This past weekend was the start of Chinese New Year, and it’s the Year of the Rat. Washington always has a parade in Chinatown along the H Street corridor, with dragons and firecrackers and wushu, “oh mei!” My favorite childhood memory of Chinatown is when my parents took me to the opening of a new restaurant one snowy February night, meeting the then Police Chief’s wife who was boozily downing a standing row of martinis after which she proceeded to backslide politically and literally down the steep stairwell. Welcome to the wonderful world of grown-ups, kid.
Every year, the U.S. Postal Service does a Chinese New Year Stamp. This year, instead of showing a rat or mouse, they are using red lanterns; red being a very lucky color on such occasions. I'll use these on all of my bills.
Traditional Rat Attributes/Associations
Zodiac Location: First in the Chinese Zodiac
Ruling hours: 11p.m.-1a.m. (Heck. Sinatra and his Rat Pack stayed up later than that.)
Season and Month: Winter, December
Chinese Lunar Month For The Rat: December 7 to January 5
Actor: Jimmy Cagney (I just threw that in here to see if anyone's paying attention.)
Colors: Black, red, white
Lucky Number: 11
Roughly equivalent western sign: Sagittarius
Food: Pork, peas, cabbage
Positive Traits: Meticulous, intelligent, shrewd, compassionate, charismatic, charming, ambitious, practical, industrious, honest, eloquent, versatile, familial, creative, hard-working, neat, organized.
Negative Traits: Controlling, obstinate, back-stabbing, resentful, lacks-a-sense-of-humor, manipulative, cruel, vengeful, power-driven, critical, possessive, stingy, bossy, fickle, defensive, quarrlesome, dishonest .
If I go to hell for this piece, I'm set
"Being the first sign of the Chinese zodiacs, rats are leaders, pioneers and conquerors. They are charming, passionate, charismatic, practical and hardworking. Rat people are endowed with great leadership skills and are the most highly organized, meticulous, and systematic of the twelve signs. Intelligent and cunning at the same time, rats are highly ambitious and strong-willed people who are keen and unapologetic promoters of their own agendas, which often include money and power. They are energetic and versatile and can usually find their way around obstacles, and adapt to various environments easily. A rat's natural charm and sharp demeanor make it an appealing friend for almost anyone, but rats are usually highly exclusive and selective when choosing friends and so often have only a few very close friends whom they trust. " (Thanks, Wiki.)
If I had been in Chinatown, I would have gone to the parade, but I opted for the gym and Maxim’s market to get some joss and good juju going for the New Year. The store was packed, everyone buying up the traditional foods for New Year's: long noodles for longevity, steamed buns, and there was a lady doing a food demonstration with her fry pan and about six different types of meat. Since it was all in Chinese, I took a gamble and speared a bit of something which turned out to be a bacon coated in brown sugar. Bacon from what, I don't know. I was thinking "chestnut soup pureed with a crumble of this stuff on top." Oddly enough, later in the day I was talking to a friend who had done up some food for a Super Bowl party. ("Oh yeah. How'd that go? Who won?") He had made a sugared bacon "thing" using a portion of a recipe I had given him some time back, then adding his own twist to it.
Persons born within these date ranges can be said to have been born in the "year of the Rat," while also bearing the following elemental sign:
• 31 January 1900 - 18 February 1901: Metal Rat
• 18 February 1912 - 5 February 1913: Water Rat
• 5 February 1924 - 24 January 1925: Wood Rat
• 24 January 1936 - 10 February 1937: Fire Rat
• 10 February 1948 - 28 January 1949: Earth Rat
• 28 January 1960 - 14 February 1961: Metal Rat
• 15 February 1972 - 2 February 1973: Water Rat
• 2 February 1984 - 19 February 1985: Wood Rat
• 19 February 1996 - 6 February 1997: Fire Rat
• 7 February 2008 - 25 January 2009: Earth Rat
• 25 January 2020 - 11 February 2021: Metal Rat
• 11 February 2032 - 30 January 2033: Water Rat
• 30 January 2044 - 16 February 2045: Wood Rat
• 15 February 2056 - 3 February 2057: Fire Rat
• 3 February 2068 - 22 January 2069: Earth Rat
• 22 January 2080 - 8 February 2081: Metal Rat
• 7 February 2092 - 26 January 2093: Water Rat
Asians kids around town love to soup up their rides, and I usually know if I see a tricked out Honda or Toyota, invariably the car will have Chinese characters along the side, undercarriage lights, a big motor that’s being gunned at the stop light and some punked out Asian kid with Brain Failure blasting out "American Dreamer." For a while (and maybe still) the kids would hang out in the parking lots up along Rockville Pike to show off their cars and pick up the Cheng Du. I had read in the newspaper that the cops were trying to break that practice up, fearing some type of gang behavior out of it. Maybe. But teens have been hanging out in parking lots, showing off their cars, since cars existed.
From primitive paint jobs of the 1920’s on Model-T’s proclaiming “23 Skiddoo,” and “Oh U Kid,” to the fifties flames of the James Dean set and then the sixties with Mr. Custom Chop Shop himself, Big Daddy Roth, the creator of the Rat Fink. Big Daddy died a few years back, but he is still remembered for his innovative work in car creations and his cartoon illustrations. I often think of him as a very early graffiti artist in his use of swooping lines and air brush styles.
To quote the King of the Rat Pack himself, “I feel sorry for people who don't drink. When they wake up in the morning, that's as good as they're going to feel all day.” So I hear ya, Frank, and awwwwaaay we go (Gleason):
The Year of The Rat(fink) Cocktail:
1 ½ ounces Dark Jamaican Rum
1 teaspoon Triple Sec
1 teaspoon Maraschino Liqueur
1 teaspoon Grenadine Syrup
Shake and pour into a chilled highball glass. Cheese nibbly things on the side are optional. Torch up your joss sticks, paper and candles and have a ring-a-ding time celebrating the New Year.
By the way....have you ever had Chinese liquor? Not beer. The hard stuff. Gasoline. It tastes like gasoline. One swallow and you could join the circus and be blowing fire like a sideshow act…or join a parade and yell out gung hay fat choy!, but if you do it from behind the wheel of your cherry ride with the blue undercarriage lights, you will probably get pulled over, so stick to restaurants and fall down stairs respectably like the grown-ups do.
Confucius say, "Give frat boy red cup, he play beer pong."
Labels: Beer Pong, Chinese New Year, cocktail, cocktails, Ed Big Daddy Roth, Gung Ho Fat Choy, hot rods, Rat Fink, Red Cup, The Washington Post, Washington D.C., Year of the Rat