Chinatown and Ocean Beach

鍋貼: possibly the best food on earth. Oh, you don’t read Chinese? Please allow me to translate: “Pot sticker.” Yes.
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I met Sarah at the CalTrain station after an hour or so of watching California slide past outside the windows. Despite my then-brand-new pants and a reasonably fresh shave, I still felt pretty haggard. I may have showered when I got to our room at the Executive Vintage Court Hotel. I may have staggered around the room in a grim stupor and taken a quick nap under the desk. I’m not really sure which happened, but both Sarah and I were awash with hunger, so I scraped myself up and dumped myself into some fresh clothes so we could head out. Chinatown beckoned, with its writhing live seafood and endless armies of cast resin knick-knacks.

At the entrance to Chinatown is a faux-traditional gate, as though it were the entrance to a bucolic village nestled amongst rice paddies instead of a dirty street buttressed by the cardboard erections of muttering homeless folk. The entrances were guarded by “Foo Dogs” (石狮) — notable for being lions and for sharing their name with the ubiquitous variable $foo — the x of the programming world.

If you don’t go in by the 石狮, you find your path guarded by the “street keyboards,” which are certainly no less fierce.
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In Chinatown we sought Dim Sum, hoping to find a place where we could sit down and have wave after wave of steamed delights rolled to our table on small carts. I suppose that I should have checked the internet before sallying forth, but hotel internet and I tend to not get along well, so we went unprepared. At first we weren’t finding any places advertising Dim Sum, so we stopped into a place called “Pot Sticker” and ordered the best pot stickers of my memory. The skins were delicate and had the merest air of sweetness. The pork was tangy and just the right mix of tender and firm. I almost ordered a hundred more, but we agreed that we should seek return to our quest. We continued walking with the simple idea that we would look for signs that say “Dim Sum” (點心) and had Chinese people inside eating. If they live there and eat at a place, it has to be at least all right.

Unless, of course, you are really tired of wandering around looking into empty restaurants and you spot a place that has deli-style dim sum and at least a handful of people, so you head in and order before noticing that those people are either elderly or one step away from being homeless, and garbage has blown into the restaurant and not been removed in a timely manner. This was the situation we found ourselves in as we sat down with our selection of random foodlike items. The menus were entirely in Chinese. This was at first heartening, but then damning, as I came to find out. Sarah commented that she saw the first fly of the day in that place. The food was passable at best, but it had been a bit of an adventure and I admit that I took a certain glee in the knowledge that we were gambling with our lives with every bite. Sarah taste tested each item to ensure that it didn’t have any deadly claw shrimp lurking within, ready to asphyxiate me. (If you don’t know, I’m allergic to fish and shellfish)

The pot stickers were sad, pale, rubbery imitations of the beauty and glory of the pot stickers from Pot Sticker, but I thought that the beef-like balls were pretty tasty, until I put some hot sauce on one and then bit clean through a hidden shrimp, curled and ready to strike its bloody vengeance upon me. I spit it back out, and Sarah and I went pale. I gagged, fell on the floor, and expired right there. In fact, I write this now from beyond the grave.

OOOoooOOOoOOOOOOOOoooOOO oo OOOOOOOooooOOOOOoo, scary! (that’s my ghost voice)

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(this photo is by Sarah)

Not being actually dead, we thought that maybe we should exit Chinatown. Unfortunately, an elderly Chinese man named Lo Pan thought Sarah’s eyes were green and kidnapped her. There was a big street fight and then I had to track him down in his lair, which is so improbable I can barely believe it.

After Chinatown, the next logical step was the beach. After all, we were in California, where summer is endless. An hour bus ride up Geary later, we were a mere half mile from the top of the hill that led down to the beach. We walked hurriedly past cute houses perched above their tiny garages are were amazed by the number of white lilies painting the wind with their scents.

“Aren’t those funeral lilies?” I asked Sarah. She looked at me like I was crazy and continued her relentless march west.

I should mention that San Francisco seems gifted with sea, cedar, and acres of flowers. If we could have stopped for even a moment, we would have known what “stop and smell the flowers” means. Instead we blistered our feet onward in hopes of catching even a sliver of the sun before it set over the ocean.

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In fact we did! We saw the last twenty seconds of sun before it slipped away.


We fooled around taking pictures for a while and went down to the ocean.


The moon

The moon, again. What? I don’t have to pick my favorite of these two — that’s your job.

We hiked right down to the ocean below Cliff House. There were warning signs, so I told Sarah that if I fell in the ocean she should let the sea take me. As it turns out, the ocean didn’t want me that day.

Sorry this isn’t straight. I was too excited to stand still and we hadn’t brought the tripod.

Back at the room, I had to fight Lo Pan once more, but when I defeated him, he turned into a pyramidal pillow. Really!

7 Responses to “Chinatown and Ocean Beach ”

  1. I love Chinese octogenarians. Go to Boston sometime during the
    Chinese new year—they light strings of those red popping firecrackers
    and throw them at white people. Then they line the doorways of
    businesses with them and light them, to bring the place luck
    throughout the year. So if you happen to be eating potstickers, and
    the whole restaurant fills with smoke, pay it no heed. It’ll just add
    a nice cordite flavor to your chicken feet.

    I’ve still never seen the open Pacific. It’s thing number one on my
    agenda, once we move.

  2. Those pot stickers look delicious. You didn’t say what was in them? I remember that one time we went to the International Free Food Day or whatever they call it and got pot stickers and I traded you my pot stickers for something else cause I liked the other thing better. And then when I ate that food you gave me, it got me to thinking. I needed a new heel for my shoe so I decided to go to Morganville, which is what they called Shelbyville in those days. So I tied an onion to my belt, which was the style at the time. Now to take the ferry cost a nickel, and in those days, nickels had pictures of bumblebees on them. Give me five bees for a quarter you’d say. Now where were we, oh ya. The important thing was that I had an onion on my belt, which was the style at the time. They didn’t have white onions because if the war. The only thing you could get was those big yellow ones.. which was the style at the time. That’s pretty funny that you got good pot stickers from a Restaurant called Pot Sticker. The street keyboard were my favourite part of this post. I hope pictures of Red Woods are forthcoming.

  3. Thanks, Grandpa Simpson.

  4. redwoods. I’m not sure how that became capitalized or two words.

  5. Oh, I thought that you meant the famous male stripper “Red Woods.” I was wondering how you knew that we went to see him, but whatever.

    There are pictures of the redwoods in Muir Woods coming up, but I’m trying to post no more than one day at a time so that people have something to come back for.

  6. And to think I made you eat salmon loaf when you were a child.

  7. I want to go back!

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