Thursday, December 08, 2011

The Mind of a Bam

Yum-Cha is this type of Chinese dining where you are unceremoniously seated and then attacked by a flurry of bumper carts filled with noodles, dumplings, soups, veggies, desserts and platters of clamari, duck and WTF is that??! All you have to do is nod your head or raise a hand as they swirl around and slam-bang! That dish is on your table and your menu card is stamped and the bill ends up way over $80 for two people (no booze) because they know you're there because you're a glutton who can't say no until lying on your right side praying for a puke so you can at least finish all what you were foolish enough to flag down.

Mid-shovel during our most recent Yum-Cha fiasco, Bam looks at me perplexed and asks, out of the blue, "What year was the General Slocum disaster?" I answer, "1907?" He says, "Wasn't it earlier than that?" Only then do I wonder what the General Slocum disaster - America's little-known and yet biggest domestic loss of life prior to 9/11 - came to mind at this precise moment of time?

The disaster featured German immigrants on a picnic who boarded the General Slocum in the East River of Manhattan. It quickly caught fire, flames fanned and over 1,000 people died - burned to a crisp or unable to swim in that period's fashionable, drown-happy petticoat garments. Since they were only poor immigrants, nobody much cared what happened to them and distraught at both the loss and the lack of public outcry, German widowers, sans wives and children, packed up and left the area then known as "Little Germany" - altering forever the ethnic makeup of the Lower East Side.

The General Slocum disaster, of course, has nothing to do with Yum-Cha, China, or Sydney, Australia, where we are; or pigging out, what we are now doing. In fact, it is so abstruse a topic that I ask, no, I insist upon knowing from whence it came. Bam racks his brain and here we follow the mind in all its leapfroggery:
  • All the Chinese food swirling around made him imagine there was just one massive kitchen in the back with arterial tunnels leading to all the Chinese food restaurants in Sydney's Chinatown.
  • This reminds him of the row of cheap Indian restaurants in New York's East Village, where we have long imagined there is one long corridor in back, with a massive kitchen serving the same slop to all the restaurants.
  • The row of cheap Indian restaurants is on the south side of 6th Street, between 1st and 2nd Avenues.
  • On the north side of 6th street, between 1st and 2nd Avenues is an old Jewish synagogue.
  • Said synagogue was once the St. Mark's Lutheran Church, founded in 1846, and attended by the German occupants of the area at the turn of last century. It was the same Lutheran church that organized the ill-fated excursion on the General Slocum. 

And the brain train chugs into the station. What a dreamy ride. But isn't it nice that someone today remembers all those poor souls lost? And he was right - it was a bit earlier, as an iphone soon remedied:. June 15, 1904.


Basel-based Michael said...

Love Yum Cha, try that Phoenix one in Manly beach:

BTW, Yum Cha is kind of a breakfast and it means "Drink tea" and you should drink loads of tea with it, fills your stomach faster, saves you money and doesn't leave you sick.


Jesse said...

thanks for the tip, Michael. Next trip to Manly - the Phoenix - and I'll begin with tea!