It would be an understatement to say that 2020 defied all expectations we had heading into the new year. Counting down to a new decade, so many held hopes for what would actualize as a year of challenge, loss, and global calamity. Through it all, we learned a lot about ourselves, experienced new things (some by choice, others not so much), and have certainly been through what many of us will never forget.
Still, so many amazing things happened in 2020. We miss our Tacoma community so much, and yet, know we will remain even more connected when the time is right for us all to gather again under the bright lights of Cheney Stadium.
To close out the year, we reached out to some of our favorite Tacoma movers and shakers and asked them a few simple questions. What were the best parts of their 2020? Here’s what they had to say.
Lisa Fruichantie, Executive Director Alma Mater Tacoma
Best Memory: I had slept in a fold out chair pulled close to my grandfather’s bed and cradled his hand all night. It had been a whirlwind adventure in orchestrating the travel of my mother from her tiny village in Alaska through 300 miles of road before a chain of 4 airports placed us here, a hospice room in Oklahoma in the middle of a pandemic. Something shifted, my mother felt it too and we both rose, she walked around and crawled up in bed to cradle him and I held his hand even tighter as we silently watched him take his final release of breath. At a time when many generations are disconnected, I was privileged, humbled and moved to have been in the room with my two elders to support this transition in my grandfather’s life cycle as he walked on and in turn to hold my mother, after we’d just put my grandmother to rest earlier this same year. It is a precious memory that I hold very dear and always will.
Best Song/Album/Thing You Heard: There has been so much great music this year, but I keep going back to my friend DJ Max Gain’s Funk on Fridays June Teenth edition. I miss dancing and this one always gets me going. Plus, his spliced visual overlay allows my inner nerd to geek out.
Best Thing You Watched: Local filmmaker, Gilda Sheppard’s documentary Since I Been Down that played in this year’s Tacoma Film Festival was a brokenhearted love story to the citizens of Tacoma about our state’s lack of Parole program and its disproportionate effects on our black and brown community members.
Best Outdoor Activity: My boyfriend and I have done a lot of hiking this year but most notably we explored the Yucatan in late February. To go from hiking the ruins of Ek Balam to Comet Falls at Mt Tahoma reflects how rich and full of adventure this year has been amidst the hardships!
Best Thing You Ate: I am SUCH a foodie, so this is a hard one! It’s a toss-up between the dish Camarón Xibalba from the restaurant IX CAT IK, or my first night back home in Alaska earlier this year when my mom brought me moose (one of my favorite animal proteins) – and we made one of my favorite dishes with it!
Best Tacoma Thing: After being furloughed at home, my first outing was attending the vigil for Manuel Ellis held in my nearby neighborhood. After not seeing anyone outside of my household for four months, suddenly I was standing in solidarity with my neighbors, strangers, friends and relatives as we supported the Ellis family. What started out as few in attendance grew in mass and it was so moving to see Tacoma doing what it does – show up and exemplify what it means to be in community with one another.
Best Thing You Read: Habitually, I often read several books. This past September I began the titillating joy of revisiting Promethea by Alan Moore while studying and applying The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership: A New Paradigm for Sustainable Success by Dethmer, Chapman & Klemp.
Returning to such an ambitious narrative of woven story after a decade since I’d last read it, Promethea brought such joyful tapestry and exquisite illustration which perfectly accompanied the deep dive I was simultaneously embarking upon while meditating and putting to practice these 15 commitments.
Best Thing You Learned: Each year I learn over and over again the value of asking questions to gain insight from our elders and those you converse with in order to listen deeply. This year, I worked on practicing my listening and trying to be fully present when hearing the response without letting my inquisitive mind race to the next question.
Stu Miller, Co-Owner Red Hot
Best Memory: Hanging with family and friends pre-COVID. Hoping we can all get together soon! 2021 is gonna be one helluva party!
Best Song/Album/Thing You Heard: Chubby and the Gang’s Speed Kills LP. English Punk Rock n’ Roll that would be perfect to listen to before a Tacoma Defiance match! That and the Run The Jewels – RTJ4 album!
Best Thing You Watched: Midnight Diner, a Japanese show about a mysterious man that runs a diner that’s open from Midnight to 7am and the story of the lives of the people that frequent it. It’s on Netflix. Highly recommended!
Best Outdoor Activity: Walking a couple laps around Wright Park, one of my favorite places in Tacoma.
Best Thing You Ate: Carnitas tacos from Taqueria La Fondita taco truck on S. 38th and the Bulgogiger from Burger Seoul on S. 19th!
Best Tacoma Thing: The people that call it home.
Best Thing You Read: During quarantine, I re-read the Alice B. Toklas Cookbook. When the Nazis were occupying France, she went into town and bought four hams and 400 cigarettes. Better than hoarding toilet paper.
Best Thing You Learned: Being patient, still working on it.
Krystle Edwards, Founder Grit City Women
Best Memory: I would have to say marrying my husband in the pouring down rain in the Olympic National Forest was the best memory. We were soaking wet! My dress got delightfully muddy throughout the afternoon and it was such a fun day!
Best Song/Album/Thing You Heard: I feel like I have not heard anything new this year. When COVID-19 hit, I drowned my sorrows to 80’s music nonstop. 2021 is looking like it will be a 70s classic rock year!
Best Thing You Watched: 90 Day Fiancé. I am pretty sure after watching that show, my boyfriend (at the time) and I felt like we could do it better. So, we decided to get married in a few months during a pandemic. He met my dad once for 10 minutes before he asked for permission to marry me. I even bought my dress before he proposed – crushed it.
Best Thing You Read: Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth – I found it so fun learning about the science behind grit. It validated my experiences with success and how I coach other women!
Best Outdoor Activity: This year was lacking in outdoor activities for me since I had to have surgery during the first lockdown. I did hike Rachel Lakes and saw an amazing sunset the entire drive home over Snoqualmie Pass. Brilliant sunsets like that make me feel so connected to my best friend Liz who passed away in an avalanche over 5 years ago. LIVE LIKE LIZ!
Best Thing You Ate: Wooden City’s Hungarian wax pepper pizza. Those are my two favorite things to order from there so when they combined the two…I couldn’t resist.
Best Tacoma Thing: I love all the murals and building art that covered the boarded-up businesses. It provides just a little hope in a dark time for many business owners.
Best Thing You Learned: Adaptability and flexibility go hand in hand with Grit. Especially during turbulent times.
Saint Bryan, Host King 5’s Evening
Best Memory: Doing stories about people more resilient than I am; who saw the pandemic as an opportunity to help others. Like Kwabi Amoah-Forson delivering breakfast cereal to schoolkids in his Peace Bus, Matthew Fleming yelling out messages to people from his bike, and Michelle Brenner making lasagna for thousands and thousands of people.
Best Song/Album/Thing You Heard: Mac Miller’s “Good News” is my song of the year because that’s what I needed the most.
The best thing I’ve heard is Tim’s Twitter Listening Party. Tim Burgess of The Chameleons UK started it at the beginning of the pandemic. Everyone listens to an album at the same time with the artists and fans. I’ve listened to albums by Oasis, Joy Division, 10cc and Lloyd Cole this way. Burgess deserves an MBE for his efforts.
Best Thing You Watched: The Last Dance documentary about the Chicago Bulls final championship season offered complete escapism from 2020. I’ve liked a lot of stories on our show as well. Stories by Michael Driver, an award winning Q13 photojournalist who lives a few blocks from me in Old Town. My son and I have worked our way through The Office and the Marvel movies.
Best Outdoor Activity: Walks around Tacoma with my wife, though I’m so tired of slipping the mask on and off that I’ve taken to walking down alleyways. My son is a railfanner, so we will drive places and hang out waiting for trains to come by.
Best Thing You Ate: My wife’s Comfort Food Casserole, made with tomatoes, cheese, and hamburger. Michelle Brenner’s lasagna (see above). Salamone’s Pizza. Pao’s doughnuts.
Best Tacoma Thing: Not giving that away. Somebody in Seattle might read this.
Best Thing I Read: Jill Lepore’s These Truths: A History of the United States and Chris McCormick’s The Gimmicks. Lepore’s book gave me reason to believe we would get through our darkest days because America always has. McCormick’s book is just great storytelling by a master of the English language.
Best Thing You Learned: Two things: That what I do for a living is valuable to people who need a reason to be cheerful. Our show has never led the market in ratings before and that’s because people need a break. I learned my family’s happiness must come first. And I learned that when the Y had to close, I’m not the kind of guy who’s willing to do push-ups to make up for lost workouts.
Kwabi Amoah-Forson, Founder of The Peace Bus
Best Memory: My best memory of 2020 was having Thanksgiving dinner with my mom. Usually my whole family gets together for Thanksgiving, but due to COVID-19, it was just my mom and me this year. This quiet and calm dinner was a big change of pace from the usual chaotic family-filled dinners from previous years. It turned out to be one of the most memorable Thanksgivings of all. My mom and I shared lots of laughter, food, and good conversation. IT WAS LOVELY!
Best Song/Album/Thing You Heard: Being that I’m a big fan of movies, I often listen to movie soundtracks with classical scores. This year I’ve been continually inspired by the soundtrack of the movie, The Mission with Robert De Niro. Something about the soundtrack lifts my spirits and gives me hope. CHECK IT OUT!
Best Thing You Watched: The best thing I’ve watched besides my own kids TV show, The Peace Bus, would have to be the hundreds of Muhammad Ali interviews I’ve discovered on YouTube this year. Ali was one of the most inspirational human beings to have ever lived. CHECK THOSE VIDEOS OUT!
Best Outdoor Activity: The Peace Bus Drive-In experience that took place on September 4th at the Central Co-op on Pearl Street. We had a free drive-in showing of The Peace Bus TV show Pilot episode, sold T- shirts, and played music for the children in the community. IT WAS SPECTACULAR!
Best Thing You Ate: I’m honestly not really big into food. I’m usually pretty much happy with a basic Subway sandwich. My most impactful food moment had to be when my friend and I went to an El Salvadorian restaurant for the first time in June. When the waitress brought out our dinner, she brought out 7 or 8 plates full of food! I had no clue that the portion sizes at the restaurant were so large. I began to cry as the waitress placed each plate down, as I was reminded of the many children that are without food all over the world. To think of the abundance of food that lay before me and how there are those in this world without a bite to eat. I hope that we all take the time to think about those who are hungry from time to time. 1 in 6 CHILDREN EXPERIENCE HUNGER IN WASHINGTON STATE!
Best Tacoma Thing: Seeing the smiles of the children of Tacoma as I was delivering breakfast cereal to families in need during the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak in Spring. It was an eye-opener to see so many children overjoyed to have just a box of cereal. TO HELP OTHERS IS A WONDERFUL THING!
Best Thing You Read: As I’ve just wrapped up reading The Nonviolence Handbook by Professor Michael Nagler, an excellent short book on the fundamentals of nonviolent action and strategy, I have begun to read The Strategy of Peace by John F. Kennedy. So far, this book has been intriguing and motivating, shining light on strategies of peace, diplomacy, and the art of negotiation in the political sphere. CHECK IT OUT!!
Best Thing You Learned: The people of Tacoma support each other when times are hard and I’m lucky to be a part of this wonderful community
- Santa Claus is real in Tacoma…and I’m him…like, seriously HO! HO! HO!
- We are the solutions to the problems we so desperately need! We are the heroes that we’ve been waiting for.
Audrey Collins, Recording Artist & Musician
Best Memory: While moving to Tennessee, I ended up driving a route that took me through Utah. What a gorgeous state. I feel like living, for almost all of my life, in Washington, I was spoiled being able to take in our diverse natural scenery. It really is one of the loveliest states in my opinion, but I must say that Moab was something different. Visiting the arches was something I had never seen before and I’d recommend anyone take a trip there.
Best Thing You Heard: Stevie Wonder is an artist I had not given much listen to until this year. It all started when I was looking for a specific song that ended up being, “I Wish”. I think I heard it in a movie and felt it was a must add to my playlist. I really only knew how to hum part of the chorus, so I had to look through A TON of his songs to find the song. While doing this hunt, I fell in love with many of his other tunes. The way he delivers his craft, lyric and style wise, is so beautiful, catchy, entertaining and quite frankly, genius.
Best Thing You Watched: This is a hard one. I have watched a lot of stuff this year. But if I must pick one, I’d have to say Breaking Bad would take the cake. There was not one character that wasn’t vital to the incredibly detailed, creative, intense storyline. I will for sure be watching it again. I don’t usually finish entire shows (like watch all the seasons), but this one I did. So that says a lot for how good it was.
Best Outdoor Activity: Anything that involves swimming. The Puget Sound is lovely, vast, and magical, but freshwater swimming is less salty and warmer. It makes for an overall more pleasant experience! My favorite “combo of activities” are taking destination hikes to bodies of water.
Best Thing You Ate: Being a celiac, it can be hard to eat out at restaurants, so I tend to eat pretty simply. I currently live with my brother, and he loves to cook and has been kind enough to alter his recipes to make them gluten free. One thing I miss a lot is fried chicken strips or nuggets, but my brother has mastered making gluten free ones. He gets the award for making the best thing I ate this year.
Best Thing You Read: Currently still reading this book, but it’s still 2020 right? Yikes 🙂 I am almost done with it, but it is called Untamed by Glennon Dole. It is a book about humanity in all of its glory. The good, the bad, and the truth. She talks about how we as humans tend to “cage” ourselves in many aspects of our life and put “should” and “should nots” where these words don’t belong. It’s empowering and humbling all at the same time.
Best Tacoma Thing: Aside from the new development down on Ruston, the view of Mt. Rainier, the art in Opera Alley, and the Tacoma Rainiers team. I really do have to say that I love how involved the community is. Those who are the leaders of these community involvements are solid, hardworking, authentic people. They make it their mission to include everyone. I love how the city is still intimate enough that you can realistically reach out to people and get some interaction back. I understand how the city is growing, but I hope it always keeps its openness to genuinely connect to its people.
Best Thing You Learned: I really must say, I don’t think I have ever learned so much in a year. I think a huge skill that I have now partaken in is 1) listening and 2) gathering information before jumping to conclusions.
Being a young adult, I am learning that I have many adult responsibilities that I feel I need to be educated on in order to be in a GROWING society. One where I give, you give, and we grow. I really want to be better about hearing and respecting other people’s perspectives on societal issues. I alone can’t live in 7 billion other people’s shoes, but I feel like I can take the time to try and see the humanity in all of it.
Georgette Watje, Owner The Barber Collective
Best Memory: My wife and I bought an RV. We love to travel (especially internationally). We figured, what better way to see the country and get out of the house than to have a self-contained vehicle to remain safe?
We drove down the coast to Cali (stopping in Nor Cal, SLO Cal, along Route 1 and landed in Long Beach for a bit, before then heading back up through the mountains.)
Best Song/Album/Thing You Heard: This sounds weird, but the song I jammed to most was “Breakout” by Swingout Sister. It’s from 1987 and it popped up on my Spotify. It just puts me in the best mood. Horns, synths, and a catchy chorus…what more could you want?
The best album was Black Pumas (self titled). Can’t wait to go to concerts again because they are a must see.
Best Thing You Watched: The Queen’s Gambit and Schitt’s Creek (this show has to be the best sitcom in a long time. I cried as much as I laughed.)
Best Outdoor Activity: I got back into mountain biking this year. I forgot how much I loved being on a bike in the woods, not knowing what is going to be around the next turn. It turns out, a few of my favorite people are into it as well and we’ve been able to socially distance together.
Best Thing You Ate: I’ve eaten a lot of good food this year because of supporting small restaurants and exploring my culinary skills, but the best thing in 2020 was the Hot Honey Chicken Sandwich at Dusty’s Hideaway. I choose this because it’s something that I want to eat on a hot summer day or a cold rainy day.
Best Tacoma Thing: That’s a tough one, due to so many great things about this city. The Food is Free Project: A small non-profit networking to feed people in Tacoma. I built two garden beds in front of our house this year for people to pick from. My wife grew cucumbers, tomatoes, green beans, zucchini, and peppers. Quite a few people benefited from the garden.
Best Thing You Read: How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi. This is something I should’ve read a long time ago, but 2020 seems like as good a time as any. We were handed a year to step out of our comfort zone and given time to educate ourselves. And I still have a long way to go.
Best Thing You Learned: Confirmation that I do not enjoy giving small pieces of myself to a lot of people, but rather give a lot of myself to a small group of friends. Though I miss large gatherings at times, I don’t miss them as much as I miss doing something I love with 1-2 of my best friends whenever I want.
Louis Davis Jr. OnSight253Fitness & Tacoma KidZ
Best Memory: Growing up in Tacoma, I used to love going to the Rainiers games! My favorite memory is watching my cousins Desmond, Marcus, & Isaiah Trufant throw out the first pitch at the Rainiers game in 2016.
Best Song/Album/Thing You Heard: I’m a music junkie! Old School R&B to rap, but my favorite rap album is Nipsey Hussle’s Victory Lap and my favorite old school artist is Charlie Wilson!
Best Thing You Watched: The best thing I’ve watched recently is Breaking Bad, Narcos & El Chapo.
Best Thing You Ate: The best thing I’ve eaten lately is Essence Soul Lounge in Tacoma. It’s the best soul food I’ve ever had & the owners are family to me. They have great customer service & they also care about the community.
Best Outdoor Activity: My favorite outdoor activity is to run the Narrows Bridge and by the waterfront in Tacoma! The scenery is amazing & you see so many locals getting it in.
Best Tacoma Thing: In my biased opinion, it’s OnSight253Fitness! It’s a training facility my cousin/business partner Desmond Trufant & myself started in 2019, which is a home to all walks of life in the community. From professional athletes, local business owners & employees, children, you name it. It’s the highlight of my day to see all the walks of life in the city under one roof.
Best Thing You Read: DMXs autobiography E.A.R.L. He’s one of the best rappers of all time and hearing his story of where he came from, the trials and tribulations he faced, inspired me in my youth to strive to be great. No matter my circumstances.
Best Thing You Learned: The best thing I’ve learned in life is you can’t steal second base and keep your foot on first. What I mean by that is we all have gifts and opportunities in life. Those who are hesitant tend to stay comfortable, so they stay on base. Those who take risks to try to attain dreams and goals usually end up stealing 2nd and eventually making it all the way home! You only got one shot at this thing…might as well go hard!
Liz Ottenbach, Co-Owner Expand Yoga
Best Memory: Teaching the first class back at the studio when we were able to re-open for a bit. I felt so grateful to be back in the hot room with wonderful people and thought to myself, I will never take teaching people in person for granted again.
Best Song/Album/Thing You Heard: Zach Bush, MD had a great podcast on the Kate and Mike show (episode 198) back around September. He talked about the pandemic in a way that felt whole, and I had not heard his perspective before (or since).
Best Thing You Watched: The first season of DARK (a German series on Netflix) was good and lived up to its name. On the flip side, Kyle Dunnigan made me laugh the most.
Best Outdoor Activity: I enjoy walking our dog everyday rain or shine. And my amazing husband, Matt Ottenbach, with the patience of a saint, has been teaching me to ski for about 10 years now. It just keeps getting better.
Best Thing You Ate: I eat everything, but the juices from Gather leave me feeling the best. I especially like mixing the OG Greens & Sweet Greens and Gretchen and Sean will happily do that for you.
Best Tacoma Thing: The people! It has been such a difficult year and I truly believe it is the people that make any place. Of course, Tacoma is also so beautiful and Point Defiance Park is the best.
Best Thing You Read: You’d think with our business being shut down I’d have plenty of time to read, but somehow it hasn’t seemed that way. I’ve been slowly making my way through In Search of the Miraculous by P. D. Ouspensky. It is his accounting of George Gurdjieff’s teachings. I’ve heard one of my teachers, Nevine Michaan, say that he is one of her most influential teachers.
Best Thing You Learned: I’ve been interested in real estate since working for an architect and developer when I lived in NYC and am immensely grateful to Derek Eyring for offering to show me the ropes. My husband and I have been learning the hard way, but soon I hope to be an agent with John L. Scott Tacoma North, and am really excited to get to work!
Blake Carter, Visual Artist
Best Memory: I live alone and make artwork in my apartment near Cheney Stadium, so I’ve had no recent physical human contact aside from the occasional “elbow bump.” In September, I managed to rendezvous with my long-distance girlfriend in Istanbul, Turkey. Those ten days of being close to someone I love, soaking in Turkish culture, and dining at outdoor restaurants was not just my best memory of this year, but of my life.
Best Song/Album/Thing You Heard: I’m a long-time fan of the legendary Seattle-based radio station KEXP. In response to the Black Lives Matter movement, the station aggressively changed its programming to include more racially and culturally diverse music styles, and it’s been fun to explore them and broaden my musical perspective.
Best Thing You Watched: I’m not sure if Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s brilliant and hilarious series Fleabag was available in the US when it was first released in 2016, but both seasons are available on Amazon Prime now, and I’ve watched them twice! I also like the YouTube show Hot Ones, which features celebrities eating an increasingly spicy gauntlet of chicken wings, resulting in lots of laughs, tears, vomiting, and the occasional “tap-out” when less adventurous guests can’t handle the heat.
Best Outdoor Activity: I love having extra time to work on my art at home, but just to get myself out the door more I’ve joined my sister Ginger for some great walks around Tacoma, including crossing the Narrows Bridge, exploring the trails around Snake Lake, and trying to keep up with Ginger on her grueling “Hill Walk” through North Tacoma.
Best Thing You Ate: Since the pandemic started, I’ve been cooking a lot, and making drawings and paintings related to food and cooking utensils (see them on IG @blakethecarter). Although I generally like spicy curries and stir-fry, my favorite cooking experiences have been making very simple things, like roasted chicken based on a Thomas Keller video I saw on YouTube, and a simple “no knead” bread recipe from Jacques Pepin, also on YouTube.
Best Tacoma Thing: My brother-in-law’s family owns the Red Hot on 6th Ave, a business that has become a local institution. Although I’ve been cooking at home mostly, it’s been nice to get the occasional take-out hot dog, sandwich, and/or crowler at the tavern’s perfectly named “Weiner Window.” Support local businesses!
Best Thing You Read: Like everyone I suppose, I was confused and saddened when Anthony Bourdain opted out in 2018. I’d seen his shows but only this year read his books. After that a friend sent me a collection of writings by the London Sunday Times writer AA Gill (The Best of A.A. Gill). There’s something about his passion for food and righteousness that makes me feel a better person just for reading it. Highly recommended.
Best Thing You Learned: All of us have had a difficult year, some worse than others, none of us not affected by the pandemic and the reckoning that we need to do more to make our society more equal and offer opportunities to everyone in our community. On a small scale, I’ve been happy to give and receive happy looks and “hellos” from people who I might not have thought about so much previously. We’re in this together, let’s make it work for everyone.
Lance Kagey, Graphics Designer/Co-Founder Beautiful Angle
(Beautiful Angle is a collaborative partnership between Lance and Tom Llewellyn)
Best Memory: My daughter got married this year to a wonderful guy. It wasn’t the church wedding we planned but it was a sweet quaint backyard wedding and a beautiful memory through all this year’s crazy.
Best Song/Album/Thing You Heard: Before the COVID crazy hit we had tickets to see Poolside at Alma Mater. In lieu of missing that cool show, we have listened to their album quite a bit this year.
Best Thing You Watched: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is a great movie that summed up the persistence that it takes to pursue a life of meaning.
Best Outdoor Activity: Hiking with my buddy Tom out on the Olympic Peninsula. Just a short day hike but it was a great reset for me.
Best Thing You Ate: Grill Cheese and Tomato Soup from Little Radio. Nothing better for the long dark season of the soul.
Best Tacoma Thing: You know it’s the people. We have the best community. And the more we support and encourage each other, the better it gets.
Best Thing You Read: Grit City Magazine. Sierra and Sara have tapped into the trueness of who we are and what we care about as a city. If you haven’t read their magazine you are missing the vaccine to neighborhood apathy.
Best Thing You Learned: The value of relationships — in person and real, honest connection. Even through all this, light shines into the world and darkness has still not overcome.
Madi Wilson, Health/Beauty Expert
Best Memory: Life is all about balance and this year we all had some low lows, but I love looking at the high highs. The best memory I had in 2020 was deciding to go full-time with my dream job, my business. I was at a desk job for over six years and did my health & wellness business when I wasn’t at work. But since, I was able to dive head on into what I actually want to do with my life.
All day, everyday I get to help and inspire womxn all over the world to love their body no matter what and to learn about health! I will forever be grateful for that moment and my friends and family that supported that decision.
Best Song/Album/Thing You Heard: I honestly haven’t listened to anything new other than songs from TikTok. I’ve definitely saved some trendy songs on my Spotify playlists but what I’ve been listening to the most is from the early 2000s. Outkast, Usher, Missy Elliott, P!nk, Gwen Stefani and of course, NSYNC.
Nostalgia has helped me so much in 2020.
Best Thing You Watched: On your marks, get set, BAKE! The Great British Baking Show was much needed this year. Also, BABY YODA! (I would say his name but maybe you haven’t seen it) The Mandalorian Season 2 was the only ‘drama’ I wanted this year.
Best Outdoor Activity: If I wasn’t biking 5 Mile Drive, I was walking Chambers Bay. I would “normally” be at the gym 5 days a week but now I’ve learned I can get a great workout in for free!
Best Thing You Ate: The thing I dream about, the thing I could eat every day is the CAULIFLOWER WINGS from Viva Tacoma. I’m not vegan but I am in LOVE with them. The pizza, nachos, everything from Viva is perfect.
Best Tacoma Thing: W.W. Seymour Botanical Conservancy is where I get the most peace. I wish I could live there. All the plants, how warm it is, I just feel like it is a different world and I need that escape weekly.
Best Thing You Read: The Art of Intuition has been an amazing read and has helped me so much this year. I believe the more you listen to your gut, the better things will be.
Best Thing You Learned: I’ve learned it is okay to take breaks. I was always so go, go, go but in 2020 I learned to be in the moment and to take it day by day. Also, I’ve been watching a lot of Harvard lectures about spacetime & Quantum Mechanics. I still can’t fully explain it but that’s okay. I’ll take it day by day.
Wade Webber, Assistant Coach Tacoma Defiance
Best Memory: I wish I could say it was my own wedding, but that’s a long time ago and is wrapped up in the stress that goes along with such events. I can say with confidence that my best memory is my son’s wedding. Keegan and Libby were married in September of 2016 and the company present, the vows that were taken, the toasts that were made, and the dancing that ensued all made for just the most special of evenings. And it was the last time I saw my mother before she passed away so there is an added poignancy to the memory.
Best Song/Album/Thing You Heard: I love playing and listening to music. I’ve matured to the point where I no longer think there is such a thing as “bad” music…it’s just music I don’t have an ear to appreciate. But I do think there is good music. And then there is Nessun Dorma. I first heard the aria (from Puccini’s Turandot) performed by Pavarotti as part of Italy’s 1990 World Cup festivities. I can’t describe how it made me feel. The words simply don’t exist. As I don’t speak Italian I had no idea what he was saying, but I know when he finished, I was ready to conquer the world. Turns out that is sort of what he was saying.
Best Thing You Watched: Come From Away. I’ve been to so many memorable sporting events and concerts that I initially thought it would be impossible to select one thing as the best, but Come From Away, the musical based on the impact of 9/11 on a small town in Canada, was simply stunning. I saw it on Broadway in January and the individual performances, music, and message resonated with me in a way that reaffirmed my faith in humanity. As that faith has been tested at times over the last year, it is good for me to remember how I felt leaving the Schoenfeld Theatre: alive and optimistic.
Best Outdoor Activity: For me that would have to be hiking. Since travel is restricted this year, my wife and I decided to celebrate our 30th anniversary by going on 30 hikes. We have 16 more to complete between now and August 2021, but this process has reminded me how much I love where I live. And hiking puts you right in that beautiful setting. Plus, we are lucky to live in a place where you can go for an easy stroll along the water or climb a mountain…or just about anything in between.
Best Thing You Ate: My first pizza in Italy. I never cared much for those brick oven, wood fired pizzas here in America. I was a deep dish, cheese smothered fellow…until I ate pizza in Venice. And Florence. And Rome. Not many ingredients, but the proportions seemed just right. My favorite had capers, olives, anchovies, and a sprinkling of cheese. Oh, and plenty of olive oil. It changed what I look for in a pizza, for sure.
Best Tacoma Thing: C’mon, how can there be just one thing? Having pints with Russ at Doyle’s while watching soccer games? Any of the many breweries I’ve frequented (Black Fleet, Engine House, Odd Otter, 7 Seas, Dystopian State, Wing Man, Narrows, North 47 over in Browns Point…yes, I’ve been to all of them). Getting lost in the maze of stuffed shelves at the Tacoma Book Center? I was married in the rose garden at Point Defiance (before they put a fence around it to keep the deer from nibbling on the petals). Shows at the Rialto, Pantages, or Theater on the Square? What about hello, cupcake? Or Stanley and Seaforts? If it has to be just one thing I’m going with the newest addition, McMenamins Elks Temple. What a wonderful transformation (long anticipated) …taking something so visually iconic and bringing it back to life. We’ve stayed in the upstairs hotel, but I especially enjoy the Old Hangout downstairs. Can I recommend the Voodoo Brew?
Best Thing You Read: The Lord of The Rings. While it might not be Shakespeare or Tolstoy, I have read Professor Tolkien’s work yearly since my teenage years. Yes, that means I’ve read it more than once or twice. I do so because every time I read it, I see new things and make new connections with the world in which I live. I know people like Theoden under the spell of Wormtongue; I want to live like Aragorn; I am always reminded of how Frodo failed to destroy the One Ring, that it was Gollum who saved the world, albeit unintentionally. It remains a mystery, no matter how often I’ve seen the words, and that’s why I am so drawn to it.
Best Thing You Learned: Appreciate what you have. It is perfectly fine to want more in your life, but there will come a time you might lose what you have. And we feel the loss more keenly if we don’t appreciate it when it’s here. Life, and loss, have taught me that.
Anne Jones, Designated Broker/Owner Windermere Abode
Best Memory: All of our family dinners. I know we will look back at this year and treasure the time we had with our sons. They grew up a lot in 9 months.
Best Song/Album/Thing You Heard: This summer we watched a lot of Tiny Desk concerts, and one of my favorites was Gary Clark Jr. His set made me a fan. I also played Beyonce’s Lion King Album more than I should have.
Best Thing You Watched: Lovecraft Country definitely helped us get through the middle part of the pandemic. I’m not usually a horror fan, but it was so well done and so compelling that I couldn’t wait for Sunday nights!
Best Outdoor Activity: My favorite way to get a sweat is running outdoors, so I was lucky that was still an option for me. That said, our family is definitely looking forward to Summer nights at Cheney ASAP!
Best Thing You Ate: Takeout brunch from En Rama and Thanksgiving dinner from Asado. I’m still thinking about both.
Best Tacoma Thing: Watching the community rally around our essential workers, non-profits, and small businesses. I love what has developed in the “Helping Small Businesses of Tacoma” Facebook group and hope that “local first” mindset continues.
Best Thing You Read: The Color of Law, followed by my sister-in-law’s new novel, Rain City Lights.
Best Thing You Learned: How interconnected we truly are. We can’t be a healthy community or a healthy country if so many of our neighbors are hurting.
Dean Burke, President & CEO Travel Tacoma
Best Memory: Sitting in our backyard, watching the summer evening sun. We realized this year that we probably artificially create a lot of needless busyness, and that very much includes how we spend our recreational time. As my brain’s highlight reel of the year replays itself, I realize that this little space of a home we have is a precious one. We’ll be spending more time here again in 2021 and making great memories, with less sense of false urgency to be making up useless things to do.
Best Song/Album/Thing You Heard: Ray LaMontagne; Monovision. It was even released on my birthday this year.
Best Thing You Watched: Documentary My Octopus Teacher (Netflix). For so many reasons, simply one of the best films I’ve ever seen.
TV Show; The Mandalorian. Come on, I’m top-dead-center Gen-X. I saw the original Star Wars in an actual movie theater. I was the target demographic for all those toys. I’m more than happy to resign to the fantasy of it all.
Best Outdoor Activity: Traditional paddleboards and stand up paddleboards. I spend a lot of time in saltwater.
Best Thing You Ate: Well, typically that answer would begin and end with the words “Thai Food.”
But another thing that came from 2020 has been a renewed focus to cooking good food in our home.
Best Tacoma Thing: The community art projects, like the UFO, banners, murals and posters dedicated to just making people smile. Altruism.
Best Thing You Read: I read so many books this year. But one I have gone back to many times in my life is Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley. That story took place in 1960, but if you didn’t know that, you could easily mistake it for today. It was a good reminder that most of the troubles we know and opinions we have are anything but new.
Best Thing You Learned: That I’m still learning and that there is so very much yet to be learned…
But to be a little less whimsical about it, I’d say: spend less time worrying. Keep an open perspective on things. Truly… life is short, and we do have the capacity to inflict great damage to ourselves by letting our minds get the best of us. So, make time to be disconnected. Make the time to take care of yourself.
Sue Kidd, dinepiercecounty.com
Best Memory: Some of my best memories this year were the conversations I had with Pierce County restaurant owners and chefs for stories that I published about their scrappy business pivots on my dining website.
I was struggling at the beginning of the pandemic because of the uncertainty of it all and hearing the resolve from these tenacious restaurant workers gave me the boost I needed to realize, “we’re gonna get through this.”
Best Song/Album/Thing You Heard: I’m going to go with podcasts and public radio for this one. I have become such a fangirl of Channel 253, the local podcast network created by Erik Hanberg. If you want to spend some quality time listening to great Tacoma stories, just scroll through channel253.com. Listen to Nerd Farmer, Crossing Division, and Moving to Tacoma.
I’ve also become a huge fan of KNKX and listen as much as I can, and also read the website because of fabulous reporters like Kari Plog, the KNXK digital content manager and a reporter who has written a year-long series in 2020 looking into medical examiners and death investigations. You have got to read her stuff – and listen to KNKX.
Best Thing You Watched: Like everybody else, I streamed my way through the pandemic. I watched “West Wing” in its entirety for the sixth time and am trying for a seventh because Netflix is removing that show this month. The Queen’s Gambit was the best new series I watched. It has everything a pandemic needs: drama, tension, a sense-of-place in history, and a bit of removal from reality. If ever there was a time when we collectively need a removal from reality, at least in 60-minute chunks, it is right now, right?
Best Outdoor Activity: This is dorky, but I bought a gazebo at the very beginning of the shut down and I’m so glad I did, even though drilling into the concrete was a total adventure. I sit out there all the time now in the rain thinking how glad I am to extend my living space outdoors.
Best Thing You Ate: This is a dangerous question to ask a food writer, but here goes. I fell in love with the flaky biscuits by Robyn Alexander at newly opened Gilman House, a gin bar in the Stadium neighborhood with outstanding cocktails by her husband Jason Alexander.
While on the subject of pastry, I think I had the best slice of cake in my life – the berry-lime cake – at the new cake window on Sixth Avenue, The Cat & Rabbitt Cakeshop.
I dug into a super fancy steak at the new Cuerno Bravo steakhouse, which has the broadest selection of premium beef in Tacoma. Put it up there with the fabulous Asado in Tacoma’s Sixth Avenue neighborhood, which is currently killing the take-out game.
Los Amigos in Puyallup is the “little taco truck that could” story. Antonio Ruiz and Enedina Martinez opened their restaurant as a taco truck in South Hill and after a one-year hiatus and a lot of hard knocks in relocating, they reopened their taco truck as a brick-and-mortar just a few blocks from their original taco truck location. Their carnitas sing to me. It should be on everybody’s try list.
And this speaks to me as a sandwich lover. The Beef on Weck sandwich at Cooper’s, which opened this summer in the Westgate neighborhood, should be in everybody’s sandwich rotation. It’s modeled after the regionally famous sandwich in New York and is just a delicious pile of roast beef, salty jus and a tasty roll. Simple and perfect.
And one last thing (told you it was dangerous to ask this question), if you try one new restaurant that opened in 2020, make it the new Laotian restaurant in South Tacoma. Robert Saysana built the restaurant as an homage to his parents, Laotian immigrants, and the food of that country, which Saysana worries is in danger of disappearing from the culinary lexicon in America. His extended family has opened Laotian restaurants from Washington to Texas. It’s a nuanced cuisine that borrows heavily from the symphony of Southeastern Asian flavors – salty, sweet, sour, bitter, spicy. Most of us in the Pacific Northwest will recognize the palate from our experiences with Thai and Vietnamese restaurants.
Best Tacoma Thing: Hands down right now: The Tacoma Elf Storage sign. It’s such an iconic Tacoma image and I love that every year around Thanksgiving, the S goes out on the Tacoma Self Storage storage sign and it becomes the place where the elves dutifully store Santa’s toys.
Best Thing You Read: I read detective novels and Michael Connelly is my word nerd this year. I blew through his Hieronymus Bosch series and when I ran out of Bosch novels, I dug into his John “Jack” McEvoy series, which follows a newspaper reporter who gets tangled up with serial murderers. I found the first book in the series, The Poet, riveting because the writing holds so much tension. The subtext of the reporter’s life is so accurate to the newsroom experience. It makes sense that Connelly would weave the newsroom into his books. He was a journalist before he was a novelist, and if anybody understands a beat reporter, it’s going to be somebody who was one.
Best Thing You Learned: That no matter how hard things get we can pull off amazing stuff together. I’ve always encouraged my readers to dine micro locally and they’ve responded in overwhelming ways in 2020. It restores my faith that it doesn’t matter how bad things get – and things are as bad as it gets for restaurants right now – people will do what they can to champion small food businesses. Is it enough to save every restaurant in Tacoma? Probably not.
2021 is going to be a tough year for restaurant closures. That’s why I need you to do something today: Please get take-out from your favorite spot. They really need you right now.
JD Elquist, Retail Advocate Downtown Tacoma Partnership
Best Memory: I was walking through Downtown Tacoma one night this Fall, feeling particularly nostalgic. I was reminiscing about when I first moved to this city. Before I knew anyone, I fell in love with the place that is Tacoma. The earth, the buildings, the air. Over the last 10 years, I have come to love the people of Tacoma, but it’s almost like I forgot about the place. On this particular fall night, with empty streets, I was reminded why I fell in love with it to begin with.
Best Song/Album/Thing You Heard: I was sitting in a bar in Monticello, Utah with my fiancé whom I just recently proposed to. It was a Saturday night this summer and a cover band was playing Country classics. In between sips of whiskey and conversation she asked, “do you hear these lyrics?” Later that evening, we found the original song and played it through. It’s now the song we’ll do our first dance to. “Someone to Give my Love to” by Johnny Paycheck.
Best Thing You Watched: Yellowstone. It’s arguably the best show on TV. When I grow up, I want to be just like Rip.
Best Outdoor Activity: Drinking at every outdoor seating area across the city.
Best Thing You Ate: The first time I had the veggie burger from Wooden City, I took one bite and almost didn’t finish it. Not because it wasn’t good, but because it was almost too good. Like, I literally thought it was meat…. What does that say about my vegetarianism? Regardless, the veggie burger at Wooden City might be the best burger in Tacoma. Period.
Best Tacoma Thing: Listen, like most people who live in Tacoma, I love all things Tacoma. This year through the Best Tacoma Thing for me is eTc’s endless commitment to our city and community. I am pretty sure they raised money for everyone this year! I am so proud to share a city with those guys.
Best Thing You Read: When the “Stay at Home” order first happened I thought to myself; “Great, now I will have time to read all the books.” Instead, I just trolled on Instagram. However, in my trolling, I spent hours on @humansofny. If you haven’t read their stories of real people, please do. I bet you you’ll cry. I did.
Best Thing You Learned: That change really can happen.
(Editor’s note: Thank you all for your continued support throughout 2020. We wish you all a very happy new year, and look forward to bright days on the horizon!)