During the first minutes after my midlife moment, I wandered lower Manhattan into Chinatown.
I’ve always enjoyed the tension of Chinatown. What tension? For starters, I’m not Chinese. In this world, the odds are that I would be Chinese. But I’m not. Not yet. (From what I read, I believe that my great-grandchildren will be Chinese.)
Other tensions: I think there is a shadow government within Chinatown. And there is gentrification pushing Chinese workers out of Chinatown.
The tension is soothed by the astounding food and the peculiar shopping. I always stop for a photo outside my favorite barbershop (of all the barbershops I haven’t entered, at least). The photos here are weird because I took my own photo with my phone.
I wandered Canal, then Mott, on my way to Pell, the side street that has always delivered me into a satisfying, weirdly cheap meal. Early in my career (1982 salary = $13K), I would defend New York as an economically affordable place because of Pell Street. Friends would join me at the Shanghai Kitchen for vegetable dumplings and more, limping home stuffed, having paid only a few dollars. No matter that we once saw the kitchen crew playing mop hockey with a live crab. They washed the tables between seatings with the customers’ leftover tea and that was sanitary enough for us.
But, this midlife morning, it was only 8:30 a.m. What restaurant would be open? After seeing that every spot I knew was closed, I gave up on the idea of Chinese food — until I saw Delight 28. I walked in, immediately saw that I was the only round-eye (or, as the Chinese say, "ghost") in the place. They seated me at a communal table and the dim sum cart was quickly pushed up to me.
To overcome my lack of language, I did my best and the waitress did better. I ate a plate of steamed dumplings with vegetables and noodles.
Chinese food seems like an auspicious first meal in the second half of my life.
The Chinese know how to survive.
I want to survive.
The Chinese know dumplings and tea.
I love dumplings and tea.
I stopped with the first dish. I figured, why fill up on dumplings? Mulberry Street and Little Italy are so close. I’ll just eat my way to my noontime appointment, the central reason for coming to New York.