Numbers don’t make a home

By Morf Morford
Tacoma Daily Index

Welcome to 47°14’29″N 122°27’34″W

It may not roll off the tongue, but in the global scheme of things, those are the coordinates that define Tacoma. Numbers don’t make a home, but you could argue that names don’t either (but they are easier to remember). Tacoma is the kind of place where work is done, dreams are defined (and sometimes abandoned) and, once in a while, the unexpected happens.

We in Tacoma are not afraid of failure – in fact some would say that we wallow in it. But we dare not forget the old story of the martial arts distinction between the master and the beginner; the master has failed vastly more times than the beginner has attempted. A history book could easily be written of the inventors, writers, eccentrics and entrepreneurs who have called Tacoma home. Seattle, New York, Los Angeles, even London and Paris have all had their own ‘taste of Tacoma’ – usually without even knowing it. “Louie, Louie,” arguably the most immediately recognizable rock song around the world, had its roots in Tacoma, and The Sonics (the band, not the team) along with a few other rough-edged, Tacoma-based bands explored “Grunge” a generation before Seattle claimed it and passed it on to a waiting world.

Unlike Seattle, Tacoma tends to stay (and wants to stay) under the radar. Most of us prefer to be the exception to the look-alike strip malls and chain-store shopping centers of most suburban offshoots of major urban areas. We like our eclectic and almost accidental unique neighborhoods. Who would have guessed a generation ago that the Lincoln District would be a merger of affordable craftsman homes with a Southeast Asian core? And who ever would have thought that the Stadium District would host the city’s most dense apartment and condominium population? Who would have imagined that Tacoma would earn a reputation for its parks? Or its innovative public schools? Or its focus on museums and the arts? Or its historic neighborhoods? In more ways than can be counted, Tacoma is coming into focus in ways few could have imagined and even now, Tacoma is framing and taking on a new and surprising identity.

As I mentioned, many creative people have come and gone in this strange place some call T-Town and many of us call home. I don’t expect everyone to like it – or find the success they are looking for – here, but that’s OK. More and more, with each passing season, we are defying – or fulfilling – the stereotypes.

Portland has its “Keep Portland Weird” bumper stickers. Tacoma has its “Keep Tacoma Feared” stickers and T-shirts. Both are based on stereotypes if not clichés – with a core of truth. Tacoma has a reputation for being “gritty” – picture a piece of rough sandpaper from Tacoma’s industrial past. Yes, Tacoma is gritty; we have our scars, bruises and rough edges. We have a history of timber, railroads and real work. We are not shy or afraid. We get things done, are not stuck in the past or hypnotized by promises of the future. We work today, we deal with the hand we are dealt and we don’t complain or claim the glory.

Other cities might have slick marketing campaigns, but in Tacoma we fight growth as much as we welcome it.

I don’t think I’d call most people of Tacoma cynics, but we have certainly seen it all – from the fantastical promises of developers to the naysayers who tell us it can’t be done.

We are willing to listen and learn from other cities, but we will do it our own way.

And yes, we will keep failing, and we will keep making this a city like no other, one day, one hand, one dream after another.
We are the “City of Destiny” with our hands on the present and our eyes on an indefinable horizon.

Longmire_Tacoma sign WEB cr MMorford 3.10.17