I’ve always been good with directions. I can orient myself almost anywhere and I usually only need to go somewhere once to memorize the route. But my new home is proving more difficult to navigate. The city is more or less a grid, full of numbered streets that should be easy to figure out, yet I keep getting turned around. I think the biggest mental hurdle to make is simply to comprehend the size of Tacoma. It’s a big city and I find myself constantly forgetting that crucial fact. I’m not in Flagstaff anymore. Not everything is within a 10-minute driving radius of everything else.
Still, not all who wander are lost — and not all who are lost are wandering aimlessly. My mistakes have brought me across several charming pockets of Tacoma. The quaint urban village of the Proctor District; the neighborhood around the University of Puget Sound where huge deciduous trees drape over the road; the gentrifying area around the Stadium District; the pebble beaches of the West End. There is so much to explore. I have to remember to take it slow or I could go into shock.
It will take time to peek around every corner and investigate every cafe. And that’s what I like the most about my new city.
But with the excitement of discovery comes frustration and even tragedy. Finding an apartment has been an agonizing process. I gave up my U-Haul yesterday and moved all of my worldly belongings into a carport as the search drags on. I may have found a promising candidate, but I said that yesterday and the day before. Nothing is certain when you’re making a big life change.
As for the tragedy, I was driving through Gig Harbor (a suburban/rural community across the bridge where I’m staying with my girlfriend’s family temporarily) when something jostled the car. I screeched to a halt. In the rear view mirror, a motionless form lay in the middle of the road. My pulse raced. I hadn’t seen anything run across the road; it must’ve jumped out as I was passing and hit the back wheel.
I turned the car around. If it was a dog, I felt it would only be right to call the owners. There, on the pavement, lay a raccoon. It looked at me with wide, sad eyes. There was nothing I could do for it.
Welcome to Washington.
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Jonny Eberle is a writer in Tacoma, WA, who recently moved from Flagstaff, AZ. Please feel free to comment or tweet him at @jonnyeberle.
Update: Longtime Washingtonians inform me that raccoons are evil and that any raccoon out in the middle of the day was just asking for trouble. Even so, I feel bad out about it.