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search of an activity. We had many choices: Art Institute, Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium, Adler Planetarium, Navy Pier, Willis Tower. Rather than pursuing intellectual interests or cultural enrichment, the three of us decided to sing at a karaoke lounge! One reason was H had never sung karaoke before - a legit reason. Nevertheless, I think the main reason was that we wanted to unwind, be silly, and look stupid.
Typically, you'd find karaoke lounges, or bars, in Asian neighborhoods. The most logical destination from Chicago's Loop that D, H, and I could think of was Chinatown, which is just south of downtown. We hopped (for free) onto the CTA's Red Line and arrived at Chinatown during the hottest part of the day.
D, H, and I proceeded to search for a karaoke bar. D is a native of Hong Kong, so H and I let him do his thing and manage our tour. The first place he looked up on his smartphone just happened to be right by the train station. We went over to it, however, we found out that it was only open in the evening. Lacking any further plan of action, D, H, and I walked right around the corner, into the clutches of Cantonesia, a run down Cantonese restaurant where karaoke was advertised by an eight-and-a-half-by-eleven computer printout (probably an inkjet printout, too).
We walked in and D spoke some Cantonese to the first person we met, a girl who looked to be in her late teens. (I bet she was a lookout of some kind.) This girl directed us to another lady who showed the three of us the way to the karaoke lounge. Everything was fine until she led us to the dim rear of the restaurant and down a ladderwell into the bowels of the building. At this point, I was thinking to myself, "What have we gotten ourselves into?" I imagined that there was a couple of unscrupulous Triads waiting for us at the bottom of the stairs ready to beat us senseless and drag us off to a sweatshop in another part of town. Fortunately, by God's grace, that didn't happen. Unfortunately, D, H, and I found ourselves staring at an armpit of a karaoke lounge.
It had to be the worst karaoke lounge I had ever seen. I was like, "What the eff." Everything about it made you want to about face and leave.
That's H with the thumbs up.
I had to do a raunchy No. 2 in the filthy washroom. (I must've eaten something bad at the galley again.) There wasn't any toilet paper so I had to use some brownies (paper towels).
You would think that we immediately left that cesspool, right? Wrong! We had nowhere else to go and we didn't want to start another search for karaoke, so we stayed put. We ordered drinks.
What I drank:
Watermelon Juice (? USD). It wasn't too sweet. It had a sufficient amount of watermelon flavor and it had a smooth consistency. The watermelon juice brought back memories of my summer in Hanoi, when I would stop by the local juice bar every afternoon and relax with my friends over a cold drink.
Here's Cantonesia's mixed drinks menu:
As if our experience at Cantonesia couldn't get any worse, there was the karaoke itself. One of the songs we selected - "Now and Forever" by Richard Marx - had this wack video accompaniment. You know "Now and Forever", right? It's a love ballad. The video showed scenes of a puppeteer and his dumb-looking puppet performing before a crowd - somewhere in Europe, I imagine. While the puppeteer was doing his routine, there was an old gentleman in the crowd looking at the puppeteer with scorn and incredulity. It looked like that old man was going to go right up to the puppeteer and put an end to his nonsense. Well, next thing you know, the old gentleman was playing with the puppet!
D, H, and I spent about an hour in Cantonesia's karaoke lounge. On leaving, we were floored by the bill: fifty dollars! Maybe there's something wrong with my math, but three non-alcoholic drinks and an hour's worth of karaoke DOES NOT add up to fifty dollars! D, H, and I got RIPPED off!
My Rating: No star out of four stars (poor).
I like this excerpt from Cantonesia's homepage: "[Cantonesia] is infamous for its authentic Cantonese cuisine and luscious Mai Tais." Infamous = Well known for some bad quality; wicked; abominable. Infamous is right!
+ - × ÷
Moving on ...
After our mugging, D, H, and I went for a stroll down Wentworth Avenue, which is part of the older section of Chinatown. All of the shops and restaurants that we saw weren't very attractive. In fact, the whole district looked (and smelled) like poop. I, of course, was on the lookout for something good to eat. The three of us stopped at Wan Shi Da Bakery.
What I ate:
Egg Tart (something like 0.60 USD): Flaky pastry and egg custard filling. Is there any Chinese pastry more iconic than the egg tart? Wan Shi Da's egg tart tasted okay, the pastry was flaky and the custard had good texture and flavor. But - and you can't tell this from the photo - the custard was orange: it should be yellow in color! D, native Hong Konger that he is, just gave me a look and shook his head, ha ha. Using a serious tone of voice, he remarked, "I don't think it's good."
My Rating: No star out of four stars (satisfactory). CASH ONLY.
Last Word: That evening, as D, H, and I rode the Metra train back home, the dying light of day filtered through the train car's windows, casting shadows everywhere. We recounted the day's events and laughed at our misfortune. Life's funny in that our disasters oftentimes end up becoming mirthful memories.
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