A fish(y) story

It is because of random flukes like this:

I make C|Net’s News.Com frontpage (sort of)

Baseball cap? Check? New York Giants? Check. Geek convention? Check. This reminds me, C|Net really needs to host a Lunch 2.0… Check?

that Blake and Meagan have started calling me “rockstar.” What is ironic is that I’m not a rockstar, but I am related to one: my Uncle Francis, whom you’ve read about before. 😀

Uncle Francis Gunbei!

Uncle Francis Gunbei!
Yoshi’s Jazz House and Japanese Restaurant, Oakland, California

Nikon D70, 50mm f/1.8D
1/20sec @ f/1.8, iso200, 50mm (75mm)

Here is the photographic proof my brother found that my Uncle Francis has a secret night job as Shin Joong-hyun, the Korean Godfather of Rock ’n Roll:

Korea’s Godfather of Rock Makes a Comeback

As my cousin, Chris, says, now we figured out what her father has been up to since “retiring.” We just got to get him to shave his head, wear and earpiece, and look pensive. 😀 (Knowing Uncle Francis, he’d do that too, if it meant a free lunch…Hmm, maybe the idea for Lunch 2.0 was genetic.)

Speaking of another Chris (and another lunch), Chris Jones mentioned that I need to include more essays from my Uncle. So, the same week last November my brother found Uncle’s hidden secret double life as the Godfather of Korean Rock, this essay was making the rounds in our family…

(Trust me, you’re going to love it.)

[“One day in life of a retiree: a fish(y) story” after the jump.]

September 15, ‘06: One day in life of a retiree: a fish(y) story

“Home, home, sweet home…
Home, home, sweet, sweet home
There is no place like home…”
— Sir Henry Bishop

I close my eyes and listen to a DVD recording of Joan Sutherland who is appearing as a guest of Prince Orlosfsky’s party in Die Fledermaus. When the audience bursts into bravos, chanting ‘Joan, Joan’, I open my eyes and witness bouquets of flower being thrown at the stage. What an emotional way to start and close the carrier at the same old Royal Covent Garden! This lonesome old man, who opened & closed his carrier at the same but not so public place with minimal fanfare lies down on his favorite sofa and puts his eyes into sleep mode.

A thought passes fleetingly, “Is Clara now in Korea singing ‘Home, home, sweet home?’ Or ‘Sweet, sweet away from her old man?’ My thought points to the latter. No matter anyways. The wristwatch is pointing 12 noon. At least, for now I have no fear having to respond to a lunch-time inquisition, “what do you want for lunch?” when I am fully aware of getting vetoed down on my favorite, spicy roasted salted chicken wings, only winning chances being soba, udon, ramen, or its variations – better known as recapitulation in musicology. Until now I have tasted too many recapitulations. In fact, now is a good time to renew my off & on search for East Bay’s best salty fish fried rice restaurant.

So, onto the Chinatown and to today’s target – Gum Kuo. I squeak past the Golden Pavilion’s 4’-wide gate staring at a dead pig hanging its head-side down and underbelly slit open by involuntary hara-kiri. The place has a bare-bone interior décor. Despite past 1 PM, it’s crowded with penny-pinchers interspersed with indifferent waitresses, some tables sharing multiple customers. I sit on a table at the rear. Its forte seems to rest on generous portions of dishes, allowing me to take the leftover back home to prolong my life until Clara’s return the next Monday.

After a long wait, a waitress serves tea and tosses the menu, a paper napkin & fork at the far corner of my table forcing me to make a remote, snatch by Rosemary’s stretch. The waitress mumbles in Chinese without looking at me. My index finger points to a menu, “salt fish & chicken fried rice.” I stress a few times “only salt fish NO Chicken, NO Chicken!” She makes indifferent nods and scribbles “No Chicken” in Chinese on her order pad. Still more minutes later, the dish is served – but I see only salted chicken. It is 1:30 PM. Customers are thinning out fast. Waitresses and cooks are starting their group lunch at a couple of tables away. I drool on their sumptuous dishes and glare at my fried rice. A few agonizing minutes later, I decide to catch a waitress and point to my dish “See only chicken? – Why No fish?” Her face looks annoyed. She immediately forces the cook to stop eating his lunch at the cook-waitress table and demands him to go back to the kitchen for a revised dish. More minutes later, I am staring at the re-revised dish. This time, hell! even worse – only the fried rice – no chicken and no fish. It is too rude to ask for a re-re-revision. I gulp down the salty fried rice & my pride as well, until frustration takes an upper hand. I catch a nearby waitress and yell “Show me the fish in my dish.” With one of my chopsticks, she deftly navigates the sea of fried rice to fish out a few nano-sized speckles of dark objects, exclaiming “See fish here, fish there?” I am speechless and signal a meek smile of unconditional surrender to end the comedy of errors.

Another few minutes pass by. I am sullen & depressed. Bowing my head down, I start to fish out and collect a few nano-fish chips from the salty fried rice, when I suddenly overhear an incomprehensible Chinese voice above my head and look up only to find this irritated cook – with eye-full of hostility – who has been lurking remotely around my table ever after I logged my first complaint. I make a quizzical Pavlovial response, “uh, uh?!” He is pointing at the dark speckles in my plate and asking in almost perfect English, “More?” Though no one is on my side, I can finally communicate! Wow! What a wonderful feeling! It is the Old man’s triumphant moment though I beg for not to compare with that of Sutherland’s glorious farewell with numerous luminaries in the Royal Opera House! I squeal “YES, more, more!” His re-re-revised dish comes shortly thereafter, glowing with full of dark speckles – salty fish. This time his eyes are much less hostile – in fact, even soft. I return a wary smile. But my mind is lamenting on the nano-fish sizes. Had they been about 1-mm in size, my taste buds would have had a longer time to enjoy before disappearing into the black hole stomach. Yes, I would then have ranked this restaurant as a strong candidate for the best salty fish fried rice restaurant. Upon reflection, though, the nano-to-mm change means one million times increase that would break the owner’s bank.

It is about the time to wrap up. I put down a $10 bill on the table like bait and am ready to wait like an impatient fisherman. A waitress quickly snatches the bill and brings in an empty take-out box. My shaky hands make futile attempts to put the left-over into the box, when a middle-aged Chinese lady, sitting at the next table with her husband, grabs my spoon without asking and starts doing the same for me. At that point, the seemingly embarrassed waitress appears out of nowhere and takes away her spoon and finishes the job in zero second. Oh! my mind is saying I am still a ’60-era lad, who self-anointed as the one of the top 10 Balkan folk dancers with lightening fast footsteps in the East Bay. Although it may no longer be a piece of cake, I should still be able to fill the take-out box myself. These two ladies are making me realize the unspoken realization of my impending finale sooner, which I won’t accept to the end.

When she brought back a $2.35 change, she whispers “gip, gip … ,” which sounds more like a tip to my by-now sensitive ears. I pull out an additional $0.25 from pocket and put it next to the initial $1 tip. On my way out, I bump into the same waitress and wave a “good-bye,” which came spontaneously and most sincerely at the bottom of my heart, as I will keep the whole memorable saga deep in my heart.

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