Sunday. A day of worship for some. In some places in The U.S.A., alcohol is not allowed to be sold on Sunday. No such law around here. Bright and early, I'm running around the neighborhood, with a can of beer in my hand. Cafes with a full brunch crowd assures me that not everyone is practicing an organized religion. Eggs benedict and mimosa versus salvation.
As I walk up towards my apartment, I see him. With his temporary protective services detail. The Congressman. He's been on Capitol Hill for decades, spanning the tenures of a handful of different POTUS. He's just sort of standing there, sipping a coffee, like any other grandpa in a polo shirt and khakis. As if it were completely normal to be flanked by tactical officers with automatic weapons. He shakes my hand with a big slap on the back. We're not that chummy. He leans in, whispers. "My wife is in there with Chef Mei Mei. No doubt scolding her about some imagined loss of face or another. You know how old Asian Aunties are. For whatever reason, she decided to be your Asian Aunty today."
No moves left to make. We go into the apartment.
The Congressman and I have only crossed paths a few times. No doubt that we are not close, and have only heard of each other by reputation and stories in the newspapers. We are connected by many associates in common. I'm fairly certain, that more than one of my assignments, originated from his office. Probably all of the things that his own staffers couldn't be caught doing. Mid-Term elections are days away. They were here collecting money. A lot of cash donors in Chinatown. The press event was yesterday. His wife plays the role perfectly. With a known lineage, being from an affluent family, with money and power going back to The Last Emperor.
They were in the kitchen. Weird. Chef Mei Mei is a chef. This old lady was giving here step by step instructions on how to make food.
"Slice the noodles evenly. Toss it with soy sauce first. Then stir fry with the bean sprouts. Now build it in layers. Add the vegetables. Then the shrimp and avocado. Now add the egg gravy, and top with the pickles."
The Congressman turns around, and just gives me a knowing look, as he shakes his head. He has to live with her. I'm sure she micromanages everybody and everything. "Mei Mei, next time try to be more discreet. That bag is full of red envelopes. Ai-Yah!!! What if someone sees it? People will think we're collecting bribe money or something. At least wrap it up, or hide it a little better." The Congressman chuckled.
There it was on the kitchen counter. A plastic shopping bag with red paper envelopes. The kind of envelopes that kids get for Lunar New Year. Good luck money. Off the top of my head, there must dozens of envelopes, stuffed with one hundred dollar bills. Maybe $50,000, if each envelope holds $1,000. So that's what this is about. Chef Mei Mei is the conduit. People hand over their "campaign contributions" to Chef Mei Mei when they pick up their food order from her restaurant. This time, they are using my apartment as the scene of the crime. The Congressman was already busy opening the envelopes and stuffing the cash into the cargo pockets on the legs of his pants.
"I know you two don't like to listen to an old lady. But I am still your Aunty. Our families are from the same village, and my grandparents knew your grandparents. You two have to be more discreet about who you are seen with in public. It's okay to have friends. But if you know what's good for you, you have to stay away from those kinds of place."
A local gossip column ran a picture of Chef Mei Mei on the back of my bike. A few photos of us at a local Motorcycle Club. A few of the members are under indictment. How do I tell her, that "those people" are not my friends. We only go to "those places" to pick up money for her. And now her husband, The Congressman, is stuffing the cash into his pockets. And he is laughing out loud. LOL
She let herself in. With her own key. Does everyone have a key to my apartment? Not a greeting. She acted with such familiarity. Walking in like that, and just casually strolling over to the ice box and helping herself to a beverage.
"The Aunty said that most of the money was collected by your girlfriend. I guess I have you to thank."
It's been over a decade since I last saw her. Maybe I should change the locks. She didn't belong here. She shouldn't be here. She can't afford to be seen with me. And I told her so.
She's busying herself in the kitchen. Fixing a snack. Just like she did during simpler times in our lives. Before she started living in The Public Eye. Now, she's a newly elected holder of a high level public office. Her star was on the rise. She really couldn't afford to be seen with me. Or coming and going from my building.
The Aunty. She was referring to The Congressman's Wife. The Bag Lady. The one who still makes it her business to pick up the "campaign contributions" that Chef Mei Mei dutifully collects. And I guess, she also makes it her business to decide how that money is distributed and spent. Apparently, a good part of this last fundraising drive was used on Donna's campaign.
Oh Donna. Who's Holding Donna Now.
SI had a girl. Donna was her name. She has a past. A colorful past. I'm a part of that past. It would sink her political career for that past, and me, to see the light of day. It would be like a leaked video of AOC dancing. But worse.
Even worse, if The Public knew that she was in my apartment cooking instant noodles, with kimchi and pork belly.
That was it. Religious diet. She didn't eat pork. I get it. Some people don't eat meat. Other people think that cows are sacred. Some people believed that crystals held power. She says her people don't eat pork.
I was still a young boy. Lacking in sophistication. Her people came after their country's government fell,. Losers. Chased out of their own land. Just like me, and my people. They lost their war. If they had won, they could have stayed. Only I didn't wear shirts with 4 buttons open to display a chest full of fake gold chains, and lie to every girl at The Disco that I was deposed royalty in exile.
If she was so religious, why was she spending the night at my apartment? Maybe I shouldn't ask her. I want her to keep sleeping over.
It didn't take long. It didn't take any convincing. For a devoutly religious girl who preserved her modesty in public - she drank, wore hot pants, roller-skated everywhere like Amy Carter, shook her booty at The Disco, and slept with me.
She ate the pork. It was just there on the table. She reached for a rib. Juicy. Tender. Falling off the bone. Glazed with char siu sauce. Next thing I know, there was a pile of bones.
On The Bridge. That's actually the name of the place. It's a mom & pop spot, actually on the pedestrian foot bridge over Webster Street, which connects the JapanTown buildings. According to the owner, his food reflects the Meiji Restoration period of Japan. Japanese curry, spaghetti, pizza, rice au gratin, and hamburger.
Back when we first started going out, I took her to On The Bridge. The last of the few places where the owner knows me, and will still serve me. Although he makes me sit on a stool at the counter. The much more comfortable tables and booths are for customers he actually does like.
A typical San Francisco day in The Fog. Cold. Chilly. The Shot Doc worked at a nearby hospital. Their shuttle service dropped her off right in front of the building. She was bundled up in a parka with a furry hood. My N-3B in gunmetal grey. Very warm with lots of pockets. An odd color. They issued it with those grey battle fatigues. It was for a specific assignment. I was told that grey color supposedly would provide camouflage in a concrete jungle.
The Chef's Wife suggested that she have a bowl of chicken noodle soup. Udon with pieces of grilled chicken. According to The Shot Doc, a nutritious meal costing less than the hourly minimum wage was yet another example of racial disparity. Communities of color simply did not have those options. I had to break the news to her. The Chef is Japanese. His wife is from El Salvador. I'm Chinese. We are a community of color.
We went to Costco. Costco sells udon noodles. Once again, a disparity. Nobody gives Costco memberships to poor people. Costco does not accept "food stamps". Warren Buffet and Charlie Munger didn't "give" me a membership either. I had to buy the Costco Membership, the same way that I pay for an Amazon Prime subscription. It's not restaurant quality, but pretty good if you add some pieces of Costco's rotisserie chicken and a handful of greens.
"Do you even know what you're doing? It says right there on the packet, that you are suppose to microwave for 4 minutes."
Look, Lady, I'm Chinese. It's not the first time I've made a bowl of noodles. You can cook noodles in a pot with boiling water. It's how people made noodles for thousands of years before the microwave was invented.
"I hate when you say 'Look, Lady'. It makes me feel like I'm some random woman you just met on The Street."
She is some random woman I met on The Street. That was how we met.
The '9ers lost. I was not needed at work. There would be no out of control celebrations tonight. Nobody is taking to the streets to light fireworks, set dumpsters on fire, break store windows, or commit any other acts of malicious mischief to support the hometown football club.
I got home to find my ex hanging around the house.
"Good. You're back. You haven't been home the last 3 days."
So she's been sitting in my living room the last 3 days? She still has keys. Shows up whenever she wants. Mostly without an invitation. Actually, always without an invitation. I can't recall asking her to come over.
"Your brother in law came by and dropped off a half dozen crabs. So I went to the store and bought some ribs. Amazon delivered some pants. I washed them, and put them in the closet."
Weird. So she's been here for 3 days, waiting for me to cook dinner?
The crabs were still alive. I put them into the steamer. I really like dungeness crab. Well worth the work. The ribs were a full rack. I don't know if she got them defrosted, or if they were frozen, and defrosted the last 3 days that she's been sitting around.
I cut the off the brisket bone, rib tips, and riblets, to make a St. Louis style rack. Those extra pieces go into a stock pot. Pork stock is commonly associated with high priced ramen. I guess Western cultures make chicken stock.
The ribs were roasted Char Siu style. Just like the ribs hanging in the windows of delicatessens in Chinatown. No secret recipe. Slow roast the pork until the meat is melting off the bone. The add Char Siu sauce from a jar. No fancy, high end, handmade noodles. I use the instant stuff that's always on sale at Wal*Mart. Do not use the artificial seasoning packet. It will be fine with some veggies, riblets, and fresh crab meat. Just be extremely generous, and pile on the crab meat.
She hugs my arm, and puts her head on my shoulder. I'm acutely aware that the swell of her bosom is rubbing into my bicep, and that she has pressed my hand into the warmth of the apex at the top of her thighs.
"I just wish things would get back to normal."
Normal? This is not normal. Ex-girlfriends do not keep coming back to your house. That's not how it works. I don't know what normal is. But I've been waiting for it since the 70's. Back when I was hoping that Disco would die, American car makers would stop making little cars with small engines, Jimmy Carter would leave office, and things would go back to normal.
With all the controversy in the news about the Dilbert cartoon, and Elon Musk speaking out to support Dilbert....... I found out 1st-hand that for some people, race and skin color is a real divider. But that conversation is for another point in time, where people can have the conversation without being offended.
There are still places where they ask you to wear a mask. "Please wear one of our fresh masks, while you're in the building." I had to ask the girl, if she wanted the mask back when I left the building. On the way out, she says, "Please keep the mask on, until you are outside. Then it's yours to keep." Wow. A souvenir. I asked her, "would you freak out if I just took it off right now?" She leans in close, whispers in a low tone of voice, so that other people don't overhear. "Are we still talking about the mask?"
Which leads me to taking it off. We're back at my place. We both took it off. The masks. And our shoes. Asian people are like that. We take our shoes off at the door. My new friend from the "mask required" building. She's from a different continent. In her world, they don't understand why Americans are so hung up on having conversations about our differences. She says, "what do you call this food?' My usual reply. Chinese Food. I cooked it. It's food. I'm Chinese. So it's Chinese Food. She says, "they don't eat this in China". Apparently, she knows. China now has a lot of students and immigrants from African countries. She has lived there. I haven't. She is more Chinese than I am.