Sunday, July 17, 2005

what's up in tacoma

Despite Penny’s assessment of Tacoma, Friday night I headed south to see my friends Daisye and Yoshiko. They are the sort of friends that I would visit even if they moved to Antarctica, but it turns out that Tacoma is a pleasant city with beautiful old houses and a perfect, east coast-style university, where Yoshiko works. Before leaving Seattle, we visited the house in West Seattle where Daisye grew up. We ate veggie taco salad and raspberry-peach pie made from scratch by Daisye’s mom, Minnie, who actually won a state-wide bakeoff back in the day. Yet Minnie is also a lesbian who contemplates hanging signs with random, Situationist-esque slogans from a local bridge. The best of all worlds, really.

Onto Tacoma: The only slight drawback to the location of Yoshiko and Daisye’s charming brick apartment building is El Guadalajara, the karaoke bar across the street. None of us will ever hear 4 Non Blondes’ “What’s Up?” in quite the same way again. But there’s a good independent bookstore down the street where you can pet the resident cat and buy a copy of the new Harry Potter book at midnight, so it’s all good.

Saturday I accompanied Daisye to a bead show at the local Sheraton, an activity which she initially suggested with a hint of protective sarcasm, as if I were really hankering to ride the Space Needle, or whatever one does in the Space Needle. Yoshiko’s stance on the matter is “I’m not into beads.” She went to get a haircut instead.

I was genuinely excited. “I’m always up for new subcultural experiences,” I told Daisye. “Oh, it’s a subculture alright,” she assured me. She proceeded to describe creations that I can picture my seventh grade Spanish teacher wearing: Think lots of yarn and large ceramic beads. I figured I would do some astute people-watching and maybe find one or two large beads that I could throw on a string and call a necklace.

Two hours and $110 later, I was the proud owner of five pendants (on sale, for the record), two vials of seed beads, some gray stripy beads, some round lime-green beads, some opaque leaf-shaped beads, and one pewter bead shaped like what can only be described as a mer-cat.

Conveniently, Daisye is a craft wiz. Not in the tradition of my seventh grade Spanish teacher, who never met a bottle of puffy paint she didn’t like (although, to her credit, it was the late ‘80s). Daisye goes to thrift stores and finds old necklaces, which she unstrings and turns into new, better necklaces. She decorated a bulletin board with root beer bottle caps. She made Yoshiko a stool featuring a small comic book-style demonstration of how she (Yoshiko) likes her coffee prepared. That kind of craft wiz.

Over the next two hours, Daisye turned my haul of beads into four amazing necklaces. She wielded jewelry pliers like a violinist wields a bow; she knew just when to add a silver spacer bead or a lime-green accent.

I felt a bit like a snobby, talentless arts patron, checking in periodically as I played Sims with Yoshiko, but Daisye was cool about it. And as for the Sims—talk about a subcultural experience….

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