Once upon a time in Downtown Greenville, South Carolina on a Friday night Rebecca and I were listening to music and some friends of ours walked up and introduced us to this diminutive, sharp dressed, Asian dude with a bad comb over that would give President Trump envy. They said his name was Noah. Noah was very stylish from his shoes to his blingy, color coordinated watch bands. Honestly my first initial reaction was , “Who is this weird, little man.” What I didn’t know was that the “weird, little man” would become big part of Rebecca and my life for the next 15 or so years. Noah as we called him the first couple of years because that was what we were told would later become Noi, which was his real name or a derivative of something I could never pronounce. His last name is Phenpimon. Say no more. Noi is one of those people like Prince, Elvis, LeBron. No other name was needed. I have called him many times several other names but we won’t get into that. We learned that everyone in Greenville knows Noi. Many times I felt like I was in a parade at the Saturday morning Greenville Farmers Market. Noi waving and people coming up to him . I remember Michael Jordan and Noi were walking down the street one time and everyone was wondering who that was with Noi.
Life is funny sometimes. Over a lifetime you meet all sorts of people. I often wonder why you click with some and not with others. I have many acquaintances but very few real friends. I have close friends from church, old friends from the 80’s. Noi came from Thailand and moved to Greenville, worked logistics for a manufacturing company, became a US citizen, met a woman, got married and lived a wonderful life. Noi is a gentle, soft spoken, has a quick wit, will give you the shirt off his back and is funny as hell when he gets mad. Noi is a Buddhist and everything I have read about Buddhism he fits the mold. We never really talked about religion. On occasions I’d ask him about the statue of little fat guy that was in the meditation station he had in his backyard. Now when I pull up to my house that statue of the little fat guy sits in my front yard staring at me. When Noi retired he became a gardener and did quite well. Trattoria Giorgio, a downtown Greenville restaurant has a garden that Noi took care of as well as other places.
Writing this blog many things run through my mind about Noi. So many stories I could tell. The thing is, Noi is dying. The cancer has come back with avengence and he probably has months if that long. I thought about doing this blog after he died but I decided to honor his life while he is living. I am losing a friend, the patriarch of our group. I am losing the only friend I know that throws himself a birthday party on more than one occasion. I am losing a friend that has taken me to every Thai restaurant in Greenville and treated me to some great Thai dishes. Not treated. That would mean he paid for them. I am losing a friend that taught me the difference between a Korean and a Thai. (You don’t want to know). I am losing a friend that after we gave him permission to landscape our backyard he planted crap that I have no idea what it is. I am losing that one friend that I greet with an insult.
We went to see Noi Sunday which is our usual ritual. He is talking about his how he wants his service conducted, things he wants us to do, things not to say and directly looks at me and says “Don’t be an asshole.” Then the phone rings and Noi pulls out his day planner and tells this person on the phone that he can pencil her in at 1pm Monday. The man is dying and he is penciling people as to when they can see him. While we were at his house someone knocks on the door and he very nicely asks them to come back in a hour and then proceeds to make me write down 3 Thai recipes that he wants us to cook for him next Sunday. He wants to sample them and blast us when he tells us how bad they are. This is Noi and I will miss this abuse tremendously.
One universe, nine planets, two hundred four countries, seven seas….and I have had the privilege of meeting you. Godspeed my friend.