Tattoo you

Pho Clement

CHEAP EATS She had tattooed knuckles. One hand said PORK and the other said CHOP. I expressed my adoration, and she said, "You should see the other ones."

"Should I?" I asked.

She has a girlfriend in Canada. This was not a date but a business meeting.

Business = new favorite Vietnamese restaurant. Pho Clement, between, I think, Third and Fourth avenues on Clement Street. One hundred and seventy things on the menu, not counting appetizers and sandwiches.

Over two bowls of soup big enough to paddle two small canoes in, I said to my new friend Pork Chop, "What else ya got?"

"Bacon," she said. I think she said it was on her stomach, but I kind of passed out at that point, and when I came to we were making whole different sentences.

Something about Michigan. Turns out, thanks to Pork Chop's encouragement, I am going to go there this summer for that wimmin's music festival. Pork Chop works in the kitchen and has been attending the festival for six or seven years. Says it has changed her life.

I'm sure it will change mine too. For one thing, I won't be as pretty as I am now, what with black eyes, broken teeth, and every manner of structural damage.

Oy, the things we do for a story, eh, fellow hard news reporters and investigative journalists? I tell you. I for one am not a fan of pain or mosquito bites. Yet there I will be, in Michigan in August, getting my ass kicked by both bugs and backward-thinking lesbian feminist separatists. Ah, but someone's gotta go see what these girls are having for dinner, and there's no question I'm the tranny for the job.

Oh: I say backward-thinking because their definition of wimmins is stuck all the way back on what Mr. Doctor had to say about it, overriding all present tense appearances to the contrary. Because everyone knows that the last-century medical profession, or in other words, "the Man," interprets reality more accurately and certainly more definitively than we do, its living and kicking and messy subjects, prone as we are to the pesky revisionism of tick tick time, the great editor.

To review: trans men welcome, beards and testosterone and homemade wieners and all; trans women, no, nope, not welcome, sorry.

But now I have a friend on the inside. In the kitchen. With tattoos! And I don't know why I love soup so much, but with all due respect to pork, if I could have tattoos on my knuckles I think they would say SOUP and SOUP. Big bowl of steamy, sopping noodles on my belly ... but it's always only a dream because as much as I love tattoos, and seeing them on other people and thinking about them on me, and soup, I can't take the pain, personally, like I said.

So ... "Do you regret any of them? Your tattoos?" I asked.

Her bowl of pho was way bigger than my hot and sour shrimp soup, yet she was almost finished and I was just getting started. I'm a slow eater.

She thought about it. "No," she said, finally, tentatively. Then: "Maybe 'pork pies' instead of 'pork chop.'"

But that's editorial. That ain't regret.

Pork butt, pork buns, pork soup, pork meat, pork beef, more pork, I thought, savoring my pineapples, tomatoes, and celery. Sometimes with shrimp and sometimes with catfish, I've been ordering canh chua for as long as I've been eating in Vietnamese restaurants, and it hadn't occurred to me until now to ask for noodles too.

The waitressperson had seemed delighted by this suggestion, and I was certainly delighted by the outcome. Only it came out in two separate bowls, and one reason I was so far behind was because it took me 10 minutes to decide whether to add the noodles to the soup, or the soup to the noodles.

Anyway, it was great, and nobody was in no hurries. And I left when I left with a sloshy stomach that worked weirdly well on the soccer field. At least at first.

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