Monday, October 7, 2013

A Best Man's speech

James Chong is one of my oldest friends in life, and this past month, he finally tied the knot with his beloved. This is the speech I would have given at his wedding had I been able to make it. I don't know if he would have actually asked me to be the Best Man to give a Best Man's speech, but me being the egotistical bastard that I am, I wrote one anyways. Congratulations, brother.

Growing up, I always looked up to James, I mean how could you not? He had the baddest long-bang hairstyle at school, wore the coolest oversized yellow jackets, and I’m pretty sure one year he had a pair of JNCO jeans. I remember one time in middle school we both sat nervously in our chairs at the school talent show audition, trying to remember the lines to “Jinusean Bomb” before our turn was up. We ended up not going through with it, one of the biggest regrets of my life, but James redeemed himself throughout the rest of high school and college, and even now, is still living through his soul with music. So I always admired James for never letting that go, for his courage to display his passion in front of crowds, and every performance, every accomplishment I hear about, always brought a sense of pride in being his friend.

There were only two times when I didn’t look up to James. The first time was when Kevin Pana pushed him into a concrete wall at the Tyee basketball courts as he was chasing a stray ball during a game, and the impact ended up breaking both his arms. I remember meeting a friend later in life, Tiffany Hom, who went to the same Korean school as James. When I asked her if she knew him, she took a moment to think about it and finally said, “Oh yeah, I think he's that guy who sits by himself at lunch, trying to eat his food with two casts on his arms.” I don’t know which one was funnier: the image of someone trying to eat with two broken arms, or the fact that James had no friends to eat with.

The other time I was with James and our friend Jeff (we were still in middle school so Jeff was still our friend), and we were walking down Factoria Boulevard, probably on our way to the mall. I don’t remember what we were talking about exactly, but something suddenly exploded near our heads and I only remember seeing a goop of thick yellow and clear sludge splatter onto a tree next to us. Jeff and I checked ourselves clean, but James had a gooey mess dripping down the left side of his head. Turns out, we (or James really) were the victims of a drive-by egging. We walked into a nearby Taco Time, ranting with James about the absurdity of the situation, but once he went into the bathroom to clean himself off, Jeff and I burst out laughing, clutching each other’s shoulders to hold ourselves up from falling over. By the time James came back out we managed to put on our serious face and vowed empty threats of revenge. About 6 years later I ran into the culprit at Bally’s Total Fitness in Eastgate. Turns out it was one of my sister’s childhood friends. We all had a good laugh about that memory.

But aside from those two times, I’ve always had the upmost respect for James. I remember at 15, he was the first one out of all of our friends to get a job, hustling sandwiches at Quiznos while pursuing a rap career, and his sense of work ethic has always been the inspiration for me to pursue my own work. I’ve accomplished a few things over the course of my life, and I owe a lot of that to James, for instilling that sense of responsibility when I was young. 

I’ve known James now for over 10 years, drawing near towards two decades. We haven’t always been in the same place, but we've always been connected. I’ve watched him take courageous risks to follow his heart, and pick himself up with tremendous grace when on the ground; at least in my eyes, he's always managed to come out the victor regardless of the outcome. Now, I see him as a man, one with great potential and a bright future. One who has been there for his friends, and gives love and support to his family when needed. And today, he embarks on that journey to starting his own, and I have faith and confidence that he will succeed in that as well. 

So I toast to you, my brother, for your journey ahead, and know on this day, I look up to you once again.  

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