According to the latest information, January 2012’s Chinese Year of the fire-breathing Dragon will roast 2011’s Year of the Silly Wabbit, and bring forth new beginnings, good fortune and luck.
Chinese New Year always brings back memories of when I lived near San Francisco’s Little Italy. Columbus Avenue cut a diagonal swath separating Little Italy to the north and Chinatown to the south. But, to those of us who lived there, Columbus Avenue was only a small geographical feature, and had no bearing on the melting of the two cultures into one big, spicy fondue. Chinatown’s dragon ended the Italian Columbus Day parade, and Little Italy’s Queen Isabella float always graced the Chinese New Year’s celebration.
While I was there, I taught my Chinese friends how to judge good pasta sauce, swear in Italian and dance the tarantella. My friends on the Chinatown side taught me how to do the lion dance (which I can do quite well), about hong bao (giving of money in red envelopes) and luck. Mostly luck.
Lady Luck hasn’t been too much of a lady lately. It seems she’s been severely distracted and wandering around the planet in a fog. People are in financial trouble, unemployment abounds, Congress and the White House can’t agree on anything and the airbag light in my truck keeps blinking.
The approaching Chinese New Year led me to think about a few proposals I would like to present to Lady Luck should she decide to ride the dragon and give us some relief. I’ve listed a few possibilities for a better 2012.
Money luck: Hong bao—We all need good luck for more hong bao. This would help the job market to improve and housing prices stabilize. I would also like some lottery hong bao.
Media luck: The 2012 political commercials should all malfunction and be replaced with reruns of “Cheers,” or “Laugh-In.”
Yurt luck: The yurt in Encinitas where we did our yoga (before the city ordered it dismantled) should be resurrected, and classes once again be taught by my favorite teacher. Then, I could finally conquer the headstand.
Geezer luck: No one in my 55-and-older apartment complex should die or be hauled out feet first. In 2012, the ambulances and fire trucks should pass us by and raid the other geezer complex on El Camino.
Luck was always by my side when I lived in San Francisco. My friend, Wendy Chu and I tempted fate plenty of times in her dad’s Jaguar by, among other vehicular maneuvers, making left turns from right lanes. We would also hang out at Jimmy Fong’s restaurant, which was only accessible by climbing a fire escape in a back alley not far from the fortune cookie factory. Jimmy owned the place, and Wendy and I would stay there half the night eating, talking and watching Jimmy practice his stand-up comedy routine.
As was typical in this neighborhood, Jimmy’s family and the Tattaglia family, who owned and operated a pizza parlor on the other side of Columbus Avenue, were good friends. Jimmy’s father and the elder Gaetano Tattaglia would play bocce ball on one side of Columbus Avenue, and then cross over to play mahjong on the other.
Jimmy loved The Godfather movies and could recite whole scenes in Chinese and English complete with all the hand gestures and physical mannerisms that were part of the film. Once, when he had to prepare cold yin and chicken whiskey soup for a red egg and ginger party celebrating the birth of a baby, he went through an entire scene from The Godfather I, while simultaneously cooking.
“Don Corleone, I am honored and grateful that you have invited me to your home on the wedding day of your daughter. And may their first child be a masculine child,” he recited while doing his best Luca Brasi imitation and plucking a freshly killed chicken. This was followed by a passage spoken in Chinese accompanied by chicken feathers flying in the air as he waved his hands.
I enjoy reflecting on where I have been and contemplating where I am going. That is why this whole starting-over-with-a-new-year (or animal) thing is something I anticipate with glee. Whether it is Chinese or American, we could all use a fresh start, which brings me to a few more appropriate items for the dragon.
Relocation feng shui: Hopefully, my most recent move will improve my luck. Although I’m happy to be a wandering nomad, I would really like to stay put for at least a few years and learn to make peace with the fact that apartment living has its drawbacks. This includes overlooking the complaining of some of my neighbors like Jerry, who never sees the glass as half full and has a vendetta against anyone making noise at the swimming pool. Jerry would never have been allowed inside Jimmy Fong’s place.
Computer fu: Fu is the Chinese word for luck. I used to scream the American word represented by these two letters when I was low on computer fu, and my old PC would crash. Computer fu never worked on that old piece-of-crap machine. It now works fine on my Mac. I hope the fu will be with my Mac forever.
Directing the chi: Chi is energy—and we need to put some into improving our lives and the lives of others. We’ve managed to end one war; we still have one more to go. Good chi. How about the wars we fight on a personal level? Maybe we could have a Republicrat Love-In and invite people from both political parties to partake in some 1968-style mellowing out. Maybe Elsie and Jerry from my apartment complex could stop putting contracts out on each other via the community bulletin board.
The rabbit is cooked. The dragon is coming. We may not have everything we want, but we have more than those who have lost their homes, jobs, loved ones or hope.
So, even though it’s a little early, I would like to wish you all a big, fat GUNG HAY FAT CHOY, which means, “May prosperity be with you.” And may you also have a huge dollop of luck.