Remember Mr. Hooper? He never seemed to sell enough stuff to stay in business but he stuck around on Sesame Street until he died even though I’m not sure Muppets even carry cash. Regardless, he taught me the importance of learning all about the people in your neighborhood, so when I recently moved I decided to see who was around. Come join me. Awww, who am am I kidding? I don’t like people. So let’s check out some places in my neighborhood. If you find them interesting, feel free to go and meet whoever lurks inside.
We’ll start at the train station about ½ mile away and work our way back to the new place. As you approach my neighborhood on the train (“Western is next, doors open on the right at Western… this is Western.”) and you’re lucky enough to arrive on a Tuesday be sure to hit the Farmer’s Market. I’m not allowed to buy anything since I don’t know how to pick out produce and feel like a hip hop artist at a Juilliard audition (a real life audition and not one of those movie ones where the alternative kid shakes up the stoic admissions committee with his modernistic take on the classical arts). The Mrs. has taken over Farmer’s Market duties ever since I came home with a strawberry tart from the Polish bakery booth that was representing. Technically it did contain produce and I didn’t hear her complaining when she helped eat it so I don’t know what the problem is.
Since man cannot live by rabbit food alone, there is a convenient hot dog joint across the street. I don’t know if they have the best dogs in the city, but they certainly have the best mascot and best name.
If you’d rather go glitzy, you can go to one of the latest celebrity restaurants to hit the ‘hood at Tommy Lee Chinese Kitchen. I guess he wanted to capitalize on the Rockstar Supernova success by opening a restaurant. Chinese food seems like an odd choice and he probably should have sprung to get his whole first name on the sign, but I still like to stop in with hopes of catching him taking orders behind the counter some day. And yes, my hepatitis shots are up to date.
Speaking of hepatitis, it’s nice to have a pharmacy within walking distance, and just north of Tommy Lee’s place is Becker Pharmacy. Here you’ll note a couple things. First, the reluctance of businesses to use the possessive on their signs – why isn’t it Tom Lee’s Chinese Kitchen or Becker’s Pharmacy? Are they hoping to evolve into their own brand, like Kleenex or Oreo? Or was the sign guy out of apostrophes? Second, not only does Becker proudly advertise ostomy supplies but they also offer delivery! I can’t tell you how many times I’m sitting around on a rainy afternoon and find myself completely out of stock on my drainable colostomy/ileostomy cut-to-fit pouches when I remember my good friends at Becker.
If you continue north on Lincoln Avenue, just past Lawrence you’ll find the best in one-stop shopping/entertainment at the neighborhood Ace Hardware with bowling and cocktails upstairs at Lincoln Square Lanes. Gutters upstairs and down. The best combination I’ve seen since the shoe repair and paintball supply shop I left behind in Lewisville, Texas.
Proceeding north is a place I’ve yet to step foot in – Korean Live B.B.Q. Although you typically will not find me slurping down bowls of pickled pigeon lungs like that goof on the Food Network, I’m usually up for some ethnic food and will give most things a try. But I’m not sure what “Live” B.B.Q. is… it frightens and confuses me, and whenever I try to peek inside through the steamed up windows I can only see a small buffet table and what seems to be the same large Korean family sitting at a table near the back of the restaurant. The seemingly over-elaborate cable and rod support system for their sign also brings back painful memories of the Theoretical and Applied Mechanics class that nearly got me tossed out of college. I found the beer specials in college more interesting than the homework problems that would ask me to determine the tension in each of those cables, so when my papers were returned to me they usually included a comment that said, “See me.” I finally got around to seeing the professor and he suggested that perhaps I should consider a field of study other than engineering. I take that as a sign that I should also consider a dining option other than Live BBQ.
To prove that I’m not a total wuss, let’s circle back to Lawrence Avenue to my latest find – Nhu’ Lan Bakery. This is a Vietnamese joint that carries very few bakery items as far as I can tell. They must have just gotten a discount on the sign and rolled with it. What they are famous for are their banh mi sandwiches. Fresh baguette bread baked daily. My first visit I went with the highly touted Seasoning Pork Belly with Pate. The conjugation confuses me a bit, but the sandwich was pretty darning good. However, it was a little too fatty for my liking and the consistency started to freak me out the more I thought about it. I gave myself a certificate of accomplishment for trying it, but have since switched to the grilled pork while the Mrs. can’t get enough of the lemongrass chicken.
Around the corner you’ll see a sign that says OB, which obviously be some sort of women’s clinic. But the couple times I’ve walked by when the door was open, I’ve only seen a small bar with a few Korean gentlemen inside drinking beer. Even though it’s convenient, I think I’ll find somewhere else to get my pap smears done.
Finally, no neighborhood is complete without the local magic shop. I keep stopping in to ask if they have any Pilot or Olivia Newton John albums but they never seem to know what I’m talking about and keep trying to sell me some sort of magic rice bowl trick. I finally gave in and bought it, but it just seems to piss off the servers at the Thai joint down the street when I keep making my jasmine rice disappear. Maybe I should stick to sawing chicks in half.
The apartment itself is pretty cool. I’ve nicknamed it the Slanty Shanty since various areas of the floor are somewhat off-camber and will throw you into a wall if you’re not paying attention. It’s also about three feet way from the neighboring buildings, from which I can hear the neighbor to our east snoring when our windows are open, and whenever I open the bedroom blinds our neighbors to the west are doing their dishes. It doesn’t matter what time of day or what day of week – someone is at the sink 24/7 washing dishes. I’m thinking about befriending them and taking my dishes over there. The owners of our place live downstairs with their two kids, who think the Mrs. is a kid their age and I’m her daddy. I don’t know whether that should make me happy or if I should be offended. Last time she dropped off the rent check the oldest asked her if she had any Legos. Some day he’ll wise up and figure out that I’m the cool one with the bitchin' Lego collection. Not that I’ll share. Unless he’s got some banh mi on him.