Roses are red.
Violets are blue.
Valentine’s Day is a time to express sincere love.
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And, this year, I choose you.
Despite spending a full quarter, and eventually earning 16 full credits, studying poetry at The Evergreen State College, I am not a poet. If you question this assertion, the attempt above should erase all doubt.
Still, seeing as this year Valentine’s Day lands on a Tuesday, a column day for me, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to opine lovingly about the city I call home, and a strange, often-maligned place I’ve come to love.
Seeing as this year Valentine’s Day lands on a Tuesday, a column day for me, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to opine lovingly about the city I call home, and a strange, often-maligned place I’ve come to love.
As I’ve written before, I grew up in Puyallup — Edgewood, if we’re being precise. I spent many of my formative years among cow pastures and Carhartts. It was a great place to be a kid, a great place to grow up, and a somewhat bland and monotonous time to look back on.
For college, I moved to Olympia. I spent my young adult life intellectually steeping in coffee shops, and spending what little discretionary income I had at Rainy Day Records, Old School Pizza and the Brotherhood Lounge. It was a great place to be a college student, a great place to come of age, and a somewhat insulated and cloistered experience to look back on.
After graduating, my wife-to-be and I moved to Portland. I spent a year freelance writing and parking cars to make a living. After about 12 months, we realized we weren’t nearly cool or ironic enough to fit in on that side of the Columbia, so we packed our bags and headed north, to the City of Destiny.
We’ve been here ever since.
From growing up in the area, I already knew of some of Tacoma’s charms. But my wife’s originally from Port Townsend, and if you had told her a decade ago that we’d still call Tacoma home, she might have left me on the spot.
But this town has a peculiar way of growing on a person. And it has certainly grown on us. Instinctively drawn to an underdog, Tacoma, even with its blemishes and imperfections, was easy to root for.
It’s an inclusive place where you can jump right in, get your hands in the (sometimes arsenic-laced) dirt, and make a home and community for yourself.
It’s an unpretentious place that welcomes anyone excited to be here. Because, after all, it’s hard to big-time someone when you’re from Tacoma.
It’s a hardscrabble place that cherishes its ragged history, as Neko Case put it, “a dusty old jewel in the South Puget Sound.”
And it’s a diverse place, where people of all varieties somehow found themselves, and decided — perhaps against advice to the contrary — to stay and make a go of it.
And make a go of it we have.
But don’t take my word for it. In the spirit of the holiday, I crowdsourced the matter, asking my social media connections what it is they love most about Tacoma. The outpouring was downright remarkable. In less than 24 hours, I received more than 70 responses.
“How easy it is to get involved. If you show up and speak up, you’re in,” answered one respondent.
I love how this city consistently finds ways to create and re-create itself from within.
A respondent to my social media question: What do you love most about Tacoma?
“I love our sense of history, especially visible in our downtown architecture. I love our often-lauded grit: we know where we come from, and we’re not afraid to get a little dirt under our fingernails. I love the way this town can pull together to solve problems at a grass-roots level,” answered another.
“Distinct neighborhoods with their own sense of place. Big enough to offer interesting things to do, but small enough to run into people you know almost everywhere you go,” said one local.
“Tacoma forces you to be DIY with your ideas and talents. When the infrastructure is missing (and it almost always is) you need to build it yourself, turning punks, musicians and artists into business owners. We make communities and don’t wait for them to come to us,” read one reply.
“I love how this city consistently finds ways to create and re-create itself from within,” observed a friend of mine.
“I love that my grandkids live there!” offered someone else.
(OK, admittedly, that last response was from my mother-in-law.)
So here’s my advice to you: On this Valentine’s Day, shower the ones you love in affection. Get your soulmate flowers and a box of chocolates. Spend time with the people who fill your heart with joy. Kiss your kids, and pet the dog.
But, if you get a chance, take a moment to give props to the 253.
Because — whether the outside world always appreciates it or not — this place deserves some love.