Identifying with the ID


It was probably the dragon dancers and fireworks that got her excited, but even not being Chinese, my daughter got so excited at the dedication of the First Hill Streetcar that she was begging her Mom to let her join the drill team  when she makes it to the fifth grade. Frankly, I can see how she’d want to be a part of such pomp and pageantry.

I didn’t grow up in Seattle, but I am drawn to the International District [officially, it’s the Chinatown/International District (ID)] and it’s not for the simple fact of my Korean descent. I’ve got just as much European and Scandinavian blood as Asian. But the time I spent in Japan and later in the Far East is some of the most memorable times of my life.

From the fifth through the eighth grades, I lived in Japan. As I look back, it some the best fun I’ve had. It was also deeply informative to my visual aesthetic.

It’s not merely manga, or the sophisticated simplicity that goes into the architecture, or the deep tradition and search for perfection in practice and craft; It’s so much more. It’s easy to think of the elegance of a culture, but immersed in it, you see so much more: the horrid, the sublime, the prejudicial. In the contrasts of reality you can see the truth of a culture. But though it all, I find I love the Far East, from Japan to Hong Kong, from Taipei to Pusan, from Manila to Bali.

Last Friday, I had the honor of speaking to young people at the Wing Luke Asian Museum’s YouthCAN project. A friend and colleague, Erin Shigaki (a homegrown Seattlelite just back from years in Brooklyn) asked me to share some thoughts with the students.

One never knows what to expect with young people; smart-assery, anger, eagerness or the worst: Indifference. It turns out that the students were great. And engaged. I have to say it was deeply encouraging and gratifying to me. I found there to be connection and appreciation. In speaking about things that are larger than art or design, but that tie these and life together, I was speaking about the things I find most important. And I think they heard.

The next morning, the Streetcar was dedicated. I was a little high from it all. I should have watched Jiro Dreams of Sushi, Enter the Dragon and Yojimbo and binged on tempura, mapo tofu, mandu and lumpia to keep it rolling. But we can’t always get what we want, eh?

So for now, I’ll just keep the memory of those events in my hip pocket and secretly keep working on a better name for the district – one that pays respects to all quarters. But that’s a post for another time. Until then, drinks by Murray Stinson tag-teamed with tonkatsu will have to do the trick.