Strange, It's Almost As If This Were Some Sort Of 'China Town'Commentary • Opinion • ISSUE 44•09 • Feb 27, 2008 By Matthew Pinsky When I left the house this morning, little did I know what wonders I'd uncover. Hidden in the middle of fast and modern downtown New York was one of the strangest, most puzzling places I had ever laid eyes upon. From the weird Chinese-like writing on the storefronts to the odd Chinese-looking people on the streets—I know this may sound crazy, but it was almost as if I'd stepped into some kind of "Chinese Town."I don't know any other way to describe it.At first, disoriented and confused, I tried asking those around me where I was. Unfortunately, most of the men and women who passed by seemed to speak only a bizarre Asian dialect unknown to me, and those who could communicate were more interested in selling me exotic cologne out of a duffel bag. I looked around for any sign of familiarity: a Best Buy, a Barnes & Noble, even a Banana Republic. But sadly all I found in this foreign place, this—well, I suppose I shall call it a "Mandarin or Szechuan Gathering Area"—was one unfamiliar wholesaler after another. It was like something straight out of the Orient. Specifically, a municipal district out of the Orient. One more or less 12 to 15 city blocks across. In a large American city.Indeed, this place, this "Oriental Quarter" as I've christened it, was unlike any other I had visited before. The scent of fried dumplings and commercially available fireworks hung heavy in the air. Films available back home only in theaters were spread on sidewalk blankets by the thousands. And those T-shirts with the slogan "Shut Up, Bitch!" sold for nearly three dollars less.It was truly unlike anything I had ever seen in my travels to San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, Washington, D.C., or Las Vegas. Unsure of whether I had mistakenly traveled halfway across the world or walked through some sort of mystic gate into another time and space, I found myself wandering without aim or purpose. For how long, I do not know, as the Rolex watch I had purchased during my ordeal stopped working almost immediately. I do not know where this mysterious "Chinese Zone" came from, but there it was, in the middle of the city, like some bizarre "Asian Center for Commerce and Trade." What it was called—this "Localized Community of Residents Originally from the Far East"—I haven't the slightest idea, though no mere label seems capable of describing it.Fatigued from so much walking and regretting the consumption of a rare local delicacy made of penguin and a wooden stick, I sat down on a nearby park bench to collect my bearings. It was then that I spotted amid the unfamiliar chaos what appeared to be another American. However, this man turned out to be a visitor from France who spoke a language even harder to understand than the one spoken by the Shanghai men. What he was doing walking around this Chinese place, God only knows.By the Lord's good grace or luck's kind hand, I somehow managed to locate the narrow exit portal of this godforsaken "Town of China" at the corner of Mott and Canal, and crossed back into my beloved homeland with great haste. I do not know if the wondrous foreign land I happened upon remains there still, though I would not be surprised if the entire "Densely Populated Asian Community That Follows the Customs of Its Home Country, But Is Nonetheless Ultimately Bound By the Laws of the State of New York" evaporated instantly as does a dream upon waking.I write these words now so that one day my great grandchildren will read, with rapt fascination, this account of my travels through a place that cannot be described by a pithy, mutually agreed-upon nickname. But first, I must find my way out of this fresh set of wholly alien surroundings—a place I can only describe as a rather diminutive, yet strangely representative version of Italy.