A suggestion was made to take in the Chinese New Year Celebration as part of our writing group instead of the usual Hugo writing room. I was up for it and so was John, so we planned to meet at noon at the Panama Hotel as our beginning point. Phillip had bowed out, even though it had been his idea to attend the Lunar New Year Food Walk. I had thought of it as an excuse to investigate some of the places I had walked by before, but had never gone into.
The Panama Hotel was an out-of-the-way Tea House whose already harried crew dealt with a line which were here for the Mochi Mini-cupcakes and green-tea maple leaf-shaped shortbread cookies and the tiny stamp on their cards in order collect at least four stamps and win some no doubt fabulous prize when all these cards were collected and a winner chosen. While in line I spotted a trained bamboo that was half My Favorite Martian and half vegetative antler rack. Larry who had mentioned he might show up, did. Waiting for him, we saw that in the windows were a line of Luck Cats on either side who had their left hands raised except for one who bravely had raised it’s right hand in defiance.
The Sugar Bear Bakery was our next stop and it was fairly deserted and unlike most bakeries it had none of the smells associated with the baking of their goods. Here we got 3-ham Vietnamese sandwiches, which only had, 1-ham as far as I could tell along with mayo, cabbage, carrots cucumbers and a slightly sweet and peppery sauce on a baguette wrapped in white paper and held together with a rubber band. It was okay, but somewhat uninspired and rather too filling, but a good deal for 2 bucks.
By this time the hordes had descended and every place had a lengthy line waiting for their chicken wings or whatever little tidbit that was being offered up in order to get another stamp on their cards. After trying to get into 2 more places, Larry left us and we decided that getting another two stamps was a silly pursuit in the face of hordes. So we sought out the places which weren’t part of the Stampede, only to find that every table was full or waiting to be filled all over the International District.
Walking around I saw lots of tots in their Chinese Best in colorful silk costumes and wearing animal hats. The surprising thing was the amount of mixed races of their parents who herded or more usually carried these kids. There was a Dragon false alert with firecrackers and a cloud of smoke which drifted in along with percussive groups whose intent was to get enough people to stand and block any late-comer from seeing what everyone was gathered for in seemingly random locations to witness.
After I grabbed some shots, we found that we had walked completely around the Old Uwajimaya building and found a table at Henry’s Taiwan beside the North side of the Dragon Gate. Taiwanese was a cuisine that hadn’t tried before, so. It was a very small place, but the mirrored wall made it seem that there was more space than a place about the same size as my living room. It was close enough Chinese that I thought I knew what I was ordering, but it was odd stuff indeed. We got an odd flan-like thing, which couldn’t make up its mind if it wanted to be a dessert or a strange savory. What I ordered turned out to be sort of an Asian burrito in reverse. In the plastic wrap was a mix of mostly white rice with a few grains of purple rice around a crispy egg-roll with hard-boiled egg yokes and an odd curry mix in there. Our second choice of soup: the Shanghai Wonton instead of the Oyster with Ginger came in huge bowls with chrysanthemum stems in it as well as cilantro, scallions, pork-filed wontons, squares of Nori seaweed and so much clear broth that I couldn’t finish the soup. We paid up and John went off to catch his #73.
I went to Uwajimaya’s to get some purple rice, ginger tea and chili sauce with garlic while something had burned and filled the whole store with a smoky starchy miasma which made me wish to get what I needed and get out of there. I managed to catch part of the Dance of the Dragons though once again it was difficult to see and this time photograph. By this time the drizzle was beginning to fall and I took the tunnel bus back to the Convention Center stop and walked back home from there to capture in words the various impressions of the day upon the page.