Thursday, April 30, 2020


Our landlady gave us some baked items and dim sum from Chinatown today, remarking apologetically that probably everyone had enough food, but she had been across the hill to the neighborhood, and just couldn't resist buying stuff from some of our favourite places that are still open. Remarkably, I too intended to go to C'town today, to pick up a pill refill at the Chinese Hospital pharmacy.
And I looked forward to it, even though every time since "shelter-in-place" it has left me slightly downcast. So many places I like are closed.

I haven't had pastry and a cup of milk-tea in ages.
Or a restaurant style home cooked meal.

For a not particularly social Caucasian dude like myself, the Chinatown environment is close to ideal. Normally it's busy, bustling, noisy with humans. Yet I do not end up in conversation with crazy people, unlike for instance in North Beach, where talkative nuts are a dime a dozen. Those people who know me say 'hi', we exchange some minor chatter about food and the weather, and that's basically it.
If we haven't seen each other in a while, we say so.
冇見好耐呀 ('mou kin hou noi ah')!

And, of course, it's a good place to smoke. Everyone either has a relative who smokes, or is the relative who does so. Few people act like you've committed an unpardonable breach of protocol. Although it is considered bad form to do so obtrusively. For me, the alleyways are rather perfect.

"New Luzon Street"

A few years ago the city was digging up Spofford as part of a project to prettify it and make it charming for tourists. So they left a block-long hole in the ground for an entire year, with the residents having no recourse but to dump their bags of refuse at either end, because the municipal garbage service would not traverse a hazardous ravine. So given that there was a trench, with fermenting crap at either end, the rat population flourished.
Health-hazardous, yes, but these were only poor people.
Who couldn't speak bureaucratese English.
So it didn't matter.

I very much like rats. Active and determined creatures, and much more fuzzy and lovable than the tech-company droogs who infest this city.

Every Tuesday (for that year) at around eleven in the evening I'd light up a pipe and spend some time "communing" with my friends. They didn't mind me, they didn't object angrily to the tobacco smoke like a Berkeley Earth Mother, and at times they regarded my feet as easily surmountable obstacles, mere blips, as they raided the piled up garbage bags.
Food! Humans are good!

The pit has been filled and paved, but once a week I smoke "The Pipe For Watching Rats in Spofford Alley". In memory of many wonderful hours.
Did so again today. How could I not?

Yeah, that was after picking up the Clopidogrel refill.
Earlier I had smoked in my own neighborhood.

You rarely see rats in Chinatown. Many of the neighborhood stores have cats, and Chinese people usually think of rats as nasty disgusting creatures that must be killed. Besides, they've all heard of the Bubonic Plague (黑死病 'hak sei bing'), and remember what it did to Hong Kong for the first few decades of the twentieth century. But only to poor people who could not speak bureaucratese English, and didn't matter.

There is no place to sit down for a cup of milk tea in Chinatown anymore, there probably won't be for a while. Once I had finished my smoke, and picked up some groceries, I came back home.

There are no rats in this neighborhood. The only pests are meth-heads and Yuppies. Oh, and the dietarily special.


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