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Polis Report

Downtown Lives

By Richard Sine

When I came here in January, I sulked around the county checking out the places in my price range. I decided if I was going to live in a slum, I'd rather live in a slum that was someplace, not trapped between a strip mall and a freeway.

So I moved downtown, to a venerable building where the studios still have iceboxes and dumbwaiter shafts. Now I walk to work, to the bars, to the movies and to the gym. I live among punks, drunks, death rockers, students, artists and immigrant families. Last night, unable to dredge up friends on short notice, I did something new: walked alone to a bar, danced and listened to music.

Recently I wanted to play pool on a weekend night, so I invited a friend down into my new 'hood. The hip billiards place with the premium beer had a 90-minute wait, so we rounded the corner to Phong Giang, where the rates were halved and tables were empty. We played beside two assimilated Asian teens who still drank Grass Jelly Drink.

A few days later I ventured into the noodle place on my corner and was seated next to a bus driver who helped me understand the five sauces on my table and declared indignantly that a roast goose in his homeland of Hong Kong now costs $20. To decode Cantonese food, he pointed to the fish balls and said, "like gefilte fish." I appreciated it.

Had he seen the food-obssessed Chinese movie Eat Drink Man Woman? No, he said without batting an eye, but he'd read the New Yorker review, and thought it sounded like a good flick.

Viva San Jose.

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From the April 4-10, 1996 issue of Metro

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