Photo by Jongsun Lee on Unsplash

Finding Tumbleweird, a Letter to the Editor

As a recent transplant, I’ve found the Tri-Cities to be weird, charming, and — for me — serendipitous. I couldn’t have expected it, but my first real connection to our area was Tumbleweird. Let me tell you a bit about that.

Two years ago, I knew I needed to move away from Seattle. You’ve heard the tale: it’s too crowded, it’s too expensive, it’s too corporate. In the eight years I lived there, I went from paying $1,000 a month for a two bedroom apartment to paying almost $2,000 a month for a smaller one in a worse part of town. I got to watch downtown Seattle methodically transform into neat rectangular skyscrapers with Amazon code names; and with their rise, I saw the many houseless humans pushed into the neighborhoods so their tents could be ignored. I got to see the riots and the Chop surge, and then dissolve without resolution. It was not the hopeful home I once dreamt it might be, and I had not found my community there.

That didn’t make it an easy place to move away from, though. I was leaving behind the ocean, the trees, the mountains and — the hardest for me — a place where my queerness didn’t need to be hidden like it had been in my hometown state. Along the Puget Sound, I’d begun shedding a lifetime of hiding my identity for fear of judgment, and I wasn’t particularly eager to climb back into the closet. 

So, when my closest friends moved to the TC and the void they left behind made the disappointment I felt for Seattle all the clearer, I had to ask the question: What could possibly be out there for me? The few Seattleites I talked to about it assured me: Not much — commercial agriculture, a handful of small uninteresting towns (three, reportedly), and a bridge that marked a stark cultural divide over a big dirty river made dirtier by nuclear runoff. Most of all, I was told it would be like moving back to my Middle America past. I would stick out like a giraffe at a pony show, and I wasn’t likely to get a ribbon for it.

I had to move somewhere, though, so I came for a visit to scope out the territory. My plan was to check out over a dozen apartments in two days. I had plotted out my path so I could hit them all one after the other, and I had to hope they weren’t all as dingy as I had become accustomed to on the other side of the Cascades. But, after a long night’s drive across those mountains the previous night, I found I desperately needed some coffee. One thing that I was bringing with me from Seattle was a well-honed snobbery for coffee, and Starbucks just wasn’t going to satisfy me.

A bit of searching and I found a well-reviewed local coffee shop in Richland: Indaba Coffee (now Flying X Coffee), and so I stepped in to get my day started properly. I wasn’t so sure about its being tucked into a labyrinthine strip mall, but upon entering the shop I saw my first bit of light emblazoned on its back wall: 


It felt like it was about appreciating the beings around us, which I wanted to do and feel more of. Then I saw that a couple of the baristas had pins with pride flags, which brought a hopeful grin to my face as I took my drink to a seat, at which point I discovered a stack of some local publications. Tumbleweird… what a quirky name! I found a creatively expressive, eclectic, and people-loving collection of perspectives that soon quelled my fear of whether or not I could ever find a place in the TC. It was possible, and I liked the message far better than LIVE. LAUGH. LOVE.

Now, the story could end there and be cute enough — but there’s another twist. I did indeed move in the coming months, and (not coincidentally) rather close to that same coffee shop, too. As I started to stretch my legs, I looked for some community interest groups where I could make friends. Seattle left another mark on me, and that was playing board games. I wasn’t sure how much of that I’d find in the TC, but I discovered something called TAG (Tri-City Area Gaming) that happened to have an upcoming weekly meetup at Moonshot Brewing near me. I had a few games of my own I’d bring, and maybe I’d find people whose interest in the hobby didn’t end at Monopoly.

Like an eager Boyscout, I made sure to get there at the start time so I could participate fully. I got there so early, in fact, that the only people there for TAG night were a couple who were setting everything up. They welcomed me in, we made introductions, and soon we even sat down to play a game together while waiting for others to come in. Inevitably, conversation kicked up and I described my story about coming to the TC, finding some great brew, and then Tumbleweird. Mentioning Tumbleweird got an unexpected laugh, quickly followed by a revelation: the very person I was playing games with was Sara Quinn (yes, dear Editor-in-Chief, you!), as they and their partner Brendan were the organizers of TAG night, among many other things around the TC, as I came to discover. It was a wonderful night, and the experience left me more hopeful than ever.

Since that time, I have come to admire many things about our handful of not-so-uninteresting towns. I love our art scenes, our community centers, our parks, our food trucks, and the awesome beauty of the Columbia River at the center of all of it. In every corner of the TC, I discover new places where  community overcomes barriers. While there are always things to take or leave about any place, there is an astonishing amount of good in these towns, and LOVE PEOPLE is something I feel I can truly do here.

To the people at Flying X Coffee, thank you for being the first place to recognize me by name; to the Tapteal Society, thanks for both preserving and improving accessibility to the wonderous nature spaces we all depend on to connect to the Earth; to the Tri-Cities LGBTQIA+ Discord, thanks for letting me be a part of our diverse intersection of online queerness; to Moonshot Brewing, thanks for giving us an all-ages space to enjoy all kinds of community events; to Sara and Brendan, thanks for enriching the lives of so many; and to you, Tumbleweird, thanks to your contributors, your sponsors, and myriad supporting readers for being a banner for those like me who need to know that they are seen and deemed worthy to be here.


Another triumph

My list of everything I like about Tumbleweird:

Little notes to the readers (did you hear, did you find an error)
Have I mentioned regular crossword lately?
Local, local, local
Dori Luzzo Gilmour and Steve Woolfolk
Book reviews
Alcon media
The cover art
SueEllen Davis' ode to tumbleweeds
Event listing, including Richland Public Library
Inclusiveness with warmth and sincere welcome

Thank you
-Ann Roseberry
Consulting Librarian