A Blog About An Asian Medical Student. Yes that's redundant.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The Barbarian

aka My New Best Friend
aka The Only Nickname That Stuck
aka It's Time To Du-Du-Du-Du-DUEL
aka The 21st Lap.

It's a well known fact that the majority of my friends share commonalities.

They tolerate my nonsense.

They stand by my shenanigans.

And most importantly...

... they know I'm cheap.

It's within this trifecta of madness that I am able to evaluate who will be acquaintances, fleeting and evanescent, and terse out who are my true friends, loyal and burdened by me.

Shackled by the bonds of a David Poon friendship, my eccentricities an albatross hung around the neck of a life that would otherwise be pleasant and happy.


Let me tell you about Mark.


Back when I started high school, my homeroom class (the main group of people you would learn with for that year) inexplicably did not have my best friend in it.

Since high school is the natural starting point of a complete makeover, it was time to find a New Best Friend.

So I thought about what qualities my original bestie had, and decided I wanted the opposite.

I was looking for someone intelligent.



Mark Milne was the template for high school television nerd who turned out to be hot at the end after taking off their glasses.

Except he was a guy, and he actually looked better with his frames.


Him with frames:

And him without:

BTW, the reason he looks so miserable in the first picture was because he was the only one I could convince to come watch my cheerleading team's tournament.

I guess he thought the floor was more interesting than my pom poms.


Smart, great with computers, and a bigger geek than I could ever hope to be, he was the ideal candidate for New Best Friend.

But could he stand for my nonsense?

Believe it or not, I can be a bit annoying, and believe it or not, not everyone tolerates that.

Early on, when I was trying to designate Mark as my New Best Friend, I invited him over for dinner.

Because I'm cheap, and to be honest, because I like annoying people, I made us macaroni and cheese.

With only chopsticks to eat.

Too polite to ask for a fork, and too dumb to realize he should have just left, Mark spent the next half hour struggling to pick up each individual macaroni noodle from the serving bowl on to his plate, then proceeded to barely take each individual macaroni noodle to his mouth.

I'm fairly certain after an hour he just left home hungry after having eaten only about eight pieces of macaroni, and a glass of water I forced him to drink with chopsticks too.

Because of how daintily he handled the pasta, and how ridiculously sheepish/polite he was about the whole ordeal, I gave him the nickname "Mark the Barbarian" which stands until this day. The juxtaposition of a feeble nerd eating pasta with wooden callipers to the statuesque brute warrior we would imagine made the nickname both hilarious and, oddly, timeless.

It's actually a little absurd how much he's put up with. I've had him repair my Macbook Pro when it was smashed to the point he had to glue the chassis back together. According to the Apple employee I later had assess my machine, it was an impressive job, and much like Frankenstein's monster, it should have never been done.

Except that was the precedent of our relationship. Mark never failed to be there for me despite how flawed my ideas were.

At the end of our first year as friends, as he solidified the mantle of New Best Friend, I had a year end party at my house.

It was much like the high school parties you see in American movies except there were no bikinis, girls, and instead of beer we had the Sega Dreamcast.

Mark helped me run the party, and even helped me clean up. He had to stay overnight, and just asked that I make sure he gets to school in time for him to get some grade 9 certificate he was getting.

Well I slept in, he was too nice to wake me up, and he missed whatever piece of paper he was being awarded.

Forever the class act, he never bugged me about it, just happy that I had a great party.

Plus we got to play more Dreamcast.


An interesting footnote in our lives that I remember clearly, but Mark has long forgotten, was during one of our earlier gym classes, when we barely knew each other.

The hellacious truth of high school physical education is that your entire future is determined on your ability to #literally run circles in a gym, with those who don't make the endurance quota shamed and removed from the experience.

Believe it or not I wasn't much of an athlete, and believe it or not, I was actually not great at running laps.

Or running in general.

Like the epitome of eugenics, high school phys ed is where the weak are faded out for inferiority, with only the strong to achieve greatness.

As I started to falter on what seemed like my 100th lap (I think it was actually 19th), Mark slowed down just to keep pace with me. At the time we might have had only one or two conversations by then.

I told him,

"I can't run more than twenty laps. This is where I usually stop"

He kept pace.

He looked at me.

And then he simply said,

"Then how will you get any better?"


After that I kept pace with him and exceeded all my expectations.

And after I finally took my well deserved rest following the 21st lap, I knew I had a friend who not only tolerated me, but pushed me to be better.

Today, he is married to a wonderful woman, and has bought his own home. He has his own webdesign company, and has big dreams building towards a future.

As of this writing, it may be the first time I have told him how he still helps push me, encourages me, makes me strive towards being better.

More than ten years later, Mark and I have remained the greatest of friends, despite my numerous attempts to ruin everything from his video games to his wedding. Irrespective of that chaos, that madness, that burden I place on his world, he is loyal, and I know he always will be.

There is no greater compliment I can give him than he is the first person I went to when I had had a business idea. Instead of dismissing my antics, he gives them legitimacy by questioning them in the scope of reality.

He has helped turn the frenzied batshit crazy spontaneity of my half baked chain of a mind into a functional shenanigan of a business I can show the world. And most importantly, as a partial stakeholder who doesn't take salary, he completes the trifecta I need in my friendships...

... he works for cheap.

When I gave him the name, Mark the Barbarian, it was tongue in cheek, referential to a person I never thought he was.

But as I reflect on a friendship spanning over a decade, one I hope will last decades more, I see the strength, vision, loyalty, and will this unassuming four eyed nerd is truly capable of.

And I realize that, for him, there is no more perfect a namesake.

- David

Back when we were young and stupid. 
Now we aren't young. 
Happy 30th Birthday Mark. 
I'm sorry this is a year late.

Now lets get back to work. 
We have our deadlines to reach, and I refuse to do an extra lap.     

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