Sunday, April 29, 2007

We're still over the moon from Thursday ...

Thursday's outing inspired by Dining Out for Life was an absolute success of a grownup night out. Ambling through our meal, our wine, conversation, then through a calm but lit-up dowtown as we window-shopped for future inspiration and chatted with our pals is lusted-after bliss for those with young kids. And Thursday did not disappoint. Over the Moon, where I'd been for lunch many times but dinner never, was absolutely divine. Three out of four of us indulged in the giggle-inducing halibut cheeks and those of us who could taste -- poor ill Elle -- were moaning and groaning through half the meal. My gluten-sensitive sweetie enjoyed the scrumptious duck dinner and was pretty pleased as well. After dinner, we gorged ourselves on window shopping. Ok, the girls giddily walked hand-in-hand from window to window, peering into vintage and toy shops drooling like our munchkins drool over lemon drops and lollipops. We peered into Glenna's cache of dare-to-be-different designs, into the soon-to-be-closing Trouve of French goodies and also-closing Beauty & the Beast Antiques (FYI: currently anything left is 50% off), into the never-ending shop of gifts and goodies at Ever After, and drooled as if we were our kids at the bevy of beauty at Learning Sprout. (The guys kindly followed us and held up their end of the banter.) We almost made it into Paddy Coyne's for one last drink but the "baby sitter" called us home. (We love grandparents.) But we appreciated having the dilemma of WHERE we were going to have that one last drink ... as there was also Meconi's, Vin Grotto, Matador and so much more just in that end of town alone. (Sadly, the Link stopped at 8 or we were going to walk along the bridge of glass and meander the other half of downtown as well.) Ahh. I'm still lingering in the dreaminess of it all ...

I love my neighborhood

Now that the elder two of three munchkins have bikes, and all the munchkins are at least 2, we decided it was time to take the whole family on a "big walk" (a bit over a mile each way) yesterday. And once again, we happily realized how small town our city is.

After growing up on a farm in the middle of nowhere, I feel absolutely spoiled to live in a place where my daughter's kindergarten is four blocks away; there's a coffee shop two blocks away; I can watch the Freedom Fair fireworks from a bluff very walkable from my house and not battle crowds ... heck, we can walk down to the festival or nab a bus if we so choose; and that there are now officially FOURTEEN children on our block alone, including our three, whom all play their little hearts out in the alley whenever the sun peeks out.

And Saturday, as we biked and hiked up a tiny hill, along the woods of the Stevens St. gully and down the way to our favorite garden store and the kids' longed-for tire swing park ... I think we ran into at least two or three sets of people we knew, and if we'd knocked on a couple doors it could have been more. At the garden store, we chatted with the managers of the place for while, then picked up some netting and a couple plants -- some zucchini and a white pumpkin start -- then crossed the bridge on Proctor to head to Puget Park, where the kids swang and "toilet flushed" on the tire swing to their hearts delight before we stuck them back on their bikes for the trek home.

It always seemed like such an intimidating on-foot stretch. And yet I don't even think it made my face red (which happens REALLY easily for me no matter what). And now that the kids are big enough to not have to be carried the whole way, I look forward to many more lazy yet active Saturdays where we can meander to Proctor, maybe even pick up a friend or two on the way, do some Proctor Farmers Market shopping, stop for coffee or head to the library (I'm thinking we stick the 2-year-old in the wagon next time to help with the return trip luggage!) ... and maybe even do some dinner grocery shopping. All on foot.

Oh, and then I noticed the bridge on Proctor was possibly designed by a distant relative who was a city engineer back in the early 20th Century. THAT was just trippy.

It's still amazing to me. More amazing just how many of my neighbors we know after five years of living here and a dozen of being in the area.

And that's just a tiny bit about why I love Tacoma.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

I'm goin' out ...

At long last, it's a grownup night out on the town. And for a good cause to boot!

If you want a double good cause, go to Alfred's Cafe. Heck -- go there all the time. All that construction over there has them hurtin'. I gotta say, it's a place on my short list that I've never been. I've heard nothing but good things ... from omelettes to pizza to bubble tea, if I'm remembering right. It sounds like a place with soul, with depth, with personality ... AND yummy food.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007


I've enjoyed the recent blog discussions, news coverage and now the Tacomic of the moment by RR Anderson about the mysterious safe that was found upside down and deserted in the middle of a Tacoma street. Imaginations ran wild. Who's was it? Where'd it come from? How'd it get there? And most of all ... what could be in it? Well, most of the questions have been answered, including now what's in it: chunks of wood. (Though now I'm wondering, why?)

I gotta say, it was much more fun when we didn't know. I think we all knew that probably nothing of any great mystery was inside, but it was so fun to ponder the could be's and what if's.

Which is kind of what I like about the local blog community ... especially writings found in the comments and forums sections of Exit133, but also several others you can find through feedtacoma. Lots of dreaming. Lots of pondering. And while we like answers, we're not always looking for reality checks.

We're putting our thoughts and dreams out there. Little seeds. We nurture them with discussion. Then we wait to see which ones germinate, grow, and eventually bear fruit. Sometimes we weed out a few. Sometimes one with great potential gets eaten by a deer. But with tender loving care we nurture our thoughts, our ideas, our dreams, our desires for what we see Tacoma's future to be.

With that said. With future in mind, with safes declared boring, and with RR Anderson's awesome reference (misspelled or not) to Neko Case in mind, I now paste the lyrics to alt-country-indie-what-not-one-time-Tacoman phenom Neko Case's Thrice All-American here ... they're worth a read. And the song's worth a listen.

Song: Thrice All-American
Album: Furnace Room Lullaby, 2000
Artist: Neko Case

I want to tell you about my hometown
It's a dusty old jewel in the South Puget Sound
Well the factories churn and the timber's all cut down
And life goes by slow in Tacoma

People they laugh when they hear you're from my town
They say it's a sour and used up old place
I defended its honor, shrugged off the put downs
You know that you're poor, from Tacoma

Buildings are empty like ghettos or ghost-towns
It gives me a chill to think what was inside
I can't seem to fathom the dark of my history
I invented my own in Tacoma

There was nothing to put me in love with the good life
I'm in league with the the gangs and the guns and the crime
There was no hollow promise that life would reward you
There was nowhere to hide in Tacoma

People who built it they loved it like I do
There was hope in the trainyard of something inspired
Once was I on it, but it's been painted shut
I found passion for life in Tacoma

Well I don't make it home much, I sadly neglect you
But that's how you like it away from the world
God bless California, make way for the Wal-Mart
I hope they don't find you Tacoma

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Philosophical ramblings on Thoreau and Tacoma

When I (allegedly) read Henry David Thoreau's Walden during my years as a Lute, it didn't phase me much.

Today, a single quote ran me over.

"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived." (Henry David Thoreau, Walden, 1854)

I had just completed a free-writing exercise about "what motivates me." I had started with the typical things. My family, my friends, creating a positive environment, passionate people, etc. Which is, in part, true. But I quickly realized it isn't the essence of my motivation. It's the superficial, brain-friendly side of things. But what is it that makes me passionate about even those things?

I wrapped up the 5-minute writing session realizing that, honestly, it's fear that motivates me.

I'm afraid of not living, of being a mere observer rather than grabbing the reins and taking charge of the years I have. I'm afraid of looking back 50 years from now and having pushed my "what if" list, my "to do" list, my "if only" list so far into the "I'll do it later" realm that I miss out on being an active participant in not just my community and family life, but in MY life.

And then I looked up to Thoreau's quote on the project screen in front of me.


You see, I'm not one to take things literally.

I'd been peeking through the trees of my woods for years, but never had the courage to just walk in. To see what was there. Last year, that changed. A lot changed in my life. Family roles, jobs, the things on my to-do list. And while the path through the woods is still a bit spooky, I feel like now that I had the courage to wander down the path I hadn't yet followed, it's the right path.

To quote another great writer: "I found passion for life in Tacoma." (Thanks, Neko.)

This Thoreau, the unknown, the fear to wake up later with regrets, it explains a lot about my passion for the town where I finally learned to unleash my inner sphinx.

And thus I continue to preach: Live local; die happy.

Not sure where to get started?

Check out a few of these spunky, soul-feeding, fundamentally Tacoma things that you can be a part of, as an observer ... or a participant.

And there are plenty other ways to grab the reins locally and help make sure that when you look back, decades from now, you're happy with what you see. There's plenty more out there ... these are just my three favorites of the moment.

My main request: Do something that scares you.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Finding community in gardening

Tis the season where we start to look at our backyards and dream of bodacious gardens, tasty eats and visual treats. But what about those who live in apartments, condos, or whose backyard just isn't so diggable? Or what about those who like their backyard just fine, but want to be part of something, well, bigger?

What about those looking for community. As in community gardening?

Community gardens can:

  • Supply fresh veggies for food banks
  • Host amazing parties at harvest time
  • Provide space for neighborhood classes and workshops
  • Provide opportunities for outdoor art
  • Be beautiful places to play with kids and take a walk
  • Serve as a tangible way for neighbhorhoods to create something positive
Seattle does it. Tacoma kinda does it. But what happens if we take the P-Patch concept and put a T-town twist to it?

Hear from a panel of experienced gardeners and community gardeners as part of the Tacoma community gardening movement's "Growing Conversation" at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 19, at Commencement Bay Coffee Co.


Monday, April 02, 2007

Mud in yo' face, a big disgrace ...

Sunday's News Tribune carried a column by Dan Voelpel, one of my favorite writers there, talking about Wal-Mart considering plopping itself downtown. The timing was horrid. It ran on April 1. And many, including myself, considered a it a bad, bad April Fool's Day joke. As a former journalist, I know it's a rarity that anyone's allowed to actually run an April 1 jokey story. And if it does happen, there sure as hell better be an obvious reference at the end stating that it's a joke. But this was too surreal ... and no mention of gotcha. And apparently this sad story is no joke. Wal-Mart has been inquiring about downtown.

All I can think of is, if this were to happen: What a slap in the face to the unions of Tacoma were that to happen. Tacoma is a union town ... whether Wal-Mart would work or not, you do NOT put a Wal-Mart smack in the middle of T-Town.

While Wal-Mart is hardly the only business to cut corners and run its workers ragged, it has become the veritable poster child for corporate greed and sell-out.

I doubt this is the kind of chain all the chain-enthusiasts on Tacoma-centric blogs have been talking about. All the talk about Whole Foods, Pottery Barn and other upper-class chains doesn't usually have Wal-Mart in the list. But you gotta admit ... it has what these folks have been clamoring for. A known name, an investment, grocery goods, other goods. But on the other hand, I've been a vocal proponent for affordability -- and this isn't what I'm clamoring for either.

Sadly, it would be a draw for downtown. And yes, a merchant that plays for the budget-conscious. And they did it in White Plains, NY.

But hopefully there are enough "conscientious objectors" out there to stave off what could become the inevitable.

Because, sadly, while the types of services that Wal-Mart might want to wedge into downtown is the kind of thing we need, there's something to say about a name. And the name Wal-Mart kind of triggers the up-chuck response in many of us. I don't boycott many places ... but Wal-Mart, you won't catch me there. Give us even a Super Target or a Fred Meyer and we'd be OK ... but a Wal-Mart? I'm sure we'd survive, but it's an ego blow we don't need.

We've been the butt of jokes for too long ... Tacoma's renaissance is about getting beyond that. A downtown Wal-Mart would not just be a slap in the face, it would be a big disgrace ...