The First Night
As a brand new Ensign arriving in Shanghai, I had a chance meeting
with a very nice Chinese customs official. He learned that this was
my first day in Shanghai and he said he would like to invite me to
his home that night for dinner. I had known previously that the customs
people were the elite of China since customs is where the foreign
currency is generated! Mr. Los invitation sounded very genuine,
so I accepted with pleasure.
Los house was elegantbeautiful furnishings, antique pottery,
silken wall paintings. A servant let me in and seated me in what looked
like a large anteroom. A young man passed by me several times without
speaking; he looked like Mr. Lo, dressed in his Chinese gown rather
than in his work clothes. It was Lo; in China it is quite all right
for the host to pass by his guests without noticing them, until he
has the occasion to greet them properly. And that is what happened.
Lo finally came over and greeted me profusely and led me into the
next room where sat his lovely daughter, Amy. It also explained my
dinner invitation: I was a safe date for his daughter.
When I was sitting in the antechamber, I observed a little object
on the desk. Lo asked me if I liked it, and I said yes. Before realizing
what I had said, he made his obligatory response. Its
yours, he smiled. I made my obligatory response, Oh, but
I couldnt possibly accept it. The next day it was delivered
to my hotel room, and at that point I was obliged to accept. I sent
a prompt thank-you note.
To spend our time before dinner, Amy was ready for me; she had it
all planned. Before sunset we took a little walk out to the lighthouse
and climbed up the spiral stairway to the top to see the play of lights
on the sea. Later when I was back on board ship and out to sea, I
was to receive a lovely poem from Amy describing our enchanting visit
and the lights upon the water. I never lived that down with the other
officers who ungraciously referred to Amy Lo as One Hung.
And to hear them talk, I had a real Chinese lover.
Next, Amy introduced me to a game which I think she called mah-jong.
It was like a chess game except some of the principle players could
not move across the center line of the board. I had played chess a
fair amount with my father so I picked up the game pretty fast, and
beat her; she was so admiring of me. If she let me win, it was not
at all obvious.
It was time to go to dinner which was described, between every course,
as just the simple food we eat at home. By the time we
reached the eighth or ninth luxuriant course, that explanation was
beginning to wear thin.
Finally, we reached what appeared to be the final course. I heard
one of the family burp ever so delicately, and I noticed on her plate
the traditional three grains of rice, indicating she was full. So
I made my little burp, which wasnt too convincing, and left
my three grains of rice. They then quit offering food to me, and dinner
was over. That was the last I ever saw of the Lo family. The very
next year Shanghai fell to the Communists and I heard the family fled
to Hong Kong. Their surname Lo, next to Lee and Liu, is probably the
most popular surname in China, so it is useless to ask about a Lo