When I was a kid, we would drive into Chinatown every week for groceries, food and fun. On very special occasions, we would stop at the Phoenix Bakery for their signature strawberry and cream layer cake. It was one of those golden childhood memories inexplicably lost until I stumbled upon this sign last week in Chinatown.
A fine omen for a fun book tour through Southern California which led down many memory lanes. It was hard sometimes to recognize my old haunts amid the real estate development or the faces of my childhood playmates through the crow's feet and laugh lines. Yet the homecoming was all the more heartwarming for the effort.
Today marks the one year birthday of my blog. Over the past 52 weeks, I've published 49 articles, 18 book reviews and various other pieces about my writing and myself. Seems to me to be a milestone worthy of a Phoenix Bakery cake (or two).
Cake is of course an indispensable part of any birthday celebration, though in China long life noodles are critical. This dish is served at every Chinese birthday party, from the very old to the newborn. On a baby's first birthday, the celebration is augmented by a ceremony called zhuazhou (抓周) or literally "pick" "anniversary." The baby is presented with a collection of items, the choices of which are used to predict the child's aptitudes and future career. An abacus signifies financial acumen; a toy is predictive of a love of the good life. These days, the items include more modern instruments like a microphone (future entertainer), though it's a mystery to me how you get food security from a chicken leg.
This week's blog post is my grab for the future. I claim the genre Shanghai Noir to describe the kind of novels I write. We've already seen the dark side of Old Shanghai in The Dancing Girl and the Turtle. Soon we'll be headed into the early Mao years when Shanghai went from glitzy to grey. That is, as soon as I finish writing the remaining three volumes of The Shanghai Quartet.
It might take a little while so, for now, enjoy this week's sweets for the sweet.