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The Slice

Archive for April 2012

We didn’t even synchronize our watches

Seeing that B.B. King will be appearing at one of the casinos this week reminded me that I owe him a few bucks.

About 40 years ago, when I was in high school, two friends and I snuck into his concert at the University of Vermont's Patrick Gymnasium.

That was exactly the kind of thing boys in my circle always talked about doing but almost never actually pulled off.

But this caper did not require “Ocean's 11” planning. We just stood by a back door and waited for someone to come out. Then, as I recall, there was an “Event Staff” person to dodge. But it was dark inside and we had remarkably little trouble. It was almost disappointingly easy, if you know what I mean.

Sad to say, the three of us were music-appreciation lightweights. We would shell out good money to take a date to see, say, Poco. But Mr. King's guitar stylings were another matter. He was too good for us.

After just a few minutes of nodding and agreeing that this was a heavy scene or whatever, we got up and left.

I don't remember where we went after that. But it probably involved hamburgers and theoretical girls.

It never fails

Approximately 100 percent of the time that readers counsel me to stay away from controversial topics, it is in response to the expression of an opinion in The Slice with which they do not agree.

Of course, the thing some readers don't realize is that anything can be controversial.

The all-time angriest phone message I have received in the almost 20 years of doing The Slice came after I made some remark about cowboy hats.

Enough already

I heard from a Slice reader who has grown weary of the expression “game changer.”

Way-back machine

Ever looked carefully at a map of a place where you lived as a kid and realized the area had several interesting natural and historical attractions — all of which were not on your radar when you were a child?   

On the eve of National Bike Month

Maybe it would be helpful if we could all agree on a couple of things.

Some cyclists are asses.

So are some of cycling's critics. 

Did you go to your high school prom?

What are your memories?

We didn't have proms when I was in high school in the 1970s. They were considered too corporate or something.

There were teachers and administrators who interpreted this as student apathy. But that wasn't quite right. We cared deeply about not caring about proms.

Another great use of newspapers

If you don't use a certain bedroom ceiling fan during the winter, you will want to carefully dust the blades before firing it up again in the spring. You already knew that.

But if you don't have a handy tarp to place over the bed beneath the fan, neatly spreading out newspaper pages can work as a dust-catcher.

And you might even see an interesting article or ad that you had missed when you first read it.

Dogs riding in the backs of pickups

What do you think when you see that?

A) “How cute.” B) “Isn't that actually illegal in Washington?” C) “It's probably not all that safe but I know the dogs love it.” D) “The driver must not be especially familiar with the concept of sudden stops and the laws of physics.” E) “Freedom, freedom, freedom, blah, blah, blah.” F) “Last time I expressed reservations about that practice and noted the unenforced statute prohibiting it, the person to whom I was speaking got all up in arms about how there's no law saying kids can't ride back there. I didn't bother to mention that most children don't see a squirrel in the distance and bolt out of the truck while it's zipping down the road.” G) “I have been doing that with our dogs for years and nothing bad has ever happened.” H) “It's the spirit of the West.” I) “Don't really approve of that in city traffic. Out in the country, OK.” J) “Im sure those people really love their dogs. I hope they don't have to learn the hard way that there are big risks for the pets.” K) Other.


Some time before next Saturday, someone will call me or send an email asking if I knew that a Montana horse named Spokane won the Kentucky Derby in 1889.

As it happens, I do know that.

But it's never a bad idea to review.

Why is Lois dressed like Mrs. Claus?

Well, a somewhat younger and more skirtless version of Mrs. Claus than we usually see.

100% chance of sprinklers

If you are still half asleep when you first look out a window early in the morning, it's possible to momentarily think it rained overnight when, in fact, you were just seeing a puddle created by the automatic sprinkler system.

Idaho Tourism responds to blog post

A state public relations official in Boise sent me a note saying they like to think of the state more in terms of James Bond than “Deliverance,” which I referred to yesterday in a blog post.

Then there was this.

Being loopy after anesthesia

A colleague's daughter had wisdom teeth extracted today.

Apparently when the girl started to come around after the procedure, she was convinced that her tongue had been removed and that her mother was an imposter.

How have people in your family acted when coming out of that conked-out state?

The autograph

During the time that my father was stationed at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in the 1960s, my family lived in a nondescript suburb outside Dayton, Ohio.

One afternoon, a rumor circulated among the boys on our street that a major league baseball player was visiting at a house on our block. I can't recall the year, but I think it was autumn.

Eventually a few of us summoned the nerve to go knock on the door of the house in question. The man who lived there, a horse's ass, opened up. We said we heard Tommy Harper was there and we wondered if we could get his autograph.

The homeowner asked us to genuflect or something. But eventually he disappeared back into the house, re-emerging a bit later with the baseball player. Harper signed his name a few times and that was it. He didn't care one way or the other. But his host, who had a Dickensian view of children's worth, wanted us to act as if our previously useless lives now had meaning and we all owed him our first born.

(In the years to come, I would learn that adults also loathed this man.)

If I had it do over again, I never would have set foot on that porch. But it was too late. The bowing and scraping had happened.

As I recall, Harper had some Air Force reserves job in the off-season that kept him out of the military draft. I think he handed out towels at the officers' club gym or something equally distant from the Viet Cong. But exacty how he wound up on our street that day, I couldn't say.

The jock-sniffing old coot he visited had a civilian job on the base. Though I have no idea what it involved other than, presumably, scowling.

And, of course, people knew about the baseball player's visit because that grouch on our street made sure neighbors knew about it. No way he would have passed up a chance to be the Big Man.  

The bad taste the autograph caper left in my mouth took awhile to go away. In fact, I still had it even after my family had moved to another state.

A couple of years later, in 1969 — when Tommy Harper stole a lot of bases for the terrible Seattle Pilots — he played in the all-star game. Or maybe that was the next year, when the Pilots became the Milwaukee Brewers. In any case, I still remember pumping my fist with satisfaction when Johnny Bench gunned him down. In my illogical kid brain, it was as if that imperious man across the street back in Ohio had been thrown out trying to steal second.

Just wondering

Never mind being realistic.

Pay no attention to market sustainability or seats-filling logic.

This is just making a wish.

If you could wave your magic wand and create a daily nonstop flight from Spokane to any city in the U.S. or Canada, what destination city would you choose?  

In tomorrow’s Slice column

I'll have a couple of entertaining answers to that question about when an organization's email address conventions create unintended results.

Here's one I didn't feel comfortable using in print because I thought the person named might actually see it and I don't wish to appear to be making fun of someone's name.

But since it's just us here on the blog, here it is.

Slice reader Connie Jensen shared this.

“Re: e-mail smirks…as a grad student at EWU, where professors used their first initial followed by their full last name for their e-mail, professor Scott Melville's address resulted in more than a few sophomoric giggles.”  

Would you OK a knowledge swap?

I suppose many of us are masters of at least a few trivia categories.

For instance, I have fairly decent familiarity with a couple of limited aspects of sports and pop music. But I have often thought I would gladly trade that knowledge for an ability to identify trees and plants by name.

Then, just this morning, I thought of something else I wish I knew. As the early light was changing the color of the sky, birds along my bike route were chatting up a storm. I found myself wishing I knew what kind of birds made each of those sounds.

So what if, instead of being able to name 1960s Top 40 songs in two or three notes, I could identify the birds voicing every cheep, chirp and chuckle? That would be sweet.

Oh, I know what you're thinking: “You can still learn, can't you?”

Sure. I guess. But some of my stored knowledge was acquired as a result of childhood obsessions. Talking total immersion here. I'm not sure where I'd find a spare 50,000 hours today.

What do you wish you knew (instead of something you actually do know)?

Can you handle the truth?

OK. Well, here it is.

When the movie “A Few Good Men” first came out, you were 20 years younger.

This date in Slice history (1995)

Two things we could live without: TV weathercasters who feel a need to decide for the rest of us what is or isn't a pretty day. And people who think big band music and easy listening are the same thing.

Fears about appearance swept aside

Regular visitors to this little dance party might recall when I mentioned that my rain hat is a Detroit Tigers cap.

That was before the start of the baseball season. At that time I noted my concern that wearing this hat might invite strangers to speculate that I was one of those frontrunners who jump on the bandwagon of winning teams. The Tigers, as you may recall, were predicted by some to roar through the season and possibly go to the World Series.

Well, it's raining. And I'm about to go out. I will, of course, wear my Tigers cap.

But inasmuch as Detroit just lost three straight games to the Seattle Mariners, something tells me I need not worry that anyone is going to assume I am gloating or attempting to bask in reflected glory.

Remembering full-service gas stations

Slice reader Gordon Hensley brought this up.

And it made me wonder. How old would you have to be to recall when all filling stations were full-service?

Things That Would Get Old Department

I exchanged emails this week with a reader who has an unusually spelled first name. It's not complicated or impossible to pronounce, et cetera. It's just a seldom seen variation on a common name.

I asked her how often people misspelled it. She said that's pretty common and added that her mother-in-law has been misspelling her name for 20 years.

I didn't press her for details on that particular relationship. But I have a couple of guesses.

The real Engelbert Humperdinck

Was a German composer. He died almost 100 years ago.

The singer who borrowed that name started life as Arnold Dorsey.

I looked it up because I overheard a conversation about that name and found myself wondering if Engelbert Humperdinck might have been a Charles Dickens character. You know, like Uriah Heep or Mr. Murdstone or Wackford Squeers.

This date in Slice history (1997)

If you were to refer to Spokane as a “seething caldron” of something, what would that something be?

Memorial scholarship named after you

If you were to meet an untimely demise at the hands of a driver distracted by texting or as a result of an encounter with a troubled mental patient who purchased a firearm at a gun show an hour before meeting you, maybe your friends and colleagues would establish a scholarship fund to honor you.

You would not be around to take part in the discussions about the philosophy guiding the awarding of the grants, of course. But what would you hope the scholarship committee would look for when choosing students who will receive the money? 

Nothing funny about workplace mayhem

But sooner or later, people who have worked at the same good-sized business for a long time get around to naming the former employees they thought had the greatest potential to lose it and become a danger to others.

So I wonder. Do those who get nominated for this dishonor have even the slightest inkling that their former colleagues felt/feel that way about them? In most instances, they probably don't care.

Of course, for all I know, some of my SR colleagues feel that way about me right now.

“He was quiet. Kept to himself. Came and went at odd hours.” 


Bonus questions

Keri Yirak wonders how many cooks burn one particular dish every time they make it.

She noted that her mother has been burning cornbread muffins since the dawn of Man.

And Don Moore wondered how cashiers feel about it when a customer reaches into a pocket and extracts some bills so incredibly wadded up as to be almost unrecognizable as money.

The Wednesday Slice

A colleague I would have thought too young to be experiencing an LSD flashback mentioned to me the possibility that I might want to provide after-school care this fall when her daughter begins first grade.

I'm pretty sure she was being amusing. But maybe it's not so crazy as it sounds. My co-worker knows that I start early and leave the office early. So it might work, schedule-wise.

Plus, those of us employed in the mainstream media are always thinking Plan B.

And I'm sure her daughter is a good kid, entirely capable of entertaining herself. We'd get along fine.

“Sweetie, I dropped the remote. Could you reach it for me?”

But would I want to limit myself to one child? Why not open Uncle Slice's Spokane Kidz Kare? Or maybe Deadline Daycare? Or Paul Turner's Li'l Marmot Scouts.

I'm already thinking of slogans. “Home of Healthy Snacks Since 2012,” “Nap Mats Cleaned as Warranted,” “Come for the Activities Program, Stay for the Yard Work.” 


Just wondering: What would you say to Hugh Laurie if you bump into him when he's in Spokane for a concert later this spring?

A) Nothing. I'm not one of those people. B) “In your estimation, how many times has 'House' jumped the shark?” C) “I know it was a small role, but I thought you were really good in 'Sense and Sensibility' all those years ago.” D) “Why are you Brits so much better at doing accents than American actors?” E) Other.


With which statement do you agree: 1. It's the most natural thing in the world to have one's mood shaped by the weather. 2. Saying that the weather determines your mood is like admitting that you have no life of the mind.


Adapting song lyrics and movie lines to include an Earth Day reference: Art Anderson in the Silver Valley had an offering: “Earth Day? We don't need no stinkin' Earth Day.” 


Coming in Thursday's print column: We begin to call the honor roll of exceptionally well-rested Inland Northwest cats.


If people at work eat lunch at their desks near you: Even if it is distracting and makes you hungry, it's better when the food smells good. If the aroma of someone's lunch almost makes you retch, it's harder to get much done.

Of course, a lot of people work at home. So I guess they have to take ownership of whatever they're smelling.


Warm-up question: How well can you calculate how things stand re: bills vs. bank balance while taking a shower? 


Today's Slice question: You might have seen where Jim Kershner noted the other day that 100 years ago the S-R ran a column consisting of random items and what-not. It was called “Chinookers.” My friend Bill Simer mentioned this. I asked him if he thought that referred to the fish or the wind. The fish, he said. So…if I changed the name of my column to a fish theme, what should I select?

Bass? Scrod? Flounder? 

Write The Slice at P.O. Box 2160, Spokane, WA 99210; call (509) 459-5470; email There are people living around here who saw “Ball Four” author Jim Bouton pitch for the 1969 Seattle Pilots.

Of course, the reverse is also true

Ever heard anyone use the “Power City” slogan? Probably not. According to this button dates back to 1909.

Newcomers unlearning the old ways

There's something people do here that those in certain other parts of the country simply do not do.

I'm speaking, of course, of standing under the front porch light after dark with the door held open.

In parts of the U.S., that would invite an insect invasion of biblical proportions. People inside the home would see the person standing in the doorway and begin shouting “Close the door!” or “In or out!” or “Sweet Mother Nature, we're doomed!”

Oh, sure. It's possible in Spokane to have bugs fly in through an open door. Happens all the time.

But our insect density is a lower order of magnitude than in the Midwest, the Northeast or the South. People here can get chewed up on camping trips or near the water at night. But it is not simply a given that going outside after dark during the middle of the year means enduring aerial assault.

So if you see someone standing in a doorway at night suddenly do a jerky samba step and hurriedly close the door, there's a good chance you are witnessing a newcomer to our area experiencing a flashback.

Bugs are no big panic here. But it can take a while to get used to that.   

Remembering the airport bear, pre-9/11

“Yes, I, too, miss the giant polar bear,” wrote Joan Williams. “Another thing I miss is standing by the windows and getting to watch the planes depart and arrive.

“Way back, when I was a single mom of six little ones, my oldest son (who was 8-9) loved airplanes. Since I had little (read “none”) money for entertaining the kids, I searched out free places we could go. One of those was the airport. We'd pretend we were on a big adventure.

“The kids were in awe of the conical-shaped building with its high pointy ceiling. Then we'd walk up the big ramps to all the windows. They'd get so excited when they spotted a plane coming in. And, of course, the littlest ones were afraid to approach the huge, white bear. It's a shame we've lost those opportunities.”

He wanted to see Stephanie Vigil naked

Years ago, The Slice column asked what local person readers would like to see naked.

One caller, who had been in my column before and who identified himself on this occasion, named the Q6 anchor. He was quite straight-forward and matter-of-fact about it. No heavy breathing. Just red-blooded curiosity. 

As I recall, when it came time to run a few answers to that question, I didn't use his name nor did I mention Ms. Vigil specifically. I think I made some vague allusion to a TV news on-air personality. Or something.

So anyway, yesterday I got an email from that same guy about an altogether different matter. At least I was pretty sure it was the same guy.

I wanted to remind him of that long-ago phoned-in answer and tell him that it had cracked me up at the time.

But what if it wasn't the same guy? Wouldn't a different reader properly conclude that I am nuts, or worse?

In the end, I managed to cobble together a cryptic allusion to that earlier matter. And my correspondent was kind enough to acknowledge that, yes, that had been him.

Let's move on.

This date in “Twilight Zone” history

“Stopover in a Quiet Town” first aired on April 24, 1964. A couple who assume they are just hung over from too much partying discover that they have been on an altogether different sort of trip.

One way Spokane really is perfect

OK, this doesn't really apply to all that many people.

But for bicycle commuters who work downtown, the fact that the city core is in a bowl is amazingly convenient. It's the ideal topography.

Cyclists' morning routes vary. Some include a few climbs. But from many starting points, the trip downtown tends to be largely a low-effort cruise. And if you start when it's still cool, you don't arrive at work in a lather.

Riding home is different, of course. That's fine, though. You get some exercise and then you can pop right into the shower.

If I had a time machine, I'd go back 125 years or so and high-five some of the city planners. Though I guess local Indian tribes knew where the city center should be long before that.

You can tell that a writer has not been…

…in a library since Harry Truman was president if he or she trots out that tired old image of librarians shushing people.

Good God, it's past time to retire that one.

Do you like Deer Park’s new slogan?

“The right town for a bright future.”

I probably should note that this Deer Park is in Ohio.

Re: Tomorrow’s Slice column

It isn't really about this. But I wondered about something while writing that column on Friday.

Who around here has the oldest baseball glove? Does it still get used?

No. 1 song on this day 45 years ago

Maybe you remember.

“And then I go and spoil it all by saying somethin' stupid like 'I love you.'” 

This date in Slice history (1996)

Today's Slice question: You know those people who habitually blame Spokane's real and imagined shortcomings for every little personal bad mood and disappointment, never pointing a finger at themselves? Well, are they happier than the rest of us because they're in denial?

Just put down the remote and walk away

One of my longtime correspondents enjoys registering disdain after watching Spokane TV news broadcasts that, he says, consist mostly of the on-air people talking about how nice the weather was that day. 

It has arrived

What you do in the privacy of your own dressing room is not my concern.

But I should tell you that I am declaring today to be unofficial start of Short Sleeves Season in Spokane.

Stand by for announcements about the parade route and the annual crowning of the king and queen of Short Sleeves Season.   

The Short Flight of the Boy of Steel

It's a funny thing about family stories.

Hear the same one often enough and you can start to wonder. Do I actually remember the incident? Or do I simply recall hearing the tale told and retold?

When the witnesses are gone, there's no one to ask. 

My father was in the Air Force. And when I was an infant and preschooler, my family moved several times. I know we lived in Texas and California. But I'm pretty sure some of my earliest memories can be traced back to Altus, Oklahoma.

I remember a yellow squirt gun. I remember seeing a horned toad in the backyard. I remember the way my mother seemed shaken by a phone call from one of her sisters back in New Jersey.

And I recall the time I tried to fly. At least I think I do.

Now if you are reading this because I referred to the incident in today's print column, you already know where I'm headed.

So I should make it clear right away that TV's “The Adventures of Superman” did not prompt me to jump off the roof or leap from a tree. No, my attempt to emulate the Man of Steel was confined to the living room. The only thing hurt was, as they say, my pride.

And the truth is, I might not really remember it. But my father, brother and sister sure did.

They loved to talk about how, after donning a bath towel cape, I sprinted into the living room and launched myself into the air.

“Look…up in the sky…it's a bird…it's a plane…no, it's a crazy 4-year-old!”

For a brief, shining moment, I achieved level flight. Or so I was told.

Arms stretched out before me in a familiar pose, I hastened to my rightful calling as a child of destiny. Unlike mere mortals, I wasn't stuck to the surface of the planet.

Then gravity, that cruel crusher of dreams, awoke and remembered her duty.

As the story goes, I landed with a resounding thud but fought hard to maintain my composure as I made my humbled exit.

But I guess every kid needs to find out if he or she is endowed with superpowers. As it turned out, my only superpower was super-patience when my family rehashed my takeoff and landing for the millionth time.

In my case, it's just as well that the flight was cut short. There wouldn't have been room for me to make a mid-air course correction there in the living room. And if I couldn't turn, well, the Boy of Steel would have had to keep going straight.

We were renters and I have to guess my parents would have had a hard time explaining a preschooler-sized hole in the wall.

This date in Slice history (1995)

Today's Slice question: What's something you can find almost anywhere in the Spokane area in 1995 that will be a collectible some day?

This was before Intermodalness

Remember the downtown Greyhound bus station?

I believe my employer owns that property now.

Re: This summer’s local concert lineup

Let's see a show of hands.

How many guys once had a thing for Pat Benatar?

Thought so.

Starched white dress shirt Fridays

I have been wearing white shirts on Fridays in recent weeks. It's my silent commentary on the Spokane redundancy of casual Fridays.

Anyway, last Friday I was riding my bike home in the afternoon. And I wasn't wearing a jacket. Someone who saw me said I looked like a Mormon missionary.

But I am wearing a white shirt again today and would be happy to talk to you about your spiritual needs. 

One way Spokane has not changed

“I'm still here,” wrote Slice reader Nancy Hartley.

Looking ahead to Saturday’s Slice

Tomorrow's column is an insignificant bit of fluff, spun from the approach of Earth Day.

I am not mocking Earth Day. I'm just trying to entertain readers for 90 seconds.

But it's a virtual certainty that I will arrive at the office Monday morning and find at least one angry email or text. It will be from an earnest person who felt the need to lecture me about the importance of saving the planet. It will rebuke me for lacking gravitas. Or something.

So how should I respond?

A) “Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this. I will try to do better.” B) “Did you write that email while having coffee Saturday morning with a girl you are trying to impress?” C) “I was not aware that The Slice column trying to have a bit of fun precluded The Spokesman-Review from addressing these issues elsewhere in the paper.” D) “Look, kid. I'm sure you regard yourself as a big deal greenie and all. But I used to live in Vermont. I have seen major league progressives up close. Trust me, you're still wading in the kiddie pool. For one thing, by writing to me you are acknowledging that you spent some time with mainstream media, for God's sake.” E) “The truth is, I have total respect for the goals of Earth Day. Always have. What I don't respect is unsigned mail.” F) “As performance art goes, indignation isn't all that captivating.” G) “At least your spelling is better than what I see in angry notes from radical conservatives.”  H) Other.

This date in Slice history (1995)

This seriously limits a kid: A first-grader we know was talking about a school assignment. She had to write something about rabbits. “It has to be nonfiction,” she said.

Ed played for the ‘Amazing’ 1962 Mets

Born in Montana, he attended Lewis & Clark High School and WSU (then WSC), and played minor league ball here. He faced indecent exposure charges here as a young adult.

Unreal local connection

Was watching a few minutes of the movie version of “South Pacific” when I found myself wondering about something.

If it could be said that nurse Nellie Forbush is the most famous fictitious character to hail from Little Rock, Arkansas, who is the most famous made-up person from Spokane?  

Tri, Tri, Tri and then Tri again

Seeing as how there are about half a dozen places in the U.S. that refer to themselves as the “Tri-City area,” it seems like a good bet that someone from one of those locales has moved to Spokane.

So here's my question: After moving here, is it then confusing to hear references to Richland, Kennewick and Pasco?  

This day in Slice history (1996)

There ought to be a local legend about what happens when a pinecone falls from a tree and strikes you.

Maybe there already is one. But we've never heard of it.

So we decided to make up our own. The problem is, we couldn't stop at just one. Please choose for yourself.

1. From that moment on, you'll never have another sinus headache.

2. Henceforth your lawn will obey your every command.

3. Suddenly everyone will think you look fetching in snug jeans.

4. You will be able to speak and understand the language of robins.

5. You'll have the strength of 100 squirrels.

6. People who, without invitation, stare at certain parts of your body shall temporarily be struck blind.

7. From that day forward, your Bloomsday time will appear as “41 minutes” in the newspaper listings.

8. When you decide to drive on Division, all other motorists will chant “Hail the Pine Prince/Princess” and pull over to let you by.

9. Anyone who tries to talk to you about golf will turn into a marmot that other marmots shall shun.

10. All your children will be able to do chin-ups with ease.

Just wondering

If it has been ages since you spent any time in bars, how can you be sure that, in 2012, they aren't really anything like the ones depicted in beer commercials?     

Remembering college catalogs

Physical college catalogs probably still exist. But it seems like a reasonable guess to assume that most young people wanting to check out info on Whattsamatta U. or Faber College do so by going online.

That works out fine, I'm sure. But I cannot help suspecting that they are missing out just a little bit.

I say that, of course, because a million years ago when I was a college student planning to transfer to another school, I spent hours at the campus library paging through dozens of catalogs.

Eventually, I looked at the volumes in my stack o' finalists over and over.

(This was back before parents planned their lives around escorting kids to check out one far-flung college after another.)

Studying photos of the school grounds and facilities, I would picture myself in the scenes. These fantasies featured generous scoops of wishful thinking and a few dollops of self-delusion.

“Maybe I'll wind up being friends with some of the kids in this photo of the activity center. Especially that one student with the floppy Carly Simon hat.”

Which isn't to say you can't do all that online. It's just that holding the catalogs in your hands could feel like you actually had a handle on your future.

This date in Slice history (1997)

Upon hearing that his family was going to eat at the Old Spaghetti Factory, 7-year-old Wilson Webb got an unhappy look on his face.

“Yuck,” he said. “I hate old spaghetti.”

You know how kids are. Chances are, he's never even tried it.

The Wednesday Slice

The practice of commenting on the number and kinds of bottles other families put in their recycling bins has been around since, well, ever since there have been recycling bins.

So, if while out taking a walk, you noted that your neighbors appear to be putting away a lot of discount wine or gin, you weren't the first person to have made such an observation. You won't be the last.

No doubt, not being the judgmental type, you simply assumed that those folks have been doing a lot of entertaining. Good for them.

But have you ever seen someone actually loading a recycling bin who might have been drunk?

I might have yesterday afternoon. I was riding my bike home from work. It was about 2:30. I saw a middle aged woman in a dark colored sweatshirt dump a big bag of brown beer bottles into what looked like an already full blue bin out by the curb. It seemed as if there must have been two or three dozen bottles in her bag. And at least half of them slid off the overloaded bin and onto the street. It was a cacophony.

Even as this was happening, she continued dumping out the bag o' bottles.

Now I have no idea if she was tipsy. Maybe she is simply the worst bin-filler on the South Hill. 

Still, this epic fail was a sight to see and hear.


This date in Slice history (2000): Today's Slice question: If you got to throw out tradition and replace the Spokane airport's GEG code, what three-letter group would you select? 


Finish this sentence: Dollars now spent at Trader Joe's used to go to…


Re: Tomorrow's print Slice: I got a surprise after asking readers for ideas about what a little kid could say to a homeowner yelling “Get off my lawn!”

About half of the respondents made the kid out to be the bad guy in the scenario. And they were not trying to be funny.

I've lived in Spokane for more than 20 years, but I didn't see that coming.

A straight-faced defense of “Get off my lawn!” Really? 

Maybe it was my doing, though. Perhaps the way I worded that invitation led some to assume I wanted comeback-line suggestions that might qualify as rude or disrespectful.

That wasn't my intention. Even if I like a pinch of “Question Authority” in a young person's makeup, I don't believe there's anything to admire about a kid verbally flipping off some angry old coot standing on his porch.

Manners matter. But I'm not quite ready to cede the moral high ground to those who regard lawns as sacred. Unless the kid is digging or something, what's the harm in letting a child run around on your grass for a minute? What kind of vision of summer leads someone to value turf perfection over a kid's happy squeal?

I've always enjoyed the whole “Get off my lawn!” thing for its Spokane-parody value. But I guess not everyone is in on the joke.


Today's Slice question: Are those who regard high-heel shoes as utter nonsense (at least in situations where the woman has to walk more than 10 feet) a higher percentage of the population here than you would find nationally?


Write The Slice at P.O. Box 2160, Spokane, WA 99210; call (509) 459-5470; email Uncle Slice says: Try to wash your hands soon after using an inkless stylus to sign your name at a pharmacy or some other store.

A question for American League fans

Let's say your favorite team is not the Mariners. And let's say they are in a city far away and you don't get to see many televised games. But every once in a while your team will be on WGN (a longtime cable staple) because they are playing the White Sox. Are you able to watch or do you find the Sox broadcast team, the Hawk and Stone Pony, so hard to take that you can't?

Re: Ringo coming here this summer

Remember when the late Chris Farley played a starstruck interviewer talking with Paul McCartney on “Saturday Night Live”?

Has there ever been a funnier preface to a question than “Remember, when you were in the Beatles, and …”?

Today’s vintage big-letter postcard

Some young men from the South mistook this for the coldest place on Earth.

When the phone is calling the shots

I called a reader named Bill, who had left me a message.

We spoke for just a few minutes. Then I got up and left my desk.

While I was away, he called me back and left messages. Twice.

Actually, his phone called me back. Bill was quite apologetic and explained in the second of these messages that he was trying to get his phone to stop dialing me, but it was momentarily out of control.

“I hate this phone,” he said, sounding totally sincere.

Spokane City Council and band names

Speakers addressing the council at last night's meeting provided some pretty tempting fodder for band names.

Though I guess I'm dating myself here. Don't suppose kids these days name their rock bands Sex in the Mouth and such.

Just wondering

What did people do before they spent time interacting with electronic screens?

A) Attended lodge meetings. B) Bowling. C) Wore fake-fur raccoon caps. D) Erector sets. E) Waited to use the phone (when there was just one phone) or waited to use the bathroom (when there was just one). F) Checked on the supplies down in the bomb shelter. G) Grappled with the damning frustration of an unexpressed thought. H) Other.

This date in Slice history (1999)

Today's Slice question: If, in a bold effort to boost ridership, masked STA agents started going door-to-door in Spokane and threatening to utilize increasingly shocking medieval torture techniques to get everyone to take the bus, what nonrider would be the last holdout?

Today’s bike-riding tip

Pant clips can keep your trousers from getting snagged in your bike's gears and chain. They're easy to use and weigh next to nothing. But you will want to remember to take these off when you get home before attempting to undress. Failure to do so, especially after about the 40th or 50th such memory lapse, can start to make you question those grade-school IQ tests that had you pegged as a boy genius. 

She doesn’t even steal office supplies

How about that paw on her shoulder? Is that on company time?

And just how does he define “dance”?

Keep your wits about you, Carol.

Could an Expo ‘74 happen today?

Had lunch with a longtime friend I hadn't actually met in person until today.

He moved here to take a job in 1972. And we got to talking about what it was like to be in Spokane just before Expo '74.

My friend doesn't think something on the magnitude of the fair would ever get the green-light here today. Sure, money would be an issue. But also the demonizing of the power-brokers would be so wall-to-wall that the possibility of community cohesiveness seems inconceivable.


Remembering a day 31 years ago

I had nothing to do with the journalism that earned the award. But I did work in a newsroom where there was an announcement that a couple of my colleagues had won a Pulitzer.

Here are the reactions I remember witnessing.

Pride (in the two reporters and in the paper).

Relief (that the rumors about the award had not proven to be false).

Jealousy (a few of the smiles seemed a tad taut).

Satisfaction (re: contemplating the paper's rabid critics hearing about the Pulitzer).

Wondering (about the the social prospects at the party to be held that night).

Naivete (some of the younger staffers assumed we would witness similar occasions again and again throughout our careers).

What’s your earliest Earth Day memory?

I can't remember anything from 1970, the first year.

But I recall that the next year everyone at my high school went outside and we listened to the governor of Vermont say protecting the environment was a good thing.

Getting in shape for travel season

When visiting other parts of the country, don't forget how to say…

1. “No, where we are, it hardly rains all summer.”

2. “You must be thinking of Tacoma.”

3. “No, really. We had a world's fair.”

4. “All those Dodgers you just named, from those great teams — they all played in Spokane.”

5. “Gon-ZAG-uh.”

6. “No more racists than you have around here, I'd guess.”

7. “No, we don't have a state income tax. We use a high sales tax, various fees and duct tape.”

8. “Well, you should see our daily paper in Spokane. Clear Socialist agenda forced down our throats by a wealthy Republican family.”

9. “Like I said, it's almost 300 miles away.”

10. “I'm not making it up. It's true. In Spokane you can usually go outside at night in the summer without being swarmed by insects.”

11. “So this is the famous humidity I've heard about.”

12. “No, we don't have tornadoes. We have a lot of yard sales, though.”

They’re here

Maybe you have already noticed.

But the first wave of dandelions has established a beachhead.

How do you feel about these weeds?

A) Frankly, I sort of admire them. They're so hardy. B) I view them as my archenemy. C) I regard them as a reminder that the pristine turf lawn is utterly unnatural. D) I enjoy leaving them alone, knowing that it undoubtedly bugs a couple of my yard-obsessed neighbors. E) I have tried to bring them to the bargaining table, to no avail. F) I assume they'll be around long after humankind has cashed in its chips. G) Other.  

Before traipsing down memory lane

If you are thinking of doing Google image searches on people you worked with in a previous lifetime, be sure to bolster your self-image in advance with the words of the poet, Joe Walsh.

“Everybody's so different, I haven't changed.” 

They walk among us

You can't tell just from looking at them.

And, in fact, many of them are probably perfectly nice — when they are somewhere else.

But in one particular place, certain indivduals become…The Creatures In Line Ahead Of You At The Deli Counter. They regard the clerk's “OK, will there be anything else?” as an enticing invitation to survey the exciting world of cheeses and mull meats of every kind. At length.

Sure, the person ahead of you has an absolute right to purchase whatever he or she desires. No question. Want three kinds of potato salad and a slew of slaw? Go for it.

But it's one thing to wait behind someone who is going from a list, physical or mental. That speaks of orderliness. It suggests a plan. It hints that maybe we'll all get out of this store one day.

However, when the person being served responds to every “Anything else?” as if being asked to unwrap a birthday present, the clock pretty much stands still. It's like being forced to watch improv theater. And you have no choice but to wonder if you have slipped through a rift in the space-time continuum.

You just have to pray that you don't hear the fateful words that mean it is time to surrender all hope: “Oh, I just can't decide.”

Fortunately, at most of the Spokane food stores with which I am familiar, there's usually more than one person working behind the deli counter.

So be strong. Help is on the way.

Two kinds of people

One kind, when it's midday, says “good morning” or “good afternoon” with virtually no regard to whether it is before or after noon.

The other kind actually worries (a little) about getting it right.

Which are you?

Backyard agriculture

If pine cones were a cash crop, I would be just about ready to take my harvest to market.

Of course, there's still a little matter of picking them up. But a quick survey of my household suggests that Americans are no longer interested in those jobs.

Not a Stooges fan

“With all the hype currently underway for the new movie 'The Three Stooges,' it made me think of how much I have disliked this trio for MY ENTIRE LIFE!” wrote Suzanne Kaderka of Coeur d'Alene. “Personally, I know of no adult woman who has ever liked the Stooges.

“I think this would be the perfect time to ask the question, 'Does anyone know any adult women who would pay money, or waste time to watch 'The Three Stooges'?”

Baldness and clowns

Slice reader Lori Goldade saw the question about dealing with losing your hair.

“My husband and I were attending the PRCA rodeo in Pocatello, Idaho, when the rodeo announcer and the rodeo clown were bantering back and forth. The announcer challenged the clown to take off his hat. When he did, the announcer made a comical comment about his obvious lack of hair under the hat.

“The clown responded, 'Hey, anyone can grow hair, but it takes a real man to be able to suck it back in!'”

Moving Bloomsday to a different season

It'll never happen.

But for those who battle springtime allergies and have to take medications to stave off allergy-induced asthma, the race could not come at a worse time of year.

Still, there wouldn't be much support for…

A summertime Bloomsday: Too hot.

An autumnal Bloomsday: Too busy.

A winter Bloomsday: Too much chance that only 43 people would register.

Oh, well. Allergy sufferers seldom get their way.

Next: Bring Your Dog To Work Day vs. The Right to Breathe.    

Just wondering

Who holds the record for clicking on “Ask me later” the most consecutive mornings?

Fifty years ago on “The Twilight Zone”

“Hocus-Pocus and Frisby” first aired on April 13, 1962. Starring Andy Devine (you'd recognize his voice), it's the story of a teller of tall tales who gets abducted by aliens. Then, when he returns, no one will believe his account of what happened.

The lesson? Don't leave home without your harmonica.

In-laws ever turn you into a chimp?

OK, then. You have nothing to worry about. Happy Friday the 13th.

This date in Slice history (1996)

Spokane sign of the month: “Now open at 7 a.m./Karaoke available”

One question for Friday the 13th Eve

Are Inland Northwest entomologists who ride bicycles more able than the average Spokane area pedaler to recognize instantly just what sort of insect has flown into their mouths? 

How Tim Gaines knows what day it is

“Thought you might like my way of telling what day of the week it is,” wrote Slice reader Tim Gaines. “I retired two and a half years ago at age 53 (yes, I planned it right). After a while I started to lose track of what day it was until I started using the newspaper as a guide. Not the dates printed on the paper but the paper itself.”

Here's his system.

Sunday: Needs a wheelbarrow to bring it in. (Well, at certain times of year anyway.)

Monday: Paper seems to consist of about four pages.

Tuesday: No advertising inserts.

Wednesday: Grocery store advertising inserts.

Thursday: Hardware store advertising inserts.

Friday: (Gaines suggested I invite readers to weigh in on this one.)

Saturday: “I know it's Saturday because my still-working wife is still in the house when I get out of bed.”

“The Land of Many Lakes”

I came across a Spokane tourism brochure from the 1930s.

On the cover it proclaims this area to be “The Land of Many Lakes.”

Not especially memorable, is it?

As a lesson in writing, it points out the virtue of being specific.

“How many lakes do you have out there?”


I don't know when Minnesota started calling itself the “Land of 10,000 Lakes” (a lowball count, experts say). But that's a slogan you remember.

Of course, it could be that the person writing copy for that brochure simply didn't know how many lakes there are around here. I wonder what words he or she toyed with before settling on “many.”

“Land of Plenty Lakes.”

“Land of Numerous Lakes.”

“Land of Multitudinous Lakes.”

“Land of a Whole Mess of Lakes.”

“Land of a Big Load of Lakes.”

“Land of a Slew of Lakes.”

“Land of a Boatload of Lakes.” 

“Land of Abundant Lakes.”   

These weren’t always handled with care

No one said, “Hey, don't do that — these cards are going to be collectibles!”

Not saying condoms are laughing matter

I assume everyone has heard stories about boys who stashed a condom in their wallets about half an hour after the onset of puberty.

These fantasy-addled lads would make a big show of their not-so secret preparedness for carnal adventure. They did this even though, in 99.99% of cases, there were zero actual prospects on the horizon.

You already know all about that, I'm sure.

But did you know that, at least once upon a time, it was not unusual for boys several years younger to imitate those older kids and also pack a prophylactic? (They were not difficult to obtain. If there were none to be swiped from a poorly hidden supply at home, there was usually a handy vending machine in a nearby gas station restroom.)

This practice of prepubescent boys proudly possessing rubbers might qualify as the single most ridiculous act in modern history.

I wish I had transcripts of 11-year-old boys discussing condoms long ago. Kids today probably have all the answers. But I suspect much of the information exchanged years ago was more folkloric than factual.

The case for getting out of Spokane

Nice work, if you can get it.

This date in Slice history (2000)

Today's Slice question: How many different kinds of flags can be found flying outside Inland Northwest homes?

Sense of entitlement, the early years

A friend made some air travel arrangements for her 9-year-old son, who will be going to visit relatives in Florida this summer.

He had one question.

“First class?”


For more on this kid, check tomorrow's print Slice.

Do you remember Hughes Airwest?

According to the site credited above, this is from 1972.

How about this 1977 incarnation of Frontier?

Western? (From 1966.)

The Wednesday Slice

Several years ago, I made a pact with my Spokane-loving sister-in-law in Michigan.

We would improve our eating habits during the time it took for hockey's Stanley Cup playoffs to run their course.

We didn't really stick with it.

This year's playoffs start tonight. They usually wrap up early in June.

I haven't spoken to my sister-in-law about trying again this spring. But perhaps I'll send her an email before the first face-off.

I might not even mention anything about dietary regimens. Maybe I'll just remind her of the time wheelchair-bound Vladimir Konstantinov — a guy whose name is engraved on the Stanley Cup — gave her a friendly but enthusiastic kiss.


Just wondering: If the series lasted long enough, most old TV Westerns eventually had a mountain lion episode. You know, the big cat was feeding on livestock, terrorizing a farm family, had a particular grudge against Nick Barkley or whatever. Well, many of those shows ended with the demise of the stealthy predator. Which brings us to my question.

Were these “We've gotta get that cougar!” episodes troubling for members of the Washington State University community to watch?


Maybe the caller could count the ways: A reader who wishes to remain anonymous saw Friday's print column about mistakenly saying “Love you” to a co-worker or casual acquaintance. “About 10 years ago, I answered a call at work: 'This is (name deleted). How may I love you?'”  


For the record: S-R reporter Jody Lawrence-Turner is not my daughter. If she were my daughter, she would be named Cookie or Elizabeth Bennet.  


Speaking of family connections: As I have mentioned a time or two, I am distantly related to the man who drilled the first oil well. Nevertheless, I choose not to believe that my extended family is personally responsible for Global Warming. I prefer, instead, to think about how old Edwin Drake stuck a spear in the domestic whaling industry.

What's your familial link to history?


Favorite movies dealing with religion: “Nothing beats 'Saved!',” wrote Donna August. “Funniest strike at religion in a long while.” She bought a copy for a relative she suspected might resent the depiction of life at a church-sponsored high school. Her forecast proved to be accurate.

Wayne Pomerleau mentioned “A Man for All Seasons” from 1966. “For its compelling representation of the view that one's duty to God and conscience can take precedence over civil law and loyalty to political authority, friendship and human relationships.”


One excellent way to set the stage for slapstick comedy: Fiddle with a sprinkler head while the underground watering system is on and the head in question is part of a line currently activated. One moment the head seems clogged and refusing to allow even a dribble. And then, in the next, it pops off and a geyser finds your face.


How to feel old yet flattered: Learn that someone you have known since she was a preschooler has written a piece for publication that mentions you in passing.


Warm-up questions: Do you know anyone whose email personality is extremely off-putting but who is actually a pretty decent sort in person? How much time do you spend deleting junk phonemail at home? Has a mail carrier ever complimented your landscaping? Who holds the record for asking you the most times if you watch a certain show that you have never seen?  


Today's Slice question: What do your co-workers wish you would stop talking about? 

Write The Slice at P.O. Box 2160, Spokane, WA 99210; call (509) 459-5470; email On this day in 1963, an episode of “The Twilight Zone” called “Of Late I Think of Cliffordville” first aired. It featured the late Albert Salmi, who lived in Spokane at the time of his death.

Get me rewrite!

Someone has been taking liberties with pet-control signage at Corbin Park on Spokane's North Side.


Photos courtesy of John Blanchette 

This date in Slice history (1997)

“Spokane celebrity” is an oxymoron.

It’s Pat!

Hadn't seen one of these before. Have you?

Watery eyes season is here

If you have allergies, you don't need me to tell you.

Watery eyes season has arrived.

It's a time of year when some of us look like we are overcome with emotion, even though it's really just pollen. I have written about this before.

Of course, spring isn't the only time you can misread someone's eyes.

On my first real take-the-car date as a high school kid, I took a girl named Susan Morgan to see a movie called “Little Big Man.”

Things seemed to be going OK. But at some point during the movie, I looked over at Susan and she seemed to be crying. Good grief, I thought. What have I done to offend or disappoint her?

Eventually, I figured out that she was fine. I was just seeing a weird reflection on her eyes there in the darkened theater — something to do with the light bouncing off the big screen and the natural glistening of the eyes.

Yes, that was a relief.

A case can be made that going to see a movie makes a lousy first date. It really reduces your interaction time, after all.

But if the film is good and your date isn't crying, it can turn out all right.  

One of these two things must be true

1. An astonishingly high percentage of bike riders must be thieves.

2. A lot of people must be willing to buy bicycles or accessories from sources other than reputable bike shops — sources that may or may not have obtained the bikes or parts legally.

What else is there to conclude? If you talk to bike riders, you never stop hearing about stolen bicycles, ripped-off seats, et cetera.

Wish you were here. Oh wait, you are.

Longtime Slice reader Willene Wick left me a phone message not long ago.

She noted that, as I often ask readers to send me postcards while on vacations, maybe I should consider sending one to my readers when I am off.

That's a thought. But a fair number of postcards from my vacations might look like this. 

Defining Three Stooges-speak locally

“Why I oughta”: This refers to Bloomsday training procrastination.

“Spread out”: Alludes to Spokane's resistance to infill and high residential density.

“Oh, a wise guy, eh”: This comes up during the public forum portion of City Council meetings. 

“Soitenly”: Some people of a certain age here loathe the expression “No problem.” They much prefer to hear this. 

“Woo-woo-woo-woo”: All-purpose intensifier used to pep up professors' lectures, ministers' sermons, et cetera.

“Poifect”: This is how deranged Spokane TV weathercasters have traditionally described an expected high temperature of 99 degrees.

“Nyuk nyuk nyuk”: Inland Northwest corporate mission statement boilerplate. Means “Let's try not to take ourselves quite this seriously.”

Non-fan’s guide to ignoring NHL playoffs

The National Hockey League's playoffs begin this week. They last approximately as long as the Battle of Stalingrad.

I'm going to assume that you do not care. But because you might hear about these games anyway, here are a few things to consider. You know, in case you decide to pay attention after all.

New York: Rangers' coach is entertaining because he is always 1.5 seconds away from a temper tantrum.

Ottawa: One of the teams with a onetime Spokane resident in the lineup.

Boston: Despite having played at the University of Vermont, goalie can be a bit of a jerk.

Washington, D.C.: Their star, a head case Russian, can be amazing.

Florida: It's hard to think of that state without considering one environmental disaster or another.

New Jersey: My family went to Cape May when I was about 4 or 5 and I immediately sprinted into the ocean with all my clothes on.

Pittsburgh: But the site of the bloody Battle of Shiloh in Tennessee is spelled “Pittsburg Landing.”

Philadelphia: Both the Bruce Springsteen song and the Neil Young song in the movie “Philadelphia” are terrific, in my opinion.

Vancouver: Goalie's junior team from Quebec played in a tournament here years ago.

Los Angeles: Better bet: Re-watch “Chinatown.”

St. Louis: My wife was born there during a blizzard.

San Jose: “Sharks” is a good name.

Phoenix: Another team with a former Spokane resident. Coyote howl after home-team goals is cool. 

Chicago: Do you know what is meant by the expression “Original six”? Can you name them?

Nashville: I read that country singer Vince Gill, who seemed like a good guy when he played here ages ago, has season tickets.

Detroit: Appealing style of play but fans' octopus-throwing tradition is disgusting (and nonsensical re: tentacles-counting significance because it now takes 16 wins to capture the cup, not 8 as was once the case).

Get ready to celebrate Friday the 13th

One way to note the occasion this Friday would be to celebrate knowledge of mathematics and salute people who don't need a computer to make calculations.

On April 13, 1970, two days after the mission launched, an oxygen tank aboard Apollo 13 blew up. It caused serious damage to the spacecraft. But some smart people figured out how to get the three astronauts back to Earth safely.

Are you ready for your mystery date?

Sorry if this prompts the old TV commercial jingle to get stuck in your head.

Getting to the root of the problem

A brief item in today's Slice column reminded Jim Cole of something.

“Last year as I was leaving Hangman Valley golf course, I heard an older gentleman mumbling 'My new $200 putter just taught me it isn't the club that is the problem.'

“With that in mind, I am keeping my $19.95 clearance special so I can pay for the beer and bets I lose.” 

Just wondering

Do any young people in 2012 refer to certain people as “Old Man Smith” or “Old Lady Jones”?

Remember to keep your eyes on the road

If you find yourself driving home from the grocery store with a floral arrangement between your knees.

What would you have done?

Ducked into the post office on South Grand early this morning to stick a few envelopes through the inside mail slot. This was hours before the place would be open for counter service. There was no one else there.

On my way out I noticed that someone had stuck a sign on one of the walls inside the small outer lobby. It wasn't big, not much larger than a postcard. It read: “Jesus is Alive.”

What would you have done?

A) Nothing. B) Pulled the sign down and placed it in the nearby trash barrel. C) Nodded in silent approval. D) Muttered “He is risen indeed” and left it alone. E) Yanked it down and wadded it up while muttering “This is a federal building, for God's sake.” F) Taken out a pen and written “Amen!” on the sign. G) Taken out a pen and written “Sell crazy someplace else” on the sign. H) Other.

Another misplaced “Love You”

Coeur d'Alene's John McTear remembers a corporate conference call years ago involving executives in Europe and the U.S.

The call went on forever and featured several contentious moments. The participants who weren't already exhausted eventually grew tired. Finally the president took a stab at summaring the tele-meeting and said good night to an executive taking part in the call named Rich.

Rich responded, “Good night (name of the president), love you,” and hung up.

After a moment of uncomfortable silence, McTear spoke up. “Gee, he must have advance notice on this year's bonuses.”

Friday afternoon reality

I realize that not everyone fortunate enough to have a job works a M-F, 9-5 schedule.

So I am not suggesting that this a universal experience.

But I suspect that I am not the only one who notices something as the week wears on. Let's call it a diminishment of expectations.

On Sunday night, you're thinking “This coming week, I'm really going to get after it.”

You plan to move briskly forward on multiple fronts and get lots and lots done. Special projects? Bring 'em on. Extra assignment you need to get going on? No time like the pressent.

Then the week arrives. And something happens.

You find that accomplishing just your minimum required tasks is about all you can manage. And by Friday afternoon your goal might be summarized as “Try to limp the rest of the way to the weekend.”

Of course, come Sunday night you are planning to hit the ground running once again.

“Love you”

North Idaho's Vicki Kienholz has experienced the sort of mental lapse discussed in today's Slice column.

She was distracted and running late when paying for some gasoline. As the cashier handed over the change and wished her a good day, Kienholz said, “Bye, love you.”

She was already a ways down the road when she realized what she had said.

The early leader

In light voting in response to today's Slice question asking readers to name their favorite movie dealing with religion.

My own picks, “Ben-Hur” and “Life of Brian,” aren't getting a lot of love.

One last note on eating squirrel

Slice reader Lowell Lehman sounds like he knows what he's talking about. So I hereby yield the floor to him.

“There are real reasons, besides the cuteness factor, why squirrels are not a popular menu item here,” he wrote. “I grew up in the Midwest and we hunted and ate wild squirrels regularly. There they feed on nuts, acorns, field corn, et cetera. And they do taste a lot like chicken.

“Here, on the other hand, and in mountainous areas all over the West, the primary diet of wild squirrels is conifer seeds. These impart a somewhat unpleasant taste to the meat. A squirrel that's been eating pine nuts tastes vaguely like turpentine. Edible, but hardly enjoyable.

“The local city dwelling variety, despite their taste for birdseed and sunflower seed, consume a great deal of pine nuts from our huge crop of pine cones. Definitely not a recommended culinary delight. Unless you're a cat; it doesn't seem to bother them.”

Just wondering

I realize many don't give a rip about the liturgical calendar, which is their absolute right.

But I wonder.

Is it appropriate to say “Happy Friday” on Good Friday?

And now let’s turn to the weather

I don't know how it is where you are or what it will be like a few minutes from now. But the fog I encountered while riding my bike to work this morning was the thickest I can recall in years.

I wonder how widespread it was.

I guess I could turn on one of the newsroom TVs and check out some Live Team Coverage of the conditions.

But I'm not THAT curious.

Cleavage in the sky

Or perhaps you saw a Cezanne still life, the front of a 1949 Buick, balloon animals or a mountain view you remember from that summer when you hiked part of the Long Trail back East.

But any way you look at it, this has been an exceptional week for cloud watching in Spokane.

Sure, a lot of the formations have been so low you can't really call it 4-star conditions. But here in blue skies country, we cloud watchers take what we can get.   

Reading and watching TV

Jeff Brown had a comment on today's Slice column.

He said that if he tries reading while watching TV, one of three things happens.

1. He winds up just reading. 2. He winds up just watching TV. 3. He winds up reading and watching TV.

But in the end, it all ends up the same, he said.

“I fall asleep.” 

Ringtone follies

My friend Pam Pierson was at a seminar.

About 30 attendees were intently listening to a speaker.

“All of a sudden a rooster started crowing. And crowing and crowing.”

The woman whose phone was making these barnyard sounds had stepped out to visit the restroom.

What would you have done?

A) Done nothing and waited for it to end. B) Rifled through the absent woman's purse in search of the phone and tried to deactive the ring. C) Yelled “Somebody choke that chicken!” D) Checked your own phone to make sure it was set on vibrate.

Is there one in your basement or attic?

I wonder how many Spokane area residents have a baseball used in a major league game.

Dozens? Hundreds? More?

Mine came from a game I saw as a young teen in the late '60s. It was caught by my late sister's staggeringly flawed first husband, Bill. It was a sharply hit foul ball that he reached up and barehanded from his box seat.

A pretty impressive grab, I must say.

I still remember that sound of meat being slapped when it zoomed into the fleshy part of his hand.

And sure, it was nice of him to give it to me. It had been just the two of us at the game.

Later, my late brother scoffed that Bill had ruined the ball by using a pen to write the date and circumstances on it: “Milt Pappas pitching” et cetera.

I don't know. I don't mind that those details are on there. Just wish I had better memories of Bill.

Anyway, I haven't seen that ball in years. But I'm sure I still have it. Somewhere.

Did you watch the PBS show on dam?

You know, the PBS “American Experience” on Grand Coulee Dam.

I recorded it Tuesday and watched it last night. I had a couple of quibbles, but thought it was pretty good.

Would be interested in knowing what others thought.

This date in Slice history (1996)

Today's Slice question: Does it bug you when people refer to Seattle as “the coast”? 

Unprintable quotes

The soundtrack for my bike ride home this afternoon was bird chirping.

Seemed like way more than usual. It was loud, insistent and all around me.

And though I can't say for sure, it sounded to me as if they were commenting on the weather. Perhaps they were suggesting that today's version of spring was (not) for the birds.

Recent rain notwithstanding

The truth is, many of us here in the Inland Northwest often act like rain rookies.

One way you can tell is that a lot of those using umbrellas seem to have utterly no idea how much space these weather shields take up.  As a result, it is not unusual to have to do side-hops to avoid getting poked in the eye by bumbershoot-wielders making no attempt to share sidewalk space.

I don't think it's inconsideration. Not totally anyway. I think it is partly inexperience. 

What’s your record as a matchmaker?

Perhaps you can top mine.

I can think of just one time when I introduced a man and woman who had not previously met and they became a couple.

In fact, Jeff and Ann got married.

And then divorced.

You probably don’t have this record

Go to the site and scroll down a bit to get the story.

Spokane baseball in a different century

There are a couple of interesting things about the graphic art on this 1980 program.

The old-style Cleveland Indians-esque depiction of the native American isn't something current Spokane Indians management would consider using for two seconds.

And you know how contemporary advertising tends to present a hyperdiverse cross-section of the population? Well, check out the crowd on the cover of that program. All white. (Well, OK, there is a dog, too.) You just wouldn't see that today.

The Wednesday Slice

The Spokane River has its Big River pants on right now.

If you have an opportunity to check out the falls downtown, it might be worth your while.

Let's move on. 


Uh yeah, I'm gonna need you to go ahead and come in on Saturday: Is it a little creepy to live with someone who does a dead-on Bill “Office Space” Lumbergh impression?


Feedback on Tuesday's Slice about keeping your spouse or significant other happy: “You have a flawed premise (ouch!),” wrote Sue and Will Hille. “One member of any marriage or partnership cannot make the other happy. The assumption that this is possible, and expectation it will happen, has often precipitated a rocky road in long-term commitments and may lead to painful separations.

“We can, and I believe should, provide delight in many of the courtesies and kindnesses suggested in your list of responses. However, the rock solid base of the relationship is aptly stated in the certainty (multiple choice option Y) that we will be there for each other through 'hell or high water.'

“We say this from the personal experience of being polar opposites married to each other nearly 56 years, and from decades of providing professional counsel to people involved in troubled relationships.

“Thanks for being part of our daily breakfast conversation and the delight your writing brings to our lives.”

I took the liberty of including that last bit so you could see how kind many Slice readers are and so you wouldn't react to the next item by wondering if you need to feel sorry for me. You don't.


Fan mail from some flounder: I got smiles from a couple of colleagues with this story, so I decided to share.

One of the emails waiting for me Tuesday morning when I got to my desk was a forwarded yet-to-be-published letter to the editor. The subject field just said “A fan.” That's often newsroom code for someone who is quite the opposite. It comes with the territory. And the way I see it, if a person is willing to sign his or her name to the letter, that individual has a right to say whatever he or she wants.

But for some reason Tuesday, I didn't have my guard up right away. So my reaction to that subject line was an unspoken “That's nice.”

Of course, the letter wasn't all that nice. The reader in question quivers with contempt for my column but cannot seem to avert his or her eyes. (Don't know the writer's gender because he or she apparently goes by initials.) Anyway, the experience of expecting one thing and getting quite another made me laugh at myself.

I imagined I could hear Bugs Bunny saying, “What a maroon.”

To me, not to the reluctant reader. (But hey, if the shoe fits.)

Sometimes it's good to have that sort of moment happen first thing. That way, if anything nice occurs later in the day it can almost feel like an unexpected present.


What he says/what she hears: “Matt Damon is in it and it is directed by Cameron Crowe.”

(He wants to see Scarlett Johansson.) 


Slice answer: I have changed the names in the following note from a Slice reader.

“The other day you asked who the loudest snorer in Spokane is,” wrote Jane. “I'm married to him.”

She continued.

“About 25-30 years ago, when we were still military and our children were quite young, John would come home after two days and nights of duty. He was exhausted. He'd eat dinner, shower and go to bed for much needed sleep.

“John would start vibrating away like a chain saw in the bedroom with the door shut. I'd have to turn up the TV volume in the living roor which was down the hall and around the corner from our room. (The kids' bedrooms were at the same end of the hall as our room.)

“One night the snoring was really bad. Our 3-year-old son, who didn't really know his dad well because of (his father's) so many long deployments, came screaming into the living room — 'There's a monster in there!' he said between the sobs.

“I asked him to repeat that and I asked him to show me where the monster was. He pointed to our bedroom door. 'It's in there!'

“II told him it was just daddy. He wouldn't believe me until I opened the door and showed him John snorting away in his sleep. Once he realized that daddy was creating the monster sounds, he was OK.”  


Something that looks like playing a game but isn't actually much fun: Marking your lawn's underground sprinkler heads with little flags in advance of aeration. 


Today's Slice question: How can a person tell when he or she has gotten just a wee bit obsessive about keeping a food consumption diary? 

Write The Slice at P.O. Box 2160, Spokane, WA 99210; call (509) 459-5470; email When you hear someone say “In the parlance of our times,” you can assume that he or she is quoting a certain 1998 movie.

Identify the problem lyric in…

…U2's “Pride (In the Name of Love).”

There’s fun news coming to Today

It involves beer and a friend of mine who grew up in Michigan.

But it's not really my news to announce. So I'll pipe down.

I recognize that there’s a downside

Health care costs are already out of control, for one thing.

But if dueling made a widespread comeback, would it nudge our society toward more civil discourse?

Probably not. It might just benefit people who sell face-slapping gloves and those who enjoy hearing insults preceded by “Sir!”

Animal protein

I'm in the middle of working on Thursday's column. It includes a couple of mentions of eating squirrels.

You can't wait to read about that, I'm sure.

For some reason that reminded me of a reporter I knew decades ago. Her name was Anita Houk.

She told a story on herself about something that happened while she was covering a summer folklife festival for the Associated Press. I think she was an intern at the time. 

At this event, people were cooking and serving roast beaver. Maybe it was fried. In any event, the dam builders were on the menu.

So Anita wrote about that. And about how people seemed to enjoy this particular dining option.

As she told it, her repeated though unintentionally entertaining use of certain phrasings made her an AP legend.

Her glasses are the big clue here

Perhaps a social movement will come along to help her realize she is better off without insecure dopes like Tom. 

An “Oh, no” moment

So I saw some white bird-droppings splotches on the back porch.

And I thought the unwelcome tenants were back.

A few years ago, sparrows built a nest in a wooden lattice right above our back door. That's not really an ideal spot. As I've already mentioned droppings, you can probably guess why.

But by the time I realized the nest was there, it was complete and the feathered family was situated. Too late for eviction, of course.

The next year, though, I was ready. The moment the sparrows started placing fresh nesting material in the same spot, I removed it. This went on for several days. Finally, the birds gave up and chose another site.

 Anyway, when I saw the droppings on the porch yesterday I knew what had happened. Having gone a few years without a nest, I had become complacent. I had forgotten to monitor the space above our back door and the sparrows had snuck back in.

But I was wrong. Upon checking the area above the door, I found no sign of nest-building.

So maybe the birds had just stopped by to say hello, or perhaps pass along some other greeting.

This date in Slice history (2002)

Today's Slice question: What's a uniquely Spokane definition of success?

What’s your perspective on Easter?

A) I view it as a religious occasion, of course.

B) It's a chance to go to church and see if there is anything around here that can get people to dress up. 

C) I think it has something to do with pagan rites of spring.

D) Chocolate bunnies, et cetera.

E) It is a ham-based holiday.

F) It's when nitwits give live baby animals to small children as if these gifts are toys.

G) Isn't that when the Mariners are usually mathematically eliminated?

H) I know it is sponsored by Legoland. 

I) Other.

This date in Slice history (1999)

Today's Slice question: What two local people have been doing business over the phone for the longest time without ever meeting?

No, you were not the only one

To announce yesterday morning that it was snowing and have family members assume it was an April Fools' joke.

Why would I post this today?

I'll send a coveted reporter's notebook to the first reader to make the connection.

Idaho references in pop culture history

In a 1971 episode of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” Mary is at her apartment, telling Rhoda and Phyllis that she has accepted a job to produce a women's talk show at another Twin Cities TV station.

She brings out a bottle of champagne. Phyllis examines the label and says, “I didn't know they even made it in Idaho.”

Alphabet leagues

Southern Swath Conference: Arizona State University, Arkansas State University, Appalachian State University, Angelo State University, Alabama State University, Augusta State University.

B Somebody League: Boise State University, Ball State University, Bemidji State University, Bowie State University, Bridgewater State University.

WSU Conference: Washington State University, Wayne State University, Weber State University, Westfield State University, Wichita State University, Winona State University, Worcester State University, Wright State University.

Twenty years ago tomorrow

Dire Straits played at Beasley in Pullman on April 3, 1992.

It was a Friday night. I seem to recall that they opened with “Calling Elvis.”

I know. I know. This was long after the band's creative prime. But still.

Do you have a favorite Mark Knopfler song?

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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.

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