Saturday, September 2, 2017

Fortune Cookies Have Told My Life’s Story

No, not really, but I have collected several dozen fortune slips over the years that have had particular interest.  My modus operandi is to take a Chinese fortune of note and scotch tape it to a beer mug.  Every so often, as the mug surface fills up, I take them off and paste them on paper.  Because Wednesday, September 13, 2017, is National Fortune Cookie Day, I am prepared to reveal much of what they have told me, beginning about 1975 and up to the present day.  

Early Fortunes:   One fortune that clearly caught my attention went this way:  “It is very possible that you will achieve greatness in your lifetime.”   Well, that really did not happen.  I have not sought anonymity but it has pursued me relentlessly throughout my life.  More promising was another cookie fortune:  “Your family is young, gifted and attractive.”  I’d like to think that was true — both sons proved to be gifted and achieved advanced degrees — but none of us is young anymore.

My career involved a great deal of travel and I was able to work all over the world, but occasionally got becalmed with home office work and chafed to go abroad.  Perhaps that was the situation when the following came to me:  “Traveling more often is important for your health and happiness.”   Another cookie provided a formula for successful travel:  “You have the ability to adapt to diverse situations.”

2002-2009 Fortunes:  This one seemed at least partially appropriate, if not exactly predictive:  “You are a lover of words.  Someday you will write a book..”  By the time this showed up I had written the only serious book I would ever write — about the war powers of the President and Congress.  During this period, however, I cobbled together three books on whiskey containers that were self-published and in limited editions, sold out.

“Cleaning up the past will always clear up the future!”  Now that is something to think about.  At the urging of friends I did a brief autobiography called “Memoirs of a Spear Carrier.”  To my knowledge none of the revelations there about my past life really cleaned things up.  Nor, it now seems, did the future become any more clear.  For that one needs more fortune cookies.

During this period I received a cookie that had its own irony attached.  It read:  “You have a deep appreciation of the arts and music.”  It was a reminder that for a time on a newspaper I was assigned to review performances of classical music, of which I actually knew nothing.  My standard line for concerts of stringed instruments was to compliment “deft fingering.”  After comparing the cello to “a beautiful woman,” and throwing in a note on deft fingering, the paper relieved me of those responsibilities — to my great relief.
2009 to Present:  In the most recent period, I find some fortunes prophetic.  For example:  “You may attend a party where strange customs prevail.”  I can think of one in Micronesia a few years ago.  We sat outside in a circle and a drank a liquid pounded from the root of a muddy pepper plant, strained through a palm frond.  After I took one sip of the green slimy stuff, pity was taken on the haole (white person) and I was give coffee as a chaser.

Another is:  “You would make a good lawyer.”  That is the profession my mother had in mind for me and over the years I have been involved in making laws (Congressional staff) and criticizing them (local government).  The city attorney in my city assumed I was a lawyer.  My reaction is to be thankful I chose journalism instead of the law.  Lots more fun and fewer responsibilities.

As I move into the twilight of life, some fortunes clearly are out of touch with reality.  For instance:  “You shall seek out new adventures.”  And: “You have an important new business development shaping up.” Still others seem problematic:
“You will maintain health and enjoy life” and “Your winsome smile will be your sure protection.”    More cogent is the following cookie-born advice:  “Relish the transitions in your life — they will happen regardless.”  

Ten days from now when Fortune Cookie Day rolls around, you can be sure I will be ordering in Chinese food and asking for my fortune cookie.  Who knows, it may give me something to think about — and perhaps paste up for future reference.  

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