Friday, January 2, 2015

7. Tacoma

Tacoma has been the butt of many jokes through the years.  Lots of weird and senseless crimes happen there.  The population acts strangely.  It always seems to be in decline.  And then there's the smell.  OK, the smell is gone.  The latest decline took care of that, but it was there for many, many years.  Yeah, the wood pulp mill responsible for the "Tacoma aroma" is closed but the stigma lives on.  That's what I tried to embody in this tune.  There was a time when Seattle and Tacoma were running neck-and-neck for dominance.  Seattle won out because the railroads threw their bulk behind it.  But Tacoma remains an interesting study in duality.  For every Seattle, there is a Tacoma, just as London has its Croydon, Freiburg-im-Breisgau has its Ebnet, Lausanne has its Renens, Los Angeles has its Commerce and New York has its Queens, Patterson and Hackensack.  There are countless examples.  Each large metropolis has an outlying sibling that failed to be a contender at some point and is now a punchline.  Tacoma serves that function for Seattle.  Sure, they gave the world Frank Russell (now worth $279 billion) and Weyerhauser (kinda-sorta; they're in the general area), but they have no skyline and no nightlife.  I played two New Year's parties there a while ago and its downtown was a desolate place on the biggest night of the year.

What I'm really trying to express here is pathos.  Tacoma was once a true rival to Seattle in economic might and influence, but now it's just a place where people live.  True, many live full and productive lives there, but it will never rise above its also-ran status.  That's what I tried to convey here.  The smell may be gone, the famous smelter (and its gigantic smokestack) may be gone, but the imprint of a sad, gritty neighbor persists.    

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