Thursday, May 29, 2008

Happy 30th, Zhang Peng!

This isn't the first time I've written about my older cousin Zhang Peng, but a refresher course for those unfamiliar: the only child of my dad's younger sister, DaPeng is possibly the kindest, most generous person anyone can know, a man whose self-interests align first with those of family and second with friends; an educated fellow who's competently versed in Beijing's inner trappings and wise in all the important areas. With Chinese family structures organized as is under the one-child policy, one's cousins are one's siblings, and so it is with mine -- Zhang Peng, Mingyu, Tao Yuan (who I've somehow yet to write about) and, most recently, Fang Fang and Fei Fei -- but I consider myself closest to Zhang Peng. Our relationship has only grown in the last two years, starting with my previous visit to Beijing, when we bonded over Bacardi 151s (flaming, taken five in a row) and other escapades. His work as an IT manager at Beihang University prevents us from hanging out more often (he lives in a dormitory over there), but on Tuesday he called and said, ever so gingerly because I had mentioned I had other plans, that this was his birthday.

"What? Your birthday?"


"Why didn't you tell me before?"

I canceled my previous engagement and joined Zhang Peng for dinner with friends:

Zhang Peng is the man sitting down with the hands over his breasts. See, the Chinese can sabotage pictures just as well as anyone... unfortunately, I don't think anyone's flashing those peace signs ironically.

A couple more pictures for you:

The man giving the toast in the last picture is an asshole. Was last night, anyway. Apparently there was a bit of news DaPeng had forgotten to alert his "brothers" to (that's how he refers to his close friends), and so Asshat here decides to take this opportunity to spin off a few choice words, dressed up in some fancy turns of phrase and with the ever-so-innocent disclaimer, "I say this because I've drank a bit too much..." It got to the point where DaPeng was near tears with guilt. Asshat persisted, then asked around if what he said was wrong. One guy -- we'll call him Asscap -- said no, it was not wrong.

The question never got around to me, otherwise I would have told him straight up: Yes, your fault. It's your bro's 30th birthday, and if you can't respect that occasion, then maybe you should, in DaPeng's words (which he acknowledged he learned from me), "Go to fuck yourself." DaPeng considers you his best friend, and I'll be damned if this is how best friends treat each other.

By the end of the night -- after copious amounts of baijiu, and around the second time Asshat told me to shut up -- I was ready to sock that goddamn big-mouthed son of a bitch in the face. Alas, the opportunity never came up, and I don't think Zhang Peng would have approved. I told my cousin en route to the restroom that his best friend was wrong in his actions, and DaPeng could only shake his head and again fess up to wrongdoing.

The night ended with me pulling up just short of begging to go to Sanlitun, then promising I'd take a cab home. A few drunk calls ensued, and eventually I got talked out of going out for the night. You sober people out there: don't underestimate your power to sway and impact the world. You sure as hell have a better chance than the rest of us.

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