The Unbearable Banishment: Chinatown, My Chinatown

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Chinatown, My Chinatown

I met J after work. She and I went down to Chinatown for dinner. The food is cheap and the show is free. I met her at Rockefeller Center where she works. I got there early so I could wander around inside and look at the murals. They’re nice. I use to work at Rockefeller Center. That place is an art deco masterpiece, but the cheap bastards at Benevolent Dictators, Inc. didn’t want to spend so much for rent so we moved to a dull nondescript cracker box on 5th Avenue. I miss it, that’s for sure.

I haven’t been in Chinatown for a very long time and I’m happy to report that the economic boom that changed the character of even the most unlikely neighborhoods, like the Lower East Side, didn’t touch Chinatown. It is much the same as I ever remember it being.

We got off the beaten path (meaning Mott St.) and ate at a primo Vietnamese restaurant on Doyers St. Doyers St. is a dark, narrow alley with a bend in it. It looks like a movie set. The restaurant is located across the street from the Toy Apple Beauty Barber Saloon (sic). I gorged myself on fried spring rolls, spring rolls with shrimp and crab meat, chicken satay and some of J’s pork with glass noodles and mint leaves. We each had a bottle of Tsingtao and she had an iced pressed coffee with condensed milk. It was all delicious and the bill was $35.16. Not each. Total. You can’t beat it.

J is also in exile from the city and misses it as much as I do. We like to imagine the city in a flattering light that has no basis in reality. It’s easy to romanticize a place and time and forget the day-to-day grind of it all. After dinner we walked up Mott, over to and up Mulberry, across Broome through Soho to Varick and took the number 1 at Varick and King. We sat on a bench in front of Balthazar in Soho and I showed her my cell phone videos of daughters No. 1 and 2 dancing in my living room. After that, we got out my cell phone jammer and ended the phone calls of passers by who we thought might be assholes. We’re pretty good at sizing people up just based on the way they look. Eurotrash was an automatic ding and, this being Soho in front of Balthazar, there were plenty of them. I ended the call of a girl who looked like she might be having some serious problems and J yelled at me. I get carried away with that thing sometimes.

I got a late train home. Penn Station at that hour makes me sick. I went into the men’s room and saw one bum clearing his nose into the sink and another bum right next to him rinsing off a baloney sandwich. It was depressing. I know “bum” is a derogatory term, but it feels appropriate.



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