the upside to not having
universal health care.


at the usa-canadian border, there wasn't much of a line. it was most likely due to the fact that it was nearly noon on a friday. either that, or canada just doesn't care who's coming in. a black woman in a police outfit asked us some questions. "where you coming from?" seattle. "what are you planning to do today?" visit vancouver. see chinatown, the punjabi market. "are you carrying any weapons, alcohol, tobacco or firearms with you?" no. "what do you do?" i just graduated law school. "and you?" i work at a law school in seattle. "what do you do there? teach?" no, i'm a program assistant. "a what?" a program assistant. "go on ahead. have a nice day."

"jesus!" jacob said, "what the hell kind of an interrogation is that? she's good, though." i agreed. the way she asked questions already made me feel guilty. i felt like i was in the box, and the detective was on the brink of getting me to confess to a crime i didn't commit. "there's gotta be so much tobacco in this car," he said. "i just quit smoking last week." his phone rang. "we've got the drugs!" he yelled.

we got to chinatown, and we found a little lot where we could park. it was near gore and east pender. there was a homeless asian guy in the lot, and he asked us something in his language. we assumed he was asking for change. "on our way back," jacob reassured him. i had the craving for duck, and we set off looking for a restaurant that would serve us good roasted duck. each store we passed, though, sold only dry goods in large barrels, and other useless items like incense and statues of gold buddhas.

"this is a real chinatown," jacob declared. i agreed. chinatown was huge, and a lot of the merchants actually spoke chinese. i went up to one and asked where i could get some duck. she said something in chinese, and then said something to a customer. she was obviously trying to get the customer to translate. i asked the customer where to get some good roasted. "roasted duck," he said, "you go next door." i nodded, even though we had been next door, and already discovered that it wasn't an actual sit-down restaurant. it was one of those places where they hung all kinds of dead animals in the window, and people could only take their meals to go. we didn't want that.

we walked around chinatown a bit more. we must have taken a wrong turn somewhere because suddenly, there were no more chinese stores. we were on east hastings, and things started looking bleak. we passed homeless person after homeless person. the whole scene looked like a bad cliche from an 80's action film. skid row, the kind of place where bums sit on stoops and drink from brown bags while hookers hang out on corners with their dark sunglasses and fishnet stockings. i couldn't believe the street was for real. "i'm starting to see the upside of not having universal health care," jacob said. "people die."

we ate at this cash-only hole-in-the-wall restaurant where duck was the first thing on the menu. we both ordered duck in a bowl with white rice. mine was all bones, no meat. i was disappointed, but jacob said his hit the spot. we decided our next move would be to get the hell out of chinatown. "chinatown is great until you actually eat something in chinatown," he said. i was still hungry, and i looked forward to our next eating adventure.

we drove to the other side of town, to a strip of punjabi stores and bakeries. there were all kinds of saris in the different store windows. i remember my boss telling me how difficult it was to get authentic indian gear in seattle, and how it was best to drive up to vancouver for the real deal. this strip must have been what she was talking about. we walked around, and we weren't really interested in anything. we walked into a place called punjabi market. it smelled strongly of spices and cookware, almost like a home depot. "smell that?" jacob asked. "it's the smell of anti-semitism."

after the disappointment of the punjabi center, we were at a loss as to what we should do. i flipped through the brochure, and saw that vancouver had an aquarium. we agreed that we should go there. the aquarium was located near the downtown area, near a place called stanley park that overlooked the water. when we arrived, though, we saw that admission was $28 a person. there were two indian kids standing in line next to a sign that displayed the price of admission. "$28 a person?" jacob asked them. "umm," i said, "i don't think they work here." there was no way to sneak in, so we left.

we drove around some more, and then ended up at a grocery store in richmond, british columbia. they had different brands of chips there, and we wanted to try old dutch and cyclones. i tried to buy the bag of chips with my debit card, but it didn't work. "this is a credit card," the canadian clerk informed me. i pointed out that my card also had the words debit card written on the front of it, and i reassured her that it was, indeed, a debit card. she tried to run it through four times, and each time, it failed. jacob paid for it with the canadian cash he had taken out. "surry," the canadian clerk said.

finally, around seven o'clock, we made it to the richmond night market, which two young women in the tourist booth advised us to attend. there was a long line of asians headed toward the market, so we knew from the start that it was gonna be good. our suspicions were confirmed once we entered the lot. one of the first booths i saw was selling swords and other crazy weapons. a few more booths down, and we spotted the smoke from the barbecue pits. when we saw the lamb skewers being sold for $1 each, we knew it was on. we were gonna feast.

we started with the lamb skewers, then got noodles and shomai. we sat down with a filipino family. i asked the kids if they were filipino. they said yes. in tagalog, i asked if they understood tagalog. "a little bit," the small boy said. he started telling us about pokemon, and something else, and his siblings looked embarassed for him. we finished eating, and i said goodbye to them. a few booths down, there was a cotton candy booth. there was a sign that read: "free soda with $7 purchase." "who's gonna buy $7 worth of cotton candy?" i asked. "i know some people," jacob said. i choked on my 7-up.

during our feast intermission, we watched some decent-looking chinese girl (alyssia) sing songs with this fat kid (michael). they sang an usher song called "my beau" and then taylor swift's "love story." "i've seen worse," jacob said. we walked out on her third song, some song she had written herself. we decided to get bubble tea from these two cute japanese girls who kept yelling "bubble tea" over and over again. i didn't really want all the sugar from lychee drink, so i threw it away. jacob just threw his on the ground. i took his cue, and i threw out the remaining potato chips and soda cans from the car.

littering, our patriotic duty.

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