Back to Archives

21 things every South Sounder should know

Suggestions on how to live a happier, healthier life in the greater Tacoma and Olympia area

SPACEWORKS TACOMA: Helping make Tacoma cooler.

Email Article Print Article Share on Facebook Share on Reddit Share on StumbleUpon

I stood in the richly appointed editorial penthouse on the 46th floor of the sleek Weekly Volcano World Headquarters. The boss man loosened the top button on his blue butterfly shirt (not kidding) and angrily chomped on his Clif Trail Mix Bar (not kidding again). He looked like Charlie Skinner and Perry White rolled into a graphic novel caricature of a hard-charging newspaper publisher. He shoved a pile of photographs at me.

"Parker! I told you no more pictures of Spider-Man!"

I tried to tell him my name wasn't Parker and that I'm not a photographer.

"Look, you're a features writer. And a damn good one too!" his voice rose as he posted his shirt on Pinterest. "Now get out there and ... and ... feature something!"

He told me he wanted me to write about things every South Sound resident should know. "How do you avoid potholes, Parker?" he barked. "How do you sneak into the old Elks Building?" He yelled.

I said, "OK, chief." He said to stop calling him chief.

I said, "Whatever you say, chief."

1. How to turn a sow's ear into a silk purse

Tacoma seems to have perfected this skill, as further evidenced by the Spaceworks program. Spaceworks takes depressing, empty spaces and storefronts, the outer shells of the ghosts of vibrant retail past, and fills them with creative, hopeful and inspired artists and entrepreneurs who might otherwise not have a space in which to build their business, display or even create their art. Among Spaceworks' success stories is taxidermy artist Acataphasia Grey who will soon be seen on AMC's Immortalized, a new reality show about the competitive world of taxidermy.

2. How to get out of your Evergreen State College housing contract

You could go classic and throw a toga party, or you could get more creative and book a band to perform in your dorm (word on the street is that Bratmobile played such a party in 2000). Finally, you could go dramatic and invent an irreconcilable conflict with an ally roommate.

3. How to Avoid Potholes

Tacoma has an estimated $800 million collection of potholes freckling its thoroughfares. You might have noticed. Like springtime flowers' ugly stepsister, a whole new season of potholes is bound to crop up as the weather warms. According to Triple A, to avoid potholes you should "look ahead" (in other words, quit texting and drive), "beware of puddles" (a pothole's favorite disguise), and, if you can't avoid the hole, "try to reduce your speed as much as possible before making contact." Also, avoid Hosmer between 19th and 25th.

4. How to find the party

If you hang around until 2 a.m. when the bars close in Tacoma, you'll hear whispers, or maybe drunken shouts, of "where's the after party?" Follow the noise. For a more reliable party experience, connect with The Warehouse on Twitter and Facebook to hear about pop-up events in cool locations like warehouses, old churches, art galleries and garages.

5. How to drink fancy on the cheap

1022 South might look daunting due to its intimate candle-lit dining area and hand-crafted cocktails, mentioned in the New York Times, no less, that can cost you upward of $10 a pop. To experience this drinkable art for pennies on the dollar, simply adjust your drinking clock to any time between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. The Hilltop Tacoma bar's $3 wells are mixed with handmade sodas and house-squeezed juices. Plus, if you get there early enough and on a slow afternoon, you might catch the bartender hand-carving their novelty-sized huge ice cubes.

6. How to park on Sixth Avenue on a Saturday night

Don't. Take a cab. Or the bus. Or walk. Realistically, why are you going to Sixth Avenue on a Saturday night? It probably involves alcohol. If you still must drive, get there early, start at your destination (you might get lucky) and make your way west. Finally, bone up on your parallel parking skills, as watching people parallel park on Sixth is a favorite pastime of bar and restaurant patrons. You will be judged.

7. How to cruise Ruston Way without getting caught

If you make it onto Ruston Way without getting caught exceeding the speed limit, you've won half the battle. Scenic Schuster Parkway, with its speed limit of 40, is a temptress for the lead-footed. Avoid speeding past the little cut-out portion at the bottom of the incline heading to Ruston Way; if you can see the motorcycle cops that often lie in wait there, it's too late. If you're looking for a partner in crime to assist in your desire to cruise, there's an app for that. Your smartphone can become a radar detector with free apps like Trapster, PhantomAlert and FuzzAlert.

8. What to do if Mount Rainier blows and a lahar heads your way

This just in: if Mount Rainier blows, leave! This highly scientific piece of advice from the professionals at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Similarly, if you are warned to evacuate because an eruption is imminent, leave! If you use a car to evacuate, keep doors and windows closed and watch for unusual hazards in the road, like chunks of mountain or clouds of ash. If your eyes, nose or throat become irritated from volcanic gases or fumes and the symptoms continue even when you are no longer in contact with the fumes, seek medical attention.

9. How to play like you're outdoors when you have to stay inside

For all the beautiful parks in Tacoma, there are months on end we don't get to enjoy them. To get the crazy cabin fever out of your kids, take them to the country's first pay-as-you-will children's museum, the Children's Museum of Tacoma. This place is a Mecca for kids, with its five "playscapes" that will make your kids feel like they're outdoors playing with water and climbing trees.

10. How to navigate severe side winds on the Narrows bridges

It seems like those Severe Side Winds Warnings on the Narrows Bridges are constantly flashing, striking fear into your heart and then causing you to roll your eyes once you pass over the bridge only to find the windsocks dangling and deflated. Still, the Traffic Management Center will err on the side of safety, knowing that winds affect the everyday motorist differently from, say, a semi full of Styrofoam peanuts. If you do find yourself tossed by those rumored side winds, keep both hands on the wheel, avoid driving alongside other vehicles that may be thrown off course, and keep your eyes open for debris that may have been blown into the road.

11. How to avoid ghosts and evil

Point Defiance Park's Five Mile Drive at dusk is a no-no for anyone hoping to avoid coming into contact with the apparition of the oft-reported ghostly young girl with vacant eyes. The Temple Theater, Old Tacoma City Hall and the alley behind Ace Pawn & Loan in Puyallup are also off-limits to those who dislike the dead, having been the site of ghostly appearances and disembodied footsteps. Additionally, to avoid evil, stay away from Lake Steilacoom, avoided by Nisqually natives who believe the lake to be possessed by a she-monster called Whe-atchee.

12. How to approximate time travel

For a family-friendly time machine, head to Fort Nisqually Living History Museum where volunteers and staff in period clothing will demonstrate historic crafts and engage you in old-timey speak. For a more grown-up time machine, don the snazzy Tacoma-centric vintage menswear of Feather & Oar and head to the Side Door Lounge, a windowless speakeasy-style bar with the décor of days gone by and the best Bloody Marys in town.

13. How to find your way around (or out of) Lakewood

Get a GPS. There is no other way. All those lakes and trees make for some confusing winding roads that change names and directions at the drop of a hat. If you find yourself in Lakewood's Oakbrook neighborhood with all its precious stone-named streets, you might as well pitch a tent. You're not getting out.

14. How to avoid the dump

Don't throw away your broken bike. Take it to the folks at 2nd Cycle. They offer classes and a shared workspace to help you revamp your wheels. If you have other large garbage that 2nd Cycle can't help you reinvent (pretty much anything that is not a bicycle falls into this category), use the City of Tacoma Call 2-Haul program, available twice a year by appointment to Solid Waste Management residential customers who live in a single-family home or duplex.

15. How to prepare (and pronounce) a geoduck

First things first, it's pronounced "gooey-duck." Now, instructions from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife on preparation: Rinse all the sand from your geoduck, blanch it in boiling water for 10 seconds and then submerge in cold water. Next, cut the adductor muscles by scraping a knife along the insides of the shell, pull out and discard the visceral mass, leaving the siphon and the mantle. Place the geoduck in hot water for about 45 seconds and peel the skin away from the body. Wash the clam thoroughly. Split the siphon by inserting a knife and cutting the siphon lengthwise, wash the siphon and remove all traces of sand. The meat of the siphon can be sliced thin at an angle and pounded gently with the smooth side of a meat mallet to tenderize steaks for sautéing. The meat of the body is more tender than the siphon and does not need to be tenderized if chopped for chowder. For instructions on how to harvest geoducks, click here.

16. Where to see the best view of Mount Rainier

On a clear day, The Black Diamond Bakery at 32805 Railroad Ave. in Black Diamond boasts a view of the mountain that is second to none. Plus they serve pie. Oddly (and closer to home) there is a stunning view of Mount Rainier from the Target parking lot.

17. Why you should get used to the smell and breathe through your nose

The Tacoma aroma has certainly improved over the years but, as anyone who spends time in Tacoma knows, before long you will smell the evidence of booming industry. Despite the offensive smell, do not, I repeat, do not get in the habit of breathing through your mouth. Your nose and sinus mucous membranes create a gas called nitric oxide that helps you absorb oxygen, but only if it is inhaled into your lungs. Mouth breathers will tire more easily, and have more issues with heart rate, blood pressure, and stress response. Furthermore, not breathing through your nose can create a mucous build-up, which can lead to infection. Gross.

18. How to stay safe in our twice-named "Most Walkable City"

Prevention Magazine named Tacoma the "Most Walkable City" in 2004 and 2006, probably more due to our parks and trails than the walk from, say, Pacific and 72nd to the Tacoma Dome Station. If you must walk in the less scenic areas, stay aware of your surroundings, avoid cutting off one of your most important senses by blaring music through headphones, give off an attitude of confidence and keep your cell phone handy in case of emergency.

19. Where to feed your mind

Every South Sounder should visit King's Books at 218 St. Helens Ave. in Tacoma. The smell of old pages and bindings when you walk in is enough of a draw. Shelves of new, used, rare and out-of-print books line the shelves, drawing a wide variety of clientele. This is also the place to go to hook up with book clubs as varied in interest as the Banned Books club to the feminist speculative fiction-focused club Broad Horizons.

20. Where to find the best people-watching

On a typical Olympia summer day, when the sun is glaring off flesh that's normally covered in leather or corduroy, when hair starts showing around the low-cut armpits of tank tops, when New Balance sneakers, Converse low tops and the furry feet of Labradors beat the street in a mile and a half of friendly banter while the walkers sneak peeks at glutes and abs, you know you are in Capitol Lake people-watching heaven. Throw in a glimpse of your hot professor or favorite barista crush and you'll agree, the beads of sweat starting to form on your forehead aren't just from the sweltering 70-degree weather.

21. Why Tacoma is the City of Destiny

The real reason behind this poetic moniker is perhaps less romantic than it sounds. Tacoma is known as "The City of Destiny" because the area was chosen at the end of the 19th century as the western terminus of the Northern Pacific Railroad.

LINK: 85 Things To Do In Tacoma Before You Die

comments powered by Disqus