Partying with VABAW - all bar dinners should be like this

  Photo:  Shellie and Tam Nguyen

Photo:  Shellie and Tam Nguyen

Shellie and I walk into the Triple Door on 3rd and Union.  Late as usual.

Hi.  Hi.  Hug.  How are you.  Hand shake.  Hi.  Everyone is smiling.   Am here to support Ada Ko Wong who is president Elect of VABAW (Vietnamese-American Bar Assn of WA) on its 10th year anniversary.

We figure out where our table is.

And then it's time to start.

We sit and are joined by Tam Nguyen.  We don't know him yet.  He is going to be the star of our evening.

Normally bar association dinners are...  Well, they are exactly like you would imagine them to be.  The food is bad.  Talking heads reign supreme at the podium.  And everyone politely claps even as they yawn .

This is not your typical bar dinner.

The presenters are in traditional Vietnamese garb instead of business suits.   Ada is in a mint green flowing gown.

A law student speaks about her VABAW scholarship that placed her in a clerkship in Ho Chi Minh (fka Saigon - but still considered to be Saigon by many - including Tam).  All followed by a fashion show of clothing primarily made of scarves.    I like the horse head one the best.

We clap in delight.  Occasionally lean over each other's quickly emptying plates to whisper how fun this all is.  But the best part of our evening is our table mate Tam.

Tam is not a lawyer.  He and his family own the Tamarind Tree restaurant in "Little Saigon" as well as Long Provincial down on 2nd & Stewart.  Up until a year ago, Tam also was a pharmacist.  Shellie and I ooh and ahh.  We love the Tamarind Tree.  Particularly sitting outside in the summer.  Shellie says - I'll take a vegetarian pancake.  My mouth waters.

Tam tells us that he goes to Vietnam once a year.  About 13 years ago, he went to his former neighborhood.  There sitting on a stoop was his best friend from grade school.  Drinking rice wine.  Unemployed like so many.  Ill.  His family's assets confiscated by the communist government.    His friend had two young girls.  They were unable to go to school.  Only those who had money could send their kids to school.

On his way home Tam worried over the plight of his old friend.  Then had an epiphany.  He conceived of a charitable organization.  Enlisted the help of his best friend, an engineer.  They applied for 501c3.  Obtained charitable status after more than a year of  hassle (the IRS wanted to know where the money would come from, how would it get delivered, and other details for over a year).    The Vietnamese children's scholarship fund was born.  Each year elders or Buddhist monks in the various provinces are asked to identify children in need.  Then the charity pays for them to go to school

How many children have you helped over the years, I ask.

Thousands he grins widely.

Thousands.

We are absolutely riveted by Tam's stories ("I was a boat person"), experiences, and humanity.    We are all beaming.

We take down Tam's email address.  It is long.  Are you on facebook, I ask.

No, Tam shakes his head.  Who has time for that.

So I struggle to thumb type his address into my phone.

Shellie and I need to leave before the fashion show ends.

That was totally worth it wasn't it, I say, as we head to the parking garage.

Totally she nods.

We drive a mile south to go watch a friend perform at the Comedy Underground in Pioneer Square.  Are joined by one of her associates and another friend Bob.  Laugh.  Bob walks us back to our car.  Which is a good thing.  Because a few feet into our journey, we have to side step two drunks yelling and swinging fists at each other over twenty bucks.