The next field trip is to Tacoma. Like us, Tacoma is often defined in terms of a nearby city. Berkeley? Across the bay from San Francisco. Tacoma? Just below Seattle.
What is Tacoma known for? It used to be known for Never Never Land, a children’s themed park at Point Defiance. But that’s gone, so it doesn’t count for what it IS known for.
Bing Crosy was born in Tacoma. That’s a start. A good start.
Tacoma was proud as proud could be when “Gallopin’ Gertie” opened in July 1940, spanning the Tacoma Narrows. It was the third longest suspension bridge in the world in terms of main span length. Only the Golden Gate Bridge and the George Washingotn Bridge were longer. It got its nickname during construction as wind caused it to sway dramatically. Funny nickname!
Until November, 1940, when it collapsed in a 40-mph wind. Not so funny. Aeroelastaic flutter was the problem. There was no loss of human life.
This is my favorite of the several things that make Tacoma famous – Bob’s Java Jive. It was built in 1927.
It was called the Coffee Pot then. In 1955 the name was changed to Bob’s Java Jive, and that moniker has stuck.
The interior is pretty wild. But I like the outside the best. There is something about the giant coffee pots of the world that appeals to me.
The Love Bandit! From the Tacoma Public Library, drawing upon an article in the Tacoma Times of 29 November, 1940: “Miss Elsie Buchli, left, 21 year old former teacher from Corvallis, and her twin sister Dorothy Buchli are tearfully reunited in the police headquarters. Miss Buchli has been charged as the “love bandit” who held up a cashier at the Riviera Theatre November 27, 1940. On being detained, Miss Buchli presented herself as an innocent who had been deserted by her soldier lover, who had been transferred to Alaska. She indicated that she held up the Riviera cashier with a toy gun as a last resort to raise the money to return home. Evidence indicated that the crime was well planned and intended to net the money to purchase a boat ticket to follow her soldier to Alaska. She received a suspended sentence of 20 years, with the condition that she return to her home in Oregon.”
Speaking of the library.
The public library. A great physical space.
And a great digital space.
Photo archives to die for. I got lost in them. I collected a few (ha!) that really capture Tacoma of the 1930s to 1950s. They blow me away.
Which brings us to new quirky America, and the graffiti garages of Tacoma. In 2011, Tacoma decided to plant a small garden for the rabbit that was eating the big garden.
For those who might wonder, that is a metaphor from The Secret of Santa Vittoria. The City made graffiti legal in working parking garages on Broadway, going so far as to prime the pump by hiring “legal” graffiti artists the Fab Five to get it started. The experiment has not been without gang-related flaws, and it appears that in the fall of 2013 the graffiti may have been de-legalized. However long it lasted or will last, it produced some stunning images.
My friend has been clean and sober for years, although he doesn’t always look it or act it. When I took him the Tacoma Graffiti Garage photos to see he was siting trance-like in front of his computer.
He had stumbled upon a site describing an effort by medieval scholars to add the many characers that they need to Unicode, the international font standard that includes aproximatley 100,000 characters – but not many of medieval characters. “Especially the abbreviation marks,” my friend told me. “How unfair is that?”
This is the screen that he was fixated on:
This was not an area of scholarship in which my friend had dabbled. Or even knew about as far as I know. He was clearly just fascinated with the font. Pure and simple.
In 1995 my friend and I were at a reception in Washington with my mentor Paul Dickson. We were introduced to one of two translators of Late Old Swedish working in the United States. He confessed that the other guy got most of the work. My friend made an appointment to meet him the next day. He wanted to see what Late Old Swedish looks like.
He brought this page of Late Old Swedish home with him, and has it on his wall. “They had three genders! And they declined numerals, declined as in declension. Did you ever hear of Old Gutnish?” And so on.
Back to Tacoma. What does he think of these photos?