Our good friend Carolyn Hsu in NYC wanted us to meet and support her friend, HAO Jiang Tian (田浩江) who was going to perform at the S.F. Opera. She arranged for Lucille and me to meet Tian at his dressing room after the opera. Immediately after the final curtain call, we rushed to the back stage feeling very excited. The dressing room was not brightly lit, but we found Tian still in his singing costume, smiling widely as he welcomed us. After introducing ourselves a bit more, Tian said,” Please excuse me for a few minutes. I go change in the next room and be right back.” He then left the room. When we turned around we discovered another couple standing in the dark corner. We smiled and nodded politely at each other. The man was a broad and sturdily-built Asain. The woman was a petite Caucasian. They were about our age – maybe just three or four years younger.
We first looked at each other awkwardly since the space between us was too far apart for intimate conversation. We looked at each other more intensely as I began to be curious if I should remember this guy because he looked kind of familiar, but I could not properly identify him. The guy also looked at both Lucille and me with similar curiosity.
Quite simultaneously we moved towards each other with our hands extended and said, “Oh this is my wife Lucille ( or Anna his wife) and I am Billy (John his name). We looked at each other even more intensely. John started asking “ Are you from Shanghai ?”. I said “yes”. He immediately asked,” Noon Zu For Kai Son Lu Ger Lee Ming Sing Va ? ( Are you Lee Ming Sing from Ferguson Road ? ). The sky turned clear blue for me all of the sudden. Yes, I see him; I know him, – dear “Xiao War Gee” ( “Little Funny One “ the nick name my brother and I gave him ( John’s brother Charlie was “Doo Wor Gee” or “Big Funny” ). Oh my God, Sixty some years ago we were neighbours in Shanghai, and we played daily at our home- mostly in the garden – either playing soccer with rubber balls or trying to capture tadpoles or toads from the central artificial pond.
Lucille and John also began to remember that they had worked at a Chinese Restaurants together in New York City when they were in college. John and Charlie were the busboys, and Lucille was an hostess. Lucille remembered the Sie Brothers as nice, fun, young gentlemen. While I remembered the two “ War Gee “s as two really naughty little Friends.
Martha Liao, Mrs. Hao Jiang Tian, invited us all to her famous post-performance Sho Yeh 宵夜 ( evening snack ) at their SF Apartment later. So we had an opportunity to catch up with our life stories. John was very successful in his business ventures, and he and Anna were sponsors of Tian’s opera performance that night in San Francisco. They came to support the Tians all the way from Denver, Colorado. They also have a daughter, Michelle, who now directs their foundation focusing on Downsyndrome. Lucille and I told them about our involvement with The 1990 Institute. So we got reconnected. What a JOY !
It was Serendipity. A Memorable S.F. Opera Night, indeed !
John and Anna have made several generous donations to the 1990 Institute in honor of Billy. John told me that he wanted to express his gratefulness for being allowed to come and play at our home in Shanghai any day any time –as there was a small crack in our Chiang Li Bo ( Bamboo Fence ) that he had enlarged just enough to allow him to slip through freely any day any time.
John and Anna, Thank you, OUR DEAR DEAR FRIENDS !