April 10, 2014
I”ll be speaking to the American Renaissance conference at the end of this month. (What, you haven”t signed up yet? Still time!) Title of talk: “China, America, and the Chinese in America.” I should be able to work some topical references into the last part, what with California state senator Leland Yee having apparently brought some traditional Chinese politics over to the Golden Mountain with him, and the sleeping giant of college-crazy Chinese American parents that’s been
stirred awake by the prospect of affirmative action being reinstated.
AmRen’s Jared Taylor recently emailed me with some questions about my China connections, so that he could put something relevant in the conference literature. One question was: How had I, a math major from a sleepy English country town, gotten mixed up with China?
I gave him a brief account. In giving it, memories stirred from long ago. Jared’s question is one I get asked a lot, so I thought I”d tell the little tale, to have something on the web I can direct people to when I get asked again.
It’s early 1968 in Liverpool, a big old port city in northwest England. I had finished my education a few months before and was working as a schoolteacher. The pay wasn”t bad, but it wasn”t great either, so I was on the lookout for some supplementary income. A friend who knew this told me he”d been drinking in a pub that was short a bartender.
I wasn”t enthusiastic. I”d done bartending work during my college vacations. The pubs I had worked at were in prole districts, places where local men”mainly dock workers”would go of an evening to escape their wives, sell stuff they”d filched from cargoes, and drink themselves insensible.
The common degree of insensibility was at an unhappy medium point where they were alert enough to be obnoxious and pick fights, but not alert enough to take a dump accurately. (Keeping the head clean was part of a bartender’s duties.) The beer”low-grade stuff from local breweries”didn”t help in this latter aspect. Of one brand, the local quip was: “Do you feel that the bottom has dropped out of your world? Drink a pint of Bent’s Ale and feel the world drop out of your bottom!”
But to show willing to my friend, I went along to the pub he recommended: The Nook in Nelson Street, down by the waterfront. I was surprised to find it quite well-appointed: clean, with nice fixtures and a well-dressed clientele. As well as the public bar, there was a lounge with eight or ten tables for the better class of patron. The bartenders doubled as waiters, taking orders from the tables. I signed up, and worked there part-time for a year and a half.
Nelson Street was at the heart of Liverpool’s small Chinatown. This was in the age before Chinatowns prettied themselves up with pailou arches (originally erected in China for symbolic purposes, like honoring chaste widows) and statues of Confucius. The Nook sat in the middle of a nondescript-looking downtown neighborhood with a couple of Chinese restaurants and a Chinese Seamen’s Mission for company.
The pub’s male customers were a mix of Chinese merchant mariners, some naturalized Chinese who had settled permanently in the neighborhood with English wives, and some white Englishmen of the upper working and lower middle class”mechanics, owners of small businesses, clerks from the shipping companies, and such.