Feeling whistful, somewhat sad about this. Funny, I was just thinking about this place the other day. In the '70s, my mom would take my sister and me into the City from our home in San Ramon, and we would love it. It was awesome because Edsel Fong was just how they describe him. A table would clear, and he would bark out orders to my sister and me to reset the table. "Here! Take forks, knives, put there! No! Not like that! Put here! Put there! Now! Go get tea cups and saucers! Put them there! No! Not like that!" During none of this experience was the man frightening us (I was probably between 6-8, my sister 4-6), not one bit. Instead, after getting over the initial shock, we were in stitches. He was not polite, but his "rudeness" was such that only the most timid or sensitive would find it intimidating or offensive. It was all bark and no bite. He was why we always wanted to eat here when we came into the City.
When I first had a chance to return to San Francisco as an adult and found he'd died, Sam Wo's was still a great place to eat, especially for the price. Without Edsel Fong there ... well, it was too quiet. It lacked something. Paradoxically, it lacked the warmth his rudeness brought, the sense that behind that stern and grumpy face, there stood a clown who was enjoying this as much as the rest of us.
Still, I went there when time allowed, but now that I think on it ... hoping for what? A view back into the past? A glimpse of his ghost? Some long, warm, familiar-like-an-old-blanket memory to resurrect itself? Regardless, it never came. I would sit there at a table, alone, hoping to see an Edsel I would never again see in this life, hoping to recapture just a moment or two of that security and calm that had characterized life before our move from San Ramon, a move that came too soon. And so I would leave with my taste buds tantalized and my tummy full, but feeling empty and unsatisfied in far more important ways.
To dwell on such things, however, would lead to great unhappiness, illness, maybe even a degree of insanity. Instead, we have to practice radical acceptance of the past. Edsel Fong and Sam Wo are both gone. May both rest in peace.