The plane ride into Seattle was a Fuckin’. Nightmare. Flickering cabin lights, flying through a rainstorm, water slashing at the windows and lancing through the lights on the wings. Kind of flight that leaves you white knuckled all the way to the runway. Plane rattling like an old train car, skipping like a rock across the blasts of wind and people holding hands. Pilot on the intercom, wrestling with the controls and the quaver of fear in his voice, saying, “Everyone please sit down. If you are up right now, sit down, there is no reason for anyone to be up right now. Please sit down.”
Then all the sudden my wife and I are just standing on floor 4 of the airport parking garage, bags in hand, pelted by the same storm that made a pretty respectable attempt at swatting our jet out of the sky. Its too late to catch the lightrail and there aren’t any Uber drivers within a 20 mile radius, because fuck us that’s why, so we hail a taxi as it passes by and a big Somalian guy waves us into the back of his Prius, smiling a smile that is impossibly bright and cheery for the deluge and the darkness. We’re going to call him Hoo-Hoo.
Hoo-Hoo drives his taxi like he won’t have to pay for it if he totals it, slipping between semis and skipping it over puddles. Digital readout on the dash says 77mph, and the other cars whipping past us like they’re standing still tell me that it’s probably doesn’t need any calibration. Hoo-Hoo’s talking the whole time. Talking about how dangerous Seattle has become and about murder and drugs and homelessness. I stab a detour into one of the silences.
Me: Had any good food lately?
Me: Good food, lately? Eaten at any restaurants or anything you’d recommend?
Hoo-Hoo: Oh yes, my fried. My wife makes perfect Somalian food.
Me: Know anyplace to get good Somalian food around here?
Hoo-Hoo: There is a place in Tukwilla. Called Juba
Me: YES! I love Juba!
Hoo-Hoo: No Shit!
Me: Yeah! I get the Goat Federation at that place! Everyone looks at me when I walk in.
Hoo-Hoo: (laughing) I would look at you. The goat there is perfect. I have an ulcer so I can’t have it all the time, but sometimes…
Me: Sometimes you gotta have it.
Hoo-Hoo: Yes, my friend. The rice there… Oh it is amazing
Me: I love that they serve it with spaghetti on the side!
Hoo-Hoo: You know why they serve Spaghetti?
Hoo-Hoo: The Italians colonized Somalia for some time. My friend, we make more kinds of spaghetti than you can count. Fried Spaghetti, Lasagna, (he rattles off five or six more). The Italians gave us food, but they left us with terrible government. Italian government is like the mafia. They are not out in the streets stealing. More sneaky. Very sneaky.
Hoo-Hoo: Yes. The British Colonize all over too. They don’t leave us with any good food, but they give us rules. (he makes a fist and waves in the air.) No one is above the law. The laws are very important. The British like wherever they go to be just like Britain. If you drive around in some parts of Nigeria, you would swear you were in London.
Me: When did you come here?
Hoo-Hoo: I’ve been here for 26 years. When I came, it was all open land between Tukwila and South Seattle. All built up now. Amazon and Starbucks and all that. Nowhere to go now.
The silence that follows is strange and contemplative. Rain falls steadily on the windshield and water runs down the roads and pools in big deadly puddles in the fast lane.
Me: What other kinds of food are you into? Where else do you go?
Hoo-Hoo: If I eat American food, I always eat at Ihop.
Hoo-Hoo: Yes, I love Ihop.
When people from Mexico hear white people say that they love Mexican food and they only eat at Taco Bell, I bet it feels like that. Not that American food is that notable or worthy of pride, but Ihop? Goddammit Hoo-Hoo. I don’t say anything about it.
Me: Anywhere else?
Hoo-Hoo: My friend, there is a place in China Town called Hoo-Hoo. So good. You have to eat there.
He starts to wax poetic about it for the better part of 5 minutes and it sounds amazing. I decide that I need it in my life. That I’ve got to eat there. Before I can ask him where it is, we’re in front of our place. The rain drums slowly and steadily on the roof of the car, a much more rhythmic tune when you’re not driving desperately into it. We pay the fare and Hoo-Hoo wishes us well and I tell him that I hope to see him sometime at one of his local haunts, (hopefully not Ihop.) When he’s gone, and I’m standing there on the curb with my wife, 50 bucks poorer than when we stepped into Hoo-Hoo’s cab, I think: Worth It.
But when I scrambled to my laptop that night, frantic to find the incredible sounding Chinese restaurant that Hoo-Hoo was so enthralled by, I found diddly. No such place. A night of danger and intensity and disappointment in as many variations as Somalian spaghetti.