In August, after 29 years at The News Tribune, I thought I could retire. I loved – love – the paper and the family of colleagues. But I did need a break, and when I got the chance for it, I took it. For nearly three decades, News Tribune editors gave me the opportunity to tell some of your best stories, the ones about how you face and fix problems. You took on crime, grief, shabbiness, injustice and the sense that in Pierce County, we settle for less. Your efforts served as patterns for the next neighborhood to use and adapt. You made this place lovely in aspect and in attitude.
With your typical grace, when you heard I was leaving The News Tribune, you invited me to join you – gardening, talking up the town, painting, pulling ivy, collecting roadside trash. Just last week, Greg Newkirk of Paint Tacoma-Pierce Beautiful handed me a pickaxe to excavate a trench in the rock-packed clay of a homeowner’s front yard on 112th Street East. It was too late. I had drifted into deep sloth. I’d lost focus and was flunking retirement, the same way I flunked statistics in college.
Always prone to laziness and disorganization, I’d tried to avert the predictable. I made a list at the start, as a sort of springboard. Excavate the closets and landing upstairs. Spiff the guest rooms. Weed and plant and water, weed and plant and water. Charm my way into COBRA insurance. Go archaeological on the mini-van, pantry and laundry room.
Oh, there was more. I would read worthwhile books, learn to cast a crab snare a decent distance from shore, walk five miles a day with my husband, lose seven pounds in two months, reboot the unfinished crime novel. The list, it turned out, was not a springboard. It was a plank, and the jobs at the top were the steps to the end of it.
Worthwhile books? I’ve spent my summer vacation with wise-ass detectives and sloppy killers. The crab snare? I did not hit any strangers with it. The five miles, seven pounds and stalled mystery? Nothing but shame. Six weeks into retirement, I was carrying a solid D-minus.
Enter the Tacoma Weekly.
Publisher John Weymer asked if I’d like to keep in touch with you, and offered the chance to do it via a column. As my granddaughter (age 6 and so cute you really should ask to see pictures) recently said to her father: “Well, duh.” Speaking like a corporate official, which I promise never to do again, The Weekly and I share two Core Values:
The one on the masthead, “Because Community Matters.”
The one in the office, do good work, be fair and have some fun.
I have another chance to keep up with the good you are doing. Most weeks, this column will be about what’s right with Tacoma. We’re starting with an overview of the changes members of the Neighborhood Councils have made over 20 years, and where they hope to go from here. Over the next few months, we’ll check in with each of the eight councils to get more specific, and to get the flavor of the neighborhoods.
We’ll see if and how budget cuts affect programs that support the work neighbors do toward the safety, loveliness and friendliness of the city. We’ll drop in on gardens, community and otherwise, because I like them. We’ll share cool new ways to do good.
We’ll catch up with personal stories when we can learn from them. We’ll have fun, too, with quirks, work parties, mysterious changes in the cityscape, and Pothole Pig’s new best friend, the Gone for Good Elephants.
Hi, again. It’s nice to be back.