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THE YEAR OF THE HAIRY DRAGON
By Michael Matthews
March 15, 2012 -- Something very exciting happened the other morning. For the first time in nearly a year, I washed my hair. That's right, my hair!

Since it was my hair's first bath in so long, I felt it needed special shampoo and conditioner. I went into my big basket of toiletries, stolen from hotels around the world, to find the perfect one. The answer: Aqua di Palma from Italy swiped from the wonderful San Ysidro Ranch in Montecito, California.

Wow! It felt good! Admittedly, there's not much to shampoo, maybe a quarter-inch of fluff, but it's still hair. What's more, it's coming back black with a slight scattering of gray. Very cool. A dashing salt-and-pepper look.

When you've been bald for the better part of a year, let me assure you that this undertaking rated high on the satisfaction scale. And I don't miss my perfect Brazilian at all.

I spent most of my working life based in Hong Kong and, even earlier than that, lived some years there as a small boy. Therefore, it is only natural that one picks up some customs and traditions along the way. So I pay attention to the fact that this is the Year of the Dragon and I am, by birth, a Dragon, the most fortunate of all Chinese birth signs.

People wait to marry in a Dragon year, conceive and birth in a Dragon year, invest in a Dragon year. So it was only natural that we had a Dragon party at my home to celebrate the return of my hair and the arrival of the latest Year of the Dragon.

A couple of Saturdays ago, about 30 of our friends gathered to drink Tsingtao beer, drink Dragon Wine (from California) and eat superlative Chinese food. We did it at my house, which was decked out with red dragons and all things Chinese.

Unbeknown to our guests, at exactly 7:30 p.m., a troupe of 30 Chinese drummers and lion dancers came up our drive. Accompanied by the deafening beating of drums, they danced through the house and onto our patio. There were actually three lions, the lead lion doing acrobatics. The troupe ranged from age five to the lead drummer, who looked older than the host of the party!

Where do you get a Chinese Lion Dance troupe? From your local Chinese Cultural center, of course. The cost? A nominal donation. The result? The guests and neighbors are still talking about it. I admit that's a bit disconcerting because I really wanted them to be talking about the reappearance of the Hairy Dragon Matthews.

For those wondering if they are fortunate enough to be a Dragon, the years to have been born in are 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000 and, of course, this year 2012. I would prefer not to mention which year I was born other than saying the picture of me with all that hair at the top of this column is very old!

Although it is the Year of the Dragon and I now have hair to wash, you should know all is not perfect. While the penis extension (aka, my Porsche) is running better than ever, I broke a tail light backing into a post. It cost a rather extravagant $575 to replace. I also got it serviced--an oil change, new filters, etc.--for a mere $274. After my hair wash and its oil change, we both feel like a million dollars.

Where is this all leading to? As a Dragon, I felt lucky last week when it was time for the big scan. You are X-rayed top to bottom to check if any of those nasty small cancer cells have returned. One has to remember the words "in remission." One is never cured and you are never sure when they will return.

But this Hairy Dragon is beating the odds. I got a clear run. I'm clean. Not a trace of the little buggers. Next scan in four months, which, for folks in remission, is nigh on forever.

I'm no fool, however. I don't believe for a minute that I'm beating the odds because I'm a Dragon. Far from it. I'm beating the odds because of the literally hundreds of people who have thrown their support behind me. So, my friends, thank you.

And I've cancelled Sarah Brightman singing, Time to Say Goodbye at my funeral. The way things are going, she'll be way too old to sing when the time comes!

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ABOUT MICHAEL MATTHEWS Michael Matthews has managed and marketed fine hotels around the world for more than 45 years. He spent 14 years in Hong Kong building the legendary Regent International group. He has also worked with St. Regis, Ritz-Carlton and Rosewood hotels. Matthews is currently based in Arizona. He began writing Do Not Disturb in early 2004.

THE FINE PRINT Joe Brancatelli makes this space available to Michael Matthews in the spirit of free speech and to encourage editorial diversity and the wider discussion of important travel issues. All of the opinions and material in this column are the sole property of Matthews. This column may not be reproduced in any form without the express permission of Michael Matthews.

This column is Copyright 2012 by Michael Matthews. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright 2012 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.