Americans are most fortunate. We get the lion’s share of the three billion fortune cookies produced (manufactured, baked?) in the world every year. That is almost ten
fortune cookies per American. I certainly
get my ten a year, maybe more, as I love Chinese food and always read, then eat,
my fortune cookie.
Back in graduate school, during a group dinner at Joyce Chen’s Small Eating Place on Mass Ave in Cambridge I got a fortune that I accepted as providence. It was late May; we were working round the clock in Giancarlo deCarlo’s studio. He was a stickler for presentation; all drawings had to be ink, which in those days meant Radiograph pens that clogged and bled in arbitrary patterns. Our
final review was two days off and I had plenty of lines left to draw when I opened the fortune, ‘No amount of talk can replace good, black ink.’ You may be sure that I did not linger over coffee but got right back to my drafting board.
Thirty-one years passed since I received that fortune, yet I still recall the exact words. I have read hundreds since, though committed no others to memory. I have adapted to the changing fortunes of fortune cookies, adding a Chinese word and lucky numbers on the back of the paper, and the lemon flavor craze of the
1980’s; I have learned that every fortune can be improve by tacking the two words ‘in bed’ to the end; and I still hold to my preference for passing the dish to my dining companions and accepting the last cookie as my fate.
During my bicycle trip this summer I became an aficionado of the all you can eat Chinese Buffet, about the only way to get unlimited food that is not all fried and actually includes vegetables. I picked up lots of fortunes but I tucked the one I opened in Colonie, NY in my wallet; it is a keeper.
Today I sent my first query out for the small book that I wrote on my trip, and am now editing with a vengeance. I spend six to eight hours each weekend day shaping words to better reflect my experience. Part of why I do it is because I cannot relive my adventure enough, part of why I do it is because the most difficult aspect of reentry has been dealing with so many people and I savor the solitude, part of why I do it is because I get a sweet tickle from a well-crafted phrase. But the main reason I do it is because I want
to share with others the wonder I witnessed on my journey. I want to make the fortune I opened in Colonie become a reality,
‘You make people realize there exist other beauties in the world.’