Most of them were Chinese. The guests to the garden were either from the mainland or were first generations living in their close by mansions. Eleven times out of twelve, I would say that a visitor to the Chinese garden would be Chinese. Mr. Van Buren would come up to me every time I clocked in and say, “Have you learned Chinese yet?” We would stroll through the fragrant sunshine up the road from the Arboretum and inevitably I’d hear him say to the other docents, “Turn on the river. The Chinese want tranquility. That’s what they pay twenty-five goddamn bucks for.” The city was in its eleventh consecutive month of Level 2 Water Shortage Plan, and he was concerned about tranquility. It was a good thing I only agreed to come once every other Sunday. That was the Year of the Chicken, the last year I decided to volunteer for that garden.
Chris Wu grew up in Northern Texas. After studying economics at Yale and USC, he decided to become a writer. He currently resides with his husband in Pasadena, CA.