Friday, July 27, 2007

Be a Friend of First Night ...

It might be only Midsummer's Eve, but the folks working to ensure a fabulous First Night Tacoma-Pierce County celebration (guess what I've been up to lately) are working hard to make this arts-centric, fun-for-all-ages, alcohol-free New Year's Eve bash a Tacoma mainstay once again.

To find out how to become a Friend of First Night -- which gets you special All-Access Credentials, including the VIP reception area -- go to
and donate online or find where to send a check. Friend of First Night memberships start at $100.

AND A QUICK DEADLINE REMINDER: Make your donation twice as nice! First Night has an offer right now from a generous soul to match your donations dollar for dollar -- whether $5 or $500 -- until July 31. That's only days away! If you've been thinking about donating, please consider doing it now. Go here to donate online or find the P.O. Box address to mail a check to.

Wonder what First Night is?

To be held December 31 in Downtown Tacoma, First Night Tacoma-Pierce County is an opportunity for friends and family to say farewell to the old year and hello to the new with a family-friendly, alcohol-free, and most of all fabulously FUN celebration. In the past, there have been giant puppets, parades, racing pigs, rolling "heads," and a plethora of talented musicians and an eclectic mix of performers, crafts and activities for the kids, fireworks and so much more. Go to for more information.

And my personal plea ...

I'm a newbie on the First Night Tacoma-Pierce County crew, but I'm hoping this will be the first year of many. For years I meant to go, but either had to work, was too pregnant, was out-of-town or what-not. And then, just as I was finally ready, it went away -- and I learned the hard lesson of what happens when good things are taken for granted. And I'm thrilled that several patient people have kept with the effort of getting the books back in he black and not giving up on a good thing. So when given the opportunity to lend a hand, I jumped at the chance to help bring back an incredible celebration to Pierce County. I've given time, what dollars I could, and now I implore my friends, family and the blogosphere to show their support where possible.

Asking for money is never fun, but here I ask. Please consider a donation to First Night, whether a token donation, a Friend of First Night membership or one of the business sponsorship opportunities that will soon be posted. And then come reap the rewards of your generosity on Dec. 31; help us kick off the Year of the Pirate.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

In memory of my grandma ... a walk down memory lane

I'm not a native to Tacoma; but I am a near native -- a Tacoma re-plant if you will (within a handful of years it will be half my life's hometown). And this week, the Ruston-born, Stadium grad gritty-legit grandma to whom I credit a large portion of my Tacomaness ... died. And as the hours tick by, I find myself missing her a little deeper. Long-forgotten memories are washing over me like tidal waves. Happy memories that I'm realizing likely formed a foundation for the passion I have for this place I now call home, the place my children can claim as native son and daughters.

Grandma's death on Tuesday unleashed memories that I don't know why were all tied up in bundles in the back of my brain. Maybe there was too much of today occupying my brain space to leave room for the yesterdays we should always cherish.

Grandma, my stubborn, loyal and hard-working grandma, was a waitress for much of the time that I remember. And she seemed to enjoy it, and people seemed to enjoy her. I especially remember the time she spent at Mr. Munchie's, a fabulous homey diner where my brothers and I would sit at the counter and order monster-sized milkshakes as grandma laughed and showed us all off to her coworkers. Later in college, one of my husband's roommates fondly remembered working there with her during his high school days. I remember when she worked at the Narrow's bowling alley, and we'd go there too to see her, grab some grub and occasionally bowl. I thought it was eternally cool that grandma worked in a bowling alley. I believe it during a visit with grandma that I experienced the legendary Pizza & Pipes with the organ of lore, complete with dancing bubbles and way-better-than-Chucky-Cheese entertainment.

And then there's just the nostalgia that has also been escaping my brain cells the past few years. It was grandma's house where I first saw coffee cups hung on those little expanding coffee cup hangers that you hang on your wall (like what are now attached to my own cupboards.) I seem to recall a giant fork and spoon on the wall. Grandma always had the best refrigerator magnets. Awesome Christmas decor. Beaded room dividers. It was in her house (I believe thanks to my uncle) where I first wanted my MTV. (Phil Collins, Talking Heads, etc.)

I'm sure more will come as the days continue.

And, cheers ...

Today I was also overwhelmed by the kindness and caring of the communities in Tacoma. So, to the residents of my grandmother's senior apartment complex who checked on her regularly and reported any worries to local family members, the ones who laughed and cried and gossiped and played bingo with her over the years, who cared about what happened to her this week and will miss her as well. To Latte Linda who let my father and I unload our worries and our sadness on a caring, supporting shoulder -- and who poured a great cup of coffee. To my kind coworkers who've been super supportive whether I'm bawling my eyes out and otherwise freaking out or in a mode of eerie calm and acceptance (it changes by the minute at this point). To the hospice folks who handled everything so lovingly. To the doctors, nurses and others who attended to her. To Pierce Transit for being there for my grandma for decades, and for being the location where my aunt and I ran into each other for another cryfest just hours before we had to say goodbye. To my family, my friends ... and to Tacoma, where apparently it's really hard to go find a place to cry your eyes out all by yourself.

To all of you, thank you.

And to my grandma, thank you for your part in making here my here. I will miss you, but not forget you.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Why "Wired City" means something to me ...

Some Fourth of July nostalgic feelings of patriotism and loyalty have me craving to stick up for my beloved chosen hometown's decade-old "Wired City" efforts, so the following is a few reasons why I believe the fact that the City of Tacoma was ahead of the curve to wire its city was and is a good thing.

I'll start with, do any of you remember a time without cable? I do. I remember waiting and waiting and waiting for the year the cable company would make it to my neck of the woods with the infrastructure that would allow us to get channels other than what we could snag with our rabbit ears. And at the time, I did not live on a hill in a booming second city where you can get great reception just with rabbit ears (for those of you who have never gone without cable, you can get great reception in T-Town with just a good antennae). So I spent years and years as a child wishing and waiting while all my pals came to school saying "we got it!" until finally our day came. The cable company's vehicles in the driveway, digging up the dirt and stringing the cable to our house. As a child, it's a momentus thing to get the Disney channel.

And this is where I get to Tacoma. In 1997, Tacoma Power began to invest in the Click Network, a 700-mile telecommunications infrastructure, which gave the private sector incentive to invest as well, thus making Tacoma likely the most wired city of its size.

If Tacoma had waited for cable companies or phone companies to do the wiring for them, we might still be waiting. Instead of people blogging on their high-speed Internet about how Tacoma is so silly to have once bragged about being America's #1 Wired City and how now they're behind-the-times, how now the big deal is wireless. Instead of being in the position to snark, they'd be trying to do that on dialup most likely.

Do you remember dialup? Odds are it's been awhile. I believe Tacoma wired the city by about 1998. Even San Jose wasn't completely -- or near complete, not sure if they're done -- until just a couple years ago. I found an article from 2004 mocking the fact that the annoying sound of modems dialing in San Jose was a bit of a joke considering its local industry. According to that article, San Jose was only 35 percent wired for cable broadband in the fall of 2003, and 80 percent for DSL. In Tacoma, I believe, we all have access if we want it -- we've had it for years.

So, while citywide wi-fi is the current must-have lust-after dream of the moment, that's no reason to ignore the fact that in the late 1990s, when Tacoma was in the very early stages of the renaissance we're beginning to see the fruits of, back when few folks took Tacoma seriously and you could buy a home in the North End for under $100,000 -- the leaders of our fair city had a vision and followed through, giving us the infrastructure we have today. And perhaps their vision didn't turn out as gloriously as they envisioned, but it allowed me to give up my damned dial-up modem a few years ago. And for that, I am thankful.

Plus, I have a hunch that there will become a time (though I hope I'm wrong, of course) when having a physical wired system in place will be a saving grace when whatever wireless systems that go into place run into a major glitch of some sort. There's a reason many people still have land lines for their phone ...

But in the meanwhile, I celebrate that Tacoma was one of the first -- if not the first -- municipalities to jump into the world of technology and step up to wire its city without waiting for outsiders to do it for them.

And I'm also proud of our stellar Freedom Fair fireworks show.

I hope you enjoy both today.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

A new name, a local focus: South Sound magazine

Did you know that the South Sound has its own very glossy oh-so-pretty and thick and INTERESTING regional lifestyle magazine? And this one's headquartered in our very own T-Town.

As of the currently-on-the-newsstands summer edition, the former South Sound Home & Garden magazine has become South Sound: Home. Garden. Life. Emphasis on "life."

Believe it or not, this is a magazine that's been around for a few years. Growing, improving, and morphing into something that the South Sound can be truly proud to call its own.

This South Sound magazine is produced by Premier Media Group, a company that was born in Lakewood, but is now in Tacoma by choice. Located in downtown Tacoma, this group of talent is led by founder/publisher Josh Dunn and editor-in-chief Lisa Patterson, who joined the group about a year ago and has brought the magazine's content into new and amazing territory. PMG's other magazine endeavors include Kitchen & Bath, Remodel and the Bellevue/Redmond area's 425 Magazine.

And for folks who do or once frequented the almost-Tacoma Northern Pacific Coffee Company over near PLU for the last decade-plus, its founder and former owner Stephen Minor is enjoying his new career as a talented designer for Premier Media Group -- in addition to his music. (And he's a proud new dad now, too!)

So, a few reasons to go check out the new-named and improved South Sound magazine ... locally owned, locally grown, full of local folks and ads from local businesses. Plus, it's simply a great magazine. Look for it on your local newsstand ... and if it's not there, ask, why not?!

UPDATE: You can find South Sound magazine at Top Foods, Barnes & Noble, Borders, and Safeway. They've been spotted at Metropolitan Market, but went fast from what we can tell ... not sure if they've been spotted at Stadium Thriftway yet. So if you're out shopping and can't find it, ask for it by name! Let our local stores know that local folks are looking for their local mag on the newstands ...

My little disclaimer: This inaugural new-name issue also contains my inaugural freelance contribution to this wonderful local mag. But I've been a fan for years ... going back to the launch of the magazine's first incarnation where locals celebrated at the then-newly christened El Gaucho. Much fun has been had, and plenty more to come. Go PMG! :)