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Saturday, October 5, 2013

Three Months with Charlie Chan Chapter 4

Old Men in the Park

After garnering what information we could from the store keepers we went about our business finding some of the older men.  

They would be sitting on benches and sunning themselves.

Charlie would sit near them and start a conversation and eventually get around to what he wanted to know.  He didn’t learn much from any one person but putting it all together it was clear no one in Chicago possessed the vases we wanted.  

Every larger city had a district where the Chinese were in the majority so to me the task was seemingly impossible.

Charlie said let’s go to L.A. next for they have a large community there.

So we chose the train again. This was in part because we could meet so many people each with their own story.  A lot of them were traveling on the train because they were uncomfortable flying even though the airlines had a good safety record.  

We met a few girls and had some nice conversations and a hug or two during the several days of travel.  You couldn’t experience that on a plane.

Charlie spent a lot of time talking to an old Chinese man who was accompanied by his son.  The old man had spent most of his life in Hong Kong before migrating to the U.S.A. bringing his young family with him.  He had heard of the vases we were seeking.  

He said only one of them was left for the other was broken by the owners wife in a fit of anger.  After breaking it, she pounded the fragments into dust and cast it into Hong Kong bay.  The man was so angry that he sent her away, back to China to her family.

He then had a duplicate vase made to replace the broken one and never told anyone about what happened.  There were only a few who knew about it and they swore not to tell about what happened.

Charlie asked the old man, “Why are you speaking about it now and to me of all people.”   He said he knew of Charlie’s quest and since all parties involved in the event have passed on he decided to share his knowledge with Charlie.  
He went on to say today there are many forgeries scattered throughout the world and they were so carefully made virtually no one could tell the difference.

He went on to explain how they were able to accomplish this and still keep the secret about the one that had been broken.  Charlie asked, “Where is the real vase that is left?”

The old man said, “It is it is hidden in my ancestral home.  I still own it and some of my family are the caretakers of it.  I plan to return in a couple of weeks and live out my days there.”

Charlie asked, ‘What about your son and his family, will they return with you?”

He answered, “No; they will remain here for this is now their home.  My son will only return for my funeral and my burial.”

I spent quite bit of time talking to the son, but he wouldn’t speak of the vases so we talked about his family and his clothing business.

They insisted that we come and stay with them for a few days which we agreed to.  We were treated kindly and were fed traditional Chinese cuisine for the most part.  
They mixed some of the more American style Chinese food in for which I was thankful.  Some of the old dishes were a little far out although Charlie managed them with ease.
The old man invited up to travel to China with him promising to show us the real vase that was left.  Before I could say anything Charlie said we would like to go.

While waiting for the departure date we went sight seeing and covered the tourist sights or perhaps I should call them tourist traps.  
As we toured I found myself being asked questions about why we were in California and more specifically why we were asking the whereabouts of certain vases by people I had never met?  

It was easy for me to answer that question for I didn’t know anything so I said, “Ask Charlie.”  

Just before we were to leave Charlie shared what the old man had told him and why he had agreed to let us travel with him.    
To be Continued   

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