Tag Archives: Tacoma

Summer Visits and Visitors

San Francisco

One of the main reasons D. and I chose to retire when we did was to spend more time with family, and this summer was rich with visits and travel, though we haven’t gone far from home. We’ve lived in Tacoma, Washington, for over two years now, and I’ve barely begun to explore the interesting places this area offers. Having guests helps. Have you noticed how often we neglect the tourist attractions in our own home territory until there’s a visitor to share them with?

Our summer actually began in late May, when I popped over to the Bay Area to visit with my mom and daughter. The three of us spent lots of time walking about, and found a path behind the ruins of Sutro Baths that led us to the view above. There’s something soothing about walks in Golden Gate Park, especially when the afternoon fog rolls in a patters my face with tiny kisses. The smell of the pines and eucalyptus trees sings to my heart of home.

Next we gathered with the G. clan near Phoenix for D’s son’s graduation from medical school. We were able to rent a house big enough for the lot of us, and there are a lot of us. The heat was fierce, but spirits were high as we celebrated a new beginning in the lives of M. and his marvelous girlfriend.

View of Lake Chelan from a hiking trail on the south shore.

View of Lake Chelan from a hiking trail on the south shore.

Back in Washington, D. and I celebrated our second anniversary at Lake Chelan in central Washington. It was bloody hot, but the views are gorgeous. We’d hoped to rent a canoe or small boat and putter about on the lake, but all we found were Jet Skis and speed boats–not at all conducive to leisurely rides. (There were kayaks too, but I’m allergic to any craft that’s hard to exit in an emergency. The point of a boat is to stay on top of the water, right?) To soothe our disappointment, we visited wineries. Nice.

USS Turner Joy

Back at home, D. and I visited Bremerton and toured the USS Turner Joy, a destroyer-class ship that played an important role in the Vietnam War. We had the great good fortune to meet John F. Keift, author of The Saltiest Ship in the Fleet, who gave us an extensive tour. Keift showed us the control room where the men who controlled the big guns watched radar blips that represented heavily armed Vietnamese fishing vessels zooming toward the ship. He spoke with gravity about pushing the buttons that erased those blips from the radar screen, knowing that each blip represented many lives.

In July, my mother came to Tacoma, where she and I explored every quilt shop we could find. We weren’t allowed to take photos of the art quilt exhibit in the Washington State History Museum, alas. I was expecting quaint bedspreads; instead, we were amazed by the depth, detail, and texture of the artwork on display. There was even a 3-D forest scene sculpted from cloth and fibers.

We also braved the hellish traffic to visit Seattle’s Museum of Asian Art in Volunteer Park. Lovely spot, and Capitol Hill is a lovely neighborhood, with beautifully restored historic homes and mature trees. In fact, a huge branch crashed to the street just outside the Volunteer Cafe, where Mom and I were eating lunch. Fortunately, no one was hurt, but what a shock to come home and find that a third of your tree has fallen into the street, blocking traffic. Anyway, the exhibit was entitled Mood Indigo and featured textiles and clothing from around the world colored with this precious blue.

Modern clothing is so boring compared to this.

Modern clothing is so boring compared to this.

Shorty after Mom left, my daughter came with her boyfriend. Nerds to the core, they enjoyed the Pokemon hunt at the fairgrounds in Puyallup. The state fair doesn’t open until Labor Day weekend, but the grounds were crawling with people intently staring at their phones–very funny to watch.

Hunting Pokemon at the Fairgrounds

A highlight of their visit was Seattle’s Experience Music Project Museum, where we saw sacred relics at the Star Trek exhibit,

Model used in filming the original Star Trek TV series

Model used in filming the original Star Trek TV series

wearable art,

Wearable art at EMP

and a tower of guitars that plays music for visitors.

Tower of Guitars at EMP

You haven’t really experienced Michael Jackson’s Thriller until you see it on the EMP’s ginormous screen. Why was I the only person dancing? The horror movie display is also not to be missed–delightfully creepy.

Closer to home, we finally visited Tacoma’s Union Station, now converted to a courthouse, which houses several works of Dale Chihuly’s blown-glass art. He’s a Tacoma native, and has richly decorated his home town.

Tacoma's Union Station

Summer’s winding down, despite our current heat wave, and I’m getting ready for a few mini-jobs in the local schools, plus the writing I’ve put on the back burner during all these visits.

I hope you’ve spent a restful summer with your nearest and dearest. What was your highlight?



May Day in Tacoma’s Wright Park

A lively line dance starts Tacoma's May Day celebration.

A lively line dance starts Tacoma’s May Day celebration.

When I was a small child, we used to have a huge May Day celebration in school. We’d make construction-paper May baskets, fill them with flowers, and deliver them as surprise gifts by hanging them on someone’s door knob, ringing the bell, and running away–probably the only time that this childhood prank had a positive outcome. The school celebration also included an outdoor gathering where we sang and danced, including the dance in which we’d weave ribbons around the Maypole. What ever happened to this joyful celebration? I think it may have been cut in reaction to the big communist brouhaha on the first of May–or perhaps some parent objected the the holiday’s pagan origins.

Today the Puget Sound Revels presented a traditional May Day celebration in Tacoma’s lovely Wright Park. This group presents several performances and community events throughout the year, culminating in the very popular Christmas Revels. My neighbor Kay was in charge of this year’s floral brigade, and supervised the making of scores of floral crowns for the dancers–anyone who joined in the celebration was bedecked with flowers.

Banner parade

Singers from Puget Sound Revels led us in song and dance, including this lively drum line.

Drum Line May Day

We sang several rounds of various traditional songs, with lots of references to the Green Wood, the Green Man, Summer is Icumen In, deer hunting, etc.

Of course, the day’s festivities concluded with the traditional May Pole dance. What started out as a bit of a knotted cluster ended up forming this lovely pattern on the pole.

May Pole 1

May Pole 2

A Hey Nonny Nonny time was had by all. Thanks to the Revels crew for a lovely welcome to summer.

Culture Shock?

All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another. ~Anatole France

I’ve been back in the US for two months now, after having lived in Germany for over 28 years. People have been asking me, “So, are you experiencing culture shock?” The answer’s not as easy as I’d anticipated. Yes, there are things that I miss about Germany and about living in Europe, but I’ve been too busy settling into my new home and new life to focus much on that. I’ve read that expats who return to the US often go through a period of mourning. Wow – mourning. Will readjusting to live in the US really be that difficult? For the time being, I’m trying to focus more on what I enjoy about this new situation than on what I miss about “home.”

Here are some things I love about living in Tacoma:

  • The weather. Really – it’s hardly rained at all! I know that I can expect some serious dampness in the coming months, but summers up here are warm and lovely. Right now I’m sitting in the back yard, listening to the patter of the lawn sprinkler and enjoying the late-summer warmth. And back “home” in Bitburg, my loved ones are starting their school year in the high 50s. Blech.
  • The huge, mature trees. They’re everywhere, soaring over even the dumpiest neighborhoods. I’m sitting under a tall ornamental cherry tree, and over my shoulder is a magnificent magnolia. The evening air is still, but when the wind blows, the tall firs down the street wave hello. And there’s a mimosa tree across the way – I thought they only grew in hot climates. Living in the Pacific Northwest is like living in a green, well-planted park.
  • The parks! Tacoma has several, and we’ve only begun to explore them. Today we walked along the Puget Sound in Point Defiance Park. The Tacomans (Tacomites? Tacomians? Tacomazoids?) of the 1800s and early 1900s gifted us with some lovely green spaces in which to relax. Thank you!
  • The sea. OK – it’s the Puget Sound, but it’s salt water, and it smells like the sea. This will be the first winter since my childhood that I’ll be able to visit the sea; that was always a summertime treat, living in landlocked Germany. The sea speaks to me, and I can visit her every day if I wish.
  • Friendly, helpful people. Now, I’m not going to start in on German standoffishness. Most German people I met were at least pleasant, and many were salt-of-the-earth, warm-hearted, generous people. But there’s a certain correctness, a certain distance in everyday dealings with German strangers and acquaintances. Sometimes I like that, such as when waiters are not overly chummy and intrusive. (For goodness sake, let us eat a few bites before asking, “How are we doing? Anything else I can get you guys?”) On the other hand, I find most people here to be relaxed, friendly and helpful in a way that’s very welcoming. And even though I value learning other languages, it’s a relief not to have to constantly think about how to phrase what I want to say. It’s so relaxing to be a native speaker.
  • It’s fun to work out at the Y!M!C!A! Oh my gosh, I love this place! The Morgan Family Y in Tacoma is a huge facility with great equipment, a big pool, a plethora of fun exercise classes, and the members are so diverse – everyone from little tiny kiddos to very elderly people can be found working out and playing at the Y. This is what fitness should be about – it’s a welcoming place for the whole community. And now that we’re retired, we’re working out pretty regularly.
  • Sixth Avenue, Proctor Ave, and the theater district in Tacoma – all full of funky, quirky little shops, cafes, nightclubs, restaurants. The walkability of these areas and the attractive old buildings give these parts of town a “European” vibe, so we can get a bit of the feeling of “home.”

On the other hand, there are some strange foreign ways here that puzzle me. For instance:

  • My fellow Americans, your wardrobe choices are often perplexing. I’m all for freedom of expression, but do y’all look in the mirror from time to time? For example, what’s with the knit caps, young people? The weather’s been in the 80s most days, and yet I keep seeing young people wearing warm knit hats. Today I saw a young woman at the beach, standing in the water, wearing a bikini and a knit hat. ????
  • No umbrellas? We’ve only had a few rainy days, but the other day when I entered a coffee shop I looked around in vain for a place to put my dripping umbrella. You see, in Germany, where it rains a great deal, every café, restaurant and office has an umbrella stand right inside the front door. That way you don’t dribble all over the floor. But a few natives have already informed me that “We don’t use umbrellas around here.” Well, y’all go right ahead and get wet if that makes you happy, but I’m going to carry an umbrella. I don’t obey silly rules.
  • Wow, groceries are expensive! I’m learning how to shop all over again, and I’m afraid it’s going to involve a lot of driving back and forth across town. This place offers a decent price on fish; that place way over there has affordable produce, and Trader Joe’s has all sorts of culinary treats – but it’s way over on the other side of town. Grocery shopping takes strategy around here!
  • Speaking of prices, how do they get away with charging so much for very ordinary restaurant meals? Just sayin’ – as the young people in floppy caps (and bikinis) say.
  • It’s spelled Puyallup, but it’s pronounced “Pew-allup.” How come? Either spell it like it sounds, or say it like it’s spelled! But I’m looking forward to going to the state fair there next month.
  • Noisy people. In Germany, anständige Leute (respectable people) do not yell in restaurants. But here? With your tasty lunch you get a free side of – pandemonium! We went to a “nice” pub-style restaurant the other day, and the people at the next table over, well-dressed middle-aged people, were shrieking and hollering at each other! And the general noise level was what I’d expect to encounter at a football stadium, right after the home team scores a winning touchdown. Hush, people! Use your inside voices! I feel my German sensibilities bristling when I can’t tune out those loud voices. And don’t tell me to just ignore them, dear reader – their noisiness is inappropriate for the setting and occasion, and it’s inconsiderate.

I must admit that I already miss that German sense of Ordnung, a sense of order and occasion that makes daily life a bit less chaotic. Intellectually, I respect people’s freedom to express themselves, but at the gut level, my inner German is having a hard time with some of my fellow Americans.

Well then, I guess there is some culture shock at work here after all.