Forget It, Jake. It's Chinatown.
The place where I ate today is a hole in the wall across from the place where I usually eat. It’s so authentically hardcore Chinese that they don’t even advertise the name of the restaurant on the outside of the building in English. Represent! Once I stepped inside, I realized to my chagrin that there were no empty tables available. I was ready to leave and exercise the option to solicit any of the 50 other Chinese palaces (some of them actually named Palace) that were at the tip of my fingers, but before I could go a demure elf of a woman with demonic eyes grabbed my arm, pointed at a table and yelled, “You go there!” She pointed to a large, circular table where a woman was already seated; the strength of her grip on my arm let me know that not only was it perfectly acceptable for me to sit there, but that my choice in the matter had expired once she grabbed me.
I sat down compliantly and politely smiled at the woman across from me. She did not reciprocate; in fact, she looked right through me as if I weren’t even there. I picked up my book and started to read it, and she banged her fist on the table, picked up her cell phone and called someone. Normally I love to listen to people speaking Chinese. It’s a very sing-songy language in which tonal change denotes completely different meanings of words. That fascinates me, although I have no desire to ever learn a language with a different alphabet.
ANYWAY, I am not sure if there is a Chinese Mafia in Philadelphia (I hope there is.), but if there is, this is the place where they eat. I was the only cracker in the place, and everyone else was Chinese and very, very serious. I feel like everyone there knew one another since people were screaming from table to table with reckless abandon. It could be that everyone was friends, but my life and story and much more exciting if I entertain the possibility that there is mafia-talk occurring in my presence in a language I don’t even understand. Simply chilling.
A man who was slurping his soup with the ferocity of a two-dollar whore in a fastest blow-job contest picked his head up for a moment to belch and then screamed something in Chinese. Whatever he screamed must have been hi-larious, as the whole restaurant, save for the honky with his fancy book, erupted into the kind of laughter usually reserved for Carrot Top specials. Another woman sat at my table, and she must have known the woman who was already seated there. She gave me a derisive look and then a quick smile. I imagine she was initially pissed that someone was sitting with her and her friends and then realized that the idiot with them would have frickin’ idea about anything they conversed about. She probably thought, “I bet this jackass actually uses forks.” (I do.)
My food came, but not as quickly as the food came for these two women. They had the table manners of a Fat Camp refugee. They both chewed with their mouths open, maybe my biggest pet peeve. I am not being exclusively culturally insensitive either. I have dear friends, whom I love very much, that are so polite in every day life, but once you sit them down to eat, they chew like cows. Why is that? WHY?! And don’t get me started on how I used to insist on sitting at a different table than my dad when we ate together. I was a charming kid.
One woman was actually chewing her soup, which until today I thought was impossible, or at least an exercise in futility. It still may be the latter, as I did not discuss eating strategy with the woman.
The other woman had some kind of crab and vegetable dish. And here’s where I almost lost my lunch. She would put a crab leg in her mouth, chew it as hard and fast as she could, and then stick chop sticks in her mouth to retrieve the pieces of shell. She collected the crab shrapnel on her plate, where it would stay until she picked up each piece at the end of her meal and sucked the remnants of meat from each piece. This woman was vicious. She had hustle. She was indefatigable. I was scared to death.
I ate my meal as best I could, paid the de minimus tab and bolted. Everyone looked at me when I left. It was so uncomfortable, but I will definitely return to eat there again. Because, let’s not kid ourselves, I would eat at a table with Charles Manson to get a full meal for $4.25.
On the way out of the restaurant, a man in a flash fusion concert series T-shirt ran up to me, and the following conversation, if you can call it that, transpired. If you and a friend are acting it out as a play, please read the Man on the Street part as loudly as possible. To say he was enthusiastic would be an understatement.
MoS: Do you love hip hop?
Z: It’s ok.
MoS: Do you LOVE Fat Joe?
MoS: Do you want to see Fat Joe in concert?
MoS: Lean Back! Lean Back! What?!
Z: Not really.
MoS: Well, here’s 2 free tickies to the FREE Fat Joe concert.
Z: Thank you, sir.
[MoS runs away to assault a woman who claims to speak no English. Z enviously wishes he employed similar technique. Z takes deep breath, walks away.]
Apparently, there is a free Fat Joe concert to which I have 2 free tickets. The venue is a secret until Wednesday when it will be posted online, and I have the secret password to decipher the hidden location. I don’t even care enough to figure it out. And I hate fat people, duh. So, if anyone wants these “tickies,” please be in touch. My IM screen name is in my profile.
Today’s events all lead me to one important question: If I love Asian people so much and I hate fat people so much, how does my heart really feel about Sumo wrestlers?
I am so fucking Zen right now. Peace.