Monthly Archives: June 2011

Gun On Top of Cop Car

The Seattle Police department says they’re ’embarassed’ after leaving an assault rifle on the trunk of a cruiser. This has become big enough news that MSNBC is covering it.  This surprised me because, it’s not as if this is the first time something like this has happened.

Years ago I worked at a place called the Law Enforcement Support Agency or L.E.S.A. I transcribed police reports. (I can’t really imagine a better job for a writer.) L.E.S.A. is  located on the second floor of the County-City Building. At lunch, I’d sometimes go next door to the downtown Tacoma McDonalds. Any local will tell you that the people who frequent that McDonalds are among the strangest in the entire city.

One particular afternoon, I walked out of the County-City Building and out on to Tacoma Ave. As I got to the sidewalk, I could tell that something was wrong. I looked around to see the car wreck or the fire or whatever the problem was. After a few moments I realized that most of the people on the street were looking in the same direction. It was then that I saw it; on top of one of the patrol cars, there was a pistol. And there were no police officers that I could see.

Given the variable quality of the people who mill around the County City Building, I made a judgment call and walked towards the cruiser. I approached the car, picked up the pistol and tucked it in my waistband. Now everyone was looking at me.

Ultimately out of all the people on a city street, I’d rather I be the armed one. I walked back to the County-City Building. When I entered, I told the security guard, who I was friends with, that I had a pistol in my waistband.

He said, “Why?”

I said, “Someone left it on top of a patrol car out there.”

He said, “Someone’s in a lot of trouble.”  He then instructed me to go to the State Patrol desk and turn in the weapon. I did as I was instructed.

What’s funny about this is that at no time did I think I should contact the media. We’ve all forgotten things when leaving a car. It just so happens that in this case and in the case in Seattle, they were weapons.

It’s unfortunate that it happened. But it’s not a scandal. It’s not some horrible thing. It had the potential for very tragic results. It was just a simple human error and really, while it’s a problem, I wouldn’t call it a big deal.

– Jack Cameron

5 Question Friday With The Dignitaries’ Tony Daniels

I haven’t seen Tony Daniels since 1992. Back then he was the coolest guy I knew. Seriously, it was high school and he was the one guy who was laid back about absolutely everything. Everyone else had typical high school drama. Tony behaved as if none of it mattered, because it turns out, none of it did.

Now he’s in a band called The Dignitaries. They’re playing something called ‘Rock Music’. Just when I thought it had become extinct. Tonight, the Dignitaries will be at the New Frontier for their CD Release Party for their first album, Rocket Science. Tony was nice enough to take some time and be part of 5 Question Friday.

1. How did the Dignitaries get started?

The 5 of us have been friends for a very long time. Life took its course and we never got the opportunity to hang out or keep in touch. The Dignitaries were born out of a twice a month jam night between friends just to hang out and keep in touch. Someone would bring a case of beer, another a few pizzas, and we would rock out in between hanging out. Before we knew it, The Dignitaries were born.

2. There are a ton of bands coming out of Tacoma these days, what do you think makes the music scene here so diverse?

Tacoma has always had great bands coming out The Sonics, Girl Trouble, Seaweed… I am not certain what makes the scene as diverse as it is, for me it’s just cool to be a part of it, to participate in it. I suppose, and this is just a guess that the weather may have something to do with it too. What better way to spend a rainy day than to play an instrument or write a song.

3. What place in Tacoma would you like to play but haven’t yet?

I’ve always wanted to play either. The Rialto or The Pantages Theaters. I remember seeing a lot of my favorite Seattle bands play The Paramount in Seattle. To me The Pantages was always Tacoma’s Paramount. Plus if we ever got the opportunity to play The Rialto or The Pantages, it means that our music has gone beyond the bar scene and reached more people. And that would be way cool.

4. How would you describe the Dignitaries to someone who hadn’t heard them?

I just tell people it’s old school garage rock with the energy of a punk band. Its hard to explain because at our root we are very much a garage band, but we all have different influences we bring to the table which gives it something fresh. It gives it an energy… there’s just something special about it.

5. What’s next for the Dignitaries?

Well Rocket Science comes out tomorrow at the CD release show. We’ve been sending it out to radio and print publications. The summer is pretty much booked with shows already. There are no definite plans right now, but I think we’re just going to ride the wave Rocket Science makes for us and hope that it opens a few more doors along the way.

Thanks to Tony for participating in 5 Question Friday. You can see the Dignitaries tonight in Tacoma at the New Frontier, 301 E 25th St, Tacoma, WA, 253-572-4020 .

You can find the Dignitaries at!/venue/536059

As always, if you or someone you know, wants to participate in 5 Question Fridays, contact me at

-Jack Cameron

A Letter From My Grandfather To My Father

In January of 1969 my father had joined the Air Force. My grandfather sent him a letter that my dad still has to this day. I’ve transcribed it below. Happy Father’s Day.

-Jack Cameron

20 January 69 

My Dear Son,

As you know, I’m probably one of the world’s worst correspondents, and I think the reason is that I have such a miserable time getting into the thing.  There’s something about a blank sheet of paper that apparently causes a mental blank.  However, I’ve determined to write a letter for you  that may communicate some of the things that I, as a father, should try to communicate to you, my son; and believe me, this comes from the heart.

I think the best way may be to simply write down for you some of the thoughts that, over the years, I have found helpful when I need them.  You know, none of us lives long enough to develop all his own thoughts and philosophy. About all any of us can do is to listen and read and observe, balancing one bit with another and with our own experience. This is a continuing thing throughout a man’s lifetime.

All of us are faced with tough propositions at one time or another. There is never a ready-made answer. But, if you’ve been aware and listening and thinking, often you may apply the accumulated experiences of the people you have known, or read about, or observed, and thus at least have a solid basis for developing your solution. I’m not suggesting that you adopt my philosophy (actually I haven’t the art to put an integrated philosophy together.) or, for that matter, anyone else’s philosophy. I’m only offering these thoughts for your serious consideration, to use or discard. I will try to tell you why I feel the way I do about some of these simple statements.

You Learn Best Through Embarrassment.

I first heard this from a man I truly respected, but it took a long time (and many embarrassments) before I could accept it. I believe you will find, as I have, that the lessons learned from the embarrassing mistakes will be the ones that stay with you.

Two And Two Are Four.

To me this means that, when everything appears to be going wrong, my world is falling apart, and the chaos prevails, there are after all some things that are stable; that if I keep my head there is hope.

You Can Never Take Out More Than You Put In.

I think this (in, no doubt more elegant words) is a law of physics. However, I have also found it to be a law of life, and any time I have persisted in extracting from a situation more than I have contributed I have inevitably been forced to pay elsewhere.

You Don’t Have To Like It.

A crudely worded thought I learned from a rough and crude man. I think the idea is that, when necessary, I can wholeheartedly perform a distasteful task and still retain my personal integrity.

Never Poke Bears With Sticks.

This does not mean that one should timidly bypass sticky situations. It does mean that I estimate, as best I can, the likely results of an action, then arm myself with sufficient weapons, or perhaps wait until a more appropriate time when I may have a better chance of success.

Well, if I haven’t bored you too stiff to wiggle, let me know how you make out with these, and I may have some more for you. You may take that as threat or promise.

I hope they help.



5 Question Friday with photographer Stephen Cysewski

A couple of months ago I discovered the photography of Stephen Cysewski. I wrote briefly about it on this site and promised myself I’d get a 5 Question Friday out of him when I had the chance. Stephen recently visited Tacoma a few weeks ago and he’ll soon be releasing a new collection of his latest wandering in Tacoma. (The pic to the above is one of the new ones.) As I’m sure you’ve guessed, this week’s 5 Question Friday is with Stephen Cysewski.  

1. How did you get started in photography?

When I was born! Really, I have always been interested in photography. I remember trying to trade a chemistry set for a camera at a second hand store.

2. What about Tacoma makes it a good city to photograph?

My memories of Tacoma from when I grew up is one reason, the other reason is that you can still see history in Tacoma, it has not been gentrified. I just visited Vancouver BC and all the “cool” stuff is gone, only memories. In Tacoma the personality is still here. Portland is similar, but in Tacoma it is not self conscious, it is real. The morning light is also beautiful and brings out the form and detail of the buildings.

3. Many photographers are very possessive of their work. Why are you so generous?

I want people to see my photographs, I also want to create a place for memories. The more I share the more people will see. The more people will see the more they might look at my other photographs. I want to be known as a photographer and the only way for that to happen is for people to see my photographs. Why take photographs if you try to restrict people from seeing them. I am not a commercial photographer my goal is that in twenty or thirty years my photographs will create or resurrect memories. Think of the shareware model of software as an analogy.

4. How has digital photography changed your approach to taking photos?

Not much, the concepts are the same, the images are the same. What has changed is that there are fewer gatekeepers from sharing your photography. In the old days there were books and galleries, now you can show your photography alll over the world without gatekeepers, it is really amazing.

5. What’s something you haven’t photographed that you’d like to?

Well I just finished a trip that accomplished some of that goal, going to Wenatchee and Eastern Washington. There is a place called Douglas Creek that I had not seen since 1965, I finally went there. I guess I would love to go to New York and to Japan, especially Tokyo. I would also like to go to Kolkata again, it was like Bladerunner, an amazing place. I would want to go to those places with a local person, not just on the surface. Laos is also a beautiful place, the images of Buddha in the old temples are truly beautiful. I noticed on my recent trip to the Northwest that I loved nature, I take it for granted, but large trees are really amazing. I have to count the days and years and to be thankful for my health. Mostly I want to photograph where I am, going places is cool, but taking photographs of places you know is very satisfying. Tacoma has many more places for me to explore and it is not spoiled like so many places.

Thanks to Stephen Cysewski for participating in 5 Question Friday and for sharing your photos with everyone. Go to his website, and see Tacoma in a whole new way.

As always, if you know of anyone you think would be good for 5 Question Friday, email me and tell me why at

– Jack Cameron

Eighth Tacoma Homicide of 2011 – Baby Girl McMillen

Last week 20-year-old Melissa Cathryn McMillen gave birth to a baby girl in her bathroom in a house in the 5300 block of North 39th Street. She left the baby in the toilet for 90 minutes and took a shower. According to the medical examiner the baby was alive when she was born. After she had showered, she wrapped the body of the baby and put it in a book bag.

Tuesday night Melissa’s boyfriend arrived home after being gone for a few days. He’d found the baby in the bag and called 911. He said that his girlfriend had given birth to a stillborn a few days ago.

Melissa McMillen has been charged with 2nd Degree Murder.

When I write about homicides that happen in Tacoma, I do my best to write about what happened and if possible, what sort of person the victim was. I try not to let my personal opinion influence things too much. In this case, I’m finding it difficult.

At this point it’s unknown what exactly was wrong with Melissa McMillen. She is either mentally ill, very stupid, or absolutely evil. Possibly all of the above. I don’t know. I don’t care. It’s this sort of senseless crime that made me take a break from writing up Tacoma homicides.

Still, I feel it’s important to give a voice to those who’ve been killed in Tacoma and I’ll continue to do so. Baby Girl McMillen died without even having a name. But she will not be forgotten.

– Jack Cameron

5 Question Friday With Lillipops Designs’ Jayme Lowenstein Lillie

Photography courtesy of S & C Photography, Salem, OR.

This week’s 5 Question Friday is with Jayme Lowenstein Lillie. I first met Jayme in high school. We worked together briefly at the Tacoma Youth Initiative. Though she hasn’t moved out of the area, she is one of the many friends from high school who I haven’t seen in many years. It turns out that during that time, she’s started Lillipops Designs, an awesome clothing line for children that has even more awesome photos. Here’s Jayme.

 1. What is Lillipops Designs?
Lillipops was born from the desire to dress my children in eco-friendly, fashionable clothes that didn’t A. look like they came from the recycle bin and B. didn’t require robbing a bank to buy them. I’ve always been one of those people who loves to troll the thrift stores, and this germ of an idea started brewing. Once I saw past hideous cuts and focused on the raw materials, a whole world of design possibilities opened up for me. I’ve since branched out into organic and authentic vintage textiles, but there is still a love and respect for turning something awful into something beautiful.

2. What has been the biggest challenge in operating your business?
My biggest challenge is honestly a challenge I’ve completely created for myself. I don’t delegate well… I’m a textbook perfectionist. I’m finally starting to understand that I can’t and shouldn’t do it all. There are people out there who are better at public relations, better at marketing, better at accounting, etc., and finding (and hiring) those people frees my time to concentrate on what is really important to me. The last hurdle has been to find qualified assistants that can actually do some of the garment production. I’m getting there.

3. Do you think Tacoma is a good place to start a small business and why or why not?
Honestly, I think Tacoma is as good a place as any to start a business. I know there are resources available to start-ups, but I haven’t really reached out in that way. One thing that Tacoma has going for it is a strong sense of community. Even if you aren’t using official community business resources, there is a wealth of highly creative people here that really do want to see others succeed. Going into this venture, I thought there would be more of a competitive spirit between designers/photographers/business owners, but I’ve really found that if YOU are willing to contribute to the community in a positive way, doors open right up.

4. You’ve got some amazing shots of children in your clothes. How do you manage to get those shots?
I’m a big believer in trade value. I’ve never paid a photographer to get a shot. But I have a waiting list for photographers around the globe that want a chance to photograph my pieces. It’s a two-way street… the photographers get style samples to keep, and I get images that have completely changed the way my business is perceived on a national level. I have incredible relationships with professional photographers here in the US, South Korea, Abu Dhabi, Australia and Canada, and I make sure my customers know all about their talents. In return, the photographers I work with promote my business and offer incentives to their clients for purchasing my pieces for styled shoots. At this point, I’d say a third of my customers are professional photographers that want to recreate the look for their clients that they see in my marketing.

5. What’s next for Lillipops Designs?
Good question… and one that makes my head spin if I think too much about it. I’m collaborating with three other national children’s wear designers on a project of epic proportions that will undoubtedly bring some major changes to my marketing and workflow. We’re keeping the details under wraps for now, but it’s going to be huge, and really fills a gap in the children’s wear market. I’ve also stepped into the women’s wear arena, and have a new branch of Lillipops called Poppy and Lilli. This line is focused on really comfortable, timeless pieces that work on every body. My cardigan wrap is my signature piece, but I’ll be expanding into vintage lingerie inspired loungewear soon. Think Doris Day does yoga at the park.

Above all, I’ll be managing “The Lillipad” (aka the household), raising three incredible kiddos, nurturing a marriage, and trying to find time to sleep every once in awhile. OK… THAT’S the best part of working in Tacoma. A coffee place on just about every corner.

Thanks to Jayme for participating in 5 Question Friday. For more information on Lillipops Designs, click on the links below.

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.

Seventh Tacoma Homicide of 2011 – Jacqueline Hensler

The Proctor District is a fairly prosperous area of Tacoma. I spent a couple of years living in an apartment just off of North 32nd and Proctor. The neighborhood is full of little shops and big houses. The Metropolitan Market just off of 26th and Proctor is the most high end grocery store in the city. About a block down is a restored classic movie theater called The Blue Mouse. And, I spent many an evening having a few drinks at Knapps and then stumbling home. It was a great place to live.

Wednesday afternoon, police stopped by a house on North 30th Street near Proctor. They’d received reports the 55-year-old woman who lived there had been missing from work for a few days and had not returned phone calls. Inside the house, police found the bodies of Jacqueline Hensler and her 18-year-old son, Ryan Simms. Jacqueline was stabbed multiple times. Ryan was found with a plastic bag over his head. After going over evidence at the scene, it was determined that Ryan stabbed his mother to death and then took his own life by asphyxiating himself.

At this time the motive for the murder is unknown. Jacqueline was a nurse at Good Samaritan Hospital and by all accounts well liked. Ryan had recently returned from attending college in England. Police have not released a motive at this time. If more details become available about the motive or the circumstances, I will update this post with that information.

Jacqueline’s murder and her son’s suicide is a sobering reminder that domestic violence is a reality regardless of the neighborhood you live in. It’s difficult to comprehend this sort of crime. Even if more details are revealed, I doubt that it will make too much sense. Somebody once said that suicide is a permanent solution to temporary problems. This is true. The same can often be said of homicide.

This is the worst of all possible outcomes for this family and my thoughts go out to their loved ones.

Comments by those who knew the deceased are welcome.

-Jack Cameron

5 Question Friday With Mark Lindquist!

Mark LindquistA couple of month’s ago, I was spending a lot of time at the County City Building. While waiting for a court room to be available, I waited in the Law Library, where I found a copy of Mark Lindquist’s King Of Methlehem. I enjoyed the book and wrote a review of it on my other site.

Also while at the County City Building, I ran into Mark Lindquist himself on a random elevator ride. Mark Lindquist, for those who don’t know, is the Prosecutor for Pierce County. He’s also a novelist.

This week’s 5 Question Friday is with Mark Lindquist. Since I’m betting he gets more questions in interviews about being a prosecutor than a writer, I chose to ask him about his writing. In typical lawyer fashion, his answers were quick and to the point. Enjoy.
1. King of Methlehem includes a lot of real places in Tacoma. How much of the events in the book are based on real events?
Less than people think, more than I will admit.

2. Besides your experience in the Pierce County Prosecutor’s Office, what other research did you do for your novel, King of Methlehem?
Not much, that’s part of the beauty of having the greatest job in the world.

3. Tacoma has been featured not just in ‘Methlehem’, but in stories by Raymond Carver and others. What do you think makes Tacoma such a great place to write about?
Port towns always seem to attract characters and generate stories.  Tacoma has the additional advantage of being small enough that everyone seems to know each other’s stories, and large enough that not everyone is bored with each other.   I love this town, and even appreciate the annoying characters because they add color.

4. Who are some of your favorite authors?
Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Joan Didion, Bret Easton Ellis, Jay McInerney, Richard Ford, Peter Farrelly, Nick Hornby, Kurt Vonnegut, John Irving, Haruki Murakami, the aforementioned Raymond Carver, and many others.

5. What are your plans for your next book?
I’m writing a sequel to “The King of Methlehem,” creating a series for Detective Wyatt James.  I have a good title, which is a good start.
I’d like to thank Mark for taking time out of his busy schedule to participate in 5 Question Friday and I look forward to his next book.

If you haven’t read King of Methlehem, you really should check it out. It’s good crime fiction and it’s even better if you’re a local.
Do you know someone you think I should question for 5 Question Friday? Email me at