Hood Hing is perhaps the most appropriately named Chinese carry-out in Brooklyn. This photo was not snapped there, but may as well have been. Two blocks away, a wall-sized photograph of the Forbidden City decorates the wall of No. 1 Chinese Restaurant. Two blocks from that sits Kam Hong which itself sits a block away from Dragon House, and so on in a never-ending constellation of cheap eats, inch-thick plexiglass, and resentful transactions.
“Learn to chill, man. Learn to chill!” The jamaican-accented woman who ordered before me at Dragon the other day had at least learned the caustic rhythm of most transactions there since coming to the states.
Staring at oneself in the mirror that decorates one wall of No. 1 with a blown-up image of some monument filling the background might be as close as anyone from the ‘hood will ever get to mainland China. The forced optical illusion itself might as well be a visual metaphor for the gossamer relationship that exists between the purveyors of chicken wings with fried rice and the folks who order it. Still, carry-outs are as much a part of the street life as dice games, tinted-out luxury SUVs, and grandmothers who lean on flabby elbows and stare down into the lost concrete below.
In my neighborhood at least, the number of Chinese carry-outs is rivaled by the number of Jamaican joints. Black americans, as ever, stand on the service side of the counter unfolding bills and trying to make ourselves understood.