A note about fortune cookies. In spite of my well-known interest in desserts, I almost always leave my fortune cookies untouched or pass them off to America’s Favorite Epidemiologist or whomever I am splitting the check with. This aversion goes back to Thanksgiving weekend 1964 in the festivities surrounding the wedding of Charlotte Whitcomb Colony and John Langley Stanley, formerly my graduate school roommate. Friends and family of the about-to-be-wed couple gathered for dinner at the (shamelessly-named) Keene Tiki in Keene, New Hampshire, certainly the leading pan-Asian restaurant in southwestern New Hampshire at the time. At the end of the meal, fortune cookies were handed out. Adrian Cruttwell-Vaughn, our marvelously debauched English friend, now missing in action 20 years, opened his fortune cookie and read a gloomy message about the next-day’s nuptials. I was very disturbed by this, but it proved to have no predictive value when John and Charlotte remained happily married for the next 34 years, ending only with John’s too early death.
While the dread was unjustified on that occasion, fortune cookie power asserted itself on the eve of my first marriage in December 1972. Again, friends and family gathered at a Chinese restaurant, this time in Westwood, California. My fortune cookie said: “Don’t worry, things won’t be all right anyway.” I kept that message with me for almost as long as the marriage lasted. And I’ve been afraid of fortune cookies ever since.