Indelibly Idiosyncratic, With a Side of Eel: Your Ideal City Block

Pupusas.  Licuados Manadonese cuisine (I’m having trouble finding a good summary of Manadonese food; try this piece by The Jakarta Post for starters).    Kaitenzushi.  木桶饭 (mutongfan, casks of rice topped with any number of ingredients; Hunanese).  Batting cages.  Anything Middle Eastern.  Lawson.  A chemist (shucks, I just like using the non-American English word for pharmacy).  JCPenney (yeah, RIGHT).

It’s tough, chums.  Someone assigns you urban planner of your personal city (village?  parish?) block.  Don’t worry about city ordinances, zoning laws, blue laws, importing/exporting, or the astonishment of local puritans (if you’re into that whole, Bangkok-thing; on second thought, have you been to Vienna Airport?-thanks to lyrael for the photo)  Though, I’m going to add “the dreaded” caveats:

1) You probably already guessed, but I’d like to focus on one section of one city block– for now, that is, from one intersection to the next, on just one one street.

2) Seven establishments at most, using the average width/height of the store/restaurant/religious site/discotheques that you desire.  Since it’s entirely up to you, you can have seven bootleg DVD sellers, or six bootleg DVD sellers and one Hardee’s.  Or donate those plots of land to ones with more avarice than you…

3) You might be wondering how the land area of your desired block is measured, as there are many differing lengths, between say Manhattan and Tokyo, Manhattan and Queens, or within Manhattan itself.  Then, some places don’t have traditional blocks (is the place just filled with highways?  is the city/town you are most familiar with walkable at all?  Despite the natural/political reasons for its landscape, I’d nominate Managua as an extremely non-pedestrian friendly example).  This is in regards more to commercial spaces than residential ones, of course.  If you’d like to add seven bungalows or flats, go ahead.  Going back to #2, the places you choose should be their usual sizes, but so that you can have fun, and to ignore the issue of the width of a block, place any seven things next to each other.  Just no eight-floor Pizza Huts or Soaplands, please!  To dwell deeper into the matter, visit’s post about city blocks.

4) No matter what you choose, “the rest” of the city will also exist.  Thus, it might be wiser to choose something unique, in case where live/visit doesn’t have a specific cuisine or shop that you dig.  If you’d like, you can create
multiple choices for various cities.  Perhaps the seven in Jakarta wouldn’t be your seven in Los Angeles.

5) No combining stores to cram in everything, in other words, inserting a gelato vendor in a shoe store.  Otherwise, someone might hire you.

6) Which part of a (any) real city would you place this block, and why?

-Did you have a good peek at the photo?  Weren’t those the first two places you had in mind, let alone right next to each other?  I took that on 5th Ave. by 69th St., in the  Bay Ridge neighborhood of Brooklyn, known these days for a sizable Arab population.  Although I’d discussed this topic with friends before, the setting of that section of the block was palpable inspiration for this entry.

If you’re wondering what I’ve chosen, for Manhattan anyhow, I am too (though a few were mentioned above, let’s see what made the cut)–

  • A Manadonese restaurant.  The Minahasa people who inhabit Manado, Indonesia have more or less stayed put, save for a small presence in Holland.  But every time I’ve been in Jakarta, I eat this spicy (not sweet) stuff at least once a day.  Just have a get a few green cards and everything will be bagus (good).
  • Kaitenzushi aka  回転寿司, sushi that makes its way to the customer via a conveyor belt.  No, it’s not at all the highest quality, but I can make it a quick affair, have unlimited green tea and get my fill of eel.  Sushi restaurants are great, but throw out the stuffiness and you’re still left with raw fish.
  • Any Middle Eastern take-out place, and I say take-out because I want that fixins bar with the grilled eggplant, pickles, hummus, and hard-boiled eggs.  This also takes care of the unhealthy fascination with olive oil, for the owners, once they recognize me, will liberally pour it on any of my orders.
  • デパ地下, or depachika (depaato “department store” + chika “basement”), food halls from Japan.  There used to be a Takashimaya in Manhattan, but one of their biggest problems was that they didn’t have a depachika of food.  Instead it was a tea salon and lacquerware.  Move all of those diversions to the upper floors, and leave the bottom two to food (ehem, and tea).
  • Lawson.  It’s a Japanese convenience store.  Sheepishly, I might like the Japanese 7-11 (and only the Japanese 7-11) just as much, but Lawson has sentimental value to me.  Better yet, they have a Loppi machine, sort of a one-size-fits-all for buying tickets, paying bills, visiting the Ghibli Museum.  Need a clue?  Read through’s guide.  Even better?  If you type in “lopi machine,” search engines spit up an entry about Icelandic wool.  Svalt!
  • Batting cages.  Not terribly sure if it’s worthy of being in this grouping, but I do go whenever I’m in Tokyo.  Just chanced upon it once in Shinjuku, and only once hit the bullseye.
  • Undecided, but should be…

Let me know what is on your mind, and enjoy!

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1 Response to Indelibly Idiosyncratic, With a Side of Eel: Your Ideal City Block

  1. Pingback: Cucumber Soda (USA) | Collateral Lettuce


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