Saturday, February 09, 2008

Cloud Dragon, 1922-2007

In 1922, in Kowloon, Hong Kong a boy named Cloud Dragon was born. He grew up in a house on Kai Yun Road with his younger brother (b. 1927). The Cloud Dragon attended a government school and then Queen's College -- a British public school. On Christmas Eve 1941, he left the family home and walked with two friends into mainland China. He left Hong Kong and enlisted because he believed that death in resisting the Japanese would be preferable to living under their heel.

Hong Kong fell to the Japanese the next day.

In 1942 he joined the Chinese Nationalist Army under Chiang Kai-Shek and trained in Fukien as an intelligence officer. From 1942-43 he worked in military intel; in 1944, he trained for guerrilla warfare under the Sino-American Cooperation Organization, SACO. He had been deployed to southeast China for attacks against the Japanese by V-J Day 1945.

After WWII, Cloud Dragon became a detective in Tientsin and later a police chief in Ping Chuan. By 1948, he had become a detective in Hunan Province but lost his job as the Communists began to consolidate their power. He traveled south to Canton, but couldn't find work. Instead, he stayed at a Secret Service guest house through 1949 and worked for the Nationalists. In October 1949, he left again to move southwestward to Yunnan in an attempt to evade the Communists and link up with the last sizable nationalist force. That failed.

On Christmas Eve 1949, the Chinese Communists captured Cloud Dragon. But he had the foresight to remove all insignia from his uniform and pretended to be just infantry. The ChiComs imprisoned him for four months in Yunnan but released him and other low-interest prisoners because the locals (whom the ChiComs then had to placate) complained about feeding the prisoners. In Spring 1950, the ChiComs released him with instructions on where he had to report . . . he took the opposite route, decamped for Canton again, exchanged his lone sweater for opium, sold the opium to an addict for enough Hong Kong dollars to sustain his travels and slipped into Hong Kong by tricking the border guards preventing Chinese from going into the British protectorate.

Once in Hong Kong, Cloud Dragon tried to find work through old school connections. He made brooms from coconut fibers in exchange for two meals a day from an old schoolmate. He borrowed $500 from a loan shark to become a cabin mate on a freighter and left Hong Kong bound for Sydney. From day one, he determined to jump ship and start again, but the ship hands told him not to do it in Australia. The freighter then went west to Europe. Ultimately he transferred to the ship Muncaster Castle, which left Le Havre in Spring 1951 and arrived in New York in June.

He jumped ship.

He hid in Chinatown until the ship left port, then took a job washing dishes in a restaurant in Brooklyn. The INS arrested him two weeks after that. His asylum claim took five years to resolve in his favor -- Cloud Dragon became a legal resident in 1956, and a citizen in 1962. After training as a draftsman and some early jobs, which ultimately ended due to cutbacks, he couldn't find work. So he became a waiter and then a cook in a New York Chinese restaurant.

In 1970, he had a son.


The 48-year age difference did not matter much to either Wongdoer or Cloud Dragon. The devoted son almost never missed getting home immediately after school on Wednesday to spend time with his dad on the latter's off day. The father taught his son Chinese history and helped guide the path that ended up with Wongdoer going to Harvard. And Wongdoer gave the old man great joy in his latter years -- Wonglings 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0.

Although Sunday was Super Bowl Sunday to most people, it was a different type of notable occasion for Wongdoer. That's because February 3, 2008 is the one-year anniversary of the death of the Cloud Dragon -- the literal translation of the name of Wongdoer's dad.

Cloud Dragon, RIP.

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