Poagao's Journal

Absolutely Not Your Monkey

Jul 27 2007

My lunch with Norm

Norm wanted to go eat Burmese food in Yonghe, so I met him at Nanshijiao Station on Wednesday just before noon. I’d emailed a bunch of other people, but nobody was able to make it at that time. I’d been out there before for violent go-karting sessions with Shirzi before he disappeared, but I haven’t been back to the area since.

Norm’s here on a visa/business run from Thailand and has to get a new passport, so he has time. When I met him he was wearing, as always, a large Hawaiian shirt, shorts and flip-flops. I’ve never seen him wear anything else. We walked up the road, past the Texas Instruments factory to the rows of old, dilapidated buildings on “Burma Street” where most of the restaurants are located. Norm, just managing to keep his large frame out of traffic, pointed out the spots he’d visited and preferred, and we found a place employing an attempt at air conditioning for lunch.

Our meal consisted of curry chicken noodles, beef noodles, and a kind of pancake. The chicken noodles had crunchy fried noodles and were delicious, while the beef noodles were more or less the same as regular beef noodles.

Norm doesn’t speak Chinese or Burmese, so I translated his requests for mint tea after the meal. They said they had milk tea, but no mint tea. Norm was perplexed at this apparent impossibility, but a little later he spied the glasses of milk tea and pronounced that the drink he was looking for. “It is kind of minty,” he explained. We decided to go to another place for tea, an open-air place with a decades-thick layer of dust and grime hanging from the ancient electrical cords. Shrimp, vegetables and other unidentifiable food lay soaking in sauces on the counter while we drank our iced tea. Norm was full of stories of crazy people he’d known in his travels. I’d first met him years ago at The Birdhouse, a run-down hostel in Taipei where Dean used to live. Norm had no recollection of this meeting however. I suspect the Mohawk I sported at the time might have something to do with that.
We finished our tea and walked down the street a little ways looking at the groups of men sitting and sweating around small tables out in front of the various restaurants. I paused to take some pictures of a building while Norm wondered aloud why backpackers felt the need to carry so much damn stuff with them. “All I need is a small backpack,” he said. “You’re a photographer, so you need all that crap, I guess.”

Walking back to the station we passed a few more local restaurants, the owners of which would call out for us to come inside. “Notice that the real Burmese restaurants don’t do that,” Norm said. Back on the main road, I saw a few fashionable high-rises being built near Burma Street and wondered if they would change the nature of the neighborhood by filling the sweltering stores with young, well-off office workers. Perhaps more of the little shops will put in air conditioning, and raise their prices. I hope they stick around, though. Something tells me it will take more than office workers in tiny apartments to drive them out.

posted by Poagao at 5:30 am  

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