17 February 2003
The first part of today was like dim sum…little morcels that you get to have little tastes of. The end of the day was like a full multi-course meal. So I’m going to deal with the dim sum in today’s entry, and the full course meal in tomorrow’s.
I am sitting in a room overlooking Chinatown, and in one hour and 15 minutes, I will turn 60.
But that has nothing to do with the dim sum.
It was an awful night. The bed was rock hard and by 3 a.m. I could barely move. If I could have had an emergency call to Marta to come and give me a massage (I’ve never had one), I would have. Here I had a night to actually get caught up on sleep, but my body wouldn’t cooperate and there was no comfortable position I could find. I ended up just getting up at 4 a.m., and being very cranky about it.
“What do the Chinese eat for breakfast?” Walt asked. Here we were in the heart of Chinatown…and when in China, do what the Chinese do, was his motto. Fortunately we had two experts on the subjects in our group. Joe, who played sax in Lawsuit, spent time in China as an exchange student and, in fact, actually covered the events in Tiannemen Square for one of the major media markets here, as he was there for the uprising. His girlfriend Stacey is Chinese herself, and so between them we had good advice on what to have for breakfast: dim sum.
Across from the hotel is a “bakery and dim sum” shop and the four of us headed over there. We let Stacey do the ordering, since the menu was in Chinese. Well, actually, it was translated, but not into English, into Spanish (I was curious about those “Chinese tamales.”)
We ended up with a tasty assortment—pork and chicken steam buns, in that semi-gelatinous dough concoction, something called a “turnip cake” (which was a lot more delicious than its name would have you believe), a fried ball of some sort of meat (naturally, with all that grease, it was my favorite). There was a sesame ball filled with a sweet bean paste and covered with sesame seeds, some shrimp dumplings which looked pretty gross, but were actually very good. Some pork balls (jokes about the show I reviewed last week not applicable), and some steamed pot stickers—the only resemblance to the traditional pot sticker was the shape!.
With all this, we had an enormous bowl of a kind of rice gruel—rice made with about two and a half the required amount of water so that it was more like a thick soup. You add soy sauced and white pepper to this to flavor it; otherwise it’s pretty bland.
When we’d finished breakfast, Joe and Stacey (and Jeri, who had joined us by this time) went off on their own and we set out to explore the neighborhood.
We wandered through the rather extensive Chinatown (as an old SF girl, I’m always surprised with the variety of “looks” to other cities’ Chinatowns). In one of the courtyards (across from a store called “Shop Chuey,” which I thought very clever (but then I’m easily amused) was a famous wishing well. You toss your coins at buckets in this multi-colored rock wall. The buckets are labeled “love,” “wealth,” “travel,” “health,” and the ever popular “lotto.” Judging by the coins in the water, a lot of wishes have been tossed into this fountain. Walt made a couple of tosses but didn’t hit any of the buckets. I tossed a coin up in the air—not aiming for anything—and it handed smack dab in the center of a bucket. Unfortunately, this bucket was not labeled anything, so I’m assuming this means that I will get my wish, if I can ever figure out what it is that I’m wishing for.
We stumbled into the Saigon Market which is an ENORMOUS sorta open air market…it would be open air, except it has a cloth “roof” over it. I lost track of how huge this thing is. It seems to go on forever, with aisles running everywhichway. The vendors have an eclectic assortment of wares heaped into stacks which seem perilously close to tipping over. Some stands seem to consist of things that someone picked up at random in a “lot” sale and displayed all together in one place. I think my favorite store, though, was a karaoke store. A shop that rivaled any small town CD/music store…only it was nothing but videos and CDs with music and prompts for karaoke singing. Now there’s a world I have never explored—and probably never will.
We were going to relax a bit before the wedding, but a parade was passing by the hotel so we went to watch. The marchers were believers in “falun gong” who are protesting those in the world who are persecuting for practicing this tai-chi-like meditation program.