Merry Christmas, Mr Wang
think I’m nuts to befriend you could see this side of you,” I remark.
Peter Wang is a friend I met through this column. I get all kinds of interesting e-mails from readers, but his caught my attention from the first sentence. In short, he demonstrated himself as a man who not only knew his subject-verb agreement, but who could appreciate the quotidian pleasures of chu char (Chinese stir-fry).
Now, I’m a sucker for men with impeccable English and crisp British wit. So, after a few weeks of friendly e-mail exchanges, I agreed to meet. In all honesty, my heart was racing palpably when I got out of my car at the meeting place, a coffeeshop in Ipoh Garden. With any luck, he would turn out to be a dreamboat.
I did a double take when my dreamboat pulled up on a bicycle in the form of a 60something gentleman. With my best poker face, I sat down for what I thought would be a short meeting; half an hour at most.
But our lunch extended into tea, and tea into dinner. As we talked about everything under the sun, my initial misgivings about perceived personal differences gave way to delightful discoveries of shared interests. There was only one flaw in this meeting of minds – my pride was deflated somewhat when he revealed that I wasn’t the only, or first, The Star columnist he had written to, just the first one who was geographically close enough to meet in person.
It was the first of many meetings over the last five years.
This May-December friendship has not been without its challenges. We attract strange looks when we hang out together, presumably because of the age difference.
I get it even from my friends. Once, I wanted to invite him to a karaoke session and one of my group members was not very keen for him to join us. I insisted. Peter fit in like a glove, even though he proved once and for all he couldn’t carry a tune.
Although singing isn’t one of his talents, he has many other virtues. For one, he has a goofy sense of humour. He also has a huge arsenal of esoteric trivia; our conversation topics run the gamut from Douglas Adams to the health effects of pomegranates.
Although he claims to be a loner, he can be thoroughly entertaining when he chooses to. At one time, we were supposed to meet at a popular chapati institution in Ipoh Old Town. When I arrived, he and the owner, a burly guy twice his size, were arm-wrestling like two teenagers instead of grown men whose combined age exceeded 100. It was their first time meeting.
Wang is also highly enterprising. As he doesn’t own a car, most of the time I’m the one ferrying him around. The slight inconvenience has never stopped him from making his way to interesting but off-beat places that many people in Ipoh have never even heard of.
It was because of his glowing reports of the Kinta Nature Park, the Falim House Museum, and other hidden gems, that I eventually went there out of curiosity and wrote stories about them.
And despite his goofy nature, he can be an incredibly good confidante, I think, as his next words bring me back into the present.
“Life. Death. Marriage. Pain. Everything will pass,” he intones in a solemn voice.
I burst out laughing at his comical yet earnest attempt at Zen, but Peter has the last laugh because he turns out to be right. The problem that had reduced me to tears was resolved by the next morning.
Several days later, I ask Peter if I could post the line about drawing firm lines on Facebook.
“Yes, but only after you google it,” he replies perplexingly. “Huh?” “Aren’t you supposed to attribute quotes to the original source? It’s a variation of the Serenity Prayer, not my creation,” he says. His firm voice brooks no argument.
A man of honour who doesn’t like taking credit for somebody else’s work, in addition to being funny, quirky, kind-hearted and erudite?
And there I was, thinking that they don’t make friends like they used to.
Dear Peter Wang, bless your goofy heart for five years of wonderful friendship.
Alexandra Wong (www.bunnysprints.com) looks forward to another year of new friends and adventures.
Firm friends: the columnist and her friend of five years, Peter Wang, whom she got to know through this column. – Photo by cK Lee
Wang has many interests, as depicted in this montage.