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Sunday, August 17, 2008

2031 Polk Street

I just spent a week in new educator's training, and it was a really great time. I don't know if it was all of the reflection on learning and cultural diversity that made me begin reminiscing about my own cultural experiences, or if it is just that I miss San Fran, but I began thinking about ways other cultures have helped shape me into the person I am today. I am proud of the fact that my parents tried very hard to give my brother and I a "global view". We were exposed to many different people and cultures. The first memories I have of different cultures is of my all time favorite Chinese/Hunan/Mandarin restaurant "Tai Chi".

(Here it is in the early 1980's. This is the Tai Chi that I remember.)
My parents would take David and I, and we would, if we were privileged enough, get to sit with the adults at the largest round table I could remember. When we entered the little establishment, we would wind back past the main part of the tiny restaurant, past the kitchen into the back of what was probably a house at one point. There would be the table. Tai Chi also introduced me to what a "lazy susan" was. I was fascinated by the little wooden disk, that would turn and spin. The first course to be presented from the little waiters was the "sizzling rice soup." It is the one dish that I was always afraid would injure someone at the table. The soup would be presented and everyone would "ooh and ahhh". Then the Asian men would dish everyone a bowl of the rich salty soup with the sizzling rice, which would only be floating in the dish at this point. The best part was the huge jumbo shrimp that bobbed up and down in the broth. About the time the seconds had been served on the soup, the adults would be presented with dishes and dishes of the best Chinese food in the world. My favorite dish was "shrimp with snow peas." It wasn't a spicy dish, but I was never afraid of the spicy dishes. I always felt a little honored when my dad would offer me a piece or two of his coveted general tso's chicken. Even though the first time it burned the inside of my mouth, there was something about the chicken that keeps you wanting one more bite.
My brother and I used chopsticks for the first time at Tai Chi. And they weren't the wooden kind. They had these bright red plastic chopsticks that came in a cloth napkin neatly wrapped. They had little gold Chinese symbols that etched the top of the chopsticks. Dinners lasted for hours at Tai Chi and we never got bored. It was even an adventure to the use the restroom. We tried to avoid it, but with a long trip back to Fremont, California one would have to use the restroom atleat once.
My mom and I ate at Tai Chi in 1995, and even flew home general tso's chicken for my dad, that is how wonderful this restaurant is.
(This is how Tai Chi looks today.)
I guess I am homesick for San Francisco today. The Phantom of the Opera is playing at the Keller in Portland this month. I am reminded of the first time I ever saw the Phantom. It was in San Fran with my concert choir. We experienced the production in a venue that was built just for the Phantom. I was so moved by that performance. I remember at the end of the show when the Phantom disappears and all that is left is the mask. I tried to hold back my emotions, but I was so moved. After hearing my mom and my friend describe this years Phantom, I decided that I must see it again. I bought myself a ticket for Tuesday night. It will be my 3rd time seeing it. I can't wait.

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