Seattle Space Needle Reflection at Night

Everybody Hates Tacoma

Bellevue is full of soul-less, wannabe-urban losers who compensate for their small weiners by driving Aston Martins.

Renton is full of suburban soccermoms whose closest encounter with culture is driving to the Olive Garden in Federal Way.

Aberdeen is full of redneck loggers who drink all day, beat their wives, and jerk off to trailer trolls in Field and Stream Magazine.

The suicide rate in Kent is so low because committing suicide and living in Kent is redundant.

Seattle is full of pretentious fixie-riding hipsters and filthy ghetto bastards who think snorting fentanyl off tin foil in Comet restrooms makes them Lou Reed.

Regional bigotry and sniping is fun. It’s as healthy as sibling rivalry. It helps to foment cohesion and hyper-regional identity. It fosters loyalty and in my opinion, is an overwhelmingly positive thing. Hell, it’s one of my favorite sports and it always has been. That’s why I’m generally good at it. With a keyboard and a 600 word allowance, I could make Heaven itself look like a second-rate armpit populated by bible-thumping cult members and aborted fetuses (which I’m told automatically qualify for admission).

For the most part, however, it’s all bullshit (with some exceptions such as Las Vegas and … well, pretty much all of the Southwestern USA).

The truth of the matter is that I like just about every town in the Pacific Northwest. I have a fondness for them all, and I could fairly easily live in any of them. At least those on the western side of the Cascades. Portland, Olympia, Shelton, Astoria, Bremerton, Montesano, Elma, Ocean Shores, Moclips, hell, even Smellview and Redmond are tolerable in small doses. Most of the PNW has the same general flavor, and the various towns have more similarities than differences.

If I blindfolded you, drove you in circles for an hour, then uncovered your eyes … I could take you to a typical residential street in Ballard or a typical residential street in Lacey, and chances are you would not be able to tell the difference. Seattle is 70% zoned for single family homes, as is most of the rest of the PNW. City boundaries up here are little more than technicalities for tax collection and school administration.

Of course, what I just said is fighting words. Calling Ballard suburban or Lacey urban is tantamount to heresy, but it’s truer than you want to believe, and it illustrates my point that there are far more similarities than differences in towns around here. This is why I typically plant my tongue firmly in cheek when I let loose with my anti-your-town tirades.

There is one special place in the Pacific Northwest, though, that every other jurisdiction almost unanimously agrees that they hate. It’s a place where people from Seattle, Redmond, Bellevue, and Bothell all agree … licks the unwashed pecker.

That place is Tacoma.

Frankly, I’m not sure why this is.

I’ve spent a great deal of time in the PNW since the mid-1980’s, but before 2010, I never spent an appreciable amount of time in Tacoma proper.

A long, long time ago I used to go to a place in Tacoma called ‘The Community World Theater’ (I have no idea if it exists anymore), and a couple of other clubs in that area, but I never spent more than 3-4 hours in Tacoma in a given week. Hell, until very recently, I had never even seen the city during the daytime.

Before a few months ago, my daylight experience with Tacoma consisted mostly of whizzing by The Dome on Interstate 5, or catching a glimpse of the bridge and skyline in the background … weather permitting of course.

Tacoma Dome

Tacoma Dome

Tacoma Dome

Tacoma Dome

Tacoma Dome

Tacoma Dome

Why didn’t I spend more time there?

I think part of me believed the hate. I think I may have subconsciously stayed out of Tacoma because of all the horror stories I had heard. Some people told me it was too redneck, others told me it was too ghetto, others belittled it for other reasons, but one thing was consistent … few people had anything good to say about the place.

Because of this, I always assumed the town was a pit, and I was always content to relegate it to no more than a curiosity on the road to more worthy destinations like Olympia or Portland.

Over the past few months, however, I’ve spent a good deal of time in the City of Tacoma, and I’ve come to the conclusion that the negative energy toward the place is mostly hype, if not a bit of jealousy.

Each time I have travelled to Downtown Tacoma, I have found the place to be quite satisfying.

Downtown Tacoma and Bridge

Downtown Tacoma and Bridge

Downtown Tacoma

Downtown Tacoma

Downtown Tacoma

Downtown Tacoma

Downtown Tacoma

Downtown Tacoma

Downtown Tacoma

Downtown Tacoma

Downtown Tacoma

Downtown Tacoma

Downtown Tacoma

Downtown Tacoma

Downtown Tacoma

Downtown Tacoma

Tacoma has a very picturesque Downtown which sits on a hill overlooking the Puget Sound and the streets are reasonably clean (for an urban core). It’s got a decent skyline for a city it’s size, it’s got just the right amont of grit to give it inner-city character and credibility, It’s easily walkable, and it has a free light rail line that traveses the central business district.

I’ve got to be honest … I’ve been impressed. The place is great. It’s the second largest city in the State of Washington, and it’s got a true urban feel. Sure, I’m personally used to much larger cities, but if I had to choose, I would rather live in Tacoma than Bellevue (and I mean this sincerely).

Large parts of Tacoma are indistinguishable from the more dense neighborhoods of Seattle, and 90% or more of the people have been perfectly pleasant and polite.

Tacoma Transit Station

Tacoma Transit Station

Tacoma Stadium Bowl

Tacoma Stadium Bowl

Tacoma Waterfront

Tacoma Waterfront

Tacoma Stadium Bowl

Tacoma Stadium Bowl

Tacoma Skyline and Bridge

Tacoma Skyline and Bridge

Now, since I am an insecure individual who derives a large amount of self-esteem from bashing people who aren’t cool enough to live where I do; when I am in a group of my peers, I will continue to insult and ridicule Tacoma as the unwritten code mandates.

From now on, however, I will do so with a heavy heart.

6 comments to Everybody Hates Tacoma

  • Roy Logan

    Tacoma is a trap that has a quicksand effect, the more you try and get unstuck the more you get pulled down. I came up here to help some friends and got stuck and don’t know if I’ll ever get out. If you plan on coming here for vacation please for your sake think again. Tacoma has nothing worth coming for and isn’t worth the time. However if you do happen to come here watch your step you may step in human crap or on a syringe used for/and by who the hell knows. You can ask people from all over the state of Washington and some parts of Oregon and they will tell you that Tacoma is the arm pit of the Puget Sound and perhaps the North West. Have a nice day.

  • Ghen

    Oh come on us Tacoma people aren’t that bad!!! Well i agree with most are bad but the other majority aren’t.

  • Jonsey

    I remember The Community World Theater being on the hill in a pretty bad neighborhood. Lots of good shows in the late 80s, saw metal band Testament one night and Alice in Chains open for someone the next. Nirvana opened for a band my bro in law was in…good times good times.

  • Ace

    I am perplexed how the same place can be ranked “The Most Stressed-Out City” in 2004 and “The Most Sexually Healthy City” in 2008. It seems the two rankings are mutually exclusive. What kind of miracle occurred during those 4 years?

  • coolpacific

    Reminds me of some Tragically Hip lyrics relating to the ill fated bridge:

    I’ll tell ya if I’m able, that is,
    I’ll tell ya like it is.
    It went down like a bad card table, like
    the Tacoma Narrows Bridge,
    like the Tacoma Narrows Bridge.

  • trentmc

    Maybe Nirvana wrote “Something In The Air” about Tacoma?

    From Wikipedia…

    “With a long history of blue-collar labor politics — from the railroad workers of the 19th century, to the longshoremen of the 20th century, to the Labor Ready workers of today — Tacoma has long been known for its rough, gritty image.

    Tacoma is also known for the odor caused by the Pulp mill, which non-locals call “the aroma of Tacoma.” A song about Tacoma, “Thrice All American”, by American singer-songwriter and former resident Neko Case, describes it as “a dusty old jewel in the South Puget Sound, where the factories churn and the timber’s all cut down”.

    Tacoma-Pierce County has been named one of the most livable areas in the country. Tacoma was also recently listed as the 19th most walkable city in the country. In contrast, the city is also ranked as the most stressed-out city in the country in a 2004 survey. In 2006, women’s magazine Self named Tacoma the “Most Sexually Healthy City” in the United States.”

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