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Thursday, October 26, 2006

International Food Center

Being born into the lower class in America, and barely rising above it, I've seen first-hand the dangers faced by members of my class: dangers such as homelessness, prison, post-combat related mental illness, suicide, poor nutrition, substance abuse, obesity, teenage pregnancy, violence, and lethally gaudy choices in couture and coiffeurs.

And this is just in my immediate family.

As dangerous as it is to be poor (or close to it) in America, I've recently discovered that being filthy rich can be downright debilitating. I had this profound realization on my way to lunch today when, walking through the toney Jackson Square area and Financial District, I came upon a plethora of expensive luxury sedans, sports cars, and Sports Utility Vehicles all, clearly, driven by disabled drivers.

There was a time I use to posit myself as a real class warrior. The rich were corrupt, amoral, and always put their own class interests above the interests of the people of the city or nation. Or so I thought.

Now, as I get older (and less idealistic), I see that the rich really have it rough! To usurp democracy by using the tools of wealth to become even richer, regardless of the damage it does to the environment or future generations, that's bad. But to usurp democracy and be disabled – well, that's just sad.


I'm sorry now that I ever threw a bottle at your BMW, slammed you in the shoulder whilst walking down the sidewalk, or voted for Chris Daly.

What worries me most is that this disability plague, which is raining fire and brimstone upon Communities of Money, is starting to trickle down, class by class, and infect people in the building trades, such as this guy.

Even this poor man, who appears to be perfectly healthy and handi-capable, is burdened by the suffering and crippling pain that once was the sole realm of the monied elite. His is a suffering we cannot see and, thus, is beyond our realm of understanding.

I admit, I cannot feel or understand your pain.

Indeed, this catastrophe knows no class boundries, as evidenced by this poor soul and her dog...

who exited this junker of a Jeep with her backpack...

and then proceeded to walk at least two large city blocks.

By the way, Honey, that color you're wearin' went out with Kajagoogoo.

Indeed, my friends, we are in the midst of an epidemic of epic proportions. We are besieged by an invisible leviathan which is crippling the bodies of our generation and banishing them to a living hell that is anti-lock brakes, power windows and power steering, softgrain leather upholstery, and a 4.2-liter, 32-valve, 4-cam aluminum AJ-V8, with cam phasing that can take you from 0 to 60 in 4.9 seconds.

Thank God I'm broke ever so often, otherwise I wouldn't be able to manage the steps that lead down to the International Food Center at the corner of Kearny and Sutter.

I love this place if only because of what it represents. It's like a melting pot of cultures all being stirred by one, large greasy spoon. It's like visiting dives on 3 continents without ever leaving home.

Why waste your time being searched at the airport?

Unlike the airport, there are two entrances that take you to your country of destination, and you don't even have to deal with some stupid-ass, ignorant airport gestapo pulling underwear, toiletries, and porn mags out of your carry-on and humiliating you in front of travellers from Des Moine.

For that alone: a star.

Once you get down into the belly of the beast (this is a term of endearment), you have many countries to choose from. I'll be going to the Philipines today, plus I'll share with you my trip to the military dictatorship formerly known as Burma.

However, please feel free to move about the cabin as you explore the cuisines of Mexico, China, Vietnam, and Japan. There's always a long line for the Pho (someone should name it "The Pho-One-One"), a line of Asians for the Mexican joint, and a line of Mexicans for the Chinese joint.

All of this cultural mixing and harmonizing makes me want to burst out in song!

There use to be a Thai place where the Burmese place is now, but apparently it fell in a bloodless coup around the same time Caretaker Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was visiting New York.

You didn't hear it from me but, if I were Thaksin Shinawatra, I'd be careful of the people at By the Bite since, while they have suspiciously good fried rice, their lamb curry inspires regime change.

The best part about food in the International Food Center is that for the amount you get, it's almost the same as spending money in a third world country. My rice, spicy green beans (way too oily, oh well), and lamb curry cost around $6.50, which could feed Aung San Suu Kyi and a party of 5 whenever she's not under house arrest.

Burmese food combines some of the best cuisines in the region, making it "fusion" before Alice Waters even heard of a jicama. It's a mixture of Chinese, Thai, and Indian, which sounds much more appetizing than, say, a mixture of Vietnamese and Yucatanian.

Filipino food is the same way.

I think of it as a combination of Chinese, Spanish, and Pacific Islander food – heavy on the fatty meats and stews.

Sometimes I think of the Filipinos as the long, lost descendants of the Roanoke, Virginia colony that mysteriously disappeared in 1587, simply because who else but Southerners likes to eat so much fatty, barbecued pork?

Is not "Croatoan" something alcoholic you drink with balut??

I rest my case.

I've been smitten with House of Lumpia for quite sometime. It's hard for a wannabe pinoy to find some homestyle Filipino grub in the FiDi, if only because a Filipino home is the only place in the City you're likely to find it. For the true Filipino restaurant experience, you have to travel out to Daly City or South City, or else be happy with the ear-shattering karaoke and hardened adobo they serve at Carmen's.

Nevertheless, House of Lumpia has it's good days - and then it has others. On this day, the steamtable was the fullest I've ever seen it. I don't know if they were preparing for a celebration (I'm totally out of the Filipino culture loop), but the food looked great!

Unfortunately I can't tell you the names of what I got, so I'll have to try to describe them to you. I got the 2-item plate and a side of lumpia for a total of $7.15. One of the items was sweet and slightly vinegary chunks of moist and (really) fatty pork. This is one of my favorite dishes, but it's crazy fatty.

The other item was a chicken curry of some type that had been stewed and came still attached to the bone. It also came with carrots and potatoes and was pretty spicy.

The lady who made my plate (always really sweet) piled it on high for me and I could tell she was the type of Mom and/or Grandmom who delighted in making her kids overweight, so much so that they were confined to a bed where she could entertain herself by poking needles into her human pin-cushions while she watched goofy Korean soap operas.

As I've mentioned before, anything with a "house of" or "world of" or "barn" in its title, I'm a damn sucker for. The place is called House of Lumpia, yet this house is not a home. Any house made with these lumpia should be immediately condemned and burnt down to the motherfucking ground. They were awful. Overcooked, greasy...you name it.

What up, House of Lumpia??

They weren't always this way, so maybe they had an off day. Everything else was satisfying, except for the lumpia...

And the entertainment. The unfortunate part of the International Food Center is that they have a television unintelligibly blaring CNN (aka Fox-lite), distracting everyone who doesn't have a dining companion. If my TV-B-Gone was working, I'd have not a lick of guilt in flipping that switch.

Books, people! Newspapers? Mindful meditation, much?

And of course, who doesn't enjoy a little eavesdropping? I can't eavesdrop properly with that fat slug Lou Dobbs complaining to the room full of immigrants I'm sitting in about immigration.


What's that? Godamnit! I didn't catch the last part of her sentence.

Something about a disability placard.



At 5:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Meanwhile, those of us who are poor or nearly so can't get one of those placards to save our lives. Even if we have medical conditions that make it impossible for us to walk more than half a block without pain.


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