CHEAP EATS Years ago when I haunted the other edge of this continent I lived in a chickenless shack under the bridge between New Hampshire and Maine. Me and Bikkets kept our bed on the screened-in porch in order that there would be room indoors for the Ping-Pong table.
From the other side of our see-through dream-through blow-through walls at night came the lights, sounds, and smells of a cross-river gypsum plant, Boston-bound 18-wheelers, seagulls, lobster boats, and salt water. At high tide the Piscataqua River flowed right up under our little fish house and deck and slapped rather romantically against the cement block foundation of the shack proper. At low tide you could follow the pipes from the toilet through the mud under the fish house, and out a little ways to a river-bedded mosaic of toilet paper and brown things.
I'll never forget the mix of horror and delight with which I discovered, one low, low tide, that rich tourists, seacoast summerers (including the family Bush), and fancy-pants restaurant-goers who could afford to order Maine lobsters were in one manner of speaking eating my shit.
But my favorite memory from that era (late late ’80s) was waking up one weekend morning in the middle of the afternoon, putting on my glasses, and seeing my big buddy Carl camped on the roof of the fish house with a book and a bag of chips, respectfully waiting to see me stir before booming, "SKINLESS FRANKS!!!!!!"
All caps, six exclamation marks. This, from the rocking voice of Boston's best newscaster by day, the Charm Dogs' shirtless drummer by night. And, more importantly than all that, the only one I know who can beat me five games out of ten at Ping-Pong. Or six.
The reason I bring this all up, when I do have a new favorite restaurant to tell you about, is because this morning when I rolled out of bed at six in the morning, being a chicken farmer now, not a rock star, I put on my glasses, fired up the computer, and had an e-mail from Carl saying, "SKINLESS FRANKS!!!!!!"
Through the years, as we have slid in and out of touch with each other, this is our way of picking up where we left off, with our old skinless franks greeting. I don't remember where it came from, except that in those days, before I moved out here and became soft, that was what was on the grill. Hot dogs. Chicken thighs. Not all these prissy, highbrow things I live on now, like pork butts.
Hey Carl, my skinless franks brother, I think the reason I let us lose track of each other this time is because it's hard to say to the guy you used to hang out in sports bars with that you're going around now in capris and lipstick. Even when you know it's going to be OK.
So, OK, since it's still Pride month and not quite next month, let's let this be about poop and pride. All mixed up. If you're an old friend or great-aunt of mine, and you haven't seen me in a couple years, and if you're just tuning in, or if you've been tuned in and still don't get it, get it: I'm trans!
To review: hormonally female, gonadically male, and in every other way somewhere in-between. That's the easy part. The hard part is semantics. I think of myself as "me," and I prefer to be thought of from the outside as "she." So, hell yeah, if you ask, she me. Sister me. Humor me.
Watch what happens.
But you know, San Rafael is hard up for Chinese food. I know because I had some serious time to kill there the other day while they scraped up a body or something from the road.
I don't know where to eat in San Rafael. Don't think I've ever eaten in San Rafael in my life, have I? So I had to do a thing that I of all people should know better than to do: I had to look at the restaurant reviews in the windows.
House of Lee, of all the downtown places I saw, had the most positive write-ups. Glow glow glow, tea-smoked duck, salt and pepper prawns, green onion pancakes. . . Cheap, cozy, the place had new favorite Chinese restaurant written all over it.
Except you can't believe what you read, see, even if someone else besides me wrote it, because they don't have tea-smoked duck, the green onion pancakes are lame, and the prawns didn't make much sense to me. How do you eat fried prawns with the shells still on, without losing all the deliciously seasoned breading?
A: Use your hands, lick your fingers. SFBG
HOUSE OF LEE
Mon.–Fri., 11 a.m.–9:30 p.m.; Sat.–Sun., 10:30 a.m.–9:30 p.m.
885–887 Fourth St., San Rafael
Takeout and delivery available