H.A.D.D. (Hungry Attention Deficit Disorder) … in Chinatown

by Kathryn Baldwin

When my bladder is so full that I have to hold myself, half-jigging in place like a desperate kindergartener wondering if I’ll make it on time, nothing can get my mind off of sweet urinating bliss. Trickling water, yellow walls, pressing seatbelts; even the image of an open door reminds me of the desired heaven awaiting me at my empty, home bathroom. In a similar way, when I visited Chinatown last Thursday, I was fully distracted by my empty stomach and could think of nothing but food.

Glancing up (the overused, romantic motion that consumes anyone upon entering a large city), I noticed rags, faded blue t-shirts, and a rust orange pillow-case clipped to a wire line that stretched from someone’s Single Room Occupancy window to the stairs of their fire-escape. Rust orange, I thought, is the perfect way to do describe the glimmering fat that coats the roasted ducks, head and all, strung in the speckled front window of the prepared-food shop to my right.

The famous Chinese man, perched in front of his one-chair barber shop playing his “urhu” was a foggy image because of the warm, sweet fumes that lurked through the air, flowing from the neighboring fortune-cookie factory across the alley between my view and the impromptu concert.

Lugging myself down the sidewalk, I lifted my feet like elephant hooves and planted them each time with an exhale. My delirious stupor was interrupted by a familiar argument. When my gaze finally met the lips delivering their nasal squeak, I realized that the four-foot, 80-year-old? woman wanted something long, green, and fuzzy for less than 70 cents per pound. Rows of yellow, green, brown, and red produce were stacked as high as her chest. I didn’t care what she wanted (nor could I tell you which language she was speaking or name half of the foods in front of me) but whatever it was, I agreed with her case and would have been willing to pay for it and carry it home for her if she’d just let me sample it all.

My stomach continued to tug on the overtly creative side of my brain all day. The streets smelled of salted fish. The sunrays that snuck over the financial district’s high-rises highlighted food delivery trucks. Tea was nothing but a teaser. Chinese characters turned into noodles.

I visited San Francisco’s Chinatown last week fully equipped with a group tour, ready to learn about Chinese-American history while marveling at foreign crowds and useless Americanized Chinese trinkets. Clearly, my mind was in other places. Next time, I will plan the meal for the start of the tour and maybe then I’ll learn something about history.

Then again… what is a culture without food?


4 Comments to “H.A.D.D. (Hungry Attention Deficit Disorder) … in Chinatown”

  1. Yup, you were spaced out the whole trip. Bring a Powerbar next time! haha

  2. “Tea was nothing but a teaser. Chinese characters turned into noodles.” Truth!

  3. I think we’re related, except mine is called “hangry” — A state of anger and irritability resulting from being hungry.

  4. Where is my sesame ball?

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