restricted access With Any Luck
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I met Mr. and Mrs. Kuong at a moment of transition: before a move they were planning from California to Utah and after they had moved to California from Las Vegas. A striking Chinese American woman with porcelain-white skin and wearing a black pantsuit with a red kerchief tied around her neck, Mrs. Kuong at first glance looked more like the daughter than the extraordinarily well-preserved wife of the shuffling, graying man hiding behind her as she walked into my office, led by Dawn. “It is important that I start at the beginning, from point zero,” Mrs. Kuong said, not waiting for me to ask the opening question or even to address her husband, whom Dawn had introduced to me as the patient. “As I sit here, I can’t say that I am too optimistic,” Mrs. Kuong added. “We may be too far gone for you to be able to help us, and our only realistic option may be to move yet again. But if we can’t be helped, maybe we can be of help. Maybe we can serve, through you, as a lesson to other patients at less advanced stages. I like to think that some good can come from our story.” With Any Luck 107 After this foreboding introduction, Mrs. Kuong readjusted her position in the chair, as if preparing for a long, almost physically painful narration of their tale. “So let me start from the beginning, please,” she repeated. “We got married young but not by those days’ standards. I was twenty and studying hospitality and hotel management at Hong Kong University; he was twenty-four and working on his PhD in statistics. His thesis was on the methodology behind the Hong Kong population census, and I needed data for a paper I was writing on disposable income among the city’s upper class. He was quiet and well mannered, with piercing eyes that seemed to foreshadow a brilliant future, and he had a passion for numbers. But he didn’t need to become a doctor in statistics or end up here in this country. He came from a Chinese family that over three generations had amassed wealth and influence helping the British authority administer the port of Hong Kong, and he had a high post guaranteed for him there. But he saw being associated with the “empire” as old-fashioned, even slightly dishonorable. Waiting for China’s takeover of the administration of Hong Kong, which was on the horizon, was equally unappealing: he considered himself a free man and an anticommunist. He would say to me, ‘I have my atheism in common with the communists, and that’s all.’ And I would say to him, ‘No, you’re not an atheist; you love statistics too much. You worship numbers.’ “We covered a lot of ground in that first meeting, which he suggested we hold at the racetrack cafeteria near the university. We did not, however, get to the census data I wanted, so we met again. And again. And again. We talked about everything: his Britishstyle aristocratic upbringing and my modest rural roots; his rational , scientific mind and my more creative side; his infatuation 108 / With Any Luck with America and . . . mine, too! Yes, we had that in common: a naïve, idealized notion of America, as well as the undeniable beginnings of an attraction to one another. “But while he was well on his way to experiencing America firsthand—he had job offers from universities in Las Vegas and Salt Lake, and an approved work visa—I had no real hope of ever making it there myself. Half jokingly, ‘so that we can continue dating,’ as he put it, he proposed that we should marry—I had no other way of obtaining a visa. And so we did, against strong objections from his family, who wanted him to marry within his class. “He leaned heavily toward Salt Lake and felt it was the better offer by far, but he left it up to me to pick where we went. ‘I’m dragging you there, so you decide,’ he told me. Well, he wasn’t ‘dragging’ me at all, because I was all too happy to leave. I wanted to experience America, and I wanted to be with him. So I had a decision to make, and as I had heard such miraculous things about Las Vegas in every hospitality course I ever took, I decided we would make it...


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