Chinese Restaurant

You could say that growing up my family was obsessed with Chinese Food. Not any run of the mill Chinese would do. We had a thirst for the “authentic”. I feel confident that a good portion of my childhood was spent driving in a car looking for a parking space in Chinatown. It was all because my Dad had discovered a restaurant called Sam Wo’s on Mott Street when he was in college. We all loved that place. My brother and I would ask to go there whenever we were in the city or within a 20 mile radius. My Dad dragged us to a lot of college basketball games at the LIU Brooklyn campus. I would always go hoping we’d get him to stop at Sam Wo’s before we went home. A trip to LIU could also mean a visit to Juniors across the street but it was a chance you had to take. Our devotion to Sam Wo’s achieved the ultimate validation when Woody Allen included a reference to “the crabs at Sam Wo’s” in a list of “Things That Make Life Worth Living” in his movie Manhattan.

I saved a couple of things from my weekend recycling binge. One was a notebook that had this in it:

Chinese Restaurant Dream

I’m in a large Chinese restaurant with my parents
We walk through endless red rooms
There are pagoda lanterns with beads hanging down
Like women’s hair
As we pass the kitchen, I can see cooks chopping
Food that smells bad
Plates of Sweet and Sour Shrimp and Chop Suey go by on large trays
I’m trying to get my father’s attention,
“Hey Daddy, this doesn’t look like a good place.”
“You sure you want to eat here?”
We arrive at the table.
A curly haired woman at the next table
Is making a big show
Acting dumb because her menu is in tatters
The red vinyl falling like flags
My father leans closely into her
Starts talking to her
Solicitously and offers to fix her menu for her
He gets a stapler from the man behind the counter
And starts to fix it up
Trying to impress the foolish woman
I hug my mother
Try to shield her from his behavior
I shout at him
“You can’t treat my mother like this”
“You can’t do this in front of her”
I hug my mother
I wake up
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