In our new series Augmented Reality, Hopes&Fears annotates a street scene with details discovered from a few days of knocking on every door.

Augmented Reality: annotating the corner of Canal and Mulberry, NYC. Image 1.

Whitney Kimball


So what if Google Glass can tell you the names of what you're already looking at and whether or not it's raining on you? The world full of strange and illogical inconsistencies. Some are Googlable. Most are not. The corner of Canal and Mulberry, the border between Chinatown and Little Italy, is a place with a storied history of gang violence and pop culture mythos. On this day, I found out how much you should budget for a foot rub, a deep dish pizza, and a selfie stick and whether that thing is a fruit or a fungus or what. 

click on the poINts in the image to learn something new


Augmented Reality: annotating the corner of Canal and Mulberry, NYC. Image 2.

Canal and Mulberry

The border between Chinatown and Little Italy, NYC



Past that, knocking on every door as a monolingual tourist in Chinatown will not get you too far. Tips: Don't show up at a jewelry store with a camera and ask for the manager. Don't ask people about their countries of origin when they are trying to conduct business. Don't ask about the price of a snowglobe unless you want to debate it. And just because there is a sign on the door that says "Friendship Association" doesn't mean you should come in and ask where the "Friendship Association" is. That's fine. This neighborhood is Manhattan's crown cultural jewel; it is the very last place where tropical fruit vendors and personalized shops outnumber homogenous regulation New York City street carts and Duane Reades. People aren't "team members" with a "passion for retail." They're selling unbranded coconuts. 

On the other side of Canal and Mulberry, William Russo, manager and neighborhood historian at the Church of the Most Precious Blood, had some time and patience. He told me about how the neighborhood once represented an array of different Italian cultures, about the hardships of early immigrant living and the meaning of "Most Precious Blood"; the neighborhood cycles and how the childhood home of Martin Scorcese and premise for The Godfather is now more of a symbolic historic monument than an Italian-American community slowly getting penetrated by establishments like the Christmas Tree Shop. 

And other things, like who's Cha Cha, and what's the story behind that trash can. Maybe there's a guy with the Louis Vuitton hook up. Maybe there's not. (There is.)