Monday, February 21, 2011

Guangzhou Jon, Fate Tempter

In a post last week about Google’s attempts to place targeted ads on my blog, I cracked wise about kung pao chicken, saying:

Here’s the good news: these days, I can get kung pao chicken more or less 24 hours a day at any of the several fine local eateries near my apartment. I may or may not be eating kung pao chicken right now.


Some context: there’s a place near my house that I, Andy, Gus, and, I believe, David, all call “宫保鸡丁 place” (“kung pao chicken…place”). We call it that because, every single time I have eaten there, I have ordered the kung pao chicken. Every single time Gus has eaten there, he’s had the kung pao chicken. I think Andy had something other than the kung pao chicken once, but he quickly changed back to the kung pao chicken.

Humans are essentially unique in the animal kingdom for continuing to care for their children for close to two decades. (My parents, for instance, will likely care for me well into my thirties.) Most animals hold onto their children only long enough to impart certain crucial skills before letting them fly/swim/whatever it is that starfish do out of the nest and into the wider world. Their major responsibility is to teach their children where and how to get food — “here, child, here are where the most delicious worms are to be found” or “this is how you crack open a sea urchin and eat it adorably on your little otter chest.” That’s what the Kung Pao Chicken Place was to us Guangzhou fellows. My first week in Guangzhou, Gus took me down to Long Kou Dong Street, pointed to a small storefront, and said, “here, here is where we get our kung pao chicken.” And then he bought some, ate it, and vomited it into my mouth.

When I came back from my vacation, I wanted to get a quick meal, and so I headed out to a warm place where everybody’s always glad I came and where everybody knows that I’m going to order the kung pao chicken. Except the Kung Pao Chicken Place was gone. The store was deserted, and there was a For Rent sign on the door. The Kung Pao Chicken Place — the one place I thought would never, ever change — had deserted me in my hour of need, never to return.

And that’s that. This is the beginning of my Guangzhou Farewell Tour, I guess. I have four more months here, and in that time I’ll have to say goodbye to many wonderful people, places, and 11 RMB kung pao chicken meals. I just didn’t know it was all going to start so soon.