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Book Review: Hive by Christina Stoddard

Stoddard-Hive-g

Hilltop in the early 1990s was an interesting place. I was in New Zealand in 1992 and random people there knew about the crime in Hilltop. It was a dangerous place with gang members who moved here from Los Angeles turning the area into a high-crime area that most people avoided after dark. In 1994 I met a young girl named Christina Stoddard. She lived with her family right in the middle of Hilltop and she beyond being ridiculously smart and fun to be around, she also did something that had me immediately intrigued; she wrote better than me.

I wasn’t surprised when Christina won the Brittingham Prize award for poetry. I congratulated her and she offered to send me a copy of Hive, her book of poetry. I had read many of her poems before. I thought I knew what to expect. I was wrong. These poems weren’t just good. They were real. They were deeply personal. And they were quintessentially Tacoman.

I have a novel coming out later this year. It’s 57,000 words and says a few things about Tacoma. I’m proud of it and I hope people like it. But reading Christina Stoddard’s Hive, I was reminded of something filmmaker Cameron Crowe said about musician Paul Westerberg. He said, “Paul says shit in two and a half minutes that I can’t say in two and a half hours.”

Individually these poems are as often haunting as they are humorous. Taken together the poems paint a picture of the young girl growing up in Hilltop long before I ever met her. I’ve been trying to find a way to review Hive without making it personal but I find that it’s simply impossible.

In recent years Christina and I haven’t talked much and truth be told I don’t know her all that well these days. That said, I remember the girl she writes as in her poems. A short white Mormon girl with a good head on her shoulders and a little too much curiosity growing up in one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the country results in poetry that speaks to the struggle so many bright children in bad neighborhoods cope with.

I’ve also found that it’s hard to write about poetry. It’s like writing about skydiving. It’s better to just do it. With that in mind I’m sharing a poem from Hive with the permission of Christina. It’s one of my favorites in the book.

You can purchase Hive at this link or at your local bookseller. For more poems and reviews of Hive, checkout Christina’s website: http://christinastoddard.com

Jack Cameron

What Tacoma Was

By Christina Stoddard

The scuffed toe of a Boeing work boot,

Puget Sound’s paper mill stench,

the asbestos cough from the Asarco plant.

A tin can that cut my thumb

every time I tried to throw it into the past. The kind

of wound that takes a full minute

to begin bleeding. A cave of Evergreens

at Point Defiance Park, shutting out all light.

The stone in my soup. WIC coupons

common as pine needles, soldiers

from Fort Lewis cruising the mall for girls,

bottles of Rainier beer. The man

who held me down in the storeroom where I worked

and snarled, Don’t fight me, you bitch.

A glue so quick to bond

I had to meet my mother’s eyes and tell her

she wasn’t enough reason to stay.

Ninth Tacoma Homicide of 2014 Doug Medlock

dougmedlockOn the evening of Friday, August 29th, 20-year-old Doug Medlock was hanging out with a group who decided to rob a local pot dealer. The robbery took place near South 24th and Yakima. Another 20-year-old beat the pot dealer in the head with the butt of his pistol. The last time he hit the dealer the pistol discharged. The bullet hit Doug Medlock in the leg.

About 20 minutes later police arrived at the Jack In The Box on South 23rd and Pacific. It was 9:30pm. They found a 16-year-old and the 20-year-old who shot Doug. Both were very upset. They directed the officers to a car where they found Doug bleeding profusely from his leg injury. Paramedics were called, but the bullet had hit an artery and Doug Medlock bled out becoming the ninth homicide in Tacoma this year. 

Initially the shooter told officers that someone else shot Doug and ran off, but eventually the 16-year-old gave a full account of what happened,

The shooting occurred only a few blocks from St. Joseph’s Hospital. Unfortunately the shooter was unfamiliar with the Tacoma area and had driven downtown to get help. The shooter has been charged with first-degree manslaughter and attempted robbery.The 16-year-old is not being charged.

Police are still looking to talk to anyone who was there when the shooting occurred.

As always, the comments section is moderated by me and is reserved for friends and family who want to share stories and memories of Doug.

– Jack Cameron

Eighth Tacoma Homicide of 2014 Kevin Young

kevinyoungLast Thursday morning, a woman called 911 from a room at the King Oscar Hotel off of South 72nd and Hosmer. Her boyfriend had been shot with a shotgun. The wound was in his gut. He was transported to St. Joseph’s Hospital. Later that afternoon he died from his wounds. His name was Kevin Young. He was 41 years old.

In the days that followed, two men and a woman have been arrested for his murder. Court documents show that an acquaintance of Kevin’s girlfriend was hanging out with them. They went to a nearby ATM where Kevin got out $30. Shortly after that the woman met with two men outside. One of the men wore a mask and had a shotgun. They entered the room. Kevin handed over the money and the man in the mask shot him. The entire robbery took less than twenty seconds.

While the arrests will hopefully get his friends and family justice, the pain of the loss of Kevin remains.

Kevin Young is the eighth Tacoma homicide victim this year. He had at one point worked for a fishing company in Alaska and more recently for Commercial Metals Company. He was the father of two.

As always, the comments section is reserved for those who knew Kevin who want to share stories and tell us about him and his life.

– Jack Cameron

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.