Lee from Malaysia at Prince Street Cleaners

Text: Ryu Takahashi / Photo: Ports Bishop / Special Thanks to Hassan Ali Khan

In the second story of our recurring series of "Playlist," in which we interview people from all walks of life and find out what’s on their playlist, we found another neighborhood character named Lee in Soho.

Name: Lee
Birthplace: Malaysia
Place of Residency: Chinatown
Place of Work: Prince Street Cleaners

Q. Where are you from originally?
I come from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Q. When did you get to NY?
Very long time ago, I can not remember. I kept enjoying working and without realizing the days past.
Q. What brought you here?
Because I lost my job there. I had a friend here and he  asked me if I wanted to come here and take a tour. So I told him “ok, no problem” since I had nothing. (laughs)
Q. What did you do in Malaysia?
I worked in an office job but there was a big layoff so I had no choice. Each and every one had to go, so I took the offer and I leave the company. Then I come here and see whether it can change my life. I really had nothing to lose.
Q. What did you do when you first came here?
I worked at a restaurant somewhere near West 4th station.
Q. And is this your place?
No, I work here. I run the whole show (laughs)
Q. How long have you worked here?
One year plus. Before that I was working at a souvenir shop in Little Italy. I told my boss I needed some change. I was fed up with the gift shop environment. I needed to go back to dry cleaning business which I used to do before. I’ve been around many places.
Q. Do you live around here?
I live in Chinatown, just a few blocks away from here. Lifestyle in Chinatown is a little bit more compact and high density. There’s a choice for you. If you choose to save money, you live in Chinatown. If you choose to live in a better ambience like these fancy lofts, you pay more. All the money you work so hard you pay for the rent. I feel like what for? It’s not my style.
Q. Have you been back to Malaysia since you moved to the US?
No because I got no time. If you really want to travel you need to spend a lot of money. So why not save that money instead of going back there. If you ask me whether I want to go back where I come from, definitely, but I will keep my money and travel other countries instead of going back where I belong.
Q. Do you still have family there?
I have a brother and a sister there, but no more parents. So I’m free to travel anywhere.
Q. Do you plan to go back to Malaysia at any point?
Not so far.
Q. Any other places you’d like to live?
In my dream, I want to visit Tokyo. My friend was there and he said that the place is very beautiful. I want to go to those traditional hot springs. You can treat those skin diseases and stuff. In my country they have two hot springs.
Q. Do you like going to spas? You look very good and young.
No, I’m very conservative (laughs).
I may look young because I eat well. I eat little meat, but mostly vegetables.
Q. What else do you enjoy outside of work?
I like watching movies, especially Chinese movies.
But after working, it’s too tired for me to go to the movie theater to enjoy a movie because I need time to rest. My friends always inviting me to the movie theater, but I can not. I tried many times. So I usually watch at home.
Q. What are your favorite movies?
Of course Andy Lau, Jet Lee, and Jackie Chan. His initial martial arts movies are really good, but when it comes to Rush Hour and those kinds, I don’t enjoy that much. I like the traditional martial arts movie of Jackie Chan, but not after.
Q. Where do you get your movies?
You can get them at Chinatown, or you can go to J&R. Because Jackie Chan is a Hollywood star, you can get those collections there.
Q. Do you listen to music too?
Oh yes.
Q. Who are your favorite artists?
I like Rain, the Korean singer. And also Teresa Teng, the Taiwanese singer and Leslie Cheug from Hong Kong.
Q. Do you listen to any western music too?
I like Whitney Houston. Oh and John Legend. I think his voice is very powerful.
  • Whitney, Whitney Houston

    Whitney, Whitney Houston

  • No Other Love / Can't Be My Lover (Cool Breeze Mixes), John Legend

    No Other Love / Can't Be My Lover (Cool Breeze Mixes), John Legend

  • Dunken Master

    Dunken Master

  • Running Out of Time

    Running Out of Time

  • Happy Cha-Cha Girls, Teresa Teng

    Happy Cha-Cha Girls, Teresa Teng

  • Who's the Woman, Who's the Man, Leslie Cheung

    Who's the Woman, Who's the Man, Leslie Cheung


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