What the Fortune Teller Told Me and What I’m Doing

(I wrote most of this on Monday. Finished it late Wednesday night. Publishing on Thursday.)

Most people know that fortune tellers are con artists. It doesn’t matter. They’ve been around for centuries and when they’re good at their craft (and it definitely is a craft), at the very least it’s entertaining.

On Sunday night, my wife and I went up to the Temple Street Night Market. I love coming here. It’s always the same and hopefully it will never change.

First, you make that right turn from Jordan Road onto Temple Street and there are a couple of cheap shops selling just about any hair care product you can think of.

Then you get the four streets of stalls, selling any and every kind of cheap crap that they think someone will buy. I picked up a couple of USB cigarette lighters for US$6 a piece. No fluid, no gas, charge by USB, flick them on and a coil heats up enough to light a cigarette (but not large enough for a cigar), rechargeable, windproof, dozens of styles.

When you get to the garage, the south side has Nepalese people selling all sorts of crafts and religious statues. Along the west side are stands selling sex toys and personal grooming items. The east side has fortune tellers and stands set up for people to come along and pay some makeshift band so they can do karaoke-style Cantonese opera. The north side has more fortune tellers. Then there’s the park.

North of the park, the street market continues for a few more blocks, selling household items, alongside local restaurants famous for claypot rice and shops selling porn.

Of course after our shopping we had dinner. Somehow the lower section of Temple Street has become synonymous with restaurants selling spicy crab and other seafood dishes along with cheap mainland Chinese beer. Tables are mostly set up in the street. English menus (you can order from the menu or take a look in the buckets to inspect the seafood first), English-speaking staff, and prices that are somewhere between a reflection of the cheap folding tables and plastic stools and the fact that you’re a tourist. We had clams in black bean sauce (I always order this), mantis shrimp, fried rice with salted fish and chicken … we weren’t anywhere near full so we ordered a crab fried with garlic and chili. Probably just as good as what you could find at Under Bridge but also probably half the price

Then I told my wife we should go to a fortune teller just for the hell of it. We looked for the ones that had signs that said they speak English, finally settling on a lady with a deck of tarot cards in front of her. She said she could also do face reading and palm reading but that tarot cards were better for predicting the “near future.” For the tarot cards, she said HK$100 per question. My wife, as is her wont, immediately tried bargaining. “How about we get to ask 5 questions for $300?” A little bargaining back and forth, we ended up with 5 questions for $380.

A good fortune teller is a psychologist. They can figure out the answers you want to hear based upon the questions you ask. I know this. But this woman still put on a good show.

One of my questions was whether I should leave Hong Kong and, if the answer was yes, should I choose New York, Los Angeles, or Dallas Texas.

She told me that it would be tough for me to stay in Hong Kong, that I was going to face a lot of competition. I can’t remember now what she said about L.A. but she clearly wasn’t in love with the idea. She told me that if I went to Texas, I would have bad luck and a very hard life. She said that in New York City, I might not get rich but I would have better luck and make very good money there.

What does this all mean? Why those questions?

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that Hong Kong is a tough place for an old white guy to find a job. She knew I’m not young because my beard is white. She could guess that I don’t speak fluent Cantonese because I sought out a fortune teller with a sign saying she speaks English. And she had already asked if I own my own business, and I’d told her I work for someone else’s company. (I did not tell her that I’m currently unemployed.)(Ouch. Typing that last sentence hurt.) So yeah, a lot of competition and tough going in Hong Kong, that’s not a long stretch of the imagination.

As for the cities I chose to ask about … some of the top cities in the US for tech jobs at the moment are New York, San Francisco, Dallas, Austin and Los Angeles.

New York – I grew up there. I lived in the NYC metro area for almost 40 years. I have a lot of friends and family there. On the other hand, it snows there and after 23 years living in warmer climates, I’m not sure that I can deal with winter again. And it’s expensive – so you end up living quite far away from Manhattan and having a long daily commute.

San Francisco – I lived there for 2-1/2 years and have family and friends here. When I lived in SF, in the Twin Peaks area, it wasn’t paradise. Public transportation wasn’t great, taxis were impossible to get (I assume Uber fixes this) and if we were going anywhere for dinner or a movie we had to allow 1 extra hour to search for parking. Rentals here are even more expensive than Hong Kong now.

Los Angeles – currently hot on the tech scene, in part thanks to an area in Santa Monica called Silicon Beach. Plus I have this fantasy that one day I’ll get to do IT for a Hollywood studio again. On the other hand, traffic is horrible.

Dallas – I’ve never been here. I don’t know many people here. But the cost of living is low and I hear there are a lot of jobs here because of “telecom corridor” north of the city and a lot of companies relocating to this area. I’ve found that I can get a fairly decent hotel room at daily rates much cheaper than NY, LA or SF.

Austin – I’ve never been here. I know a few people here. Everything I have read tells me that the culture here would fit me to a “T.” But I think there would be more job opportunities for me in Dallas than in Austin, since I’ll be seeking contract work.

At any rate, on Thursday I am flying to Dallas.

Cost figures into this quite heavily. I wanted a 2 or 3 star hotel/motel that offered at least a fridge and a microwave. And additional weighting for places that were in walking distance of multiple restaurants and convenience stores. This way I could rely on Uber or rent a car as needed, rather than having a rental car sitting in the parking lot every day just so I could drive to a 7-11 or taco joint.

I found that the options available in Dallas suburbs were almost 50% cheaper than places in the NYC, SF or LA areas.

I don’t know that Dallas is where I will “end up” necessarily but I have to start somewhere and this appears to be as good a starting point as any, regardless of what the fortune teller said.