Las Cruces, NM, supplies all my needs except one — GOOD CHINESE FOOD. True, they have a few Chinese restaurants here, but they mainly offer food that has been sitting in steam tables for hours.
Good Chinese food is always freshly made to order. That is why, when I recently returned to Los Angeles, eating at a Chinese restaurant was my number one priority. Gorging on fresh pork dumplings, pea sprouts, and beef rolls, I devoured the perfect fix.
I was also fortunate to have visited during the 2015 Lunar New Year. As I eyed all the new souvenirs I heard myself skeptically say, “Probably made in China.” Duh, I should hope so.
When our children were young, we always brought them to Chinatown for the excitement, parade, and firecrackers. That was part of our family tradition, but I was reminded one year that I was an outsider.
During the festivities, I ran into a neighbor at a souvenir shop and when she left, I merrily said, “Happy New Year, Marie,” to which my offended salesperson retorted, “It’s not YOUR New Year.”
But ALL New Year’s celebrations are mine regardless of religion or ethnicity. I love the anticipation, the colorful rituals, the special clothing and colors, the feelings of hope that the new year will be an improvement over the last. These emotions are universal and should be shared.
Gung Hay Fat Choy!
Norine Dresser is a folklorist who enjoys celebrating holidays — everyone’s holidays.
I always thought the giant mask was the North Wind. Artist, Chris Hardman, appointed me its guardian more than three decades ago when he moved from Venice, CA, to the Bay area.
Many years later, Chris shocked me when he asked, “How’s God doing?”
“Yes, that large mask,” he confirmed
Still incredulous I asked, “God is in my living room?”
That I had a representation of God living in my Los Angeles house overwhelmed me. I reflected on how I had assumed it was the North Wind.The mask’s puckered mouth was the major clue. I had discounted the naked female figures in its eyes, mustache, hair and beard that might have led me toward the theme of creation.
Chris Hardman’s God lived in my Los Angeles home for more than three decades, but the interior of my new Las Cruces interior could not accommodate its size and scale.I then had him hung in my patio yet worried about the impact of weather on it. Trying to allay my concerns, the contractor assured, “After all, it’s not the Mona Lisa.”
His words stung. To me, the mask of God was priceless, the equivalent of a personal Mona Lisa.
Recently, artist Layle Kinney, visited my home and noted that the wind and rain had taken a toll on this magnificent artifact. Coincidentally, she dealt with the paper maché medium and offered to repair him. It took four people to remove, wrap, carry and gently secure him to the back of her pick-up truck.
For weeks, my patio wall felt naked and off-putting, so I was thrilled when I received a call that “God” was ready for delivery.
On a chilly December Las Cruces afternoon, the artist and her family carefully returned my mask and rehung it. Aha! Everything now felt right again. And that is one of the many reasons why, on the brink of the New Year, 2015, I feel gratified.
Norine Dresser is a folklorist steeped in global beliefs and practices. Having the mask of God back in her possession is one of her idiosyncratic traditions.
Even though most of us are aware that fortune cookies are a faux Chinese custom invented in the U.S., we wait in suspense to open these rice cake treats when dining in Chinese restaurants.
Especially for children. For a while, my husband and I fooled our offspring until they learned to read. The toddlers would excitedly hand Harold their cookie fortunes and invariably he would pretend to slowly decode them and then intone, “Honor your father and your mother, and you will have good luck.” We couldn’t get away with that for long.
In Los Angeles, I frequently visited Chinatown and once stopped in at a Chinese Fortune Cookie factory. The process intrigued me — batter automatically poured onto small circle griddles and when the fragrant aroma indicated that they were cooked, they were mechanically folded into fortune cookie shapes. The process mesmerized me, yet I can’t remember at what stage they inserted the fortunes.
Most of us are familiar with the old fashioned predictions, “You will soon take a long journey,” but fortunes like the irreverent one in my title, “Next time, order the shrimp,” cause a vision of Chinese fortune cookie writers going off the deep end. Or perhaps, the new kinds of fortune cookie writers are simply more daring and realistic.
“There is no problem. It’s only your stupidity.”
“Keep it simple. The more you say, the more people won’t remember.”
Even though wer realize that the fortunes are just hokum created by some anonymous writers, more likely based in Brooklyn than Beijing, we have hopes that a startling pronouncement will elate us and renew our optimism about the future.
There’s nothing wrong with that. That’s why we scan our horoscopes, have our palms read or tarot cards interpreted.
Even on the brink of 83 years, I confess that I still look forward to reading my fortune and grab the cookie that conveys that it is destined only for me. So far, I have avoided selecting this one of the contemporary variety.
“I cannot help you, for I am just a cookie.”
Norine Dresser is a folklorist who believes that at almost 83, tomorrow still holds promise.
I watched an HBO documentary, “112 Weddings,” where photographer, Doug Block, revisits couples whose weddings he videotaped over the past decades. He discovered that some of his happy newlyweds had later gotten divorced, while others were flourishing as now loving families.
He asked former brides and grooms, “When you got married, what did you think it was going to be?
Most could not articulate what they were thinking at the time of the celebration. Most were too focused on the wedding celebration.
I was 19 when I got married. I certainly didn’t have a clue as to expectations. All I knew was that I was crazy about Harold and that I had to be with him. In looking back, I don’t see that as very rational. But marriage is not about ration; it is about emotions, and I always follow my gut.
Once, when I was a bridesmaid, the groom collapsed at the altar and I thought, “Oh, oh, bad sign.” And it was. After two children the marriage ended in divorce. However, fainting is not an accurate prognosticator of marriage’s durability. At another couple’s wedding I attended, three family members fainted at the wedding, and that marriage is still thriving after 42 years.
Harold and I were engaged for one week before the wedding. He said he couldn’t handle the stress of an elaborate wedding, and I didn’t care. He just wanted to go to Vegas and get married there, but my mom wanted to have a religious ceremony. I’m happy that she prevailed. We had a small afternoon event and put it together so quickly that I forgot to invite my best friend, Jan. She publicly forgave me at my 50th birthday party.
Too often, when a couple gets married the wedding celebration becomes their focus rather than the marriage. Because we have been affected by fairy tales, newlyweds assume they will live “Happily Ever After” but most young couples can’t possibly imagine what the future will bring. That’s probably a good thing, too.
Prior to our 50th Wedding Anniversary Celebration, Harold insisted that the icing on top of the cake contain the following caveat.
Yes, it did until he died, one month before our 56th wedding anniversary.
Norine Dresser is a folklorist who, if asked if she would marry Harold again, would answer, “Absolutely!”