Photo of USTDC courtesy of Les Duffin

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Big Ed and the Authentic Chinese Meal -- Part Two

Our parade, headed by Big Ed, continue on its way. I remember that there were lots of small stands along the way selling all sorts of different things, but after all these years I just don't recall much more than that.

Two of them, however, stand out pretty clearly:

The first was what looked like a makeshift weight training area where several young men with bulging muscles were lifting rusty barbells on a well worn weight bench. They paused just long enough to glare at us and then went back to their workouts. Apparently they weren't impressed with Ed or any of the rest of us either. But what I remember most there was the young bear that was chained to a post right next to the weightlifters. Why a bear at a workout facility? I have no idea.

The other stand I remember most was one with snakes -- poisonous, I was told -- hanging from the edge of its roof. The merchant grabbed one of them and cut it open, squeezing its "juice" into a glass. The customers then drank the contents of the glass. I understand it was considered to be a healthy tonic of some sort. We decided not to explore that any further.

We finally arrived at our restaurant and our parade of curious onlookers just sort of dissipated like a wave ebbing away from a beach.

The restaurant was pretty primitive -- especially by today's standards -- but Pete assured us that their seafood was the best in the city. At the front were several wooden bins of ice with all manner of sea critters laying on top. Pete selected several varieties of fish and a couple of octopusses (yes, I know that some prefer the plural form octopi), asking that one of the latter be fried and the other boiled. The selections were whisked off to the kitchen to be prepared for us.

We all sat around a wooden table with chairs that were made from sections of tree trunks about two feet high. It wasn't the most comfortable seating but was certainly adequate and it just seemed right for the place.

Well, the food was delicious and we all probably ate far more than we should have. Pete's wife took a particular liking to the boiled octopus for some reason and the rest of us were only too happy to let her eat all she wanted, which she did.

After dinner we headed back in the direction of the bus, minus our earlier crowd of onlookers. I guess the novelty of us had worn off by then. It had been a good night with good friends, new experiences and plenty of good seafood.

One other thing: The next morning I received a call at the office. It was Pete's wife and she said that she'd been trying to call her husband but he was apparently away from his office. She really sounded bad so I asked her if everything was alright. She replied, "I am really sick. I think it may have been something I ate last night!" The only thing she ate that the rest of us didn't share was, of course, the boiled octopus. Every now and then my instincts are right on.

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