When I published Sweet and Sour, I felt that San Francisco's public libraries would be interested in acquiring copies for its large Chinese patronage so I contacted them for this purpose. Luckily, the SF Main Library was planning to have a special exhibit, "San Francisco Eats," dealing with books, photos, menus, etc. related to SF cuisine in early 2011, so I was asked if I would like to present a talk on the book. I was, of course, more than willing. In fact, I asked if I could also give a second talk on the book at the Chinatown Branch library, where it might be more likely to attract a Chinese audience whereas the Main Library might attract a more ethnically varied audience. That is the story behind how I got to do two talks in San Francisco.
poet Nellie Wong and noted artist Flo Oy Wong, volunteered to be part of the presentation as these two sisters had grown up in their family restaurant in Oakland.
I was also excited to speak in two libraries where I had spent many hours as a high school student either studying or just hanging out with other kids.
When I arrived at the Chinatown library for the talk, the first thing I learned was that Nellie Wong had called in sick. While I regretted that she was not able to present, fortunately some of her literary friends had come (to hear her) and one volunteered to "pinch-read" some of her poems about restaurant experiences. Next, the remote control on the projector would not work, so the poor librarian had to manually advance each slide on my cue. These unexpected setbacks, I should add, came on top of the failure of the Post Office to deliver the books I had sent 3 weeks earlier, forcing me to lug a new set up on the plane, Caltrain, and the Muni bus!
Fortunately, the talk went well before a packed house... which the librarian said was one of their best turnouts. And, then at the end, I met artist Leland Wong, who had given me permission to include one of his great photographs in my book. Leland generously treated me to some Chinese soul food at a local village type cafe nearby. What a day!