Tag Archives: Tacoma

Izabel Laxamana: A Community Left Grieving. Where Do We Go From Here?

The Memorial At Izabel's Middle School

The Memorial At Izabel’s Middle School

It isn’t usual for Tacoma Stories to do more than one article about the same topic. It’s also not usual for someone other than me to write an article for Tacoma Stories. But the last few weeks have been unusual. There has been much talk and controversy about the suicide of Izabel Laxamana. Up until now, I’ve refrained from using the 13-year-old girl’s name. However, since it’s been used everywhere from the Washington Post to Seventeen Magazine, I think my refrain is fairly useless at this point.

I received the following article earlier today from a local psychotherapist. Her name is Cheryl L. Fracasso, Ph. D. She’s not just writing about Izabel. She’s writing about all of our children.

Before we get to the article, I just want to say if you or anyone you know is feeling suicidal, you can call the National Suicide hotline any time day or night for free and anonymously at 1-800-273-8255.

Here’s Dr. Fracasso:

Not even three weeks after her death, one thing that is clear is that there is a whole community spanning globally now left grieving the tragic loss of Izabel Laxamana. The public response of support and compassion has been tremendous, evoking many strong and mixed emotions. As a psychologist, I, like many others, sat dumbfounded and deeply saddened as this case unfolded, hoping that the investigation would reveal some answers into the “how” and “why” behind this. In the end, the police investigation that closed last week that revealed no wrongdoing by the father and left more questions than answers. So where do we go from here?

While no legal action may be taken for the real Izabel, one thing that lives on is the iconic Izabel created by the facebook page, “Justice for Izabel.” Whether her suicide was due to abuse or not may never be answered since Izabel can no longer speak for herself. I only hope that those who may have further information about this case will gain the courage to speak up if there are facts that need to be investigated further. However, we must move on as a community and society and focus our efforts on preventing future tragedies like this from occurring. I for one am not interested in reading about media defending their positions and pointing fingers at one another due to the reporting of this case, nor am I interested in reading about what “could have” or “should have” been done. What I am interested in seeing is abuse awareness and prevention efforts launched in the local and global community so that not one more child is lost in this manner. We need to give our children a voice. We need to take them seriously when they come home and try to tell us things that are happening to their friends that do not seem right. Education about what abuse is and how it operates needs to be put forth in our schools, which encourages friends or family members to speak up. Abuse can only exist if those suffering from it and those who witness it are scared silent, and this needs to end. We need to stop this hideous cycle of abuse, bullying, and public shaming. Each of us on an individual level can start by speaking up when we observe anything out of the ordinary with a child.

If you or your children observe something going on that is not right, report it. Also, we need to take a look at our current Child Protective Service (CPS) measures and find more effective ways to protect our children when a report is pending. As legislation is right now, children are generally left in the home when a report is pending investigation and some investigations take months to resolve.

From a psychological perspective, it is my hopes that practitioners band together to launch efforts to educate our youth and society about classic signs of abuse and to end this silence and fear about speaking up. In this sense, we can get “Justice for Izabel” by insuring that we make changes in our current systems to minimize the chances of something like this happening again.

Blaming and pointing fingers at each other and individual agencies is not an effective use of energy. Rather, we need to band together with police departments, school districts, legislation, and media who have the power to make change, and say “Enough! We are not losing one more child!” Let’s end the silence!

My deepest condolences to all who have been touched by this case…especially friends, family, and others who knew her.

If you would like to open up further dialogue about this, I can be contacted at doctorfracasso@hotmail.com. Please note, I am not interested in rehashing the details of this case. If you have further information, report it to the proper authorities. However, I do welcome suggestions on how social change efforts can be put in place to prevent future tragedies like this from occurring.

My sincerest regards,

– Cheryl L. Fracasso, Ph.D.

Dr. Fracasso is a psychotherapist based in Kent, Washington. She has served as a Psychologist with the State of Washington, Department of Social and Health Services, Developmental Disabilities Administration at Rainier School. She’s also worked as Case Manager with the City of Seattle, Office of Aging and Disability Services.

I’d like to thank Dr. Fracasso for sharing her thoughts with us. It’s important to talk and we’re interested in your comments. I’ll be approving any comments that aren’t insulting or accusatory.

– Jack Cameron

Talking About Suicide

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An entire community is hurting because a little girl jumped off a freeway overpass on South 48th Street. Most media outlets have been silent about this. When it comes to suicide, they are very cautious. Talking about suicides it’s said can inspire others to also commit suicide. The same is true of other violence. Copycat criminals are a real thing. But that doesn’t stop the media from reporting that. Every day we hear about gun violence on the news but two out of three gun deaths are the result of suicide and still more often than not, when it comes to suicide we are silent.

I can’t think of a problem that has gotten better by not talking about it. And so I choose to talk about suicide. I’m not going to pretend that a girl didn’t jump off the South 48th Street overpass. I am going to say that regardless of what was going on in her life I think she made the wrong choice. I think if she were still here and could see the community’s reaction to her death, she’d agree.

My previous post pointed out that public shaming was one of the likely causes of her decision to end her life. I’d like to also point out that it couldn’t possibly have been her sole reason. People who choose to kill themselves rarely do it because of one event. Much has been said about what else happened to her. Much has been said about the signs and how the school or her parents should have done something to stop it.

When I worked for the police department in police records, I transcribed a lot of suicide reports. The first one was a 13-year-old boy who shot himself. His note was full of thoughts I think everyone who has ever been thirteen has had. Over the next two years, I’d write up dozens more. Friends of mine have killed themselves. I’ve been suicidal at times myself. In every single case, there’s a part of me that wishes for one more conversation. I’m not a trained counselor or therapist, but I know that conversations change and sometimes save lives.

I’ve received numerous emails telling me that I shouldn’t be talking about suicide and pointing out the guidelines for talking about suicides. Some of those guidelines I agree with. Others I don’t. What I hope you get out of this article more than anything else is that if you’re feeling depressed or thinking of suicide, talk to someone. And keep talking.

If you have no one to talk to, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Personally, I’ve always felt that suicide is a permanent solution to temporary problems. Things pass. There was a time when Robert Downey Jr. was a drug addicted prison inmate. Now he’s the highest paid actor in the world. That’s not likely to happen to most of us, but our lives can turn around in major ways when we least expect it. 2012 was probably the worst year of my life, but 2013 was arguably the best.

I started Tacoma Stories because I value everyone who lives in Tacoma and I wanted to talk about those that leave us. Every death impacts our city. If you’re from Tacoma or ever lived in Tacoma, then you’re a part of our city and we need you. We can only imagine what the young girl who jumped off the overpass last week might have brought to our city had she lived. It’s my hope that her reactions inspire people to live rather than die. And for public shaming to be viewed in the same way we view all other child abuse.

– Jack Cameron

My Family Needs Your Help

My niece, Anya. John and Char's youngest.

My niece, Anya. John and Char’s youngest.

I’ve never done this before. When it comes to TacomaStories.com, the stories I post here are rarely personal. But sometimes circumstances require a personal touch.

If you’ve been reading my Twitter site, you’ll know that I have some friends who have recently become homeless. Their names are John Hodgson and Char Edson. They have two small children. John and Char are my son’s aunt and uncle.

For the last couple weeks as the weather has turned and their situation has become more desperate many of us have asked John & Char to put up a crowd funding site so that our amazing community can help them out. They had declined. They did not want charity. They are proud and willing to work, but work has been hard to come by.

Last night some friends of mine and I were talking about putting up a site for them because we know people will help if there’s an easy way to do so. Thankfully, this morning John and Char started a GoFundMe page.

This time of year is one of the most popular times to give. It’s also one of the coldest times of the year. If you’re looking for a local cause to give to this holiday season where your money will have a direct and immediate impact, I ask that you consider giving to this cause.

Below, you’ll find more about their circumstances from John himself. I’m including his story from his GoFundMe page here so that you know exactly what’s going on. Thanks.

– Jack Cameron

Here’s John: 
My name is John Hodgson. 4 years ago I was laid off of my job of 6 years as a Supervisor of Environmental Services in a hospital. This event coincided with the birth of my son Rowan and my wife Char being diagnosed with Autoimmune Disorders and severe migraines. 2 years ago I shattered my ankle after falling down a stairwell while carrying my then infant son. I now have a metal rod replacing the bone and 7 screws holding it in place. This has made it so I cannot do my previous career. It hasn’t been all bad as my daughter Anya was born soon after. After Anya’ s birth Char’s health  declined. Her Rheumatoid Arthritis makes it very painful to even get out of bed let alone chase after or pick up two little ones. Recently we have become homeless. We are now forced to rely on our vehicles more than ever .  We are utilizing all of the resources available and I am asking to raise funds  so that we can get our two vehicles in good repair with reliable tires. Thank you.

Help John, Char, Rowan, and Anya by clicking here. 

5 Question Friday With Defiant Goldfish’s Adam Dopps

goldfishWhenever I go to Pt. Defiance (and I go to Pt. Defiance a lot),  I look to the left of the entrance and see a an old small building with a fence around it and I think of the beers I drank there back when it was called The Goldfish and how nice it was to have a good bar near one of my favorite places in Tacoma, but unfortunately like far too many other historic buildings in Tacoma, it has been left vacant for years.

Enter Adam Dopps. Adam recently contacted me about his project, Defiant Goldfish. He and others are trying to reopen The Goldfish and return her to her former glory. He happily agreed to join me for 5 Question Friday and tell us more about it.

1. What is the Defiant Goldfish?  

The Defiant Goldfish stands for several things.  It is the goldfish that refuses to die. It also stands for a bar and bistro that doesn’t conform to the norms. We are taking our 45 years+ in the restaurant and bar business, and adding the things we like the best about our top 20 places WE like to go, and creating a hybrid.  When you are catering to the White Collar crowd, the Blue Collar crowd, the biker crowd, and now, Mom’s and Dad’s with their kids, you can’t do things the same way as Red Robin. The Defiant Goldfish is irreverent. We are respectful of all area’s of the business, but are not pigeon holing ourselves under any one category.

2. Why do you want to reopen this bar?

This is a really good question. And the answer has changed quite a bit over the last couple of months.  When we first started out, the focus was on finding a good location for a bar that would be happy spending the rest of our careers working in. We both are turning 50 very soon.  I spent most of my 20’s and 30’s self employed, but have spent the last 16 years working for Corporate America. And it sucked!  Corey and I are both a bit outside of the box. We are loud, boisterous, and spend most of our time laughing, usually at our own expense :)  My point of telling you this is; you can’t work in a corporate environment when you have out personalities, without having to temper who we really are. A couple of loudmouth guys that just LOVE to entertain and be around people.

Since we started working on the inside of the building on Saturdays, we have had dozens of people stop in and talk to us about either their history in the Goldfish Tavern, or why they hope their is going to be a cool neighborhood bar in their future. Most of them want to talk about both. During the conversations, we have become a little nervous.  Now, along with what WE envision for the new version of the Defiant Goldfish, we have come very aware of the responsibility it comes with. There are a LOT of people out there that are VERY attached to the tavern, and want it back very badly. At the same time we are renovating the building, we are quite aware that the elation out there about the fact that it is re-opening, is followed by the next strongest emotion about it;  “Don’t screw up the Goldfish.  We like it the way it was.”  That last sentence keeps me up at night.

The history and loyalty of the Goldfish Tavern and her patrons, as well as our Kickstarter Fundraiser Campaign, have turned this into a community project. That comes with high expectations, and meeting and exceeding high expectations is never as easy as it sounds, Those high expectations are what we are striving for.

3. What is the history of the Goldfish?

The Goldfish Tavern has been in business since prohibition. There are not many businesses that stay around that long, let alone a neighborhood tavern. It had stood the test of time until just two years ago when they closed down on Halloween Night. It was a gas station in it’s early day’s as well. It has had a lot of different owners over the years, trying different things or catering to different crowds. I hear “biker bar” a lot. I also here “neighborhood hole in the wall” a lot too. I have also heard “gay bar” and “punk rock bar” as well as “whistle stop” for the Ruston factory and waterfront workers that came there for a cold one after their shift was done.  I have heard so many stories at this point that it is hard to decipher fact from fiction :).  I had a gentleman send me a message a couple weeks ago asking if we were going to be “Harley Friendly”.  I said “of course we are.  We are also Suzuki friendly, Yamaha friendly, scooter friendly and car friendly. Trucks too :)”.  This is where the history meets the road. There are a lot of folks that claim it as “their kind of bar” over the years, but I get the feeling that “definition” has also meant different things to different people since 1933.

4. How can people help make the Defiant Goldfish a reality?

Getting the Goldfish Tavern back up and running as the Defiant Goldfish is not easy. It is also very expensive.  One of our main changes to the building is that we are adding a full kitchen, which is the most costly thing you can do in a building. That requires new plumbing, new electrical, new permitting, new higher licensing cost’s, new equipment, and the relocation of several parts of the old layout, to make room for the kitchen. Bringing a building that has been there since 1933 up to today’s code is a project.

To help cover these cost’s, since neither Corey or myself are rich, and did not show up to this party with any deep pocket investors, we have launched a Kickstarter Fundraising Campaign.  This is a way for people to become involved in the project and contribute to it’s success. People can pledge as little as $10. If we meet our goal of $22,000, then their credit or debit card will be charged the amount they backed us with, when the campaign ends on December 5th. I we do not reach our goal, they are charged nothing, but we also don’t get a dime, making this project die.

They can also like our facebook page, and share our story on their own Facebook or Twitter page. That is crucial to our success.

– Here is how one of our backers described Kickstarter:

– Truly grassroots volunteering.

– You give money through the Kickstarter website, using your credit ot debit card.

– Kickstarter takes a small cut for their expenses (so does Amazon Payments).

– You get recognized as a contributor, and receive a reward proportionate to your contribution.

When total gift’s from volunteers to the Defiant Goldfish goes above $22,000, Kickstarter cuts them a check after collecting all the pledges, minus their expense.  (after the campaign ends on Dec. 5th)

We all get beer :)

I could not explain it better myself.  It is easiest to understand by going to the website and seeing for yourself what it is all about, what you can contribute, and what you get in return for your contribution.

5. What do you see for the future of the Defiant Goldfish?

I see me retiring in about 20 years and looking back on how much the new incarnation of the Goldfish has affected people’s lives. How many people have met there over the years and become lifelong friends. How many people have met there future spouse there ( I met my wife in the first bar I owned, and we have been together for nearly 20 years).  I see us providing a place to the people of N. Tacoma where they can go and meet up with friends for a great meal and fantastic beverage. A place where mom and dad can go with their kids to build their own memories.  I see this place, in 2033, having one hell of a party.

I’d like to thank Adam for taking the time to participate in 5 Question Friday and I wish him the best of luck in Reopening Defiant Goldfish. You can help make Defiant Goldfish a reality by contributing to their Kickstarter campaign.  If you or someone you know would like to participate in a future 5 Question Friday contact me at jackcameronis@gmail.com

–  Jack Cameron

Third and Fourth Tacoma Homicides of 2014 Denyse Marshall and AJ Geissler

tacoma_houseLast Thursday at a house on South 19th and L Street in Tacoma’s Hilltop neighborhood there was a loud argument that had turned violent. A 37-year-old man was convinced that a coworker and roommate was romantically involved with his live-in girlfriend. He beat the roommate with his fists and a chair and also assaulted his girlfriend. Police arrived and found a 25-year-old man named AJ Geissler bloodied and injured. They arrested the 37-year-old and took him to jail.

The man they arrested was no stranger to the law. In the last two years alone he’d been arrested four times for domestic violence though only charged in one of those cases. Before that, his ex-wife had gotten two restraining orders on him in 2008 and 2010. In 2012 another roommate got a restraining order against him after an assault.

The Tacoma Municipal Court had not finished reviewing the case and since he had not been charged, he was released from jail on Friday.

Hours after being released from jail, the man returned to the house on Friday and assaulted three individuals at the house. He killed AJ Geissler, the man he’d assaulted the night before. He also killed 59-year-old Denyse Marshall, his girlfriend’s aunt who was staying at the house while she went through a divorce. He also wounded a third person.

Denyse and Joseph are the third and fourth homicides Tacoma has had this year. This is as low as the homicide rate has been at this point in the year since I started writing about Tacoma’s homicides. Of course this does not lessen the impact by family and friends devastated by the loss of these two individuals.

Their killer has been arrested. Unfortunately no amount of justice is going to bring any real solace to the grieving friends and family of the victims. Sudden losses like this are catastrophic. Denyse Marshall and AJ Geissler were citizens of Tacoma deserving of a full life that was cut short. What we can do now is remember Denyse and Joseph and share any memories we have of them.

The comments section is reserved for friends and families of the victims.  I moderate and approve all comments before they appear. I am sorry for your loss.
– Jack Cameron

Morning In Tacoma

This photo is actually a combination of six photos I took from my phone yesterday morning using my phone. It was taken from the office building I work in.

This photo is actually a combination of six photos I took from my phone yesterday morning using my phone. It was taken from the office building I work in.

5 Question Friday With Christina Wheeler of the Nearsighted Narwhal

logoI just released a new edition of my self-destruct book, Ruin Your Life. I wrote it, formatted it, created the cover, and published it. I’m a publisher as well as a writer. Later this year, I’m releasing an ebook about running Kickstarter campaigns and a Tacoma-based crime novel. When it comes to Tacoma and publishing, I’m very interested in the things going on in this town. So when I heard about the Nearsighted Narwhal I reached out to Christina Wheeler, the mastermind behind the Nearsighted Narwhal.

Here’s Christina:

1. What is The Nearsighted Narwhal?

The Nearsighted Narwhal is a storefront that is planning on opening in the summer of 2014. Spaceworks has accepted our application and will be helping to place us in a vacant storefront sometime this summer.

Our main focus is on self-publishing. We are a consignment store for anyone who has ever printed their own books, zines, music, comics, or made their own CDs . We will also have a zine/comic creation area in the store along with workshops on self-publishing and the myriad facets of putting your words or art out in the mainstream. We’ll also have a listening station set up to listen to-and buy-local music. We plan on having special events such as open mic nights, musical performances, 24 hour zine/comic making events in which the store will stay open for a full day to accommodate the creators, along with a lot of other fun stuff.

Though our main focus is publishing, we also want to lend a helping hand to people that create other tangible items. We will have a consignment area for these individuals and groups that make buttons, patches, stickers, jewelry, t-shirts, posters, or whatever else the lovely creative community of Tacoma has to offer us. We are open to it all as long as it is handmade.

Our store will also feature visual art from local artists that will be on consignment.

2. What makes this different than other publication companies? 

We are interested in the “little guy”, those individuals that get looked over even though their wares maybe be brilliant and amazing, in favor of more mainstream media. We believe that these underground publishers, these people that choose to take the path less traveled in order to pursue their passions…these are the people that need to be celebrated. They are an untapped creative resource and we’re here to shed some light on them. We want to show people that you don’t need a big publishing contract-though those are nice-to be successful and get your name out there.

Another thing that makes us different is that, as individuals, we are also self-publishers. My partner, Ossain, and I have been in the self-publishing business for years. We understand on an intrinsic level the difficulties that many of these people face on a day-to-day basis and we’re here to help. By opening this store and getting the word out to people who might skip right over the independent publishing shelf at the local bookstore full of mainstream authors, we’re bringing the focus on the people who aren’t censored by editors and publishing company politics. It’s pure unfiltered talent and we’re excited as hell to be able to help.

3. What can people do if they’re interested in participating? 

You can contact us through Facebook, through e-mail (thenearsightednarwhal@gmail.com), through Twitter #Narwhal253, or through our website www.thenearsightednarwhal.com. Once you contact us we will send you the consignment agreement to be completed and signed and given back along with whatever it is you’d like us to sell. That’s it. Super easy.

4. What other local independent artist causes interest you? 

We’re always interested in community building and drumming up interest in the vast well of artistic talent that resides in Tacoma. We’re especially fans of the Art Bus, Creative Colloquy, or any other business or venture that promotes community and focuses on the artist and not turning them into a machine that cranks out works like they’re in front of a conveyor belt.

5. What would you like to see for the future of The Nearsighted Narwhal?

We’d love to be one of the many agents of change in Tacoma for the self-publishers, artists, and other crafty folk. We’d love to spur Tacoma on its way to recognizing the many different talents that this city harbors.

We’d like to be fully established as the self-publisher’s landmark in Tacoma that can help with promoting the DIY community and be involved in the zine festival circuit at some point in the near future. Ideally we envision our store as a place a customer can come to and pick up a zine, a book, a comic, have a cup of coffee, listen to some local music talent, read from their works in front of a crowd of like-minded individuals, eat some locally made goodies, make a button, take a workshop on an area of self-publishing they need help on, and be filled with wonder at the thought of Tacoma being so amazing. Because, you know…it totally is.

I want to thank Christian for joining me for 5 Question Friday. For more information on the Nearsighted Narwhal, check out their website www.thenearsightednarwhal.com.

If you or someone you know wants to participate in 5 Question Friday, drop me a line at jackcameronis@gmail.com.

–       Jack Cameron