Thursday, November 17, 2022

TEA AND DUMPLING SOCIETY

Gingko trees are most beautiful when their leaves have turned. The cool jade-like green has given way to a delicate warm yellow, which augments the slighter sunlight of Autumn with a mass of near-gold. How splendid! Near two restaurants in Chinatown the street is more welcoming because of it.

During lunch I observed the other people in the place. Three bus drivers having a convivial meal together, two women eating spaghetti at one table, and a plump woman with a beautiful face lunching with what may have been her husband, whose face I did not see.

The restaurant normally stops taking customers after two thirty, this time they welcomed a few more hungry people at just before three. The light from the street outside was inviting.

Baked fish, a vegetable, and rice. Bowl of soup. Cup of milk tea.

When I left I lit up, and slowly wandered over to Stockton. Did my shopping at three different places after finishing my pipe, then headed back down to where I had started.
It was teatime by then.
Many middle-aged Chinese gentlemen rely on a friendly bakery for succour and a regular part of their social life. And several bakeries provide more than just buns or baked goods, offering in addition simple stirfry dishes, won ton soup, noodles, and over-rice specials, veering well into chachanteng territory.

He was someone I knew from a previous bakery, where he and I no longer go because truth be told we liked the former owners, and it's not the same since it changed hands. Something else has changed in his life, there is an air of loss about him. Three of his friends have for months now been having a late afternoon meal with him. He's quiet and seems rather shy. The gregarious one insisted that he take home some of the leftovers.

One can understand that; he's thinner now. His skin is paler, the beginnings of liver spots are here and there visible. I don't know if he's married, but I rather think not. Or maybe he was and now isn't. I do not know him well enough to ask. He very much seems more fragile and lost than before.

Several of the regulars both at that bakery and another one are older gentlemen. One gets the impression that most of them are single. Or if they have children, the kids are grown and no longer in the neighborhood. The wives, if any, are unknown quantities. And probably rare.

Solitary men stay in Chinatown when they're old because it's where everyone they know is. Familiar places, social life, the eateries they go to and the bakeries where their friends are.


Plus there are awnings underneath which one may shelter when it rains, and one is smoking outside. You can assume that those folks are not living alone.
They'd be indoors otherwise.



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