Category Archives: Uncategorized

5 Question Friday With Pacific Grill’s Gordon Naccarato

Seven years ago if you wanted to go to a really nice restaurant in downtown Tacoma, your choices were few. That when Gordon Naccarato opened Pacific Grill. Gordon agreed to join me for 5 Question Friday and tell us a bit about his restaurant and some other things. Here’s Gordon:

1) For those who don’t know, what is Pacific Grill?
PG is my restaurant in the gorgeous Waddell building in downtown Tacoma. We serve contemporary American cuisine, and a great all-day Happy Hr.

2) Why is Tacoma a good place for a restaurant?
When we opened PG 7 years ago I think Tacoma was under-served in terms of quality restaurants, and certainly in chef-owned, non-corporate chain restaurants.

3) What are some of your favorite places to get a bite to eat in Tacoma?
I love the Lobster House on 38th in the International District for good Asian food and next door El Zócalo that serves amazing and delicious tortas (that are enough for 2 meals)– and has an attached bakery. Charlie McManus does a great job at Primo Grill and Crown Bar. And I do love the great breakfasts they are serving at DOA. But I love driving to Seattle or Portland to learn something new and see what is going on. And I just got back from Los Angeles where I went out to eat day & night (and one day had 3 lunches with my daughter cause I had to try so many new places!)

4) What food is highly underrated?
Ramen. I love ramen, pho and Saimin (in Hawaii). But if I could have only one it would be ramen. Although I appreciate how unstructured Saimin can be– in Hawaii it as if Pho & Ramen had a wild child named Saimin that can be quite untraditional and really delicious. Even the cheap-ass ramen is delicious (especially if you add some Vietnamese Curry powder to the base, some fresh grated ginger, cilantro, mint and basil– and even a tablespoon of chunky peanut butter too!)

5) What are your plans for the future of Pacific Grill?
I am working on several new projects. It is hard to say which may come to fruition first. But I am considering shaking things up a bit on the PG menu in the near future.

I want to thank Gordon for taking the time to be part of 5 Question Friday. You can check out Pacific Grill for yourself at 1502 Pacific Avenue.

If you think you or someone you know would be interested in participating inf 5 Question Friday, drop me a line at jackcameronis@gmail.com

- Jack Cameron

What’s With The Lack of Updates?

For the most part, I try to make TacomaStories.com about Tacoma and the people in it rather than about me. However, I felt I should explain why there have been a distinct lack of updates lately. Basically, I’ve had a very, very bad month. Without getting into too much detail, I was briefly hospitalized due to chest pains, my son was in an accident that almost killed him, a friend of mine killed himself, and my wife and I split up, and I moved. This all happened over the course of about five weeks. Needless to say, updating my websites became less of a priority.

The bad news is that I’m not quite ready to get things up and running again. The good news is that when I do, it’s going to be more than just 5 Question Fridays and write ups of local homicide victims. I’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, anyone interested in doing 5 Question Friday can still email me at jackcameronis@gmail.com

Thanks for reading.

-          Jack Cameron

Help Catch A Hit & Run Driver

On July 5th just after 8pm Theresa Crowley was crossing the street at the intersection of North 26th and North Shirley Street. The sun was going down but there was still plenty of daylight. As she was crossing the street someone in a silver Volkswagen hatchback ran into her. She has serious injuries to her pelvis and skull. She is currently recovering at St. Joseph’s Hospital. Witnesses say the car sped up as it left the scene.

Theresa is 52-years-old. She’s survived breast cancer twice. She has battled tough odds before and I hope she has a quick recovery from her injuries.

The vehicle is described as a 2009-2011 silver Volkswagen hatchback with chrome wheels and a roof rack. If you were a witness to this accident or have any information about this vehicle, contact Detective Jeff Turner at 253-591-5986 or email him at jturner@cityoftacoma.org.

- Jack Cameron

Stephanie Anne Johnson’s Guitar Has Been Stolen

Last night talented singer and guitarist Stephanie Anne Johnson had her guitar stolen from her car on Capital Hill. The guitar is a Ibanez Exotic Wood Acoustic Electric Guitar in Zebrawood. She affectionately calls is Tigerlilly. There is abalonie inlay around the second hole. Frets two and three are slightly run down due to capo use. Also stolen with the guitar was a third generation iPad, iPad case, and a hard guitar case.

Stephanie is an old friend. You can check out her music here.  She created the image below to get the word out. Feel free to share the image with everyone and anyone. Let’s reunite Stephanie with Tigerlilly.

Vicci

Funny story. About two weeks ago, I was contacted by someone representing Vicci Martinez. They gave me a link to download her new album a couple of weeks its release date in the hopes that I’d write about it. I downloaded the album, listened to it, and wrote a review. I was going to post that review this past weekend but somehow my computer ate it. So I had to start over.

This turned out to be a good thing. After listening to the album a bit more, my opinion of it has changed. Last year, when Vicci Martinez was on the Voice she was nice enough to participate in a 5 Question Friday interview. And they’d been nice enough give me an early preview of her new album. I didn’t want to make Vicci and her people mad at me but I wanted to be honest.

So my first review talked about how Vicci used to be a barefoot girl with a guitar belting out songs on a small stage in various local venues and how her new album, ‘Vicci’, has such a high production value that you kind of lose that girl behind a bunch of processed music. It was a somewhat easy thing to write. I mean it’s a story we’ve already heard a hundred times where the little indie artist gets signed to a big record label and loses all her indie cred.

I can’t really say how happy I am that I lost that review because I wasn’t really paying attention. This isn’t an artist selling out. This is an artist buying in. Sure, there aren’t a lot of things I like better than a girl with a guitar and a song, but even though there’s production value dripping from every track on ‘Vicci’, each of the songs would easily work acoustically. And the songs themselves are solid.

I know that these days people tend to just pay attention to singles and not the entire album, but I’m going to briefly talk about each of the songs on the album in the order they are on the album. I’m not really a music reviewer and I don’t read music reviews so I have no idea if this is the sort of thing I’m supposed to do or not. Luckily, I don’t care.

‘Vicci’ starts off with ‘Come Along’ which features her costar from The Voice, Cee-Lo Green. It’s catchy as all hell. It’s one of those songs that just sinks into your head and you find yourself singing along without even meaning to.

Next up, is a song called ‘Run, Run, Run’. Vicci has said that this song had a lot to do with her moving from her hometown of Tacoma to LA in pursuit of her music career. I can hear that in the song. And it definitely has a California vibe to it.

‘Out of Control’ is a song about a spiraling relationship. It’s a bit clichéd and not really the sort of song I enjoy.

Luckily, the next song, ‘I Can Love’ is probably my favorite song on the album. Vicci says, “Sometimes we don’t feel our best, and we can let things and people bring us down.  This song is about empowerment and to remind us that we do have hearts and we should use them.” That sounds about right. If you’re looking for a song to lift you out of a bad mood and remind yourself what you’re capable of, this is just what you’re looking for of. On top of that, Vicci’s voice knocks this track out of the park. Great stuff.

After a power track like that, Vicci follows that with ‘Hold Me Darlin’, a sad song about just wanting to be held. I’m a lyrics guy so what I noticed most was that the chorus not only says “I’m sorry.”, it also says “I’m weak.”  That right there is a vulnerable line. I think anyone who has been in a dying relationship can relate to this song.

It’s nice to have some girl-power songs and love songs, but sometimes you just want a song about sex. “Not Washing You Off of Me” is just that. It’s raw, sexy, and just a bit fun. Though there’s a couple points in the song where it sounds like R2-D2 is doing backing vocals. But the nerd in me has no problem with that.

“I Want Your Kiss” is exactly what it sounds like. It’s not so much about sex as it is about wanting and fantasizing. It’s fun and gets points for using the word ‘superfly’ if nothing else.

“Let Go” is a sad ballad that is just heartbreaking. I’m not entirely sure if it’s about a dead lover or just dead love. Either way, it’s sweet, powerful, and sad. I’m betting this is the most personal song on the album. The line “If you could see me all grown up, would you be proud, who I am now?” is haunting to me.

“Touch That Fire” is one of those songs that I’m sure a lot of people like but it’s just not my style. I can’t point out anything wrong with it. It’s a solid pop song. I just don’t like it.

The album ends with “Little Faith” which almost sounds like something from the poppy mall music of the 1990s. I was a teenager in the 90s so it gives me this nostalgic vibe that makes me smile.

So is ‘Vicci’ the barefoot girl with the guitar that you remember from way back when? Kind of. Early Vicci Martinez music is to the new ‘Vicci’ album what Avengers comic books are to the new Avengers movie. It’s clear that a lot of money has been well spent taking something many people love and turning it into something even more people will love. It’s not my favorite album I’ve listened to this year, but every time I listen to it, I like it more. And I’ve still got ‘Come Along’ stuck in my head.

‘Vicci’ will be released on June 19th.

Click here to purchase from Amazon.com

- Jack Cameron

18-Year-Old Chris Virdell is Missing

On the morning of Thursday, February 9th           18-year-old Christopher Virdell was going to catch a Pierce Transit bus to get to his job at the South Hill Safeway on 13308 Meridian East. Chris never arrived for his shift. He was last seen between 9 and 10 in the morning in the area of 224th and 42nd in Spanaway.

Chris is not known for disappearing and his family is worried. He is 5’5”, 120 lbs. He often wore a fluorescent orange hunting type hoody and a ball cap.

If you have any information, not matter how insignificant you think it might be, please call the Pierce County Sherriff’s Office at 253-798-4721. His friends, family, and coworkers are very worried about him.

5 Question Friday With Equal Time’s Frank Blair

Occasionally, I let others do 5 Question Fridays for TacomaStories.com. Luke Byram has previously contributed to Tacoma Stories with 5 Question Fridays from Amanda Westbrook and Kathleen Merryman. This week, he’s back with a 5 Question Friday with Frank Blair. Who is Frank Blair? I’ll let Luke and Frank answer that question.
-Jack Cameron

Frank Blair has been an active member of Tacoma for a while. He has been the facility manager of Manitou Community Center and was involved in the community garden which was created there. Frank’s daughter, Sheena was killed by a drunk driver in February of 2010 in Everett. Ever since that dreadful night, he’s been on a crusade to stop DUI crashes and stiffen penalties of drunk drivers. Lets find out how he has and is accomplishing this task. Without further ado, here’s Frank’s responses to a set of 5 questions that we put to him.

1. How long have you been co-host of Equal Time on KLAY 180 FM?
I have never done Equal Time on 180 KLAY. But I HAVE been co-host on 1180 KLAY in various incarnations since 1999. GREAT time to start a liberal talk show, just as the bush administration was taking office.

2. What subjects/topics do you cover on Equal Time?
Equal Time is primarily a political talk show. We have also covered everything from gardening to local artists, film makers, authors, organized labor and veteran’s issues.

3. Who’s been your favorite guest on Equal Time?
I think the greatest honor I ever had as a broadcaster was an hour long in-studio interview with General John Shalikashvili. This interview took place just before the war in Iraq was launched. I also hold dear our interviews with Dr Jeni Gregory, a trauma councilor who works with children traumatized by war. She works with child soldiers in Africa and has done work with other children in horrid situations around the world.

4. How are you working on preventing DUI wrecks?
My wife Carol and I are working to prevent DUI deaths in a three pronged approach. First, working with legislators to increase penalties for DUI and vehicular homicide to deter a percentage of the population from taking the chance to drive impaired. Second, through education in the sense of sharing how Sheena’s death has impacted and continues to impact our family. Third, and most importantly, providing viable alternative to driving drunk in the first place. We support programs to get impaired drivers home at low or no cost.

5. Why are you on a mission to prevent DUI wrecks?
We became active with DUI issues because our daughter Sheena was killed in a head on collision at the hands of a drunk driver. That night we were shoved into a line with thousands of other families of DUI victims in front of us. We feel that it is our moral obligation to shorten the line behind us. Every DUI vehicular homicide that we see on the news sickens us. Many people express that “Somebody should DO something”. Sometimes that “someone” is ME.

I’d like to thank Frank Blair for participating in 5 Question Friday and Luke Byram for conducting the interview. You can find out more about Frank Blair and his Equal Time program at: http://equaltimeradio.net/

As always, if you or anyone you know wants to be a part of 5 Question Friday, email me at jackcameronis@gmail.com

The Tacoma Youth Initiative

Jen Kurkoski surrounded by others in the TYI (including me in the lower right hand corner.)

In 1995 I was nineteen. I got a phone call from someone.

“Mr. Cameron, we’d like to start the Tacoma Youth Initiative again. We’d like you to run it.”

“No. I’m not interested.”

“May I ask why not?”

“The youth of Tacoma do not deserve the Youth Initiative.”

My participation was from 1992-1993. I don’t remember how I got started, but I think it was a girl. At the time, I was known for joining groups simply because a girl I was interested in was a member. It’s how I ended up being a Quaker for a while. More often than not, I’d join the group and get just as interested in the group as I was in the girl. The Youth Initiative was no different in that respect.

To explain what the Tacoma Youth Initiative was and what it did, it’s important to explain the environment in which it existed. The first Gulf War had ended. Bill Clinton was in the White House with a bunch of new optimism. And Starbucks had just gone public. When it came to young people, the general fears were drugs, gangs, pregnancies, and AIDS. Each of these fears resulted in various programs to help kids who were addicted, or stuck in gangs, or pregnant. Almost all of the programs out there were reactionary programs for kids who had already screwed up.

The concept behind the Tacoma Youth Initiative was a bit revolutionary at the time. What if there was a program full of resources for young people before they got messed up with drugs, gangs, or anything else? More importantly, how about a program that helped these teens do what they want to do?

The Tacoma Youth Initiative supported and promoted groups and activities geared towards teenagers in Tacoma. An environmental group called SAVE (Students’ Actions for a Viable Environment), various Safe Streets programs, and Crossroads Coffee Shoppe were all among the programs championed by the Tacoma Youth Initiative.

I know this is hard to believe, but there was a time when there wasn’t a coffee shop on every other corner of Tacoma. And the coffee shops that did existed were not exactly teen friendly. Most of the time a bunch of us would just go to Shari’s or Denny’s. A bunch of us would arrive at the restaurant. The waitress would roll her eyes as each of us ordered just a cup of coffee. 

Soon they made rules that we had to order food or they’d say we could only stay for an hour. This was the genesis of Crossroads Coffee Shoppe. The Tacoma Youth Initiative helped fund the concept of a coffee shop where teens could drink coffee, listen to music, and hang out indefinitely.  Since it was non-profit, there wasn’t any worry of patrons ruining our bottom line.

Crossroads existed in part of a large warehouse owned by the Boy Scouts of America. Part of it was used for the Sea Scouts, but the rest of it was donated to the Youth Initiative. It was located on Dock Street just below the 11th Street Bridge, otherwise known as the Murray Morgan Bridge. It was essentially in a forgotten part of Tacoma. This was before there were gigantic empty condo buildings or the Museum of Glass. Most people who ended up on Dock Street were lost, homeless or drunk. Once, a drunk guy in a pick-up truck took out four small trees next to the warehouse while we were there.

Those of us who were part of Crossroads Coffee Shoppe met every Tuesday at 7pm. We talked about getting equipment and finding the financing for our little part of Tacoma. We also had work parties where we put up walls and made the warehouse space into a place people could actually hang out. Occasionally as a fund raising strategy, we’d open our doors to the public for a night at a time. It was always a low-key affair. No one got crazy drunk or stoned out of their minds. There was never any violence. It was a group of teenagers responsibly hanging out with like minded people. I made many friends at Crossroads that I still talk to on a regular basis.

Crossroads Coffee Shoppe

Eventually I decided to get more involved with the Youth Initiative. The Tacoma Youth Initiative’s offices were located in two small rooms on the first floor of the Tacoma Central School building. Youth Initiative director, Jen Kurkoski was always happy for any help she could get. Many days after school, I would go into the office and help stuff envelopes, fold newsletters, or do whatever else needed to be done while listening to Jen’s radio ever tuned to National Public Radio.

In a very real way, Jen Kurkoski was the Tacoma Youth Initiative and yet, it never felt like she was controlling us. She was the first adult I’d ever met who I felt was on our side. She had a quality about her that got the best out of you and made you feel optimistic. At the time I had no idea how rare it was to work with a genuine leader.

After a while, I started writing for the Tacoma Youth Initiative newsletter. One month, I saw the newsletter and noticed that a paragraph in my article had been changed. I actually left school and went down to the office to yell at Jen for changing my article. She calmed me down immediately. It was the first time I’d been edited.

I was still attending weekly meetings at Crossroads, but it was becoming increasingly clear that Crossroads was never going to be more than a glorified clubhouse for us and our friends. No matter how much we tried to promote the place, we couldn’t get the amount of people in it that we needed to make it an ongoing thing. I decided it was due to our terrible location which I believed was donated to us because no one else on Earth would want it. More than once, I half-jokingly suggested we should burn the warehouse and use the insurance money to get a real location. One time we ordered a pizza once and the guy got lost. I said, “This guy is getting paid to find us and he still can’t find us.”

Back at the Youth Initiative Offices things were getting even more desperate. We weren’t just running out of funding for Crossroads. We were running out of funding for everything. Giving money to homeless kids or drug rehab for kids or for runaways or for former gang members has always been a good way to get in the papers. But giving money to average teenagers who weren’t in any sort of trouble? Hell, didn’t they just give $20 to their kid for gas? The fact of the matter was the Tacoma Youth Initiative simply wasn’t sexy enough to garner ongoing support.

In January of 1993 Jen announced that the Youth Initiative was closing its doors. This announcement got us more publicity than anything we’d ever done. Suddenly we were being interviewed by the News Tribune. Some were happy to see them. I saw them as vultures picking on a corpse. We’d had press releases all but ignored during the majority of our existence and now suddenly we were news…because we were dying.

Jen tried to put a good face on it. She had one last gathering. A cast party for the Tacoma Youth Initiative. She invited us to her apartment on Stadium Way. It was a chance to see some of the people from the other branches of the Youth Initiative. We talked and hung out and worked on a big poster of scraps from our various endeavors.

And then it was gone. As if it had never been. I never saw Jen Kurkoski again. I remained friends with many of people from Crossroads. In the time since we had tried to start Crossroads, coffee shops had sprung up like a disease. There was Temple of the Bean over on Division and North I Street and across the street from it, there was Buzz City. Later there was Café WA and later still Shakabra Java. Crossroads was gone, but at the same time, in a way, it was everywhere.

In the years following the demise of the Tacoma Youth Initiative, I got jaded. I felt that not only did the media and local philanthropists not do enough to save the Youth Initiative, but neither did my fellow young people. More and more I saw that the majority of my peers seemed to think that the world owed them something and the last thing they wanted to do was work for it. So when I got that call in 1995, I turned it down. And as far as I know, the Youth Initiative never started up again.

Now, almost twenty years after I first heard the words ‘Tacoma Youth Initiative’, I’m not nearly so jaded. I see it was something that helped shape who I am. It’s where I started writing things that people other than my friends read. The Youth Initiative is no more. But the people from the Youth Initiative are still around. One is a principal at a high school. One works at corporate offices at Zumiez. Another works in a law office downtown. And Jen Kurkoski is in California working for Google. We’ve all gone on to different things, but I think each of us was changed by our experiences with the Tacoma Youth Initiative and I’m thankful for that.

Could the Tacoma Youth Initiative work in today’s Tacoma? I don’t know. I’d like to think so, but as always, the problem is money. The question is, what would the youth of Tacoma do if they had the resources? I bet it would be something amazing.

- Jack Cameron

Were you part of the Tacoma Youth Initiative? Do you have stories of TYI to share? Email me at jackcameronis@gmail.com. It’d be great to hear from you.

Note: Don’t worry. 5 Question Friday isn’t gone. We’re just skipping a week.

What Was The Tacoma Youth Initiative?

Coming Soon...

Ten Miles of Bad Road

Ten Miles of Bad Road

I first met Nate Kirby in 1996. He had just moved up to Tacoma in hopes of catching the grunge scene, but had arrived a couple years too late. He was working at a T.G.I.Friday’s. He was a musician and he needed a bassist. I knew one. And in that way, I’m somewhat responsible for his first Tacoma band, Vuja De. While I was friends with many musicians, I didn’t know many songwriters and those I did know weren’t very good. Nate was the first friend of mine who I thought wrote good songs.

Vuja De lasted for a while. They played a few shows. They were a fixture at the Antique Sandwich Company’s open mic Tuesdays. They rented a house on South 38th Street and had parties that I’d have trouble describing both due to the things that happened and my intoxication at the time.

Eventually Vuja De fell apart and over the years Nate formed a handful of other bands and sometimes just played shows by himself. When he wasn’t playing his own songs, he’d do covers like a country version of Paula Abdul’s “Straight Up”. He once did a cover of “I Want You To Want Me” that had the crowd at the Antique roaring like they were at a rock show.

Most recently Nate became part of a band called Ten Miles of Bad Road. When Nate first told me about this band, he said, “This is the first band I’ve ever played with where I feel like I’m the least talented one in the band.” And indeed, this is the first band I’ve seen Nate in where he isn’t the clear star of the band. Ten Miles of Bad Road isn’t like Nate’s other bands. It’s a bit darker. It’s gritty. It’s the sort of music you’d use for a montage of a party you don’t remember. And it’s fun. These guys clearly like playing as much as people like watching them.

Nate’s band mates, Jakob Jess, Alex Hosea, and Justin Hosea help create a sound that isn’t country and isn’t rock and isn’t rockabilly. It’s something else. This is ass kicking music. These guys don’t show up to the party. They are the party.

Now it’s fair to say that I’m friends with these guys and that I’m probably a bit biased about them. But I also would never endorse a band I didn’t like. Even if it were a friend. Because honestly, a real friend will tell you when you suck. Just as a real friend will get the word out if there’s something to talk about.

Of course writing about a band is like talking about food. You really have to experience it for yourself. Luckily, Ten Miles of Bad Road have just released their first music video and their album is coming soon. I’ve posted the video below. It’s been a long time coming, but Nate Kirby and Ten Miles of Bad Road have arrived.