His name is Wu Jing-Nuan, a k a Quing Non Yng-Wong, a k a Bob Wong, a k a Dr. Wu. But his patient knows him only as Wu.
The patient is 34 and well-dressed, except for his bare feet, at which Wu kneels. There are needles in his ankles, needles in his ears and terror in his eyes. Wu tells him to take a deep breath.
The patient is a drug addict. He has come to Wu's clinic at 15th and U streets NW, "Green Cross of the Americas," to get clean. Green Cross offers hope -- it is the first private facility in the country to offer acupuncture detoxification.
"The mirror made me come in," the man says. "I want to be able to look at myself in the mirror."
The man knows nothing about Wu, this Connecticut Yankee in a Mao jacket, who graduated from Harvard but learned to heal in Hong Kong, who has treated ambassadors and movie stars and street people, who has made and lost fortunes on Wall Street, tangled with immigration authorities, tangled with the Securities and Exchange Commission, grew up in a laundry, tagged along after a bookie, and in the last 20 years gone from buying Jacqueline Kennedy's 39-acre estate in Middleburg to opening a clinic he named for a vision he had one day on MacArthur Boulevard. He has been a lot of different people.
"If you speak to anyone in Middleburg about me, you'd better ask about Bob Wong," he says sweetly. "If you ask about Dr. Wu, they won't know who you're talking about."
Sweetly: there is something about this man Wu. You believe him. His smile defuses skepticism. His Chinese slippers make no noise. He moves through the clinic softly.
"No more talking," he says to his patient. "It is time to rest."
In a city founded on convention, Wu is a soothing reminder that there is another Way.
One New Year's Eve in Paris, he and several of his children were approached on the Champs Elyse'es by a gang of toughs. Wu thought he would have to fight. Then, he thought of a better way.
"He kissed one of them," his friend John Harris says. "They were great buddies after that."
His cheeks are as round as his gold spectacles. He is 5 feet 6 inches tall and his blue Mao jacket closes snugly around his waist. He says he likes to be 15 pounds overweight because otherwise he has too much energy. Balance is everything.
His voice is rich and deep and vaguely aristocratic. He is sitting in a Chinese restaurant, just now, eating seaweed and scallops. The story of his life tumbles out between bites.
"Breathtaking, isn't it?" his brother John Eng-Wong has said, describing the panorama of Wu's life.
In his presence, you get the feeling he has met everyone, done everything, seen 1,000 years of history. The suggestion does not strike him as absurd.
"Sure, of course," he says. "I feel that's true. I have dreams about what my great-grandchildren need of me. One day I was walking down 16th Street and I felt this incredible thing that I had to have a piece of property on 16th Street because someone in the future wanted it and was putting pressure on me to do it."
His friend Jim Johnson, a medical doctor at the clinic, says, "He's an inscrutable Chinaman. He's the epitome of the inscrutable Chinaman."
He was born in a village called Toishan between Hong Kong and Canton, 52 years ago. The family name was Wu. They were wealthy peasants, wealthy enough to afford $5,000 for fake citizenship papers for his mother. Wu came to North America when he was 5, a year before his mother. He landed in Vancouver and went by train to New York, the port of entry for East Coast residents, where he spent a month at Ellis Island waiting for an eye infection to clear up. The name on his papers was Jing Wong. Thanks to an immigration officer, Jing became Quing. "I thought it was great," he says. "There certainly wouldn't be any other Quing on the face of the earth."
In America, his parents gave their sons western names. Jing/Quing became Bob. The family settled first in Paterson, N.J., where his parents ran a laundry. "We were starving there, eating starch to keep alive," he says. "Then we moved into an upper-middle-class town, Greenwich, Conn.
"When I was 8 years old, I spent a year going around with one of the most famous bookies in New York and Connecticut. He was our landlord and he had no children. My parents were busy running the laundry. He had a dwarf named Shorty, an albino named Charlie and me. We were straight out of Damon Runyon."
He learned about the American way. He was the head of the youth group at the Congregational Church and graduated from Harvard in 1955 with a degree in language and history. His younger brothers went to Dartmouth and Brown. One is a surgeon, one is a dean at Brown.
"It was a classic immigrant story," Wu says. "I was as good a Yankee as anybody."
But jobs for Chinese were scarce. After graduation, he spent a year in Hong Kong studying herbs and Chinese medicine.
Friends say he is a marvel in the jungle. "Nobody will ever starve with me," he says. "I know everything that's edible on this planet."
He returned to America and got a job on Wall Street. He became an investment broker, a venture capitalist. He was a young man in a hurry. "He was a novelty for his age and other things," says his brother John, dean of foreign studies at Brown. "He caught the market running and he knew how it worked."
His marriage to a Chinese woman ended in 1960. He married a French aristocrat named Jacqueline a year later. They bought Jacqueline Kennedy's estate on Rattlesnake Ridge for about $200,000 and renamed it Wain Hille. They redecorated, too.
"Our decorator was better than hers," he says.
The Wongs were the object of much curiosity in hunt country.
"I remember we were up in Philadelphia soon after they bought the place," said Kitty Weaver, a Middleburg friend. "I was sitting next to a man who said, 'I hear Mrs. Kennedy is having an affair with some Chinaman and the Kennedys have given him the house to keep him quiet.' I said, 'Oh no, his wife is named Jacqueline.' "
A clause in the contract they signed with Jacqueline Kennedy prevented them from granting interviews or publicizing the house in any way for 10 years. They attracted a lot of attention anyway. On Nov. 26, 1964, the social pages of The Washington Post noted that the Wongs "will be invited to join the Piedmont Fox Hounds as a matter of course."
The hunt crossed their property. Wu was a hunter -- and is still a fisherman -- but cannot remember ever riding a horse. The paper noted that he was often away on business.
He developed an interest in British colonies and spent time in British Honduras. He also investigated French Guyana "as a potential area for people that were driven out of Algeria and the Vietnamese who were being driven out of Vietnam." Wong got around. He says he was most definitely Type A.
His business thrived and diversified. He was involved in developing test chambers for the Apollo space project, laser technology, defense department contracts. "I was industrial man," he says.
Then one day he lost his citizenship when an elderly man admitted to the government that his papers -- and those of many other Chinese -- were fake. "It's not helpful to be one of the first people in high-powered lasers and not be a citizen," Wu says. (He regained his citizenship five years later when he became naturalized.)
On Sept. 1, 1965, the Securities and Exchange Commission filed a complaint against Wong and his partner for allegedly violating the Investment Company Act of 1940. They said he misused public funds raised by his investment company to buy securities in companies he already owned. They said he was a con man, using other people's money for his own benefit.
He denied the charge (and denies it now), though he accepted the terms of a 1969 settlement which required repayment of $350,000 to his old investment company and permanently prohibited him from working as an officer in any other investment company.
"I was guilty of being a capitalist," he says.
He was devastated particularly by one accusation. "One of the investigators thought I was a front for the communists. Here I was trying to be as good a capitalist as walked the earth, with the rules laid down by Bernard Baruch and Joseph Kennedy. At first I thought I should have known better. I was innocent. My father was a laundryman -- how could he tell me of the pitfalls of success?"
His marriage disintegrated along with his bank account. He says he lost a fortune but not a very big one: four or five million dollars. On Jan. 26, 1972, he filed for bankruptcy, listing liabilities of $1,038,570 and assets of $200. "I wasn't back to eating starch, but practically," he says.
Wu had lost the way. He went East to find it again. "At one time when I was rich, I was asked to write something about Chinese medicine," Wu says. "When I lost all of my money, I decided to look into it. So I went."
He spent a year studying acupuncture. He was staying in Xavier House, a Jesuit novitiate in Hong Kong, "searching for a place to be quiet," when his ancestors came to him in a vision. "They said, 'Wu, you're such a stupid ass if you think you had all your financial success by your own doing. But the thing we really dislike is that you haven't taken into account that your name is as old and as good as anyone else's even though you were brought up in a laundry.'
"I was asking, 'Why have I had to go through all this?' and there was the answer. After that, wonderful things happened."
He divested himself of Wong and became Wu. He gave away all his English tailored suits. He returned to Washington (because the climate was gentle) and set up an acupuncture practice in 1973.
"He's not antagonistic to his past," says his friend, Dr. Michael Smith, who runs the acupuncture detox clinic at Lincoln Hospital in the Bronx. "That's what Taoism teaches. A lot of the development of his life is right out of the Tao. It's an instruction for the overly successful and the overly worldly."
East and West do not collide within him. But sometimes his worlds bump into each other in interesting ways. Once, recently, he cooked dinner for some Middleburg friends at their home in the hunt country. The hostess introduced him as the cook. The other guests were confused.
"They were surprised the cook would be sitting there having a drink," says Kitty Weaver, who attended the dinner. "They said, 'Oh, does he cook for them regularly or by the night?' We said, 'No, he's not the cook.' They said, 'Oh, then he cooked for the Kennedys?' We said, 'No, he owned the Kennedy place.' Ever since they have been trying to get in touch with him to have him come cook."
"I am the best amateur cook in Washington," Wu says.
He has five children and says he is "supposed to have nine by birth or adoption." Friends say women are crazy about him. He says cheerfully, "I'm now happy to have children without the benefits of marriage."
"He's a man's man," Johnson says. "He's got a lot of yang in him."
He is both earthy and ethereal. He makes minimalist art. But he disdains brushes. He did one canvas with a grocery cart and is planning another with a motorcycle. He is the inventor of a worm trap and the translator of a Tai text on massage and a Chinese text on acupuncture. He likes caviar and drives a truck. His addictions are a good cigar and an afternoon nap.
"I think I am still driven," Wu says, "but driven in a different sense. Now it's not so much the driving of personal want but serving a need."
In acupuncture, he found The Way. In addiction, he found the need, a need the establishment has not been able to touch. "Michael and I might have a clue and no one's going to listen to us but we're going ahead anyway," he says.
For just an instant, there is a hint of defiance, competitiveness, in his voice.
One day this past fall, Wu and his friend John Harris were driving past the reservoir on MacArthur Boulevard near the house where he has lived and practiced and taken in strays (two- and four-legged) for the last 10 years. Wu had been looking for a name for his clinic, which opened Dec. 3.
"It was sunset and the clouds and the sun at that particular moment made this fiery cross in the sky. It was so awesome that we stopped the car and four or five other cars stopped. I said, 'That's obviously a sign it should be a cross of some kind. Even though I'm a Taoist, not a Christian, when God speaks to you in that way, you might as well listen.' "
And so, "Green Cross" was born.
"All the other colors of the cross were taken," Wu says.
The waiting room at 15th and U is the color of limes. A 50-foot sun stretches the length of it. Wu's patient lingers long after his treatment is through. Another client waits upstairs. Wu never seems to be in a hurry.
For a moment, they sit together under a lemon-yellow hand-painted sun.
"The first time I felt drunk," the patient tells Wu. "This time I feel level-headed. I guess that's what I want. You know, I'm sitting here looking at the clock. Usually by this time, I'm getting into mischief."
In Chinese medicine, Wu says, "There is such a thing as an excess of joy." It is this he hopes to correct. He sends the man home with instructions to return the next day and a bag of herbal tea to help him through the night.
(The man does not come back. "We lose a lot of patients over the holidays," Wu says.)
Wu is not discouraged. Gayle Hamilton, director of Green Cross, says Wu's dream is to establish detox clinics across the United States.
She says he does not know how to say no to anyone or anything. The problem is he is not one for details. "He needs someone to pick up the pieces," Hamilton says, "while he looks at the stars."
His policy is never to do the same thing for more than 10 years. Who knows where the stars will lead him?
"His desire is to retire and live the life of a monk and contemplate the I Ching," says Jim Johnson. "He could be in a monastery in Hong Kong. He could be in politics."
"He could be back on Wall Street," his brother says.
A change is coming. Wu will not say what it is. "You don't want to ask," he says. "It would be too exciting."