In Search of… a Good Hot Pot

We desired Korean food last night. We remembered a place we wanted to try in Nolita and go looking for it long past dinnertime, knowing it will still be open. We wander in its direction, circling the streets, pausing on corners, unable to find it, the name just on the edge of our memory. There is no argument—we are on an adventure.

Then there it is, and the hot pots are delicious. The place practically empty and we sit there a long time. After, we are too full to walk quickly. We drift past the sidewalk tables of other restaurants, wondering how people can eat amid the drifting scent of garbage, their chairs inches from the sewer grates.

Crosby Street offers a refuge—only an old woman in clacking heels walking her tiny dog. Sparse streetlights, and most broken. And stretches of graffitti, painted over and over again, constantly changing. E knows I find them beautiful.

It is dark, the flash of my camera the only light. We’re like tourists, I say, and don’t care, and we meander around the stopped cabs, a Bollywood hit on the radio, a narrow alley smelling of piss. To escape the smell, we cross to the other side of the street, where a rat bounds across the sidewalk, too close. I make a shriek and grab E, my fingernails digging in. (Rats: one of my fears.)

We are silent upon reaching Houston, and I feel lucky at having his hand to hold, his shoulder to grab upon seeing the rat, him next to me, more lucky than words can begin to describe. And the night sky stretches out above, not a star in sight, only the lights of the subway entrance, the billboards, the store’s signs. We live in a city without stars, with giant daring rats, and yet still I love it.

On Mercer Street we wander past the crowds outside the Angelika, talking of the movies they’ve seen, none of which we’ve seen, and again under a broken streetlamp, where E stops at a building and says suddenly: “I dreamed about this place.” And we look through the windows of his dream, and I wonder what it means that we stumbled upon it.

On Bleecker, I am thinking: I love it here. I am thinking: I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. I am thinking this because I know it will end someday, and soon. We can’t afford to live here much longer—the rent stabilization change will kill us. The bills will bury us. The rats and garbage in the air will lose their charm. It could be tomorrow, I was thinking, but at least it’s not tonight.

2 responses to “In Search of… a Good Hot Pot”

  1. There is so much to say about this incredible post — but I’ll just say for now this feels like a genre in which you were born to work. (The photo essay blog?) Thank you so much for this; I enjoyed it tremendously and found it beautiful and moving and interesting and memorable. Best, BL

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