The Ninja Store!
August 12, 2004
My neighborhood is not regarded as one of San Francisco's destination shopping areas.
What it boasts in decent restaurants, the Mission District decidedly lacks for quality
merchandise. Sure, there are a few stores that I like, but for the most part you're
treated to a carnival of men's underwear co-mingling with mirrors bearing the likeness
of the Virgin Mary. (Oops, I mean La Virgen María. You've got to remember
where you are.) Portable laundry hampers are juxtaposed with table lamps depicting
the World Trade Center, while Hoochie Couture gazes longingly at shoppers from behind
storefront glass. The Mission Merchants Association mandates that shop owners will
not be granted a business license unless they sell an assortment of those H-U-G-E
black duffel bags (What a steal at only $8.99!) that can hold at least three bodies...five
if you're dealing with small children.
If "free enterprise" is more your style, there is a thriving Fake I.D. business on
the corner near my weekend greasy spoon. These guys are pretty indiscriminate about
whom they offer their "services" to; it amazes me that they continue to flourish week
after week with no apparent intervention from the SFPD. Then again, hungry SFPD
officers are busy
beating up random guys on the street who fail to surrender their doggy bags of fajitas.
Who can argue with that? Mexican food sure is some tasty grub.
I can't condemn all of the shopping in the Mission; we did get a Sponge Bob rug
for five dollars. (It lasted about as long as you'd expect a five dollar rug would
last.) Outdated, crappier versions of popular toys are also a dime-a-dozen. Barbie,
He-Man and Singe from Dragon's Lair all came courtesy of the
Factory 2-U discount department store located downstairs from the
Mission Masonic Center. If I hadn't stumbled upon her in an action figure/baby
supplies/weird-Chinese-stuff store, I never would have known the passionate love affair
I've had with my Sporty Spice doll. One person's trash is another person's treasure.
Amidst the smelly fish markets, thrift stores and Latino music outposts, there is
one establishment that stands head and shoulders above the rest. Before locating
it deep within the Mission's discount jungle, I'd often pondered the question of
where a Young Urban Ninja (YUNNIE) might outfit him/herself with weapons that
kill people, the latest Fly(ing) Ninja fashions that enable fluid movement in order
to kill people and instructional books and videos about how to kill people. What
is this place you ask? Why it's The Ninja Store, of course!
I don't know or care what this place is actually called. Much like Safeway
is "The Grocery Store" and Amoeba is "The Record Store," this place, well,
it's "The Ninja Store." (Really now, how many bona fide Ninja Stores can you claim
to know? That is, those you've entered and lived to tell the tale. MUAHAHAHAHAHA)
A visit to The Ninja Store has been on the to-do list for some time. It closes
at five on weekdays and isn't open on Sunday which leaves precious little time to
fulfill our Ninja destiny. Last Saturday after Dan & I enjoyed a scrumptious
pancake breakfast at the aforementioned greasy spoon, we finally decided to make the short
trek to find out just what it takes to become a Young Urban Ninja Fighting Machine
I've seen my share of Kung Fu movies. Some were viewed of my own free will while
others were force fed to me by Dan. Regardless, I know a Ninja when I see one.
This is NOT a Ninja.
Nor is this.
Contrary to popular belief, drug overdose is only part of the reason Chris Farley
died on December 17, 1997. His starring role in Beverly Hills Ninja (1997)
was another fifteen or so nails in the proverbial coffin. Fat man-in-a-little-coat
humor is only acceptable when said fat man is not wearing the esteemed robes of a
Ninja. (And since when is Ninja-wear trimmed in satin?)
Ninjas are supreme fighting machines whose ruthlessness is only outweighed by their
cunning. According to
a site dedicated to the Bad Assitude of all Ninjas everywhere, there are three things
you must know:
You'll remember these facts if you want to live.
- Ninjas are mammals.
- Ninjas fight ALL the time.
- The purpose of the ninja is to flip out and kill people
We arrived at The Ninja Store and ogled the front window's display of deadly-looking
spears and long-handled axes. A mannequin Ninja stared at us solemnly from behind a
life-size cardboard cutout of Bruce Lee. Or wait...was this actually a real Ninja
patiently waiting with Ninja-stealth for us to let down our guard so that she can morph
through the glass and sever our windpipes in one kick? I didn't want to take any chances
and kept my eye on her until we were safely inside.
As we entered the inner sanctum of The Ninja Store, we were greeted with
upon row of glass counters filled with killing implements of all persuasions. Everything
inside The Ninja Store was either under lock and key or beyond the reach of
mere mortals. If you're smart and know your Ninjas, you would realize that this is
actually a test. These setbacks would pose no issue for a Real Ninja. He (or she
if you insist on political correctness) would simply take flight, propel off the far
wall, do three airborne somersaults, shoot laser beams from his (or her) eyes to
distract the other customers and then snatch one of these "Mother - Son Hammers with
Chain" priced at a reasonable $89.95.
That's the good news: if you aspire to be a Young (or old, I don't discriminate)
Urban Ninja, the required equipment is within the budget of the average working
class Ninja family. Wow, only $75 for something that can easily chop off someone's head
in one practiced swing! What's better, stainless or aluminum? They're the same price...how
am I to determine what blade is superior? These Ninjas certainly are a mysterious lot.
I had hoped to hurl a five-pointed star or at least don a Ninja mask. No love. The
only thing of interest that I could satisfactorily touch was a tattered copy of
For Women Only: Carla Ferrigno's Total Shape-Up Program. This "women's only"
fitness manual, published in 1984, depicts Carla and her husband, Lou (better known
as Hulk), engaging in questionable "exercise" activities. One photo simply has Carla
straddled over Lou's back. Does this allow for more flexibility and/or strengthening
of the quadriceps? I'm kicking myself for not forking over the $4.99 The Ninja Store
was asking for this historic tome. It was even autographed by the fitness guru
herself. What this was doing in a Ninja store is your guess entirely.
I told a former co-worker about my trip to The Ninja Store. He is originally
from Japan and has a 852nd degree black belt or some other ridiculously esteemed level
of Karate greatness. He teaches classes, makes videos, does the whole Karate kit-n-caboodle.
Upon hearing of my visit, he informed me that the 70-something-year-old Chinese owner
simply decided one day to "make" himself a Master of the Praying Mantis technique.
Apparently this FALSE NINJA forewent the formality of training. He felt the time had
arrived for people to call him Master. What an outrage! How could this Fake Ninja
InfilTRAITOR get away with such Ninja blasphemy? According to my friend it is easy
to "pretend" Praying Mantis if you know the basics. Whatever the case, that
pretty much spelled the end of The Ninja Store for me.
All in all, The Ninja Store was a disappointing experience. It didn't live up
to what I'd dreamt about for weeks - especially after finding out it's all a farce
run by a dirty Ninja Impersonator Trickster whose Kung Fu is no good. Faker! My
Ninja experience was reduced to frustration over the fact that there no REAL Ninjas
to be found and I couldn't touch anything cool except Carla-Fucking-Ferrigno. And
she's not even cool.