Anelise Chen

Mr. Zhu, Cobbler

“There’s nobody left in Chinatown, is there?”

By Anelise Chen
June 10, 2012 | , , , , , ,

What do you do?
I fix shoes! I can fix shoes, polish them, stretch them—I can do anything that has to do with shoes.

Do you ever take days off?
If it’s raining I will relax at home. No need to come out here when it’s raining. I’m lucky, aren’t I? I have freedom, I can make my own hours. It’s not like I have to go to an office and report to someone. I have all the freedom in the world.

You work outdoors—on the sidewalk! What do you do when it snows?
Oh, I don’t work during the winter. I go back to Hong Kong. My family is there.

How long have you worked as a cobbler on 8th Avenue?
For about twelve years. Oh, yes! A lot has changed in twelve years. There weren’t that many people here, twelve years ago. Just a few shops, barely any pedestrians. Now it’s even more lively than [Manhattan] Chinatown! There’s nobody left in Chinatown, is there?

Oh, I live in Chinatown and it seems like there’s too many people, especially when I’m in a hurry.
That’s good. Most of the newcomers are from Fuzhou. Here, too! About 80 percent of the newcomers are from Fuzhou. You know where that is, right?

Yes, I do. And where are you from?

May I take your picture?
What do you want my picture for? It won’t look good! [Passersby: Yes! You look good! Let her take your picture!] Okay, okay, you can take my picture. What should I do? Just look at the camera?

Anelise Chen covers Sunset Park as Open City's Creative Nonfiction Fellow. She earned her MFA in fiction at NYU. Born in Taipei and raised in Los Angeles, she lives in Manhattan Chinatown.

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Posted in , Interviews, Stories

  1. For some bicontinental New Yorkers, congestion is still a good sign!

  2. Lovely!

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