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This is your father's bad toupee. It's a leisure suit, lovingly tended and preserved and worn regularly by a guy who still thinks he looks good. It's an old Volvo kept running by unconditional love and duct tape, the ABBA record you listen to when no one else is home, a Mork & Mindy re-run caught on cable at three in the morning, your grandma's collection of Hummel figurines.
3021 S. Broadway
Englewood, CO 80110
Region: Southwest Denver Suburbs
Egg rolls: $1.95
Barbecue ribs: $5.96
Pupu platter: $5.95 per person
Shao mai: $6.95
Egg drop soup: $3.50
Pork fried rice: $5.95
Crispy duck: $11.95
Roast duck: $11.95
Peking duck: $25.95< br>Strange aromatic chicken: $9.95
Sesame chicken: $9.95
Located in a nondescript storefront pressed up tight against Broadway for the past thirty years, surrounded by nothing in particular, Twin Dragonis a restaurant you either love or have never heard of. It's the kind of place you find accidentally (at any rate, it's a place I found accidentally) and become irrationally attached to for no easily definable reason -- returning sporadically until one day, years later, you realize you've become a regular, a part of the slow stream of commerce that keeps neighborhood restaurants like this open and operating through the decades, your history with it recorded in credit-card receipts, crumpled to-go menus shoved in junk drawers and yellowing fortune cookie messages kept because maybe they meant something at the time and because throwing away a fortune cookie fortune always seems like asking for bad luck.
I keep mine. Not all of them, but some. "You will live to see interesting times" stuck to the computer monitor in my office and "Be moderate where pleasure is concerned" stashed in my wallet, probably because it's solid advice that I've never been able to take.
I don't remember when I first wandered into Twin Dragon, but I remember where I sat -- at an oversized table pressed up against the wall, big enough for a party of six, but given to Laura and me because we were the only customers there -- and I remember what we ate. So that we didn't feel lonely with all that space between us and around us, we filled our table with food. Egg rolls and fat barbecued pork ribs with little bowls of hot Chinese mustard; a pupu platter with a Sterno fire flickering blue in the middle; sesame chicken so guiltlessly honey-sweet and sticky that the overkill Americanization was almost admirable, and tea-smoked duck that was actually duck served Beijing-style -- deeply earthy and faintly bittergreen in flavor, hacked up into big, rude chunks, brought to the table on a platter with scallions and rice flour pancakes.
I don't remember the date, but I do remember what I drank: Mai Tais, several of them, served in chipped ceramic pineapples like the kind you sometimes find on a high shelf in the less reputable thrift stores if you're very lucky, with orange slices and unnaturally red maraschino cherries speared on the end of a toothpick umbrella. Twin Dragon's bar sells these umbrellas, at 25 cents each. I remember that, too.
And while I don't remember how we first landed at Twin Dragon, I know why I keep going back. It's the same reason why I hang onto the picture of the girl I took to my senior prom, why Laura and I can never seem to throw away even our most embarrassing cassette tapes (Bananarama, two copies of the Repo Mansoundtrack, Duran Duran's View to a Kill recorded off the radio, complete with part of a clipped weather report for Philadelphia predicting snow), and why we move with Laura's Millennium Falcon and Han Solo action figure packed away in a box labeled "decorations." We keep these things because they are important in ways that go far beyond their physical, material value (though I swear, if we hang onto that Millennium Falcon long enough, it'll put our kids through college) and because they remind us of a time -- however brief -- when such things were the most important things in the world. I keep going back to Twin Dragon because it reminds me of five or ten or a dozen places just like it that were once important to me, because it's comfortable to me in a way that has nothing to do with actual comfort and because I love tiki bars and Twin Dragon is the closest thing I've found to one in Colorado.
The space is colored red, imperial red, that hyper-saturated, electric red you only find in porn stores and Chinese restaurants of a certain age. Red lamps, red tiles carved with filigreed dragons on the ceiling, wooden chairs covered in candy-apple lacquer so thick it seems like it would crack if tapped just right, slashes of red in the art on the walls like blood from a fresh wound, red cherries in the drinks and garnishing the plates. Our first time through the dining room, Laura and I reminisced about another place we'd loved together, another Chinese storefront like Twin Dragon, a place we'd go sometimes on Mondays -- my one day off -- when we were living in sin back in Rochester. The food was awful and neither of us could remember the name, but we would sit at a table crammed up against the window and drink Mai Tais and Zombies and Suffering Bastards that all tasted the same, our table lit by the red glow of the neon over the door. And on really good nights, we would stagger home drunk in the rain -- just like in the movies.
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