My Life

The Words of the Prophets Are Written on the Subway Walls and Thin Strips of Paper

As a child, there was a stretch when I had an infatuation with fortune cookies. I was old enough to read, but young enough to readily believe in the lies that society will tell you. We didn’t go to Chinese restaurants all that often, as some of the ridiculously-conservative members of my family didn’t trust food made by foreigners. (Even as a wee urchin, I was already aware that, unless your food was prepared by a Native American, your food was made by a foreigner to some degree. Said relatives refused to grasp this logic, especially when said logic was tainted by someone younger than them grasping such. Nothing annoys a bigot more than facts.)

In any case, there were special occasions when into a Chinese restaurant we would trod. (Okay, some of those occasions were nothing more than stopping by an establishment for take-out, with no arranging of the family around a mammoth table that could accommodate the obvious signs of fertility in our clan.) End result, Chinese food was procured, including the lavish prize (at least to me, in my starry-eyed single-digit age) of a stash of fortune cookies in their crinkly wrappers.

Some of my siblings would tear into their fortune cookie as soon as the time-space continuum allowed, crunching away on the sugary crispness with lip-smacking relish and tossing the slip of paper aside, because reading was stupid. I would ignore their animalistic behavior, as I believed there was a certain protocol about life that required devotional respect. (This was another annoying characteristic I had which further convinced my family that some type of malfeasance had taken place in the delivery room during my clearly unnatural birthing.) You ate your food first and then you cracked open the cookie to discover how your life was about to change in some significant way.

But I really did want to get to the Big Reveal, so I would inhale my food in an expedient manner that probably could have been studied by manufacturing companies looking to increase their employee productivity. At times there would be dysfunction with my rapid-fire ingestion, leading to choking and near-asphyxiation. But I would never worry too much about that angle, as I was blessed to have a plethora of siblings who would happily whack me on the back with or without justification.

Post-binge, I would hoist the Sibyllic cookie, gently remove the cellophane shroud, tenderly defile the cookie until it proffered the sacred slip, and then peruse the prophecy. (I swear angels would sing. Swear!) Naturally, because those cookie revelations were intentionally written to be as vague as possible, I would have to ponder the words and determine which of my life questions they had answered.

Would a millionaire show up with documentation of my switched-at-birth snafu? Would I be whisked away to a prestigious prep school where the students were actually concerned about learning and not simply biding time until they were released from classes so they could bring in the fall harvest? Would the Carol Burnett Show continue forever? Would I finally understand why I got tingly feelings when the gym teacher took off his t-shirt during a rousing round of dodgeball? (Oh, screw that last part. I already knew.)

Good times, really, but the phase quickly dissipated once I realized the ruse of the vague generalizations, still in my single digits.

Flash forward to yesterday. I was cleaning the house, specifically the part where you tidy up the kitchen table. This mostly involves gathering up all the crap that everybody else has parked on said table because they couldn’t be bothered with returning it to its actual home or simply throwing it away like people who believed in protocol would do. (Sound familiar? Thought so.) I moved aside a candy dish filled with things that none of us should be eating should we have any plans to get the octogenarian badge, and I noticed a fortune cookie, winking at me in its cellophane entombment.

Hmm. This was probably my bad. My partner does not particularly relish Chinese food. He’ll eat a bit of it, in a quasi-supportive effort to keep our relationship from devolving into something that might require police intervention. I’m the one who furtively sneaks off to a Chinese buffet whenever possible, gorging on Egg Foo Yung and amassing a stockpile of the cookies I don’t eat anymore because I lost my faith years ago. I probably tossed this one on the table as I entered our domicile, stir-fried grease dripping off my chin, distracted by the sudden need to go separate the squalling cats as they slashed and howled at each other over a puff ball that neither of them really wanted.

I decided to open the cookie, just to see what it might say.

It appears that the people who make fortune cookies these days are a bit more blunt.

And possibly much more on target.




Originally published in “Bonnywood Manor” on 12/17/17. No changes made, as I’m still stuffed with Christmas dinner and the mere effort of moving the mouse around is causing me gastrointestinal complications. (Why did I pursue that third helping of mashed potatoes and turkey gravy? Why!) I’m resurfacing this piece as a reflection on the fact that some folks in America go to Chinese restaurants for their Yuletide repast. I don’t think I’ve ever done such (there are some hazy years in my 20s when who knows what the hell I did, so I’m leaving the door partially open), but I have often considered such a lark. Are there any quirky holiday-food traditions in your neck of the woods? Share if you feel moved.


25 replies »

  1. Hmmmm perhaps the cookie stuffer is projecting his/her inability to connect with that god/goddess on the third floor on the message recipient. I’m just saying . . .

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Brilliant post!

    Did you ask the fortune cookie fortune what it meant by danger and stupidity.

    Is it like the Blessing in the Curse Chinese fable, the one where amongst other things which are terrible but then they’re awesome, the guy breaks his leg and it’s a curse but instead it turns out to be a blessing as he avoids having to join the army.

    Could the “great danger” be fame which you achieve due to the human “stupidity” you cleverly use as the “hero” in your brilliant posts?

    There’s a very amusing Chinese film from 2017 – Wished – written and directed by Dayyan Eng. In it a wish granting goddess decides to make a guy’s random wishes from childhood and beyond come true. It’s a hoot… a bit like reading fortune cookies and trying to figure out whether they’re offering blessings or curses.

    Liked by 1 person

    • These are very good philosophical points to consider, something I relish doing in the middle of the night, which often leads to the erratic posts here at Bonnywood. The mere concept of the multiple ways in which we all variously interpret a single word is enchanting…

      Now, this movie, “Wished”. I feel compelled to seek it out and do a comparative analysis with my own experiences. Could be quite fun. Thanks for the suggestion!…

      Liked by 1 person

  3. We did go to a Chinese restaurant yesterday! Currently in Phoenix visiting the kiddos and we hit up the place near our old house. It was crowded but delightful. Later we saw a movie, because that’s a Christmas tradition too. 🙂
    Hope you recover from your overdose of mashed potatoes. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wait, now I simply must know what movie you watched. Is it one that I have disparaged in the past, much to your chagrin? It is one that I have never seen, thus leaving me in a state of incompleteness. And the most burning question of all: Why didn’t you share what your fortune cookie had to say? Are we drifting apart? Say it ain’t so! Now I’m sobbing and rending my hair and… oh, look, there’s still some mashed potatoes left. BRB.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Movie was a new release and great fun. Whether you’d like it or not I cannot say, as I don’t know your views on Superhero flicks — it was Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Done in true animation and written extremely well.

        As for the fortune cookie… hmm… how do I break this to you?… they’re not my fave. I usually give mine to one of the kids, and sadly I can’t remember the reading of the fortunes being part of this year’s partaking. I have failed you, Brian. Can you ever forgive me? 😔

        Liked by 1 person

        • Partner is more of a Superhero fan, but I often enjoy them as well. And we both love well-done animation. (We just watched “Incredibles 2” a few days ago.) So “Spider-Verse” sounds like it’s right up our alley.

          I am saddened by your disdain for the cookies of fortune, but our friendship will endure. Even though it is now tainted… 😉

          Liked by 1 person

  4. In my “family” (the tattered remnants of such anyway) Christmas is usually spent avoiding each other. I don’t answer my phone nor the doorbell, which had led certain non-related ‘family’ members to become alarmed that I’ve dropped off my perch and so now I’ll at least peek out the peep hole in the door to see if it’s a relation or a friend who is closer family than my own is. This year was a surprise because we all got together and didn’t argue or fuss. Next year will bring a new addition (a grandbaby) and I think after that, the final frail ties will pretty much disintegrate. Not a bad thing really, it was just a touch awkward this year. I wonder if people grow out of their old ways and just make their own.

    I remain hugely jealous that you have decent Chinese food near by. As I’ve groused about often, this place doesn’t offer ANY. So one either drives a pretty long way to find some OR makes it themselves. I have beef & broccoli in my freezer, and some good rice. Doesn’t solve the fortune cookie dilemma though.

    And if you add the phrase “between the sheets” to a fortune? It can be hilarious. Which, given your current fortune, might be cause for some deliberation….

    Liked by 1 person

    • I completely get your first paragraph, in that much of my family is barely staying together via very tenuous threads, much more so with the “extended” aspect and not the “core” part. All the more reason that I continue to embrace the concept of “chosen” over “biological” family. I’m not a fan of pretending to love when you don’t really.

      And fair enough, we have some extraordinary Chinese food establishments in my neck of the woods. I’m not sure why, but I’m grateful nonetheless. I guess it’s the behemoth-metropolis aspect of the DFW area that leads to so many cultures sharing with other cultures. This gives me hope. If only we could get rid of those close-minded people who view other cultures with suspicion and animosity. We are the world, now. Seriously. So get over it.

      P.S. I recently found a stir-fry sauce at WinCo (do you have those in Utah) that magically transforms whatever you want to stir-fry into something magical. I’ve diddled with my wok many times in the last few weeks. (Use that imagery as you choose.)


      • Admit that ‘diddle” in any form tends to bring a rather salacious aura to my thoughts… O:) I blame an old flame for that and a gay man I knew in my early 20s (he and the others I encountered were brave souls. NOBODY admitted to being gay in the 80s in Utah. Good way to get your willie whacked..hate crimes towards the gay (included in that are lesbians and bisexual folks) abounded) Where was I … Oh yeah. The gay fellow worked with me and my youngest sibling at a telephone answering service (which had an actual switchboard that one plugged wires into…my gawd how far we’ve come) My youngest sibling was (and may still be for all I know) was a staunch homophobe (I thought he protested too much, BUT given the foster years and the things we all endured…he might have had cause. I still get pretty uptight around lesbians)…anyway. Yes, we sport Winco in these rural necks of the wood…well one is about 30 miles south of me. I’ll look for that stir fry sauce because not having decent Chinese is really getting on my last nerve.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I needed to finish my thought about the gay fellow and my sibling. The gay man had a very twisted sense of humor and loved to chase brother around the switchboard in a campy attempt to smooch brother. He rarely caught him (never…or there’d have been blood shed), and would say “diddle” to annoy sibling. Odd. That sparked a memory. The gay man was scared of mice, bordering on phobia. One night we were bored and sibling and I devised a mean(ish) trick to play on our gay co-worker….I waited until an appropriately silent moment and leapt to my feet and screamed the house down, quaking and pointing my finger at nothing and screamed “MOUSE!!! OH MY *** there’s a HUGE MOUSE!!” Brent (our gay man) screamed too, and actually leapt up on the desk and refused to come down. I had to go in the back because i was laughing so hard I almost peed myself. It was cruel, in retrospect, but sometimes blood is thicker than water, and Brent had been rather more aggressive towards brother than usual.

          Liked by 1 person

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