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The Slice

Archive for December 2012

Who else says this?

The truth is, I say it all year long. Though, it doesn't really make much sense in, say, May or September.

But on New Year's Eve night, if we're not going out again, I have been known to come through the door at home and declare “I'm in for the year.” 

New Year’s Eve in The Slice (1998)

Here's an outline for the first half of a children's story.

Your challenge is to come up with the second half. Good luck.


A dwindling band of squirrels in the Palouse believe their small cluster of trees is the only island in an endless, rolling ocean.

Then, one day, a vegetarian hawk tells the furry rodents the truth. “There are other trees beyond the horizon,” he informs them.

So an intrepid young squirrel named Thornton sets out to find others of his kind. (A wise old squirrel sends him off with advice Thornton doesn't immediately understand — Bushy tail, true heart.”)

At that moment, several miles away, a fetching yet willful young squirrel named Steptoe is wondering if she'll ever meet a boy squirrel who isn't afraid of his own shadow.

But everything in the Palouse is about to change. A streetwise gang of Spokane squirrels intent on expanding their territory start hopping into the back of pickups and heading south on highway 195.

The urban toughs capture Thornton and detain him. They don't buy his story that he's lost and far from home.

But Steptoe manages to free him while the guards are on a cigarette break. And as the two of them scamper to safety, Thornton notices that Steptoe's tail is especially bushy.

She sees him looking at her. So she stops and stares at him. In that instant, she realizes there's something special in Thornton's big eyes. “We don't have time for this,” she snaps.

And off they scurry toward a lone tree, unaware that a hungry owl is watching them…

Ready to write wrong year on checks

Don't worry.

A lot of people do it.

And while I don't feel the need to name any names, I happen to know of a Spokane woman who still occasionally starts writing the year with “19”. 

New Year’s Eve in The Slice (1996)

The fact that they weren't invited anywhere isn't the only reason a lot of people don't go to New Year's Eve parties.

No, more than a few folks stay home because they are afraid they won't have anything to say to strangers. This is called minglephobia. Fortunately, it's treatable. All you need is a good opening line.

So, as a public service, we present 20 guaranteed conversation-starters for use at Spokane area New Year's Eve parties.

1. “Hardly anyone knows this, because I was just a kid at the time, but I'm the one who talked Bing into recording ''White Christmas.'”

2. “Hey, I got your Growth Management Act right here.”

3. “I'm hoping my lifestyle will become a new Spokane stereotype.”

4. “If I ever have children, I'm thinking of naming them Moose and Squirrel.”

5. “I've done some research, and it turns out that kids who are forced to write thank-you notes almost never wind up in jail.”

6. “I'm not sentimental about the Cold War, but I miss seeing the B-52s overhead.”

7. “Didn't I see you at the Lilac Parade?”

8. “Ever have the urge to drive a pickup on thin ice?”

9. “Next year, I'm either going to single-handedly save downtown or shave 15 strokes off my golf game. I can't decide which.”

10. “Don't you just love maps?”

11. “My new CD is nothing but songs about wheat.”

12. “The statement I'm going for with this outfit is 'East Valley happy hour.'”

13. “You might already be a winner.”

14. “My script is called '101 Marmots and a Baby.'”

15. “Get that dress at the Ernst close-out?”

16. “Ever have one of those dreams where everyone at NorthTown is speaking German?”

17. “I blame the staring-without-compunction way people watch TV for the fact that ogling in real life has lost all its subtlety.”

18. “If you had five seconds of airtime for your own public-service announcement during the Super Bowl broadcast, what message would you share with America?”

19. “Want to see the North Idaho variation on that under-the-mistletoe tradition?”

20. “I once called something in to The Slice but they were too chicken to use it.” 

Where can you obtain tranya?

You know, to toast the New Year “Star Trek”-style.

Maybe Safeway has it.

New Year’s Eve in The Slice (1994)

Today's Slice question: What will be the hottest Inland Northwest lifestyle trend of 1995?

(Readers took that question about as seriously as it deserved. One respondent suggested the hot trend would be scraping mud off boots before coming inside.)

No. 1 song on this date in 1969

Which made it the last No. 1 song of the 1960s.

And the first No. 1 song of the 1970s.

No. 1 song on this date in 1959

It would be the first No. 1 song of the 1960s, replaced a couple of weeks later by “Running Bear.”

Do you recall who it was Running Bear loved?

Insert expletive here (- - - -)

Just got an email from a PR agency.

The subject line: “Valentine's Gift Ideas”

What happens next?

If you know your movies, you know a happy ending is right around the corner.

Regional labels for soft drinks

I know you can't really read that. But we're in “Pop” country.

Yellow and olive are “Soda.”

Red is “Coke.”

Email privacy and fake-out tactics

I was discussing email privacy with a friend when I remembered something a classmate had said back in junior high.

Our algebra teacher, Mr. Powers, wanted all his students to keep a notebook. Occasionally he would ask that we hand these in for evaluation.

One guy who sat next to me back then joked that he was going to spice up his own notebook with comments along the lines of “Mr. Powers teaching a great class today!”

What's that got to do with email privacy?

Well, suppose you suspected that some manager at your workplace was reading your office email. Would it help to occasionally write things like “It's an honor to work for this company” or “My boss really dresses well”?

Probably not.

My guess is they skip over anything that's not at least R-rated.

This date in Slice history (2001)

The problem with New Year's resolutions is that they call for change.

And change can be hard.

So today, The Slice suggests resolutions that are a bit more realistic. Unlike the usual “quit smoking” or “lose weight” vows, these demand flexible behavior reforms most of us could live with.

Feel free to pick and choose.

Starting Jan. 1, no more than 12 hours of channel surfing per day.

No more swearing, unless you're really mad.

Do your part to conserve energy, except when that conflicts with convenience or lifestyle choices.

Talk a lot about becoming a social-service volunteer.

Support local family-operated businesses if the big-box stores or home shopping networks don't have what you want at a better price.

Broaden your arts appreciation horizons by opening yourself up to new forms of music, film, and literature, unless they're weird.

Enhance your understanding of what it means to be a spiritual person (just so long as this does not challenge any of your existing attitudes or beliefs).

Instead of sitting home and complaining that there's nothing to do around here, do your grousing in restaurants and art galleries.

Resolve to discuss doing something about your eating habits.

Read more books, unless there's something good on.

Assert your desire to liven up your family's culinary experience by buying edgy food magazines.

Save money, unless a computer upgrade has your name on it.

Either do a better job of flossing or come up with better excuses to tell your dental hygienist.

Vow to at least occasionally utter the words “I don't know,” unless asked a question.

No longer say snide things about co-workers behind their backs (unless they really deserve it).

Come to grips with the inherent problems in refusing to date anyone who is not a Victoria's Secret model, but do not lower your expectations.

Consider not blaming every social ill on teachers, lawyers and the media, unless that would force you to know what you're talking about.

Demand that your alma mater discontinue the practice of recruiting athletes who clearly have no interest in academics. And stipulate that you will withold your annual contribution if the football team doesn't win more games next year.

Do a better job of listening, except when what you're hearing is the same old blah blah blah.

Look people in the eye, if you feel like it.

Be more positive at work, at least until you have to go to a meeting.   

The politics of retirement

If you have ever considered retiring to another part of the country, how much did it matter to you that the destination state in question is red or blue politically? 

Do you miss Heather Tesch?

Or had you bailed on The Weather Channel long ago because it has tried to position itself as an action/adventure channel?

How to win a faceoff in hockey

Step 1: Don't stare at the spot on the ice where you expect the puck to land. Do what these two players are doing — keep your eyes on the puck in the official's hand.

This date in Slice history (2001)

Will 2002 be the year “North Idaho” gives way to “Northern Idaho”?

Ever heard of this?

It was a WWII era predecessor of the VA facility.

To avoid a state of confusion

I'm glad The New York Times special coverage of that avalanche took pains to note that it took place in Washington “State”.

Otherwise, I'll bet people might have suspected it all took place in the Georgetown district of D.C.

Elizabeth Bennet’s email in-box

First saw this a couple of years ago. It struck me then, as it strikes me now, as a fun idea. 

Always fun in a playing-pirates way

But now you can actually get candy coins featuring edible chocolate.

Remember how the chocolate in these things used to taste? It was like eating a brown crayon.

The last No. 1 song of the 1980s

So that means it was No. 1 on this date in 1989.

Not everybody liked Phil Collins, but at least this song was about something.

The Wednesday Slice question

What, in your estimation, makes someone a considerate houseguest?

Boxing Day, 2000

Today's Slice question: Are you sort of flattered that people love to horn in on conversations you are having with someone else?

Boxing Day, 1997

Today's Slice question: What's the most over-used word in Spokane?

Boxing Day, 1995

Today's Slice question: If we just went ahead and divided the entire Inland Northwest into two huge “Smoking” and “Non-Smoking” sections, how would you draw the geographic lines?

Boxing Day, 1994

Today's Slice question: Which of your personal memories of New Year's Eve parties would make the best movie scene?

Next year’s movie anniversaries include

“Local Hero,” from 1983.

It's probably not fair to judge from just a preview. But does anyone else suspect the new Matt Damon flick is a “Local Hero” rip-off?

From 1973, there's “American Graffiti.”

“…and a pint of Old Harper's.”

And from 1993, there's “Groundhog Day.”

“Don't drive angry.”

“Out you two pixies go”

Shouldn't we all, in the spirit of the season, find some occasion to say that today?

Good to see Mr. Lodge reading the paper

Maybe he's hoping to come upon a news brief about Archie being in an accident. 

The timing of greetings

It's really no big deal to wish someone a “Merry Christmas” and then see that person the next day and repeat the process.

It's almost inevitable. You can't always know someone's work schedule or whether you will see that individual at some subsequent social occasion.

And, of course, you can't ever tell when you will simply bump into someone again and again after wishing him or her a happy holiday.

But now we're in the home stretch. You can say “Have a Merry Christmas” today without the silent P.S., “Of course, I'll probably see you 16 more times before the holiday actually arrives.”

Any comments?

This date in Slice history (1996)

To find out what kind of service customers are getting: Everyone ought to phone his or her own place of business every once in a while and ask a few simple questions.

Which is scarier?

“Why do we give them money?”

It didn't just start happening this season.

But have you noticed how often parents have their young children be the ones to put some money in the Salvation Army kettles?

You have to think the subsequent family conversations are talks worth having. 

“No Time for Sergeants” tonight at 8

That guy hidden by the salute is Andy Griffith as country boy Will Stockdale. After this 1958 film version of the novel and stage play, he wouldn't stay hidden much longer.

It's on KSPS, Channel 7.

One thought leads to another

Just before leaving work this afternoon, I received an email from a woman in Post Falls who blames me for the provincialism she finds in our area.

As rants go, hers was reasonably under control. She lectured me, but never came out and wished me bodily harm.

The funny thing is, this woman has submitted potential items to The Slice a few times. I'm sure I've used one or two and credited her.

But perhaps the real reason I was surprised was the fact that most of my correspondence has been pretty holly jolly in recent days. And maybe, in the spirit of the season, I had allowed myself to forget my father's all-purpose advice.

“Keep your guard up.”

His other admonition was “keep punching.” But I wasn't really in the mood to tell that Post Falls woman what I thought of her insight. So I just shook my head.

Then I thought about Clark Hallas.

I worked with Clark, who was considerably older than I was, in Tucson. He and another reporter shared a Pulitzer Prize while I was there.

Once, at lunch, we were telling stories. My mention of having worked in El Paso reminded him of his time there.

I can't remember if he was there while in the Army or during his stint working for United Press International. But his story was about being in a bar on the other side of the border when someone got killed. I can't recall if it was a shooting or a stabbing. The key detail was that this took place on Christmas Eve.

Clark, who died in December of 1992, could be a delightfully deadpan storyteller. And he had one of his finer moments just a couple of beats after finishing that anecdote.

“Feliz Navidad,” he said.

Going to the movies on Christmas Day

For some, that's a family tradition.

Is yours one of those families?

If so, have you decided what you will see?

Who is the “Lovey” in your family?

Of course, it could be that not every family has someone who reminds others of Mrs. Howell.

Here’s a game you can play at home

If you receive a fair number of family-photo Christmas cards, here's a thought.

After the holidays, you can cut out faces and cast your own sitcom. Mix and match for minutes of fun!

“Here's the story…”

Not exactly master of my domain

I should say at the outset that I am not using that expression in a Seinfeldian sense.

No, I'm talking about poorly organizing your organizing tools. Or perhaps I should say my organizing tools.

I was out of the office last week. Before leaving I set up that email auto-reply thing that informs senders of your absence and says when you will be back.

Well, I somehow managed to have my bounce-back inform emailers from outside the SR  that I would return to the office on Oct. 29.

That got fixed. But for that first weekend, those sending me an email were mistakenly informed that I would be away from the office for 10 months.

Then, even though I thought I updated it this past Monday, the message greeting those hoping to leave me a phonemail as late as yesterday afternoon informed callers that I would be out of the office until Dec. 17.

As one caller politely noted yesterday — Dec. 20, the 17th had come and gone.

“Are you all right?” he asked at the end of his message.

It's a fair question.

One for my old building and loan pals

How would people in your household react if you proposed a one-day ban this coming Tuesday on television, computers, smart phones, all other mobile devices, et cetera?  

This date in Slice history (1996)

There already are way too many sad stories: So please don't give someone a pet for Christmas unless you are 100 percent certain the animal will be happily cared for and loved for the duration of its life.

A line I didn’t expect to hear

A twentysomething woman getting on the No. 43 bus at the STA Plaza looked back at some friends who weren't boarding. “You two are dead to me,” she said.

Her smile suggested this was all in fun.

The friends standing outside the bus said something else. And then, in a tone of mock indignation, the bus girl uttered something to her friends that sort of blew me away.

“I said 'Good day'!”

I love that line and always associate it with the movie “Tootsie.”

But “Tootsie” came out before the woman on the bus was born. So I guess there are two possibilities. Well, three.

1. Even though it would be an “old” movie to her, she has seen it.

2. That line exists in our culture independent of its use in “Tootsie.”

3. The young woman on the bus came up with it on her own.

Picking up a few things at the store

An express-lane cashier looked up and said “How are you two doing today?”

Then, immediately, she realized the man and woman next in line were not together. Each had a shopping basket.

No one was troubled, of course.

But it would have been the perfect moment for the checker to ask, “Did you find everything you were looking for?”

The woman in line could have said to the cashier, “Well, apparently I found this guy here — do you have a coupon I can use?”

This date in Slice history (1995)

Today's Slice question: Who gets asked for a date more than anyone else in the Inland Northwest?

What’s your honest opinion of this?

I owned it. Still might have it somewhere in a box that hasn't been opened in a long time.

A case could be made that the group's soaring harmonies work on some of these songs. But I don't know.

You make the call.

“A run, run reindeer.”

“Oh, grow up, lady”

A letter to the editor today from a former SR colleague included her quoting a guy saying that to her.

She had questioned him about his wearing a holstered pistol in a theater.

It was my favorite line in a letter to the editor since a writer recently addressed herself to “My fellow Americans.”

Anyway, I have made it my goal to say “Oh, grow up, lady” at least once to all of my female co-workers before the end of the year.

And if you are a reader who would like to hear me say that to you, send me a note with your phone number and I'll try to give you a call.

“Oh, grow up, lady.”

I probably won't be armed when I say it, but it could still be fun.

This date in Slice history (1996)

Today's Slice question: Should your workplace have a penalty box?

Post card

Even when your kids are cute, it never hurts to include a dog.

This is from the Post family.

Frozen in memory

My friend Ken Stout recalled a couple of childhood winters spent in Lewistown, Mont.

The snow and cold made a definite impression on him.

I shared his memories with my colleague, Rich Landers, who grew up in Lewistown. That prompted Rich to remember a day in his childhood when it was a surreal 50 degrees below zero.

That reminded me of a story of my own, one which my late father enjoyed retelling.

The coldest place my family lived when I was a kid was the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. During our two years there, I rode a bus to school. The direct route to my bus stop took me through a pair of unfenced backyards a short walk from our home.

But there was a problem. In each yard, there was a chained dog. To me, these two canines looked and sounded like killers. And it was on my first initially carefree stroll through these adjacent yards that I discovered the chains attached to the two dogs were long enough to let them move around but not quite reach each other.

Still, when both of those snarling beasts strained to meet at the invisible dividing line between the yards, it did not leave much room for a young scholar to trudge through toward the bus stop.

Naturally, after my first experience with being lunged at from east and west, I subsequently chose a longer but far safer route.

But one winter day, it was so frickin' cold and ice-pick windy that I thought, “Aw, the hell with it.”

I wanted to get to the protection of the little hut at the bus stop. And I wanted to get there fast.

So I opted for the route that took me between the fangs-baring dogs. I might have reasoned that if they got me at least I wouldn't feel my freezing face anymore.

The fact that you are reading this tells you I survived. But I would hasten to add that it was touch and go. If I had managed to breathe during this trial by Cujos, I would have inhaled frozen barking vapor.

I don't think the dogs appreciated being left out in 30-below by their owners. And I didn't blame them. Taking their hostility out on a bundled-up kid free to move about as he pleased actually made sense in a way.

Asked about my day at dinner that evening, I said, yes, I did have a report.

I just wish it had occurred to me to first get up from the table and plop the “Peter and the Wolf” theme onto the stereo turntable.

Close encounters of the Patty Duke kind

Here are a few readers' recollections of meeting the actress. (The Slice had solicited same back on her birthday. This is just a sampling of the reports.)

“I met Patty Duke when we went bowling,” wrote Lauren Hopkins. “Her feet are so small, she had to get children's bowling shoes. She is also very funny. She told us when her son was little, he wanted a brother. So they got a dog and named him Brother.”

“She took a donkey we had to find a home for,” wrote Bruce Werner.

“When she lived a few blocks from us in Coeur d'Alene's Fort Grounds, I would say 'Hi neighbor' as she walked past our house on the way to the park with her son,” wrote Tom Nash.

Lorrie McLaughlin met her at a benefit. “I walked up to Patty, she turned to me and immediately enveloped me in a bear hug. I thought, Wow — she's friendly! Then she said, 'Oh, I thought you were my cousin.' So…does that make me Cathy?”

Ron Bush encountered her at an event where she was signing copies of her book. He recalled that there were a zillion people there and the experience had turned into a marathon of sorts for the actress. “When it was our turn she acknowledged each of us including our 5-year-old grandson and signed the book with names and a pleasant inscription. It was a wonderful experience and justified my long admiration for Patty Duke.”

“I didn't officially meet Patty Duke, but I did wipe up her crumbs,” wrote school teacher Carol Nelson. “She was eating lunch with her son at Borah School, and I was the lunchroom aide. My daughters also went to Borah, and I worked there while I was finishing my degree. That was my first job with the school district.”

Nancy Haynes met her at the Kootenai County Fairgrounds.

Haynes' son, Travis, is now 26. But when he was 8, he had raised a 260-pound pig named Little Foot. It was his first 4-H animal, and the knowledge of livestock's fate was weighing on him.

Duke and her husband bought the pig and said they would keep it as a pet on their farm.

“I shall never forget their kindness, when they both came by the pen, shook our little boy's hand and assured him that Little Foot was not going to be eaten. They were so very gracious. They spent quite a while talking to Travis, complimenting him on what a fine pig he had raised.” 

This date in Slice history (1994)

Today's Slice question: What is the relationship between not taking your foot off the accelerator when your car's tires are loudly spinning on the ice and IQ?

Try not to step in it downtown

During carriage-rides season, it's possible to find yourself having to avoid horse droppings in the street.

That's not a problem, of course.

If only the metaphorical equivalent was that easy to dodge.

If you are in a bar in Chattaroy…

…wouldn't you have a reasonable expectation that you might get stabbed?

That was the view of one newsroom colleague looking at an online news story and weighing the risk/reward factors of certain leisure decisions.

Wrong way to go about changing a tire

Putting one leg up in the air like that makes it harder to use the lug wrench.

A Christmas-card family letter strategy

A smart, funny couple I know include a highly readable “Things We Didn't Do” section.

True or false

As we approach the Winter Solstice, some people will no longer be constrained by gravity and you have to reach up and grab them.

They didn’t teach this in Driver’s Ed

Do you remember where your hands are supposed to go?

No, not “On her sweater.”

The correct answer is “at 10 and 2.”

How could you go wrong?

If it's advertised in a 1960s comic book, it has to be good — right?

And if you are going to spend a whole dollar, why, you're practically assured of top quality.

“Are you wearing a Go Go Tail or is there a woodland creature on your head?”

Wednesday Slice question

If there are motion-detector lights on your property, how often do they go on between sunset and dawn?

Spokane’s Golden Age

I wonder how many of these are at the bottom of area lakes.

I totally understand if you do not share my fascination with old beer cans.

Today’s Christmas record

I had a boss ages ago who loved the singing of Jim Reeves.

Do you share his opinion? 

This date in Slice history (1994)

One good thing about Spokane: All the good-looking grandmothers.

Remember Homer’s “Mr. Plow” jingle?

I'll give you a second.

OK, here it is.

“Call Mr. Plow.

“That's my name.

“That name again is Mr. Plow.”

A bride for Big Jim

“Our second son, Matty, didn't have a G.I. Joe, but he did have a Big Jim,” wrote Judy McKeehan.

“Big Jim had a big plastic Jeep. Matty decided that Big Jim needed a wife, so he asked for a Barbie for his birthday.”

Matty had the same birthday as his dad, Mike.

Well, there was a birthday party for Matty. While opening the box containing the Barbie, he realized his friends were watching him. So when he pulled out the doll he said, “Here, Dad, this must be for you.”

Just wondering

What's the best way to deal with a competitive griever?

How about a performance griever?

Christmas cards from near and nearer

My wife and I received a family-photo Christmas card from the young couple across the street.

We like them and hope they will stay in the neighborhood for many years. It's my fantasy that their older child, a preschool boy named Franklin, will eventually refer to me as “Old Man Turner.”

Anyway, it made me wonder.

How many people receive cards in the mail from people who live right next door?

Find out about Ethan Allen

If the references to him in “Lincoln” made you curious, here are a few details.

Fans of a certain Internet feline

Might enjoy “Sally Forth” on today's comics page.

Name five ways…

…this scene is different from Christmas at your house. 

How often do you drop the TV remote?

Would members of your household benefit from a modified version of those football drills designed to teach runners to hold onto the ball? 

The last No. 1 song of the 1970s

No. 1 song on this date and at the end of 1979.

It's a story song, but no “El Paso.”

At the post office this afternoon

When the line at the post office seems a bit like the Nile River, people tend to critique those who finally make it up to the service counter.

Are they going about their business in a quick, efficient manner?

Do they show signs of having mailed something before?

Or are they high-maintenance nightmares like the woman in purple?

A white-haired guy in a denim jacket looked on in amazement as the woman in purple packed, addressed and taped her box up at the counter.

“She had all the time in the world to do that before she got up there,” he said in a tone that was the opposite of sleigh bells.

We all know that it's best to stay calm and relax when in a long line. And virtually everyone at the South Regal P.O. did just that.

Still, it wasn't as if the woman in purple didn't test the patience of those who been behind her.

She just has one package, what could possibly be taking so long?

Is she up there discussing the season finale of “Dexter” or “Homeland”?

Eventually the Woman in Purple geologic era passed and the line moved up.

Would have been nice to know if anyone else heard the “Hallelujah Chorus” in his or her head.

Ever build civilian airplane models?

I never did. I built military planes. But perhaps that was simply a failure of imagination.

After all, the movies offer plenty of entertaining scenarios for civilian aircraft.

What child would not have enjoyed playing “Flight attendant Jacqueline Bisset is pregnant with Dean Martin's baby and a plane is stuck in the snow on runway 3-1-Niner.”

Or, “Joey, do you like movies about gladiators?” 

Cross-country travelers

Yours is not the only family that recycles Christmas boxes for packing and mailing.

Some of these containers have gone back and forth between family and friends multiple times, racking up impressive mileage totals. 

She really does seem glad to see him

Looks like that chart compares flying-time to driving-time. Don't recall having seen that before.

Map: Probability of a white Christmas

The Weather Service is defining this as having at least an inch of snow on the ground on Dec. 25. 

Oddest aspect of “White Christmas”?

The whole thing about the general or the size of Vera-Ellen's waist?

When shoveling just makes it worse

Here's what I believe.

When there has been just a little bit of snow and the temperatures are creating a classic Spokane melt/refreeze cycle, clearing your walks just makes the footing more dangerous.

If you just leave the snow, it will fluctuate between slushy and frozen crunch. Either usually make for a survivable pedestrian experience.

But if you shovel your walk to a pristine, clear surface, you are just inviting the adjacent yard snow to melt onto the exposed concrete and then refreeze. That can create a treacherous glaze.

Of course, when there is a fair amount of snow it's time to get out the shovel.

Seven questions

1. How many people who have tried to sing Joni Mitchell's “River” can actually skate?

2. How many kids have had their picture taken with the horse statue outside P.F. Chang's?

3. When preparing a Christmas-bonus envelope for your newspaper delivery person, do you include a critique of the service so as to avoid the appearance of issuing a blanket endorsement?

4. What percentage of those complaining about the mainstream media (whether from the left or from the right) have even the slightest idea of how the MSM actually operate?

5. How has texting changed Christmas shopping? 

6. In competitive parking situations, have you ever felt stalked by space-seeking drivers as you walked back to your car carrying bags from a couple of stores?

7. When you had a Christmas goose, how much grease cooked off?

Flip them off or not?

You are driving north on Lincoln in downtown Spokane, in the farthest right lane.

You have just passed Riverside. A driver in your lane just ahead of you has stopped, clearly intending to back into a curbside parking space.

So you stop, too, leaving plenty of room for him or her to proceed.

Going around the car about to park seems iffy as traffic is still whizzing by in the lane to your left. So you just wait.

This is just going to take a second, so it's certainly no big deal.

But then the people in the car immediately behind you honk their horn at you — as if you are just stopped for no good reason.

Of course, by the time you resume your forward progress, there will be no sign of why you were stopped in the first place.

But couldn't the people behind you have figured it out?

This date in Slice history (1995)

Warm-up question: What's the most unexpected present you've received from a really young child?

Not exactly a modest claim 

This date in Slice history (1994)

Today's Slice question: Is there someone in your family who, after shaking, tapping or sniffing a wrapped present, always correctly guesses the contents?

Bicycles as Christmas presents

A guy at a Spokane bike shop told me that purchases of Christmas-present bicycles tend to be last-minute.

I guess the “Where to store it?” question is one consideration.

And then there's the matter of coordinating with Santa.

Ever get a new bike for Christmas?

Eighty bucks was a lot of money 50 years ago.

Reader challenge

What connects these things?

1. “Mendacity.”

2. “A cup of cheer.”

3. The state of Washington.

4. “A Face in the Crowd.”

5. House Committee on Un-American Activities.

The No. 1 song 30 years ago

There is a chance you know people who danced to this — people who now have families and serious jobs.

Do not shun them. Everyone was young once.

“She'll chew you up.”

This date in Slice history (2001)

When families pile into the car after dinner and cruise residential neighborhoods to check out Christmas lights, inattentive drivers aren't the only problem.

No, there's another concern.

People run out of things to say.

Sure, “Isn't that lovely” or “Talk about bad taste” might be fine for the first few blocks. But after that, it's easy to run out of material.

Not. to worry. The Slice is here.

Stuck for something to say after the hundredth festively illuminated house? Try one of these lines.

“Obesity in snowmen is fatal.”

“When the lights are strung that way, it means an Idaho native lives there.”

“You know, 'Little Drummer Boy' just makes me want to scream.”

“More people ought to mount deer whistles on their cars.”

“I wonder what Ashley Judd is doing right now.”

“I'm sulking in silence back here because you made me come along on this stupid family outing when I could be home on the phone talking to my friends and screaming 'Oh, my God!' every five seconds.”

“Channel 4's Kris Crocker says a glug of egg nog can get oatmeal up on its feet.”

“I don't care for boxer shorts emblazoned with zany messages.”

“The way some people get worked up about the Sacred Heart expansion messing up sight lines, you'd think they were building a casino.”

“Those lights remind me of those fat-free muffins at Great Harvest.”

“Are elves an ethnic group, or is it more a religious thing?”

This date in Slice history (1995)

Today's Slice question: What's your best splashed-by-slush story?

Medicinal drinking on the job

I was second in a checkout line at Rosauers.

An older woman ahead of me was talking to the cashier, Sharon. It seems Sharon has been under the weather. The shopper ahead of me recommended a hot toddy. Or two.

When it was my turn to be rung up, I told Sharon maybe a hot toddy would be just the thing. Too bad she couldn't have one there at the store.

This reminded me of a reporter I worked with at my first newspaper job.

I don't know how old George was back then. He seemed ancient. So I suppose he was probably about the age I am now.

Anyway, he had back problems. But he also had a solution.

He presented this to Art, the managing editor.

George said that he had discovered that sipping wine took the edge off his discomfort. So, he asked Art, would it be OK for him to have some wine there at his desk at the paper? You know, for medicinal reasons.

I'd guess that Art was in his early 40s at that time. But I suspect he looked much older in that moment.

Referring to a local grocery market and our volatile publisher, he answered.

“George, if Burl hears that I let you drink wine at your desk, we'll both be working at Food Land before the end of the week.”

As it happens, George did not live much longer. But, as I recall, a lack of on-the-job merlot was not the cause.

This date in Slice history (1997)

Table manners: We asked readers to name the most annoying dining habit they encounter. Two clear “winners” emerged.

1. Spaghetti sucking.

2. Blowing nose in napkin.

Write your own caption

I'll go first.

“Isn't that cute! Santa drank all the beer.”

Which was your family?

A) We had a pool table.

B) We had a ping pong table.

C) We went to Spokane Flyers games.

D) We went to Playfair.

E) We went to AAA Spokane Indians games.

F) We went to Spokane Comets games.

G) We raised show dogs.

H) We went camping.

I) We were asked to hold the noise down because dad was trying to sleep.

J) We took The Chronicle.

K) We went to drive-in theaters.

L) We watched CBS news and followed the NFL.

M) We watched NBC news and followed the AFL.

N) We went to Spokane Jets games.

O) We went to the lake.

P) We played cards and board games.

Q) Other.

These might look familiar

How many thousands of hours did you spend looking at a set similar to one of these?

This date in Slice history (1996)

Sweeping Generalizations Department: If everyone in Southern California secretly wants to be in the movie industry and everyone in the District of Columbia years to be involved in politics, what does everyone in the Spokane area want?

This date in Slice history (1994)

Today's Slice question: Do you ever scan the box office results, bestseller lists, music charts or TV ratings and feel very, very alone?

Downtown Spokane, 12/12/12

1. An old guy in a parka complained about parking downtown and explained to an Apple store employee that he never comes downtown because of it.

2. The wide garage-like door that opens Nordstrom to the rest of the River Park Square's ground floor was not working this morning. See No. 3.

3. Boo Radley's has note paper topped with “WTF.” Not sure if it is sticky-backed. But if so, it would have been fine for attaching to the Nordstrom door.

4. Anyone interested in unusual views of downtown really ought to check out the windows surrounding Macy's sixth-floor clearance area.

5. Demand for Europa's petits fours apparently outstrips supply by a factor of 10.

6. Overheard a guy saying he wanted to meet Shawn Vestal.

This date in Slice history (1997)

Today's Slice question: What would Dr. Seuss have titled a Christmas story set in Spokane?

The Wednesday Slice question

If you were the news director at a Spokane TV station, how would you cover wintry weather?

This date in Slice history (1995)

Today's Slice question: Will there be a lot of soul-searching and gnashing of teeth if Boise someday passes Spokane in population?

Valentine’s Day plans already booked

I'll be having dental work that day.

Go ahead and try to top that.

I'm no fan of Valentine's Day performance romance. But my 2013 plan might set some sort of record.

Of course, I won't be in the dentist's chair all day. At least I hope not. 

This date in Slice history (1994)

Today's Slice question: How many of Spokane's old telephone exchange word prefixes can you recall?

This date in “Twilight Zone” history

On Dec. 11, 1959, an episode called “And When The Sky Was Opened” first aired.

Some early astronauts come back from a flight and then, one by one, begin vanishing — along with any record of their mission.

It's an OK episode. But the thing I want to call to your attention is the fake front page below.

I like a few details, including the top-of-the page reference to the school board story. If a real reporter had written that story, it's a good bet that he or she would have groused about the play it got.

“Spacemen — who cares? Our readers want to know about school bonds.”

You have my permission to loathe…

Those loose, foam packing peanuts.

But you'll have to get in line behind me.

You know it’s a 2012 pageant when…

The three wise men are Fragile, Liquid and Perishable.

Watch enough jewelry commercials

And you can't help but wonder if people with shiny baubles to sell suspect women are not especially interesting people.

This date in Slice history (1995)

Today's Slice question: How would the Inland Northwest be different if you had never been born?

Deflated front-yard Christmas figures

When you see this, what goes through your mind?
A) Appears Santa got gunned down. B) Those reindeer look as if someone tossed a bucket of water on them, like when the Wicked Witch got taken out that way. C) 'Tis the season for festive figures carnage. D) Other.

Life is good if you can worry about…

The fact that seemingly every time you take your car in for servicing and they wash it before sending you on your way, you then drive off onto wet streets and a grime-filled mist created by traffic.

So, in essence, your car wash lasts approximately four seconds.  

Monday got you down?

My advice is to do a Google image search on “Calvin and Hobbes snowmen” when you get a chance. 

What’s the policy in your household?

On walking through the kitchen and sticking a tasting finger in cake batter?

Remembering the first name is easy

It's one thing to remember the name of someone you haven't seen in a long time when you bump into that person in a store or on a sidewalk.

Coming up with “Steve” or “Chris” is a good feeling.

But some of us aren't satisfied with that. Oh, no. Not content with getting that name right, we have to up the ante. After the exchange of pleasantries and good-to-see-yous, we roll the dice.

“And be sure to say hello to…”

Here's where time can stand still.

What is the name of this guy's wife?

Petronia? Maybellene?

When suddenly in doubt, a couple of options might occur to you.

1) Incomprehensible mumbling.

2) “Your lovely wife.”

Neither is ideal. But at least you won't then be haunted by images of that guy going home and having some fun at your expense.

“Ran into Cuthbert Twilley while I was out. He said to say hello to you. When did you change your name to Samantha?” 

This date in Slice history (1996)

Overheard at the Elk Cafe in Spokane's Browne's Addition (two twentysomething guys talking about a new hire at some local business): “Does he have any ideas?”

“Not new ones.”

“Well, then they aren't ideas.”

This date in Slice history (1994)

Overheard at the Thai Cafe: A waiter was explaining the system of ranking spicy-hot dishes when a first-time patron asked “So, like three stars, how hot is that in Mexican?” 

This date in Slice history (1996)

Today's Slice question: Do people who grew up in one part of Spokane but now live in an altogether different section of the city retain any loyalty to their old neighborhood?

This date in Slice history (1995)

It was about 6 a.m., and it was cold, dark and quiet.

Downtown was just waking up. A car here. Apartment lights flicking on there. Stuff you barely notice.

Then we heard it. Someone was singing. Singing loud.

You could tell it was a man. He's plastered, we thought.

Maybe. But this guy a block away could halfway carry a tune.

The singer was on First. We were on Sprague. We were both walking east, at about the same pace. And when cross-streets or space between buildings allowed, we could hear this man belting out a song. You know how sound carries when it's cold.

Still, it wasn't quite possible to make out the lyrics.

A time or two we even caught sight of him. But he was too far away for a positive assessment. Probably drunk.

Then, near Monroe, we had to reconsider. Wasn't that a Christmas carol he was singing? Sure, it sounded like — could it be? — “We Three Kings.”

We stopped and soaked in a Hallmark Moment.

We looked for the guy in the predawn darkness. There he was. Walking and singing in a big coat.

And then there came a line we could definitely make out.

“You're my l-a-a-a-dy.”

So it wasn't a carol.

We watched the singer cross Monroe and then walk out of view.

Probably drunk. 

You aren’t the only one

Who goes around saying “Does it seem later than 3:55 to you?”

Visiting the USS Arizona memorial

“Yes, my wife and I visited the Arizona,” wrote Ted Shepard. “It was like a sacred religious experience, knowing a few feet below were entombed hundreds of young American servicemen. Everyone spoke in reverent whispers, including the visiting Japanese.”

Clarene Haynie wrote, “The thing that disturbed me the most was that the Japanese visitors were loud, irreverent, and quite rude.”

Gary Polser wrote, “Visited many, many times. Gives me the chills.”

Marilyn Othmer wrote, “Most everyone was weeping or looking so very sad. We had feelings we'd never had visiting any other memorial anywhere.”

Alice Williams wrote, “It is very beautifully done. The experience was really reverent and inspiring.”

Meg McCoy wrote, “My husband and I went to the Arizona memorial some years ago. I remains one of the most emotional experiences of my life.”

Sue Kassa wrote, “Most chilling was leaning over the edge of the memorial, looking into the water to see the ship and seeing small oil spills still coming to the surface after all these years.”

“It was silent,” said Carol Lindburg. “No one said a word.”

Sam couldn’t get a date for his picnic

So he brought profit partners.

Were you a 7-Up person or did you prefer Sprite or Mountain Dew?

Slice answer

“I visited the Arizona on Dec. 7th, 1961 — 20 years to the date,” wrote Dick Bean. “I was stationed on the USS Constellation carrier and we were called to the deck in our dress whites as the sun rose. We were across from the Arizona and faced her as they played taps. Very moving!”

Hey, kids! Shooting indoors is fun!

What could possibly go wrong?

Oh, well. I'm sure birds were in favor of this.

Re: first item in today’s Slice column

A friend had an answer.

“Cyrus O'Leary's Pie Slice.”

The future is assured

It's not just a rumor.

We have a guarantee. The year 2013 will arrive right on schedule.

It's already, as Atticus Finch might say, a living, working reality.

How do I know?

Simple. The sell-by dates on milk cartons are all in January.

Is Mariah Carey all about her boobs?

I suspect that how you answer that influences how you feel about her inescapable Christmas song.

Sure, her vocal excesses and self-important gesticulating can be annoying. But sometimes it seems she's mostly a relentless cleavage offensive.

There are worse things in the world. But really. Enough is enough. 

This date in Slice history (1995)

Warm-up question: If one accepts the notion that there are all these angels in our midst, would it be fair to say that they are, at best, underachievers?

Rollin’, rollin’, rollin’

Check out the kid in the striped shirt over on the right, in the background. He's trying to make time with the babe in yellow. But she's only got eyes for the men with wheels.

“Hee Haw, Stripey. Take off!”

“Dear Penthouse…”

You can say that.

And in certain contexts, it can be pretty funny.

But, if you spend time with people who are not your age, there's a good chance most will not have any idea what you are talking about.

Cross-country skiing back in the 1970s

As I recall, it involved blow-torches, tar and 64 kinds of wax.

I hear it is somewhat simpler now. But maybe that's just an unfounded rumor.

Re: U.S.S. Arizona memorial

Tomorrow's Slice asks readers if they have been there.

I hope to go some day. Hawaii and South Dakota are the two states I have yet to visit.

The idea that you can see the ship down below has always struck me as potentially haunting.

Your verdict on 1988’s “Scrooged”?

It's a total throwaway and not really enough of a reason to watch this, but at one point Bill Murray does this impression of Richard Burton that is pretty brilliant.

This date in Slice history (1994)

She's a real Inland Northwest woman if: “She can chain-up, doesn't drive down the middle of the road in a snow storm and doesn't flinch when she meets a loaded logging truck.” — Jeannie Maki, Colville

Numbers game

I realize that in Spokane it's an “avenue” and not a “street.”

But I wonder how often people living on 34th refer to a certain movie at this time of year.

How many still call Macy’s “The Bon”?

I still hear that now and then when people are talking about downtown Spokane's signature Christmas decorations.

Today’s classic Christmas 45

Seeing this reminds me of something. Did you happen to see that PBS “American Masters” on David Geffen a week or two ago?

I found it fascinating. The subject came off as part con man, part talent-spotting genius. And the star-power wattage of those interviewed was off the chart.

This date in Slice history (1997)

A friend overheard a Spokane grade school girl express displeasure with her school pictures.

“I look like Dolly Parton when she was 11 years old old.”

“Content blocked by your organization”

How do you react when you see that?

A) “I am heartily sorry for having offended thee.” B) “Oh, this must be a good site.” C) “My organization would seem to be easily offended.” D) “Sounds Orwellian.” E) Other. 

Can’t believe it has been almost 10 years

The Space Shuttle Columbia disaster took place on Feb. 1, 2003.

It's hard to believe it has been that long.

It seems like just four or five years ago that I was interviewing astronaut Michael Anderson on the phone before a 1998 flight on Endeavor. And I remember visiting with his parents in their living room here in Spokane.

Anderson, a Cheney High graduate, was born on Christmas Day in 1959. If life was fair, he would have had many, many more birthdays.

A Liz Lemon/Jack Donaghy exchange

This is from NBC's “30 Rock.”

Lemon: “Why are you wearing a tux?”

Donaghy: “It's after 6. What am I, a farmer?”

If you ever had an electric train set

You eventually found yourself asking a question.

Should I put something on the tracks and have the train run into it?

The answer, of course, was an emphatic “Yes.”

So here's the follow-up.

What did you select to place in the path of the oncoming locomotive?

This night on “Dick Van Dyke” in 1962

An episode called “A Bird in the Head Hurts” first aired on Dec. 5, 1962.

Ritchie keeps getting attacked by a woodpecker, and his parents suspect he isn't telling the truth. Naturally, that worries Rob and Laura.

I was never a fan of the child actor who played Ritchie, so I preferred that he stay in his room and out of sight.

But the real problem here is that “The Andy Griffith Show” had adressed this theme a few months earlier in a terrific episode called “Mr. McBeevee.” This was early in that show's run, but it featured Griffith and Ron Howard at their best.

“A Bird in the Head Hurts,” on the other hand, was pretty forgettable. 

How interested are you in royal baby?

A) Oh, God. B) Quite interested. C) I just hope she doesn't have twins and then one of them has to spend years wearing an iron mask. D) I would not care about the royals in a house, I would not care about them with a mouse. E) I like the queen but regard Prince Charles as a weak, horrible excuse for a man. As for the pregnancy, I just hope all goes well for mother and baby. F) Other.

Wednesday Slice question

What happened after you made a significantly larger than usual donation to a group or organization you had supported for years?

This date in Slice history (1995)

Today's Slice question: Who is the area's safest, most courteous driver?

(And from 1999…)

Today's Slice question: What local population subgroup is most delusional about its influence on the Spokane area's attitudes and values?

a. Seattle transplants.

b. High school dropouts with suspended drivers licenses.

c. Gay NRA members.

d. Republican environmentalists.

e. Bored, fat divorced men.

f. Wild-eyed survivalists.

g. Radio talk-show callers.

h. Other.

No. 1 song on this date in 1965

And it goes without saying that you already knew that a Spokane guy was a member of the Byrds during one of their early incarnations.

I’ll tell you why this caught my eye

Because it almost looks like a view from the Palouse of a direct hit on Fairchild AFB.

One sign of insanity

Riding a bike in the city while listening to music on earphones.

Not being able to hear what's happening around you just isn't a good idea.

Sure, people driving cars fool around with all sorts of distractions. But that's not a reasonable rationale for bike riders depriving themselves of important sensory information.

Just wondering

Are those who insist that Christmas should be embraced as a universal cultural celebration denying the holiday's religious foundation or do they simply not care that some people are not Christian?

Or is it simply a majority-rule perspective?

These might have been hazardous

But some, including George Case of Rathdrum, miss them. “I remember when one of these colorful and action-filled lights would bite the dust, it was like losing a best friend.”

No. 1 song on this date in 1974

There are excellent reasons why we never hear this song any more.

Blame disco. Blame the increasingly irrelevant Top 40.

Just remember. It was a little bit frightening. Those cats were fast as lightning.


Do you know what’s going on here?

Feel free to write your own caption.

Coming in Tuesday’s Slice column

When your dog takes an interest in your infant granddaughter.

The secret to successful cohabitation

Find someone who chooses interesting material when noting news items from the paper or some website, not someone whose out-loud observations always make you think “Why on Earth would I care about that?” 

Today’s defunct bowl game

This program is a graphic nightmare.

You can barely read “Refrigerator Bowl.”

When you’re no longer rockin’

A Spokane woman who spent a couple of days in a sleeper compartment on the westbound Empire Builder got home then, a day or two later, awoke in the middle of the night in her own bed.

Sensing the lack of motion, her first thought was that the train must be stopped.

Just wondering

What goes through the mind of a man contemplating a comb-over?

At the Daily Planet Christmas Party

Looks like Perry White has been kissed all over his face. Perhaps he might have gotten smooched on the mouth if he wasn't smoking a cigar.

Of course, Clark is afraid that if the Planet's female staffers catch him under the mistletoe they will discover his power of super-kissing and his secret will come out. 

Because not everyone has an SUV

There are those who use bike racks on compact cars to transport walkers and light wheelchairs.

This date in Slice history (1994)

Today's Slice question: Why is yours the quintessential Inland Northwest family?


Today's  Slice question: Do you secretly hope one or two co-workers will make total fools of themselves at your office Christmas party?


It's time for The Slice's annual “It's a Wonderful Life” survey.

The question: Is Spokane more like Bedford Falls or Pottersville?

Compare and contrast. Then you make the call.

1. Pottersville had rip-roaring night life. (Spokane is more like Bedford Falls.)

2. Bedford Falls was the kind of place where people didn't break into cars and steal Christmas presents. (Spokane is more like Pottersville.)

3. Police in Pottersville thought nothing of shooting at fleeing suspects. (No comment.)

4. Bars were forlorn, dreary places in Pottersville. (That's probably true of plenty of bars in Spokane, too.)

5. Nepotism ruled in Bedford Falls. (The same is true in Spokane.)

6. Mothers in Bedford Falls didn't mind if their daughters married blowhards, just so long as they were rich. (Hee Haw, that's often true in Spokane, too.)

7. Families in Bedford Falls experienced no pangs of guilt about having servants. (That can't always be said of Spokane.)

8. People sat on porches in Bedford Falls. (Spokane is more like Pottersville in that regard.)

9. Cab drivers felt confident about making a mental health diagnosis in Pottersville. (True in Spokane, too.)

10. Men thought about sex during the middle of the day in Bedford Falls. (No comment.)

How many will watch both shows?

You might not assume that there is a significant crossover audience.

But there have to be at least a few TV watchers who will check out both “The Walking Dead” and “Downton Abbey” tonight.

Just wondering

Do you think SR readers who write letters to the editor are aware that, even though they are required to sign their names, there's a good chance people who don't have to do that will attack them online?

Maybe they wouldn't care.

And let's be clear. A few letter writers deserve to be asked what color the sky is in their world.

Still. Doesn't seem fair.

This date in Slice history (1998)

Everyone knows that the remarkable before-and-after transformation of Charlie Brown's little Christmas tree is a bit, shall we say, suspicious. But there's no need to point it out every year when watching “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”

(Sure, that's what I said 14 years ago. But I still never fail to note the magical green bulk-up.)

Spokane finalist in New Yorker contest

D. G. Rogers is among three readers of The New Yorker magazine in the running to win that publication's latest weekly cartoon-caption contest.

His or her entry appears along with the others in the Dec. 3 issue.

Good luck.

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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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