Showbiz David, from February 9, 2008
Join me for a high-tech laugh or two here at L’Amyx Tea Bar on Piedmont Avenue in Oakland. What a trendy night. Ring my Dell! I’m feeling cooler than cool, pecking out this post on my very first laptop. Or have I again arrived just when the latest party is letting out? At the moment mine is the only laptop in the room!... Who knows, as of tonight laptops may be a thing of the past, and all because of me ... Has anybody, by the way, heard of something called a cellphone? Think I should check that one out too ..
Our servers tonight are Will and Boyi, two young guys from China with a certain natural flair for sharing favored tea enthusiasms. Will, who hails from Guangxi, champions an ominous jar of thick black leaves called Tribute Pu-Er, something that looks like it should be served out of an ash tray or wrapped in a cigar. He has tried before to sell me on his pet brew. So far I have resisted, preferring the serene contemplative sanity of Dragonwell or Japanese Rice tea to a late-night emergency room visit ...
Boyi likes Dragonwell, too, and he especially likes Tranquility Mao Feng, which has a nice lingering lilt to it. Says Boyi, raised somewhere in the Chinese countryside, “No matter how long you steep it, it’s still not bitter.”
Ah, still not bitter. That’s too easy a road for Will, who took on Tribute Pu-Er like an athlete scaling a pregnant volcano. “I don’t like it at first.” he admits, laughing over his masochistic attraction to the stuff. “Too earthy.” But Will took the challenge like a man. “Now I like it.” The ashen looking compound rewards courage with residual pleasure. “After feeling it in your mouth, feels an hour later, your mouth still feels sweet”
In fact, Pu-Er is so strong, it has a way of moving permanently into a pot and being the scent that keeps on scenting: After a time, says Will, “You don’t need to put tea leaf in pot anymore.”
All the while, I am wondering, have these guys seen any circuses in China? When I ask Will, he gives off a blank stare. "Circus, Will, you know, ah — circus?" Blank stare bordering on laughter. I try describing circus acts. I motion with my hands. Will thinks. “Not really. I see them on TV.” I remind Will that China is famous for its acrobats. “You never saw any acrobats in China?” He thinks a little more, and I wonder if that ashen tea he drinks has rebooted his memory. “Some small circus,” he answers, “only few people. They like come from small village, three or four people ... riding the one-wheel bike.” He finds it funny.
So much for a Chinese big top audience base. Strange that we know more about them over here than they do about themselves over there. Clearly, Will and Boyi both missed being turned against their will into hoop divers, so here they are in America serving hot water over imported tea leaves to people like me ...
About to leave the place after first-of-May laptop frustrations -- getting adjusted to a new keyboard and to a new spell checker that has already collapsed under the weight of my ignorance -- ah, as the song might have said, "I’ll spell my way by myself." Looking around — horror of horrors — I am still the ONLY one with a portable PC. Now, the others are reading books, pouring over notes, talking to each other face to face ... What next, checkers? Once again, I am trailing a party that closed hours ago. Just once, I vow to get the first next whatever new gizmo, just once to be first in line to the next Steve Jobs premiere ... In the meantime, let’s see, should I take a crack at Will’s favorite, or settle for the lingering sweetness of Tranquility Mao Feng? Or practice shouting out loud in public the most intimate details of my life and prepare to enter the cellphony Olympics?... Nobody wants to ring my Dell...
[originally posted 2/9/08]