One of my favorite holiday memories is playing Scrabble with my dad. We once lived in Mukilteo in a tiny house that sat on a hill. In our living room, my father and I sat cross-legged on either side of a coffee table with a pellet stove crackling nearby. We didn’t say a word while we set up the game. Only the sound of the tiles clinking and the vinyl-backed board cracking as it opened was heard.

Once the game started, my dad grew more animated, his shoulders shaking as he giggled and lay down each tile. He was good. Really good. The first time I played with him, I thought, “This’ll be a cinch.” I fancied myself a writer and well-read. I was 9 years-old. But with each tile he decisively lay down, my confidence wavered. How did he know so many words? Wait a minute – is “shirk” a word? Is it? Oh, yes, it is.

My dad explained that while a boy in Vietnam, he played Scrabble frequently, on an old, threadbare board with cracked tiles. I felt like I got hustled in a pool hall out of my own bet. But, as we played in that warm living room, my father thoroughly enjoying himself as he cracked cashew shells with one hand and popped the nut in his mouth, I couldn’t have felt better losing. And with this happy memory, I’m the real winner.

In this issue, we’re happy to feature winners of another kind. Our reader’s have spoken and we are proud to publish the results of our 2nd annual Northwest Asian Pacific American Reader’s Choice Awards of 2011! There are some old favorites along with newcomers to round-out this year’s winners. Congratulations to these valuable members of our Seattle Asian American community and thank you to our voters.

On a tragic note, Danny Vega, a Filipino American hairdresser, was robbed and beaten in South Seattle, later dying from his injuries on Nov. 27. Vega’s family and friends are devastated by what they call a hate crime. Seattle’s mayor made a statement on the incident and the SPD is re-evaluating the case’s classification as a hate crime, which carries heavier penalties.

Another death saddened the community, when Chinese American architect and philanthropist Ark Chin passed away on Nov. 13. His contributions to the Asian American community span decades and are detailed here with interviews from his family.

Other contributors to the Asian American community were honored at the Asian Hall of Fame event at the Asian Resource Center. Among this year’s inductees are a major sports manager, a White House physician, and a mega film producer.

In some post-election news, the passing of Initiative 1183, otherwise known as the “liquor bill” not only means consumers will be able to purchase alcohol at their nearest grocery store, but state workers will be laid off. We profile Manny Castro, a Filipino American liquor store clerk and father of a baby son, to learn what he’ll do when his store closes next year.

In the weekend before Thanksgiving, protesters rallied in front of a Chase bank in South Seattle to protest the bank’s excessive profits which they believe came, in part, at the expense of a family nutrition program.

The oldest Chinese restaurant in a neighborhood known for Chinese restaurants is featured — not for the longevity of its business, but for that of its workers. Waiters at Tai Tung restaurant are a faithful brood — some serving for 50 years.

Enjoy these special features you can only see in the IE and please consider donating to our End of Year campaign (more details are on page 16).

And, can someone look up the word “shirk” for me?

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