Advertise Here

The Slice

Archive for October 2011

If you open the door and see this

It might mean that you have watched so much television that you have finally become trapped in a TV show, in this case an episode of AMC's “Mad Men” called “The Hobo and The Gypsy.”  

Halloween in 1955

How is this kid able to make his trick-or-treat bag remain suspended in mid-air? Or is it supposed to be falling?

Dress code

You are no longer required to wear high heels when handing out Halloween candy.

Two questions

Are you even remotely interested in opinions on the Spokane mayoral race held by those who do not reside in the city of Spokane?

Do you find that people who bought SUVs for safety reasons sound a little funny telling others they should not have studded tires?  

Battle of the costumes

Calming the “What if?” people

There are, in our midst, individuals who have active imaginations when it comes to preparing for trick or treaters.

Even after bags of candy have been purchased — way more than you'll need,  these folks worry.

“What if we have a late rush?”

You can try to reason with these people. You can attempt to calm them with assurances that everything will be fine.

But still they fret.

“What if we get more kids than ever?”

Reminding them that you are already well prepared for that unlikely event won't calm them. All you can do is buy more candy at the eleventh hour.

Then maybe the “What if?” people can relax.

And there will be even more Snickers miniatures to dump at your workplace on Tuesday.

Not all reporters are neutral observers

And not all headline writers feel the need to make the lines come out even.

The headcount

When it comes to trick or treat, just about everyone who hasn't absurdly demonized Halloween considers himself an ace trend-spotter/holiday analyst.

Chances are you will be reminded of this Tuesday morning, when you'll hear acquaintances report this year's numbers.

Of course, the basic themes have been apparent for years: A few neighborhoods still see lots of trick-or-treaters. Others get zero action. And many fall somewhere in between.

But not everyone weighing in on Halloween trends relies entirely on sweeping extrapolations based on scant statistical evidence. No, some people keep a precise tally of the kids coming to their front doors. And quite a few families have been doing so for many years.

Some simply conduct an overall headcount. Others also try to keep track of costume categories.

A few candy-dispensers make notes about the weather. And some can look back on their annual counts and tell you how a Wednesday Halloween turnout has typically differed from trick-or-treat volume on Saturday nights.

You can't blame them for feeling a tad superior, these folks who conduct a Halloween census. After all, they know what they're talking about.

Others might say something vague and imprecise like “I think we had a few more last year.”

Which gives the headcount people an opening to pipe up with “Well, we had 51 kids Monday night — down from 74 in 2010 and 68 in 2009, but nowhere near our 1969 high of 201…of course Halloween fell on a Friday that year.”

Halloween in another century

This date in Slice history (1994)

Today's Slice question: What are the Inland Northwest's most frequently stolen office supplies?

How many people around here can…

…say they were working in the lab late one night?

Cereal and Halloween, together again

“Oh, boy. Thanks, Lady. Breakfast cereal!”

Of course, Kellogg's couldn't let Post have this action all to itself.

For the highest quality masks…

I had always thought Sugar Bear was male. Maybe those others are a few of his witches.

Apparently constipation can ruin Halloween. Who knew?

And, of course, there's The Count. 

In the sweet buy and buy

Now, of course, we have entered the period when temptation will be at its peak.

With just over a week to go before Halloween, it's now plausible that the candy you're buying could be intended for trick or treaters.

No one would have believed that a few weeks ago. But now, well maybe you really are serious.

But the home stretch can be the toughest time when it comes to keeping your mitts off the junk-food snacks. The key, though, is pretty simple.

Just do not allow yourself to utter the following words: “I'd better check to make sure they're OK.” 

Here’s something I have wondered

How many people living in the Selkirk Mountains have Selkirk Rex cats?

This date in Slice history (2001)

Products That Would Never Sell Department: Madeleine Rush, 5, was enjoying a can of fruit juice until she asked her parents what kind it was. She immediately put the can down when she thought she heard them say “poison berry.”

She happily resumed drinking after being assured it was “boysenberry.”

All roads lead to Spokane

People don’t really want to hear it

Someone I visited had a copy of a 2011 novel by a writing teacher who lived in Spokane 20 years ago.

Seeing it reminded me of time I spent with her while working on a feature story. This was just before she achieved national prominence.

She was perfectly pleasant and it was a fine reporting experience. She was quite gracious. But there was this one tiny moment of tension.

I was paging through some voluminous appendix to her CV and noticed a reference to a review of her work in the Cleveland newspaper. But instead of “The Plain Dealer,” it incorrectly said “The Plains Dealer.”

I pointed this out. She would want to know, right?

Not really. At least she didn't seem to appreciate hearing it from me.

Perhaps she simply assumed I didn't know what I was talking about. That happens to me a lot.

Speaking in tongues

A co-worker told me about plans to go camping or fishing or something with a fellow who used to work with us.

I didn't know this guy well, but got along with him fine. Once while doing a story on summer camp, we spent the night in a cabin that also housed a couple of the boys who were counselors.

My then-colleague, a photographer, talked in his sleep. In Swedish.

It was not a bother. It was interesting, actually. Reminded me of a college roommate I had who was a member of the Navajo tribe. He occasionally vocalized while asleep, and I couldn't understand any of that either .

Anyway, thinking of my former co-worker this week made me wonder.

On a typical night in the Inland Northwest, how many people talking in their sleep are speaking a language other than English?

I don't know how we would arrive at an answer. But in a place that tends to view itself as pretty monochromatic, I'll bet the truth is surprisingly colorful. 

No, Faber College wasn’t in Tennessee

Despite the Volunteer State flag on display in this “Animal House” scene featuring a ticked off Dean Wormer.

If you like to sing

Be sure to check out Saturday's print Slice.

The connection will become apparent tomorrow.

On another note, I don't think there are any mountains like that in Kentucky. 

A Friday morning eye-opener

Who ever heard of a container holding 11 ounces?

Twelve? Sure. Sixteen? Of course. But 11?

Actresses who lived in Idaho include…

Sherry Jackson, shown here in an episode of “Star Trek.”

According to online sources, she was born in Wendell. You might remember her from “The Danny Thomas Show,” “The Twilight Zone,” and Playboy magazine.

A long-ago encounter

I'm not a Billy Joel fan.

Just never cared for his music.

But you wouldn't have ever heard me say a bad word about the guy.

About 35 years ago, very early in his career, he did a concert in the small city where I was finishing college and working for the little daily newspaper. I interviewed him after the remarkably high-energy show.

When we first sat down to visit, he commented that he was having a hard time catching his breath. He wasn't acting like he thought he was having a heart attack or anything. But he did seem genuinely baffled.

Apparently no one told him we were at 7,000 feet and the air was a bit thin. So I suggested that his shortness of breath was in all likelihood attributable to the altitude.

He seemed honestly grateful for this information.

I don't remember much about the interview. But he was likable, seemingly unaffected and generous with his time.

The encounter did not turn me into someone who purchased his albums. But It's funny how a favorable first impression lingers.

Years later, during his messy divorce from swimsuit model/alleged shrew Christie Brinkley, I found myself totally taking his side. And I wished I could have whispered something in his ear before he ever married her.

“Hey, Billy. The air's a bit thin up where you are. Think it over, man.”  

This date in “Patty Duke Show” history

An episode called “The Boy Next Door” first aired on Oct. 21, 1964.

Though the title would seem to say it all, here's how summed it up: “Patty and Cathy battle each other over their new next door neighbor.” 

This date in Slice history (1995)

Today's Slice question: Who holds the Inland Northwest record for the longest time/most miles hauling around the exact same load in the back of a pickup truck? 

Spot the irrelevant question

Who are our customers and potential customers?

What do they want? (And how do we know that?)

What's the best way to deliver that?

What will our customers want tomorrow?

What do we offer that distinguishes us from our competition?

How can we communicate that?

Do our employees care about/believe in our product/service?

For us, is quality just a slogan?

Will the office Christmas party be another cheapo affair?

Update on my boycott of local TV news

Readers of the print Slice may recall that a few months ago I declared an intention to discontinue watching Spokane TV news.

In a nutshell, I had grown weary of being told how I'm supposed to feel about the weather. I prefer to make up my own mind.

Well, I have to admit that I have been backsliding a little bit. In the last couple of weeks, I've felt free to watch a few minutes now and then.

And I have one question: Who are these people?

It seems like the actual reporting staffs have gone through a 90 percent turnover since I pulled the plug, so to speak.

I had heard that some regulars were gone. But I had no idea the shuffle had been this drastic.        

Actresses who lived in Idaho include…

…Christina Hendricks of “Mad Men.” She lived in Twin Falls as a child.

This date in “Charlie’s Angels” history

An episode called “Angels in Chains” first aired on Oct. 20, 1976.

Here's a summary from “The Angels trace a missing woman to a prison where inmates are forced into prostitution.” 

Subject lines that cry out “Delete!”

“Expert Available to Discuss Dating Tips for Valentine's Day 2012”

If your usual breakfast is pretty ho-hum

I recommend not going past the Davenport Hotel before 6 a.m., when all sorts of enticing breakfast aromas are being vented into the public square. Suddenly your oatmeal and yogurt will seem pretty darned lackluster. 

This date in Slice history (1994)

One-time offer: Sue Windham reported finding a pair of clean, French cut bikini briefs in Wednesday's Swell Paper, purchased at a rack near Altamont Pharmacy. 

It’s a great time to be bald in Spokane

That's because the gnats, aphids, brain borers, nasal nymphs or whatever they're called are out in force. And they tend to get in your hair, literally.

So, no hair means debugging your person is a whole lot easier when you are about to go back indoors. Sure, they'll still be clinging to your clothes. But you can flick most of those off. Extricating them from your tresses is another matter entirely.

Bug season also raises questions about the advantages of certain hair colors.

If you have dark hair, the bugs aren't so visible that someone 10 feet away can note that you are infested. On the other hand, light colored hair does allow people to inspect themselves with some assurance that most of the uninvited hitchhikers will be detected.

Of course, some of the insects look white. So, in that case, the opposite scenarios would come into play.

In any event, here in a city of ballcap wearers, you might want to think about putting something on your head before you go out.

Just so long as it's not a Texas Rangers cap.

Know your corvids

A fair number of people around here can't tell the difference between crows and ravens.

And despite what some of my readers might suggest, I am not one of them.

Every time I mention crows in my column, I hear from someone who says “Those are actually ravens.”

Sometimes this is said in a good-natured way. Sometimes not.

It's always puzzling to me that people would be so confident in their mistaken belief that they would not bother to check their facts before taking the liberty of “correcting” someone. But I suppose politics and matters of public policy aren't the only things about which some of us willingly embrace erroneous notions.

Yes, we have ravens around here. But they have several distinctive features. Look it up.

When I say I'm talking about crows, I'm talking about crows.

So what explains the fact that so many people are confused? I've thought about this. And I think it all goes back to childhood cartoons and comic books featuring crows with yellow beaks. Some people see a black beak and assume it can't be a crow.

If you have another theory, I'd love to hear it.

Warning: Baby boomer nostalgia below

Some of the mysteries of the ages remained unsolved throughout the 1960s.

For instance, in dodgeball, why didn't certain boys (the prey species) learn to do a better job of protecting their privates from the deadly aim of the more athletic lads (predators)?

And why was there always one kid in class who ate Elmer's glue like it was Milk Duds?

This date in Slice history (2001)

Today's Slice question: When interviewing a pumpkin about a seasonal job opening on your porch, what questions should you ask it? 

20 years ago on this day on “MST3K”

On Oct. 19, 1991, Joel and the bots watched “Gamera vs. Zigra.”

Their what-the-hell fondness for that giant, rocket-powered turtle and their inspired improvisations on the Gamera theme song made this episode a fan favorite.

Even the most rabid Coug has to…

…love these dogs. And just to be clear, I am referring to the actual canines.

According to a UW site, King Chinook — the mascot about 50 years ago — once ran out on to the field during a game and stuck his nose into the Illinois huddle.

I suppose the dog's handler went out and retrieved him and that was that.

But that's not how it would play out in the movie version of that moment. Not, at least, in a Slice Studios release called “Leashless in Seattle.”

When the big dog runs out onto the field, the predictable laughter and cheering from the crowd is noticeably absent. That's because everyone knows the spirited mascot  has simply gotten to be too much for his handler, everybody's favorite campus codger, Bud MacDougall. And it's understood that this incident will embarrass the beloved white-haired gentleman.

But then something happens that turns the somber mood into smiles.

The Illini quarterback, Chip Royko, gets down on one knee and strokes the top of King Chinook's huge head. Then, with a gentle hand on the mascot's collar, Chip walks the big dog back toward the UW sideline.

Bud MacDougall's beautiful granddaughter, a UW sophomore named Fiona, trots out to meet Chip and King Chinook.

The two young people exchange shy smiles as King Chinook looks back and forth at their blushing faces.

The Seattle crowd has been taking this in silently. But Chip's good-natured response to the interruption of the hard-fought game wins them over. And by the time the visiting team's signal-caller is headed back to his teammates, a smattering of applause has turned into a thundering ovation.

Fiona's brother Robert, captain of the Husky defense, steps across the field and meets Chip on his way back to the huddle. They shake hands.

On the sideline, King Chinook lets loose with a wolf-like howl. Bud MacDougall thows his own head back and roars with laughter.

And somehow everyone knows that Chip and Fiona are bound to wind up together.

In love, in Washington, and surrounded by oh so many puppies. 


Another ice age has arrived

So I walked over to Riverfront Park to purchase my 2011-12 Ice Palace pass. Opening day is tomorrow.

My picture on my pass this year looks as if it was taken during a disfiguring teleportation accident. But I'm looking forward to the season.

I don't think I can take a shot at being first on the ice tomorrow, as has been my off-and-on tradition. Got a lot to do Wednesday. But I will get over there soon and reacquaint myself with the fact that riding a bike doesn't totally prepare you for skating.

My former colleague Susan English introduced me to the Ice Palace more than 20 years ago. Her attitude was “Isn't it cool to have this right here in the midst of downtown?”

Yes. It is.


On newsstands this week in 1967

If this encounter didn't help Cheever clarify questions about his sexuality, I don't suppose anything would.

This date in Slice history (1996)

Today's helpful Inland Northwest lifestyle tip: If you are afraid of winter, you live in the wrong place.

Snow happens.

Just wondering

When you hear some “Harvest Festival” proponent bashing Halloween for being a celebration of evil or whatever, do you find yourself wondering how that person arrived at such a twisted understanding of the traditional Oct. 31 reality?

Departure fatigue

We all know people who recently have left or are going to be leaving their places of employment. Some have gone willingly, others not so much.

But the latest wave to move on shouldn't feel slighted if it seems there isn't a lot of excitement about planning farewell parties or gatherings of some sort.

At some point, saying goodbye over and over starts to wear people down.

Winter preview: Backyard ice rinks

What Spokane resident did she play?

Hint: The movie in question was set during a time before the person lived here. 

Before microchips, Iron Man was…

…powered by transistors. Which gives you an idea how long that character has been around.

Spokane’s Patrice Munsel

If you watched “The Walking Dead”

You might want to know that you weren't the only one who wondered if they would find a banged-up Louisiana license plate when inspecting the contents of that one zombie's stomach.

Some teens’ dreams do come true

Ray Whitney knew he was going to be a pro hockey player.

Even if others doubted it because he's small by NHL standards.

Back in 1989 or 1990, I spent a couple of days on the road with the Spokane Chiefs. During one stretch I sat next to Whitney on the bus. He was 16 or 17. But he saw his future with absolute clarity.

He was right. The doubters were wrong. His name is on the Stanley Cup and he's still a productive player in the National Hockey League, having enjoyed a career far longer than virtually all the sure-things who have come and gone.

Saturday night on the pregame show part of CBC's “Hockey Night in Canada,” there was a shot of some players dressed in suits walking into the back side of an arena. Whitney was one of them.

Seeing him made me think about a conversation I'd had with a woman in an elevator a few weeks ago. Her son had just started college. He wants to pursue a career in theater. That will be his major.

The woman acknowledged that he might need a Plan B at some point. But for now, why not let him take a shot at his goal.

Ray Whitney did. And he scored.  

How much would you have to drink…

…to convince yourself that we're all equal when it comes to politics?

A thought no one else had entertained

If you have read much about “Peanuts” creator Charles Schulz, you know he was pretty screwed up in several ways. (Who isn't, some might add.) But he left us many gifts. And one of them is the idea that a pumpkin patch could be evaluated in terms of its sincerity.

That, my friends, is original thinking.

You know who I like?

I like people who wear alumni apparel on Sunday after their school's football team got thumped on Saturday.

It's easy to pull on your sweatshirt or fly your flag after a victory. And there's certainly nothing wrong with that. (Let's just take it as a given that the wearer also cares about the school's academics and research programs.)

But it's a different sort of impulse that gets someone to fly his flag or don her alum togs and go out in public the day after  a loss. To me, these folks are the exact opposite of losers.

Of course, some of these people don't follow sports and aren't making a statement. Or maybe they didn't even attend the school in question. They're just wearing a sweatshirt they got as a gift.

But that reality sort of muddies my theme here. So let's just hum a few bars of “Be True To Your School” and move on.

Any family terrorized by a drunk…

…could relate to this famous tagline.

Showing off your figure at Halloween

Has been around since at least 1958.

Up, up and away

At about 2:30 this afternoon, four rogue helium balloons flew away from the decorative festivity of a car dealership at Third and Jefferson downtown.

As they climbed toward the overcast sky, they seemed to be headed in the direction of the airport. You had to wonder how high they would go.

This reminded me of a time many years ago when one of my numbskull childhood peers planted a seed of anxiety. He suggested that our kite flying was a danger to air traffic.

Ridiculous, I know.

But consider this. We lived near an Air Force Base. A lot of planes criss-crossed the wild blue above our little chapter of “The Wonder Years.”

And we really did get our kites way up there. I can remember on at least one occasion connecting so many spools of string that I had to tie off a still-flying kite on a porch railing, go in to have dinner and then come back out to continue reeling it in. I'm not exaggerating.

So the notion of one of our Hi-Fliers getting sucked into a jet intake, while ludicrous, was not without some basis in kid-brain plausibility.

Of course, what I didn't know at the time is that some children are destined to grow up and become the sort of people who revel in saying “This could go on your permanent record, Chip!”

I think that explains the little fearmonger in our midst.

In any event, we didn't down any aircraft.

But I'll have to admit. It was kind of fun to imagine a pilot looking down and seeing one of our kites dancing just a few feet below. You could picture him saying to his co-pilot that some kid down there obviously had the right stuff. 

What person living in our area has…

…visited the Little Bighorn battlefield in Montana the greatest number of times. I've been twice, so I suspect I'm not in the running.

This day in “Northern Exposure” history

An episode called “Animals 'R' Us” first aired 20 years ago today.

Maggie is approached by a dog and decides it is the reincarnation of her old boyfriend.  

Sometimes you change your mind

When I was a little kid, I thought the Jaguar XKE was the coolest car in the known universe. I held this opinion for years.

Now, well, it strikes me as looking a bit silly. I wonder if others experience similar attitude changes over the years.

But feel free to defend the Jag. The 11-year-old me would give you an approving nod.

This famous Hopper painting is called…

A) “Cheeseburgers.” B) “Last Cup.” C) “Nighthawks.” D) “Nowhere Else To Be.”  E) “After Hours.” F) “Closing Time.” G) Other.

Shirting the issue

Let's say you have a relative who is an exceptionally skilled gift giver.

And let's say she gets you a shirt that, though unlike anything else you have, you really like. You wear it to work and actually get compliments.

Word gets back to your relative about what a hit the shirt is. So she gets you two more of the exact same style.

The color schemes are all different. But the look of the shirts is identical.

So here's the problem. You want to put all three in heavy wear-to-work rotation. But you are concerned that certain inattentive co-workers will think you are wearing the same shirt over and over.

We've all heard some of the smart remarks offered up about those who wear the same clothes repeatedly (and presumably without benefit of washing). And no one wants those sorts of things said about him or her.

So basically it comes down to two choices.

1) Wear the shirts as often as you like, uninformed public opinion be damned.

2) Space out wearing any of the three shirts.

A case could be made for either option. But with No. 2, the garments will probably last longer.

Two with nature

That's an old Woody Allen line. But it came to mind because of a couple of unexpected moments this week.

The other morning, before the sun had come up, the moon was astonishingly bright. You know, “I could read the fine print by this” bright.

I had just set out for downtown on my bike. A commercial airliner on landing approach passed overhead, right on schedule. And as I pedaled west the plane eased its way in front of the moon, the aircraft's shadow floating up the street ahead of me.

If I hadn't known I was alone, I would have jerked my head around in search of someone with whom to share the moment. “Did you see that?”

Then, this afternoon on my way home, a pine needle fell from the arboreal canopy and went right through my shirt, jabbing me. It was as if some tiny tights-wearing archer had aimed an arrow.

Maybe he's still back there, cackling. “A-haaaaa!”

Waiting for his next victim. 

Just call me Thornton Wilder

So I walk into the room where I'm about to get a flu shot, and a perfectly pleasant nurse smiles.

“I know you,” she says. “You're the Our Town guy.”

Before I figure out how to respond to that, she corrects herself.

But you know, I've been called worse.

Slice answer

BJ in Post Falls answered the question at the end of today's print column with another question.

“What do you mean 'when' plaid Pendleton shirts 'were' a Northwest icon?” 

People try to put us d-down

The Who recorded “My Generation” in London on this date in 1965. According to, the record company was worried that the song would offend those who stutter.

At least this is true before 6 a.m.

The louder the car stereo, the greater the likelihood that the driver is a smoker.

The fate of the early jack-o’-lanterns?

A) They will have turned into Salvador Dali clocks before Halloween. B) Maybe they'll make it, if the temps stay cool. C) Remember Dustin Hoffman's character in “Little Big Man,” when he was made up to look like he was 120 years old? Well, picture that. D) Depends on whether they have signed one of those “No extraordinary measures” directives. E) Grabbed by young vandals. Whereabouts unknown. F) Other. 

Looking ahead to an editor’s dilemma

How much do you cover normal winter weather?

If you don’t recognize these guys…

…I will assume you had several thousand extra hours to devote to your studies.

For boys of a certain age…

…this show almost made the idea of wearing suits seem cool. 

Get your motor runnin’

Head out on the highway

Lookin' for adventure

And whatever comes our way

Your wind chimes are too loud if…

 A) No one on your block can sleep on windy nights. B) Strange holy men from far-away lands hear the sound and make pilgrimages to your shrine/home. C) Your pets are wearing ear plugs. D) The company that makes those amazing noise-nullifying headphones keeps sending you checks. E) One third of your phone calls from neighbors begin with the plea, “Make it stop!” F) Other.

Another reason you wouldn’t last as…

…an STA driver.

The men and women behind the wheel of the bus are under pressure to stay on schedule. That's as it should be, of course.

But they are also encouraged to wait for late arrivals who are on their way to a bus stop. Naturally, most drivers would like nothing better than to give stragglers time to make it to the bus. But if you do that several times you quickly find yourself running late. And that's not good.

I suppose many of us face push/pull conflicts in our jobs. But the prospect of having to choose between being seen as a heartless bad guy or messing up the route schedule seems like something that would really wear you down after a while.  

Here’s a helpful hint

Before getting all huffy and going into “I want to speak to the manager” mode, ask yourself one question.

“Am I an utter moron?”

If yes, you might want to rethink your position.

I came in to the office this morning to find an email rebuke from a reader who had failed to understand the easily grasped point of a recent Slice item. She offered me a brief lecture on my “mistake.”

Fine. She's an idiot. We all are now and then. I wrote back and said I was aware that Christopher Columbus did not have a ship called the Pinto. (Someone having made that error was the whole basis of the column item.)

But here's what I really loved. She sent a copy of her email to the editor of this newspaper. I guess she wanted to get me in hot water.

How nice.

My hope is that this critic was drunk or is actually a child. Otherwise, she might be one of the 20 stupidest people I have dealt with in 19-plus years of doing this column. And believe me, the competition for that status has been ferocious.  

Sections from long-folded newspapers

Confession of a former raccoon feeder

If I had it to do over, I wouldn't feed the raccoons.

This was more than 10 years ago, back in a previous home in a different part of Spokane. The raccoons came to our ground-level balcony facing a woodsy area. And I'll admit it. They got treats.

Donuts, grapes, peanuts — you name it.

I know. It's a bad idea to feed wild animals.

But I had always thought of raccoons as fairly urbanized — streetwise omnivores, if you will. I suspect many of them have already lost their fear of us.

In any event, I was not trying to turn them into screwed-up 1960 Yellowstone grizzlies feeding at the dump. I just thought maybe getting a snack from me might keep them from crossing a few busy streets in the dark.

Plus, they were a delight to watch.

Still, I wouldn't do it again. (Though, in our defense, the first raccoon actually chowed down on some food that had been put out for magpies.)

I still think about those masked visitors, and hope the descendants of the ones we knew are keeping out of trouble.

And sometimes on garbage night, which is tonight, I'll stare at some food item getting tossed. And I'll wonder.

Would the raccs have liked this?

I think I know the answer.

When a girlfriend can slow a guy down

Barry Allen (secret identity of the Silver Age Flash) had a girlfriend named Iris West — no relation to Spokane's former mayor. She could be a bit of a pain. At one time, she was a newspaper reporter for a publication called Picture News. One can only imagine what her editors said about her behind her back.

“Did you have a chance to read the latest opus from Iris?”

“Yes. I think you should tell her that it needs to shrink by about half.”

“I would but I'd be no use to my family once my head has been bitten off.”

This was an actual ad campaign

Now, I think, there's an extra $25 charge for sexual innuendo.

A proposed experiment

I wonder what would happen if you put an old copy of Famous Monsters of Filmland in with the magazines in a Spokane medical waiting room. Would anyone even notice the exotic reading fare?

Before high-tech mobile studios

TV news operations relied on vehicles such as this. (A friend at KXLY shared this photo from 1963.)

The annual question

Those who watch baseball on TV only at this time of year typically have a few questions.

Some wonder why the commercials are so off-putting and why it's the same four over and over.

Others want to clarify the difference between a double and a double play.

But almost all eventually get around to the one time-honored head-scratcher.

“What's with all the spitting?”

Has anyone ever come up with a decent answer?

A small percentage of modern players chew tobacco, so that's not it. And the theory of spontaneous saliva overloads has been pretty well debunked.

So, really, what is it? 

Select your caramel apple-eating style

A) Great white shark. B) Zombie. C) Squirrel. D) T Rex. E) Rabid wolf. F) Billy goat. G) Member of the Donner Party. H) Piranha. I) Tyson vs. Holyfield. J) Python. K) Other.

Let the countdown begin

It's three weeks and one day until workplaces will be awash in Halloween candy leftovers. Which would be good if we were grizzly bears and needed to fatten up before winter. Alas, we are not bears. We are the species that came up with “Do you want fries?” and calling a telemarketing interruption a “courtesy call.”

Filmed Here and Forgotten Department

This did not generate “Halloween”-esque buzz, to put it mildly.

Back when families had just one TV

The fact that my older sister wanted to watch “Peyton Place” created some television-access tension. At its peak, the prime-time soap aired something like three nights a week. And it conflicted with programs I wanted to watch. I'm not sure how this was resolved. After all, it wasn't like recording shows was an option.

Maybe it was on after my bedtime some nights, at least during the school year. Or perhaps my sister grew weary of my running critique of the show's implausible narrative arc and went across the street to watch it with a friend.

Oddly enough, in subsequent years I found myself turning into a bit of a Barbara Parkins fan.


Driven to drink

Surely at least a few of those watching the latest Ken Burns series on PBS, “Prohibition,” sat there looking at glass after glass being filled with tumbling golden or amber liquid and found that they had no choice but to get up and pour themselves a beer.  

Real life in Spokane

Let's say you have a neighbor — neighbor A — who posts campaign signs for candidates you would not vote for on a dare.

And then you have another neighbor — neighbor B — who posts signs for politicians you support.

Well, the zealots would have you believe that there's no question you would prefer to have contact with neighbor B. But sometimes it tuns out that you actually like neighbor A better, depite your electoral differences.

Those who use politics as a litmus test for all human interaction wouldn't get that. But then, there's a lot they don't understand.

How to interpret what a crow is saying

“Caw caw caw” can mean several things, including “Hey, human, please stop saying 'carmel apple.' It's 'caramel,' for Pete's sake.” 

This date in “Combat!” history

“Rear Echelon Commandos” first aired on Oct. 9, 1962. According to online episode guides, Sgt. Saunders is less than impressed with three untested replacements assigned to him. But he soon finds himself having to count on them in a dangerous situation.

This early-in-the-series episode was directed by Robert Altman.    



October, 9, 2011

To: Friends, Family, Members of the Spokane Media

From: P. Turner

It is with heavy heart and yet clear eyes that I issue the following announcement.

I have, as of this date, discontinued wearing short-sleeve shirts.

I do not take this step lightly. But it is my hope that this transition will allow me to spend more time with my family and pursue exciting new sartorial opportunities.

Please let there be no misunderstanding. Though there have been rumors of creative differences, I want to state for the record that I have enjoyed these months of wearing short sleeves. And in taking this step, I am in no way intending to disparage our past collaboration. I respect and honor short-sleeve shirts. This decision was arrived at through mutual, congenial consent.

It has been a satisfying, productive run. I could recount many short-sleeve highlights and accomplishments. But now is a time to look forward.

I am excited about wearing long-sleeve shirts and anticipate a long, fruitful association.

Well, at least until spring.

Truckin’, like the do-dah man

I like this photo partly because it looks to me like a still from an old movie.

You know, they're hauling some sort of contraband. Or the driver is about to pick up a fetching damsel in distress. Or this truck has an appointment with a sharp turn and a steep cliff.

If you like pictures of old trucks, and who doesn't, check out the site credited below.

Trivia question way too tough for you

When Le Mystere des Voix Bulgares performed at what was then known as The Met in downtown Spokane on March 25, 1992, what classic American song did they sing as an encore?  

People who visited the S-R include…

…B movie actress Beverly Garland (below). About 20 years ago, after her film/TV career, she stopped in at the features department and visited with an editor. I think she was doing PR for a cruise line.

I knew who she was because of “Mystery Science Theater 3000” and her late-run role in “My Three Sons.”

Signs of the season on 10/8/11

1. The family ahead of you in line at the grocery store has a pumpkin that's bigger than a couple of the kids.

2. The wild turkeys that stroll through residential areas have gotten big.

3. Geraniums are polishing their last will and testament paperwork.

Glass menagerie

When I was a kid, every boy I knew owned marbles. But I cannot remember one who could actually play the game with even a modicum of skill. (You know, the thing where you try to knock your opponent's marbles outside a circle.)

Attempts at flicking a larger shooter with one's thumb invariably resulted in someone sitting around the circle getting bonked in the face with an errant marble. And that would lead to spirited young sportsmen chucking marbles at one another. Hard. That was essentially like having an up-close rock fight. So the charm of marbles competitions quickly ran its course.

Still, they were fun to have and handle. And they sure were cool looking. 

How to be a foliage snob

The approach of Columbus Day is a reminder that fall color season is coming. And anyone can sound like an experienced leaf-peeper. Just  remember to occasionally say …

1 “Not enough red.”

2. “It's OK, I guess. If you like yellow.”

3. “Too early.”

4. “Past peak.”

5. “Too many evergreens.”

6. “Muted.”

7. “Well, it's nothing like the fall of '67.”

Fending off the Friday night swoon

For those who build up a bit of a sleep deficit through the work week, the hours of decision are near.

Will you conk out in your recliner? Or will you rouse yourself and do a convincing impression of someone who, as it might have been observed by certain others, “Used to be a lot of fun”?

A case could be made for either approach.

Crashing early on a Friday evening offers the sweet comfort of healing, restorative rest. What's not to like about that?

But shifting into madcap bon vivant mode — “Hey, I'm dancing!”… “Waiter, some more of these for everybody, if you please” — offers a stirring rebuttal to those arguing that you have not only seen the hill but marched over it.

Of course, if you simply arranged to get a little more sleep during the week, Friday evening wouldn't present such a daunting choice. You might be wide awake and raring to go.

Come to think of it, though, maybe that's why they invented Saturday night.

This date in “Jetsons” history

On October 7, 1962, an episode called “Jetson's Nite Out” aired for the first time.

According to various online guides, the story features George telling Jane he has to work late and can't attend a PTA meeting with her. His real plans involve going to a robot football game with Mr. Spacely.

Coats as a measure of income disparity

Walking around downtown this morning, I was reminded that a fair number of those who don't have a lot of money also don't have a lot of jackets.

So plenty of apparently low-income people were wearing heavy winter coats, especially the kids. Because it wasn't THAT cold, you have to guess they wore those because that's all they have. They probably don't own nifty little windbreakers and sporty light jackets.

You can't blame anyone for wanting to be warm. But I'm pretty sure that's not it.

How can I tell who's poor and who's not? Well, there are plenty of clues and you know that perfectly well.

Anyway, I'm not putting anyone down here.

But next time I'm tempted to write something about the need to gradually escalate the insulating value of your outer wear as winter approaches, I'll have to remember. Not everyone has that luxury.   

Editor’s note

I am informed that versions of an observation in today's print column have been bouncing around the Internets for a few years.

(Insert classic bad word here.)

I do not blame the submitting reader. He's a good guy. And people can independently come up with similar ideas. But I should have checked it.

Of course, some individuals do not realize it is wrong to pass off another's work as their own.

A few years ago, when a new features editor was in his first week on the job he noted that something in an upcoming Slice column (submitted by a medical doctor) was a note-for-note rip-off of a national comedian's routine. Or possibly a remarkable coincidence.

In any event, on that occasion, I had time to replace it. Today I learned too late.

(Insert another bad word here.) 

What’s a psycho killer to do these days?

They used to be able to don a hockey goalie's mask before going on a rampage of murderous mayhem. But have you seen modern goalie's masks? They just aren't scary. They look like something designed by a Pee Wee player's safety-conscious mother.

So with about three weeks until Halloween, it's time for slashers and their imitators to find a new look.

Make it stop

Got an email this morning from a New York PR firm informing me that several experts were ready and willing to talk about New Year's resolutions.

Grab a memory of Walk in the Wild

In explaining the Spokane Valley zoo's failure, there was plenty of blame to go around. But certainly the public's arguably unrealistic expectations were part of the problem.   

I could smell fireplace smoke tonight

So hot chocolate can't be far behind. Now with vitamins.

When Olga Korbut came to Spokane

It was in July. Memories of her mind-blowing 1972 Olympics were fresh.

Happy birthday, Blake

Spokane's Blake Yirak turns 20 on Friday.

His mom, Keri, said she has been sharing Blake stories with The Slice for 17 years.

Thanks to both.

One of my favorites came very early in his athletic career.

Blake had just gotten his first jock strap. He was eager to try it out.

So he wore it that night when he went to the circus.

Yes, under a pair of pants. But still.    

Where were you 30 years ago?

If you were thinking of touching his stuff, just remember. He'll kill you.

Someone you know died on this date

Actor Ted Bessell passed away on Oct. 6, 1996. He was most famous for playing Donald, the perpetually exasperated boyfriend on “That Girl!”

He also had implied sex with Mary Richards on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.”  

Just wondering

The start of the 11-month National Hockey League season seems like a good time to ask how many cable TV subscribers wish the CBC was part of their lineup of channels.

Selecting Spokane’s seasonal royalty

There's still time to submit your nomination for the title of King or Queen of Sprinkler Blowout Season. 

This date in “West Wing” history

On Oct. 6, 1999, a first season episode called “A Proportional Response” aired. It featured an angry President Bartlet trying to decide how to retaliate for the downing of a U.S. jet in the Mideast. Also, Charlie Young is hired to be the president's personal assistant.

Storage capacity (old school)

What did you/do you keep in one? I found them ideal for baseball cards.

The thrilling story of an orange cat’s life

Oh, wait. Annette is the girl. That's right. But what's with the raccoon eyes? The cat can't bear to look at her. Poor kid.

Theories sought

I've always heard that this movie was wildly popular in Spokane 40 years ago. So I have two questions.

Did you see it?

Why do you think it was a bigger hit here than in many other places?

Rejected advertising copy

“Hi, Kathy! As soon as I get this coat off I'm going to grab that stupid pennant and ram it up his Ballantine.”

Feats of daring in everyday life

Sometimes circumstances arise where a person will sit down with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and only then realize that he does not have something to drink.

“Bad word.”

The only sane thing to do, of course, is to get up and fetch a glass a milk. Just takes a minute.

But what if that individual is extremely comfortable where he is and doesn't really feel like rousing himself? Well, one option is to tell himself that he can manage to eat the sandwich without benefit of dairy-product lubrication.

That's a mistake.

There is no need to go into the gummy details of esophageal impaction or point out the folly of thinking “Maybe if I just keep eating, the blockage will clear itself.”

Nor is there anything to be gained here by alluding to scenes from “House” or other entertainment offerings featuring medical personnel jabbing holes in people's throats. (Besides, that is usually done to clear the airway — not to dislodge an obstructionist snack.)

So let's just call eating a PB&J without having something at hand with which to wash it down exactly what it is — a high-wire act.

Sure, you might pull it off. But do you really want to take the chance?

Remember, calling out for help from your recliner might not do much good if you seem to be saying “Mmmphfffgaaaaaa.”     

Did you note that Pete Gent died?

This novel helped make at least a few people skeptical about the values underpinning the NFL. And it led to a movie in which the audience was asked to accept the notion of Nick Nolte as a pro receiver.

I guess he must have run precise routes.     

Having fun with flatulence

With his own kids now discouraging my friend Mike Carlson from “sugaring up” his grandchildren, he has come up with something new.

He now feeds the little ones baked beans.

“I call it tootering the grandkids,” he said.

If you don't get the connection, well, you don't get the connection. 

It’s not like it’s a sister city but…

…it seems as if an inordinate number of Spokane families have some link to Fort Worth, Texas. You know, they had a child born there or whatever. The simple explanation would be the connection between Carswell Air Force Base and Fairchild. But sometimes it almost seems as if there is something else going on. What that might be, I cannot imagine.

This date in “Mad Men” history

“The Inheritance” aired on Oct. 5, 2008. As put it, “Don and Betty try to keep up appearances as they go to Betty's parents after her dad has a stroke.”

It's a terrific series, stylish and smart. But no one ever called it feel-good TV.  

Good thing or bad: You make the call

Delivering the news

I had fleetingly imagined the possible answer several times.

So maybe I was bound to be disappointed. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

There's this house on my route home from work. I pass it every weekday. Fastened about shoulder-high next to the front door is a Spokane Chronicle delivery tube. One of the distinctive orange ones.

As you know, the Chron hasn't been around for about 20 years. But you still see a few of the boxes.

Anyway, I always told myself that if I ever saw someone in the front yard I would comment on the delivery tube.  And ask “What's the deal?”

Today I did. A fellow with white hair emerged from the front door just as I was approaching. I called out that I admired his Spokane Chronicle box.

“Why?” he said.

Fair question. So, trying to be concise, I launched into a short spiel about remembering newspapers that are gone now.

He then explained, if I heard him right while circling in the street, that he got it from someone who had several because his previous mailbox didn't keep his letters and magazines dry.


Nothing about lingering loyalty to a stilled editorial voice or any of that. I should have known.

Still, it's a cool tube.  

This date in “Lou Grant” history

The episode of “Lou Grant” first airing on Oct. 4, 1977 was called “Hoax.”

Here's how describes it: “Lou must evaluate the credibility of a former colleague known for passing bad leads when the old man comes in with a tip on the whereabouts of a missing tycoon.”

Typical day for a city editor.

Here’s an unusual vantage of NCHS

Well, I guess it's not really that unusual if you live near this school in Indianapolis.

If you would like to play this game on your own, try searches for “Central Valley High School,” “East Valley High School,” et cetera.

We are not alone.

Daydreaming about good old Spokane

Or maybe he was thinking about how much he was being paid by the Philco folks.

The importance of being a society swell

There are cities where a fair percentage of the well-to-do seem keenly interested in their perceived social standing.

Exposure to such individuals and their offspring sometimes makes Communism attractive.

One of the things many of us like about Spokane is the fact that there aren't a lot of people here obsessed with high-society BS. This just isn't that kind of place.

Maybe that's because we are not overrun with the idle rich. Or perhaps it has something to do with that dynamic, found throughout the West, of people being judged more on their merits than on their family name.

But that's not to say there aren't any people here who aspire to be considered among Spokane's version of society swells. They exist. I'll even go so far as to quantify it. (Feel free to disagree with my estimates.)

Would love to be seen as having “social elite” status: 7%

Would admit to the above: 0%

Would like to see anyone photographed at a social function rounded up and placed in confinement: 72%

Thinks society functions are a place to put the arm on people for business or donations: 11%

Sees a certain kind of vacuous holding-a-glass-of-champagne smile and immediately thinks “Let's start the revolution today”: 8%

Enjoys Spokane society photos for local cleavage potential: 1%

Thinks daily newspapers are struggling because they mostly did away with the old-style society page: 1%


My first newspaper boss Googled himself the other day and came across something I had written about him in this blog several weeks ago.

That prompted him to send an email with three pictures of me from the late '70s attached.

It's not the first time we have communicated in recent times. A couple of years ago, we exchanged notes and I had the opportunity then to thank him for having been an understanding first boss.

But this latest email from him, specifically the photos, was a bit of a jolt.

Looking at my ridiculously long hair, I feel I have no choice but to issue a formal apology to any young person whose attire or grooming choices I might have mocked since becoming a crotchety “Get off my lawn!” guy.

Local “Pan Am” review

You might recall that I had asked a friend whose father was a TWA pilot to get her dad to watch “Pan Am” and then critique the new ABC show for me.

Ron Johnson, who lives in North Idaho, was kind enough to do so.

Nothing he said was mean-spirited. He realizes it's just a TV show, after all. But he noted that the pilots were unrealistically young for the dawn of the jet era. (There were a lot of experienced ex-military guys in the ranks at the time.) And the division of duties involving the captain and other members of the flight crew were way off.

Moreover, he chuckled at the notion that the inaugural flight of special New York-to-London service would have been flown by a pilot presumably low on the seniority/insider connections pecking order. 

But he noted that, yes, passengers used to dress up for air travel. And, as depicted, the level of security was, well, nothing we would recognize today.

He said the show gets one other thing right: The pulchritude.

Once upon a time, he said, attractive stewardesses were nothing less than part of the airlines' marketing plans.   

(Some of the other) Riverfront Park(s)

Salem, Oregon.

Mankato, Minnesota

Little Rock, Arkansas

Nashville, Tennessee

Laurel, Maryland

Williamsburg, Virginia

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

North Charleston, South Carolina

The difference between ads and reality

What do you suppose she is whispering in his ear?

“Missed a spot.”

Is Monopoly fun with just two people?

Maybe they're playing strip Monopoly. Better keep pounding that Schlitz.

“Dick Van Dyke Show” anniversary

The first episode of the classic sitcom aired 50 years ago today. The show is back on TV Land as of this afternoon, with multi-episode blocks.

Much has been written about the landmark series. But here's why I think it worked.

1. Rob Petrie was smart, funny and always likable. 2. Rob's workplace was an entertaining counterpoint to New Rochelle domesticity. 3. Richie Petrie's on-screen time was limited. 4. Laura Petrie wasn't just beautiful. She was, given the make-believe context, remarkably human. 5. Consistently top-notch writing. 6. Most adult viewers knew a Mel Coulee, a Jerry Helper and an Alan Brady. 7. Instead of the usual wildly over-the-top sitcom stuff (think “I Love Lucy”), the Petrie household was plausibly normal. Well, except maybe for the separate beds. And some of the home entertaining extravaganzas. 8. Most of the regulars could act. 9. One of TV's all-time best musical themes. 10. You could tell Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore actually liked one another.  

This date in “Twilight Zone” history

The series began its run on Oct. 2, 1959, with an episode called “Where is Everybody?” It starred Earl Holliman (above) as Mike Ferris (no relation to the Spokane family).

Sort of a cross between a last-man-on-Earth story and a study of the limits of our ability to endure beng alone, it's a bit muddled and not especially satisfying. But, not counting the pilot shown in 1958, it was at least the start of something big.  

Did you note membership on resume?

Looking ahead to October of 2012

It will be 50 years since the world survived the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Oh yes, we’ve got trouble. Right here.

When I visit my mother at her retirement community, I walk past a cheery recreation room.

Sometimes residents are in there playing Wii games. I know some of those folks and we exchange waves.

Once in a while, you'll see somebody's grandchildren playing ping-pong.

The feature that catches my eye, though, is the pool table. It beckons.

I can't recall the last time I played a game of billiards. But I've always thought of it as an entertaining activity. At least for a few minutes.

The way the smooth, tapered stick feels in your hands. The clicking of the balls. The geometry of the caroms. What's not to like.

Anyway, I've thought a time or two that if I ever went by that rec room, found it unoccupied and was in the right mood, I might stroll in and line up a shot.

Today was that day.

The lights were off except one shining down on the table. The balls were racked and ready.

I grabbed a cue stick, lifted the plastic frame from the triangle of balls and assumed the position.

Visions of pool-themed movies flickered. “My name? Spokane Fats. What do they call you? Or has no one ever heard of you?”

I eased the tip of the stick into the cue ball. Not too hard. Not too soft.

And the white ball skittered off the wedge of colored balls and promptly rolled into the left corner pocket.

Scratch. On the break, for crying out loud. Glad no one saw that.

I'm really more of a ping-pong man. 

How would you apologize to plants?

Suppose your routine gets disrupted for one reason or another.

And, as a consequence, you forget to water the house plants for an unacceptably long period of time.

What would you say to them (after giving them all a big drink, of course)?

A) “I apologize unreservedly.” B) “I have made you question who I am and how I could have done the things I did.” C) “Mistakes were made.” D) “It's me, not you.” E) Other. 

You can fool some of the people…

Last night in Salt Lake City, a Delta gate agent announced boarding for Flight 1304 to Spokane. He described it as having one stop in Walla Walla, which was news to those who had purchased tickets.

But after allowing passengers to exchange “What the…?” looks for a moment, he admitted that he was joking.

All's well that ends well, I suppose.

You know what they say re: imitation

A friend in junior high was so knocked out by this album cover that he subsequently made a short-lived hobby of taking mock album-cover photos. He would gather clothes, props and what have you and then recruit friends to pose as if members of an obscenely successful rock band.

There was no music, of course. Just album-cover art. Talentless teenage boys playing dress-up.

It's almost a certainty that somebody had the deranged notion that this might impress girls. I'm quite sure it didn't. 

Still, I'd sure like to see some of the photos he took.

I don't remember if my friend used a dog in any of the pictures. But if he did, I'll bet you anything the pooch was embarrassed for us.

Remember her from Psych 101?

That's doubtful. A glance at the website suggests quite clearly that computer software dressed this actress in the Cougs shirt.

Get blog updates by email

About this blog

Features writer Paul Turner is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review in the Features department. He writes "The Slice" column, which appears six times a week and produces general features stories for the Today section.

Latest comments »

Read all the posts from recent conversations on The Slice.

Search this blog
Subscribe to this blog
Advertise Here