We were fast friends. We were best friends. And for three years we were mutual confidants.
It's not everyday that you learn that a former best friend has passed away. For me today was such a day. It came as a shock, but not a total surprise. I'm still trying to come to terms with it.
I met Kurt T. Francis in Macau, where we were both teaching – him business, me English – about 20 years ago. I'm not sure how it all got started, but if you wanted to find either one of us, all you had to do was head over to the lobby bar of the Beverly Plaza Hotel, which Kurt always referred to as “the Beverly”.
Kurt would sit there correcting papers while his then wife and I would chat. We enjoyed each other's company because she was from Beijing and didn't have anyone else she could speak to in Mandarin, and I enjoyed speaking in Mandarin.
I taught Kurt's wife how to do the Bop (which I learned in junior high school). She was a quick learner. After their marriage broke up, she told Kurt (which he related to me later) that doing the Bop with me at the Beverly was one of her fondest memories of Macau.
Against this was the backdrop of music by a Filpino band doing covers that we slowly became friends with.
Peter! Are you still there? Do you remember all those happy times we spent together?
When the lobby bar at the Beverly closed for the night, we would usually go out for a midnight snack – at first. Then we started prowling discos – and then karaoke bars. Things got later and later. For a few heady months, we didn't return home until the sun was fully visible in the sky the next morning.
After becoming friends with the Filipino band, we would sometimes accompany them to karaoke bars. After getting paid to sing, they then PAID to sing! Similar values. Kurt and I totally understood. It doesn't get much better than this!
Two decades ago, Kurt and I went our separate ways, him moving to Bangkok, me to Hong Kong. So many things have changed since then. In the intervening 20 years, we only saw each two or three times. We only exchanged a few emails.
In many ways, Kurt and I were as different as night and day. But in others, we saw eye to eye. We shared similar political views, which made things easier. But whenever we disagreed, there were discussions, but never arguments.
Kurt always said that he loved Macau and wanted to spend his final days there. I guess that's not going to happen. From what I know, his sister (her heart must be breaking) learned of his illness and fetched him back to his native Texas. And apparently he died in Texas peacefully, with his family, and without pain.
For this I am thankful.
Kurt T. Francis was a gentleman – a true Southern gentleman. He was funny, he was thoughtful, he was well read, he didn't pick fights, and he didn't have a mean bone in his body.
Kurt T. Francis was from Texas, and he had a heart as big as Texas.
If I can be selfish for a moment, I just wish I could have had a few seconds with Kurt – before he went to that Great Big Watering Hole in the Sky – to say goodbye, and to tell him, “Hey, buddy! We shared some good times together! I'm going to miss you!“
Kurt T. Francis, may he rest in peace!