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Gung Hay Fat Choy!
Happy Lunar New Year!
Actually, I’m not so sure how happy this new lunar year will be—it is the Year of the Rat. If you were born in 1972, 1960, or 1948, you’re a Rat. (Sorry.)
The ancient Chinese alchemists have a lot of good things to say about the Year of the Rat and Rat people—happy, sociable, industrious, prosperous—but I don’t know. Rats are also vermin, notorious historical vectors of bubonic and pneumonic plague throughout the world.
But Gung Hay Fat Choy, just the same!
Are you eating Chinese food for the Lunar New Year?
I love good Chinese food, but we hadn’t eaten it in over a decade. Why? Back then, we had a wonderful Chinese restaurant a pleasant leafy walk away from our home. They had everything we wanted—shrimp for me, vegetarian for Tom. Their vegetarian eggrolls were so superb, our blue mink Tonkinese cat, Luna, stole an eggroll out of the carton left carelessly open on the kitchen countertop and dragged it into the living room. We were watching a movie and I thought—well, I thought she had a rat. I didn’t let her eat the roll, for fear the food would make her sick, and had to throw it away.
That’s how good their veggie eggrolls were.
We were watching a movie—I can’t remember what—because next door to the excellent Chinese restaurant was a video rental store. We got to know the proprietor and the staff at the Chinese restaurant—they had a wonderful aquarium in the front with colorful koi carp that you could watch while you waiting for your food—and we also got to know the staff in the video rental store. It was a big retail space and they placed the movies face out, so we could see what the selections were. They had a huge selection of old movies and of National Geographic and nature movies. We called these latter movies “bug shows” even when the film was about tigers in India. We loved the “bug shows” and loved finding old movies we hadn’t yet seen. The staff had recommendations about new films and would call us up on each of our birthdays, “Happy Birthday from Captain Video. You have a free movie today!”
We didn’t always eat Chinese take-out on movie night but when we did, it was an entirely pleasant experience. And we when didn’t get Chinese, going to the video store was always a pleasant experience.
I miss those experiences.
I remember when Captain Video announced the store was closing down. We were worried about the staff who were about to be unemployed, asked if they would be okay. Some had spouses who worked, some migrated to other stores in the area. And I remember when the wonderful Chinese restaurant went out of business after the proprietor died. It was sad.
After all the video rental stores within a pleasant walking distance away from our home closed down—Captain Video, Silver Screen, Video Room—we eventually got a Netflix DVD account. And peruse the DVD movie selections at our wonderful local library. They’ve got some good ones. Netflix is wonderful, delivering the DVDs to us on the release date and receiving them back a day after we drop them off in the mail. But we don’t meet and get to know anyone who works at Netflix. The suggestions based on our previous choices are on the Netflix website. That’s good. But we don’t meet any people.
A decade later, I found a Chinese restaurant on Piedmont Avenue that has a wonderful menu—shrimp for me, vegetarian for Tom. Not walkable, but they deliver. So I ordered a Chinese dinner for the Lunar New Year. They said they would deliver in 45 minutes. The delivery man was here in 20 minutes flat. Tom went to the door and tipped him well and wished him Gung Hay Fat Choy. The food was super-fresh and expertly cooked.
It was a wonderful Lunar New Year, movies delivered to our doorstep, freshly cooked food delivered to our doorstep, Athena, our baby doll cat, was totally uninterested in the vegetarian eggrolls, yet everyone had a great time. But no people. At Netflix and at the Chinese restaurant, people did their jobs, but invisibly. Maybe the next time we order Chinese, the same delivery man will deliver and Tom will make friends with him. We can only hope.
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