My short story “The Yellow Door,” about a mahjong parlor, appears in the anthology Dangerous Games out this December. And like everything else I write it’s based on true stuff. Now, now, you may say, that’s crazy talk. But just like in the case of “Flash Frame” (which is the stylistic twin to this) and my other Weird tales the kernel of the story comes from something real, in this case a restaurant called The Green Door.
The Green Door was located in Chinatown, Vancouver during the 60s, across from the Ho Ho (or so I was told).
This ordinary door, painted red, actually holds a whole lot of history and secrets. Originally it was green and was the entryway to the Green Door Restaurant. The way it started is that there was a gambling house inside and this is where the restaurant was. A gambler could stay at the tables all night and never have to leave. If he got hungry he would order some food and it was prepared in the kitchen and then served at the table.
Word spread about the food and the thrill of danger of being in Chinatown with the gamblers and opium dens attracted a lot of people. They would knock on the green door and if the person behind the door liked how you looked, the door would open and you could sit at a table in the kitchen. This restaurant ran for many years but for a long time it was dangerous to go into these alleys since were filled with addicts, drug dealers and other nefarious types. Sadly the restaurant closed and the door was repainted.
The Green Door was popular with UBC students in the 60s (the alternative crowd, of course). UBC activist considered it “a place without censorship” (the book Neon Eulogy: Vancouver Cafe and Street informed me of this).
As to who first told me about The Green Door, it was a former hippie, former law student.
And so, the idea of a fabulous, hidden “den” took place in my head only the obvious colour for the door was yellow because…um…you’ve read my stories, right? With the location in place the game became obvious (mahjong!) and the cast of characters was more or less established.
I went back and forth with whether I should make the Vancouver location more explicit. It is pretty subdued and most people probably won’t know this is Van, but I decided I didn’t want to make too much of a fuss about it. Of course, The Green Door was a “hole in the wall” kind of place and my club is a lot nicer, but that’s called artistic license.
There you have it. Truth in fiction.