We’ve always been at the end of the road here in Tacoma – aka, America’s version of Timbuktu. (Except we have more museums and a minor-league baseball team.)
You can thank/blame President Abraham Lincoln and the Northern Pacific Railroad. They signed a deal that made the Tacoma waterfront the end of the first transcontinental railroad in 1873.
Far from the center of civilization, our city has always had its arms wide open to drifters and grifters, hard-luck cases and forsaken souls, folks trying to stake a claim and outlaws on the lam.
Pre-Copernican scientists once believed that travelers who tried to go beyond Tacoma would fall off the edge of the earth.
Over the generations, it’s attracted the likes of settler Job Carr from Indiana, candymaker Jonathan Clifford Haley from Ohio and Mayor Brian Ebersole from Tennessee.
In recent years, it has marked the end of the line for every has-been performer at the Emerald Queen Casino. And it was the end of the dial for radio legend Casey Kasem. (He actually died last year in Gig Harbor, but close enough.)
Now, country-music superstar Garth Brooks is reinforcing our terminal reputation with the first single from his chart-topping new album, “Man Against Machine,” his first release in 13 years.
The name of the song is “Tacoma.” The chorus goes like this:
Might make it to Memphis
But that ain’t far enough
I speed down the highway to Tulsa, Missoula
So fast that the hurt can’t catch up
I’m burning your memory
One mile at a time
All the way to Tacoma
By then I hope you’re out of my mind
The character in the song is dragging his achy-breaky heart across the heartland in an “old Chevrolet.” Probably not a stretch to assume it’s a pickup truck.
We were holding out for a Toyota.
But is he a thievin’ plagiarist?: Fans of 1970s rock ‘n roll will recognize that Mr. Brooks lifted five key words from one of the Steve Miller Band’s most radio-friendly tunes.
“I went from Phoenix, Arizona,
All the way to Tacoma …”
Then again, perhaps Garth is paying an ironic homage. Steve Miller doesn’t sing about coming to T-Town to flee a woman, but rather “so I could be with my sweet baby, yeah.”
So let this be a lesson to all you vagabond losers out there: Joy can still be found in Nowheresville, USA.
Keep on a-rock’n me, baby.
Not the first time he’s sung about Tacoma?: Shoot, we always figured Garth was giving us a shout-out way back in 1990 when he sang: “I’ve got friends in low places.”
Party on, Garth: His world tour is a hit, and he’s been adding stops along the way. Wouldn’t it be great (and awfully clever) if he ended it in Tacoma?
The T-Dome bosses have said they’d love to have him. But don’t hold your breath. Brooks last performed under the blue-checkered clamshell in 1993, and he said in a later interview with the Trib that the venue’s large size didn’t suit his interpersonal concert style.
Too bad for him, ‘cause Tacoma has plenty for an urban cowboy to sink his spurs into: a visit to the Tacoma Art Museum’s new Western art wing, followed by a plate of wings at the Flying Boots bar. Maybe a promotional appearance at Mattress Ranch.
Another Tacoma museum?: A genius in our newsroom this week floated an idea that would create a multi-modal transportation museum while saving two historic artifacts that have been in the news lately.
Take the 100-year-old Steilacoom train depot and drop it on top of the Kalakala.
Sure, it might lack the glitz and public safety of the LeMay car museum, but it sure would be a fun place to take grandma.
And speaking of LeMay: USA Today recently named it one of the 10 best museums ... in Seattle.
They really LeMangled that one, and museum honchos didn’t help.
David Madeira, president and CEO at the Tacoma destination, issued a press release basking in the geographically challenged adulation: “(LeMay) earning a spot on USA Today’s 10 Best Museums in Seattle list shows that our hard work is continuing to pay off.”
Yeah? Well, it seems y’all might need to work a little harder recalibrating the dashboard navigation system.