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Friday, January 29, 2010

Practicing International Diplomacy - One Puppet At A Time

What follows is the kind of update anyone In Your Neighborhood might pass over the fence. The annual holiday pilgrimage to give puppet show performances for audiences in Russian orphanages made by former Pacific Northwest resident Christopher Arveson was chronicled at this reader blog on December 26, 2009 (Former Middle-School Classmate's Inspiring Pathway....).

Arveson, currently an ordained minister for small but tight United Methodist congregations in Brushfork, WV and Bramwell, WV, has been providing customized and entertaining puppet shows in Russia on a volunteer basis for a number of years as part teams affiliated with West Virginia Volunteers-In-Mission. He spent most of his youth in Kirkland, WA and is a 1973 graduate of Lake Washington High School.

His talents have been recognized on both sides of the Atlantic. Two years ago, he was named the organization's 2008 Volunteer of the Year when Saturday, June 7, 2008 was declared Chris Arveson Day!

Most recently during a tour of orphanages in Siberia one of Arveson's most beloved show stars - from his own production of Peter and the Wolf was invited to stay as a permanent resident as part of a popular exhibit at a little village museum near Tomsk, giving Reverend Arveson an unprecedented opportunity to belt out a melody along the lines of "I Left My Puppet in Tomsk" to that celebrated Tony Bennett standard about a well-known American city by a bay.

Humor aside read more about Arveson's heartwarming puppet ministry and check out his colorful, informative and interactive website here where he chronicles how following the 1982 birth of his first puppet, MacGillicuddy Monster a now international fan base was born!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

TNT Loses TONS of Weight--What Gives?

I subscribe to the paper version of the daily TNT and itsSunday edition. This last week, I shook my head when I picked up the paper off the porch, as, well, er, it was the size of a "leaflet!"

My skinny little hometown newspaper. Kind of makes me sad. I understand the financial woes of print journalism, and that my nostalgia for the crisp morning paper is fading fast, but it's still hard to see.

What do you think of the paper's slimmed down look and feel? Where do you think the local newspaper business (print edition) is headed?

Tacoma Business Resurrected!

My eyes just about fell out of my head.

My favorite women's boutique in Tacoma, Jasminka in the North End's Proctor District, closed it's doors last November after 26 years of serving the community. I was sad to see it go, and in the past few months, really haven't found a suitable replacement.

However, as I was driving by the old storefront yesterday on the way to my parent's home, I saw a glimmer of hope. A sign was posted in the store window that said that Jasminka was resurfacing under new management in April! Now I suspect that it probably won't follow the theme and tradition established by original owner and Tacoma fan Rondi Boscovich, but that's okay. I am thrilled to see that a boutique is taking it's rightful place on Proctor.

Note to new management: I strongly suggest keeping Rondi's sense of fine customer service, friendliness, and deep community involvement. These are some of the more important reasons I supported the store.

Good Luck, Jasminka! I wish you well.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Enjoying the milder days...but, remember....

Pssst, come over my friend,
take a word to the wise,
here in Washington's cool, wet clime
the dangerous tick never dies.

Put your pants in your socks
when you walk the trail,
play in yards, climb mountains,
or dance in green dale!

Wear lighter clothing
so you can see
if one little tick
took a ride on thee.

Check one another
when you come home at night.
Look in folds, behind ears...
in your hair? Yes they might!

Maybe you've heard of
a disease called Lyme,
and other infections that,
left for a time,
can cripple your body
and cripple your mind.

It rips apart families
and drains our government dime.

My friend, the little tick causes Lyme.

Educate yourself and

Mt. Crumpit

I received a message on Facebook yesterday, from my sweet friend Constance who is a wonderful artist in Asheville, North Carolina. She asked me if I'd like to check out her new blog, which was my pleasure. I met her in New York, after she became the bride of my old writing and recording partner, Hank Bones, and the mama of sweet Miss Madeline, now seven.

I first saw her artwork through CD covers of Hank's band, The Haolies (Kim I must let you listen sometime...Hawaiian Swing, no less!) and her bright colours grabbed my eyes. Con's portraits of the band-members were whimsical and fun, so I was not surprised to hear that she's lately been working on children's books. I want kids to be able to have her work and adults to be able to share with delight, so I invite you all in the neighbourhood to welcome Constance into the world of Blogs as she launches her own. It's not a blog of kid's's a blog of fun for everyone, with artwork and musings and...well, who knows what else will come! Go check out Constance's view from Mt Crumpit and have some fun, like answering her question of which historical figure YOU would like to see writing a blog. Tell her Lorraine sent you...and let the giggles commence!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Healing space asserts quiet power at Parkland's Forza Coffee

(Note: Seattle's Denise Louie Education Center was named after her by admirers who noted her participation on the board of a community planning agency called Interim (International District Improvement Assocation) at the time of her death. The reopening of Forza Coffee location mentioned below can be accessed here as well as within previous editions of the News Tribune. - MS)

Transitioning from a suburban high school to a big city university to young adulthood in the mid-seventies holds a number of vivid moments for me. This also included a sober introduction to the realities of ahem life.

One such occasion was listening to a local television report that a friendly, personable and petite Chinese-American woman, Seattle resident, community volunteer and former UW student of my acquaintance by the name of Denise Louie - who'd frequently occupied the adjoining chair next to my preferred location-of-choice in our mutual Asian American Studies class lost her life in 1977 while dining with friends she was visiting in San Francisco's Chinatown when the party was caught in gunfire between rival parties.

The second occasion within this time frame occurred when a very pleasant young man I was briefly acquainted through a summer quarter junior high tennis class I was enrolled made the decision to stop by a downtown Seattle restaurant after work. He was inadvertently shot and killed while patronizing the eatery at the same time as a former disgruntled customer armed with a gun.

Throw in more news stories related to the deaths of at least two attractive teen to twenty-something young women with long straight hair and bright smiles who attended the UW where I was enrolled who mysteriously disappeared from nearby campus neighborhoods and were later determined to be victims of a notorious serial murderer.

For a shy, introverted and fairly sheltered girl from a far sleepier Seattle metro area circa 1960's, the idea one's budding life could be cut short through while going about the business of ordinary life was then quite relatively new and shocking. I would become personally aware that so-called safe places could change at the drop of a hat and nice people couldn't rely on being just nice. Unfortunately a good number of years went by before I no longer felt even the smallest tinge of anxiety when reading about a related event or having to pass through or by those same now highlighted locations.

What uncertainty I then harbored was in turn inadvertently magnified by my own families' legacy of leftover anxiety, repressed feelings and unsettled sense of violation (whether you agree or disagree) over being unfairly targeted and forcibly interned by their own government during World War II.

In hindsight primarily due to the fact it was allowed to be unaddressed (they coped by trying to completely mentally surpress the whole chapter so it never came to the light of day) I was silently encouraged from childhood to carry far too many issues at a time.

It's equally important to emphasize that while classmates in question did not figure prominently among my closest personal circle of family and friends - we are all linked in community. To my great surprise some of this same old unease came wandering back this winter as a layperson and sideline reader/bystander while following the terrible story of unprovoked murders borne by members of the Western Washington law enforcement community and their extended families in recent months!

So it was with special appreciation that my Japanese-American girlfriend and I were able to stop and yes, personally witness and be enveloped by the warm, inviting and peaceful sense of place that radiated this evening from inside Forza Coffee in Parkland,WA. Local readers familiar with media coverage of the terrible tragedy last November that took the lives of four dedicated members of the City of Lakewood's police department may be equally aware of media reports that the cafe has since been reclaimed and taken back in love and solidarity by so many in the community including but not limited to dedicated, concerted and compassionate owners, staffers, regular customers, local government, law enforcement and organizations in the surrounding faith and business communities.

The kind of disturbing loss as mentioned earlier which seemed to cling so tightly to the aforementioned places in my college-era memories does not appear to have overwhelmed the warm and inviting atmosphere which shone out the windows, the faces of staff at Forza's. Hope has not been extinguished. To a passing stranger as myself this accomplishment is of great uplift and inspiration.

I would prefer to believe on those darkest days most of us in this world endeavor in our own individual and unique ways during our best moments to keep the spirit of humanity alive and aflame during an often all too dark, challenging and uncertain interval.

Local arts community ignites the germ of better things

"The drama is not dead but liveth, and contains the germs of better things." - William Archer, "About The Theatre"

While Scottish writer and theatre critic William Archer (1856-1924) has been dead and buried for over 85 years, I've now crossed paths with something he wrote twice in recent months in connection with attending two memorable arts community events in the City of Tacoma.

The coincidence may also ring true for other local patrons of the arts in discovering such delightful and similar linkages during their own travels. We'll call it another example of the isn't it a small world effect. Unlike the down economy, economic shrinkages do not seem to interfere in this process, with exception that few numbers of organizations offering such experiences may well be a final result.

My first exposure to Archer occurred in connection with being introduced to a Tacoma treasure by the name of the Blue Mouse Theatre in the Proctor district and a delightful showing of the silent film "The Green Goddess" based in turn on a play which Archer wrote.

For students of local history, the 1923 silent film starring George Arliss opened at the same Blue Mouse theatre which repeated the showing of the movie last November at a birthday event celebrating it's 86 years of residence in the community.

This repeat performance was enhanced by the presence of talented Tacoma resident and silent film accompanist Dennis James who played along on a refurbished 1940's era organ. According to Craig Sailor in The News Tribune (Blue Mouse Theatre celebrates with "Green Goddess", November 13, 2009) James is considered one of the top silent movie organists and historical revivalists in the world.

Archer's observation in turn about drama containing a germ of better things stuck a chord tonight as I'm processing a wonderful afternoon out in the audience of Tom Sawyer, The Musical at Lakewood Playhouse as a guest of local writer and actress Aya Hashigushi Clark. In addition to being the proud mama of Tom Sawyer cast member Timothy Takechi, Clark is an advocate of local theatre.

Even in these difficult economic times, she's set about to show by personal example that the shrinking family budget does not preclude the pleasure of foregoing the pleasure of live theatre. With one previous well-written and entertaining blog by the title of All My Life's A Stage under her belt, the veteran performer Clark whose spouse Randy Clark, is by himself a longtime household name in the Tacoma Arts community, is tackling brand new territory!

She recently launched a new blog called 52 shows in 52 weeks which will chronicle her 2010 resolution to see fifty-two shows during the coming year as a way of supporting and sharing equally accessible theatrical treasures and experiences in the greater arts community.

In a world where certain old boundries are fast becoming ambiguous, being able to recognize what extra value each of us may contribute to the greater whole makes it equally possible that we'll be able to recognize and be supported how running into such past resources as celebrated critic William Archer are affirming and uplifting in this day as they were years ago.

Yes Denzel Did

Saturday... one great, chilly day for me. I had purchased and put money on my new senior bus pass (thank you, Orca). My next step had been get on the bus, start using the pass.
And I pushed one of my most sensitive buttons to get on Tacoma's Number 2. I really, really wanted to see Denzel Washington in the new film, Book of Eli at the Narrows Galaxy. But I had shuddered and shaken myself into thinking that I could not comfortably drive there because I had never driven there before.

As a footnote, I must confess that the Galaxy is just a few minutes away. But my discomfort with driving anywhere when I have not driven there before is so firmly rooted that I had just been twisting my arms tightly around my body whenever I even began to think about driving to a movie.

Another footnote...I really want to get back on the bus and leave most local driving and freeway driving to someone else. So Denzel got me moving.
Number 2 got me to the TCC Metro Park and Drive in about ten minutes
(let's clap now)
I made it to the theatre with lots of time to spare before the film began. (Matinees... $7.25!!!)

In fact I had a chance to tune into some interesting couple moments... one couple in their senior year got into the gentleman's story of how he spent an hour and a half dining at an all you can eat restaurant and was finally asked by someone in management to leave... the woman agreed to go to dinner with him in the next few days..
Another couple (in their late twenties) sat separately... the man wanted to sit on seats near the side, the woman wanted to sit in the middle... he sat on the side, she sat a few rows higher in the middle and said to him, "see if I give you a ride home."

The film held my attention all the way through. I realized I have become too much of a dvd person... the sound was wonderful, the picture gorgeous and I felt I was part of it, the various reactions of the very small audience... maybe twenty or thirty
people, mostly folks either in their fifties or older... made the movie even more special... I decided I needed more movies in theatres in my life...

I got back to the Park and Ride comfortably (I had a good sense of what alleys to move through... the bus came fairly quickly and I realized I need to put on a few more layers of clothing if I was going to take the bus during the last few weeks of winter...

Another African American man, a few years older than I, echoed my feelings about the film when he said, "Denzel had done it again." Eli is a film really worth any adult seeing.

I Am So Grateful

An old friend, who I thought had given up on me forever, facebooked this morning. I cannot begin to tell you how happy I am to have access to so many new ways of contacting folks.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Localvores Rejoice--Here's a Taste of Spring!

Like many South Sounders, January is not my favorite month of the year. The wintry, soggy, and gray weather seems to wear out it's welcome and I begin to long for the bounty of spring and summer: fresh, local produce. While it seems like the local Farmer's Markets are really off the radar at the moment, what fun it is to hear about plans for the coming seasons. Buying seeds, prepping the land, planning the bounty--these are the things that local Tahoma Farms is doing right now. I was delighted last year to eat truly local organic produce by joining in on Tahoma Farms CSA during the summer months through Tacoma's Terra Organics produce delivery. It was top notch food, with a small footprint (grown right here in Orting).

Tahoma Farms wishes to continue it's service to consumers and is offering and taking deposits for a community supported agriculture program (CSA) option for those interested in participating. While it seems like it's a lot of money, when you break it down, month by month (or week by week), it's a pretty good deal for the best, healthiest, and environmentally focused produce around. Plus, you support your local farmer. Here's the e-mail letter I received. Check it out:

Welcome to 2010! Here at Tahoma Farms, we greet the New Year with joy, enthusiasm and gratitude: 2009 was a successful first year of growing certified organic vegetables in the Orting Valley; we learned a lot about growing food on our new land; we felt the support of our community; and we have some quiet time in the winter months to reflect, rejuvenate and plan for the upcoming season. And are we planning! Seed catalogs arrive in the mail daily, we are constantly revising our "to do" and "wish" lists and filling our computer screens with excel file upon excel file. As Amy says, "If you don't have all of your planning done before the first seed is planted, you will be behind for the rest of the season."

Which brings us to the purpose of this e-mail: we are hoping that you can help us out with our plans by signing up now for our 2010 CSA season. Tahoma Farms' Community Supported Agriculture program (CSA) is a way to support a local farm directly, especially during the low income months of winter and early spring. If you pay for your membership now, it will help Tahoma Farms buy seeds, supplies and equipment. In exchange for your membership, you will receive a box of produce, grown just for you, every week (or every other week) during the growing season (approximately June through October). This community effort helps makes small scale agriculture viable.

If you want to see a list of this season's projected share offerings, visit Tahoma Farms website:

Thank you for your continued support of local farms. We hope to see you soon!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Tacoma's #1 Fan Loses Life, But Holds Community and Love In Spirit

Margaret Mary (Melzark) Kinder’s long, plentiful, and loving life ended on January 6, 2010. Marge was born on June 15, 1920 on the outskirts Aberdeen, South Dakota. Marge’s family worked 2,000+ acres of land. Her family of six lived modestly and worked very hard; yet despite it all, they were a fun loving and close family. Family celebrations often consisted of music, dancing, and sing-a-longs with Marge at the piano. Big dinners and picnics with lots of good, hardy, homemade foods abounded on special occasions. And although Marge loved her family, city life always beckoned her.

And that city life called for Marge in her late teenage years when she met the handsome, smart, and kind Bill Kinder. The two of them fell in love and married on September 13, 1941. The couple moved into the town of Aberdeen where they welcomed son, Jerry and daughter, Marilyn. Bill worked in the newspaper business locally, while Marge tended to the children. They spent lots of time with extended family and friends. Years later however, Marge and Bill took on an adventure that changed their lives forever.

In the late fifties, they decided to come west and move to Tacoma, Washington where Marge’s brother, Bill and his family lived. It was a big move for the family and the wonders of the west coast and living in a much larger city astounded them. Marge soon fell in love with Tacoma and carved out a nice life for herself and her family. Bill was employed at The Tacoma News Tribune and Marge eventually took work in retail at the historic and famous Rhodes department store in downtown Tacoma. Marge loved working at Rhodes—she worked hard, lived and breathed the ideals of the store and it’s credo of superior customer service and made many wonderful friends. Marge stayed with the store until its demise in the 1970’s. Despite the store’s closure, Marge played an instrumental and leadership role in bringing together former Rhodes employees for reunions and luncheons to reminisce about the old days and being a part of the Rhodes family. Marge was also a part of the Retired Retail Clerks Association and enjoyed many social outings with this group, too. In fact, Marge stayed active in both organizations right up until her death. These were just some examples of Marge’s commitment to love and friendship. Unfortunately, these qualities were tested in her life and in true form, she rose to the occasion.

Friends, family, and neighbors meant the world to Marge and this loyalty and love was tested in the late seventies. Marge’s beloved Bill passed away suddenly and tragically in 1978. It was a tough time, and Marge leaned on family, friends, and neighbors to help. But shortly after this difficult situation, Marge emerged as a fiery independent spirit and her loyalty and passion towards friends and family deepened. It was at this time, she embarked on taking a senior aerobics class. This class began a two decades old legacy of aerobics, dancing, and close friendship. Marge was a proud member of the June Neville Dancers and performed at local venues all over the city. Again, Marge participated in aerobics to her death. An avid Seattle Sonics basketball fan, she won a contest as the “Sonics Grandma” and was honored during a home game! Her passions sustained her to the end.

There’s more. Her favorite and passionate things included luncheons and card games with dear girlfriends, trips with her son and daughter and their families, caring and spending time with her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and helping her neighbors. She was a master gardener and kept up a large yard, fruit trees, a small pond, flowers, and a vegetable garden for many years. She was wonderful at sewing and baking. She loved holidays and seasons. Most of all, she loved all the people that touched her life. During this difficult time for her family and friends, we all take solace and comfort in the fact that she is reunited with her beloved husband, her parents, and siblings in another peaceful and loving place.

Survivors include Marge’s brother, Bill Melzark of Lake Tapps, son, Jerry (Mary) Kinder and daughter, Marilyn (Al) Bennett both of Tacoma. Grandchildren are Kim (Rick) Thompson of University Place and Bill (Marcy) Bennett of Tacoma. Great-grandchildren include Justin Thompson, Casey Bennett, Andrew Bennett, and Erin Margaret Thompson. She is also survived by nieces and nephews in Ohio, Minnesota, and Washington State.

Celebration of life will be held on Friday, January 8, 2010 at 12:00 PM at the Celebration of Life Center/Aspen Chapel at Mountain View In lieu of gifts, please donate to your favorite charity. Marge’s official obituary will run in The Tacoma News Tribune print and online editions January 7, 2010.

As Marge always said, “Never mourn the old. Only mourn the young.” While that’s tough advice to follow for her survivors, it is sensible and no nonsense and that’s what Marge always was and always will be in our hearts and spirits.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Music, Mayme and Miracles: My Gratitude

When I was four years old, my mother and I went to visit with the wife of my father's Commanding Officer, Mary Corbishley, and I met one of the great loves of my life. Mrs. Corbishley led me into her parlour where stood this beautiful big thing called a piano. She asked me not to bang on it but said I could play...and left. I have no idea how long she and my mother visited because time and all other reality went out the window as I approached the piano and began to caress the keys. They felt so cool and so big to my little fingers. Each note was a world of its own. I was in rapture that afternoon, playing and making up songs.

For years after that day I begged for a piano but was turned down each time. When we moved to Canada, my best friend used to let me watch her practice (she was forced to take lessons...and hated it!) and showed me the basics of what written music was about. I spent so many hours listening to her play. Then life took us both in different directions. She went to college and I hit the road as a singer and soldier in the Revolution of Love.

In 1973, after being involved in Folk music, I joined a band in Vancouver, B.C. and moved into their communal house. I was thrilled to see a piano in the living room. Michael Creber played this piano and gave me the story about her rescue from a local cheap movie theatre. She was an upright, played for the silent movies. Now that's some lady! Michael would play as I went to bed, the notes drifting up to my attic room and carrying me into dreams. I sang in this band...we called ourselves Union Street, for our address in Chinatown. Michael showed me how to make chords on the piano. When I was pregnant with my son, I made it my project to learn and memorize Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata. By the time he was born, in February of 1976, I could sit and play the whole piece.

But life took a turn again. The piano stayed and I moved on with my little family. Putting my husband through school meant no extra money for a piano. That's the way it has extra money for a piano. Now here I am, fifty-four. Oh yes, there were little electronic keyboards that were affordable but they just didn't call to me like the big beautiful piano that pulls my fingers to its keyboard. I had given up thinking I could have one.

Suddenly an opportunity came up! A friend wanted to get rid of a piano to move her wood stove...but this piano is a family heirloom and her daughter was upset to think the piano would leave the family, though she didn't have a place for it either. With heart pounding...fingers and eyes crossed...I offered to take care of it until such time as anyone in the family should have a place and want it. Oh sweet friend's family was happy about the arrangement!!

This little seventy-five key Kawai came home to America from Japan with the family in 1957. Mayme is the matriarch of the family and I am honoured to know her. Stories about Mayme could fill a lot of blogs...and most deservedly so. She was taken out of college and put in one of the internment camps for Japanese-Americans. Just last year she was awarded her college degree and it is displayed prominently in her home.

Mayme met her husband while in the camp and supported his long road to becoming a doctor. Time was the cost of prejudice. A while after the war ended they went to Japan, where his doctoring skills were desperately needed. I heard the story of an appendectomy being done on the kitchen table...with Mayme's silverware bent into surgical instruments. She was and is a strong woman...delightfully so! She also loves music and can still be talked into playing her marimbas sometimes. I can't tell you how proud I am to have Elders such as Mayme-san in my community. Let me tell you, she's an easy person to love. I sang to her on her 89th. birthday and we both got a little teary as she pulled her chair right in front of the band, where she likes to be.

Can you imagine how I felt last Saturday, as Mayme's beautiful piano was brought over and put in my living room. Her daughter told me she was upset at first, when told the piano was going somewhere, but when she found out it was coming to my house she gave her blessings. I still get teary as I write this. Here now, fifty years later, a piano has come to live with me. I felt as if I was four years old again as I caressed the keys. I felt eighteen again as piano chords rang out in my home. The fact that the piano belongs to Mayme and comes with her blessings to care for it means the world to this Home girl.

Thank you to Mayme, Jan, John, and the whole family. Welcome to the Aerie, sweet little Kawai piano. Twenty-Ten seems to hold miracles!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Blue Moon Over Home: Happy 2010!

Last night, after everyone had kissed and wished each other love and peace, after everyone else had gone to bed, I went outside. The rain had stopped for a bit and the clouds were racing by.

The air smelled sweet and new, not cold but caressingly cool. There was enough light to see the bay and surrounding trees even though it wasn't the quicksilver and indigo of a cloudless moon.

Auntie Luna still pulls all us a rhythm. She lets us know we are on a wee ball spinning through space, that we are on a human journey within something much greater than ourselves.

Now is the dreaming time of Winter as we slowly begin to return to the light. As I looked up at the moon I felt the spirits of those I love close in my heart, whether they be on the other side of the world...or further. I thought, staring at the blue beauty of this thirteenth moon, how much lighter I felt to leave last year behind, for all it's wonderful moments.

It seems to be a fresh canvas to paint and this night was the breath to begin. I inhaled the intoxicating wild air of Home and breathed my gratitude into the world.

My family and I wish everyone the moment to take a breath and begin this New Year. We wish you peace, love and comfort in the journey of twenty-ten.