"Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored." -Aldous Huxley

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wWednesday, August 20, 2003

REMEMBER HIM?: It must be one of those iron laws of getting ready to move: People who you've lost touch with start popping out of the woodwork. The most recent example is Nikum Pon (pictured below standing up), an old friend from high school and community college. The unfortuate cause of his reappearance was a broadcast on the local news. On Monday, 14-year-old David Chhin became the fourth in a spate of recent so far unconnected shootings in Seattle. Chhin was a regular at the SafeFutures Youth Center, where Nikum volunteers as a tutor and counselor.

In my pre-car days, Nikum frequently drove me around the vast wasteland that is Tacoma. It was because of his generosity that I was able to intern at then-Representative Randy Tate's office way back in the fall of 1996. Nikum came from a well off Cambodian family that was pushed out by Pol Pot's bloody purges. I'm a little rusty on the details but I do know that his father was a doctor and that he didn't make it out of the country. At one point, the family also thought that Nikum himself -- less than a year old during their exodus -- had died. They emigrated to the U.S., got hooked in with the Cambodian and Vietnamese communities in Tacoma, worked their asses off, and bought a local gas station/convenience store.

Nikum became an evangelical Christian shortly before we got to know each other but, as of the mid '90s, his family were still Buddhists. This made for some interesting cultural contrasts whenever I came to visit. I tutored his sister Selah (pronounced 'say luh') for quite some time and even ended up, uh, ghosting a short paper or two when she was pregnant with her first child. Whenever something annoyed her, she would exclaim "Jesus!", which annoyed me. I countered by shouting "Buhhda!" every time something rubbed me wrong. She took the hint. I also think I played an entirely accidental role in the conversion of one of Nikum's brothers. We were at a Wendy's and we got to talking about what it's all about. I teased that I couldn't become a Buhhdist because what would be the point? "If all the tumblers line up when I die, and I 'make it', what do I have to look forward to? A rippleless pond? Why would anybody want that?" I thought he'd laugh it off but, hey, sometimes people surprise you.

Which is a long way of saying I was glad to learn of Nikum's current whereabouts, even under these ghastly circumstances. I'll have to drop him a line one of these days, for old time's sake.

posted by Jeremy at 2:04 AM