I work out at a YMCA on Sawtelle, at a five-block section of West LA which is full of Asian (mostly Japanese) restaurants and clothing shops and so forth. Some restaurants stay forever, while other spaces have businesses come and go in a constantly shifting rotation.

They now have Seoul Sausage, featuring kalbi sausage, tasting, yes, like kalbi and served with kimchi "slaw," and also (no, I won't try it) kalbi sausage poutine. Also Korean corn silk tea, which is like barley tea but even better: earthy but delicate, with an intense corn flavor, but not sweet.

On Saturdays, after I lift weights, I walk to the Japanese market and buy a cold bottled barley tea and a cooked-to-order okonomiyaki from the vendors outside, with their steel grill to cook the savory pancakes with shredded cabbage and two strips of bacon, topped with two sauces and a handful of dried bonito flakes.

Yesterday I checked out a new ramen restaurant. (That makes six in five blocks.) It had a printed sign posted on a podium outside, which began, "Some time ago, we died at a very popular restaurant in Tokyo." It went on to explain how that restaurant had inspired them to open one in LA.

You may have figured this out already, but I was baffled. I wondered if "to die" was an overly literal translation of some Japanese idiom - perhaps related to the old-fashioned English "to die," meaning, "to have an orgasm."

Then I saw the same sign in the restaurant's window, with a small alteration. In ball-point pen, a carat and the letter "n" had been inserted in the appropriate place over "died."
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