Davy Carren
12 min readOct 26, 2021

Slumped, more not of it than most, he shoulders his mostly feeble way, rakish and awkward, recklessly slaloming through the crowd with an almost shuddering abandon towards, well, nothing. He has no destination. Nowhere to go, or be. There are just these motions that he makes. He goes through things. Waiting to worry through some more waiting.

Portsmouth Square deals in it. The hands-crossed-behind-the-back stance, leaning in to the card games, lit cigarette stabbed between taut lips, face blank with some sort of somehow Baltic sadness. The crowded huddles, intense with tonal yaps, around xiangqi boards on milk crates and waxed cardboard boxes, dotting the cement terrain like campfires keeping shudderers warm on a cold night. But some latent instinct for wonder was stashed there in Chinatown’s profane glitter, the shocked dismay festooning the arcade: the jewelers; the ancient “Chop Suey” bent-neon tubes gone cracked and chipped off to desuetude; the phony realtors; the knickknack discount emporiums; the vegetable stalls; the torn guano-stained awnings; the cliché head shops; the T-shirt vendors; the gritty ten-dollar-haircut salons without a spin in their poles; the ravaged lunch-special restaurants; the urine-bleach-and-sewer stink of crowded sidewalks; the overpriced “free” tea-tasting shops; the gaudy souvenir stores with their monotonous array of tacky odds without end; the hurried push and pull and crisscrossing scramble of pedestrians at all-way WALK intersections; the burden of steep streets; the radiance of fresh plums and dragon fruit; the sushi boats gliding along wood gutters through poster-plastered windows; the quick pips and brisk squeaks of abrupt, stunted chatter coalescing into a pinball game’s Mandarin song; the miscreant howls of the misunderstood and powerless beggars who roam alone until they die just the same; the gasp and shriek and wheeze and squeal of passing buses; the blind erhu player’s stringed solace; the animal masks in high windows; the fortune tellers; the tarot readers; the foot reflexologists; the rancid whiff and blood-splattered cement floors of live fish and wet poultry markets; the dark, cavernous, subterranean bars; the curtained booths of backroom deals and Shrimp-Boy politics; the tenement squalor of crammed substandard housing just up above where most people won’t look; the laundry hanging from fire escapes; the whine of an electronics store’s karaoke speakers…

Davy Carren

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