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Monday, June 16, 2008

"So...what's so great about Tacoma?"

I turned to see who'd asked the question. Some guy with a smirk on his face stood behind me, eves-dropping on my street corner conversation with a friend. We were waiting in a herd of pedestrians to cross a busy downtown intersection in another city. Was he actually curious or just being rude?

"You say you love living in Tacoma" he went on. "So, what's so great about it? Is there something I should know?" He looked at me like I was a five-year-old insisting that Santa Claus IS real. I stared at him for a moment. He'd spent way too much time and money on himself, trying to look cool. It hadn't worked. I touched this stranger lightly on the arm, and spoke with compassion.

"Yes. There is much you should know, Grasshopper, but you are not yet ready. Please go back to your coffee shop and seek wisdom." Then I left him there as the light changed. I didn't want to share my city with him anyway.

So what IS so great about Tacoma? Where can I begin? I can't help thinking, first of all, of the natural beauty. Yesterday afternoon as I drove home, dropping down to the waterfront on Schuster Parkway, the sun shone gloriously and there was just the perfect breeze for sailing. The expanse of blue water from Commencement Bay to Vashon Island held dozens of sailboats. I wished I was on one. In my mind I could feel the lines in my hands and hear the snap of the sails, memories of island living. Tacoma is surrounded by beauty, with mountains, forest, and sea on every side.

Then there is the sense of history. I love the vintage structures downtown, the Union Station, the clock tower, the brick warehouses with the faded paint of advertising still showing on their sides. I love the aging apartment buildings with elegant-sounding names, and lovely old houses that still grace the city, stately and serene among maples and evergreens, on lots where flowering shrubs themselves, have reached the size of trees.

When I think about why I love Tacoma many little things come to mind:
  • the way the morning light fills Commencement Bay Coffee through the tall windows
  • the Proctor District's small town feel, with the elementary school, post office, library, shops restaurants, and the Blue Mouse Theater
  • the cat I'd never met who hopped onto my lap at King's Books
  • all the well built rock gardens in yards across the city
  • the downtown library
  • Point Defiance Park, with the rose garden, pond, and waterfront promenade
  • going to dinner at Hu'o'ng Viet, the Vietnamese restaurant on S. Tacoma Way, and being greeted like family
  • getting to be Greek for a day, at the annual festival at the Greek Orthodox Church
  • the fact that a doe and her twin fawns are living in a patch of woods alongside a busy street a couple of blocks from my house
  • Ruston, with the Antique Sandwich Company, James at Point Defiance Books, and Mike and Wendy at Oak Brothers Antiques, the nicest people you could ever meet
  • the city's farmers markets and the managers and vendors I've made friends with
  • the dreamy, nostalgic feeling I get looking out the window at Steamer's restaurant down on Titlow Beach, in the evening, summer or winter, just because I'm near the water and the gulls
What's so great about Tacoma? It's a combination of the place itself and the people in it. If you live here, take pride. If you don't. . . well, never mind. Have your doubts. We'll keep it to ourselves.


Anonymous said...

Great little piece. You must have been walking across a street in Seattle.

I took a job in Seattle years ago and after hiring me I was asked "when are you going to move to Seattle?" I thought they were all going to faint when I told them -"Never! I will never leave Tacoma!"

These were all Seattle Media people and for 4 years at every meeting someone had a negative remark about Tacoma.

I can testify the Seattle Media would ask the same question as your man on street ...but continue to hold their preconditioned opinion even after reading your great (and true) description of our great city.

Anonymous said...

found your blog via a net search. You sure write about all sorts of things.

I like your Tacoma piece and you make me want to drive down and find that restaurant.


Anonymous said...

Hi Candice, I love your stories. And yes growing up on Vashon was the best ever. You make your pieces so interesting to read. I really enjoyed them. It will be great to see you at our reunion in August.

Beth Linden Alberthal