Crime-fighting vampire cats and old men holding sunflowers that never die are taking over Tacoma.
Local creative extraordinaire Kali Kucera is a music composer. He also helped to found the Tacoma Poet Laureate program, and is the arts development guy at Urban Grace Church. Kucera has told stories at libraries and museums far and wide as a member of the Fireside Storytelling League. Since late 2010, he has also operated Papakali.com - a website dedicated to original Tacoma folklore.
"I'm really more of a lorist than a writer - someone who starts a story from a conjecture about his environment, and then gives it away to the community to spin it from there," Kucera says.
Papakali is a collection of stories, gathered together online for anyone and everyone to start or add to. Kucera considers the stories to be original folklore - stories that contribute, explain or expand upon average, every-day facets of Tacoma, but not retellings of old, existing stories.
"With very few exceptions," he says, "our communities don't have griots, prophets, sages, whatever - people who make it a practice to help their communities suspend the worship of facts, and instead imagine a different story about ourselves that makes us entertain a different significance about who we are and what we have."
The stories are not necessarily true, and, in fact, Kucera prefers they are a bit fantastic, supernatural or otherwise highly imaginative.
For instance, some of the recurring characters include the Amocats - the guardians of Tacoma, who prowl the streets and act as anthropomorphic superheroes.
"If you're a bad Tacoma person, the Amocats will take care of it," Kucera warns. "You'll just disappear."
For now, the Papakali stories all focus on Tacoma, but they're not limited to Tacoma. Kucera promises the site will grow and travel, especially as he moves to South America later this year. But Papakali will likely always have roots and stories tied to Tacoma.
The stories are often supplemented with videos of Kucera telling the tales. Some are available for the Kindle, complete with illustrations from artists around the world.
"We should have our own craft of lore in any community. Sometimes people do it without really thinking about it," Kucera says, citing things like urban myths. "Usually lore has some root in history, some in imagination, some in spirituality."
Currently, Kucera writes the stories, but others are welcome to author stories as well.
"The idea is that Papakali is a place to scribble the emerging lore that is on everyone's mind, the wild thoughts that come to us every day as we look at a ship or a tree or a street and imagine how it might have gotten there. The more extreme the conjecture the better."
Visitors to the site can either "Help a Tale" or "Start a Tale." To help, click on one of the tales listed as "Emerging." If you want to start your own tale, just type it into the "Start a Tale" box.
If you have a longer story you'd like to submit, send it to Kucera at firstname.lastname@example.org.