Red has beseeched me to come visit her in The City of Angels, the old Double Dubuque. "When?" she asks. "Soon," I say, but I haven't told her I am doing a Dry January. I'm not a lot of fun right now. "See you in February," says Sky. Some of my friends are miffed. Others tell me they are doing a "Damp January" which means they only drink when they want to. I have friends who say they have cut out drinking two days a week and others who only drink on weekends. But I know that is horse shit, or at least it would be for me. That might slow me down, but only when I wanted it to. Nope. In spite of my friends' dismay, I will be dry as Death Valley bone 'til February. It is the only way I am going to lose any weight.
And I need to.
Last night, I made a beautiful, delicious bean stew for my mother and I. Just for luck, you know? Beans and greens and all that. I'm not superstitious, but I can be when I want to take no chances. And you know what they say.
Eat lots of vegetables and legumes and whole grains and nuts if you want to live forever and look like you live in a Blue Zone. Have you seen the people who live in the Blue Zones? O.K., they don't look so good, but they live forever.
I don't look so good which makes the idea of living forever as Quasimodo questionable. I miss the attention, you know? Walking into a room knowing the party just got better, etc. O.K., maybe not, but you get my drift.
But the stew! Fifteen types of beans, three yellow onions, a pack of carrots and a pack of celery, chopped, and lean pork loin steaks. Uh-oh. . . I cooked them in wine, but not as much. At the end, I added spinach. Served over brown jasmine rice. Could it be healthier? No. And it could not have tasted better, either. It was the perfect healthy January 1st meal.
When I go to the gym this morning, I will weigh myself and find out how much weight I've gained or lost this week. Fascinating? Nah. Just letting you know I'm setting myself up for disappointment. Hell, I expect to be up. Why? Just my luck, that's all. The way things have been going, etc.
Red's is the oldest bar in Chinatown. Don't get too excited, though. It is only about sixty years old. It is not even the oldest bar in San Francisco. Because of historic earthquakes and fires, it is difficult to find bars that have been around since the turn of the century. There are a couple that have survived since the late 19th century, The Old Ship Saloon being the oldest, opened in 1851. That can't compare, however, to The White Horse Tavern in Rhode Island which opened in 1673, nor to the oldest bar in the world, Sean's Bar in Ireland, which opened in 900 A.D.
I'm not obsessing. I'm just saying.
San Fran is famous for a lot of things, though, including Carol Doda, dubbed the 8th Wonder of the World. Now some of you may know that Angkor Wat is also the 8th wonder of the world, and it is still extant unlike six of the seven Seven Wonders of the World. Can you imagine?
The Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Lighthouse of Alexandria, the Temple of Artemis, the Colossus of Rhodes, the Statue of Zeus at Olympia and the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus have all faded to dust and memory.
Yea, I just looked it up. I am dismayed by this beyond all reason. Only the Great Pyramids of Egypt are left. So of course, they added Angkor Wat.
And Carol Doda. But she's gone, too, so by default. . . .
This is what Chinatown looks like if you glance upward. It is surrounded by modernity. Chinatown is swamped with sightseers every day, but 97% of its residents are Asian. Because of this, Chinatown has come to be a trope for things dark and mysterious as viewed through a Western lens. It represents exotic "otherness." There is the din of foreign language, strange odors, and shops selling incomprehensible things. When I"m there, I walk down alleyways and look to the apartments that overlay the shops, windows open, laundry hanging on lines, and I wonder. Surely somewhere there is a gambling parlor, a brothel, an opium den. Oh, yea. . . you know I'm a fool for that.
And I love the movie, too, Polanski's last American film.
"Forget it, Jake. It's Chinatown."
You know I'm a homeboy and a serious nerd, but I like thinking that somewhere out there in Zone 13 there is decadence and secret knowledge beyond belief. I like leaving my picket fence neighborhood from time to time to visit Zone 13. And I will again. Soon.
Because. . . like six of the seven wonders. . . it will all be gone one day. Sure, there will be new decadence to replace it, but goddamn, I am always called to the past and old things that are hard to find.
As soon as I'm skinny, though. . . ho! Look for me in an old saloon, brothel, or opium den near you!