another february 12th, another birthday. for those of you keeping score, this is number 36. here's how i think of it: when i turned 18 years old (in 1992), somebody was born; that somebody is now 18 years old as well. i've said this before, but once you reach 30, you basically stop keeping track of how old you are. the novelty of birthdays have sort of worn out by this point. in fact, i actually don't look forward to them, kind of the same way i feel about tax day or new year's day. an interesting thing i discovered yesterday: sarah palin's birthday is actually a day earlier than mine (she's older though). to think, if she was born a day later, or i was born a day earlier, we could've been birthday buddies! alas, i'll have to settle with the likes of darwin and lincoln (historical trivia: both lincoln and darwin not only share the same birthday, but both were actually born on the exact same day in 1809).

figuring i'd treat myself, i bicycled down to chinatown to get some smelly tofu, one of my favorite foods. i left the house around 11:00, first making a stop at haymarket to see if there was anything worth buying. i filled my grocery sack with 17 navel oranges ($5) and bought 4+ lbs. worth of seedless red grapes (around $5).

while i was down there, i checked out a few pieces of architecture all located around the old state house (site of the 1770 boston massacre). the first one was the second brazer building on 25-29 street street. i've noticed it the past, primarily because of the irregularly shaped foundation. there's some interesting flourishes but they're all located high up and not readily visible. built in 1896, this building is significant because it was designed by cass gilbert, the same architect who was responsible for the woolworth building - one of the very first skyscrapers (at 57 floors, it was the tallest building in the world until 1930). it's called the second brazer building because it replaced a pre-existing three-story building that was torn down so the new eleven-story building could be built.

the second architecture of interest was the ames building on 1 court street, boston's first skyscraper built in 1889 (13 floors). designed in the richardsonian romanesque style, it's the "second tallest masonry load bearing-wall structure in the world" (wikipedia). it remained the tallest building in boston until 1919.

arriving in chinatown, i decided to get some stuff from one of the chinese super markets before ordering my lunch. i went to the c-mart in the knapp street alley way, locking my bicycle to a parking sign outside. i almost decided to leave once i saw the immense crowd of customers inside the market. with chinese new year on sunday, everyone was doing their last minute shopping. the one non-asian face in the crowd came up to me and asked if i knew anything about tamarind paste. he asked if it came in a can and i told him it was probably in a jar or plastic container of some sort. later i realized i accidently gave him some bad info, because the tamarind paste i've seen in the past came in clear packaged cakes. i ended up buying some spicy hot pot sauce, a can of lychee, and a can of grass jelly. i waited in the long line, doing my best to not get sprayed by the folks coughing around me. an old chinese man muttering in cantonese kept impatiently pushing me from behind. by the exit, a store employee kept an eyeful watch for shoplifters.

next stop was the cramped alley way of oxford street. like much of chinatown on this busy shopping day, cars congested much of the roads, either illegally double parking or clogging already narrow streets. i felt a little guilty lashing my bike to a street sign, overcrowding what little remained of the sidewalk. taiwan cafe was packed, with a large group of people hanging around the staircase waiting for a table. i placed my order, paid, and went back outside.

with 15 minutes to kill, i meandered through the streets of chinatown, from hudson to kneeland to tyler.

there's always something to see in chinatown, whether it's a dated restaurant sign, lost tourists, chicken slaughterhouse, or interesting architecture.

after picking up my smelly tofu order, i loaded my purchases back onto the milk crate of the bicycle and began my way home. normally i'd return via the charles river bikepath: although much farther, the lack of street traffic makes for an easier ride. but since i wanted to get home as quickly as possible, i went back via the route that i came, across the longfellow bridge. this involves traversing boston common then navigating the streets of beacon hill, a painful uphill slog that had me panting in exhaustion.

i finally got home by 2:00. by then my smelly tofu was already cold, but it made no difference (delicious all the same). i cracked open a bottle of root beer and ate my lunch.

in the evening i was going to order some wings from the davis square wing works but i called them half a dozen time (trying two different numbers) and nobody answered. did they go out of business? or closed for vacation? i just had a craving for chicken, and briefly thought about heading down to the nearby KFC, but instead ate some leftover pig's feet with mantou buns. the rest of the night was spent in front of the television watching NBC's opening ceremony winter olympics coverage.