My life is never shy of stories and I am never too shy to tell a story, or two or three.
One night in NYC’s Chinatown…
Momma Chen had her son in a stroller and myself in hand.
She stopped at a payphone to make a phone call.
She wanted to make a phone call to invite my grandmother to dinner since we were in the neighborhood.
This was before cell phones and before Chinatown was a fun and exciting place for tourist.
I was so young I didn’t understand the dialogue involved, but I felt a bit confused and disoriented when my mother appeared scared.
My mom is petite, but mighty, sometimes too mighty.
This time she asked this kid who ended up being a member of the Ghost Shadows to use the phone.
He used some pretty colorful language and of course my mother had to return the favor.
Then he threatened to kill her kids.
She walked away and he followed her, cursing, heckling and just being relentless, so she lead him over to the store where my dad was and then dad was there.
I remember watching dad trying to reason with the guy, but this punk saw a family with two small children and it made him feel tough.
He got more aggressive when dad stood his ground and refused to fight him… then he kicked the stroller with the son still inside.
The stroller bumped me and then I just remember seeing this crazy matrix style movement.
Dad ducking and punching and kicks. This guy just going crazy.
My memory was always stuck on how dad looked so fluid, it was like what I thought I should look like in ballet, more than the fight I was witnessing.
I felt calm and safe and just in awe of how dad flowed and how the other guy looked like a crazier version of crazy the more dad bobbed and weaved.
By this point the guy had called his Gang over and it was a funny feeling.
I remember the gang members standing there in a kind of embarrassment.
Mom told me the crowd had surrounded us also told who dad was and what dad meant to the community and then Mom, in true Mother Chen fashion runs up to the tallest guy with her keys in her knuckles and says “You wanna fight, then fight like a man”.
I remember her saying that the guy didn’t want to be there, but he had no choice.
Could you imagine being in a Chinatown Gang in the 80’s and having a street fight with a family of 4, two of which are little children?
The embarrassment on so many levels…
Just imagine a group of Chinatown Gang Members in the 80’s sharing their tough guy stories and then your group is up and your story is about how you instigated a fight by kicking a stroller with a little kid in it.
I’m pretty sure gangs in those days would beat you up for such a pathetic manner.
Back to the fight.
Dad’s pulling off the skills the Matrix stole.
The guy goes down, I remember him being on his ass and so angry, he pops up and charges dad.
Dad roots and as they come in contact, I don’t know what this guy was doing, cause he wasn’t throwing anymore shots, I think he gave up and was just full on throwing himself at dad.
Dad grabs him as he charges in and with the momentum of the guy’s body weight flying forward dad just takes a step back holding him from the front of his shirt and throws him against the glass of the shop window, but literally holds him just as the glass shakes from impact, to control the guy from actually shattering the glass.
Slowly, dad slides the guy down as I hear police sirens.
Then I see dad talk to the guy and they shake hands and they go their way and we go our way.
Let me tell you, I was confused as can be!!!
I knew what sparring was and I knew that this wasn’t sparring.
Then the handshake and the guy’s head hanging low.
Dad was very quiet and I do remember asking “daddy, was that a friend?”
Dad said “No”, he was driving.
Later, like years later it was explained to me.
Dad had told the guy that they could shake on it and walk away and forget this ever happened, or he could get carted off to jail.
Dad said if the guy went to jail he and his gang would always seek revenge.
Then mom told me, the CHEN faction of chinatown and Dad’s reputation as a Marital Artist and whatever “people” we were affiliated had a talk with the Ghost Shadows and we never had an encounter with them again.
Just another NYC Chen Family Fairytale…