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Wednesday, 20 June 2007

Chinatown Alley

By Ronni Prior of Rants By Ronni

Vancouver, B.C. was a colourful town in the 1960s. It probably still is, but I've spent no time there in many years. My last visit, about ten years ago, was very brief.

Back when I lived there, my friends had a running contest to find the cheapest place to eat that was worth going back to. My friend Paul won. He found a restaurant in a Chinatown alley. Known as The Green Door, it had no sign and no advertising, just a door painted green and a line of hungry people stretching all the way down the alley to the street.

When we finally got inside, we found large tables with benches. Three or four of us crowded in, sharing both with total strangers. A little man came around with a basket of chopsticks. We looked for a menu, and found it on the wall - in Chinese. It turned out that the best way to order was to watch what was being carried to other diners and say, "I'd like some of that, please."

In three years of eating there, I never knew what anything was called.

The food was served in the kitchen. Paul told us that the front was a mahjongg club, and that in order to have a liquor license, they had to serve food. The mahjongg players were not interested in eating, hence, the kitchen.

It was on my second visit that I needed to use the (ahem) facilities. I was directed through a beaded curtain and down a hall into what seemed to be total blackness. I could hear the murmur of Chinese conversation and the clicking of the mahjongg tiles. I also heard something else: the unmistakable sound of a bong.

Right then, I tripped over a small man with a very large bamboo pipe. Immediately, there was a huge uproar! There were no women in the room and all the men were yelling at me in Chinese! By now, I could see a bit, and I was just the tiniest bit scared. I went in the direction everyone was pointing, and found myself in the ladies room. Once out, the yelling started again and followed me all the way back to the kitchen.

I learned two things that day. One was to use the restroom before leaving home. (Like Mom hadn't been telling me that since I was four!) The other was that it's not only mahjongg players that aren't interested in food.

Opium smokers aren't, either!

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 02:00 AM | Permalink | Email this post


This must have been a frightening occurrence that is also very funny in retrospect. Regarding your mother's advice to go to the restroom before leaving home, here is one for travelers: "Never stand when you can sit, never sit when you can lie down, and never miss a opportunity to use the restroom".

"In three years of eating there, I never knew what anything was called."

Ronni, Are you sure you weren't talking to my husband about my cooking?

I enjoyed your story. It is an adventure that most of us will never have, but love to hear about from others.

The best food always involves a bit of adventure!

Did I mention that there was no possible way to spend more than $1.25 per person there?

It all sounds so exotic, and all for $1.25!

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