8th & Webster
8th & Webster was a street I frequented often. One place that stuck out was a secret gambling place on the second floor of 8th & Webster. It usually opened at night, Pai Gow and Mahjiang were the games. The place was secret only to outsiders and squares. If you were a local or knew the right people, you knew the gambling spot where thousands of dollars were exchanged daily.
Somewhow I knew the right people at age 13. I was able to knock on the door, walk up a flight of stairs, and be allowed inside. I never gambled. I just hung around and watched. Sometimes I would be bored so I would sit down and read a kungfu novel. I often carried a kungfu novel with me at all times. The people who were gambling never wanted me near them. The word "book" in Cantonese sounds liike the word "lose." They didn't want me to jinx them. Chinese gamblers are very superstitious.
Reading an article on William Wong about his new book Oakland's Chinatown triggered my memory. To email the author, go to firstname.lastname@example.org. To read the article "Oakland, Native Son gives Life to Obscure Story of Chinatown" go to www.sfgate.com.