Two weeks ago, I learned my college friend Steve Guo died of an acute asthma attack.
During college, Steve was a regular player at a weekly neighborhood poker game. We never grew extremely close, but we befriended each other due to our eccentric quirks. He was one of the kindest men I knew. When I heard of his death from a mutual friend, I hadn’t seen Steve in about seven years. He was living with his fiancee in South Australia, where he worked as a research assistant in the University of Adelaide’s biochemistry department.
Also last month, I learned the journalist and political satirist Molly Ivins died of cancer in January. I don’t know how I missed the news at the time. While I never read her books, I saw her speak, shortly after the publication of “Shrub,” at the 2002 Nieman Conference on Journalism, which I attended as a freelance writer. She keynoted one of the sessions, and I enjoyed hearing her media and political tales.
I used to attend journalism conferences. For two years, I frequented the Nieman conferences in Boston, and the American Society of Journalists and Authors conferences in New York. In 2003, I took the advice of colleagues and attended a conference through the South Asian Journalists Association, held at Columbia University. Now, I’m not Asian, nor am I married to an Asian, and I certainly didn’t write about Asia, but I attended the SAJA event to get tips to boost my then-fledgling writing career.
As one of the few white-skinned men attending the SAJA conference, I recall Peter Jennings looking in my direction as he scanned the audience before speaking on the first morning. I don’t remember what he said, other than working in Bhutan and becoming familiar with South Asian politics. After his speech, I walked up to him, shook his hand, and we exchanged pleasantries about being the minority in the room. He was very cordial and kind. When he died, I remembered our dialogue and smiled.
As I journey through life, I remember people who had an impact on me. Molly, Peter, and Steve Guo impacted me for different reasons but I remember them.