Archive for July 2011
Which do you like better?
He's not wearing a helmet.
Let's say you had been looking at a news website or some other online offering that has a fair amount of clicking options on one page.
You decide you're done for the moment. But just as you are logging off your computer — in the tiny fraction of a second before shut-down — you glimpse something that looks interesting.
Then…poof…the screen goes blank.
Is there a name for that? Trust me. I do not think this is an original observation. I'm just curious about what this scenario is called.
Of course, when you go back and find it, there's a good chance you misread the headline or whatever and it really isn't something that interests you. There's probably a name for that mini-disappointment, too.
When inclined to grumble about one of The Spokesman-Review's editorial positions or political endorsements, I sometimes think of Ed.
Ed was the sports editor at the small newspaper where I started my so-called career. A proud University of Missouri grad, he was a bit of a nitwit in several ways. But he was no dumb jock. He was interested in current events.
So when our predictably non-progressive publisher would write an editorial that upset Ed, the seething sports editor didn't just shrug it off. Oh, no. He would fuss and fume. And in a bit of bluster that I'll now chalk up to his relative youth, he would say something truly moronic.
“I've got a good mind to quit this job and then start writing letters to the editor about our editorials,” he would say.
I couldn't tell you how many times he said that. But it was quite a few.
I left that paper before he did, so I don't know if he ever made good on his ridiculous threat. I suspect he did not.
Still, as crazy and immature as Ed's impotent revenge scenario might have been, almost anyone who has worked for a newspaper could identify with the sentiment.
Some readers realize that very few members of a newspaper's staff have anything to do with editorials and endorsements. But not all readers understand that.
Moreover, there are readers who have little patience with the “I had nothing to do with it” explanation. They want to know how anyone with a modicum of self-respect could work at place that supported such a repugnant candidate.
It's a fair question. I guess you just have to realize something about newspapers.
You know what would have happened if Ed had resigned and then written a letter to the editor taking the newspaper to task for its shortsighted editorial stands?
We would have printed it.
Feel free to send me your list of other businesses with a long tradition of offering their harshest critics a public forum.
Now? I don't know. It seems like onions labeled as “sweet” are available pretty much all year. Only none of them are quite as mind-blowing as the truly amazing ones from 20 or 30 years ago.
Remember? There were, of course, the Walla Walla onions. Man, they were great. There were also some terrific ones from Vidalia, Georgia. And that was about it.
It was a big deal when they showed up in stores. And shoppers grabbed them.
Then we started seeing sweet onions from California's Imperial Valley, from South America and any number of other places. The thing is, as the supply became more plentiful the specialness seemed to fade.
Now maybe I just lost my taste for them. That's entirely possible.
Or maybe using sweet onions 12 months a year made it difficult to cherish them in the way I did back when they were rare and seasonal.
In any case, the romance waned. At least it did for me.
And in the end, there were no tears. Just a sigh and a shrug.
I can only assume it is a bit more matter-of-fact these days, though perhaps not totally so.
One classic depiction of a young man being ill at ease about purchasing these items appeared in the 1971 movie, “Summer of '42.” Here's a moment from that scene.
At least in the movies.
So I was standing at the corner of Lincoln and Riverside, waiting for the light to change.
A car went by with the windows down and the sound system up. The young woman behind the wheel was singing along with Miranda Lambert's “White Liar.”
I mean she was really belting it out. Made me wonder if she just likes the song or if she has dealt with dishonesty from guys a time or two.
“Truth comes out a little at a time.”
“Let's just say that thanks to George Thorogood and Neil Young my husband and I have great appreciation of closed captioning on TV,” wrote Sandy Tarbox.
“Years ago we saw George Thorogood and the Delaware Destroyers at the Opera House (loudest concert ever performed there). When we came out of the concert a local radio station kept the enthusiasm going by playing even more Thorogood. We rocked out all the way back to Post Falls.
“Next morning my husband gets in his car to go to work, turns on the engine and nearly blew himself out of the car with the volume of the stereo. Apparently our ears were so numb after the show we had the radio cranked up a little bit for the trip home.”
Check this coming Monday's print Slice. That's all I'm saying.
However you do your rock-and-roll, indeed.
At least in “The Twilight Zone.”
You might have gotten the idea that park rangers aren't all that bright.
But it turns out there is more to the job than trying to keep a hat-wearing bear away from the pic-i-nic baskets.
Coming in the back way to work this morning, I noticed on the Knitting Factory marquee that George Thorogood is coming.
That's fine. But now there exists the very real possibility that I am going to be hearing in my head all morning, “One bourbon, one scotch, one beer.”
Remember Peter's sisters, Flopsy, Mopsy and Cottontail?
Sure. Well, was Mopsy like Jan Brady? You know, complaining, “It's always Flopsy, Flopsy, Flopsy!”
A) I always vote for the candidate with a dog. B) I always vote for the candidate with a smiling family. C) I always vote for the candidate surrounded by a hyper-diverse assortment of rapt admirers. D) I always vote for the candidate who served in the military. E) I always vote for the candidate who promises to solve all our problems. F) I always vote for the candidate who wears a tie. G) I always vote for the candidate who doesn't wear a tie. H) I always vote for the candidate who pledges to work for Spokane's families. I) I always toss that mail right away.
Anyone riding a bike on city streets around here routinely encounters motorists inappropriately stopping and offering to yield the right of way at intersections.
It seems safe to assume that the majority are just being nice. But it does present a problem.
If you accept the offer to go ahead, you are only reinforcing this counterproductive notion of treating cyclists like pedestrians. (When, in fact, they should be treated like people in cars.)
But if you want to decline the offer, that poses a dilemma. How do you indicate to the driver that you wish him or her to proceed ahead while you stay put? Hand gestures, of course. But what kind?
Nobody likes drivers at intersections who signal to other motorists in an impatient, annoyed way. You know, as if the other driver's presence on the planet is a huge inconvenience for them. So obviously, cyclists don't want to be like them.
But if your gestures are indecisive or open to interpretation, that can cause its own problems.
Here's what I do. I smile in a weary way and wave at the driver, as if to say “I see you and realize you are offering me the chance to go in front of you.”
Then I make a sweeping “No, thank you — after you” motion with my right arm.
Often it works. Sometimes it doesn't.
Remember when I said the majority of drivers are just being nice when they offer to yield? Well, there's a reason I didn't suggest that all drivers are.
Some motorists regard all cyclists as a pain the ass. These drivers want to send the message that bike riders are so erratic and such a nuisance that they have to be coddled and given special treatment even though they have no business being on the road.
There's a temptation to say that there is another hand gesture more appropriate for communicating with them. But the cyclist would have to be a mindreader to know when someone is trying to be nice and when someone is engaging in performance forbearance.
“In the late '80s, Dana and I attended an Oingo Boingo concert at the Union Station in Seattle,” wrote my friend Vince Eberly. “It was an old train station that was made of marble. Everything bounced around so much, and even Danny Elfman, the lead singer, said it was like playing in a toilet bowl. Dana says her hearing didn't come back for three days.”
“I was driving on a fairly busy street,” wrote a woman who told me her name but asked that I not print it. “Two teenage girls were walking toward me on the sidewalk on my right. And just before I drove past them one of them grabbed the other one and shoved her as if to push her onto the road in front of me. When they saw the horrified look on my face, they broke up laughing.
“I was so furious over their stupidity that I beeped my horn and flipped them off.
“This wouldn't have been so bad for me to do, except that I am a 70-year-old grandma.
“If you decide to print this, please don't print my real name. My family would be horrified! I've been told before that I look like a Church Lady.
“You can just call me Grambo.”
OK, Grambo. But I suspect you aren't giving your family enough credit. Something tells me that, upon hearing this story, their reaction would be to wish that you had calmly given it to those girls with both hands.
It has been quite a few years since “The Wonder Years” went off the air.
Oh, you can still see it in reruns on obscure cable channels or on DVD. If you want, that is. Frankly, aspects of the show have not aged all that well. The sometimes treacly narration, the predictable mood song at the end…it can be a tad cloying.
But I suppose it wasn't easy to be genuinely poignant week after week.
That said, certain episodes were unqualified home runs. I'd put what I call the Mr. Collins trilogy in that category. And it's kind of sad to think there are recently minted algebra teachers out there who probably never saw the three episodes where Kevin forges a special relationship with a teacher who seems at first to be a cold fish but isn't.
If you are within shouting distance of a guy who has been around the block a few times, do this.
Ask him, “What immediately comes to mind when you hear a reference to neatsfoot oil?”
If he doesn't answer, “Breaking in a baseball glove,” I will assume he grew up in a country where soccer is known as football.
If — in a truly unexpected sequence of events — you were named news director at a Spokane TV station, what would be your rule about what qualifies as “Breaking News” and what doesn't?
When you see someone using one of these things, what's usually your first thought?
A) He likes toys that make a lot of noise. B) Thanks for worsening our air quality. C) Gee, I wish I had me one of them. D) So you blow stuff from here to there…uh, what exactly is the point? E) I'll bet he's a swell guy who simply doesn't realize that what he's doing makes him look like a maroon.
F) Oh, that ain't workin'. That's the way you do it. Play your leaf-blower on the MTV. G) Mine's bigger. H) I'll bet I know how that gentleman votes. I) There's another liberal arts grad pursuing his third career. J) What a great country. K) You know, I have a hunch he doesn't agonize about his carbon footprint.
L) Any birds that want to weigh in with an editorial comment from above certainly have my permission to do so. M) I guess rakes are old-fashioned. N) I wonder if this started in California. O) I hope he is using earplugs. O) The answer my friend is, well, you know. P) That really blows. Q) Wonder if you could rig that baby with a metal detector?
R) We're doomed. S) I wonder if he enjoys being an unwitting lackey for his evil OPEC overlords? T) I'm going to assume that he has to use that damn thing or he'll be fired. And I wonder how far you could shoot a tennis ball with one of those. U) Jimmy Carter was right.
V) When did we become numb to insanity? W) Stay with it, pal! They can have our leaf-blowers when they pry them from our cold, dead, vibrated hands. X) I'll bet that guy thinks Global Warming is something the cultural elites Back East made up to try to deprive him of his arsenal-of-freedom yard tools. Y) Git 'er done. Z) Other.
1. The don't appear to be active in social-service volunteering. 2. Their lives seem to lack a positive direction. 3. Iffy personal grooming standards. 4. No one would call them “fresh-faced.”
Even though I knew there were scenes filmed in Wallace and might have wanted to watch if for that reason, I honestly can't recall if I ever saw this.
The Seattle Seahawks no longer hold preseason training camp in Cheney.
But countless people still talk on cell phones while driving.
A whole bunch of guys still offer as original analysis things they heard last night on ESPN.
There are still so-called rugged Westerners who benefit from agricultural subsidies but want to do away with virtually every federal program except the one that benefits them.
Lots of people continue to think they are great at imitating accents despite the fact that they clearly are not.
And we're still carving away at what little wilderness remains.
Newspapering as the backdrop for laughs.
On second thought, I don't know. Maybe it seems like 40.
At least that's the impression one could get from the comics. But who's to say that isn't right.
That would seem to be a question that ought to be asked of those applying for jobs as roofers in Spokane.
Years of walking or riding a bike to and from work at this time of year have given me countless opportunities to eavesdrop on roofers. And the pros and cons of country music has been the subject of more than one heated discussion.
I haven't conducted a survey. But it would appear that quite a few crew bosses like it and enjoy playing it loud up above the house. Some of the underlings, not so much.
No doubt there have been similar debates focusing on the merits of, say. classic rock or several other musical formats. I just don't recall overhearing them.
Anyway, it seems like there are five things you need to know about someone interested in working as a roofer.
1. Can you take the heat? 2. Ever handled a nail-gun? 3. Are you going to show up on time every day even if you got wasted the night before? 4. Is your balance and agility adequate to the task? 5. How do you feel about Kenny Chesney?
What, you expected a leering picture of a buxom young woman leaning over for some inexplicable reason?
Nah. In this life, a pretty smile trumps just about everything.
You'll notice I didn't say it had to be an Inland Northwest lake. So I'll start with one of my favorites, Lake Memphremagog. It's in Vermont and Quebec.
Someone else can grapple with the whole question of whether you hyphenate Jump Off Joe Lake.
Were into restoring vintage Matchbox cars.
It has always been my understanding that, though she spent most of her childhood on the other side of the state, Dyan Cannon (that wasn't her name then) lived in Spokane for a short time as a kid. But I cannot recall ever having talked to anyone who remembers her from that period.
Do you know someone who does?
Heard from a reader bright and early who took issue with something I said in today's Slice.
I had suggested that a Little League pitcher who realizes a batter cannot handle his fastball should keep throwing fastballs and not start varying speeds.
“That's not pitching,” said the reader.
We disagree. I would argue that pitching is about getting batters out.
Here's the thing. I understand that fairly early on in their development young pitchers need to learn about changing speeds, to keep batters off balance. But in my experience, overmatched Little League hitters seldom have the ability to make adjustments that would allow them to catch up to a fastball that had zipped by them in previous at-bats.
So keep throwing it, I say. Mixing in some changeups just because that's what older pitchers might do simply invites batters to get hits they couldn't get against a steady diet of fastballs.
Sooner or later the pitcher is going to face some kids who can hit his fastball. Then, after consultation with his coach, he can start to mix things up a bit.
I think the reader who contacted me also had some qualms about the spectacle of Little League batters getting mowed down, one after another, by a pitcher who is a step ahead of them in his athletic development. I understand. We all want to see every kid experience success.
But I don't think it is up to the pitcher to unilaterally level the playing field, so to speak. Perhaps my views are a bit dated. But I believe that to compete means to try your hardest at all times.
No one likes to see lopsided games. And no one wants the losers to be devastated by a slaughter. That's why there are 10-run rules and what have you.
In addition, there's nothing stopping the manager of the team that's way ahead from substituting like mad to keep the game from being an epic rout.
But I've always thought it is an insult to your opponent to not do your best. So if you are a 10-year-old hurler who can strike people out with your fastball, I say keep throwing it. There's no shame in wanting to win.
Consider a few of the key characters in the 1967 action feature. What, theoretically speaking, are the chances they could have come from Spokane?
Let's use a 1-to-10 scale, with 10 meaning “Totally plausible that this guy could have come from Spokane.”
I'll go first.
Major Reisman (Lee Marvin): 6. Effective, no-nonsense, bit of a swagger. Just like a lot of Lilac City guys.
Joseph Wladislaw (Charles Bronson): 3. That's not one of our bigger ethnic pools. Maybe if he had been Joseph Swenson.
Robert Jefferson (Jim Brown): 3. Same issue. Though it would be great to claim him.
Victor Franko (John Cassavetes): 2. Seemed jaded and streetwise in a non-Spokane way.
Pedro Jiminez (Trini Lopez): 2. Probably not. We don't have many lemon trees. After all, we were even less diverse in 1944.
Archer Maggott (Telly Savalas): 1. Didn't they make a point of having him be from the South? Still, you could almost see someone from Spokane having that name. Would run a pest control service.
Vernon Pinkley (Donald Sutherland): 7. Seemingly a goofball, but not without substance. We produce that kind of guy in spades.
Samson Posey (Clint Walker): 9. Here's a Spokane guy, for you. Big and quiet. The “Aw, shucks” type. Just wants to be left alone. But don't mess with him. “I don't like to be pushed.”
OK. your turn.
To what extent does the percentage of ex-military personnel in an organization influence the workplace culture and management styles?
To prepare for her 50-year class reunion, Ritzville's Karen Meye studied the pictures in her senior yearbook. “Then I went to the reunion and, luckily for me, I was able to recognize and call by name each of my classmates.
“We had a great time! I'm so proud of all of our success in life.”
Joan Williams shared this. “I just attended my 40th from Cheney High School. The secret to enjoying them is to forget all the memories of the 'popular' kids, the 'jocks,' etc. By the time you've reached this time in life, you discover that 'life is a great leveler.' Who you were at 18 (or 16, 17) is not who you are at 58. Most have had divorces, grown kids, grandchildren, deaths, and job losses. What is important now is family and friendships.
“I rekindled a friendship with my very best friend from junior high and high school; we hadn't seen each other since the 20th reunion. I was able to make new friends all over again with kids I barely spoke to in school. It's a joy to find friendship.”
My friend John Kafentzis had this to say. “My advice on reunions: If it is 30 years or beyond just go. Your classmates aren't obsessed with whether you are unemployed or the bank president, overweight or bald. They just want to catch up and reminisce. Don't wait until next time, attrition has already begun.”
Gabi Tilley said the secret to enjoying a high school reunion is to have married your high school sweetheart. “Then you can go together and when someone asks your husband 'What ever happened to that Gabi chick you married?' he can say 'She's right over there and doesn't she look good?' ”
Nancy Chevigny-Dahlke said her class meets every year now and she treasures the gatherings. “I learned that each one of those classmates that I either didn't know or never talked to has a story.”
Robert Fairfax wrote that he got talked into helping with his 30-year Shadle Park High reunion but has wound up having a blast. I helped set up the website — shadlepark81.com — and was able to connect with people I haven't seen in years. Better yet, I have gotten to know people I didn't in high school. And after 30 years, all the drama (and hair) is mostly gone. So my secret? Get involved!”
Larry Schneiderman of Post Falls attended the reunion of his 1961 graduating class back in Iowa last month. He's the wrong guy to tell that high school reunions are silly and a waste of time.
It was a small class. “Most of us were K-12 together. We had a grand time.”
Those people mattered to him then. They matter to him now.
This is a depiction of what used to be Rike's department store in Dayton, Ohio.
On page 36 of the July 25th issue of The New Yorker magazine, there's a 50-year-old photo of writer Calvin Trillin speaking to civil rights leader John Lewis in Alabama.
It occurs to me that I might be the only person around here to have met (briefly) both of these men.
I know Trillin has been to Spokane a couple of times. Maybe Lewis has been here, too. But I'll bet nobody here met both.
I encountered Trillin in a newsroom where I worked in another state. He was looking for someone to accompany him to a barbecue place that was my favorite.
And I spoke to Lewis in the mid-'80s at an event in Mississippi attended by a politician I was doing a story on, Mike Espy.
Anyway, here's the question. Can you name a couple of national figures with whom you have had fleeting personal encounters that no one else around here could claim to have duplicated?
I'm not really talking about brushes with celebrities. As far as fame goes, I have no doubt most people could not identify Trillin or Lewis. But they are known in certain circles all across the country. And seeing that picture of their meeting in 1961 made me shake my head and think about unexpected connections.
You probably already know this.
But if you don't, you should.
The late Robert Hanson, who lived in Spokane both before and after World War II, was the last surviving crew member of the storied B-17, the Memphis Belle.
And found this.
There's a nice recollection of Hi-Flier kites at www.junkbox.com
That you have strong feelings, pro or con, about Dr. Pepper. At least it was on my block back when I was about 12.
Its fans thought of it as a zesty alternative to more mundane big-brand soda pop fare. Detractors argued that it tasted like medicine.
I wonder what each faction would have thought of the modern, high-fructose corn syrup version.
Did you read about his upcoming appearance in HBO's “Curb Your Enthusiasm”?
They came with football players' pictures. And If you got enough of them, you could exchange them for junky prizes.
As you can see, this was before the NFL was its current size.
Here's a picture of the album that was my first. From what I understand, a few other kids also purchased this record.
I'd say it has stood the test of time. Better perhaps than my first .45 — “Surfin' Safari”/ “409” by the Beach Boys. (I liked them fine, but they would soon prove they could do much better.) Not sure why I picked that, because I remember going to Woolworth's with the intention of buying a copy of “Monster Mash.”
No mystery about why we bought “Meet The Beatles!”
What percentage of those saying they are “offended” by this or that are usually just insecure nitwits who can't handle having their rigid world-view challenged?
When the nightmare neighbors finally move, how long does it take you to go from celebration to the troubling realization that, given the absentee homeowner's track record of renting to loud cretins, the next occupants just might be even worse?
Did you know that Air Force kids tend to be amused by the idea that they grow up as some sort of sheltered robo-children when, the truth is, they often experience greater diversity than children in the civilian communities surrounding the base?
“I call my mother by her first name, and I have for almost six years now,” said Sean R. Williams, who is 24.
“It started when I volunteered at her work, an after school program for grade school kids. After I would call her 'Mom,' kids would swarm and ask, 'Is she really your mom?!?!'
“Three days of this was all I could stand. So, I began calling her 'Marsha,' like her grade school kids do.”
So what does he call his father? “Boy-o, Pop, Buster, Dad…anything but Walter.”
To tell the truth, I'm not sure just how it would have been different. I don't think I ever watched it.
And something tells me it probably wasn't an accurate depiction of frontier life in Seattle. But maybe if it had been set in Spokane, they would have had studded wagon wheels in wintertime.
Here's a theory.
The reason we hear a lot of complaining about the Lilac City is that the people who do most of that grousing never leave.
But a fair number of our best and brightest, people who by and large think Spokane is pretty swell, eventually get tempted by enticing offers. And they end up being the ones who move away.
So who is left behind? An arguably toxic concentration of complainers, that's who.
I suppose, to be fair, I should include myself in that stay-behind category, though I always like to think I'm all about constructive criticism and tough love.
Anyway, I base this admittedly half-baked observation on a couple of visits this week with old friends. They just happened to be back here at the same time.
One moved to the Twin Cities a couple of years ago for a great job that could not be duplicated here. The other moved to Chicago and she has thrived there.
They like Spokane and feel free to say so. No, they don't think it's perfect. They're both smart enough to know that no place is.
This might be the only place that has ever happened.
It has nothing to do with marmots.
I'll send a coveted reporter's notebook to at least one person submitting the correct answer.
Here's a missile above ground.
“C'mon, don't you think the video would be better if it were a fake? Even that Sasquatch sighting video is better quality.” — John
“OOOOOOOOOkaaaaaaaaaay.” — K.P.
“What planet are you from?” — Robert
“Goodbye!” — Darlene
…they might have had children with freakishly long legs and vacant expressions.
Who remembers when United and Northwest had ticket offices practically across the street from one another in downtown Spokane, staffed by actual humans?
It might be short notice for tracking this down in time to watch today. But if you are OK with small and quirky and get a kick out of Australian accents, I highly recommend “The Dish.”
No one would argue that 1963's “A Gathering of Eagles” was a good movie.
But I've talked to old Air Force guys about it. And some allow that its depiction of the pressure to perform in the Cold War-era Strategic Air Command wasn't altogether ludicrous.
Overheard in the little coffee shop inside the STA Plaza.
Customer: “How much is the newspaper?”
Young woman behind the counter: “It depends on which one you're getting.”
It's 75 cents. Our price. Cheap.
If I'd had my wits about me, I would have told her to put it on my tab.
But you could send a subtle message by using these new stamps when posting mail to:
1. Racists. 2. Those who resent or belittle the notion of social justice. 3. People who think every last white person in the South had a KKK mindset or that everyone in the North was a Civil Rights hero. 4. Lawyers who might have lost sight of why they studied law in the first place. 5. People who think warm weather is an excuse to dress like a slob.
You never know when a woman with whom you are dealing might be a former barrel racer.
Sometimes, early in the morning, there are more crows and gulls moving around downtown than there are people. And when one of the birds gives you a certain kind of look, well, it can conjure visions of an old movie.
Summer is license plate-spotting season — at least for those of us who were or still are geography nerds.
As Spokane is in a pretty remote location, we are not inundated with steady streams of license plates from all over. That could be viewed as a negative, I suppose. But I prefer to think it just makes plate-spotting more fun here.
You don't see Maine or South Carolina every day. So when you do, well, it's more notable.
But it's not as if we never see vehicles from far away. Anyone who regularly spends time on Interstate 90 could tell you that.
So there's always a chance you might encounter a fairly exotic plate.
Not everyone is into this, of course. But if you were ever a little kid who enjoyed imagining what it would be like to live in some distant place, out-of-state plates never really lose their appeal.
Oh, OK. You already are sitting.
Well, here's the thing. I'm not quite sure how to put this. But apparently some advertising stretched the truth a bit.
I know. Shocking.
My dad had a Corvair. And though it was kind of fun and all, rapid acceleration was not its strong suit.
I'm referring to coming home and finding your co-workers there in your house.
Festivities include selecting what you're going to wear Tuesday and then getting to bed early.
How many shacks in songs can you name? I'll start with sugar, love and psychedelic
In all of Gem State sports history, where would you rank Idaho State's upset of UCLA in the 1977 NCAA basketball tournament?
Among those of a certain age, one way to get a good conversation going is to ask: When your family went on summer road trips, at what kind of places did you spend the night?
Answers are all over the map.
Some grew up with dads who would drive all night if that's what it took to get to the destination, usually a relative's home.
Others will recall finding places to camp along the way.
A few will describe staying at Brand X roadside motels that weren't exactly clean and had a certain air of “crime scene” about them.
But some, those who grew up in families with a little money, will remember staying at bright, colorful places that seemed exotic and wonderful.
“Does it have a swimming pool…YESSSSSS!”
If you go out in your car on a summer weekend in Spokane, you are almost certain to be confronted by high-energy young people wanting to wash your car.
Which approach is most apt to make you consider pulling over?
1. Jumping jacks.
2. Having a cause that doesn't make you snort.
3. Waving a sign so vigorously that you cannot really read why these personality-plus youths are trying to raise money.
4. Shrill beseeching.
5. The presence of kids on the corner who don't appear to have been selected for prurient marketing considerations.
6. Projection of a cheerful, friendly attitude.
8. The kids actually washing cars seem to be working hard, doing a good job.
9. One kid on the corner yelling, “I see you in there behind that tinted windshield, Mrs. Hanley!”
10. Overall Mardi Gras atmosphere.
Maybe it's a quirk of the Saturday morning route I take when riding my bike up to get a haircut near North Central High School.
But it sure seems like there are a lot of boats for sale.
Nothing strange about that, really. Maybe the owners already have their eyes on bigger ones.
But you see these watercraft in driveways adorned with “For Sale” signs and it's hard not to imagine that once they were viewed as the ticket to fantasy fulfillment.
Now I'm just guessing. But it seems like a good bet that a few years ago the owners first eyed these boats and imagined scenes of being out on the lake — laughing, smiling, woo-hooing and generally living the Spokane good life.
Now? Well, who knows.
Maybe those good times really did happen. And perhaps now it's just someone else's turn.
I had started doing this thing where, when I encountered family dogs tied up outside a store or lolling in a front yard alone, I told them “Don't let 'em go to hell.”
This is an allusion to an episode of “The Twilight Zone” in which a man on the road to heaven is saved from taking a wrong turn into perdition by his loyal canine.
“Even the devil can't fool a dog,” says an angel near the end of the episode.
Rod Serling has a concluding voice-over that starts “Travellers to unknown regions would be well-advised to take along the family dog.”
Anyway, I don't think the pooches minded me saying this, even if they haven't seen that episode.
But it has been suggested that someone overhearing me might not catch the first part of the declaration and, as a result, get the wrong idea about my tone.
So, just for the record, let me make one thing clear.
I would never tell a dog to go to blazes.
Mountains come out of the sky and they stand there
Once in a while, some nice person will call me and say something like this.
“I was wondering if, in your column tomorrow, you could…”
Well, no, I couldn't. Because of the features section's production schedule, I write The Slice several days in advance. For instance, my deadline for next Tuesday's column was today. And, at the risk of letting that day's theme out of the bag, I can tell you that it starts with a letter from one of this guy's relatives.
I'm tempted to suggest that the free spirits you see riding bikes on sidewalks downtown, in clear violation of a civic ordinance, are the biggest bunch of strung-out, unwashed losers this side of cop cars' back seats.
The fact that they never wear helmets is OK though as it would appear there's little there to protect.
The pensive young man below might make my Top 5. But the real reasons I'm using his picture are:
1. I have been waiting for someone to note my seemingly gratuitous use of pictures of fetching females. And this could be seen as an equal-space kind of thing.
2. I love the name of the blog from which I borrowed this image. (See credit line below photo.)
Here's a note from Monique Lillard, who teaches at the University of Idaho.
She now has my permission to write to me anytime she wants.
“Your column reminded me of the Iliad, where Homer describes all the towns that sent warriors, and has a line or two about each place — 'known for good olives,' 'known for lovely women,' 'known for huge ships,' 'known for strong oarsmen,' and so forth. So there's your classical allusion of the day.”
In looking for an image of Homer, I had to clarify my search terms to get through the thicket of pictures of Homer J. Simpson.
“The last time I played catch?” wrote Barry Bauchwitz. “Well, when our Danish friends were here their son, 10 years old and born on the 4th of July, became smitten with baseball. We went to two Indians games and he made a couple of trips to the sporting goods store and talked his dad into: bat, ball, mitt, batting gloves and baseball cards. He played catch every day and his little sister had to get a hat and a mitt as well. While I suggested that he purchase the squishy baseball for practice he managed to find two real ones at the local field. He did well and played daily, as I said.
“Then he returned home and he and his friends began playing catch every day. Yesterday we received a late phone call. Apparently while attempting to catch a hard throw from his friend with the real baseball, he missed. It hit him squarely in the mouth and knocked his teeth askew. One tooth appeared to be totally knocked out. Several hours in the ER and they got the bleeding stopped. They are planning to see a denist to see if the tooth can be saved.
“So, it may be that his baseball career is over.
“When we experience the Danish invasion, due to your writing about my idea to market the city to Danish tourists, it may be best to apply a warning label in Danish to baseballs at the local sporting goods stores.”
Some of us like to launch self-improvement regimens on significant dates. And one of the classics is coming right up.
The anniversary of the first moon landing in 1969 is this Wednesday. And what better day to begin your drive to lose 10 pounds, stand up to your boss or start going to bed earlier?
“If they can put a man on the moon, then I ought to be able to lay off the chili cheese fries.”
But maybe there's no need to wait until Wednesday. Tomorrow, Saturday, is the anniversary of the actual launch of Apollo 11 from Florida. Perhaps that's really the perfect day to light this candle, as they say.
Of course, this approach flies in the face of everything experts on change have to say about how real behavior modification actually takes place. But good luck anyway.
You might be able to make out that both these bottles and the can below say “Spokane Brewery.”
Why should you care? No reason, really.
But me, I get a kick out of this sort of thing. And it's my blog, though the truth is I prefer to say “online thing.”
When I was a little kid, back in the steel cans era, my dad used to let me have a sip of his beer whevever I wanted. I suspect he hoped this lager sampling would make drinking seem less exotic in my eyes.
Sadly, I was subsequently thrust into a cold, heartless world where dedicated young scholars such as myself stumbled off to college without benefit of hearing those potentially life-saving “Remember to Drink Responsibly” public-service messages. I have to tell you that, as a freshman, I did not.
But that's another story. And if you remember the '70s, there's a good chance it's one you have heard before.
Which population has a higher percentage of those who enjoy shooting at highway signs — residents of Eastern Washington or those living in North Idaho?
…is the fact that Henry J. Kaiser lived here as a young man for several years, before he moved to California and “industrialist” practically became part of his name.
Gird your loins.
And the second best.
Though at times they can seem like adversaries, bike riders and dog walkers are actually natural allies.
For one thing, they both recognize that not everybody wants to spend 100 percent of their outdoor time in cars. And secondly, they both tend to realize that those who occasionally sally forth without an automobile aren't always the wild-eyed Communists they're sometimes made out to be.
Plus there's a third link. At least some cyclists and dog walkers remember when the Northwest had a forward looking self-image and wasn't warped by the rants of angry crabs who think sharing means losing control or yielding power.
Bike riders and dog walkers also own cars, of course. But some of them wonder if maybe cities shouldn't be designed for people first.
Those who remember when it was standard practice here to place the directional (West, N., or whatever) before the number when addressing in-city correspondence.
And those who don't.
You know when I said one of my colleagues had an idea for a promotional campaign for the newspaper based on photos of good-looking people reading the SR?
Well, I misunderstood. His idea is to hire attractive individuals to read the paper in public places, and be seen doing so.
“Much more insidious,” he said.
According to a couple of potentially accurate accounts on the Web, the first patent for an electric bug zapper was issued to William H. Frost of Spokane in 1910.
So why didn't we become the bug zapper capital of the world?
I didn't find anything on him in the SR morgue. But that doesn't mean there isn't a file somewhere I failed to look.
A friend was watching an episode of “The Bob Newhart Show.”
That's the '70s show set in Chicago, not the '80s show set in Vermont.
Anyway, Bob's airline navigator friend, Howard, says that he doesn't like to predict the future. Why? Because the last time he did he predicted that Chicago was going to get to host the world's fair. And instead, that honor went to Spokane.
A few readers recall when they looked best in their swimsuits.
You know how it's kind of frustrating when you come up with conversation material and don't get to use it? Sure.
Well, there's this guy named Al who operates a small business downtown. I duck in to his place most weekdays and usually see him.
I want to convey to him that I listen to the various things he says to me. So I've been ready with “Hey Al, are you doing karate this summer or do they not have classes at this time of year?”
But he must be on vacation or working a different schedule. Because I haven't seen him in days.
The thing is, I am really ready to use that line. So be forewarned. If I see you when I'm out on my midmorning walkabout, I just might ask if you have been doing karate this summer.
I guess I could have used that on Marcie (Marcy?) the pharmacist at Rite Aid, my next stop. But I was sort of distracted by the fact that “Won't Get Fooled Again” by The Who was playing as the in-store background music.
I've always liked that song and suppose I should have enjoyed the moment. But it didn't seem quite right.
There should have been some get-off-my-lawn type yelling “Turn that racket down!”
As usual, I'm living in the past.
Then, heading west on Riverside I noticed this good-looking young couple looking around in a way that signaled they were lost. I asked if I could help.
That turned out to be easy. They wanted to go to Madeleine's and it was quite nearby.
As we parted, I thought about a conversation I overheard at work yesterday afternoon. A colleague I'll call “Tom” said the S-R ought to do a series of promotions featuring pictures of attractive people reading the paper. But another co-worker — let's call her “Ruth” — countered that good-looking people don't read the paper.
Anyway, the Madeleine's couple would have been just right for Tom's campaign. And I suspect Ruth was kidding.
After that, I went into the Post Ofiice. Wanted to buy some stamps for my mom. A counter clerk went to a bit of trouble to track down the “Evergreens” strips I requested.
On my way out, I passed a bunch of people going through security before being allowed to head toward federal court. In the midst of this small crowd were three or four priests in clerical attire. I considered telling the city editor about that. Then I imagined what she might say.
“When AREN'T there priests appearing in court?”
I'm already receiving press releases dealing with back-to-school clothes shopping.
If you are going to build one of these with the clear intent of sticking a firecracker in it and seeing what happens when that goes off after you have tossed the plane into the air, remember.
After lighting the fuse, don't stand there with the model by your face like an old-time quarterback waiting to have his picture taken. In fact, the chances of perfectly timing the mid-air explosion are remote. So maybe go for an on-the-ground blast.
Or better yet, don't do it at all.
1. Not everyone's feet/toenails are attractive.
2. Hey Gidget, this is a business — not a pool party.
3. Eventually that slap-slap sound can incite violence.
One reliable feature of early-sunrise season, at least for those who head off to work shortly after dawn, is getting to glimpse strangers in their bed clothes.
You see, it's not uncommon for people to get out of bed and step outside to fiddle with sprinklers or what have you in what, at this time of year, is broad daylight.
But don't assume that this is all that titillating.
I haven't done an actual survey. But it would appear that one of Spokane's more popular boudoir ensembles is boxers or sweatpants and T-shirts.
If you came here from a place that has moderate or high humidity and think that you might like to live in such a locale again one day, forget it.
Spokane's low-humidity summers will ruin your ability to gracefully cope with serious levels of moisture in the air.
That's OK. You aren't going to find any of this in 2011.
And you'll have to come up with a Plan B for parties and picnics.
A reader named Diane said she tears up pages of The Spokesman-Review and adds those strips to her composting mix.
“Once in awhile I catch a glimpse of your photo as it is floating down to the gazillion worms that live in the compost bin,” she wrote.
No offense, she said.
“I rather like to think I am rewarding the worms for all their hard work and that they enjoy ingesting your columns as much as I enjoy reading them.”
Perhaps. But they have yet to answer any Slice questions or pass along potential items.
I was inside, sitting next to an open window, when I heard a tapping I couldn't identify.
It seemed to be coming from out on the patio or near the garage.
But when I went outside to investigate, I saw nothing. At first, anyway.
Then it resumed, and I happened to look up. A utility worker was high up on a pole rising from a spot near where four backyards meet.
I told him I had been baffled by the sound.
“Darned squirrels,” he said, guessing at what might have been one of my theories.
Sometimes turn up references to this stylish actress of a few decades ago.
But, technically, the '60s are over.
And so is the weekend.
To find out more about Spokefest, go to www.spokefest.org
Check out the goofballs back at the fence. Like they'd have a chance with her.
And you start getting used to two things.
1. Hearing “See you in the funny papers” while there.
2. Being told “You're talking too loud” after you leave.
When you are not certain if it is a sale or an eviction.
Watched a bit of 1964's “Fail-Safe” early Saturday night on TCM.
Don't suppose I'm the only one slightly amazed that we survived that era.
I had read the book long ago and was sure the movie would be terrible.
But I was certain the TV series would be a total joke. Wrong again.
It was one of the best shows ever. At least that's how I saw it.
Sort of hard to believe there's just one more episode.
Near the end of my bike ride home from work, I detected the unmistakable smell of burning charcoal.
First thought: Ah, one side of the sacred summer-aroma triangle — the other two being fresh-cut grass and chlorine.
Second thought: Already? It's not even 3 o'clock.
But I need to remember that I'm not the only one around here who doesn't work a 9-to-5 schedule.
Grill on, sir or madam. Grill on.
Have been recommending Ann Patchett's new book, “State of Wonder.”
When the hot weather finally settles in, you might have occasion to see people who don't have on much in the way of clothing. That happens in summer. The key is to remain calm and follow these simple tips.
Do: Focus on the eyes, but not in a psycho way. It's not a staring contest.
Don't: Yell “Great day in the morning! C'mon over here, darlin', and help me with my condition.”
Do: Smile, but not in a psycho way. Remember, that person might be dressed that way because of the temperature, not because he or she is trying to elicit reactions from strangers. Well, not entirely.
Don't: Try so hard to be oblivious that you seem to be lost in a mental fog. It's OK to be alive and aware of your surroundings.
Do: Be aware of age appropriateness.
Don't: Comment on body parts.
Do: Use telepathy. But try to keep it classy.
Don't: Repeatedly shout “Yowza!”
The print Slice alluded to this 1992 magazine cover not all that long ago. And a couple of readers absolutely freaked. They suggested I was being grossly insensitive.
But as you can see, she wanted to tell her story.
Oh, wait. That was just a movie role.
That's what Slice reader Meredith Elsensohn says. And I agree with her.
How many cities have a cataract of that magnitude right downtown?
This isn't the first time Meredith has shared that opinion with me. On April 3, 2007, The Slice column noted her feelings on this subject.
But to find my all-time favorite column contribution from Meredith, we have to go back to Jan. 13, 2001.
Here it is:
Some kids don't really understand the difference between old and really old.
Meredith Elsensohn is in her mid-70s. And while volunteering at Pasadena Park Elementary School in the Spokane Valley, a boy in the third grade asked her a question.
He wondered if she had known Abraham Lincoln.
Glanced at today's print Slice and noticed I had written “picked herring” where I intended to say “pickled herring.”
I'm hoping that's not an omen for how the day is going to proceed.
Picked herring? Sort of makes you picture migrant laborers leaning over the ocean's edge, gathering up fish.
When it comes to apres race air-kisses, how do stage winners in big bike races know whether to go for two, three or four?
If you think summer is great now, just wait until you get to spend it dealing with things like malfunctioning sprinkler heads. You'll love it!
“Testosterone,” said Curt Olsen.
But how many have never set foot inside?
…wiped off a kid's face…
“We had friends visiting from the Chicago area last week,” wrote Jo Ann Cvengros. “They were here at Diamond Lake with us for most of the day but wanted to see some of Spokane before they left the area. I suggested Riverfront Park and the gondola ride. They were very impressed by the falls and really enjoyed it.
“The downside was that they were dismayed by all the litter that could be seen from the ride. I think they left with the impression that Spokane was a dirty city. This really hurt my civic pride.
“Having grown up in Spokane and always having been taught not to litter, I wonder what has happened.
“We are only in the area five months out of the year but Spokane is still a place I'm really proud of and love to show it off to friends who visit. I know times are hard but we can all work toward a clean city.”
You're out walking in downtown Spokane.
You see someone coming who looks familiar. You can't place him. But you are pretty sure you have crossed paths with this person at one time or another.
So you say “Hello.”
And Mystery Man just walks on by without saying anything.
What to conclude?
A) He has a hearing impairment. B) He was lost in deep thought. C) You don't really know him and so he didn't realize the greeting was intended for him. D) You do know him but can't recall the context because you dismissed him as a jerk long ago. E) He does not like you either. F) Whatever the circumstances, he's not worth two more seconds of consideration.
I went with F.
I'm told that since moving to Missouri from Spokane a few years ago, TV anchor Virginia Kerr has been a treat for those in the St. Louis media who enjoy commenting on the marriages, divorces and what have you of local on-air personalities.
Apparently one Kerr contretemps involved her supposedly live-tweeting giving birth to her own child.
In the summer of 1976, the final elimination bouts to determine who would make the U.S. Olympic boxing team were held in Burlington, Vermont. The city was chosen, I assume, because of its proximity to Montreal, site of the '76 games.
Anyway, I was in the bookstore at the University of Vermont when I saw Sugar Ray Leonard just a few feet away.
I asked him about one of his hands, which Howard Cosell had suggested might be injured.
He was quite nice and suggested that you can't believe everything Howard Cosell says.
I wished him well.
I haven't read Leonard's brand new tell-all autobiography. But something tells me that scintillating exchange isn't in the book.
Another time, quite a few years later, I noticed Carl Wilson standing nearby at a baggage carrousel in the Memphis airport.
I don't recall exactly what I said. I think I tried to make sure that he knew I hadn't mistaken him for his brother Brian. And I thanked him for the music.
He died a number of years ago. But I'm pretty sure that's him singing lead on “God Only Knows.” Not a bad legacy.
British Columbia resident Fred Tenisci recalled being down in Spokane for a 1999 Neil Young concert here.
Before the show, Tenisci happened to encounter the singer walking along the Spokane River downtown.
“He was obviously avoiding pesty crowds so we couldn't chat.”
Maybe it's true about Canadians being polite.
One big problem with a lot of homemade signs in Spokane is that they are hard to read.
What did your visitors from out of town think of the downtown river falls?
“We had friends visiting from Idaho Falls two weeks ago,” wrote Mark and Darlene O'Bleness. “Thought it would be nice to go downtown to look at the falls. When walking through the very beautiful Riverfront Park we saw the gondola. What a great way to see the falls, we thought.
“Bad idea. When on the gondola it was like being in a sauna. We were all miserable and could not enjoy the view if we could see it. The glass is so scratched it is hard to see through. The only thing our friends could say when the ride/torture ended was, 'That was miserable.'
“Maybe someone high up in the Park Department should ride the gondola on a hot day and see what it is like.
“We did enjoy viewing the falls from the steps below the WWP building. It did not cost $7.25 a person.
“Our visitors still like our city, but the gondola is not the way to show it off.”
And realize you have forgotten the rules of kickball.
“Our readers know what day to roll out the garbage on a holiday week.”
Out here in the West, it won't take anyone's breath away. But it's worth remembering that most of the 50 states have no point of elevation as high as the top of Mount Spokane.
Speaking of which…on how many different states' highest points have you stood?
Why do you think state and regional magazines seem to come and go in the Northwest while Texas Monthly sails on decade after decade?
1. The riders aren't burdened with the weight of a lot of upper-body muscle.
2. The ability to complete mountain stages seems almost superhuman.
3. France apparently has slightly tougher sign codes than Spokane.
4. Nobody over there would be all that impressed with what we refer to as an old building.
5. Phil and Paul sort of grow on you.
6. “Natural break” is one of the all-time great euphemisms.
1. If a person is willing to walk a bit, anyone can find shade to park in. But those who claim true excellence in the shade-parking arts also factor in the angle of the sunlight in the hours to come.
2. One thing Independence Day demonstrates is that there are all kinds of bicyclists in Spokane. Does this complicate matters for those who say they hate cyclists?
Perhaps some of us romanticize listening to baseball on the radio because it's one way to avoid seeing the constant spitting.
Identify the Spokane connection and you might win a coveted reporter's notebook.
Good luck not thinking about work.
“Dear Paul,” began an email from Mary Cayer, a Spokane accountant and longtime contributor to my print column.
“I don't want you to feel sad because not many people have been posting comments on your blog. Just be patient.”
Isn't that nice? People can be so kind.
Thanks, Mary. I'm not sad. Comments aren't the only measure of success.
When I was first learning the technical aspects of creating online items, the smart woman who trained me set the bar for The Slice Blog.
“I don't think it will be an epic fail,” she said.
And I think that, so far, it has been just a mid-range fail. So the way I see it, I'm on course or maybe even ahead of the game.
Besides, I like doing it. I have no intention of giving up my day job, but this is fun.
And you know, I have a little experience with creating something that takes a while to catch on.
There are people around here who are skeptical about reports that some of us occasionally experience the “ears popping” sensation when going up the South Hill.
They must assume the elevation change is not significant enough to ever prompt that pressure change reaction.
But they are, in a word, wrong.
Can you identify the Spokane connection to the classic episode “The Monsters are Due on Maple Street”?
But I don't want to call attention to those with missing fingers.
The line seemed to stretch from downtown to Airway Heights.
I should have known. Fridays are always busy. This is a Friday leading up to a long holiday weekend. And then there were people with first-of-the-month government checks.
But the wait gave me time to mull a few things. I concluded:
1. The late author/critic Cleveland Amory is another I could put on my list of those I've encountered while they were wearing a bathrobe. This was at a hotel next to the Grand Canyon 30 years ago. His animal rights group had organized a helicopter airlift of wild burros that the BLM was threatening to shoot.
2. I can never remember anything Betty Nguyen says.
3. It's a good bet that some “Game of Thrones” fans never stop saying “Winter's coming.”
Would include the gentleman on the left, the late Rufus Thomas. I had gone to his home to interview his daughter, Carla. He was wearing a bathrobe when he answered the doorbell. Seemed like a good guy.
Going to www.npr.org, clicking on “Programs” and then tracking down the “Fresh Air” discussion of how industrial farming made tomatoes lose their flavor.
There are a fair number of people who once listened to a lot of FM radio and heard countless drag-racing commercials but still have no idea what a “funny car” is.