Buffalo City Hall*
Tiffany and I have this tradition of making frivolous bets with each other. I called her up over our unsettled matter of tapas last week:
"Hey. How have you been? How's Portland?", I asked.
"I'm fine. How about you? Are you still up in Montreal? So, by the sound of things, I think I'm the one who owes you tapas," she said.
"You buy me tapas? Well, I'm not sure. It might be the other way around. At least by a really strict, really narrow definition of our terms and conditions--you may have grounds to collect from me... ," I said.
These casual bets we've been carrying on have always been over simple stakes (dinner) and based on silly premises. Usually it's in anticipation of some longstanding event yet a couple years off in either of our personal lives. It's a routine we've maintained for quite a number of years, now. Despite that we haven't even settled who won our silly bet of two years ago... we've just laid down another.
Our first bet began while we both happened to be visiting Hong Kong several years ago. I forget how our conversation brought us to the topic. At some point I remarked how I'd seen a certain maternal overdrive kick in with other female friends who hadn't yet begun families by the end of their twenties. I teased her that a baby crisis might be imminent. Tiffany was adamant that she would not go through that:
Unrelated Photo: David and
Wings at Anchor Bar*
Our terms were whether Tiffany would reach a certain birthday without a baby crisis. At the moment we were talking the two of us happened to be seated in a Hong Kong restaurant eating dim sum. Sitting across from each other with glutinous rice chicken and shrimp dumplings steaming in bamboo baskets between us prompted us to set the stakes: a future round of dim sum. I lost that one. She evidently never once over the next years felt the least twinge of maternal yearning.
A couple years ago when I ponied up the stakes for that first bet, Tiffany turned the personal focus of our next bet around onto me. She predicted that I would be in a "long-term relationship" together with somebody by, not the next lunar new year, but by the subsequent holiday two years later. That date passed this year. In keeping with our theme of small plates we decided the loser of that bet would have to buy the winner not dim sum, but tapas.
On the phone last week, I continued to discuss in greater detail the matter of just who owed whom tapas:
"You know, in our second bet I did allow that even if I were just making 'long-term plans' with somebody you ought to be the winner. Recent time with Irina has defined that she and I are not in any established, on-going relationship. But, we do have plans to get together again in Europe some six months from now--for whatever that means," I told Tiffany. "Does that mean I should buy?"
"Well, I'm not going to try exploiting loopholes. You're not in a relationship, now. I'll buy tapas whenever we next get together," she said.
Tiffany and I chatted longer, sharing what was currently happening in our personal lives. She is still getting lots of work as a freelance Chinese translator, still working part-time at an international NGO, and has now started taking Russian classes at a local college in Portland. I shared my recent experiences about attempting to settle in Quebec. We mulled over possibilities.
"You know, it sounds like neither of us are really oriented back toward the region where we lived for so long, Central Asia, anytime soon. We both love the area, but our lives are moving on and heading in other directions," I said. "Maybe we should make our next bet be about the both of us. How about the terms be whether either of us return to anywhere in Central Asia by the next Chinese New Year."
"Okay, that sounds good. But just how do you define 'Central Asia'?", Tiffany asked me.
"Umm... you could make a case for any country whose name ends in '-stan'? Also, for any country where a Turkic language is spoken?", I said.
"Do Xinjiang and Mongolia count?", Tiffany asked.
"Xinjiang, of course. Mongolia... only its far west. If you go all the way out to Altai or Bayan Olgi, sure. But don't you go dashing up to Ulaan Baatar on your next business trip to Beijing just to win the bet. Too far east," I said unconsciously shaking my head and sticking out my tongue for emphasis--though Tiffany couldn't see my body gestures through the phone.
"Agreed. What are our stakes?"
Unrelated Photo: Niagara Falls*
"But that's so common around Portland and Seattle."
"How about dumplings? Each of those countries has their own take on some kind of dumpling. Perhaps the winner could request that the loser buy a bowl of dumplings made in the style of anywhere in Central Asia."
"Okay. So, our bet is that if either of us goes back to Central Asia by the next Chinese New Year you buy dumplings. If neither of us do, I buy dumplings," Tiffany confirmed.
"It's settled, then."
I do know that we're perpetuating a silly, convoluted routine--but it's funny. It will give the two of us a reason to check in and chat about life in general every now and again. I can imagine our conversations: "What's new? Any plans to be anywhere near Samarkand anytime soon? Uh-oh... you might owe me dumplings!"
We'll find out who owes whom in just under a year. That will be 4711: the Year of the Snake. Strangely, I kind of hope it's Tiffany who wins. That would mean that at least one of us will soon travel back to a part of the planet we both love.