Thanksgiving weekend at Chinatown

 

the morning sun

heats my back.

and splashes

sheets of light

on the red awning of Lok’s Produce

on East Georgia street.

squinting faces

and fast hands

rummage and select

fruit

from the overflowing cardboard boxes of

oranges, apples, bananas, pomegranates.

pang chung ah wei! pang chung!

cheap oranges, come and get them!  cheap oranges!

pang toe ah wei!  pang toe! shrills the proprietress of Lok’s Produce,

cheap peaches!

and voluptuous peaches pile

atop

one

another;

creating shadows and dreams.

and I think of the peaches

in Ginsberg’s supermarket of the mind.

two children

run in circles,

weaving in and out of the busy crowd.

their playful giggles

pattern the course slabs of Cantonese dialect,

that scratch the air in its no-nonsense intonations.

a car alarm sounds in the distance.

sea gulls swoop down to attack a spilled crate of rotten cabbage.

a cell phone rings. (maybe it’s mine?)

my hand goes to my jacket pocket

where my cell phone is nestled.

as I cross the street,

the sidewalk is wet from the rainfall of the night before.  the air smells like dampness and barbecued pork as I pass a butcher shop.  dripping roasted ducks hang upside down in the window, glistening in an oily glaze.  beside them, long links of fatty sausages are haphazardly thrown on a metal hook; they smell smoky and inviting.  they smell like my childhood–when brandon and i used to press our button noses against the greasy windows of these same Chinatown butchers, waiting for our mother to buy groceries, and waiting for the friendly butchers to notice us.  when one of the butchers spotted us, he’d beckon us into his shop to offer us each a small portion of sliced sausage, wrapped in brown waxed paper.  and we’d happily skip out of the butcher shop to meet our mother, who always wagged her finger and scolded us for bothering the busy butchers for free samples.

this memory makes me stop and press my nose against the window.  I touch my finger to the glass where the sausages hang and catch the attention of the butcher inside–the same butcher who gave me sausages when i was little.  he winks and I half expect him to beckon me inside.  does he remember me?  does he remember the sausages wrapped in the small paper packages?

my attention is momentarily diverted by a shallow flood of water streaming down the already wet sidewalk, licking at the toes of my shoes.  the fish shop is two doors down.  water is sloshing out of one of the crab tanks in front of the shop as a man changes the tank filter.  around him, grey bins filled with salt water and live clams and scallops gleam in the late morning sun.  the fishmongers inside wear long white coats, splattered with fish blood and grime.  they wear black rubber boots that make moist suction noises on the wet floor as they walk; and on their hands are yellow plastic gloves that protect their fingers as they expertly clean each fish for a customer.  eager customers stand on tip toes and aggressively supervise the cleaning of their purchased fish.  I watch these activities and half expect one of the fishmongers to throw a fish across the store like the wily fishmongers do at Pike Place Market in Seattle.

the morning sun

has evolved

into late noon light.

a hungry grumble in my stomach

and the aromatic smells of wontons,

find me in a warm booth

at Hon’s Wun-tun house.

the waitress greets

me with a hot cup of tea

and a dog-eared menu.



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