Thursday, April 20, 2006

For God's Sake

When they knocked down the freeway over Octavia Street, the prostitutes and crack addicts that used to hang out there were driven away. Now the Street is a Boulevard and Hayes Valley has at least four new eateries, including Sebo, where I went last night. Outside, the frosted windows proclaimed its exclusivity. Inside, the décor was understated and the sake menu overwritten. Each sake inspired a paragraph of purple prose. The description of “Heavenly Grace” made it sound better than Tantric sex with a mermaid: “Your palate will enjoy a rush of silky flavors that roll on a viscous fluid that has fruit forward goodness and ends in a watery goodbye.”

Then there was “Reformation”: “If it were a house, the first floor would have wood and straw elements; the second floor, young green vegetables, and the third, a dash of minerals and a refreshing bitter flavor.” Huh? What kind of house has young green vegetables on the second floor? I felt annoyed by this blatant abuse of extended simile, the comparison abandoned almost as soon as it was made. It was simile for simile’s sake, an empty conceit, a single rhetorical flourish that seemed to embody everything that is going wrong with Hayes Valley, and everything that happens once you turn a Street into a Boulevard. Soon, I thought miserably, our neighborhood would be the kind of place where every restaurant has a line and every cocktail has three storeys. I ordered the sake nonetheless, and climbed to the top floor, where I felt much more cheerful, reflecting: "If this house was a glass of sake, everyone who lives here would be drunk."


Blogger Bustopher Jones said...

Those descriptions are hilarious and remind of the kind of ads you find in Japan. I once bought a blue box of tissues there with a slogan that ended, "looking out of a blue window, onto a blue sky, all in a blue way." For more Engrish, check out

2:55 PM  

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