Chicken Corner's world got a tiny bit bigger yesterday ... Sightseeing in Chinatown. My cousin, Abigail Burman, is visiting and said she wanted to see the neighborhood. So we went. Visited my friend Cindy Bennett's new gallery, North Hill, and lunched -- or Boba-ed -- at Via Cafe. Cindy said we'd want to see Fong's on Chung King Road. I've been down that particular gallery alley more dozens of times than I can count, but somehow I hadn't visited Fong's Oriental Works of Art. So we went there, too. And stepped into the world I'd missed. Miniatures. Tiny dollhouse furniture -- some of it inlaid with mother of pearl. Tiny women reclining on couches. Tiny food and tiny plates. Tiny business cards. There was some big stuff, too, but most of it receded behind the superior attraction of the small.
One of the to-scale items for sale was a library-used copy of Leo Politi's book Mr. Fong's Toy Shop, which the children's author based on the original Gim Fong of Fong's. These days the shop is run by the handsome Mason Fong, the newphew of Gim Fong and son of the current owner; Mason Fong told me that the shop never actually was a toy store -- it had some toys as well as the original miniature items made by his uncle, but toys per se were not the mission. I have never understood the attraction of miniatures, but in Fong's I felt their power. I was so hypnotised, in fact, that it didn't occur to me to ask Mason Fong why there were several Lisa See books on display on a table where only a few other titles owned space. Googling the shop just now I got the answer to the question I hadn't asked, in the name of Fong See, a large figure in the history of Chinatown in Los Angeles, great-grandfather of the author Lisa See and subject of her acclaimed memoir On Gold Mountain (1995). Big history in a small space.