Cultural Things

20190418_102354

Chinatown Philly 2019

Last week I accompanied Veruca on a class trip to Chinatown (Philly). The Chinese teacher gave the students strict instructions to be respectful, walk no more than two astride, and absolutely “no frog on school bus.” I was given an itinerary with a list of students I was supervising (hey – I did NOT sign up for THAT) and we passed under the Friendship Gate – a beautifully painted arch that marks the entryway into Chinatown.

We split into 3 groups for shopping. The first store had knickknacks, books (particularly one on Chinese medicine, which I would like to explore again), dishes, some Bruce Lee Kung-Fu statues in various stages of combat, and beautiful CHOPSTICKS (which I bought). The second store was a Hello Kitty store – need I say more?

The last was a grocery – boxes of fruit lined up outside and large vinyl refrigerator flaps covering the entryway. I followed V and her friends inside where she snatched up a bag of these candies she’s always swiping from the nail salon. I wandered around, the funky “off” smell burning a hole in my sinuses, looking at the meat cases filled with normal everyday things and then some obscenely long pig legs with hooves still intact. I snapped some pictures of the fish display in the back, which was quite impressive, and no – I am not embarrassed. Someone said the fish area was disturbing but I still don’t know why, unless she was referring to the football-sized bloody fish head, its eyes facing the back wall. I wandered downstairs and bought chili sauce, sesame chili oil, and seaweed wraps.

Afterward, we walked around the block to a very small Asian bakery where we entered in waves. It was hotter than a South Street pizza shop in there, so I bought a butter cream bun and hightailed it back outside. V and friends bought Bubble Tea that resembled a pink smoothie with little black balls floating in the bottom that you’d suck up through the straw. They were oddly, simultaneously slimy and spongy and I was afraid to ask but I did. They’re tapioca balls.

Next stop – the Chinese restaurant that was booked for lunch. I googled this place the night before just to see what it looked like, what the menu was like, etc. and the first thing to come up was a series of Yelp reviews, which everyone knows is just a bitch-board because everyone’s a food critic. HOWEVER. One review pointed out the very real news that this restaurant was responsible for the largest food poisoning incident in recent Philadelphia history. Over 100 people in one day, in 2015. I googled the article and found more – as recent as last summer – meat stored at temps above 50 degrees and black mildew inside an ice machine, just two of TWENTY health code violations in a single visit. Who’s hungry now?

So we sit down. All I can think of is – what is the safest thing to eat that is least likely to lead to explosive diarrhea and vomiting? And – I’ll have water – NO ICE – thank you.

Anyway. The dishes were served family style – pork fried rice, lo mein, some sort of red meat on a stick (that V said was raw in the middle – I didn’t eat it), sweet and sour chicken, General Tso chicken with broccoli, orange wedges and fortune cookies. The two chicken dishes were good. Everything else? Nothing to blog about. Even my fortune – he who is shipwrecked the second time cannot lay blame on Neptune – what the heck am I supposed to take away from this? I’m safe to eat here this time, but don’t come back? Or perhaps a deeper message about watching for my ex’s other shoe?

I will say this – that peculiar smell from the grocery store followed me around the block and into the restaurant. It was also in the underground grocery we went to after lunch. In retrospect, although it isn’t a smell you want to encounter in a food establishment, it is a smell often encountered in city back streets that smell like wet garbage and rotting food.

The underground grocery is quite well-known but could easily be missed because it’s through a set of dirty glass doors and down a flight of gray concrete steps with fluorescent lighting reminiscent of old subway stairwells. There are live crabs and jellyfish, and FROGS in a Rubbermaid tote (presumably where last year’s student bought the live frog), and purple (black) packaged chickens that drew everyone’s attention. (They are Silkies, according to my birding friend Dave.) The kids bought a shit-ton of candy and I bought a 5lb bag of sushi rice.

In all, we had beautiful weather and no one got sick. I watched the folks who live and work in Chinatown, the tourists popping in and out of the stores, the men seated in the back of the bakery, looking like Asian Goodfellas and speaking in the hushed tones of their native language, and the boys in Veruca’s class all wearing those ridiculous Chinese straw hats (that screamed, tourist!) looking like they were headed to the rice fields. The boys – all of 13 or 14 years old and varying degrees of tall and short – the tallest boy seated at our table muttering about propaganda on the television and the shortest boy giggling like a chimpanzee.

*****

***Trigger Warning: The following is NOT kosher but (I think) hilariously funny, and may also be offensive to those without a sense of humor.

Friday night was Seder. Todd and I drove down to Baltimore to his parents’ house. Just a couple of their friends, Aunt Marilyn and cousin, Michael. We went through the motions like a drive-thru version of Passover, and got to the eating. Someone started talking about pigs feet and Michael said the hind legs aren’t kosher. But the front legs are, because they’re split-hooved.

I leaned over and said to Todd, I bet all the pigs in Israel only have back legs. Father-in-law’s shoulders started shaking, and then Michael said, they have to put them in those little carts so they can get around. Which in turn made me burst into red-faced laughter. But he wasn’t done. Because he said, but then they’d get stuck in the mud… so they have to put them in all-terrain vehicles, and I had an instant picture of those big all-terrain tires they put on monster trucks, which is where Michael was going and now there are tears running out of my eyes. Aunt Marilyn and I are falling into each other and the whole thing was monstrously inappropriate but we’re a fun family and if you’re offended you don’t have to join us for dinner next time. Oh – and YES – I KNOW that Orthodox Jews don’t eat pork.

 

Advertisements

Always Welcome in Any Gathering

20190220_145123

So the bowling fundraiser thing was last weekend and Todd went to represent the college, bringing along Jonathan (for fun), Eddie (who he bowls with regularly), and Bill (who he used to bowl with). There was an endless of buffet of food – ALL of it was fried food which, if you bowl regularly, you know you shouldn’t eat because all that salt makes your fingers swell. But I ate it, because – onion rings and mozzarella sticks and beer. Paid dearly for it later. It really sucks not being 22 anymore. Sometimes.

So we’re waiting to get started and Bill arrives. He and Todd have known each other for decades, used to bowl together. Bill is 85. He was thrilled to pieces to see me… exclaiming, “it’s the sausage lover,” and Jonathan looked at me and I looked at him like, what the fuck did he just say? I spent the rest of the afternoon wondering what the hell he meant by that. He said something later about my sausage dip (from a party a couple years back) and then changed the subject to my hot stepmom.

Bill is an interesting guy. He sat down with me between turns to chat about life, Todd, that party we had where he thought he was going to score a dinner date with my stepmom until she told him she was married, how my mom was doing, and “Uncle Harry.” He was pretty vocal about Todd’s health, yelling about him getting a colonoscopy because apparently that’s what we old folks do now – talk about health screenings and extreme invasions of personal space.

He told me to kick him in the arse about getting healthy – which, if you know Todd, is about as successful as bathing a cat. And then he went on about his days in the Navy and how he knew Harry Truman and called him Uncle Harry. I really wanted to hear more about this, but – the lanes were calling. Meanwhile, Jonathan texted me a meme of a man licking his bowling ball. I love him. He gets me.

There were raffle tickets for door prizes and by the end Jonathan had cleared off our table and threw the tickets away, not realizing they were still calling numbers. And he did it – he went over to the trash can and went digging for the tickets and I took a picture because some things just must be documented for my amusement.

Eddie, meanwhile, hung back like he always does, a quiet observer and serious bowler, every so often showing me memes on his phone. If he gets me, he never lets on. He tolerates my relentless innuendos with quiet bursts of laughter, so I never really know if he’s shocked or not but I refuse to give up. Which brings me to a story.

About a year ago, Todd and Eddie and Tish were laughing about Eddie’s stats: he kept rolling sixes and nines and so the three of them made some innuendos about it and they were all cracking up. Eddie walked up to where I was sitting and told me about it. I looked at him puzzled and innocently said, I don’t get it. He said, “sixes and nines, …..you know, SIXTY NINE.” I said, sixty-nine? okaaayyy… why is that funny? I don’t get it. He stared at me and emphasized sixty-nine again, and then again, and waited for me to get it. I just stared blankly back at him like I had no idea what he was talking about. He went back to the group and told Todd, “she doesn’t know what 69 means.” Todd said, “she does… she just doesn’t want to do it.” Tish nearly fell over and they all looked back at me and I just sat there grinning like the cat that got the canary. Eddie knew he’d been fooled. This is what I do for fun at bowling.

Meanwhile, I had the EMG which is relatively unchanged in 5 years… which is good although somewhat disappointing in that I have the numbness in my hands which is frustrating and uncomfortable but apparently not even in the “moderate” range where surgical release is an option.

Yesterday I had my second test round of nerve block injections, this time bilaterally. My doctor is this cool, self-described “crazy Japanese guy with a needle,” who plays Hawaiian music in the operative room and praised me for my sense of humor over this whole thing. But that was before he told me that if I smell bacon during the neurotomy next week, not to worry – that’s just my flesh burning. I can tell you today that “some” pain is gone but my back is hurting and right now I’m feeling a bit concerned. I felt great when I left the surgi-center, but hours later after icing periodically, my lower back was hurting like a bitch. I was hopeful that it was just temporary and that today I’d wake up differently, and I did, but now that I’m sitting in a chair my back pain is heating up again and my right leg is achy. I have a script for more Flector patches that most likely insurance does not cover and are ridonculously (borrowing a favorite expression from my friend Jason) expensive. Shouldn’t I NOT be feeling this?

Maybe I shouldn’t have been driving around for 3 hours last night? I don’t know. I finally got to pick up my car from the dealership. They’ve had it for 18 days. I don’t want to talk about all the problems it has had. It’s been ongoing for the two years we’ve had it, and I think it should’ve been replaced but here we are. Nevertheless, today we’re getting 3-5 inches of snow and other icy crap over the next several hours, and I thought it prudent to get it right away. Veruca rode along and we picked up sushi and Chinese food from my favorite place, which meant that it was a nearly 3 hour round-trip excursion. BUT – my car is home. I’m not driving a dad-car* anymore and I’m soooo happy! I beeped the horn when I pulled in the driveway.

We feasted on sesame chicken, moo shu vegetables, sweet and sour chicken, wonton soup, spicy tuna roll, Philadelphia roll, and shrimp tempura roll. This is the second time I’ve watched Opac – the finickiest of finicky eaters – gobble up sushi like candy. I know I’ve said it before… who IS this kid? Meanwhile, V – my adventurous foodie – only tasted the shrimp tempura roll. She doesn’t like sushi, really, though she does like my homemade veggie nori rolls (and so does O, for that matter). She shares my love of clams, but I do not share her love of mussels. Weird kids.

More updates tomorrow.

 

Miscellaneous:

The “dad-car” was a Ford Taurus, which I didn’t even know they made anymore. We were supposed to get a rental, and I texted Todd to get a Mustang. Instead, apparently beggars can’t be choosers or they just wanted to get the ornery customer with “the car that’s seen the inside of garage more times than all of our Fords combined” out of their service department as fast as possible, so we got the demo. It was a base model and spoiled me had to suffer without remote start, heated seats, and no Sirius XM for over two weeks. If you like big boat cars and FM radio with a smooth ride and room for 20 grandkids, this is right up your alley.

The only good part was I rediscovered regular radio, including some county station where I heard Blake Shelton’s Boys Round Here and, heaven help me, I rushed home to play it for my son, who loved it and has added it to his rotating playlist with Pickup Man and some other song about Honky Tonks.

I could tell Todd until I’m blue in the face about the healthy changes “we” need to make and, depending on his mood, the answer is either, yeah, I know or, but I don’t eat that bad. Case in point, Sunday morning I came out of the bedroom for coffee and found him elbow deep in the potato chip bag. He was just having one chip.

More advice from the pediatrics trenches: when you take your child to urgent care or the ER, they will always tell you to follow up with your pediatrician. This does NOT mean you have to have an appointment to follow up. However, DO call. The nurse can ask and answer questions and concerns and reassure you, and let you know when it might be necessary to return.

 

Where I’ve Been – Holiday Edition

By the dim light from the windows of today’s cloudy day, and the twinkling of a too-old Christmas tree and a fire in our fireplace, I’m finally sitting down to recount the holiday adventures. I’ve been MIA for almost a month. I can’t honestly say what I’ve been doing, as the days melted into one another until I woke this morning and realized it’s two days to 2017.

***

It’s now the next morning, before the crack of dawn because the pets don’t understand holiday breaks and days off…and Sabra decided it was time to go out NOW. I laid in bed trying to ignore the dancing routine she was doing, but I kept hearing these whispy, squeaky sounds coming from her ass and so I jumped up before the dance became more urgent… and possibly more messy.

And, so Oliver decided it was time for breakfast as soon as my feet hit the floor. And he’s not very quiet about it. Which is why we have a squirt gun on the kitchen counter, in case you ever come over and wonder why there’s a squirt gun on my kitchen counter. He is a smart kitty and a very quick learner and so therefore I need only pick up said squirt gun and he stops his verbal assault. Okay, really, the squirt gun was for redirecting his desire to sleep on my dining room table. Except that he still does it anyway. Also, we have this understanding that I get to have my coffee first. Except that it turns out he really doesn’t give a shit what I want.

So now I’m sitting here with my coffee trying not to be pissed off that I don’t have to be up at 6 a.m. today but I am anyway. And you know what? The dog and the cat have both gone back to bed.

So, anyway. I started shopping online on Black Friday because I’m not masochistic enough to enter a store. I worked for Macy’s in King of Prussia in my 20s and I swore after that experience I would forevermore avoid all malls/stores on Black Friday.

Opac has been itching to join a gym and also to own a weight bench. This Christmas he got the latter. It was ordered online and shipped in 3 parts. Which is probably a good thing. Except that the exact delivery time was sketchy and so I quickly learned that if you order big stuff online, you better make sure you’re home to drag it inside before the recipient sees it.

Box #1, which weighed roughly 50 pounds and actually had the word “Heavy” printed on it just in case you wouldn’t know that, was dropped just outside my front door by the postal carrier, blocking the storm door so I couldn’t open it to retrieve the box. How it never occurred to her that WE WERE HOME since there were TWO CARS IN THE DRIVEWAY, I’ll never know. I managed to shove my weight against the storm door enough to stick my arm out and push at the box on the steps until I could pull it inside. Box #2 arrived on another day late in the afternoon, leaned up against the front door, but this time I was coming home to it with the recipient in the front seat of the car. I made Opac stay in the car with his big sheepish grin, and knew it was useless since I was sure he saw the tall oblong box with the picture of the weight bench printed on it.

Box #3 was by far the heaviest of them all, but someone this time had the good sense to leave this in front of the garage door so I was able to just open the door and drag this 120 lb cardboard box of questionable sturdiness inside the garage by those sharp plastic cords that hold the box closed. It wasn’t easy and I had the cuts in my hands to prove it, and I was again reminded of how weak I’ve become in my middle age.

I took Veruca shopping in the mall two days before Christmas, against my better judgement. I felt my nerves tingling close to what could easily have been a panic attack, and decided if I was going to survive this trip I was going to have to just ride the wave. The left turn lane to the mall road was a half-mile long with cars, and V was bitching about the traffic. I told her this was nothing compared to Christiana, the other mall she wanted to go to, and definitely N-O-T-H-I-N-G compared to KoP. And it really wasn’t.

My biggest anxiety stems from parking, and remains an open wound from my youth when my mom would drive around and around the KoP parking lot looking for the ideal spot when all I wanted to do was get out of the damn car. But she wouldn’t give up and a handful of times got in skirmishes with other drivers who also wanted the ideal spot. So when I go to the mall, I park the car in the first empty space I can find – and I don’t care if I have to walk a mile to get to the door. I hope you’re happy, mom, cause I’m in therapy now.

V wanted a gift for Opac so I suggested we go to Spencer’s – a novelty store full of inappropriate paraphernalia, that’s been around since I was a kid. Except that either it’s gotten far more inappropriate or I’m just old now and no longer amused by the inventory. Anyway, they have great t-shirts – of his faves like Tupac, Eminem, and Bob Marley – just inside the door and so the risk of corrupting V is relatively low. We found 2 we liked and then V thought that posters would be a good gift too. The posters for some ungodly reason are located in the back of the store. I heard her say “mom” once or twice and the word “inappropriate” (she likes this word almost as much as the word “mom”) and I realized that my tactic of not looking around was not her tactic and she said something about “boob balls” and THAT’s when I noticed the WALL of dildos just two feet away from us. Yes, I took my daughter into a store that sells dildos. But – in my defense – I didn’t know they did. There are stores for that sort of thing. And I still don’t know what boob balls are, because I grabbed her by the sleeve and ran to the register.

So, this is where I tell you that Christmas was lovely and the kids were very happy, and Veruca forgot about the wall of dildos and I didn’t have to do any explaining. I got some lovely gifts this year, but the greatest gift was the reminder of how good life is today. I reread some old posts from Decembers past for inspiration, and while I don’t often dwell on the past – I do believe in acknowledging where I’ve been and how far I’ve come. I highly recommend it to everyone. Keeps you humble and grateful.