Monday, March 26, 2007

Slow Week for Me; Plenty to Do for You!

Well, I've spent most of the last week sick, so my brain has been in a cough-syrup-induced fog, and then a benadryl-induced fog when I ingested a cough syrup that apparently I'm allergic to. So when it comes to having interesting things to write about, it might take me a week or so to get my bearings back.

In the meantime, a few things to make sure are on your calendar this week:

Wednesday, March 28: 100th Monkey is back! Bring a friend and some food or drink to share and join in this bi-monthly gathering of artists and art lovers. It's definitely something to experience.

Saturday, March 31: It's the third annual Wayzgoose event at King's Books! I've already blogged about this, so if you want a bit more, go here.

Sunday, April 1: This is not an April Fool's Day joke, but it sure ain't serious ... "Who's Line Is It Anyway?" stars Colin Mochrie and Brad Sherwood are headed to the Pantages from some improv. And if you go read about it on before you buy your tickets, you might get a nice little discount on admission.


Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The LID of Love?


When we signed the LID petition, now years ago, to pave the alley on our block, our intentions were to cut down on dust and get rid of the massive puddles of rain and mud that accumulated during the rainy seasons.

Well, apparently paved alley, especially ones with a bit of a hill on one side, equals instant neighborhood block party, and impromptu neighborhood skate park.

The kids and I were outside, beginning Project Lawn -- the first of many gardening projects I'm determined to begin this year now that the kids are all old enough to play while I dig, or dig in themselves.

They got out their trikes and other wheeled objects and began to increasingly scare the heck out of momma me as they sailed down the steep-ish slope, down the straight-a-way, almost end-to-end with just one "go!"

And before long, my three became five as the neighbor girls joined in. Then seven. Then 10. Then I think 13 -- possibly all the kids on the block not including the ones who are barely walking. Then a few other kids from nearby brought skateboards. Then parents and pals were out with the kids. One dad showing off that he still new how to handle a 'board. Another playing catch with this daughter and a couple other neighbor kids. Parents teaching kids to ride bikes. Chasing. Playing tag. Laughing. Sharing. Talking.

Everyone ready and willing to clear the way for a neighbor making his or her way out of a backyard driveway or garage to places unknown, or welcome them back in. And conversely, those same neighbors were cautious to drive slow and not squish any munchkins.

Which made me think, if this is what a bit o' pavement can do, just imagine what a bit o' paradise can do ...

Friday, March 16, 2007

Sunny Days and Small Worlds

Hello, sunshine. If you don't mind, today is the kind of day in Tacoma that it's probably good to keep a secret. The weather, the vibe -- to sum it up: there was light, and it was good.

The blissfully beautiful day started off well when I came across an old friend -- robot-painter extraordinare and generally goofy guy Chris Harris -- while I was dreamily en route to work. I almost didn't recognize him. He and my husband used to do improv together years ago at Tacoma Little Theater, and Chris spent MANY years with a long, dark ponytail that was somewhat like his trademark. It's not there any more. And I do know this fact, as we all run into each other intentionally and unintentionally on a somewhat regular basis. I almost didn't wave because I thought I was mistaken; but I was happily correct.

It's one of the things I like about this town. Familiar, friendly faces generally aren't hard to find.

Turns out Chris now works at a scrumptious little gift shop on the corner of 9th and Pacific that I fell in love with just before Christmas. I could spend hours drooling, pawing, plotting, investigating ... and spending. I generally refer to it as simply the "GIFTS" store, as those are the small (for a sign) red letters that adorn the storefront. And for the longest time I really thought this was the name of the store. But just last week I noticed that if you stare more closely, or approach from the east, you might actually notice that this pleasant little place has a name, and it's Ever After. Which since this place does feel a bit fairy-tale-like with its bountiful variety of goods, is quite fitting.

How bountiful? Well, let's just say toys, cards, jewelry, baby gifts, chocolate, art, jewelry boxes and purses, funky gifty undescribeable goodies, garden decor, fashion and a variety of accessories ... well, there's a nook in every cranny, let's just say. And I can appreciate a place that takes time to fully appreciate. I can get obvious at the mall. (Good thing I don't like obvious, because I don't go to the mall ...)

Super-duper bonus: this splendid little shoppe also features the talented Chris' fantabulous and talented wife's fantastical jewelry designs.

I knew I liked that place.

I know I like this place.

Sometimes it just takes a little while to see the signs ...

Monday, March 12, 2007

Tell it, Wynton ... tell it to Tacoma

A legendary piece of music is written one note at a time, a gripping novel is written one word at a time, a towering building begins with just one line, and realizing the City of Destiny's potential will also take time.

And thus was the moral I gleaned from jazz trumpeter Wynton Marsalis' interview on NPR's All Things Considered this evening.

The topic was his new CD, From the Plantation to the Penitentiary; and it was his commentary about what it takes to finish something -- what it MEANS to take lots of little steps to create the bigger picture -- that struck me to the core, personally as well as locally.

I guess it also is fitting that Wynton is one of the few live music acts I've seen ... more than a decade ago ... at the Pantages ... in Tacoma ... back when downtown was still scary. Oh, and back when the closest thing to jazz I was familiar with was, well, I don't even think I knew about jazz hands then. And yet I loved it. And Tacoma.

Back then, Wynton spoke to Tacoma with his music. And he still does ... but at least today, in my ears, his words spoke volumes. Too often do I let the little things overwhelm me ... too often do I let the big picture escape me while I sit paralyzed. I battle the state of mind, and it battles back.

Today, I was no longer alone in that battle.

The people of Tacoma are not alone in that battle.

The fight for the future is one step at a time.

So let's keep steppin'.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Garfield Street of Today

Apparently the region of Parkland surrounding the PLU campus has been going through a pretty incredible renaissance all its own, thanks in part to the current Garfield Commons project. I had a meeting over yonder in the outer limits of Tacoma and decided to take a little tour around my alma mater, and holy cow; I'm officially jealous -- can I go back to school?

When I drove onto campus in late August of 1994 for my freshman year of college at Pacific Lutheran University, the Garfield Street business district was pretty barren. There had been a recent fire in the brick building mainstay of the street, affecting the apartments above and the businesses below. Which of course affected what was left when we arrived. But I just remember thinking -- and remember, this is coming from a farm girl -- that there just wasn't much there.

I'm happy to say that was the year the Garfield Street Business Association formed, and kicked things into gear with better organization among the businesses, even occasional events. It has slowly morphed into the street I wished it was when I was there. (Seriously, can I go back to school? I'd do so much differently -- like study more, and sleep more.)

I personally link the changes to Northern Pacific Coffee Company moving onto the block. The then-20-something owner knew his target audience, and over the years grew and changed to fit those needs. Starting with good coffee and hooking us youngun's with 2-for-1 deals, we kept coming back. (My husband blames original owner Steve for beginning his coffee addiction.) In response, NPCC kept expanding. First into the shop next door. Eventually taking over the back office as well. Now instead of a couch and a couple tables, there are plenty of tables and chairs, walls of books, a stage for open mic nights and small performances, wine and beer, plenty of food. It's a place that appeals to many generations and many faces. While ownership has changed hands, many of the touches are still there -- and I had to wonder today, while waiting for my triple vanilla Americano (no longer a mint or almond mocha), that I think some of the chalked handwriting on the blackboard menus may have been there for many, many years.

Many places have come and gone: An awesome, authentic New York-style pizza place; Mr. T's, a southern-style BBQ place that was so good, but apparently gigantic sausage sandwiches didn't quite mesh with the predominantly lutefisk crowd; an Italian deli; and even one of the original Taco del Mar shops (which became a Planet Burrito when the original owners parted ways) -- I think that spot is now the fabulous Reyna's, a great spot for good, inexpensive Mexican cuisine. From the Bayou came, gave our taste buds the ride of a lifetime, and stayed. And now I see that Farrelli's Pizza (whose drool-inducing concoctions can now be found at Union and 6th Ave. in Tacoma proper) will be opening at the corner of Garfield and Pacific Avenue in the near-ish future ... where the Piggly Wiggly was before my day, the crazy-somewhat-scary grocery store was during my day, and where the can't-even-remember-the-name thrift store limped along for years following.

It's bizarre to see all the action on that corner of civilization.

Between the improving business district, the new dorm, sorry -- residence hall, on lower campus and the many new buildings and offerings -- I kind of wish I could go back to school. Perhaps my kids will someday let me live vicariously. Or I'll just have to get to that end of town more often.

Good job Garfield. You're really purring, now.

Friday, March 09, 2007

A Vote for Green Spaces in Urban Places

I grew up on a farm ... running and playing hide-and-go seek in the corn rows; occasionally running into getaway cows in the parking lot; watching foxes play tag; spotting the sparkly-eyed deer grazing in the fields; spying on great blue herons in the pond. And while I would not trade the last decade-plus of my life that's revolved around Tacoma ... sometimes I miss nature's simpler pleasures.

I toured Metro Parks' three community gardens today. There was the one at Kandle Park, sleeping silently for spring preparations and gardeners to awaken the soil from its slumber. Then the one most folks will recognize, located at the corner of North 21st and Proctor, where it looked forlorn and forgotten as it awaits its seasonal tenants' return. Then there was Franklin, the one at the far corner of the park at South 12th and Puget Sound. The larger of the three ... it seemed like an oasis of farmland in the middle of Central Tacoma.

So today, as I approached the third and final garden on my afternoon tour, when I spied a large bird perched on the fence, I assumed it was a fake. A decoy meant to keep the other, smaller birds at bay. Away from the bounty of this bodacious garden.

But my, oh, my, it was realistic. Whoever created that there decoy was good. I can usually spot a fake owl or whatnot from blocks away, but that. That was a work of brilliance.

Then it moved. The large brown and white-flecked bird with dark, hooked beak moved.

And something told me that batteries were not included.

It moved, stood there elegantly in front of us as we pondered its breed (we assume falcon, but could have easily been a juvenile eagle, I'm guessing -- hey Tahoma Audubon, I'm now officially hooked), the big bird stretched its wings and soared slowly over the luscious garden's goods and into a nearby tree. And we stared; still unbelieving.

Urban awe set in.

I look forward to the day Tacoma reclaims even more of its urban spaces with community gardens, green walls and roofs, rain gardens, native landscaping, and the growing number of tools that developers and urban planners now have in their toolboxes to create urban spaces that invite nature's natural wonders to coexist, and thrive ... even in an urban jungle.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Paper Angels

Strangely, I am about to write in a paperless world about the wonder of – paper.

This March 31 at King's Books is their now officially annual Wayzgoose event. (It's been three years, which makes it not a one-time event or a fluke, but an official annual event -- yippee!)

By definition, according to the Yale University library, a "wayzgoose" is a long-standing tradition in the history of printing, generally a dinner where printers gather to talk about the art they love.

While any eats at the King's Books event will likely be those you consume (and/or imbibe) before or after at the nearby Doyle's, Stadium Bistro, or St. Helen's Cafe, the event will be an interesting gathering and showcase of local letterpress printers and book artists that should pique the interest of Tacoma's growing nerdy/artsy population.

I went to the first one at King's Books, and was treated with a roomful of folks who love the look, the feel, the smell, the art that is paper. They are the reason paper will always be, no matter how much the Internet impedes upon the "printed word" world.

This year features a wide range of pulp enthusiasts ... from underground poster artists and cult-following-favorites Beautiful Angle, to Guinea Pig Press' 6-year-old emerging artist prodigy Abby McDermott (yes, her dad works at the bookstore, and that's probably how she got the spot -- but as the mom of a different 6-year-old Abby, I'm smitten).

And that's just the beginning. Be prepared for art, for information, for a chance to purchase some really cool cards and other paper arts -- and to mingle with those who are nearly as nerdy as you.

Celebrate pulp fact; go interact.

In Tacoma.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Slow Living Key to Tacoma's Tomorrow

Good things come to those who wait. It's true with beer ... with coffee ... with food ... and with the place we call here. And thus were my ponderances on a long drive home to Tacoma this weekend -- ponderances about what it is in common about the things that I love about Tacoma, and life in general. And the theme became clear: I like it slow.

I learned to appreciate the dark brews, like Guinness and Murphy's, while spending a college semester studying in Cork, Ireland. When it comes to the beer of legends dear, you take it slow. The essence of Guinness is that couple-minute wait it takes for it to settle before thou shall even be allowed to partake. And I'm happy to say you can get it that way locally at Doyle's. (Though nothing will ever compare to homeland Guinness ... sorry.)

And then there's coffee. I always knew you had to wait for it to brew, but only this last year during my treks to Blackwater have I learned that, like Guinness, really good coffee takes patience, too. While I rave about and lust after the lusciousness that is the Blackwater's tasty blend, I warn all newcomers that patience is a virtue here. Don't come with only 5 minutes to spare. You come here to savor the flavor. To experience. To soak in not just the coffee, but the atmosphere. It's always best enjoyed with others. Patiently.

My beverage pondering led me, understandably, to food. Slow food. (For a local example, check out Stadium Bistro -- it's all made from scratch with an emphasis on local foods.) Slow food is more than sustenance, it's a movement. A way of life. One that lends its philosophies to beyond just the bites we take. I like this quote from the Slow Food Movement's philosophy:

"We consider ourselves co-producers, not consumers, because by being informed about how our food is produced and actively supporting those who produce it, we become a part of and a partner in the production process."

That's how I feel about supporting our local little/guy gal businesses. "Buy Local" is not just a phrase, it's a philosophy. By actively supporting those businesses who have invested in the place we call here (wherever that here might be for those reading), we become a part of the process.

We create what our local tomorrow will look like.

So let's resist the fast-food nation tendencies. Celebrating local people, places and ideas is all about embracing the things that take time. Let's celebrate taking time ... and building our community right. By importing other folks' success, we are pressing fast-forward. We ignore our heritage, our culture and the essence of what our here is all about. But slowly, surely, with steady hand and healthy heart, we can continue to enhance the soul and self-sustainability of our community.

Go slow, Tacoma. Go slow.

And for those who call it here -- Buy Tacoma. It makes a difference.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

A New Year's resolution to celebrate

Last month, the moderator at lamented the demise of Tacoma's First Night celebration, an all-ages, alcohol-free (goodness knows that part of celebrating can be found elsewhere) downtown New Year's celebration.

Me thinks she's not alone.

There's something in the air -- and I'm not talking about snowflakes.

And so my resolutions ...

I resolve to buy a button the next time First Night events return in any way, shape or form.

I resolve to go to at least one part of First Night, even if it's raining.

I resolve to offer assistance as well as words of encouragement to anyone who takes on this effort.

I resolve to heartily congratulate anyone who accomplishes this fabulous feat.

I resolve to show my support for the place I call here.