Monthly Archives: April 2011

Good To Have A Wingman

The Red Hot

Wingman Brewers' debut at the Red Hot

A few weeks ago Wingman Brewers’ Ken Thorburn was nice enough to participate in the first 5 Question Friday. He said that the first Wingman brew would be debuting soon and he wasn’t kidding. On the evening of April 21st, Wingman Brewers debuted their P-51 Porter at 6th Ave’s The Red Hot.

Prior to that night I had only been to the Red Hot a couple of times. I remembered that the Red Hot had a good beer selection and great hot dogs but I also remembered that it was really small. So when I arrived around 6:30pm I wasn’t surprised that there was a line outside the door.

While waiting in line I finally met Ken Thoburn and his cohorts in person. They all seemed like friendly, good people. Ken said I should stop by their place sometime and I told him I’d take him up on it. It was at this point that I suddenly had a fear. What if their beer sucks?

Now personally I’m not that big of a fan of Porters anyway. Many of them seem more like a meal than a beverage and that’s just not my thing. That’s not to say that I never drink them, but odds are if I’m out having a beer, I’m drinking an IPA or an ESB. That said, I was still looking forward to the P-51.

Once I got inside, I was surprised to find that despite the place being packed, it really wasn’t overcrowded. I could walk around without spilling other people’s drinks. I got to the bar and asked the cute bartender for a P-51. Moments later the dark beer arrived. I paid for the beer, stepped away from the bar and took a sip. The dark, rich flavor wasn’t overpowering, but it did linger. I took another sip and smiled. This was a good brew.

Less than two hours later, the P-51 keg was empty. Wingman’s debut was clearly an unqualified success. Best of all, when I walked out of the Red Hot, I didn’t have to lie to Ken when I saw him.

A week later, I stopped by Wingman Brewers to take a look at their operation. I’d never been to a brewery before so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew they were small and just getting started, so I wasn’t expecting huge vats and that sort of thing.

I walked into their nondescript building on Fawcett Street and saw Ken. There are jobs people do because they have to pay the bills. Then there are jobs people do because it’s what they love to do and if they’re lucky enough to make money, then great. As Ken gave me a tour of the place, I could tell that this was clearly something he loved. The light you can see in someone in the process of attaining their dreams is something that’s real.

They have their wall of kegs, a wide assortment of malts, beer in various stages of completion, and their precious few hops (there’s a hops shortage). In their office, there are stacks of posters and other promotional material, and a few bomb-shaped tap handles. While the P-51 Porter is currently the only brew available from Wingman, their Ace IPA and Pin-Up Pale Ale are coming soon. Ken also told me of a few other brews they’re working on over the summer and into the fall. Wingman Brewers isn’t big, but they have big dreams, good ideas, and great beer. Like the title of this post says, it’s good to have a Wingman.

For the latest on Wingman Brewers, go to their site and sign up for their newsletter.

-Jack Cameron

5 Question Friday With Tacoma Poet David Fewster

I was recently contacted by David Fewster regarding a poem of his that was banned from yesterday’s Poet  Laureate inauguration. You can watch a youtube video of David reciting the poem below. David Fewster is Tacoma’s street poet. He’s the author of “Diary of a Homeless Alcoholic Suicidal Maniac & Other Picture Postcards”

I asked David if he’d like to participate in this week’s 5 Question Friday and he said he’d play along. 

1. Why is poetry important now?
Ha ha. Poetry important? The only people that answer that question with a straight face are poets who are desperately trying to drum up business for themselves. Poetry hasn’t been important for 400 years. Maybe a thousand, if you consider the Sung Dynasty and the Celtic Bardic tradition predating Alfred the Great as the last times that poetry played an integral role in the fabric of society. Poetry as popular entertainment died with Shakespeare.
For the past century, “poetry” has been comprised of a bunch of warring splinter groups, each with their own agendas, who fight their bloody battles amongst themselves against a backdrop of a totally uninterested universe. Kinda like the manga fans of today, to put it in an analogy the kids can understand. (Oh, except manga actually sells.)
I suppose my natural inclinations have drawn me to the sub-sect of “outsider” poetry (as exemplified in “The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry”), but this is mainly to provide a moral/cultural underpinning to my decision not to do anything “useful” or “responsible” for our corrupt society. You know, like “working for a living.” Even in my deepest delusion, however, I don’t kid myself that this aesthetic is “important.”
2. What about Tacoma inspires your poetry?
I am inspired by the rabid, intense pride the residents of this city have, seemingly in spite of all historical fact or corporeal evidence. When I first moved here, I thought this attitude was just insane, but the longer I live here and the older I get, the more I can appreciate the crazy nobility of it all–sort of like the Norse Gods singing as they march of to their deaths at Ragnarok.
3. What’s your favorite place in Tacoma and why?
 I like to sit on top of the Spanish Steps, smoke a couple of cigarettes, look out over Commencement Bay, and think “This is what the Shire would have looked like if Saruman had had his way.”
4. Who are your favorite poets?
Whenever I am asked this question by a “real” poet, I like to reply “Don Marquis.” Because it’s true, and also I enjoy seeing the look of absolute blankness that passes across 9 out of 10 faces. Google him. Dead for 80 years, books have never gone out of print. He is an American master.
In terms of the form and content of my own work, I feel a certain kinship with the big three of the Chicago Renaissance (Carl Sandburg, Vachel Lindsay, Edgar Lee Masters.) I like going back to Richard Brautigan periodically, if only to remind myself that it’s OK to be short. (Slam poetry, which has in some ways been a wonderful influence on the scene, also has a very rigid format where every piece must be a rapidly-delivered, three minute monologue. Which can look pretty diffuse and rambling when it’s printed on a page. It’s nice to keep in mind that a fleeting impression plucked out of the ozone and put under a glass bell is a poem, too. Even if it doesn’t win you a free t-shirt with a bar’s name on it.)
I’m also fond of Jules Laforgue, who was a French Symbolist poet and a big influence of the “Prufrock”-era Eliot. He wrote some neat poems about Paris.
5. What do you feel the arts scene in Tacoma is ignoring?
 I’d hate to generalize, but let me throw out the following: Quality, Adventure, Distinction and Taste. To illustrate, I’ll give three examples of our “public” art, which we paid for.
1.) Has anyone ever walked that stretch of sidewalk on 11th around the corner from Commerce, and noticed the blue section with variations of phrases that begin with “Sea” painted on it? Have you walked by it so often that you’ve forgotten to say to yourself “My, how stupid” as you pass by? (Not to mention, we don’t live by a “sea”–that big thing of water is called a “sound.”) I don’t know how much this cost, but I’m pretty sure we flew a guy in from the East Coast to do it.
2.) I don’t know who did the sculpture in front of the Hotel Murano, either, but I assume it was the Board of Directors at Nike, because we paid a thousand bucks a foot to put a hundred-foot high logo of their company downtown.
3.) On 12th and Pacific, there is the new sculpture my neighbor refers to as “the nipple-penis statue.” We had to go out of the country to get this one. (Well, Canada.) Observant pedestrians may have even noticed the little poem embedded in bronze underneath which, among other things, refers to Tacoma as a “New Venice rising from the sea.” Even the PR copywriters at Prium would blush with shame at this.
Opportunities for local artists abound, however. They are allowed to donate their time and materials to provide fancy window dressing suitable for Chamber of Commerce photo shoots to our abandoned storefronts downtown. Of course, they are compensated by “publicity” and the chance to “network.” (Seattle artists, by the way, stopped falling for this ruse decades ago.) But at least the taxpayers can feel appeased, because it’s all “free.” (Meaning the artists are unpaid. However, every event and exhibition is administered by a staff of bureaucrats employed by the City of Tacoma. Who do not work for “free.” Because they’re not “idiots.”)
Lest it be thought that I just hate all art on principle’s sake, in closing I’d like to mention the beautiful job they did on the installation at the UW of T light rail stop, which feature historic photographs in glass along with poems by Phil Red Eagle and the late Amelia Haller. Wonderful to glimpse out the train window in passing, edifying to read again when lingering on the platform.
Thanks to David Fewster for joining me this week with 5 Question Friday. For more David Fewster, go to

Ruin Your Life For Under A Dollar

Cover of Ruin Your LifeMy book, Ruin Your Life is now available on the Kindle for 99 cents. If you’ve got a Kindle, you’re not going to find a better way to spend a dollar. If you don’t have a Kindle, I still have a handful of hard copies I’m personally selling for $5.00 plus shipping at

While the book isn’t specific to Tacoma, this book was written and researched in Tacoma. It is my Tacoma Story of my twenties.

Rather than telling you what it’s about, I’ve decided to just post the introduction from the book below.

Into The Abyss

Go to any bookstore and you will find entire sections devoted to self-help books. After reading these books, you will have the tools to make your life better. No matter what problem you might have you can bet someone has written a book about how to therapeutically resolve the matter and live a healthier, happier life.

But let’s face it; most of us don’t really believe a book is going to help us. Most of us don’t want someone trying to tell us how to face our inner demons and nurture our inner child. And those who do need to grow up and try living once in a while. What is needed is not a voice to tell you how to live a healthy, happy life, but how to live an interesting life. When you go to the movies or watch your favorite TV show, do the characters have perfect well-adjusted lives?  Of course not. Perfect lives are not interesting lives. You want to know why people who have ‘everything going for them’ kill themselves? Because they are bored. They have achieved what they’ve been told to achieve. They have the good grades, good job, nice car, 2.5 kids, and the house in the suburbs. And they are bored off their ass. They’ve been to the mountaintop and found that it’s just really cold and lonely.

I for one do not want to live a healthy, happy life. I want things to be fairly screwed up. I want to have problems. I want to get myself in huge messes and then marvel at how I get out of them or how I live with them. I like making mistakes and doing things the wrong way if only to find out what will happen. One of my best friends in the world never agrees with my decisions and hates everything I do. But she also wants to hear about the latest thing that’s happened to me if only to live vicariously through my exploits.

My name is Jack Cameron. I’m a guy who got married at the age of twenty, divorced at twenty-one, and went on a bender that left my aunt’s house half-destroyed, a car on fire, and a high school girls swim team drunk and incoherent. I’ve been in twenty-six car accidents. I’ve been shot at on three separate occasions. I’ve woken up in an alley wrapped in a beer banner inSeattleon New Year’s Day. I’ve willingly walked through a two mile train tunnel knowing full well that a train was coming. I’ve woken up on an airplane over thePacific Oceanwith no idea how I got there. I have dined with millionaires with only two dollars in my pocket and made a thousand dollar decision with the flip of a coin. In other words, I am damn good at ruining my life and if you listen carefully to what I tell you, you can ruin yours too and have the best time you’ve ever had doing it. This is not self-help. This is self-destruct. In time, you’ll thank me.

–         Jack Cameron

Buy Ruin Your Life for the Kindle for 99 Cents

Wandering In Tacoma With Stephen Cysewski

I recently discovered the photography of Stephen Cysewski. The more I look at his photos, the more I’m surprised that I only just learned his name. He’s been taking photos of Tacoma since the 1970s. And though they are often photos of places I’ve walked by a thousand times, I’m not sure I really saw the beauty of those places until I saw them through the lens of Stephen Cysewski.

Luckily, he’s chosen to share those images with us. is one of his many photography websites. Take some time and look at Tacoma as it is and as it was. It’s an amazing collection.

-Jack Cameron

Tacoma’s Holy Rosary Elementary School…in the 1930s

Holy Rosary School

The following was originally published in 1989 in a book called Tacoma: Voices of the Past Volume 1. As the book is out of print and hard to find, I post this Tacoma Story here for others to find. Mary Olson’s description of Holy Rosary in the 1930s is both personal and historic. It’s interesting to hear how different things were and yet there are still many similarities.

Holy Rosary Elementary School

By Mary Olson

In January of 1930 my mother, Elizabeth Monta, was finally able to enroll me in the first grade of Holy Rosary School. I was eight years old and had learned to read and write at home. She had tried to start me in school the previous fall but the school was overcrowded and they would not accept any more students.

Tuition was $4 a month. Dad worked it off by shingling the old house in back of the church which served as a convent.

We did not wear uniforms as many of the parents could not afford to buy special clothing for school. Each year Mother bought me five cotton dresses and one pair of shoes. These had to last all year. The dresses were bought at the Dollar Store on Broadway and cost $1 each. I can’t remember where the shoes were purchased, possibly at Pessemier’s on Pacific. Stockings and vests, as little girl’s undershirts were called, were probably bought at Penneys, petticoats were made at home, usually out of flour sacks. I wore two pair of bloomers, one of flannel and an outer pair of black sateen! Long cotton stockings were held up by a kind of harness which fit over the shoulders. Sleeves had to reach the elbow and skirts to below the knee. These were not school rules, buy my mother’s! Some of my classmates wore sleeveless dresses and ankle socks but I was not allowed such modern and shameless fashions. I should add that I did not resent this as most of my friends dressed just as I did.

Many lessons were learned by rote. In the first grade we sang the alphabet and sounded each letter, over and over. In later years, the times tables were learned the same way. I can still remember word for word, many questions and answers from the catechism.

We had spelling bees, not only for spelling but for other subjects, too. Prizes were little holy cards. Every phase of school life had its own strict rules.

School mornings started early. Mother called us at 6:00am and after a breakfast of mush with milk and sugar, or fired eggs and potatoes, we would go through sun or rain, sleet or snow, to the streetcar line, three blocks away from home, at South 78th and Yakima. Then came the long ride down Yakima to South 38th. Between South 48th and 38th on Yakima there were poles down the middle of the street carrying power lines for the streetcars. We were cautioned to keep our hands inside the car. No reaching out to touch the poles or this might result in our arms being torn from their sockets! We turned down 38th to G Street and then to the Delin Street Hill, getting off across from the church at Tacoma Avenue.

The fare was 2½ cents a ride and Mother would give me two tickets every morning. If I lost the ticket, I walked home. Losing things like streetcar tickets, rain hats, umbrellas or school books, was something I did regularly. Many trips had to be made after school to the car barn at South 13th and A Street to retrieve things that I had carelessly left on the streetcar.

Many afternoons were spent walking home voluntarily, to sell raffle tickets house to house. My girlfriend would take one side of the street and I would take the other. “Would you like to take a chance on a pair of pillow slips? Three chances for only a quarter.”

Most doors were slammed in our faces but once in a while we would sell three to someone, and then, oh, how tickled we were!

On arrival at school we went first to the coatroom where we hung up our coats, hats, scarves and put away our galoshes. Then to the schoolroom to put our books in our desks and down to the basement to get in line, each class in its’ own place, girls in front, boys behind. When all the grades were assembled, the pastor, Father Mark Weismann, would lead us in morning prayers. After that we all said the Pledge of Allegiance and sand the Star Spangled Banner. Then we all marched in formation to the church, were we sat according to grade. Boys on the right of the central aisle, girls to the left. First grade in the front pews and behind them the second grade and so on to the eight. The church was crowded. Parishioners, other than schoolchildren, sat on the side aisles or in the back. Each class was watched over by a Benedictine Nun and woe to the boy or girl who dared to laugh or whisper. Sister had a thimble on her finger and would reach out and whack him or her on the head with it.

School was fun. I enjoyed learning new things, loved to read, and considered arithmetic a game. Once a week we had dancing or music lessons. I never learned to play an instrument but was given a triangle or notched sticks to keep time with. We were taught the musical scale in the second grade, again by rote, and taught to read simple music. I can still recall one of the little songs we sang to learn the scale, and have taught it to my grandchildren.

“One I love, two I love, Daddy dear and Mother.

Do do do, re re re, mi fa so, la la so.

Three I love with all my heart, darling little brother.

So fa fa so fa mi mi, mi re re mi re do.”

Once a year the school put on a show for the parents, to give us a chance to show off our skills. Oh, how proud we were in our costumes, going through our paces. I remember one year my class did a Dutch song and dance. That same year my brother, John, was a sailor and danced the hornpipe.

Of course, there were many religious holy days and feast days. Then we girls were dressed in white dresses and veils. The boys wore dark suits with white shirts and dark ties. We marched into church carrying candles, singing hymns and feeling  oh, so proud of ourselves.

If there was a fight on the playground during recess the combatants were separated and sent to see the assistant pastor, Father Anthony. He would have them meet him after school in the alleyway to the east of the school building. There they would fight it out under his watchful eye. I never knew of a fight between girls. We were taught that we were young ladies and of course, would never do anything as crude as fighting! Even a tomboy like myself, who would fight at the drop of a hat in the neighborhood, would never have dreamed of fighting in school.

Spankings were administered by the sisters with the blackboard pointer, or there might be swats on the open hand with a ruler. Usually punishment took the form of writing sentences during recess or after school. It took a lot of playtime to write, “I will not talk in school” 100 times. Sisters had all the time in the world to wait there until you finished it.

Of course, they also had all the time needed to explain things that you were having trouble with. There were usually at least 30 children in each room and yet each child received all the individual attention they needed.

Homework was an every night chore. It was done after supper, in the living room, seated on the piano bench and using a closed piano as a desk. This too was largely learning by rote. Spelling words were written ten times each. Catachism questions and answers were repeated over and over until they were learned by heart. We had geography and history lessons to study. We learned to write in First Grade. Printing was considered more an art from than something we would need in every day life.

Now I have had the pleasure of watching four of my grandchildren attend that same grade school. What fun it has been to go back to the same classrooms in which I sat, some with the same saint’s statues watching over the children, like old friends there to welcome me back. Most of the sisters are gone and lovely young ladies now teach the children, who are a great deal bolder than we ever dared to be. But in reality very little has changed. Every year I attend the same type of show, and laugh and applaud to see the children showing off their newfound skills. And I know just how proud and happy they feel, for I’ve been there before them.

5 Question Friday With Journey Quest’s Matt Vancil

The Cast of Journey QuestFor this week’s 5 Question Friday, I have Matt Vancil, the creator of the awesome web series, Journey Quest. If you are unfamiliar with Journey Quest, there are few ways you can better spend the next hour or so than by clicking the link at the end of this post and watching some of the funniest stuff on the web. They’ve also just released the DVD of the first season. I think I’ve done enough introducion, on with the questions.

1. Where did JourneyQuest originate?

I got the idea on the train ride back to L.A. from San Diego after Comic Con 2009.  I’d attended panels for The Guild and The Legend of Neil, and was really impressed with what the filmmakers had been able to do within the web series format.  I’d also been really frustrated and disillusioned with not getting anything made in Hollywood despite meeting after meeting and revision after revision.  There’s this notion in L.A. that nothing lives under a certain budget level, that quality entertainment simply cannot be produced for less than seven or high six figures, which is just flatly untrue — I and many of my colleagues have made a career on the lower end of the budget scale.  So coming out of Comic Con, I really wanted to try my hand at a web series, so that’s what I did.  I sketched out the broad strokes of the characters and the story on the train, and had a draft two months later.

2. What Tacoma ties does JourneyQuest have?

A few.  In the cast, we had four members of The Outfit Theater Project, all regulars on the stage at Tacoma Little Theater and Lakewood Playhouse, as well as other theaters in the South Sound: Christian Doyle, Brian Lewis, Luke Amundson, and Bryan Bender.  A fifth member of the Outfit is joining the cast in the next season.  One of our main actresses, Emilie Rommel Shimkus, is the lead singer for Tacoma’s Igneous Rocks; another band member, Steve Wolbrecht, composed all the music for the series.  Our Co-Producer and Production Coordinator, Kat Ogden, headss Tacoma’s Sabotage & Dialogue, a multimedia and production company, and skates with the Hellbound Homewreckers of the Dockyard Derby Dames.  Then there’s the legion of JQ cast and crew who attended Pacific Lutheran University: Ben Dobyns, Producer/Editor/Director of Photography; Phil M Price, Sound Design; Naarah McDonald, Production Manager; Emilie and Nathan Rice from the cast; and myself.  The show was also co-produced by Tacoma’s Dead Gentlemen Productions, where I and many of my fellows cut our teeth on the big film burrito.

3. What’s the most surprising thing that has happened since you started making Journey Quest?

That would have to be the fan art.  We released the show under a Creative Commons license, which means anyone is free to download, remix, and play with the video and audio of the show.  We’ve encouraged folks to do that, and the works that have come in have blown us away.  We’ve seen amazing artwork of the characters.  Some German fans redubbed our third episode into German; we still don’t know how they managed to separate the original dialogue from the rest of the soundtrack.  Another fan animated the first two minutes of the very first episode, and kick me if it isn’t better than the original.  We’ve included some of the fan contributions on the DVD of the first season.  I’ve also been approached by a pair of trading card game artists who are interested in doing a JourneyQuest web comic.  I don’t know how that will play out, but it’s damned exciting.

4. Why fantasy/comedy?

Two main reasons.  First, I knew we could do it at a production value far higher than our budget.  There are a ton of fantasy and medieval enthusiasts in the Pacific Northwest, and we were very lucky to work with the best of them — the Seattle Knights (not from Tacoma, but we forgive them.)  Their members costumed us, armed us, choreographed the fights, and generally made the actors look like they knew what they were doing with the weapons.  Their expertise really shows in the production design and combat.  Second, I love comic fantasy, and have always wanted to do a straight fantasy comedy, one free of an RPG setting.  (Don’t panic, Gamers fans — we’re working on Gamers 3).

5. What’s next for JourneyQuest?

Season Two.  When exactly we’ll be filming it has yet to be determined, but we’ve got a lot of momentum right now and many good things are happening.  We’ve already made back a third of our first season budget in fan contributions alone, and that’s not counting DVD sales, which just began a couple of weeks ago.  We’ve also got a TV star making an appearance in the second season — Fran Kranz of Dollhouse is a fan of the show and will be joining the cast when we resume filming.  We’re in the process of raising the rest of the season two budget, and then the story continues.

Thanks to Matt for participating in 5 Question Friday. For all things Journey Quest, go to

– Jack Cameron

The Big Blow

Guest Post by Pam Phree

Just like I’ll never forget where I was September 11, 2001, the other date firmly etched in my mind is October 12, 1962.

I was born in Tacoma and living with my four siblings, parents and grandmother in a two story house on Melrose Street.

At the time, I was eight years old and was doing what I loved to do at that age. I was lying in the front yard, on the grass, flat on my back, basking in the warm sunshine watching the white fluffy clouds change into interesting shapes as they gently floated across the sky. 

That afternoon, around 4pm, the sun disappeared. The sky changed from a brilliant blue to black. The wind picked up and it was cold.

My grandmother appeared on the porch. “Pam, there’s a bad storm coming. Time to come in now.”

Reluctantly, I got up from the ground and walked to the porch.

In 1962, we didn’t have weather satellites. Forecasters had predicted a fairly calm day with occasional sunshine. Typical weather for October in the Pacific Northwest.  

What we didn’t know at the time is Typhoon Frieda, an “extra tropical cyclone,” a weather pattern formed when a cool air mass meets up with a warm one, had churned its way from California, up the coast to Washington. Located only 50 miles off shore, the storm traveled very fast: nearly 1,800 miles in less than one-and-a-half days, much faster than a hurricane. The storm came with no warning and hit hard.

Within a few minutes, the wind was much worse than I’d ever seen. Lightning cracked across the sky with loud booming thunder.

From the protection of the porch, I watched a man walking on the sidewalk in front of our house. The wind was furious. It was blowing so hard, the man was leaning forward against the wind, struggling to walk, only moving a few inches at a time. A big gush came and I saw the wind pick the man up off his feet, into the air and he was gone. I screamed. I scanned the street and sidewalk for him but didn’t see him anywhere.

Grandma heard my scream and made me come inside.

That scene would haunt me for the next thirty years. I’d replay it over and over again in my mind.  

The storm raged. Grandma lit oil lamps which came in handy when the lights went off. She bedded us down in a bedroom downstairs, all four of us on the floor, covered in warm blankets.

In the darkness, something was hitting the outside of the house. Not just once or twice but repeatedly. BOOM BOOM BOOM several times a minute. Lightening lit up the sky, thunder roared.

I thought I was going to die. I cried myself to sleep.

When I woke up the next morning, it was over. I walked outside.

Very large branches were strewn all over the yard. One branch stuck in the top of our roof like a dagger. The yard was covered with debris—paper, pieces of wood, metal. As I walked down the street, I noticed the sidewalk was broken. Both pieces were sticking up in the air.

 Thirty years later, I decided to find out if what I’d seen as a child was real or merely a fantasy. Was the wind strong enough to literally pick up a man off his feet and toss him in the air?

From the Tacoma Public Library, I learned the storm was called, “The Columbus Day Storm,” also known as the “Big Blow”. It’s been classified as the ‘”Storm of the Century”. It’s the ‘granddaddy of storms’ of which all other storms are compared. So far, none has been as violent as this one in 1962.

The wind for the most part wasn’t accurately measured. Wind gauges blew off buildings and/or were quickly broken. It’s been estimated the wind was well over 100mph and in some places, had been reported up to 179 mph.

As an adult, I decided the wind was strong enough to blow a man off his feet. What I had seen as a child was REAL.

The storm caused 48 deaths and between $230-280 million in damage (in 1962 dollars) across California, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia. It ranked as the worst natural disaster to strike the U.S. that year.

King5 looks back on that fateful day with this interesting video:

Those of us who lived through it will never forget the Columbus Day Storm of 1962.  

It’s been estimated a storm of this magnitude comes inland only about once or twice each century, according to past records.

I wonder if I’ll live long enough to see another of this magnitude.

5 Question Friday With Betrayal, Murder, and Greed’s Pam Phree

A while back I read a book called Betrayal, Murder, and Greed by Pam Phree and Mike Beakley. It’s a non-fiction account of the bail bond and bounty hunter business and it all takes place in and around Tacoma. Since then I’ve had the chance to meet with the authors personally and I was happy when Pam agreed to be part of 5 Question Friday this week.

1. What is Betrayal, Murder and Greed?

Betrayal, Murder and Greed—those three words—sums up what our book is all about. There is a lot of filth, dirt and corruption in the world, in every industry including the Bail Bond Business. My co-author and Bounty Hunter, Mike Beakley and I, the Bail Agent, opened our personal case files to reveal our most interesting and dangerous cases. Since the book literally details true stories of Betrayal, Murder and Greed, that seemed an appropriate title.

 2. What are its ties to Tacoma?

Both Mike and I were born and raised in Tacoma. Mike was a Tacoma Police Officer for sixteen years—on the SWAT team and working undercover narcotics before the shootout that ended his police career. Afterward, he met me and became a Bounty Hunter. For over twenty years, Mike and I have worked in Tacoma for various Bail Bond Companies. Many of the stories in the book happened in and around Tacoma. Our hometown is liberally featured throughout the book.

3. Do you think crime is different in the Pacific Northwest and if so, how?

Sadly, crime is everywhere in every town, in every city. I wish I could say we’re safer living in the Pacific Northwest but that wouldn’t necessarily be true. Every city has its own set of challenges. I’d venture to say we’re no safer—but certainly not more dangerous—than any other city in the US. Fortunately, we have dedicated, hard-working police officers like Paul Pastor and prosecutors such as Mark Lindquist who are making a real dent in cleaning up the crime in our area.

4. What’s coming up in the next book?

Betrayal, Murder and Greed: The True Story of a Bounty Hunter and a Bail Bond Agent, our first book, introduces Mike and myself. Our personal story of how we got into the Bail Bond Industry is told as well as illuminating some of the cases we’ve worked on throughout the years.

Book 2, tentatively titled, “Shocking True Stories by a Bounty Hunter and a Bail Bond Agent”, tells the stories of our clients; those I’ve bailed and those Mike have had to chase after they jumped bail. The reader is introduced to characters from all walks of life, hears their own personal stories of Betrayal, Murder and Greed and over the course of twenty years, sees where life ultimately takes them. Some live, some die. Since these are true stories, the endings aren’t predictable. Readers will be surprised to learn who survives and who doesn’t.

5. What’s been the best experience since releasing the book?

Mike and I have been privileged to appear on television, film a book trailer and meet a lot of interesting radio personalities that otherwise we wouldn’t have met. But hands down, the best experience we’ve had since releasing the book is meeting other writers/authors in our area. There are a lot of interesting, creative, talented people in the writing business—such as yourself, Jack, that when we get together and talk ‘shop’, is exhilarating. That’s one of the reasons Mike and I jump at the chance to meet other writers at every opportunity. It helps get our own creative juices’ flowing with ideas for subsequent books.

Once again, I want to thank Pam for stepping in at the last minute to do this. I’ve been incredibly sick during the last week (thus the lack of updates) and I only got the questions to her this morning so I really appreciate her help.

Mike and Pam are selling and signing their book at the Tacoma Mall this Saturday, April 16, 2011 from 11am – 4pm outside Macy’s. If you’re in the area, you should drop by and say hello. 

For more information on their book, go to

– Jack Cameron

5 Question Friday With Wingman Brewers’ Ken Thoburn

Every Friday I’m going to do a quick five question interview with someone in Tacoma so that they can tell their Tacoma Story. For the first installment, I have co-owner of Wingman Brewers Inc., Ken Thoburn. Wingman Brewing is a new microbrewery located in downtown Tacoma on Fawcett Ave. Given my love of Tacoma and my love of beer, I’m happy to share his Tacoma Story.

1. How did Wingman Brewers get started?

While in college Derrick Moyer (one of our owners) and I started homebrewing.  We quickly became obsessed with making beer and with perfecting our recipes.  During that time one of our other friends (Jason Sabol also an owner) started brewing with us as well.  Our beer became very popular amongst our friends and we kept finding our kegs empty the same day we tapped them.  We love making beer and sharing it with people.  That prompted us to bring on Daniel Heath and start moving our hobby toward becoming a business.  We incorporated in Jan. 2010 and after many months of searching for a building, going through city, state and federal licensing and finally testing our new equipment we’re finally close to sharing our beer with Tacoma.

2. Why Tacoma?

All four of us would be exceedingly happy to have lived and worked in Tacoma primarily from the cradle to the grave.  We love this city.  Between the four of us we’ve gone to many of Tacoma’s public and private schools including PLU, UPS, and UWT for college.  We met each other as kids in the youth group at First Presbyterian Church Tacoma down on 20 Tacoma Ave.  Tacoma has so much to offer and not only as a beer market.  Part of each of our keg sales goes to benefit a Tacoma charity.  This is our community as residents and business owners we want to see Tacoma thrive and continue to be the great place we grew up in.

3. What sorts of beers are you planning on releasing?

We’re releasing three beers.  They are all a bit of a cross between English and northwest styles.  We pack the citrusy hop forward flavors into our beers that everyone in the northwest is familiar with but we also include strong malt and yeast characteristics into our beer that are more commonly found in English style ales.  Our current line up includes P-51 Porter which is a robust dark ale with hints of coffee, chocolate and tobacco.  We also have Ace IPA that has great fruity flavors to balance against its hoppy bitterness.  The last beer in our line up is Pin-up Pale Ale which is again a mix of malty fruit and citrus with just a hint of bitter.

4. Where and when can we expect to see Wingman Beers on tap?

The where is primarily Tacoma and a few surrounding areas from time to time.  The when is soon and very soon.

5. What’s your favorite non-Wingman beer and why?

Asking a beer maker what his favorite beer is, is a bit like asking a parent which of their children is their favorite.  It all depends on the mood I’m in and what my last experience with a particular beer was like.  Beer is more than a tasty beverage it’s social, and drinking a great beer alone is not the same as drinking a good beer with in the company of friends.  For that reason I’d have to say my favorite beer is the beer I enjoy with some dogs and my buddies at The Red Hot, or maybe my favorite beer is the one I’m trying not to spill on myself while playing big buck hunter at The Parkway, or maybe it’s the one I’m having while catching up with a friend at Magoos after a long day.  Whether it’s Ale, Lager, American, Belgian, Sour, Bitter, Light or Dark my favorite beer changes with the moment I’m drinking it in.  Sometimes I want shell out $20ish for a Cascade Kriek and sometimes I just want a PBR.

I’d like to thank Ken for being a part of 5 Question Friday. I’m looking forward to having a Wingman Beer in the near future. Given my taste in beers, I’m betting the Ace IPA is going to be a new favorite.

For more information on Wingman Brewers, got to

–          Jack Cameron

Fifth Tacoma Homicide of 2011 – Jamarr Johnson

Ten blocks down South 38th Street from where Marvin Plunkett was shot and killed, Tacoma had its fifth homicide of 2011. It was the early afternoon of April 5th. Three men rang the doorbell of a house near the corner of East J Street and South 38th Street. One of those men was 19-year-old Jamarr Johnson. When no one answered, they walked around to the sliding glass door and shattered it. The three men entered the house.  Jamarr Johnson went upstairs possibly with the others. A door to the bedroom was shut. Johnson tried the door. It was locked. The deafening sound of gunfire erupted from inside the bedroom. Moments later, Jamarr was dead from multiple gunshot wounds.

The other two men left quickly, one of them going out an upstairs window. Police arrived on the scene and quickly tracked down one of the two remaining intruders. A third man remained at large. The police talked to the homeowner. He told them that he heard the doorbell but did not answer and when they tried to get in through the sliding glass door, he locked himself in the bedroom. When he saw that they were trying to come into the bedroom, he fired his weapon.

At the time of this writing there are still a lot of things that are unknown or at least not released to the public. We do not know the names or ages of the other individuals involved. We don’t know if they knew each other. What is known is that a homeowner had reason to fear for his life and used a firearm to protect himself and his home.

It’s unfortunate that someone lost his life, but it’s fairly clear that he put himself into a situation where he could be killed. The East Side of Tacoma has been among the worst areas of the city for years and the odds of your average East Side homeowner having a gun are pretty good. There are those who might say the intruder got what he deserved. Personally I wouldn’t go that far, but of all the possible outcomes, this one is better than others. In other words, I feel better writing about the death of the intruder than the death of the homeowner.

-Jack Cameron