|Posted by John Jung on April 8, 2015 at 12:30 AM|
South of Gold Mountain
About two years ago, I was excited to learn that H. T. Chen & Dancers was creating “South of Gold Mountain,” a choreographic homage to the early Chinese immigrants who settled in the American South as early as the end of the Civil War. They found my two books on Chinese in the South to provide useful background material. The largest number of Chinese were in the Mississippi Delta, men brought by labor contractors seeking cheap Chinese labor to replace the freed slaves to toil in the cotton fields. However, Chinese quickly found that operating grocery stores was a far better way to earn their living. In other parts of the Deep South such as Georgia, Alabama, and Tennesse, hand laundries were more common as an occupation for the Chinese. Later, other Chinese opened restaurants, although they served mostly western foods, because Chinese food was not yet familiar or attractive to most non-Chinese.
My Trip to Tempe, AZ. To See South of Gold Mountain
When I learned that H. T. Chen and Dian Dong, the co-directors, arranged for two performances in Tempe, AZ, but had no immediate plans to come to California, I decided to spend the weekend in the desert to attend the performances. Airfare was steep but a bus from nearby Little Saigon to Tempe was only $40, which included a Mr. Lee’s Vietnamese sandwich! I decided to try taking the bus to Tempe and then return home via air. My long time friend, Lucy Wong, who offered comfortable lodging, met me at the Lee Sandwich shop in Chandler (appatently Lee’s has become the bus depot for these low fare Vietnamese tour buses). Lucy and her cordial friends, Peter, Shawn, and Charlene took me to a restaurant, Chinese, of course, for a pre-show dinner.
South of Gold Mountain was innovative and exciting. This original work, a long overdue recognition of a missing part of Chinese American history, starts with a depiction of the crossing of the Pacific followed by scenes in three primary Chinese family businesses, neighborhood grocery stores, hand laundries, and family-run restaurants to illustrate their difficult work lives. Using projected images of a sample of successful Chinese in the South as a background, the cast provides a concluding salute, which is joined by many audience members. Blending eastern and western movement styles and music, South of Gold Mountain, provides a fitting approach to presenting this story of adaptation, resilience, and assimilation while enduring cultural isolation.
It was surprising and flattering that images of me with my two books related to Chinese in the Deep South suddenly flashed onto the back screen behind the dancers for a few moments.
A stroke of great luck was that Lucy’s friend, Peter Schumann, offered to videotape parts of the panel discussion. Little did I realize that he has professional video filming skills, as his enhanced video clip on YouTube amply illustrates. https://youtu.be/9J4k7eTLD4c
Post Performance Q&A
Lisa Chow, who hails from the Delta and performs in the program, is the Director of the Desert Dance Theater. She invited me to participate on a Q&A panel after each of the two performances. I was pleased to attend the performances as well as contribute to the discussion afterwards. The trip from California to Arizona was a worthwhile experience!
Signing books for choreographer Dian Dong after the performance.
And Now A Few “Low-Lights” of My Arizona Trip!
Not everything came up roses on my trip. Murphy’s Law took over as soon as the Q& A ended on the second night. People were in the lobby milling around before heading to a reception. Three women asked if they might have a photo with me just as I suddenly and inexplicably felt the urge to “upchuck” the contents of my stomach. I somehow managed to say “yes,” but asked to be excused for a few moments as I made a mad dash to the Men’s Room, which fortunately was only about 15 feet away. I barely made it to the first washbasin where I unceremoniously delivered my partially digested dinner.
Feeling much better, I then returned to the lobby to pose for a photo with the ladies although I wonder if my face was still green, or red. I thanked my lucky stars that my gastro-disaster did not occur when I had been on stage for the Q & A! After a restless night, due to dehydration (I must have had a stomach virus), I managed to get ready for the flight home from Phoenix to Long Beach. I was glad I had decided to fly home rather than take the bus, which would have been an ordeal, given my condition.
And, as if I didn’t already have enough misery, I was bumped from my flight because I failed to check-in more than an hour in advance. At the last second, the airline seated me in First Class so I didn’t miss my flight. But I managed to lose a bag at the TSA that contained my cell phone, camera, and Kindle Fire tablet. The next day I frantically called the airline Lost and Found number all day. I was so frustrated as I kept getting “That Mailbox is Full” so I was unable to report my loss. Finally, at the end of the day, I managed to squeeze a message into that mailbox to describe my loss.
I was not optimistic about recovering my items, especially since I received no calls from the airline the next day. I went and bought a new cell phone, but when I got home, I had a message that all my lost items had been found! The airline had tried calling me on my cell number all day in vain since the phone was one of the lost items. Fortunately, someone at the airline must have replayed my message since I gave them my landline number to call, and not my cell number.
All’s well that ends well…FedEx delivered my lost items intact today!!!
Categories: 2015+ events