Our degrees of separation are slight in a city like Tacoma

A few years ago, a popular topic of conversation was the theory that all of us in the whole world are separated by no more than six degrees of separation.

Supposedly we all know someone who knows someone who knows someone else who knows, or even is, any given celebrity or political figure.

But in a city the size of Tacoma, it’s more likely to be three, or even two degrees of separation.

It’s pretty likely that, if any given reader of this column and I have not met directly, we almost certainly know people who know both of us. And it’s pretty likely that I worked with or went to school with someone you know. And, if not me, the typical Tacoma-area resident would certainly know some of my neighbors.

The movies tell us that, in big cities at least, rich people are only seen with other rich people, poor people hang out with each other and the criminal underworld has its own subculture. That may be true, but it’s not true to my experience in Tacoma.

One of my friends, commenting on my Facebook friends, observed that they seemed like people who would hate each other in real life.

That’s probably true. My wife tells me that I “talk to anybody” – and she doesn’t mean it as a compliment.

It shows up on my Facebook page; I have FB friends who are felons or ministers (or both), atheists, pagans, anarchists, Republicans, Democrats and independents, Catholics and Protestants, local political figures, friends of local yarn-bombers, artist and activists. And even a few, very few, family members.

I know local lawyers, judges and a few regulars on the Pierce County Jail Roster.

I know people who love (and hate) Walmart.

I know people who shop at Nordstrom and those who take their fashion cues from the neighborhood Thugs ’R’ Us store.

And I have many flesh-and-blood friends and family members that I do not let into my FB world.

My FB world is far from private. In fact. it is more like a fishbowl where people who may, or may not, know each other can encounter, at a safe distance, ideas and experiences they might not welcome in the real world.

Like Tacoma, my FB page is a very mixed place. I don’t expect everyone to like or agree with everything I write or post. In fact I certainly don’t agree with or like everything I write or post – but it’s usually something that made me think, or look a little closer at someone or something I thought I knew.

Tacoma is the perfect place for this kind of networking. I’ve run into wealthy and prominent people at Grocery Outlet, old friends at the Pantages, neighbors at the Grand Cinema, and all kinds of familiar faces at grocery stores and farmers markets. My daughter has two babies right now, so I run into other parents and grandparents.

From my work at the Tacoma Rescue Mission, I know by name many of the panhandlers and street wanderers of Tacoma. And I know enough of their stories to know that, given their circumstances and trauma, we too would be relentlessly wandering these barren streets looking for our lost memories.

No one in Tacoma is very far from us geographically, politically or even philosophically. At some point, by accident or choice, we have woven our personal stories into the continuing story of our city.

Many have moved on, of course, but we hold vivid memories of their time here. And many of us share a sense of Tacoma’s “destiny” – a presence felt more than confirmed.

Some cities are too big, some towns are too small and probing. Tacoma, for now, is the Goldilock’s size. This is the time of year of long evenings and family gatherings to reflect on such things.

M. (Morf) Morford of Tacoma is a former reader columnist. Email him at mmorf@mail.com.