The Good Luck Chinese Restaurant was two blocks away from our elementary school. Every Tuesday at lunchtime my sister and I left our friends and their Dr. Kildare lunch boxes behind, as we ran down Tremont Avenue to meet Dad in the last red-leather booth on the left. He worked for the New York City Welfare Department, and although his bosses expected him to trek up and down the streets making sure no poor people had anything nice in their apartments, the way he saw it “A man’s gotta eat, no?”
The owner of the restaurant loved my father. Every owner of every restaurant we ever ate in loved my father. People in the restaurant business appreciate a fat man with a stuffed wallet.
My father did all the ordering. An extra bowl of crispy noodles and more duck sauce right away. 3 egg rolls. An order of spare ribs. Pork fried rice. Sweet and sour pork. Shrimp in lobster sauce. Beef with cashews. 3 pots of tea. Sure, a bowl of white rice, too. Make that fortune cookies and almond cookies. And keep filling the water glasses.
My sister and I liked the soup. We ate the spare ribs if Dad cut hunks of meat off the bones for us. We dug into our eggrolls, scooped out the vegetables — which we scrupulously avoided — and devoured the fried casings. Sweet and sour pork, yum. But we stayed away from the pineapple chunks and the occasional cherry.
Dad ate everything else. The shrimp, the beef, the white rice, the fried rice, the cashews, the ribs, more rice, tea, sweet and sour pork, more tea, the eggroll insides, more rice, more noodles, more ribs.
And when there was nothing left on the silver dishes he’d look over at our plates and ask, “Are you finished with that kids?" And when we said yes, we were finished, he smooshed all the leftovers from our plates onto his plate.
Sometimes, after the meal, Dad couldn’t move from the booth. He’d smile a greasy smile at us, whisk a glob of lobster sauce from his goatee, tell us to be good girls, and watch as we ran down the dimly lit aisle of the Good Luck Chinese, out into the healthy daylight, and back to P. S. 6.
Then he’d close his eyes and take a little nap.
The people who lived under the elevated tracks in the poorer sections of the Bronx were safe from the watchful eyes of the State — my dad was happily sitting down on the job.
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Some Small Poems:
the one remaining candle flickers —
on the other side of the window
a man scrapes snow and ice from his car —
other than that
the street is quiet
a vase of purple tulips
a room with a view —
sister crow flies by
a full cupboard
mugs & bowls & small china plates
i choose the chipped cup
now it is easier
to just accept
i envy other people's
moving from chair to couch
and back again
turning one lamp off
another lamp on
a bulb goes out
and before I can replace it
in another room
goes out —