Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Another Chinese Restaurant Dream

If you're one of those people who hates reading or hearing about dreams, skip this post. But if you enjoyed my prior Chinese restaurant dream, or my Japanese restaurant dream, read on.

Actually, before I get to the main dream I'd like to open with a short dream that preceded the Chinese restaurant dream I had last Friday night. The dream was related to my current diet. I dreamed that I had woken up in the morning and gone to look at myself in the mirror. I was horrified to discover that my belly was sticking way out, like that of a pregnant woman, or perhaps more like the distended belly of a malnourished third-world child. I was horrified. The day before I had noticed how well I was doing on my diet, and how loose my pants had become. What was going on? Was it something I had eaten? Then I noticed that my face was especially gaunt, and that my legs were spindly. So I had been losing weight after all, but it was not happening proportionately. Somehow the weight I had already lost had shifted or something. I thought to myself, I've heard that belly fat is harder to get rid of once you get older, but I had no idea it was this bad.

Yes, my dreams often have punch lines.

And now for our feature dream.

I was going to a Chinese restaurant in Chinatown for Thanksgiving dinner (as I will be doing in real life). Though it was a new Cantonese seafood restaurant, in the dream it was called Little Shanghai (a now-defunct, wonderful hole-in-the-wall of yore). The restaurant in the dream was on Bowery/Chatham Square, either at the end of Mott or the end of East Broadway (it changed over the course of the dream). When I got to where the restaurant was supposed to be, I saw a church that looked like one of those 17th-century Portuguese churches I've seen in various parts of Asia. There was a sign hanging on the outside of the church that said Little Shanghai, but I figured the restaurant wasn't in the main part of the church. I couldn't find the entrance to the restaurant, so I walked up the stairs to the main church entrance. A Chinese teenager was coming out through the big wooden door and he held it for me. Inside, the nave was painted pastel blue and white. It reminded me (in the dream, at least) of a church I had seen in Kerala, or Macau, or Goa. I went back out and kept looking for the restaurant. Finally I saw a glass door around the corner, at the side of the church building. I walked in and found myself in a big, glitzy Cantonese restaurant.

My friends were all already at a large round table. It turned out that I was very late. My friends were all hungry. I was going to do the ordering, and I had pretty much planned out the meal by studying the menu in advance. Much to my surprise and horror, however, the menu was completely different than the one I had studied. No dish was the same. In fact, I was unfamiliar with all the dishes, though many sounded interesting. That was part of the problem, actually. Too many of them sounded interesting, and I had to order a nicely balanced meal for eight. I kept studying the menu, and I couldn't decide what to order. I was filled with anxiety. I could see that my friends were getting hungry. Then I noticed that Fan, a waiter I knew from Ping's and previously Sun Golden Island, was working there. That's good, I thought, he can help me with the menu. But he wasn't coming by our table, and I couldn't get any of the staff's attention. I also noticed at this time that there was a basket full of western-style dinner rolls on the table. A friend was reaching for one. "Don't eat it," I said. "You'll ruin your appetite." He looked disappointed (and hungry). Finally after about an hour of perusing the menu I decided what to order. But I couldn't get the attention of any of the wait staff. I decided to go in search of Fan.

I walked into another room that turned out to be a bar filled with hard-drinking Chinese men smoking cigarettes. I thought I heard Fan's voice, but I couldn't find him. I walked into another room that turned out to be a Chinese bakery. All the clientele and staff were women and they looked at me oddly, like I didn't belong there. The next thing I knew I was out on the street, and I couldn't find the entrance to the restaurant. I went back to the side of the church where the entrance had been, but it was no longer there. I went into a nearby shop to see if anybody could help me. The proprietors, a man and a woman, looked Goan (there's a particular mix of Portuguese and Indian features I can recognize). I asked them if they had any idea where the entrance to Little Shanghai was. The man and the woman spoke to each other in a language I couldn't understand. Then the man said to me, "That's in the Goan church, right?"

"I suppose it's Goan," I said.

He gave me directions to the church, but didn't say anything about how I'd get into the restaurant. It also turned out that the shop was further away from the church than I had thought, about three blocks. I walked in the direction of the church, and I saw it ahead of me, but now it was on a big hill, surrounded by other ancient buildings. It reminded me of the Amber Fort in Jaipur. And there was a beautiful crepuscular light about the complex. This is wonderful, I thought to myself, to see something like this in New York makes up for all my troubles. But my pleasure was short-lived. When I got back to the church I still couldn't find the entrance to Little Shanghai. I did see a Chinese bakery, though. I figured I could enter through the bakery and find my way back into the restaurant. But this was a different bakery with no passageway. I felt terrible about holding up my friends' dinner.

The next thing I knew I was back home watching TV. A woman who was hopelessly late for a meeting with her girlfriend had brought an award to present to the friend, the "Patient, Loyal Friend Award." This show is a parable for my situation, I thought. The woman was anxious as to whether the friend would accept the award, and I empathized. Then the announcer said, "After this commercial break, find out whether the friend accepts the award or kicks her out." I was on the edge of my seat. After the commercial the woman presented the award to her friend. The friend disdainfully handed it back to her and said, "Enjoy your friendship."


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