Sunday, May 11, 2008

Shanghaied to Brazil

We took the bus to the Shanghai Tunnel in Old Town. We had trouble finding the place, it's not the greatest part of town. We walked by a dumpster, a street performer with his hat out, and some scaffolding. We finally found the narrow storefront with a few cafe tables on the sidewalk and a long bar inside with old movies playing on a huge flatscreen television. The bartendener wisely recommended a smooth, flavorful Xingu black beer, all the way from Brazil, for me.
We walked down the metal steps, past the kitchen into the low, dark basement. From 1850 to 1941 as many as 1500 people a year were snatched from bars and dropped through trapdoors into cells in this and other basements to be sold on the waterfront as slave laborers, earning Portland a dangerous reputation as the "Forbidden City".
We ordered macaroni and cheese. It came in huge bowls, topped by a fortune cookie. The flavor was indescribably and delightfully unlike anything I have ever tasted. I savored every bite of spicy pasta, tempered by diced, fresh tomatoes. The stereo played interesting music, including Koko Taylor's Insane Asylum. When we first sat down, I was doubtful about the mostly empty room and badly worn seat, but I was won over by the time we walked up the steps, back into a city glowing with the setting sun.
R. Connors

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