Jan 27, 2006

My oldest childhood friend arrived from San Francisco for the long-weekend. Ever the class act, I drove right past her at Sea-Tac airport. Twice. I blame the rental Aveo (IB's comment: "A Chevy? I leave town and all hell breaks loose.").

I pointed the car – chosen, I might add, for Enterprise's weekend special – south immediately. One of Rachel's hobbies is stained-glass, so the Museum of Glass seemed a natural first stop.

"Scenic Tacoma," I sniggered, in classic, raised-close-to-Canada, Washington-state snob-style. As Susan Sontag says in The Volcano Lover:

“Every culture has its southerners – people who work as little as they can, preferring to dance, drink, sing, brawl, kill their unfaithful spouses; who have livelier gestures, more lustrous eyes, more colourful garments, more fancifully decorated vehicles, a wonderful sense of rhythm, and charm, charm, charm, charm; unambitious, no, lazy, ignorant, superstitious, uninhibited people, never on time, conspicuously poorer (how could it be otherwise, say the northerners); who for all their poverty and squalor lead enviable lives – envied, that is, by work driven, sensually inhibited, less corruptly governed northerners, clearly superior. We do not shirk our duties or tell lies as a matter of course, we work hard, we are punctual, we keep reliable accounts. But they have more fun than we do. Every country, including southern countries, has its south.”

I duly underwent my epiphany, as all cynical travel writers must. Tacoma was, indeed, better than expected: a plucky mill-town-making-good ... or better, at least. And I'll return time and time again for the Bridge of Glass, crafted by hometown hero Dale Chihuly.

Its Seaform Pavilion resembles nothing so much as an overhead coral reef. A 50x20-foot lightbox backs over 2,364 creations of spun sand, including whorls, spirals and tiny seafaring cherubs.

We gaped and gawked, necks straining.

In the end, all I could do was echo, once more, with feeling: "Scenic Tacoma."


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