I had to have it, have it like I had it too easy living four blocks away from the best street for Mexican food in New York. Any late night taco cart would do on Fifth Avenue, Brooklyn. Problem was, this is Beijing, and finding good Mexican food is as hard as finding a good man. All week I had been bugging my expat friends about tacos, dropping the idea during dinner conversations, slipping it in while they sip on their drinks, prodding gently during cigarette breaks... "How about them tacos...?" Until finally, it took a fellow New Yorker to take the bait, and we set out, entirely unplanned, to find this crazy hidden taco joint owned by some guy who used to live in Texas that I'd read about on some food blog a long time ago.
"How about them tacos," came New Yorker friend's text on an unsuspecting Sunday night. "Yes, I think it's on #9 Dongsishitiao." I texted back, this all based on the fallacy of somebody's Foursquare info.
New Yorker friend corroborated that his friend just went yesterday and said it was the best tacos she's had in Beijing.
"OMG tacos okay let's meet up. I come by bike!"
10 minutes before our meeting time, I was turning on Dongsishitiao when two dudes on motorbikes ripped my phone from my jacket pocket. The robber had a quick hand and light touch. I almost didn't notice it if it weren't for my bad habit of listening to music while biking too fast. All of a sudden the music stopped and I'm standing at the intersection with my white handphones dangling in thin air. I watched the two guys speed away. The guy on the back, presumedly the one who had my phone/Internet/gps/camera/ipod/weibo/email/LIFE tucked warmly in his jacket looked back with the most unaffected expression -- no glee, no guilt, no glint in his eye, no evil cackling, nothing.
I'll remember that look. I'll remember his middle aged face, his sunken eyes, and the wisps of hair while I considered chasing them down and the slightest possibility that my bike might morph into a batmobile so I can bamboozle, bazooka, and bat the shit out of these motherfuckers. But I'm no catwoman. I was a woman on a mission to find tacos, and all of a sudden I was left without a phone, Internet, or GPS, and worst of all, after a couple of loops, #9 Dongsishitiao did not exist.
My friend later said, yup, no #9, no tacos, no Qing Qing. While he was circling around for the mysterious #9 in the labyrinth of Hutongs before confirming with his friend that oh... it was actually in another Hutong a couple blocks away, I was oddly serene. Angry. reeling, shellshocked, yes, but my brain secretly enjoyed being finally woken. The events that proceeded were as mundane as dirty laundry, except this story didn't take place in 1998.
1) After giving up asking poor old Chinese grandmas about a "small taco restaurant," I suddenly realize that I was... 2) Right in front of another friend's apartment complex who's from L.A. and liked tacos. What if he knows?! Of course he would know? What if he's home? Should I just knock on his door? Is that a faux paux without calling first? 3) Five minutes later, a door swung open and he's all confused and I'm all hahaha sorry and he's all you're crazy and I'm all where is this taco place?!?! and he drew this nifty map. It was all great, except it's definitely not #9 Dongsishitiao and I was so late. 4) 15 minutes later, I biked home, ran up six flights of stairs, and wrote an email to New Yorker friend. "Phone stolen, call my landline." 5) When I realized my friend had a landline in this new apartment that I took over for her, I remember thinking "what a waste of space..." I didn't like things that weren't functional and shoved the phone in a corner. When it rang for the first time since I moved in, I thought a ghost was shaking me alive, hallelujah! 6) I told him my address. He showed up later, calling my landline saying he's here. I ran all the way downstairs. No one there. I ran all the way back up. "Where are you?!" "I'm here?" "I don't see you?! Ok I'm gonna shout from my window, stay on the street." "HEY!!!!!!" 7) "Hey!" He shouted back, a shadow of a figure emerging beneath canopied trees.
I got you. I really did. Not through a million digital bits through iMessage or Weibo. I got you face to face, feet planted, knocks on door, with all you can eat tacos.
Welcome back to the dumb phone life.