Identity politics

Pub date December 26, 2006
WriterL.E. Leone
SectionCheap EatsSectionFood & Drink


CHEAP EATS Where were we?

Oh yeah, I was a menace to society — unintentionally, to my credit — and lots of innocent people were going to die or go blind on account of my lack of window-opening prowess. Or did I dream this? It sounds like a dream. Except I couldn’t have dreamed it because everyone’s shirts stayed on and there weren’t any Day-Glo chickens running around or big yellow onions with legs.

I’m so confused. Sometimes I have to go read last week’s column just to find out where I’m at in the world. So this was real. I know because I read it in the paper: the chicken farmer broke a window and spear-shaped shards of glass were raining down on the sidewalk all over Mod the Pod who, being superheroic, managed to escape without a scratch. I still don’t see how.

No one else got hurt either! Just me, and the damage was all to the head. I was traumatized. I haven’t been the same since. I’m twitchy, touchy, and even weirder than my weird cat Weirdo the Cat. I jump at the sound of a leaf landing on the roof. I have to drink out of sippy cups. Every little thing is the crack of glass to me: voices, footsteps. And all I can think about without screaming is Jane Austen novels and soup.

Speaking of which, I scored a scrap pile ham bone from Yard Sale’s holiday party last week at the Rite Spot (thank you, Denise!), and I gotta go stir the pot of split-pea heaven gurgling on top of the wood stove.

Man, it smells good in here for a change.

So anyway … the Pod superheroically came up with a bag and a broom, cleaned my mess, threw a blanket over my shell-shocked shoulders, and led me very slowly to my new favorite restaurant, Just Won Ton. I’ll never understand how we got there because it’s way the hell out in the Sunset on Vicente, and the glass storm happened in Laurel Heights. But isn’t that just like a superhero?

Maybe we drove.

Whatever the case, it happened. Soup happened, and I was on the road to recovery. We had a bowl of wonton noodle soup and another bowl with dumplings, and we passed them back and forth, and both ones were wonderful, but I forget which had fish balls and which had chickens.

I remember a big plate of roast duck on the table between us, and roast duck is another thing that just makes life entirely livable and loveable, no matter what: You’re sick. You suck. You just broke windows over your best friend’s head…. Roast duck!

"Pod," I said, in a small shaky way, between slurps and slobbers, "what do people mean when they talk about ‘identity politics’?"

Mod is a recent escapee from academia. I’m a chicken farmer.

"Who’s talking about identity politics?" she said.

"It was on that radio show you sent me the link to. KPFA? Something about something, Suzy Vacuum Cleaner?"

"We’ll talk about it later," she said. Good superhero. "Eat your soup. ‘Suzy Vacuum Cleaner’?"

"Something like that. And some other people," I said, sinking into my soup, which was delicious, in case I didn’t already say so. So we didn’t talk about identity politics. But later, days later, between wontons and ham bones, when I was feeling a lot better about almost having killed one of my favorite people ever, I called one of my other favorite people ever, my old pal Moonpie, and I said, "Identity politics. Start talking." And she did.

She’s a teacher. I’m a chicken farmer.

These are words, and I still don’t know what anything means. I mean, there are eggs, and there are all the words we use to describe an egg. Like egg. I’m trying, but even though I’m a writer in addition to a chicken farmer, words fall short for me. They don’t do justice to reality, which I find to be almost infinitely complex, tasty, and entirely unpoliticable.

Just Won Ton, for example, serves more than just wontons. A lot more. Duck. Chinese tamales.

It’s a simple, calmingly out-of-the-way place, and it’s a great name for a restaurant. But it both is and isn’t what it is.

Again it comes spiraling to this! And I almost get it, again, and am full of soupy amazement. The ham bone is connected to the ham bone. It wouldn’t fit in any of my pots, so I had to saw it in half with a hack saw. *


Tues.–Sun., 11 a.m.–10 p.m.

1241 Vicente, SF

(415) 681-2999

Takeout available




Wheelchair accessible