Olden Days

Strangely sweet duck soup and facing up to antiquity at Lao Thai Soul Food Kitchen

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le.chicken.farmer@gmail.com

CHEAP EATS There are however hazards of hanging out with people young enough to be your sister's best friend's daughter. I'm not talking about going roller skating in my underwear, riding on the handlebars of a bike in a skirt and heels at night, or even eating at a vegan soul food restaurant in Oakland.

No, my most harrowing moment since falling in with my new adopted family came two nights ago, on a sturdy and all-around stationary bar stool at my friendly neighborhood sports bar, the Phoenix. Where I am generally comfortable and at home, if not drunk.

In this case, Coach was there with her just-graduated-from-sex-school cohorts, and she and one of the "trainers" were talking about a particular practice called sounding, which made me want to either die or order wings and watch football.

I chose the latter. And then, when the wings came, because this is the kind of gal I am, I went around with the plate and offered some to all the vegetarians. We're supposed to live in the moment, right, so you never know ... is my thinking.

Well, here comes the harrowing part, and it has nothing to do with vegetarians or urethras. One of Coach's friends started talking about some guy she's sleeping with who won't put out. And everyone's like: Wow. Whoa. Imagine that. Dude don't want sex.

I said, "How old is he?" I don't know why I said this, I guess because I've appreciated older men myself.

"Old," my friend's friend said.

"How old?"

"Really old," she said.

Ostensibly I wanted to get to the bottom of this no-sex situation, because I care, but it's not like I didn't know I was, in the process, setting myself up for something truly disastrous. "How old," I said, "is really old?"

Now it was Coach's turn to watch TV.

"Really really old," the young woman said. Then I knew she was going to say the age of really really old, and held my breath. "Forty-eight," she said.

I exhaled. Forty-eight is older than me. Yay, I would not have to kill myself! I have, in fact, six more months of youthful happy living left before I am really really old, according to her.

Kids can be so careless. I love them, but San Francisco is a tiny town, and I have been steeping in it since this 'un was seven. Of course I knew her old man! I didn't realize it at the time, but later figured it out: I have known him since she was 12. Not biblically. We've crossed paths. But I considered him a catch in the 1990s, and the last time I saw him, just a month or so ago, I thought the same thing: catch. Then again, he's a lot younger and way cooler than most of the really really really older men I have dated — one of whom was old enough to be my first cousin's maid-of-honor's father.

I got sick. It started that night, and the next morning, yesterday, it had me — by the throat. Usually when I get sick, I simply try to pretend I'm not sick until it's no longer necessary to pretend, which sometimes takes weeks. This time, however, I decided to act sick, in part because I was house sitting a house with very comfortable beds in it. I saw this once in a movie: You start by calling in sick, then go back to bed.

While I was in bed, I didn't masturbate. I'm old. I read a book until I fell asleep, and then I woke up and read some more until I slept some more, then I got up and started making chicken soup, which came out great.

The book I read was called The Old Man Who Read Love Stories. I loved it, and I'm sure the soup is even better today, but the truth is that I feel pretty much better too. It worked! Who knew? You can get back in bed and get better quicker than if you go about your business, playing soccer in the rain and so forth.

Not for its dry oven-barbecued ribs, collard greens and cornbread, but for its strangely sweet duck soup.

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