It was recently brought to my attention by a long time reader that one of the more interesting aspects of my former blog Radiate Warmth was talking about day to day life in Alaska. Although I don't live there anymore, the place I live now is pretty amazing too. Just different. So in order to do more of that you should get to know the new place I habitate
Tacoma Washington. Oh you beautiful stain of the world. To most northwesterners Tacoma is just the smelley pit stop on the I-5 corridor between two infamously "Cool" towns, Seattle and Portland. The phrase "Aroma of Tacoma" is due to the fact that a very stinky paper mill used to sit right next to the freeway giving everyone who drove through a nice sulfer surprise. In this blog post I will argue that the aroma of Tacoma is much sweeter that most people will ever know. (and the paper mill is gone).
Now lets get one thing straight. Tacoma is not Seattle. And just because the airport is called Seatac (Because Tacsea would be confusing) doesn't mean they have anything in common really. Yes they both rest on the shores of the Puget Sound. Yes they both have humans living in them. But thats about it. Seattle is the Jewel of Northwest metropolis-hood. Big Business, sports teams, commerce, suburbs, universities, art, music, you name it they got it done big. They also have the University of Washington which is a breeding ground for the exact type of Seattle mentality I despise. Yuppie Scum. Enough Said.
Tacoma has a rich yuppie district, the north end. But its small and limited. The majority of the city is working class blue collar people of all races and backgrounds. Real people just trying to make it. Tacoma as a community mentality is a "Take me as I am" or buzz off. In tacoma you don't have to worry about what kind of car you drive, or your job, or what you look like. You can be yourself. Ghetto people hang with art kids and rich UPS students as well as regular people and hippies, older folks and business workers.
On top of that Tacoma has great and distinct districts/areas. Downtown is on the upswing with new shops and galleries and museums and a great farmers market. The light rail and new schools are recent additions there and its instilling a sense of pride in the community. The ghetto is still the ghetto next to the Hospital but it too is improving as Martin Luther King Avenue grows and improves with more community programs than I've seen there before. The sixth avenue district is exploding with nightclubs and restaurants providing more music opportunities and nightlife activities. You have the proctor district which is a small unique community with good grocery stores and shops. Also there is Ruston way, a long strip of parks and restaurants like west seattle but cheaper. Right off of that is Old Town Tacoma/North End with a cool little intersection of the Puget Sound and the Upperclass. The Stadium district/North Town district has little pockets of establishments and amazing old houses to rent and own.
Finally there is the Antique Ruston town that I live in. Its fighting annexation into tacoma and barely holding on to its roots. It has the famous Salmon Beach Hippie community, the antique shops downtown, the Vashon Ferry terminal and marina, and most importantly the largest urban inclosed natural habitat west of the mississippi, Point Defiance Park, Zoo and Acquarium, and 5 mile drive providing endless woodland activities.
Tacoma allows you to drive around much easier than seattle and still experience the feel of many different neighborhoods with personalities and mini cultures. The housing is cheap and affordable. The views are breathtaking, you are much closer to Olympia and the Olympic Peninsula and never more that a ten minute drive from the water.
People have "I Heart T-Town" sticker's on their cars. And they wear shirt's that say "Tacoma, 400,000 alcoholics can't be wrong." And although many people leave this little city they often come back because it feels like home.
My favorite thing about tacoma is that it is part of one of the themes of my life: "Picking the Underdog." I went to the poor other side of school town Peninsula who battled the yuppies of Gig Harbor High School. It was a school where everyone could get along rich or poor. I then went to Washington State the poor farming redneck school in eastern washington. We battled the yuppies of the University of Washington and everyone got along, building a distinct family pride in being a COUG because we all lived in the middle of nowhere and had to! Now I live in Tacoma the stinky little city with a bad reputation, where everyone can and does get along and just can be who they are.
Seattle is great, if you're a seattle person. I love to visit don't get me wrong. But me, I'm all tacoma.
So as I sit in a coffee shop in Old Town Tacoma writing this, I think about if I want to run on Ruston Way or around Point Defiance. Or maybe I'll go up to the Vegan Jamaican restaraunt on Hill Top for dinner. Or maybe just maybe I'll go play open mic at the Antique Sandwhich Company in Ruston.
Its not alaska, but its my new home. More to come...