Tag Archives: food

A Combination Special from the 1990s and All the Other Things in the City That Moved Me

Photograph by Jose Padua
Back then my big splurge was to get the combination special
egg foo young, egg roll, and pork fried rice
not at the carryout a few doors down from me on Avenue B
for $2.35
but at the one on First Avenue
where the same special cost 15 cents more
and tasted at least a couple of dollars better
and sometimes rather than bring it back home
I’d eat it right there at the table by the window,
washing it down with a Coke
and looking out
upon the Avenue and Downtown/East Village/Lower East Side/
What-Could-Be-More-Alive-Than-This Manhattan
and sooner or later I’d see a familiar face
or better yet a friend and they’d see me
with my feast and I’d raise my drink
and wave and lift my chin and say cheers
or open my mouth in a silent shout
through the transparent thickness of
the storefront glass
and they’d wave back knowing I was having a good day
living the good life in the big and beautiful
dirty big city until everything goes
away.

-Jose Padua

Photograph by Jose Padua

Sometimes the Blizzard in My Head Makes It Hard to Find My Way Through the Snow

Photograph by Jose Padua
Twenty years ago during a fierce
mid-March blizzard in New York City
I walked two doors down
from my apartment building
to the China Wok carryout at the corner
of Avenue B and 3rd
and paid two and a half dollars
for a combination lunch/ dinner
of fried chicken and fried rice.
When I walked two doors
back up Avenue B
to my apartment building
I opened the door to the downstairs hallway
and saw my landlord who looked
through his horn-rimmed glasses
at the small brown bag
that carried the semi-sweet aroma
of pork fried rice and fried chicken
out into the dimly-lit air
at the bottom of the steps
and he looked up at me,
smiled and after
a slight pause said, “Chinks?”
And it had been a year
since I’d been laid off,
and the bad habit I’d developed
was for paying the rent late
and after being outside
for just half a minute
in the cold and the snow,
I felt cold like the snow
so I didn’t correct him,
didn’t say “The correct term is Chinese,”
and just nodded sort of timidly
mumbling, “Yes” or “Yeah” or “OK”
even though I was pretty
fucking far from “OK” with it.
And I don’t know
maybe it was that half minute
in the cold and the snow
because even though
I walked up the stairs
all fast and hungry,
inside I could have sworn
that I was moving like an infant,
on my hands and knees,
peeking up at the ceiling,
dirt smudged on my face
and at the corner of my slightly parted lips,
still learning to crawl.

-Jose Padua

Photograph by Jose Padua