Monday, September 11, 2006

Alternate World A Dong

Last Friday, I asked my pal Nick if he would accompany me to the nearby Salvation Army Thrift Store located in the same, strange, sketchy plaza of former “American” storefronts deep near the Hartford border on New Britain Avenue (CT-71).

Typically, I enjoy going around Salvation Army stores in the area poking around the usual junk section which holds mainly next to discarded crap from Carter-era homes, tag sale leftovers you can’t pass off to any stump for brains at 10 cents, and other interesting smelly old junk some collection of people might’ve sold for drugs at one point (because if you've ever noticed, they've got one in those struggling ends of struggling towns). Of course, there’s always an unsightly toll amongst sights; the possible “lightly” used pair of men’s underwear (which for the love of any unsuspecting reader, was not photographed) might cross the eye, rows of cassette tapes for a buck (still too much), used toasters (eek) and such. Nonetheless, it’s for the adventurous as is the nearby A Dong Supermarket neighboring the plaza.

The moment you set foot in A Dong, you’ll know you’re in a third world. A world were smell overruns and hijacks the air passage like inter city Hong Kong with the sight of hanging cooked duck, the pungent stench of raw fish, and other forms of meat butchery in the produce aisle. Meanwhile, you’re feeling like you’re in another world as everyone inside is a) predominately Asian, b) is an expert butcher equipped with meat cleaver, or c) elderly. There’s a booth where tobacco is sold, above it a double row of televisions, aisles which boast a half mile of native homewares. The canned foods areas are not your typical side dishes but quail eggs and other things you’ve never seen canned.

Nick Fusari holds a box of strange candy using children and soccer as an inspiration shared by the questionable.

I guess this must’ve been a normal, American supermarket at one point before the plaza degenerated and was saved by an Asian ghetto where the market provides the safe net for immigrants uncomfortable with Super Stop & Shop, and Price Chopper. The usual set up of where everything might be is exchanged with bulk quantites of Instant Kim Chee, selections of tea and even odd treats from the rising sun island. Former A&P shopping carts overrun the plaza and outfront in an area that is less desirable to attract anyone less than someone willing to go out of the way.

Here's just a few novelties, best said, you might find upon your almost overseas trip to the culturally abound A Dong. May endless supply of urine and other bathroom-related hijinx burn like fresh genital warts...

"Pancake" in the solid form not without peanuts.

Panda Land "Printed Biscuits" sure to cause certain bowel obstruction from the straight-forward marketing princes at the Meiji company.

Big Squid or vacuum-sealed vomit? This jaunty octopus won't be smiling when he makes more than one multi-colored trip after consumption.

Masquerading Chinese-branded (possibly bootlegged) Crest will most likely give your teeth the same diarrea tint like most natives.

Corn fancied drinking mugs sealed for your protection. It's either this, kids, or drink from a plastic bovine (probably in conception; not pictured here).

Funny money known as "Hell Bank Note". The guy on there was probably assassinated immediately for posing, even in jest, as the emperor.

Well I never knew they were called "Chinese Spoon Rocket".

Meat clevers sold openly on the shelves of A Dong pose as something of a rudimentary tool for young children everywhere.

Some suspect random burners, most likely seized from Chinese Restaur-fronts sold at A Dong lowly below the housewares. Keep away from heat, wet, shake!

Inspirational stainless steel mugs conveying rather ironic messages of "Feeling"

"Take a rest, enjoy the tea time". Not mentioned here is the equal amount of pee time.

"Great". That's it.

Making significant human breakthroughs in the form of Stainless Internal Bladders. Because tea makes you urinate like none other, the far easterners are ahead of the game.

Just when things couldn't get worse, the iconic American "McDonald's" extension of New Britain Avenue also drove itself away from the heavily Asian plaza just a few years ago (approximately upon Ames closing in the nearby, former Caldor plaza). Now, a well-boarded up, vacant husk sits where I once ate years ago. Even then, it was by far one of the least favorite McDonald's to visit.

McDonald's vacancy and the closure of Ames as a last-ditch effort to attracting customers to this area: Not lovin' it.

One less McDonald's on Hartford's border, you might just have to drive up by the mall to get your dollar menu fix.

The staple of Asian culture alive and well in West Hartford's Shield Street Plaza; a place that might one day get me killed if I ever show my face 'round these parts again.

Until next time (because there will be a next time, I could only hope), A Dong can said it's mail bombs, flying daggers, bloody meat cleavers and other related hate mail to