instant noodles, orange and sandwich


38 years ago I ate those three items not in one day, not in one vessel, and not in one country.

Instant noodles out in International Waters under firing rockets, oranges aboard a USS vessel and finally, a sandwich in Subic Bay, Philippines.

After that hellish trip, plane foods, hotel foods, cafeteria foods all taste better.

Now, I just want a bowl of oatmeal with raisins.

Any day and everyday.

Foods were supposed to nourish and nurture us.

It binds us and bonds us together (Thanksgiving dinner).

Yet for years, in my family, plates got tossed in fits.

Made food fighting on campus looks like child play.

My experience with foods hence has been associated with negative context: chaos and loneliness (I once saw an asleep lady in my mom’s nursing home, with a glass of milk that had almost spilled out).

By the way, the instant noodles on my way out of Saigon was consumed without hot water and was split among the nine of us.

The orange aboard the USS was eaten with peel.

And the sandwich was handed out by a nun in Subic Bay. I should have kept the wrapping for souvenir.

Just a ham sandwich, but it tasted as close to heaven.

And the coke that went with it, to this day, still fizzles and fires a rush up my nose.

The sound of one coke popping (courtesy of  “the sound of one hand clapping”).

Together, those three items: noodles, orange and sandwich are vended on any California campus.

But back then, I had to risk my life, changed the trajectory of fate in three countries (Vietnam, US sovereignty and the Philippines).

What others call hell, I call home.

Chu Tu, our famous writer, was blown apart at a nearby boat, perhaps right after I had my noodle part.

So five cheers to writers who create the eternal out of the ordinary.

In his case, the temporal (his death) has served up as memory for the eternal.

Instant noodles, instant death, yet enduring legacy.

In my mind, his name and his writing (Yeu, Song etc.. Love, Live ..) are still alive.

To this day, my brother still mentioned the heavenly taste of that Pentagon-supplied sandwich.

There is a Vietnamese saying “mot mieng khi doi bang mot goi khi no” (a bite in need is a meal indeed).

Supply and demand. Scarcity and abundance.

Then I found myself lately avoiding those instant noodles, and opt for a hot bowl of Pho. Forced choice architecture has changed for me.

OK, maybe oatmeal and raisins to ride out this Recession. I hope I don’t have to resort to ramen for daily staples. I saw the photo of a girl who subsists solely on ramen. It’s not a pretty sight. I don’t want to let my life-and-death journey be in vain. Could have stayed home for that to begin with. Instant noodles, orange and sandwich. Stay hungry, stay curious. And no OFF button, says Jobs.

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