I’m writing this from a table in a back corner of Clancy’s, a little coffee shop nestled between Tacoma’s re-purposed Union Station and the Washington State History Museum. The weather is overcast–not quite threatening rain, and the air is pleasantly cool. I have a foamy latte and a piece of coffeecake, just moist enough, topped with cinnamon crumbles. Soft jazz is playing in the background. Colorful paintings, probably from the local art school, adorn the walls. University students from the campus across the street wander in and out as I write, and the baristas, a pair of redheaded girls who might be sisters, are chatting amiably as they grind beans and mix caramel macchiatos.
It can’t get any more Northwest U.S. than this.
I’m on another work trip, but it’s a short one, with hardly any time for touristing. Our hotel is in downtown Tacoma, convenient to some artsy cafes, coffee shops, and other college hangouts, but sightseeing opportunities are few. There are a couple of nice museums across the street–history, art, and glassworking (a local specialty). Mount Rainier looms behind the ever-present clouds, emerging in brilliant, frosty splendor only when my camera is not at hand. I’m still hoping to steal a photo, if the regal lady will grant me an unguarded moment.
In sum, my account of this trip will be brief. I’ll post a few pictures, here and on Facebook, and that will pretty much be that. The photos are better if you click on them to get the full effect.
It’s ironic in a way, because this is my birthplace, or close to it. I was born at Fort Lewis, about 20 minutes drive south, when my dad was still in the Army. He met my mom here, a country girl from Arkansas who had migrated to Washington. They fell in love, got married, and the rest is my history. We only lived here for a couple of years before my dad left the Army and moved us back to his Iowa hometown. We returned for a visit once in a while–my widowed grandmother married a wonderful man and they had a little house on Puget Sound, which seemed like the Garden of Eden to my eyes at 9 or 10 years old.
Things are still pretty. Tacoma, I think, has become a little prettier. I remember it as a run-down city that we passed through on the way to someplace nicer. They’ve done a lot of urban renewal since then, and it feels more like a laid-back college town with a lot of history. Of course, I can’t get a real sense of what a city’s like in just a few days, but that’s my first impression.
There are some downsides. Traffic is a nightmare, at least on the freeways. If the wind blows the wrong way, the acrid tang of paper mill effluvium taints the air. Things are a little pricier here. Still, I’ve had a nice visit, and I’ve been able to make a lot of progress toward pushing my forthcoming short-story anthology out the door. More news on that very soon. Work’s been busy, but not unpleasant, and I’m on a swing shift that leaves my mornings free but doesn’t keep me up all night.
And yes, the coffee is excellent. I’m going to stop writing now and savor what’s left of mine.