The Great Plotnik

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Click! Missed it!

Plotnik often wishes he had a camera on the front of his car instead of the hood ornament, or was wearing a miner's cap with a lens in place of the little light. So many times you see a great photo 'way before you can get your camera out of its case, even if you wear that case on your hip. Above is what Grant Street in Chinatown looked like yesterday before the blonde walked right across the frame in a blur.

Chinatown is like the Golden Gate Bridge. We locals almost never go down there, but it's a mistake because 2d or 3rd (or 5th or 6th) generation Chinese long since moved to the Sunset or the burbs, leaving all the little alleys and tongs and side streets still jammed to the rafters with immigrants and other overseas Chinese. It's a great place.

Plotnik had never noticed this little alley off Pacific Street -- the entrance to it is blocked by a news stand. Is it the hideout for a band of Taiwanese revolutionaries? Nah, looks like a barber shop. However, lots of people were exiting the rear door at the end of the alley, each one carrying a suitcase and wearing a wide brimmed hat.

Plotnik loves buying tea at Ten Ren on Grant Street, though he knows he pays 'way more than he would at one of these side-alley shops. He always buys the same stuff, but enjoys the ritual.

The tea is displayed in huge brass containers, sorted by grade. First grade to fifth grade, more to less expensive.

"What grade you want?"

"I'm not sure," I lie. "What does first grade smell like?"

"Here, I show you."

The woman opens the container, which is taller than she is, reaches in with a wooden spoon and pulls out the tea leaves, holds them up for Plotnik to smell.

"You see, smell good, best taste."

"Ah, yes I see. May I smell Second Grade now?"

If he makes his purchase too soon, she won't bring over the cup of whichever tea they are brewing at the moment, but if he takes his time, she will. Yesterday it was King Tea, one of his favorites.

Still, he had to ask: "So, which grade is this? Can I smell the other one too?"

"Here. You come. You smell. You buy."

She's always right about that.


At 5:38 PM, Blogger notthatlucas said...

I keep wanting a DVR to wear. So many times I'd like to be able to rewind and see if I saw what I thought I just saw.

I love the tea ritual! So which did you buy?

At 7:17 AM, Blogger mary ann said...

We agree ~ it's always great being in Chinatown, like a foreign country, with parking.


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