Guest Post. Concert Review: Stephanie Anne Johnson

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On May 22, 2015 I had the pleasure of listening to Stephanie Anne Johnson in her performance entitled, Jazz Life Evolution at the Tacoma Youth Theater, located on Broadway in Tacoma. The intimate performance began before a small audience as she sang favorites such as The Girl From Ipanema, Henry Mancini’s Moon River, Billie Holiday’s Them There Eyes, and a moving performance of Georgia On My Mind. As she invoked the musical stylings of Ray Charles and Billie Holiday, her smooth and melodic voice rang. She ended the first act with a song from her Portland Opera performance of Show Boat, Can’t Help Loving That Man of Mine. The first half of the concert provided audiences with delightful songs that provoked them to dance in their seats when she kicked up the pace and sway to and fro when things slowed down.

In addition to performing jazz classics, Johnson also entertained the audience with performances from musicals such as Porgy and Bess and The Wiz. It was hard not to mouth the words to Summertime. Her stand up bass player, Nate Omdal, collaborated with Johnson to arrange a stylistic version of My Man’s Gone, taking George Gershwin’s song and adapting it to their cool style of jazz. Omdal had also wrote charts for the show.

The jazz quartet accompanied perfectly with her soulful voice. In addition to Nate Omdal on the stand up bass, the jazz quartet included: Chris Carlson on the drums, Todd Hollenhorst on keyboard and Navarre Herrara on guitar. Their performance synced with Johnson’s amazing voice and provided excellent stage presence before the audience.

No one in the audience would be able to forget Johnson’s incredible closing song from the musical, The Wiz as she sang Believe in Yourself. With heart and soul, her love and passion for music filled the air from the beginning to the end of her final performance, moving eager listeners to hear the message in the song. Applause lingered as she exited the stage, hoping for an encore performance. With her second album entitled Hollatchagurl, and her appearance on The Voice, one can expect to see an up and coming successful career for Stephanie Anne Johnson.

– Renee Lishka

Renee Lishka is a graduate from the University of Washington Tacoma. She lives in Tacoma with her husband of twelve years, two daughters Laura and Emmy and a cat named Bentley.

Fifth Tacoma Homicide of 2015: Trey Tolbert

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In the early evening of May 11th, police responded to calls of shots being fired. They arrived in a parking lot in the 9200 block of South Hosmer Street. There they found 17-year-old Jatarius Tolbert, shot in the head. He died shortly after medics arrived.

Jatarius went by ‘Trey’ and I really wish I had more to report than that. Unfortunately, neither the Tacoma Police Department nor the Medical Examiner’s Office had anything further to share about this homicide. It’s also worth noting that the media has little to nothing to say about the murder of Trey.

A lack of public information can mean a number of things. It could mean anything from the police being hot on the trail of Trey’s killer or it could mean they have perilously close to nothing to go on.

I wish the police department the best of luck in apprehending Trey’s killer. This is the second homicide in that area in less than a week though there is no indication that the two murders are connected in any way.

As always, the comments section is reserved for friends and family of Trey. Please feel free to share your thoughts and memories of him. No comments of hate or anger will be accepted. All comments are moderated and approved by me before they are posted.

Jack Cameron

5 Question Friday with Literally Tacoma’s William Turbyfill

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I first met William Turbyfill sometime last year at a Creative Colloquy gathering. A little later he invited me onto his podcast. At the time, I’d made a promise that since he’d had me on his podcast, I’d have him on 5 Question Friday.

Here’s William:

1. What is Literally Tacoma?

Literally Tacoma is a podcast put out by Creative Colloquy. Each episode is usually about 20-30 minutes long and it’s me talking to writers in the South Sound area. But I’ve also talked with Mike Fitzgerald who wouldn’t describe himself as a writer per se, but is a local business owner and trivia master (and a podcast host in his own right.) I spoke with Seong Shin who is also not a writer but started a story telling movement called WILLO which may be the greatest idea I have ever heard. So we have a bent towards the written word but we just like celebrating all sorts of Creatives.

2. What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learned during your podcast?

How different writers are from one another. There’s an image that some people have in their heads (and I was one of them) that writers are older professorial types but all the people I’ve sat down with and had the pleasure talking to are vastly different from one another, other than being humans who can spell.

3. Who is your dream guest for Literally Tacoma?

Oh I don’t know. Stephen King? I’ve enjoyed all the guests but my favorite part of interviews are when someone tells me something that I have no knowledge of and I get to learn something.

4. What’s the most misunderstood things about podcasts?

Well, the thing that I most misunderstood about podcasts before I started was that they don’t have to sound perfect. Early on I was so worried about there not being any dead air or ‘ums and ahs’ that I was distracted from having a genuine conversation. Now I know that part of having a natural sounding conversation is having a natural conversation.

5. What’s next for Literally Tacoma?

Hopefully more of the same, only better. I suppose there’s a chance we could run out of writers to talk with, but every last Monday of the month as more and more new authors show up to Creative Colloquy’s open mic at BSharp in Opera Alley, I think we have plenty of time.

You can find Literally Tacoma at http://creativecolloquy.libsyn.com/

I’d like to thank William for taking the time to participate in 5 Question Friday. William and I enjoyed working together so much that we’ve started a podcast of our own called Unchecked Digression. The first episode is available now with new ones to follow. If you enjoy this site, you’ll enjoy Unchecked Digression.

If you or someone you know would like to join me for a 5 Question Friday, email me at jackcameronis@gmail.com.

Jack & Mimi’s Cheap Date: Pho King

Welcome to the latest installment of Jack & Mimi’s Cheap Date. Here are the rules: Each week, my girlfriend Mimi and I go somewhere in the Tacoma area for a cheap date where we spend $20 or less. (This does not include tips because service is unique and can’t be universally quantified.) Sometimes we succeed. Sometimes we fail.

There are places in Tacoma that I feel are so well known and so legendary that there’s no real reason to tell people about them. Then I remember that not everyone who reads this is from Tacoma and that there are likely still some people who do not know the awesomeness of Pho King. And more importantly, I really felt like Pho King after spending most of the day in Jury Duty.

Pho King is located near the corner of South 9th and MLK Way on Tacoma’s Hilltop between the Hilltop Pawn Shop and a photo developing place that is mysteriously still in business. Mimi and I arrived at the end of the lunch rush and found one of the only remaining tables.

We were quickly given menus and two glasses of water. Looking over the menu it was easy to find items within our Cheap Date price range. We could have each had large orders of Pho, but we already know how good the Pho is at Pho King. Instead I opted for the Pho King Special Plate for $7.75 described as ‘Grilled pork chop, julienne pork, Vietnamese meatloaf, crispy fried shrimp, fried eggs, pork sausage, and shrimp wrapped in bean curd skin’. Mimi chose the Vegetarian Rice Dish for $7.50 described as ‘Lemongrass tofu and veggie egg roll.’ She also chose to get a Thai Iced Tea.

The food showed up a few minutes after we ordered. It was somewhat surprising how quickly they got our food done given how busy it was. Mimi’s dish arrived first. It looked so good that she almost immediately started eating but remembered we needed to take a photo. Luckily my food came out only a minute or two later. I took a photo and we dug in.

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The Pho King Special has so much going on that it’s kind of hard to judge it. The pork chop was flat and had little bones in it that surprised me, but the sauce, the shrimp, the fried egg, and everything else was awesome. It’s easily the most amount of good food I’ve ever bought for $7.75 in Tacoma. I asked Mimi for her reaction to her Vegetarian Plate and her one word response was “Delicious!”

Then it came time for our bill. My math said that we’d be close once tax was added in. Here’s the receipt.

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To the surprise of no one who has ever been there, Pho King gets an enthusiastic endorsement for a Cheap Date.

Pho King is located at 1020 MLK Jr Way, Tacoma, WA 98405

Do you know of a place where Mimi and I should try to spend $20? Email me at jackcameronis@gmail.com and let me know.

– Jack Cameron

Fourth Tacoma Homicide of 2015: Stephen Cunningham

Sunday night Tacoma Police were called to a house in the 3400 block of South Proctor Street that they were familiar with. There was a noise complaint. It was just after 10pm.

Earlier in the day 48-year-old Stephen Cunningham was in an altercation with a man. The man left. When the police knocked on Stephen’s door his mother says he thought that the man had returned. Stephen answered the door with a gun in his hand. The details of the confrontation have not been released and so it’s unclear what happened next. But the encounter ended when a 34-year-old six-year veteran of the Tacoma Police Department shot and killed Stephen Cunningham. This is the first homicide involving the Tacoma Police Department in over a year.

Interviewed by KIRO 7, Stephen’s mother said that she did not blame the police for their actions and understands that had Stephen not been armed, the situation would have turned out differently.

Stephen had a concealed carry permit. The gun he carried was legal. It’s reasonable that a gun owner might answer his door with a gun in his hand if he expected trouble. Unfortunately, without the information of what happened during his encounter with the police, it’d pointless to speculate on whether or not the shooting is justified.

Regardless of the justification for the death of Stephen Cunningham, a mother lost her son on Mother’s Day. Friends and relatives lost someone they cared for. And another life is gone from the city of Tacoma.

As always, the comments section is reserved for friends and family of the victim who might want to share thoughts or memories of Stephen. All comments are approved by me before they appear on the page.

If anyone has a photo they’d like me to use of Stephen, please send it to jackcameronis@gmail.com.

– Jack Cameron

Third Tacoma Homicide of 2015: Brandon Quinton Morris

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Spring has taken hold here in Tacoma. This weekend it’s supposed to be in the 70’s. Perfect weather for walking to the local convenience store and picking up whatever treats strike your fancy. Friday May 1st, 19-year-old Brandon Morris had done just that with his girlfriend, Jordan and a couple of friends at a convenience store near South 45th and South Union. They were walking down an alley when an SUV pulled up and fired eight shots. Brandon was protective of his girlfriend and friends and was the only one shot. He died five days later becoming Tacoma’s third homicide this year.

Brandon was going to Bates Technical College and studying to be a diesel mechanic. He was close with his family and known to be protective of those he cared for.

Tacoma Police have arrested a 23-year-old gang member for the murder. Neither Brandon or any of his friends with him that day are associated with any gangs. It is believed that the shooting was a random act of violence or a case of mistaken identity. The motivation hardly matters as it’s clear that this was a senseless act.

Drive-by shootings are relatively rare in Tacoma these days. It’s rarer still that they result in a homicide. While there is a very real gang presence in Tacoma, it is a far cry from the 1990s when drive-by shootings happened almost every hour of every day. We literally had hundreds of drive-by shootings a year. It’s good that our crime rate has gone down so much, but these statistics fail to make the loss of life that does occur any less devastating for friends and family of the victim.

As always, the comments section is reserved for friends and family of the victim who might want to share any thoughts or memories of Brandon. The section is moderated by me and I approve comments before they are made public.

My thoughts go out to Brandon’s friends and family.

– Jack Cameron

Jack and Mimi’s Cheap Date: The Harvester

Welcome to the latest installment of Jack & Mimi’s Cheap Date. Here are the rules: Each week, my girlfriend Mimi and I go somewhere in the Tacoma area for a cheap date where we spend $20 or less. (This does not include tips because service is unique and can’t be universally quantified.) Sometimes we succeed. Sometimes we fail.

There are some places that are so much a part of my life that I forget that there are others who don’t even know they exist. My very first apartment was about four blocks away from The Harvester in Tacoma’s Stadium District. The Harvester is a diner like Shari’s or Denny’s but local and good. I’ve gone there countless times for breakfast, lunch, and dinner over the years. But this time, Mimi and I would be going there and trying to spend less than $20.

We went for breakfast one weekday morning. It was fairly empty. We took a window booth and looked over the menu. We quickly found a problem: Almost every full breakfast was nine dollars or more. This wasn’t going to be easy, but we’d already sat down and we were hungry.

The waitress poured a couple of small glasses of water. Mimi ordered a coffee. I chose a Farmer’s Omelet for $9.79. Mimi decided for Bacon & Eggs for $9.49. The coffee turned out to be $2.39. This put us over our limit.

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Our food arrived. I was so hungry that I instantly took a bite of an English Muffin before Mimi reminded me to take a photo for the article. Mimi enjoyed her Bacon & Eggs though the bacon was a bit greasy for her tastes. My omelet was good and the portions were substantial.

The Harvester is a favorite of mine. Hardly a month goes by that I don’t end up there. For the purposes of having good diner food in a great neighborhood, I recommend it. For Jack & Mimi’s Cheap Date, I must give the breakfast a mixed review. The food was good, but the price was a bit too high.

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The Harvester is located on the corner of Division and Tacoma Ave. at 29 N. Tacoma Ave., Tacoma, WA 98403.

– Jack Cameron