Free Lobster


In front of Mandarin Oriental Hotel near Columbus Circle

The cast members spent three days in NYC to celebrate the premier of Marco Polo.  I hadn’t been to NYC for many years before this trip.  The last time that I spent an extensive time in Manhattan was when I directed Autumn In New York in 1999 when Angela was not yet one year old. 

Autumn4 Autumn3


I remember filming a scene with Richard Gere and Winona Ryder walking and the Twin Towers were in the background.  I’m not sure if I used the shot in the final cut since I didn’t see the film again for over a decade, but that shot jumped into my mind’s eye when I first learned of the tragedy of 9/11.


Good looking Tourists we made


The NY that I landed in seemed to have no memory of the tragedy that changed the world.  There were Christmas lights on every tree and every store front.  And the streets were filled with bustling shoppers speaking every tongue under the sun.  Christmas carols flowed in the air. 


I remember my very first Christmas season in New York three months after I landed in the United States from China in1981.  Taking the bus from upstate New York where I was studying to my parents’ friend, Dr. Chu’s house on 73rd and Lexington, I felt forlorn and forsaken.  My friend from Shanghai, Rupert Li, met me at the bus station and took me to eat lobster in cream sauce in the kitchen of a little restaurant on Lexington, where he knew one of the chefs who was from Canton.  Then we went to see a second run of Body Heat in a shabby theater.  The evening of free lobster and a film saved me from the self pity of homesickness and revived my sense of adventure. As E.B. White wrote in his essay Here is New York, “…and you always feel that either by shifting your location ten blocks or by reducing your fortune by five dollars you can experience rejuvenation.”


My friend Rupert Li and I in NYC in 1981. He came to the US one year before I did.

I was not able to see my family in Shanghai for three years because I didn’t have the airfare, nor did I want to risk not being able to return to the US.  The feeling of loneliness and the longing to belong would return every Holiday season for many years until I made a family of my own.  As I walked around the street of NY, I could see that lonely girl from decades ago and felt good that I found her a wonderful husband and gave her two beautiful daughters.  Most importantly, I secured for her the sense of belonging that she had needed for so many years. 

It’s only natural that I have disappointed the young self at times, but it’s not over yet; I am still on the adventure that she started, evolving and striving to be who she dreamed of becoming. 


New York is nothing like Paris; it is nothing like London; and it is not Spokane multiplied by sixty, or Detroit multiplied by four. It is by all odds the loftiest of cities. It even managed to reach the highest point in the sky at the lowest moment of depression. The Empire State Building shot twelve hundred and fifty feet into the air when it was madness to put out as much as six inches of new growth. —- E. B. White


Manhattan has been compelled to expand skyward because of the absence of any other direction in which to grow. This, more than any other thing, is responsible for its physical majesty. It is to the nation what the white church spire is to the village — the visible symbol of aspiration and faith, the white plume saying that the way is up. —- E. B. White


The tallest building in the far distance is the new World Trade Center.


So many selfies were taken by everyone on top of the Empire State Building

4 thoughts on “Free Lobster

  1. 终于,把12月份的post读完了。中间,拼命忍住了不要停下来写任何common。我觉得自己有点太annoying,所以强烈限制留言不要超过每天一条(三条也许?😰)


    我总是在debate,要不要把这个blog介绍给我的朋友们。我却担心破坏了这里的宁静(我自己就够annoying的了!)。No offense,但是国人有些,喜欢无中生有地制造恶意。一点无关紧要的个人小事,也能掀起意想不到的轩然大波。有时候,我也会反复想,如果我那样写了,会不会有人又望文生义,给你带来许多不愉快,尽管,你不应该为完全不相识的过客担负任何责任。





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