General

Out of Los Angeles

It was unusual, and certainly the first time since I had retired: for three consecutive days, I found myself going to an airport every morning to catch a flight to another city. I would spare you the details. It was a combination of poor planning, inadequate knowledge on how airlines work and circumstances beyond my control. In short, I left San Francisco for Los Angeles, stayed a night in a hotel very close to the airport, flew to Las Vegas, stayed for a night in a hotel, which I discovered later that it did not run any show on that particular day, and left the next morning for Los Angeles.

It was the Americans’ Thanksgiving Week and it was big deal. Airports were put on heightened security alert, traffic was everywhere and very often not moving fast enough, and people were on the move everywhere.

I had planned to spend Thanksgiving with my daughter in my brother-in-law’s place in Los Angeles. Her schoolwork was such she could not spare the time, but I had to make those trips because that was how the tickets were written. In any case, flights were so full that it was impossible to make alterations. Every night the news reported phenomenal inter-city traffic, long queues at gas stations and ever increasing waiting time at airports.

Thanksgiving came and went. I actually had two more offers for partying, but I thought I stayed put. It was like a children party and the children had great fun. I had my fair share of drinks, but somehow could not get into their Thanksgiving mood. One of the little girls was very much into origami. She began making small paper objects for everyone and even gave me one, which became my only Thanksgiving gift ever; a paper fan with Hello Kitty chops all over it.

If San Francisco is familiar territory, Los Angeles is even more so. Rosita’s parents moved here after San Francisco, when the children were still rather small, and we visited them every year. The sisters, between them, have seven children. Today, the eldest one must be around 35, and the youngest would be around my son’s age, around 23 or 24. There was a time I had been detailed to watch over them at Disneyland when the sisters went shopping. Fortunately, they took with them the babies, or they might return to find a few short.

In Los Angeles, I stayed in Rowland Heights, an area with a predominantly Chinese population. This is Rosita’s brother’s home and their father lived with them before he passed away. Before Lawrence went to Berkeley, he stayed with the family also, so that the place was pretty much like home.

Both sisters had their own Thanksgiving parties, but on learning that this brother-in-law from Hong Kong was in town, offered to have lunch together. Their children had all grown up, and four of the five children came to see their uncle, which was not bad. One even came with her son, who was almost six. There was plenty of hugging, for we haven’t met for a year.

I was in Los Angeles last year for the funeral of Rosita’s father, who passed away eight weeks after his daughter did. Father and daughter had been always very close. He wrote in his desk diary the exact time her daughter passed away, to the minute. I discovered the entry this time because her brother was still keeping that page, which was one of the last entries. Shortly after her daughter died, he had an accident, from which he never recovered.

It does seem that I might not visit Los Angeles as often in the future. Indeed, I had a similar feeling the last time. Alas, feelings, perception, memories and mental formations are all rather impermanent, and one must learn not to be attached to such feelings.

I met an old friend at last night’s party. She could be in her mid 70s and she was a neighbour of Rosita’s brother in another township before he moved his family to Rowland Heights. She recalled my two children when they were very young – it is funny how memories work.

I met up other old friends in this short trip too – friends that I had never meant to look up before I left San Francisco, but somehow fate had put us back together. Invariably, we talked mostly things of the past; as if they were the reasons we were meeting again. But, were they?

Then there were people who would ask me how bad the Asian flu had hit Hong Kong. My standard one-liner reply to them was, “What Asian flu?” and they would invariably shut up. Strange, the world is never short of people who are less than insensitive, ignorant, egocentric, self-justifying, and so on.

As I packed for my trip back, I found that I had over-packed by 100%. I had yet to use up half of what I brought, and I had not done any laundry this trip. It could be a sign of my insecurity or craving for the materialistic, but then I could say that I have been well prepared.

All I know is I would face a full agenda for the week that follows, as soon as I return. Life in Hong Kong is always exciting and hectic, but then I cannot help asking, “Is it necessary?”

I hope to talk to you soon.

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