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Sunday, April 29, 2007

Watch Out for Scornful Chinese Men and Large Puddles

Yesterday I went to Flushing for Chinese food. If you are a regular reader of this blog you may recall my entry on Spicy & Tasty, the popular Flushing Sichuan restaurant. This time I went to J & L Mall, which is not so much a mall, but a relatively intermediate size, L-shaped room that has 6 or 7 food stalls, like you might find at a food court, and also a little boutique that sells Chinese DVDs.

The outside of J & L Mall - sadly, the "m" in mall is mostly blocked by a pole

Inside J & L - you can see the DVD store, and up ahead are some people gathered around one of the food stalls

Anyway, you may be wondering how I found out about this place. Well, I'll tell you. I read about it on Robert Sietsema's blog, Counter Culture, which is on the Village Voice website. Now, from reading his entry, I knew J & L was going to be a tad difficult. It seems that Sietsema needed some Chinese translators to help him. The one person I know who speaks fluent Chinese is back in China, and her husband, who I called, never got back to me in time, so I was on my own.

When I first got there I sort of just walked around and tried to understand what was going on. There were a few English-speaking people there, and I probably should have asked them for help, but whenever I shot awkward, please-help-me glances at them, they seemed to not care, and so I decided to stick to myself.

I finally decided to approach a stall to try and order something. I pointed to what looks like thin slices of beef in a chili pepper oil. The man at the counter laughed and then shook his head. I was extremely embarassed and didn't know what to do. Why did he laugh? Why was he refusing to serve me? I sort of just stood there for a minute looking at him with sad eyes, and he pretended like I wasn't even there. I walked away in shame and anguish.

I almost left J & L Mall but then I got the courage to try one more place. I went to the first stall because I heard they sold dumplings. I looked at the lady and said, "dumplings." She replied, "dumpling?" She then said some words in Chinese to someone who came over and helped me. I was able to order my dumplings and I was told "later," meaning, I supposed, I would have to wait a little while.

The stall where I ordered my dumplings

So I just stood around and waited. I had seen some plates that looked absolutely delicious over at other stalls. I thought that I could go and just point at what those people had and they would serve it to me. But I was worried at being laughed at again. I thought to myself, you know, maybe the dumplings will be a fine start for one day, and then I can come back another day and perhaps I will have some more confidence.

While waiting I noticed they had these sandwich things wrapped in plastic-wrap. I decided it would be easy enough to just take one and hand over some money. And so I took one and the lady said "one dollar" and I handed her the money. The sandwich thing was like a Chinese breakfast sandwich. Two sesame pancakes with egg and scallion. I put in some red chili sauce and it was a nice snack, I must say.

The Chinese breakfast sandwich

Well I finally got my dumplings, which were to-go, and for a moment I thought of going to another stall and trying to order something else, but then I got scared and was like, no, this is enough for my first time, I've played with fire enough today. I ran out of J & L and ran down the street and ran until I was out of breath. I sat on the stairs of a rather regal post office and ate my dumplings, which were good but not stellar.

My good but not stellar dumplings

Afterwards I cosidered going somewhere else to eat, but I wasn't particularly hungry and so I decided to just walk a little. Flushing is pretty bustling and there are lots of Asian people walking around. I wouldn't mind living there but it's a little too far away from Manhattan.

Main Street in Flushing

I left the Flushing area and made my way west on Roosevelt Avenue. The road merged onto a bridge that went across a small marshy area. There was construction being done so there was only a narrow walkway that was separated from the highway by one of those concrete things, I forget what they're called. Anyway, I came to a point where there was a huge puddle. There was no way to jump over the puddle or tippy-toe through so as not to get wet. I thought to myself, does God hate me? Why is this large puddle here, blocking my way? I didn't want to get wet. That stretch of the road was curved, so I couldn't see far in the distance, and I never knew if there was going to be a car that sped by. I jumped up onto one of the concrete things and felt pretty sure there were no cars coming, and jumped onto the road and quickly moved passed the puddle, then jumped back onto the pedestrian walkway. It was very daring, but I had already experienced the laughs and scorn of some Chinese guy at J & L, so it was really nothing.

The puddle might not look big here, but it had to have been atleast 6 feet deep

I walked a little more and then ended up at Shea Stadium, where I had been exactly a week earlier. It had been sunny and there was a game, so the stadium was filled with people. Now it was cloudy and the stadium was empty. One week. Sun and people; clouds and no one. One week. Time. Goodbye.

A week ago it was sunny and there were people in those stands