MIDDLE-AGED PLAGUE - Fortune cookies tell it like it is, baby

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Fortune cookies speak to me.

In a long standing tradition of some three months, I and members of my tribe enjoy Chinese takeout from the eminently authentic Safeway deli on our weekly foray from our place near Dayton to the Big Town of Walla Walla.

And while the Chinese food at the grocery store is not as genuine as the Chinese food of the Americanized restaurant, the fortune cookies look - and sound - the same.

It is gradually dawning on me, however, that the messages within the cookies are not universally generalized inane sentiments that apply to the population at large, but insightful acumens directed specifically to me.

Like this one:

"One week from today, a very positive thing will happen."

Well you can bet that I was looking around for positive things to happen one week from that day, and the sale of a major painting by the Norwegian Artist, an upbeat notice from one of his representing firms, AND a quarter I found on the sidewalk added up to three. Which, come to think of it, qualifies as "things" not "thing."

No matter. Next week's message wasn't as cheerful (and the cookie was stale), but it was accurate:

"Stop trying to be number one in everything you do. Be content with the good things that you have."

This is so patently directed to my aggressive, out of control competitive nature that it must have been written by my mother. (I never realized I was this way, incidentally, until the day I commented to a friend, "It's not that I'm competitive, but ..." "YOU? Not competitive? Hah!" was her response. Do you see the kind of friends I have?)

But Week 3 was the clincher:

"You will benefit by being patient. Good things will come to you soon."

This one said so much of what I needed to hear that I ironed out the creases and set it aside for framing, although considering that fortune cookie notices are a half-inch high by 2 inches wide, it's difficult, even on a positive thing day, for a person of my out-of-control aggressive nature to find an appropriate frame. Maybe I should cross stitch the message onto an antimacassar that the dog can drag into her bed. (Don't know what an antimacassar is? You're not reading enough Regency Romance.)

Last week, the Norwegian Artist joined us on our culinary expedition, and even though he never eats fortune cookies because he has some prejudice about their being flat, tasteless, stale and filled with inane statements of advice, I insisted.

"Hmm."

Yes? What did the Fortune Cookie Goddess say?

"This is interesting." (Of course it is! What did she say? What did she say?)

"Make sure to eat dessert at least three times a week."

I'm not sure what symbol I can place in this sentence to indicate the weighty silence that followed his pronouncement.

Rather than comment on the astonishingly iniquitous proclamation, however, I focused on ripping open my own plastic-wrapped cookie with my teeth. It kept them from grinding together.

"What about yours?" the Norwegian asked. (Does his tone sound smug to you, too?)

"Your impatient nature is something you need to learn to control."

Maybe next week we'll just order pizza.

Dayton columnist Carolyn Henderson, who manages Steve Henderson Fine Art, can be reached at 382-9775 or via email at carolyn@stevehendersonfineart.com. More of her writing is at middleagedplague.areavoices.com.

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