America’s Last Emperor: Knickerbocker

Darren Mckeeman
12 min readMar 22, 2021

Chapter Seventeen

Monumental Fire Company #6, 1856 — Courtesy

November 21st, 1857

Eastland talked Norton into reviving his anniversary dinner by offering to pay for it at Macao and Woosung. It was 8 years since Norton stepped off the boat in San Francisco, and the ship that he’d arrived on now lay broken up and scattered underneath the foundations of Eastland’s new Gas Works. Besides, being the head of the gas company gave him unexpected pull with Norman Asing. Norman recalled with glee the week that Eastland had shut the gas off for nonpayment to the City Hall last January. Norman disliked the city government because he believed they hassled him more than other restaurants. Anyone who had them over a barrel was all right with Norman.

Norman’s restaurant had stayed pretty constant, with the exception that Norman made changes to reduce the number of people working for him in the eight years he’d been in business. He dispensed with waiters all together, and served the food on a giant table, as he had on the Lunar New Year that Norton had attended. This became very popular when Norman charged 15 cents plate for each plateful of food. He regularly had lines out of his door and all the politicians still ate at his place.

Chinese New Year took on even greater significance in 1857. Norman united the entire Chinese community to put on a parade for the entire city, which quickly became the talk of the town. Fireworks, dragon dances, and a general open atmosphere started to build bridges despite the openly racist politicians in state and city government. Even if it didn’t make huge strides in racial equality that year, it certainly elevated Norman Asing’s position in the neighborhood that was now called Chinatown, off to the east of Portsmouth Square and to the southwest of his restaurant.

Norton made Macao and Woosung a regular stop on his rounds, morning and evening. The past fourteen months of irregular work had thrown Norton into the depths of grinding poverty. Eastland covered his rent most months, but Norton retreated further and further into his walks, newspaper reading, and a specific number of regular stops on his walks that varied little. Everyone along his routes knew him on sight, and were familiar with his deliberate pacing gait that he’d developed as a Vigilante, ever vigilant for…

Darren Mckeeman

Founder at KinkBNB. Writer of fiction and nonfiction.