Oh, Tacoma. I love you, I love you, I love you.
Every year, about this time, a super-secret contingent of artists create and distribute glass orbs they call Monkeyshines. The group hides them around town for lucky treasure-hunters to discover on or around Chinese New Year. It’s become an annual tradition for those in the know to wake early and scour our fair streets in hopes of finding one. I’ve never been lucky enough. Until this year.
I woke at 5:00 a.m. and briefly considered staying in bed. Knowing the masses were probably on the streets, I made a quick cup of coffee and threw the bare essentials in the car: phone, wallet, camera, tripod. I decided to head for Proctor – it seemed like an easy get, but it is close to my house and I figured it was as good a place as any.
And I was not alone in my assumptions: there were at least three other groups of hungry searchers. I quickly made my way to the fish and found a sweet gift in its mouth, probably left by someone there shortly before me who found an orb. It was a large conversation heart eraser with the words, “You Rock.” It’s customary to leave a gift behind when you find a Monkeyshine, a sort of merry consolation prize.
I headed back to my car and decided to search out more creative locations. I headed down 30th, seeing groups with flashlights searching and cars filled with other hopefuls. I was worried that at 5:20, I was too late to play the game. On a whim, I pulled into the Old Town Music Society parking lot and grabbed my flashlight. I poked around near the picnic tables and decided I needed to be be more methodical about the process. Heading back to the front flower beds, I decided to start at the front and work my way through the pocket park adjacent to the building.
Just then, a group of three hunters emerged from their car. I yelled, “Monkeyshine!” and they clamored toward me. Enamored with it’s beauty, they congratulated me and we exchanged strategy ideas. Then they were off: no time to lose.
I packed up my treasure and headed home. It didn’t seem right going back so early. I coudn’t very well go back to bed! I took the long way home, along the water and saw searchers the whole way. As I passed Don’s Ruston Market, I had a hunch I’d find one if I looked. Now, it’s against all laws of decency to take more than one Monkeyshine and I paused for a bit before getting out of my car. I knew I wouldn’t take it if I found it, and what would I do with the information? I couldn’t resist at least checking on my hunch. With a real plan, I crossed the street and found another orb within seconds. It was much smaller and donut-shaped and very pretty. I smiled and wished it well, knowing it would find a home that morning.
I couldn’t possibly go back home, so I decided to head back toward the Chinese Reconcillation Park and get some shots of people hunting for treasure. I saw even more groups searching the waterfront, flashlights hitting every bush and rock outcrop they could find. The park was teeming with life. I spent the rest of the morning taking pictures and talking with other hopefuls. All ages were out and everyone was thrilled to be playing treasure hunter for the morning.
Thank you, beautiful Monkeyshine makers, for this gift you give us each year. You truly make Tacoma a special place and I’m so, so grateful.