Chinese Cafe

Joni Mitchell: Chinese Cafe

Quiz by Sharon Michiko Yoneda

 "Down at the Chinese Cafe"

 "We'd be dreaming on our dimes.  We'd be playing "Oh my love, my darling one more time [on the jukebox]."

"Uranium money Is booming in the old hometown now. It's putting up sleek concrete. Tearing the old landmarks down now." 

artist:  Joni Mitchell

songwriter:  Joni Mitchell

date released:  1982 by Joni Mitchell for album, "Wild Things Run Fast"

Every Prairie town has one, a Chinese cafe/restaurant where locals come to eat and exotic dinner or swill a coffee and a donut.  Golden Sea.  Dragon Inn.  Fortune Garden.  Happy Happy.  Lucky Inn---name after a fortuitous name can be thought of popping up in every rural town in Western Canada.    

Sit back and imagine a maturing Joni Mitchell sitting with an old friend, Carol, in a Chinese cafe in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan reminiscing about the different paths they've taken in life. The cafe is owned by two brothers, Art and Charlie Mack.  Rolling cigarettes through their fingers and fishing out dimes for the jukebox, they play The Righteous Brothers' "Unchained Melody" again and again like a mantra.  Needless to say, the cafe would not have been called "Chinese Cafe" but clearly Joni is protecting copyright somehow by naming it so.

 Books and homework that would never get done were thrown against the vinyl of the seats.  Joan Anderson was never a scholar and in fact, she dropped out of high school in Grade 12.

 Fast forward to the year, 1982, when Carol and Joan [now Joni] were reminiscing about old times.  Both are reaching the milestone age of 40, "middle-class" and "middle-aged."   Carol has raised children, and Joni has had a stellar music career but remains childless.  She put her daughter, Kelly Dale Anderson, out for adoption in 1966 and had not seen her since.  

Saskatoon has changed in the years since they knew it as teenage girls.  Uranium mining has flourished in the area and concrete edifices dot the landscape.  The old landmarks of the city and the last green parks have been edged out of existence for the Gods of Progress.  

In mid-life Joni Mitchell has reached the pinnacle of material and career success, yet she remains hollow.  She hungers for something she cannot have:  her child.  Through her music, Mitchell left clues alluding to her daughter, "the stranger" whom she [Mitchell] "bore" but "did not raise."  

See "Little Green" for the complete story.

"Nothing last for long" is the refrain intoned like a prayer.  On March 13, 1997, Joni Mitchell was reunited with her daughter, Kilauren Gibb.