Thursday, February 5, 2009

Tom Does Chinese

Wild Plants and Wooly Bears

Of all people, I, “Mr. Natural,” had an irresistible urge to visit a restaurant and eat Chinese food. Sure, I’m aware of the dangers of MSG and so on. But after a lengthy period of being stuck inside because of bad weather and extreme cold, I became tired of frozen fiddleheads, fish and canned green beans. Call it cabin fever, it makes no difference. I was going batty and had to get out. And I fixated upon Chinese food.

So for the last few weeks, I dreamed of getting a writing check, cashing it and going out for Chinese. The more I thought about it, the more important it became. The check finally arrived, the weather cooperated and I was ready to roll. But it was not to be.

I had planned to hit the restaurant a bit before noon, to be ahead of the crowd. But a phone call kept me tied up in my office until 12:30, too late to go. So I decided to go the next day. But the next day dawned on a sad scenario. Ice dams had done their malicious work, and water ran down the walls inside my house. No Chinese today, just lots of time on a ladder, hammer in hand, pounding ice.

The next day seemed perfect. I waited until the set time and took off. But Central Maine Power trucks had the way blocked a couple miles down the road. I waited for five minutes and seeing no sign that the trucks were planning to move, turned around and drove home to a meal of leftovers.

Today dawned clear and cool, and with an appetite for Chinese food whetted to fever pitch, I set out down the road. With no CMP trucks in sight, I kept on and at another intersection, struck out on Route 1, heading for the restaurant.

A few people were already there when I arrived, but the place wasn’t crowded by any means. I could practically taste the egg foo young, the dish I had dreamt of for so very long. The waitress brought me a pot of tea to sip on while I waited for my meal. But the tea was tepid, just this side of cold. I drank it anyway.

My meal came and I noticed that the egg foo young was black on bottom and along the edges. The chef had scorched it. I hoped that the scorching would not affect the taste. But it was too late. It tasted burnt. Still, this was what I had waited for all those many, cold weeks.

About halfway through my scorched egg foo young and now fully-cold tea, a group of elderly ladies came in and sat at the table behind me. Almost immediately, I noted an unpleasant odor. Perfume. Awful, old, nasty, sweet perfume. It smelled a bit like the lavender water my grandma used to wear to church, but it was 10 times stronger and much more offensive.

I took my courage in hand, tried not to breath through my nose and ate the last of my meal. The price had risen by nearly four dollars since my last time at the restaurant and I wanted to get my money’s worth.

And so ended my trip to the Chinese restaurant. There is no moral to my story, either. It’s just a brief portrait of life in the slow lane here in Waldo, Maine.

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