NaNo NaNo

Fortune, Chinatown, NYC

Back on November 3, I entered NaNoWriMo. Which means that I’ve pledged, along with thousands of other would-be novelists, to write a 50,000-word novel in a month.

I know it sounds crazy.

But in the spirit of competition with one’s self, the purpose of NaNoWriMo (I believe it stands for National November Writing Month…?) is to get you writing lots of words everyday and fashion them into some sort of readable story — while simultaneously suppressing the urge to edit as you go along (impossible for me to do 100%, I have discovered).

The goal is to have written the first draft of a novel by month’s end.

At first, it sounded as if it might be do-able. But, as John Lennon once said: “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.” And I’m not one to ignore life’s happenings.

So, there were four blackout days in which I did not write — and I did not write with good reason. My lovely stepdaughter happened to be visiting us from San Diego. During our time together, we showed her our favorite parts of the city and walked our feet off.

Here she is standing in front of the amphitheater on NYC’s great escape, the Highline.

In under three days, we must have covered on foot and by subway almost every neighborhood in Manhattan south of 86th Street and a couple in Queens, too.

Nearing the end of her sojourn, we made a point of stopping at my favorite Buddhist temple on Mott St. in Chinatown.

Before moving to California in 1996, I would visit that temple with the advent of each new year and, alternatively, whenever I’d fly into New York from L.A. — just to pick up my little fortune packet.

Now that I’m back in New York for good, I wanted to pay the temple an inaugural visit as a sort of rite of passage. Each of us dropped a one-dollar donation into the slot and chose our fortune from the scores of rubber-banded little yellow scrolls heaped inside a red lacquered box.

This is what mine said:

Probability of Success: Good

Pairing was done before the words.

Fruits are flown in by iron birds.

You just wait there until full grown.

Somehow, somewhere, you’ll be well known.

The beauty of these Chinatown fortunes is that you can read into them whatever you want.

For me, the fortune was all about NaNo NaNo — except for the line about fruits being flown in by iron birds. But, then, again…

Anyway, before boarding the iron snake that would transport us out of Chinatown, we bumped into some police action on the street. My stepdaughter got to witness a typical New York moment, first-hand.


Cop #1 was sitting in a patrol car, which was parked by the curb, while Cop #2 was trying to enforce a cease and desist order in front of “The Chinese Benevolent Association.”

An elderly Chinese guy in a sport jacket was attempting to advertise, via a plywood sign, a cache of illegal movies that he had for sale inside.

Bent on posting his piece of plywood, onto which he’d pasted an advertisement for his bootleg films, he was shouting — in Chinese — at Cop #2 non-stop while brandishing the plywood.

“This guy must have some very large testicles,” said Cop #1 from his spot by the patrol car, and said it loud enough so we all heard — and, of course, laughed.

Meanwhile, the Chinese guy’s obnoxious yelling had pushed Cop #2 to the limits of his patience.

“Okay, that’s it,” said Cop #2. “I’ve had it. I’m writing you up.” He pulled out his ticket book.

As the Chinese guy continued to shout and wave his arms in the air, the plywood sign slipped from hand and hit the sidewalk.

With that, Cop #1 jumped out of the patrol car, kicked the plywood, stomped on it and split it in half.

Ya gotta love it.

Back to NaNoWriMo…that is, until the Thanksgiving weekend.

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