Cultural Things

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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.

 

30 Years, Thanksgiving, and the Mouse

The restaurant celebrated 30 years last week. Thirty years of food, drink, and scores of employees both memorable and forgettable. A friend came up with the idea to throw a surprise reunion for mom with employees past and present. I was supposed to be there, but ongoing illness and unpreventable circumstances kept me away, so I missed my mom’s nasty spill outside and bleeding leg, and my favorite “aunt” who worked many of the early and some of the most memorable years.

The official 30th anniversary was the following night. Since I’m not drinking, Todd enjoyed wine and I enjoyed good conversation with an old, dear friend. We laughed about the “old days” when he sat at my bar and we bitched about everything and everyone. We remembered Richard and his laughter. I showed off my new boots and he’s lost a bit of his game I think because he tagged them Kenneth Cole when they were actually Steve Madden. But he remembers my tastes I guess – so I’ll give him a pass.

I mostly kept to myself, and I’m hoping it wasn’t too obvious. I’m not feeling myself so much these days. I just want to fade into the atmosphere. It’s not you, it’s me.

Anyway, the parking lot was full and so I parked behind the kitchen. If this was Disney, that parking area would be designated the “raccoon” section. (Next to the dumpster, for those unfamiliar.) It’s a steep and ominous climb up the staircase to the deck outside the kitchen, which is dimly lit, and I worried briefly about the walk down later in my high-heeled boots and Todd’s insobriety. Since no one in the kitchen expects the back door to swing open in the middle of business and people to walk in, we managed to startle at least one person.

We had some food and celebratory cake and I danced with Jeffrey – who never misses an opportunity to dance – which was perfect because he’s so good, and twirling around like that, even if I was as awkward as a horse in heels, made my heart light and I found myself laughing. Todd and I don’t dance enough. We probably shouldn’t anyway, lest we hurt ourselves or possibly innocent bystanders. Maybe we’ll work on that, yes?

Thanksgiving day we hosted a total of 15, with two turkeys and all the usual accompaniments. Aunt M’s dog Snoopy, whose real name is Hershey but I keep calling him Snoopy, joined us on his first outing away from home which was a huge success. Moses, all 140 lbs of him, followed Hershey around sniffing his ass and generally making him uncomfortable, which I can fully understand because I wouldn’t like that either.

Neph also joined us, after multiple phone calls about directions and issues with his new car – which, I reminded him, IS under warranty and therefore he should be calling the dealer about it – and I think he’s been living alone too long and returned to caveman, since he brought Tupperware containers and asked if it was okay to go through the line and pack up to-go food before everyone else went through the line.

Nephtoo also joined us, and brought a friend who wanted to experience a real American Thanksgiving with, I quote, “real American drama.” What a truly tantalizing request… but, alas, it was a relatively peaceful gathering this year. Nephtoo regaled Grandma with tales of hard work and studies and three jobs and no time for anything else, to which I cried “bullshit!” from across the table and TinVeet erupted in a burst of laughter.

In all, it was lovely. The food turned out great, everyone was happy, and especially me – since I had (almost) all “my kids” under the same roof for a couple of hours. I had a little bit of wine which did not affect me adversely. My friend helped with cleanup even though I didn’t ask, and I finished the rest after dinner with the help of modern appliances. And THEN took Veruca shopping.

Oh yes I did. I promised her Black Friday shopping and so we got started around 9:30 that night. Neph went along. I thought that was great, since he’d offer some degree of protection, but I became more and more worried that he’d piss somebody off as he walked around the store with one earbud in, one dangling, talking like he’d just dropped from the ghetto. Now, Neph is whiter than mayonnaise, and personally – I could be wrong – I don’t care if all your best friends are black – Ebonics just doesn’t look good on a white boy. It’s embarrassing. Nevertheless, I kept my mouth shut and kept shopping.

In summary, I spent $275 on a shitload of stuff including a new wallet for Neph, who told me it (and a few other things) be a good Hannakuh gift, ya know, if I be thinkin of som’in to get him. A JEWISH WHITE boy speaking Ebonics in a multi-racial Thanksgiving night shopping crowd. Time to check out.

And speaking of checking out, it’s been eight days and counting since a mouse checked into hotel Todd and Tara. Little fucker has been scratching behind the wall in the kitchen all day and night, and Thanksgiving day I frantically emptied the closest cabinet to see if it had chewed its way in. Todd determined it was traveling along the electrical line, which is also NOT comforting. Mom suggested if it was that loud it has to be a rat and a big one, and I told her she wasn’t helping.

If you’ve never had a mouse in your house, let me tell you – it’s maddening. Kind of like the Telltale Heart. You hear it, you know it’s real, and you can’t do anything to make it stop. I can totally see going completely mad and taking a hammer to the wall, because I personally pounded on the wall about eight times which made him stop long enough to see what was going on and then he’d start up again. OMG!

He has finally moved to the space under the stove, as evidenced by Oliver’s sentinel post for the better of the last two days, and I’ve considered removing the drawer under the oven and just let Oliver have at it. And, at this point, I would like to publically apologize for calling my cat fat and lazy last week for lying on his back in the sunshine while the mouse chewed its way through the wall. He was just biding his time, and now the time is imminent.  Stay tuned.

 

 

Miscellaneous:

1. Ebonics: “Yo G, you frontin me?” 
English: “Excuse me, my peer, are you attempting to influence me to engage in a         violent action?

(Honestly, I think the English statement is far more likely to get you jumped.)

2. Few things are worse than a fart trapped in a stairwell.

3. Not only does the dog think she gets treats every time she goes outside, but apparently she thinks she gets treats every time I do.

 

Random Thoughts For September

We went shopping at Lowe’s last weekend which was shocking because it was Todd’s idea. Todd had boycotted the store after a debacle there about a year ago. However, Lowe-gate couldn’t hold a candle to an entirely different debacle involving kitchen rugs from Big Lots. Todd’s busy brain took a short detour to kitchen rug replacement on a beautiful Sunday afternoon when we could otherwise have been frolicking in the sunflower fields, but…there we were.

All the Halloween inflatables are set up, so I entertained myself by walking through an inflatable house a few times while Todd looked at snowblowers. There were a couple of little kids looking at me, which made me giggle, and I briefly considered calling boooooo from inside, which took me back to that time at Crystal Cave when my then-stepmom went inside this giant teepee with me and made the Indian war cry before stepping back outside, where she totally deadpan-told these wide-eyed kids that there were real Indians inside.

I have to admit, I’d never considered putting inflatables in my front yard, but the inflatable giant ghost is kinda cool. That is, until I saw the dragon. Dragons are all the rage now, ya’ll. Big Lots had a dragon skeleton that had to be nearly life-sized but was still in the box for $139. If I’d have had the money to blow…. Instead, I’ve got the skeleton cat for $22 on my wish list. I’m hoping it will scare away the stray cats who keep shitting in my gardens.

At least they’re not shitting on my front steps like they did to my neighbor across the street. Although Todd told me that one of them shit on the front tire inside the well on the pickup truck. On the wheel well? How does that happen? That’s gotta require some skill.

Our neighbor hates these strays with a passion normally reserved for ex-wives, and has set up traps around the yards including ours to catch and, he insists, relocate them. He’s gotten so sophisticated he has cameras connected to them that send to his cell so he’ll know instantly what he’s got (in case it’s a family of raccoons – which does happen round here more than you think). It’s been a month and he hasn’t caught one damn cat. I told him they’re smarter than he is which, thankfully, he laughed off, since he is a cop and could potentially arrest me for disrespecting an officer.

Needless to say we didn’t find any rugs, but did find new curtains for the sliders. And I wandered off toward something shiny in the lighting department and suddenly we were buying new lamps for the living room. And then a really happy guy in an electric wheelchair stopped next to us to remind Todd what a beautiful wife he had while I blushed eight shades of red as he sat smiling at us both. Later, I admired the mums outside and some other fall planters. I may go back and buy them but, like anything green that requires water for survival, their fate in my hands is pretty much already predetermined.

OMG, I found a giant metal chicken! I nearly ran off the road looking at it to be sure I wasn’t hallucinating, but it was real and I need this chicken. The Bloggess acquired one several years ago, which was the subject of one of the most hilarious posts I’ve ever read, and I never thought I’d ever want one until I saw it in person. Now I’m on a mission to get it, but I’m making Todd go with me because it’s really big and I might not be able to get it into my car by myself. He said I could buy it. You are all my witnesses. Though he wants to know how much it’s going to cost. Silly man. What could be better than pulling into your driveway and being greeted by this source of enormous joy – the inspiration for knock knock, motherfucker?

I’m addicted to Amazon and Zullily. I think Amazon requires no explanation. Zullily is a dangerous website that sends you daily deals by email, and I’ve already acquired a pair of shoes, a bikini top, and some flip flops. Don’t tell Todd. He already knows about ThredUp and StitchFix.

V asks me every other day to order take-out. I have no idea where she got the impression that this was a thing, but I’m charged with reminding that it aint happening. If it’s not pizza, it’s McDonald’s, or it’s Chinese food – which, by the way, isn’t close. We can order seven – count them, seven – different pizzas just in our own small town, but can’t get a decent piece of sushi without driving a half hour. Sigh. Life in the country.

“We love to eat,” one of the first things I heard on my shadowing day six months ago, and my coworkers have not disappointed. One of them regularly brings in boxes of Tastykakes, someone else deposited exquisite M&M’s ice cream cookie treats in the freezer, and there’s always someone’s birthday to celebrate with loads of potluck items for the pickin. We have parents drop off treats too – like a box of Starbucks coffee and pumpkin cream cheese coffee cakes, and a dad dropped off a giant bag of hot pretzels when he picked up a prescription. The struggle between will power and total abandon is real.

A high school friend posted a link to a 5k happening in less than a month not far from me, and I have seriously considered training for it, just in case my knee holds out. I still have time to register. Like I said, my brain says yes yes, but my knee says, no no!

Meanwhile, back in the hot tub, where we work tediously to perfect the chemicals of a chlorine-free system. Well guess what? Tara wants chlorine. Tara needs chlorine. Certain things in life just require chlorine. I do not want to go about smelling like a musty cellar, and there’s something about this system that’s leaving that impression all over me. I want to smell like chlorine. Trust me, I’ll sleep better at night.

And while we’re on the subject of hot tubbing… don’t ever, EVER try to reenact Sylvester’s Looney Toons’ geyser ride. You’ve been warned, people.

Todd had the audacity to ask me why there was a towel in the spider sanctuary. The spider sanctuary is actually our oversized bathtub in the master bath, which rarely gets used and I guess he was hinting that it’s a bit dusty/cobwebby in there.

I haven’t mentioned to him recently the plague of Lifesavers wrappers I keep finding – in the car, in the driveway, on the floor, on the bedside table, on the bathroom counter… shall I go on? This, while he tells me how dirty my car is, AS IF I have no idea how dirty it is. Really.

To use a recently overheard weirdest expression ever uddered, some days I feel angrier than a mad cow on a bad Monday. That might be an Amish expression, I’m not sure. But, I’ve left Facebook again for self-preservation. It’s faster, and less time consuming, to just remove myself, rather than “hide” every person (on both sides of the political divide, FYI) whose posts are currently bothering me. Recent revelations have taken me to a place inside that is wholly better for me and everyone around me. Let’s hope it lasts.

Miscellaneous tidbits:

There are 206 bones in the adult human body. Opac will say he has 207, because of a broken collar bone, though I believe this to be inaccurate as the break has fused back together.

To stop bleeding on the lip from a razor cut: besides applying pressure, apply ice to constrict blood vessels and slow bleeding. Also, apply chapstick or vaseline. Other pieces of advice include mouthwash (which has gotta burn like hell), or applying deodorant, in which the aluminum chloride can also constrict blood vessels. Add eye drops to that list of blood vessel contricting agents.

The Holiday Living 10.5 ft x 6.6 ft haunted house is $250. Conversely, the 9ft x 11ft dragon is $179. No word yet on the price of the giant metal chicken. I’ll get back to you. The price of my joy = priceless.

The aforementioned Looney Toons episode can be seen here : Sylvester, Tweety and the Geyser.

Current book I’m reading – is still Another Roadside Attraction by Tom Robbins. I took a break from it to read 10 Days in a Madhouse by Nelly Bly, a fast and fascinating read (though surprisingly a lot less thrilling than Asylum) about the real conditions of institutions in the early 20th century, brought to life by the journalist who posed as a patient to get the real skinny on the inside. It was considered a game-changer for mental institutions, yet we all know that the horrors continued for decades and across the country.