Bill and Marie Orrange hauled out their two-for-one coupon book Monday evening, headed for all-you-can-eat halibut and chips night at Johnny's Dock and looked across the Foss Waterway at the new Museum of Glass.
The view surprised them. They had read about the redevelopment. They had processed it intellectually. But watching people climb on it, walk all around it and have a ball with the outsized outside art, Bill and Marie could suddenly see their place in it.
Though they don't know him, they could also see Tyrus Trusky, 20, among the dozen or so urban explorers.
The lead singer and guitarist for Tacoma's own Garvey Switch, Tyrus was bound for an evening of cosmic bowling, but wanted first to see for himself what all the downtown buzz and money were about.
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So, in the mid-evening light, days before galas opened it all officially, he stood on the roof next to the shiny metal cone, intent on a pool full of moored apples.
Above him, the sun traced prisms across A-frames of glass set into a pool, but Tyrus was tempted by apples.
"I want to count all the apples. I just want to know how many there are," he said.
He, like most of us who suddenly realized we were welcome up on the roof and down on the esplanade, had performed the ritual that is likely to give fits to security guards: We had gotten down on our hands and knees and peered at the system of nets and lines that keeps the glass fruit bobbing in place instead of bunching up in the corners. Later, we will contemplate the artist's intention.
We're prosaic that way.
Most of us are about as likely to be able to recite the museum's full name as we are to give the dates of Mount Rainier's two most recent hot shop phases. (For the record: Museum of Glass: International Center for Contemporary Art, and 2,300 and 1,000 years ago. We are supposed to call it Museum of Glass for short, not MoG, or the grammatically tricky Glass Museum.)
Prosaic or not, we get to be critics. Whether we have an annual pass, we get to be everyday users of some of the best contemporary art going.
Like Tyrus, we get to duck into a glass house, decide whether we want to call the color red delicious or blood, and see what those crimson walls do to our perceptions of the world around us.
"Look at this," Tyrus said to a friend. "Inside the red room, the apples turn clear, kind of metallic!"
No sooner had he said it, than he looked up and saw two more friends, girls freshly graduated from Wilson High School.
"This is like the new Point Defiance," Tyrus beamed.
But the stroll is more sedate, said the Orranges, who treated themselves to an Esplanade a la MoG for dessert.
Yes, Marie said, the giant blue shapes on the glass bridge pillars could be the Crystal Towers that Dale Chihuly calls them. But they bear a tempting resemblance to sticks of rock candy.
The Orranges meandered toward the tent set up for tonight's gala. The flower tower decorations for the parties might have been magnetized, the way they drew Marie.
"How'd they do that?" she asked, then figured it out. She's part of Pierce County's See and Do pattern. Look for flower towers to pop up like zoo Flame Trees.
Bill wandered to the waterway railing and peered over.
"While we were having dinner, we saw people sawing logs under here," he mused. "I couldn't figure out how they got there."
Transients sleeping under the esplanade so soon?
"No," Bill said. "People with chain saws."
Who'd have thought it?
But then, who'd have imagined that, one day, all this would be ours?