t get me wrong.

AH: Tell me how old you are?

K: I am twenty-two years old. Me and my dad, we butt heads all the time. I think it’s because there’s a cultural gap between us. Right now I’m having a cultural identity crisis because I identify myself as American, but I also am Filipino and I grew up in Filipino culture, and my parents—mostly my dad, because he’s older—he was a little frustrated with me that I moved out. In Filipino culture, family is one of the biggest parts of our culture, and they don’t want you to leave, they want you to stick to the family. Me going independent was something new for them, like a big change for them.

AH: How do you think your dad feels about the young man that you’ve turned out to be? It seems like he’s frustrated with you, but he must be proud of you, too.

K: Yeah, he’s frustrated but I know he’s proud and I think it’s just hard for him to express his emotions sometimes, but he won’t tell me directly, like, “Hey, I love you.”

AH: Let me give you an opportunity to say to your dad maybe something that you haven’t ever said to him to his face.

K: Hey, Dad, I just want you to know that, you know, I’m doing okay and mahal kita.

AH: “Mahal kita.” What does that mean?

K: “Mahal” means love, and “kita” means you.

Timothy Louie: Well, when we first started making fortune cookies, they were all hand made by grandmother. She and several other women would work very hard, a very hard and tedious task all day long, folding and bending these cookies. In 1980, there was some machinery from Boston, Massachusetts, in your neck of the woods, well, the east coast there, and that totally revolutionized the fortune cookie folding manufacturing process, where it was all automated. Stuffing in the fortunes, bending the cookies. Around 2001, we had to look for a higher speed machine, and we found one in Japan, which makes over 8,000 units an hour. This machine makes in one hour what my grandmother did in one day.

AH: This is pretty incredible. This is like the space shuttle of fortune cookies.

TL: Yeah, that is absolutely a Japanese engineering marvel. The vacuum assists in picking up the fortunes, we have a natural gas that heats it, and an electric motor that drives the conveyor moving these 80 tracks. Hi, I’m Timothy Louie. I’m the president here. You guys are visiting the Tsue Chong Noodle and Fortune Cookie Company. We manufacture products under the Rose brand name. My great-grandfather started the business in 1917. He came from Toishan, China. This was the built-in childcare/daycare for me. My parents and grandparents would come to work and bring me along. I started working here—it was always a guaranteed job—and I fully dedicated myself to the business in 1984. As of date, we are using my grandmother’s recipe which is six ingredients: pastry flour, sugar, vanilla flavoring, water, liquid eggs, and coconut shortening. Contrary to belief we don’t have Chinese guys that write fortunes for us. We have been working with a fortune printing company in San Francisco. There are enough fortune cookie factories across the United States that he found a very good business to write, print, cut, and supply fortune cookie companies like myself with a fortune.

AH: I heard a superstition that you’re not supposed to read the fortune until you finish chewing up the cookie. Have you heard that superstition?

TL: I’ve heard many funny stories about the fortune cookies. They’re all really interesting and some of them are quite humorous, but there really is no proper way or etiquette to eat the fortune cookie.

AH: It is absolutely hypnotizing to watch this machine work.

TL: It’s kinda mesmerizing. There’s a little music to the cycles here, with the click-clack, with each click-clack it’s dispensing batter six across the baking plates.

AH: So, do you have some children of your own? Is there going to be a fifth generation?

TL: No, there will not be a fifth generation. My son’s a physical therapist, and my daughter is an engineer. So… But I’m too young. I’m not going to retire any time soon.

AH: Before I go, I wonder if you might grab a fortune cookie and crack it open and send us off with a fortune.

TL: It says, “What you ate was not chicken.”

AH: What does it really say?

TL: “Stop waiting. Buy that ticket and take a trip today.”

AH: Thank you again.

TL: It was a pleasure having you.

Lizzie Baskerville: My name is Lizzie Baskerville and I’m the garden manager at Interim CDA and this is the Danny Woo Community Garden. It’s a 1.5 acre park and allotment garden right in the heart of Chinatown International District to allow the elder gardeners a space to grow culturally appropriate food.

Pan: My last name is Pan. P-A-N.

LB: This is elder Xie Pan and he has gardened at the Danny Woo community garden for over 20 years.

AH: How old are you?

P: Guess.

AH: Umm… Twenty-nine.

P: (laughs) Ninety-four.

AH: Ninety-four.

P: Ninety-four.

AH: And you come here everyday to garden?

P: Two or three days per week.

LB: Sometimes you can tell where a gardener came from just by looking at the plants that they grow. So, um, here in the spring and summer you see a lot of shiso leaf and you see a lot of hot pepper. A Korean gardener tends this plot here. I’m part Korean and I get to speak, practice a little bit of my Korean with the Korean gardeners and building those relationships with the grandmothers here is special for me personally because my grandmother has passed away, but to build relationships with older generations is really valuable.

Henry Lou: My name is Henry. Henry Lou. I am the community organizer at Interim CDA. So, right now we are standing in the Danny Woo Garden next to one of our elder gardeners. Her name is Ying-Yee. So, Ying auntie has been planting in this garden for three years and right now she is planting a vegetable. I don’t know the exact English translation, but in Chinese it’s called “shintao.” She emigrated from China and she moved to Seattle because her relatives are living here. She was saying that the one thing that she really loves about this garden is just being able to plant something and see it grow.

LB: I think this is a really great vista to understand the neighborhood because you can really see the only green space in the Chinatown-Little Saigon area.

AH: It’s on top of a big hill. You can see all different parts of the Seattle skyline from here. You can hear airplanes going overhead. But we’re also surrounded by this sort of serenity, and we’re literally next to a chicken coop as well.

LB: Yes, we are on a pretty steep slope. It’s a really unique spot and you can hear the freeway, and you can see the stadiums, and you can see the industry to the south, and that kind of frames the history of this neighborhood as well. So, you can kind of understand the history of the neighborhood just by looking at this view, but also understanding that it’s such a precious place in the neighborhood.

Taylor Huang: My name is Taylor Huang, and we are sitting today at my mom’s restaurant, called Houng Binh Restaurant in the Little Saigon area of Chinatown International District. Little Saigon grew out of the immigration of Vietnamese to the area in 1975, and Little Saigon isn't what it was when I grew up. It’s changed a lot since. We’re trying to keep it as vibrant as it once was, but second generation Vietnamese are building different types of Vietnamese businesses outside of here, so we’ve seen a lot of changes. For example, the marijuana dispensary which was here in the very same building. It was an illegal one and there were a lot of crimes, there were a lot of thefts, and even though Washington state has a legal marijuana law, at that time it can only be sold as medicinal, and so they kind of framed it under that they were a medicinal, but it was just all under the table, being sold illegally and the attitude of the business owners here was, “Well, there’s nothing we can do. We can only protect ourselves. Let’s close up a little bit earlier, let’s try to protect ourself rather than engaging with the city.” And that’s when myself and a number of others started to push the city and bring in media attention, using media as a tool, which our parents wouldn’t know to do. And so, because a lot of our work, we were able to push the city to rewrite a lot of the policy that push a lot of these illegal marijuana dispensaries to comply with licensing and push them out into non-business areas.

AH: It’s interesting to me that you, as a younger generation, have come into the role as being an advocate for your parents, the first generation. It’s an interesting role for a child to be in, in relation to their parents. I wonder if you might talk about that generational dynamic.

TH: I think that if you speak to any immigrant family, the child tends to have more opportunities. We are able to get an education, we are able to learn English faster, whereas your parents as immigrants when they arrive, their head is down, they are trying to provide for their family and so, kind of like the family dynamic social aspect, the education is left in the hands of the child. And so there is a little bit of a role reversal there, but it’s just expected. I remember, so I have a younger brother that we have a nine years age difference, and I remember I was the one who took him to register for school, I was the one who took him to his first kindergarten class, and it was just expected that I would just take care of him, feed him, bathe him, clothe him, put him to sleep. But it’s just part of life. And then today when we see the injustice, or disenfranchise of our parents of how they are treated, it just makes sense that we take on that role once again. This is my mom Lin. Lin Dang. She is the owner of Houng Binh Restaurant.

AH: Pleasure to meet you. I wonder if you might say a few words about your daughter. Tell me what kind of a young woman she is and what makes you proud about her.

Lin Dang: I like my daughter very, very much. She takes care of me. Everything. I very, very love her. She takes care of me. From every kind of trouble, my daughter takes care of me. I love her.

AH: You walk into this place it looks, I’m guessing, very much like it did in 1910.

Jan Johnson:  I don’t know why it would be any different. My name’s Jan Johnson. I’m in Seattle’s Panama Hotel, 605 1/2 South Main, Japantown. The building was built in 1910. It’s operated as a hotel, since 1910. It’s still running on 1910 power. Mr. Takahashi Hori was the person that I bought the building from. He was born in 1918, south of Olympia. His dad was working in lumber mills down there and they moved to Seattle when Mr. Hori was two, and he went to Broadway High School, University of Washington, majored in accounting, and graduated and his dad encouraged him to buy this building in 1939. So, then he realized shortly after that when the war broke out and when the Executive Order 9066 was signed, it was an order for American Japanese to be interned. And downstairs in the cafe I have a newspaper that’s dated March 12th, 1942, and it says, “the evacuation of Japanese due within ten days,” and that was March 12th, 1942. Mr. Hori realized he was going and he had friends who said they knew they were going. His friends said, “Can we put our stuff in the basement?” And he said, “Sure,” and this friend told that friend, and that friend told that friend, and pretty soon it was stacked to the ceiling with these trunks with all these people that were going off to Minidoka. He had a friend that said he would watch the building while he was gone. So, he leased it from Mr. Hori. He took care of all, everything: collected the money, paid bills… But then the guy, when he came back, he didn't want to give Mr. Hori his keys back. These are the keys. Everybody hear this?

AH: Those are the same keys that Mr. Hori had on his belt.

JJ: Yes.

AH: After having gone through that internment experience, what did Mr. Hori have to say to you about that chapter of history from his perspective?

JJ: The people that did experience that…they all said the same thing. They didn’t want to talk about it. When he came back from camp, he was running the hotel and then I came along and met him and he showed me all the building all the time, ‘cause I was right next door. It was kind of like a unique fixture here. He said, “We’re going to sell the building.” And I’m like, “Oh my God, there it goes. That’s not… People can’t appreciate it.” So I saw him and said, “What do you want for it, Mr. Hori?” and he told me and I thought, “Hmm… that sounds reasonable.” And then it was like ten months of tea and talk. He would show me how to work the boilers, how to do the windows, to clean things, how the books ran, the laundry, how everything was run, and he was just watching me all the time, and then he said yes. Whatever he saw in me… because I started asking what it was, why he sold it to me, what he saw in me, and he just sort of hesitated. And he’d look kind of sideways and he’d say, “Well, I knew you were capable, Jan. I knew you could run it.”

AH: And you found a loan along the way somehow at one point?

JJ: Somebody said, “Well, go down there and talk to this bank and tell them what you want and see what they say.” So I went down there and the banker looked at me and he said, “What do you want?” and I said, “I wanna buy the Panama Hotel,” and he just looked me up and down, like this, head to foot, and said, “They want to sell to you?” (laughs) And I said, “Yeah!” He says, “Well, here, fill out these papers and bring them back within two days.” I went back the next morning, and this guy was just checking off these papers. He wasn’t even reading it, and then he said, “You must be special,” and I said, “Why?” He says, “Well, about the last fourteen years there’s been people knocking down the door to buy that building, and he chose you and that’s what this loan’s based on.” Nothing to do with me, it was Mr. Hori, leaving it to me.

AH: When he left, all of his friends and neighbors from the neighborhood of Japanese descent put their belongings in the basement of this hotel. Are they still down there?

JJ: Yes. Just keep going straight down there. Okay, now, when I first came into here, this is the space that the trunks are in, and they were stacked to the ceiling, and I gave Mr. Hori and his wife the keys and to take care of this stuff. Now they had time because they weren’t in the hotel, right, and they were down here six months going through stuff, returning items, and then I saw him throwing stuff away in the dump truck. I said, “No, Mr. Hori, if you’re done I’ll take the keys now,” ‘cause I knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to show you in 2018. I don’t think anything should leave this building ever. There’s just so much here.

AH: The stuff in this room is just absolutely amazing, and haunting. Here’s an old, 1950s toy race car track, a little cowboy pistol holster for a little toy gun, a painting of Niagara Falls.

JJ: And violins. There’s violins in here and all those old records.

AH: You’ve got a shoe shine kit over there. Someone’s coffee thermos.

JJ: Mr. Hori, I asked him if somebody comes in here and says they had family stuff in here, he says, “Just tell them they owe me seventy years of storage.” And so, whatever’s here now belongs to the United States of America, right? And Japanese-American history here. That’s my take on it.

AH: What do you think that the lesson is that the crates in the basement have to teach us?

JJ: Keep history alive, right? It could happen any day. Do people want to know about history anymore? You think? And it’s important.

AH: So this is called ehru?

Freddie: Ehru, yeah, ehru.

AH: How long have you played it?

F: Oh, maybe fifteen, fifteen, fifteen.

AH: Fifteen years, okay. Tell me your name?

F: Me? My name is Freddy.

AH: Freddie. And the instrument is called ehru?

F: Yes, ehru.

AH: So, you play this with a bow. You have a little battery powered amplifier. It sounds good.

Various voices: It’s out of the blocks. This is the CID, the Chinatown International District. One neighborhood, everybody’s story.

Michael Sing: This is a cut plumb blossom. This is a purple hydrangea. Pink tulips. White garden roses. Icelandic poppies. Anthurium. White snapdragons. This is an orchid, a phalaenopsis orchid. I love them. They’re my favorite. My name is Michael Sing. I am one of the co-owners of Bahtoh and our address is 672 South Jackson Street in Seattle, Washington. 

Bobbie Yanoupeth:  My name is Bobbie Yanoupeth and I am a hairstylist as well as a florist with Michael.

MS: We are a floral shop and a hair salon.

BY: So, you walk in and it’s designed to look like someone’s living room that was overrun by a garden.

MS: So we have a ton of plants and a lot of cut flowers.

BY: Large, floor-length glass mirrors to bounce off light.

MS: We just wanted a very rich, lush environment for them to wait in, and then as you continue on further it becomes the salon.

BY: Our main salon area is anchored with four crystal chandeliers which I was insistent about because I wanted to create a little drama, a little glam for the space. It’s pretty much white in the back. We did green styling chairs so that we would pull the garden into the space, so there’s a balance amongst the space. Michael allowed me to have my wall here, which is all cacti and succulents because he doesn’t do too well with those.

MS: We’ve known each other for a very long time, since right after high school.

BY: It was our first quarter in college, I was shopping at the Gap with a friend, and she introduced me to Michael because they had a class together. We dated for two years after that.

MS: And then we had both moved two different places. I moved to San Francisco and he moved to New York. 

BY: And then we did a wedding together for one of my friends as a favor to her, and I said I would do it with the stipulation that Michael would do this wedding with me because we would always consult with each other and would always ask for opinions and advice on how to build these structures and things that we were doing.

MS: And so we had just joined forces for that wedding and it really… We realized we were kind of on to something. 

BY: Something that was more magical together than on our own.

MS: And then we had talked about going into business and maybe having a home base studio and things just kind of fell into place, so now we just have a shop and yeah, it’s become our lives.

Suzy: My name is Suzy, and I am getting my hair colored. I’m trying to go blonde and so Bobbie’s been helping me achieve that in the best way possible without damaging my hair. When I had first discovered this place I thought, “How cool is it that we have two men of color opening this really awesome elevated business within this neighborhood?” because it’s a historically, you know, old neighborhood, and I think it’s really awesome and it brings all different types of people to this neighborhood and I think that’s great for every business here.

BY: I started doing hair for my mother as a child. I was eight years old and my mother, a refugee from Laos, could barely speak English, but wanted to be on top of her fashion so she taught me how to perm her hair and then so from there on, I developed this love for hair. It was a huge deal for my mother to come out and see this because she was kind of the person that sparked this passion in me.

MS: My dad is of Chinese descent. My mom is Japanese. Both born and raised in Washington, and they both currently reside in Seattle. They’ve always been very supportive of the things that I wanted to do. I’ve always been creative as a child, and I think they’re both very proud of where we’ve come. I think they’ve seen us go through different areas of life, so they’re happy to see us kinda settle down and build a successful business.

BY: We’ve been through it all. We’ve been through lovers, we hated each other, we’ve become best friends, and we’re family at this point.

MS: I think that there is a level of trust between us that is very special, so thank you for always having my back. I mean, all these years. It’s been a long time.

BY: I’m definitely thankful for that and I appreciate that you are helping me live the dream.

Lei Ann Shiramizu: So, one of the things we have here is tabi socks, the traditional toe socks of Japan, except for the difference with these is they’re little bit more whimsical. People buy them a lot for gifts. Some people love them, they’re supposed to be really good for circulation in your foot. Some people are really annoyed by them, but then, don’t buy them. My name is Lei Ann Shiramizu. My store is in Seattle’s Japantown is Momo. When we opened Momo, I told my husband that I wanted to have gifts and I wanted to have women’s clothing and he said, “There’s no way I’m opening a store with only women’s clothing and gifts. You better have men’s if you want me to be a part of it.” So, now at Momo we are half-man, half-woman, half-old, half-new, and half-Asian, and half-Caucasian, which is basically the composite of what my husband and I are. We call it—the term is “hapa.” Hapa in Hawaii means half-Asian and half-Caucasian, and so therefore we are Seattle’s hapa shop.

Tom Kleifgen: I am Tom Kleifgen and I am married to Lei Ann Shiramizu, and we’re the co-owners of Momo.

LAS: I met him at a wedding.

TK: We were both late to the wedding.

LAS: Both slid in before the couple said, “I do.”

TK: Sat in the back and…

LAS: …It was a love story thereafter.

TK: That’s the start of it!

LAS: My heritage is Japanese by way of Hawaii. My dad’s parents came from Japan. My mom’s grandparents came from Japan.

TK: Lei Ann being Japanese-American, and me being a mongrel Northern European white guy, we have that flavor in our store as an expression of the hapa spirit, which is a Eurasian kind of world view, a mixing.

LAS: People come in, they see our Spam collection and they wonder why we have so much Spam, and whether it’s for sale or not. Well, the reason we have so much Spam is because Spam is consumed in the most quantity in Hawaii. Spam is made in Austen, Minnesota. I’m from Hawaii, my husband’s from Minnesota, so we say that we are united in Spam.

TK: Lei Ann’s a very upbeat person. I think she’s made me a little more social. She’s probably made me a little bit more active in the community. In this community I have to say, you open your door and you are part of this community, and for good or hell. And you know, we’ve become very active in the community in many ways. I’ve brought my talents from my creative past as an art director to do a lot of the things on the street, the street art, the street cars, the things like that.

LAS: Outside of our doors, we see more health and human services being pushed into our neighborhood because other neighborhoods don’t want them. So, sometimes our neighborhood—because of the literally not being able to speak up because of the language barrier—sometimes things are imposed on this neighborhood, and so they need to be championed by advocates in the city. So, you see a lot of homeless people. You see a lot of garbage in the alleys. These are all things that we are trying to take care of. You know, clean streets and safety for the older people who live in this neighborhood.

AH: It seems like you were sort of unsuspectingly handed the mantle of being a champion of something more than you expected to be.

LAS: When I opened Momo, I had the intentions of opening a shop. But never would I have ever realized that I was going to become such a part of a bigger community. It’s really been amazing being at this corner and becoming a cornerstone of Japantown. I probably would not have wanted it if somebody said to me, “Hey, you are going to become responsible for so much more than running a business,” but like frog and boiling water, it’s happened, but not in a bad way. It’s really been a wonderful learning experience. I’ve learned so much more, grown so much more than I would ever have thought possible before I opened this store

Charlie Martin: When you have an 80 gram steel ball bearing careening around at unknown speeds inside of a wooden box, bashing plastic and other steel and glass, you’re really jazzed. You’ve got some adrenaline going, you’re thinking, “Okay, I’m beating this mechanical device.” It’s kind of like man versus machine, and when it’s headed for the drain you’re going, “The machine is gonna beat me, I’m not gonna let that happen.” My name is Charlie Martin, and I’m one of the owners of the Seattle Pinball Museum, located in the heart of the fantastic Chinatown International District in downtown Seattle. We see people from all walks of life, all ages, all cultures, and to be able to share our passion with them is something that makes it very, very special to us. Actually, the first time I decided I was gonna buy a pinball machine, I told my wife after dinner, “I’m thinking about buying a pinball machine.” And my wife said, “Well, what are you gonna do with that?” I said, “I’m gonna put it in the garage, and after dinner and we clean up the kitchen, instead of watching network wasteland television, I’m gonna go to the garage, I’m gonna play pinball with the dog, I’m gonna sip whiskey and smoke cigars,” and so we bought a machine and then I got another one, and another one, and another one, and now we’re in somewhere around 160 each games in our collection. So, for any people out there thinking about buying one, you’ve been warned. So, we’re going from the back to the front and we’re actually gonna start with our oldest machine, which is 1960 Texan by David Gottlieb and company. Moving along, we’ve got Space Mission, we’ve got Blackhole, we’ve got Orbiter 1, which is a very unusual game. The play field is like the surface of the moon. It plays like no other pinball machine you’ll ever play. When we come in in the morning, it’s just a storefront full of dead machines. When we start turning them on, one by one, which is the old fashioned way, it starts to take on a life of its own. You hear the start-up sounds, the bongs, the gongs, the clicks, the clacks, and when they’re all up and running, it’s like we’re in a little world that’s waiting to come to life. And when our visitors come in and start playing is when it gets really, really special. Well, life before pinball… I’ve had a lot of different jobs, I’ve been a cook deckhand on a coastal freighter to Alaska and back. I’ve been a carpenter, I’ve been a forklift driver, and I just decided one day that, you know, I’m really having a lot of fun meeting people, presenting pinball, and it’s something i think I should do full time. So, two years ago I quit my job and here I am today, working longer hours than ever before, but enjoying every minute of it.
Rian Robison: I’m Rian Robison, I’m the owner, designer, creator of Tuesday Shop in the International District in Seattle. The colors on the wall in this space are like color swatches that I’ve dyed. You have maroon, black cherry, brushed steel, amethyst, indigo, gunmetal… (overlaying of names). It’s funny talking to someone is Seattle about color, because we’re kind of known for black and gray, and I do a lot with black and gray actually. I do like to have some pops of color in there, though, just because it’s refreshing. I still wear a lot of black and gray, though, so I can’t expect everyone to just run out in bright pink kimono all the time, but kimonos and scarves, that’s what I make. So, the pieces that I make are all made from full rectangles of fabric, so that there’s no fabric waste and it’s kind of in the spirit of traditional kimonos. The dying is definitely the most fun process, an active process for me. Though, sometimes you get in that zone where I can just sit and hem fabric for hours. I’m half-Japanese. The other half of me is kind of like a big mix of lots and lots of different things. So, I’ve definitely always been drawn to the kind of Japanese aesthetic, but it’s not purely that. I feel like I can bring other things to it. You know, I’m in my thirties, so I’m definitely kind of a younger vibe in this neighborhood, I would say. The business growth for me—I mean, I started with zero business experience—so, it’s not something I learned in school, I didn’t go to business school, I didn’t learn any of that. I guess it’s come kind of naturally just because of when I’m making things, I’m kind of making them because I want them, and luckily I’ve been in a place where other people want them too. Rise and grind. If you work hard at it, and you’re passionate about it, then success will follow.

Various Voices: You’ve been listening to Out of the Blocks, produced by Aaron Henkin and Wendel Patrick, in collaboration with KUOW. Special thanks to KUOW’s Matt Martin, Caroline Chamberlin, Jim Gates, and WYPR’s Katie Marquette. Aaron and Wendel wanted to thank all of us who took a leap of face and shared our stories and our lives. From WYPR and PRX, this is the CID — Chinatown International District, Seattle, Washington signing off.

AH: Hey guys, Aaron here. Thank you for coming along with us to Seattle’s Chinatown International District. There were so many beautiful stories in this neighborhood that we’re going to be back here again next time on the podcast. We’re going to visit with a Chinese girl’s military marching squad and we’ll drop in at Bruce Lee’s favorite restaurant. A very special thank you this episode to the NEA, the National Endowment for the Arts. They’ve put their trust in us to share our documentary model with other cities across the country, and they have made this episode possible with their generous support. If you appreciate what we do on this podcast, we’d be grateful if you take a minute or two and write us up a review on Apple Podcasts. Your feedback holds a lot of sway with your fellow listeners. So, thank you for helping to spread the word about Out of the Blocks. Thanks for listening, and we’ll do it again soon. Out of the Blocks is produced with grant funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and from the Cohen Opportunity Fund, the William G. Baker Jr. Memorial Fund, Sig and Barbara Shapiro, Patricia and Mark Joseph, Jonathan Melnick, the Andy and Sana Brooks Family Foundation, the Hoffberger Foundation, Associated Jewish Charities, the John J. Leighty Foundation, the Kenneth S. Battye Charitable Trust, and the MuseWeb Foundation.

Aaron creates and produces original radio programs and podcasts for WYPR. His current project is The Maryland Curiosity Bureau. Aaron's neighborhood documentary series, Out of the Blocks, earned the 2018 national Edward R Murrow Award. His past work includes the long-running weekly cultural program, The Signal, and the Smithsonian Folkways Recordings series, Tapestry of the Times. Aaron's stories have aired nationally on NPR's Morning Edition and All Things Considered.
Wendel Patrick has been referred to as "David Foster Wallace reincarnated as a sound engineer" by Urbanite Magazine and as "wildly talented" by the Baltimore Sun. He has been referred to by XLR8R magazine as "a hip-hop producer that could easily make any fan of Squarepusher, Boards of Canada, or Madlib flip out." The alter-ego of classical and jazz pianist Kevin Gift, Wendel Patrick is rapidly making a name for himself as a producer to be recognized. His five albums, "Sound:", "Forthcoming", "JDWP", "Passage" and "Travel" were all produced without the use of samples, with Patrick playing every note of every instrument. What is perhaps most astounding and perplexing to listeners is that there are actually no instruments...he crafts all of the instruments, and every note, electronically.