Sunday, January 29, 2006
Year of the Dog
So much has been going on, I almost forgot that this is the Year of the Dog.
I just ran into my little buddies, Maggie and Kelly, two Chinese girls, ages 4 and 2, who live next door to me.
They were off to visit relatives to get their packets of money for the holiday.
"Hey," I told them, "bring back some money for me."
Fortunately, they didn't understand English that well, so my lame joke fizzled in the rain.
I went to the Chinese New Year festivities in New York when I was in college and it was a blast, literally.
I was tutoring English back then and one of my Chinese students, Cathy, had invited me to come along with her and her friends to watch the celebration.
It was fabulous; Cathy took me to a neighborhood restaurant, where the waiters counted the plates rather than wrote down our orders. And Cathy told me the dragons represent different villages in China.
She said that a lot of planning went into the appearance of these dragons, making sure none of them run into each other and thus avoiding potential conflicts and brawls.
There were fireworks exploding all over the place. I felt like I was a real insider, instead of some gawking tourist staring at the locals. In fact, a gawking tourist tried to take Cathy's picture while we were watching one of the dragons go by.
Smile, Though Your Heart is Breaking
Cathy was a small, very lovely young woman with glasses and on that day she was wearing this beautiful flower print jacket.
I felt her little hand pull me close to her and I wasn't sure what was happening until I looked up and saw this woman with a camera and a three-foot telephoto lens, which she aimed straight at Cathy's face.
What is with people? Do you think that such behavior might be just a tad bit rude? To be honest, Cathy was indeed pretty as a picture, but you don't photograph living people like they're totem poles.
The woman got the hint and started asking Cathy all sorts of dumb questions about the dragons and their meaning. Yeah, lady, now go back to Ohio.
Later, Cathy and I went uptown to see "Kramer vs. Kramer" because she had to see the movie for some class she was taking. At one point, I'd swear she put her on my shoulder, for just a second, mind you, but I'm sure it happened.
Cathy was such a sweetheart. During our tutoring sessions, I used to pretend I was angry and scold her in the little Italian I knew. She put up with this for nearly two semesters until one day she began berating me in Chinese.
She caught me flatflooted for a second, since I had no idea what she was saying, and then we both started to laugh.
I didn't realize to years later how much I cared for Cathy, how I wanted her to be my girlfriend, rather than just my buddy.
I was in a very dim phase back then, where I constantly made jokes and wisecracks as a way of showing people I wanted to be their friend.
I was hardly the only person doing this. Just about all the people in my group of friends at the time did this sort of thing. I guess it's the stupidy of youth, but I know it cost me my friendship with Cathy.
I joked around too much and she got tired of me and after graduation I never saw her again.
Stupid, stupid, stupid. What's wrong with just telling people you care for them? Why did I feel this need to sling insults instead of paying compliments, why didn't I make people feel good about themselves, instead of pissing them off?
I had Chinese food the other day and one of my fortunes read "If you have not been hurt, embarrassed, ashamed or humilitated you have not lived." So I guess losing people is part of the game.
And I see that, according to an Web posting, people who are born in the year of the dog "have a deep sense of loyalty, are honest, and inspire other people's confidence because they know how to keep secrets."
I wasn't born in the year of the dog, but I like those attributes and I think they're worth cultivating. That way I'll keep my friends closer, rather than chasing them away.
So to all my friends out there, happy new year.