General

Back to New York City

I went to a few weddings and funerals recently. Weddings were inevitably in respect of children of friends, long on speeches and slapsticks but sometimes short on thanksgiving, while funerals were of friends, some older but some not so old. I met a long time friend at the last funeral and we went all the way from the funeral home, to the burial ground and ending with the traditional banquet. Banquets have always been an important feature part and parcel of the culture and heritage of people and nations. The Bible tells unendingly on banquets of all shapes and forms. Jesus went to a wedding banquet and performed a miracle, the shepherd who lost one of his 100 sheep and who found it later gave a banquet, the father of the prodigal son gave a big banquet and killed the fattened calf after the son returned, Jesus fed multitudes of people who followed him for his sermons on the mount, and of course there was the Last Supper, and so on.

Su and I attended quite a few banquets or dinners and organized a few more at home during the recent festive seasons before we left for the present trip. We were often amazed by the number of empty bottles left on the floor the morning after. How come so few could consume so much, we sometimes wonder? I notice some friends would now post on Facebook photos of bottles before and after a big dinner. They could be making some fashion or culture statements.

Talking of bottles, I had a favourite rhyme called “Ten Green Bottles” which began with ten green bottles hanging on the wall. It went on to say that if one green bottle should accidentally fall, there’ll be nine green bottles hanging on the wall. The next stanza began with nine green bottles and the song went on until there were no more bottles on the wall. It was a children song meant to teach children to count downwards; and I remember singing the whole song over and over again at a mahjong table after dinner, which must have made the other players so sick and tired, for a few weeks later I received in the post some cassette tapes of beautiful music, accompanied by a note saying, “Try to learn these new tunes. I am sick and tired of your ten green bottles.” Some real good friend I had in those days.

Good friends are key to successful parties, or for that matter, a more rewarding life. While many people have talked or written on the importance of networking to business success, the significance of friends in one’s life can never be over emphasized. I used to believe that husband and wife can be friends, or that parents and children can be good friends. I remember writing to my children asking them to be my friends if they think I am such a bad parent. I have also listened to a friend’s wife who complained that this friend of mine was such a bore that she would never want to go on a trip with him again. I have now learnt that instead of seeking answers to such questions, it would pay more to simply work on the relations as you have found or acquired them, such that children will always be children and a married couple is meant to stay together because they were put together by God. Then perhaps the key to the frustration regarding friends lies in how one defines, perceives, and most importantly relates to or treats one’s friends. I asked a group of undergrads who applied to join a mentorship programme to discuss friends and friendship. Perhaps it is too wide a topic for a 15-minute session, and they ended up with ideas on how to make friends.

My son was a Berkeley psychology major before he studied fashion design in New York. He is the reason why we are in New York City in the middle of a freezing winter. I woke up from the turbulence in mid-flight – Su said we were over Anchorage – which was rather bad, so bad that the pilot had to ask his cabin crew to remain in their seats. I was asleep most of the journey, that is apart from the meal breaks and comfort breaks and the time I typed away what you are reading. I did not even watch a film which is quite unusual; and I inadvertently put away the reading material I brought for the trip; which made the flight rather uneventful, but very much restful.

Outside JFK Airport, it was sunny with blue sky. The cab driver said it had never been that good for sometime; so we must be rather lucky.

I hope to talk to you again soon.

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