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The Slice

Archive for February 2012

Drink Like a Champion Today

As the T-shirt says.

I had challenged readers to come up with a drinking game based on watching Spokane TV news.

I'm not really encouraging people to mindlessly consume alcohol. I just wondered what readers might suggest. 

And a friend, who noted that if this weather keeps up we're almost certain to have a white Christmas, had a few ideas.

He named names and all. But, even though this blog is pretty obscure, I have no wish to be considered a big meanie. So I've decided to leave out the names. Still, perhaps you will recognize a few of these broadcasters despite that.

Every time a certain gentleman says “weather-wise,” you drink.

Every time a certain anchor smacks her lips, you drink.

Every time another anchor tacks on an unnecessary tone-restatement — “Tragic situation,” “Thoughtful cab driver,” et cetera — you drink.

And then there's one that would have every game player hammered in short order.

Every time someone says “Reporting live,” you drink.  

Characterizations of Spokane Department

Slice reader Bob Curry tipped me to one that showed up in Sunday's Seattle Times. It appears in a story about the Bainbridge Island Police Department.

“Bainbridge is as white as Spokane, nearly as liberal as Seattle and more moneyed than Bellevue.”

Good cats, bad cats and one great cat

Tuesday's Slice column looking at the differences between a “good kitty” and a “bad kitty” prompted a fair amount of feedback.

Here's a small sampling.

“I enjoyed your article,” wrote Steve Judy of Spokane. “However, isn't the whole 'good kitty' vs. 'bad kitty' kind of subjective? I have a 16-year-old cat — he throws up on everything. The vet has written 'CAUTION' across his file in big red letters. This cat is a terror. He actually has to be gassed down so the vet can examine him. He won't put up with it otherwise. However, in my book, he is still a 'good kitty.' I may be a fool, but I love that furry little demon.”

A North Idaho feline named Spanky (who, I'm guessing, got some typing help from Karen Botker) echoed that point.

“To be a 'Good Kitty' one must embrace the entirety of one's character,” said, uh, Spanky. “This includes many traits that you have listed under the BK category.”

Others told stories about their pets, many of which made me smile.

And then there was a note from my friend Tara Leininger, a cat lover who said she enjoyed Tuesday's column.

“The sad news is that Monday afternoon I had to take Alma for her last trip to the vet. She was 18 yrs., 5 months, 6 days. Her health in the past few months had been declining. Physically, she was much more slow and stiff, not jumping around as much and having difficulty because of the arthritis. Last check-up, the blood work said that kidney problems were starting.

“The last week saw a radical decline. On Sunday she tried to jump onto her favorite nap spot on the chair and fell. She was now walking in great distress.

“The vet was due the next day — we have a mobile vet in our remote area once a week. I was able to make her comfortable for the night.”

Then it was time to see the vet.

“Her hip bone had been cracked/broken in several places. Surgery would not make things any better and there was nothing left to do. A quick sedative had made her comfortable on my lap, and after a little while and some goodbyes, the last injection freed her from pain.”

Now Alma would live on as a memory.

“We miss her presence in the house and our routine and the spaces of the house where she reigned seem very empty. Only a few days and I miss her curling up with me as I read in bed at night and waking me up before 5 a.m. for breakfast. I now have to set the alarm clock.”    

March Madness

Sean Davis saw the Slice question asking whether people who have no interest in college basketball sort of dread March.

“I despise it so much I wish I could be put into a coma till it is all over,” he wrote. “February is bad enough with the crapity weather. March offers no reprieve with the media focusing on nothing but basketball.”

Jim Emory, who describes himself as “one of many people who have zero interest in college basketball,” has a different take.

“I absolutely love March,” he wrote. “With Paris-Nice starting on March 4th and all the one-day classics to follow, it can only mean one thing: CYCLING SEASON IS BACK!”

Remember this?

Somebody probably still makes it. But I haven't bought any in decades.

Once upon a time, though, I couldn't get enough of this stuff. It was like a minor addiction. I'd cram all five sticks in my mouth and chew like crazy..

The flavor was amazing. And it lasted about three seconds. 

Wednesday’s Slice question

On which STA route are you apt to overhear passengers speaking the greatest number of languages?

No. 1 song on this date in 1984

Might as well.

Yes, there was a Feb. 29th that year.

Do all University of Oregon alums have…

“Animal House” stories?

I realize relatively few were actually enrolled at the school during the filming. Still, I could imagine saying things like…

“My dorm was in the scene where…”

Or “You know that building where Belushi was on the steps…”

Or “One of my professors was in the scene where…”

Agree or disagree

It's possible to draw up a personality profile based on whether a person takes out the trash the night before or the morning of pickup day.

Night-before people: Tend to be good listeners, reject politically motivated suggestions that they should see themselves as oppressed victims of a system that has stopped caring about them, don't put empty containers back in the fridge, wish Spokane still had AAA baseball, know the difference between “you're” and “your,” could not go back to living where it's humid and realize they wouldn't last 10 minutes as a police officer.

Morning-of people: Think a lot about Hawaii, enjoy doing impressions of their co-workers trying to do impressions, eventually reached a point where they realized that being angry about everything was pointless, still feel happy about the Davenport Hotel reopening, talk to dogs, make great salads and have lost friends when those people could not handle the truth.

Then again, some of us are both night-before people AND morning-of people.

So never mind.

Nixon opens Expo ‘74

He's the one who looks like he's thinking about Watergate.

March: In lieu of lions and lambs

Here is Ashley Steinhart's forecast for March.

“In like a horde of ravening ice weasels, out like a drooling moose.”

Did any classmates wear these?

You pounded them into the heels of your shoes. As I recall, they were popular back around the fifth grade among lads seeking to project an image of toughness and a certain minimum-wage future.

I remember that they did make a distinctive “Hood in training” clicking sound. And that occasionally those wearing these would slip and fall on their butts.

49 years ago on “The Twilight Zone”

In an episode called “Printer's Devil,” a journalistic jack-of-all-trades played by Burgess Meredith arrives in town just in time to save a struggling newspaper. But at what price?

This episode, first airing on Feb. 28, 1963, is notable for scenes in which the new arrival supposedly uses a linotype machine, the sight of his twisted cigars and him referring to a shot of booze as “a touch of the creature.”

You can’t lose them all

There are several different kinds of sports fans that I regard as asses.

One is the Chatty Cathy who bores innocent people with unsolicited talk about his team when the wins are piling up, but then turns silent as a cloistered monk when that team is losing.

With that in mind, I would like to pipe up about my alma mater's 2011-2012 basketball campaign.

I'll have you know that Northern Arizona won its opening game of the Big Sky Conference regular season schedule. And then the Lumber People — as my wife once called them when she couldn't come up with “Lumberjacks” — briskly lost the remaining 15 league games.

Yes, it was quite a year. The grim, unloved coach resigned after about five games. And he was replaced on an interim basis by a white-haired gentleman who — I might not have this exactly right — hadn't coached on any level since Warren G. Harding was president.

And the players, well, I hope they at least have the excuse of being actual students.

About the only highlight of the season was beating obviously terrible Arizona State in December.

But at least now there's something good to say: It's over.

Just wondering 2

When someone sends you a snippy email that begins “In the future…” is it possible to not write back (or at least think), in so many words, “In the future, please go commit an anatomically impossible sex act on yourself”?

Just wondering

In your experience, what are the magic words that will stop a toilet from overflowing?

Dining on a harbinger of spring

I have been hearing from Slice readers today about all the robins in our area right now.

Reminded me of a Slice item from Sept. 13, 2003.

Here it is:

Take my advice.

Never assume that you've heard all of your family's stories countless times.

Ask questions. Ask, ask, ask.

Recently, on my father's birthday, I learned that my great-grandmother's cat once presented her with a nice juicy robin. The old Vermont woman proceeded to dress it, cook it and share it with the feline. All of this horrified one of my father's aunts.

So ask around. Do you have any bird eaters in your family tree?   


“Thanks for the coat referesher,” was the subject line of an email from Steve Klatt about Friday's Slice column.

“Had to smile Saturday when assisting several older women with their coats at my great-grandmother-in-law's 100th birthday celebration and thinking of your column. Even cracked a joke with one of them who read the same column. We sort of danced around laughing, seeing how inept at the art of coat assistance I could make myself.” 

Speaking of not getting a reference

Years ago, in another city, I was in the visitors' waiting room at a county jail. I was talking to the girlfriend of a guy being held in connection with a killing.

I had come to know the couple while reporting an unrelated story.

Anyway, the woman said her boyfriend was being accused of this crime just because he had a criminal record. She said it was like the song “Branded Man,” by Merle Haggard.

Only all I heard her say was that her boyfriend's predicament was like in “Branded.”

You know, the TV show.

“All but one man died, there at Bitter Creek.”

I was puzzled. Didn't see the connection.

I don't know how long it took me to figure out what she was talking about. But it didn't make much difference.

I'm pretty sure her boyfriend was guilty.

Soon we’ll be livin’ high and wide

If you started referring to your boss as “Mr. Favor,” would anyone where you work have any idea what you were talking about?

Winged invasion

Several readers said they haven't seen just a few robins lately. It has been more like dozens or even hundreds.

Agree or disagree

The idea that someone could be a “secret smoker” is totally ludicrous because the telltale smell can be detected from a mile away. 

Slice photo project

If people around here were to be asked in advance to take a photograph of whatever they wanted on a specified day and time, what day and time would you suggest? Why?

Spokane: Land of the giants

Considering the consistency of the snow on the ground this afternoon, it seems like a sure bet that there are some XXL snow people on display in our fair city right now.

I mean, how could you resist making one?

I couldn't. Talk about a whole-body workout.

But if rolling up mammoth snow boulders isn't your thing, maybe you took a break from shoveling to knock heavy snow off sagging pine boughs drooping over your driveway. The way they jump back up to their unburdened position, it's as if they were spring-loaded.

Reminder that life is not fair

You almost have to feel sorry for Spokane's TV news operations.

We finally get the sort of weather they dream of overcovering.

And it's a Saturday.

But maybe they'll call in their A teams to help note that it snowed.

Your dental appointment will go OK

At least if compared to the movie/TV scenes mentioned by readers after The Slice asked about depictions of troubling encounters with dentistry.

I got to thinking about this after re-watching “Topsy-Turvy,” the 1999 Mike Leigh movie about Gilbert and Sullivan. It includes a scene in which W.S. Gilbert — played by the great Jim Broadbent — has a tooth brutally yanked out by a dentist who then pans his dazed patient's latest London stage production.

The thought occurred that watching such a scene before getting my next filling or whatever might be a good idea because, relatively speaking, my experience would then seem like a breeze.

Timothy Finneran, Wayne Olsen, Jeff Brown, Gary Edwards, Bette Cole, Mary Ann Barney, Jeff Clausen, Diane Newcomer and others mentioned “Little Shop of Horrors” and Steve Martin as a crazed dentist.

Sheri Taylor, Lona Herrbach and Don Hartvigsen alluded to the scene in “Cast Away” in which the marooned character played by Tom Hanks uses an ice skate to knock out a bad tooth.

Jeri Hershberger mentioned a wince-inducing dental appointment in the movie “10.”

By the way, if you are wondering if I'm ever going to get really graphic about any of this, I can tell you right now. I'm not.

I think I've already figured out plenty of ways to drive people away from this blog. I don't need to add another reason to the list.

OK, back to the countdown.

Tom Nash said there is an episode of “Monk” that bears a resemblance to the troubling torture scene in “Marathon Man.”

Janet Talbott described a scene in “Pete's Dragon.”

Tina Johnson sent an email with an attachment she said showed some dental carnage in India. I was afraid to open it.

Rachel Halverson noted that there is a German movie, “Deutschland, Bleiche Mutter” featuring a jaw-dropping extractions scene.

Tadashi Osborne sent an impressive list (the guy knows his movies) that included a W.C. Fields short, “The Dentist,” and “Mr. Bean.”

And Dr. Jeff Henneberg, a dentist with a sense of humor, shared a list that included “The Hangover.”

Wrote Henneberg, “Nothing like proving you're a dentist by pulling your own tooth.”

Thanks to all.

Don't forget to floss. 

Doing the wave

You know that little wave rural drivers used to give one another on lonely country backroads?

Sure. Often it wasn't so much a true wave as a cordial palm-on-the-steering-wheel hand flip.

That tradition probably hasn't died out yet. But the one place you are sure to see it upheld is right here in the city.

STA drivers greet each other that way countless times every day.

They cannot all like one another. That's a statistical impossibility. So this must not be a particularly personal acknowledgement. Maybe it's just the code of the road when you see another bus.

Leaping ahead to Leap Day

From what I have read, Li'l Abner creator Al Capp envisioned Sadie Hawkins Day taking place in November, not on Feb. 29.

Thought you should know, in case it comes up.

If you have no idea what Sadie Hawkins Day was all about, don't fret. Times and gender relations have changed since Capp, by many accounts a truly repellent individual, was doing his thing.

Stranger things have happened

I don't think there was any kind of ceremony. But I seem to recall that I received an honorable discharge after completing my tour of duty as a patrol boy in sixth grade.


What if I could somehow make a case that I was wrongly terminated and entitled to back pay?

We weren't actually paid, of course. But we patrol boys were granted free admission to high school sports events. So perhaps I could claim that I am owed retroactive admission to decades of basketball games.

Just a thought.     

Something I’ve always wanted to say

Ducked into the little cafe in the STA Plaza to pick up an out-of-town paper.

A guy standing right in front of the display rack was looking at a copy of the publication I sought. That left one other copy.

But the copy still on display was missing a couple of sections.

So I looked at the guy standing there and said something I've always wanted to say. With a work history devoid of retail experience, it just had not come up.

Until this morning.

“You gonna buy that?”

Possible reasons to watch the Oscars

A) Cleavage. B) Trying to guess who/what will most freak out red state conservatives. C) Film clips. D) The chance to learn of a documentary you might not have known about. E) Lots of talk about dresses. F) Watching the losers show that they really can act. G) Cleavage. H) The chance to be reminded that though you have long thought your own industry is incredibly self-congratulatory, it can't really hold a candle to the wonderful folks saving the world through motion pictures. I) Cleavage. J) That rare well-done acceptance speech. K) Chance to see the latest in plastic surgery. L) Other. 

My favorite college basketball player

Was not someone you would remember.

When I was kid, it was a guy who played for the University of Dayton named Don May. He had the smoothest jump shot.

Here's a picture of him tossing up a prayer against someone you might actually recall in the 1967 NCAA championship game. After upsetting North Carolina in the semis, Dayton lost to UCLA.

This date in Slice history (1997)

Today's Slice question: What makes you suspect that your neighbors are pod people?

Mayberry After Midnight

These boys are about to revamp their own little newspaper to make it more like the kick-ass names-named gossip column “Mayberry After Midnight” appearing in the Mayberry Gazette.

A small-town paper actually running a column like “Mayberry After Midnight” would cause such a ferocious fecal storm and drive away advertisers at such a breakneck pace that, well, it would be entertaining while it lasted.

But it remains the most deliciously absurd name for a column ever.

Dependable vs. temperamental

Had taken my two bikes in for tuneups last weekend and drove over to pick them up this afternoon.

My original plan had been to wait until Saturday to walk over and ride one home and then walk back and ride home again. But it looks like the streets will be sloppy by then. And I don't really want to coat my brand new chains with winter road grime two seconds after leaving the shop.

My bikes, which are identical except for the horns, were not expensive when I bought them in 2008. I”m quite sure that what I have paid for tuneups over the years eclipses what I shelled out to purchase them.

But I think most of us have places we feel good about supporting. That's certainly how I feel about my bike shop. They have treated me well. And I enjoy talking with the young guys who work there.

The first employee I ever met there, back in the summer of '08, was Joe Perrizo. And he was at the cash register this afternoon as I paid for the tuneups.

I had asked how come they listen to an oldies station in the shop. (They like the songs.) And I was in the middle of telling him a fascinating story about the Monkees tune being played at the moment when we heard an urgent hissing.

I had no idea what was happening. But Joe figured it out.

One of the expensive racing bikes up on a wall to my left had suddenly lost the air in a tire. And it wasn't even being ridden.

Prima donna.

Neither of my no-nonsense bikes would ever pull a stunt like that.

This is not a suggestion, by the way

Mentioned to a colleague heading out to cover the Newt Gingrich appearance that he might make national news if he tackled the candidate during his speech.

“National brief,” is how I put it.

Might be a career-ender though, I hastened to add.

But then I got to wondering. As far as I know, the reporter in question is in good standing with his bosses. So maybe they would just suspend him for a couple of months and then bring him back on board after he had a chance to contemplate the error of his ways and repent.

“With back pay,” he suggested.

Boy, sometimes you can really tell when someone has been covering the city of Spokane for a while.

Dating a cop’s alleged girlfriend

Long ago, in a previous life, I was visiting a woman at her home in the evening.

A police officer who had a non-professional interest in that young lady drove by and noticed my vehicle. He took down my license plate number and determined my identity. (I know this because it came up in a subsequent conversation this officer of the law had with the woman in question. The details of that exchange were relayed to me by her.)

I can only assume that the cop feared that anyone driving a Ford Pinto must be destabilizingly charming.

Nothing really came of this. But I remember thinking at the time that him doing that wasn't quite right. Still, I ask myself, might I have done the same if I had been in his shoes? Maybe.

How about you?

Ever heard of this event?

Be sure to note that this is last year's poster. The 2012 dates are July 18-22.

TSA agents in training

My older brother had one of these models.

It sort of creeped me out. And not just because he took liberties with organ placement.

True or false

These guys played for the Spokane Chiefs.

Thursday’s multiple-choice question

What does Bing Crosby's ability to portray a priest who overcomes obstacles to succeed in 1940s New York City suggest about Spokane residents' capability of making it on a larger stage?

A) Not a thing. B) I know Bing grew up here, but wasn't Father Chuck O'Malley supposed to be from St. Louis? C) It says that if you can make it here, well, you know. D) Using Mr. Crosby's experience in show business as a basis for generalized real-life expectations would be extremely naive. E) It suggests that anything's possible. F) There are parts of New York that I would advise Spokane residents not to invade. G) Other.    

Credit where credit is due

In today's Slice column, I allude to a reader's suggestion that “What the marmot?” might make a good all-purpose Spokane expression.

I neglected to give her credit.

Her name is Lorrie McLaughlin. 

Spokane wildlife

He might have been over 6 feet tall, but the thing you noticed was what he had on his head.

It was a furry, face-covering hat/mask that was supposed to look like a fox or something. It was sort of like this young man had his own head inside the head of an extra-large plush toy. And he was carrying a painting or something.

I was behind him as he boarded the 1:50 No. 43 downtown.

The driver, a friend of mine named Scott, looked at this fellow ahead of me and calmly asked a question.

“Are you a service animal?”

 “Yes,” he said.

Scott said that was good to hear, because otherwise he would have to ride in a cage.

As service animals tend to do, the fox-head kid minded his own business and rode all the way to the Albertson's at 37th and Grand.

Take it on faith, this isn’t the answer

Slice reader Victoria Mantello shared this.

“Just asked my 10-year-old grandson Thomas if he knew what Ash Wednesday was all about. He answered quickly and with much confidence.”

Said Thomas, “It's the day Mt. St. Helen erupted.”

Wednesday’s Slice questions

Is there a broadcast outlet somewhere that has your initials as its last three letters?

Are your initials also some city's airport code?

Going to the lake

The Ice Palace seemed like a true outdoor rink today.

An outdoor rink near the end of the skating season, that is.

Even though Riverfront Park's open-air ice surface is artificially chilled, the warm wind makes it all but impossible to keep it from turning into a bit of a pond.

You could still skate though. And a couple dozen of us did just that.

The guy who drives the ice resurfacing machine told me he had sucked up a phenomenal amount of water before the public skating session. But he admitted he was fighting a losing battle.

One hoodie-clad boy who looked to be about 13 fell in the middle of a wet patch and soaked up what seemed like gallons of frigid water. When he got up, he looked like he wanted his mother to magically appear and provide him with dry clothes.

If all the other kids had done that it might have mopped up a fair amount of the standing water. But I suppose I would have gotten dirty looks if I had suggested that.

How the other half lives

See if you can guess the theme of the searching that led to these.

This date in Slice history (2000)

(Actually, this is from a Furry Talk column that ran on that day.)

Sometimes there are stories behind pets' names.

“Two years ago in March, my husband drove up the North Fork of the Coeur d'Alene River,” wrote Janet Lake of Kellogg. “At the bridge near Pritchard, he noticed a black and white dog, alone in the rain.

“When he drove back down the river, the dog was still at the bridge, wet, cold and shivering. She chased his pickup down the road. She had no tags, no collar.

“He stopped, and she got in the pickup with him.

“We advertised in the paper, and contacted the local veterinary clinic. No one claimed her.

“Her name is Bridgit.”

Rodent art on beer bottle labels

What other animals might look good on a bottle of beer?

Happy George Washington’s birthday

If our nation's first president were alive today…

What would his pre-Selection Sunday brackets guesses look like?

What name would he go by when posting online comments?

Who would he blame for high gas prices?

Skier or snowboarder?

Would he license his dog?

What would he make of “creative” baby names?

Would he speak up when someone ahead of him in the grocery express lane had way too many items?

Could he do his own tax return?

Would he be OK with there being a bounty on drivers who text behind the wheel?

When he yelled “Get off my lawn!” would he do so just to be funny or would he really mean it?

 What would he call his Hoopfest team?   

Programming alert

According to the digital grid, there's a 1966 episode of “The Big Valley” on the INSP channel (that's channel 12 on my lineup) tonight at 10 that could be considered must-see TV for those males who were experiencing a certain kind of awakening at about that time.

Called “Barbary Red,” it features Jill St. John.

There's some sort of story involving Heath getting in trouble. But I believe I have already conveyed the truly salient information. 

She wasn’t having a fine day

When you fleetingly see someone crying in public, your imagination has to provide the context.

This girl looked like she was 17 or 18. She had just gotten off an STA bus that had parked at the northeast corner of Sprague and Post.

Her face was a mushed up mess of still-bubbling emotion. Some anger. Some hurt.

And maybe there was some feeling of being out of control because she had momentarily lost her ability to maintain the mask she usually shows the world.

But there was no mistaking the tears.

Maybe it was no big thing. Perhaps that kid has a meltdown every other day.

It would be pointless to guess about what triggered it.

Still, it was impossible not to wonder. And to wonder how many people are crying in downtown Spokane at any given time.

Things usually get better, of course. But as a stranger, you don't really get to see that.

By then, the faces are dry and the masks are back in place.

This might strike you as bad taste

I first started exchanging emails with a reader up in Trail, B.C., named Fred after referring to Neil Young in a column years ago.

Fred is a big fan. I don't know if he is in the same league as retired features editor Rick Bonino when it comes to being a Young fan. But Fred is a serious Neilophile.

Anyway, he saw today's column about dealing with fear of dentistry. And it reminded him of a story.

He had come down to Spokane to have wisdom teeth extracted. And before they administered the knockout gas, the staff at the orthodontic office asked Fred a series of questions.

Most were about his health and medical history. But at some point the fact that he had not received his mailed instructions about fasting after midnight prompted someone to wonder about the validity of the address they had for him. So Fred was asked “When's the last time you moved?”

But Fred, well, he thought they were still talking about bodily stuff, so he answered this way:

“I had a bowel movement last night before 6 o'clock.”

The folks at the clinic thought this was the funniest thing they had ever heard.   

(Expletive deleted) Toddler Tuesday

Many years ago, one of my SR colleagues was on the phone with an events promoter who complained that it was difficult to book acts into what was then called The Met because it seemed as if there was always “some kids puppet show” using the downtown theater.

Only he didn't say it quite like that. The actual version included a common vulgar intensifier. I'm sure I don't have to spell it out for you. It went right between “some” and “kids.”

My colleague and I found the juxtaposition of rough language and the image of an innocent activity to be sort of funny.

Anyway, I went over to Riverfront Park this morning. I might have been a little early for public skating. In any event, I found a children's group at the Ice Palace and they didn't show any signs of wrapping it up. So I headed back to work.

As I got near City Hall, I encountered another Ice Palace regular. I reported what I had encountered. And she knowingly said “Toddler Tuesday.”

So on my way back to the Review Tower, I came up with a plan.

If anyone asked me if I skated, I would say “No, it was #*$%@*# Toddler Tuesday.”

As it happens, no one asked. Which might be just as well.

Sometimes people don't realize when I am attempting to be amusing.   

A Spokane version of “Portlandia”

Would give us, according to my North Idaho friend Forrest Schuck, the line “Flip a bird at it.”

Slice answer

Don Hartvigsen weighed in on my request in today's column.

“What could be worse than the scene in 'Cast Away' where Tom Hanks extracts an abscessed tooth using the trailing edge of an ice skate, alone in a dark, wet cave?”

“Downton Abbey” withdrawal

Rick Clapp shared this.

“With the end of Season 2 of the popular 'Downton Abbey' series on PBS this weekend, a co-worker of mine (at WSU Riverpoint) was heard to say that she was 'Not addicted, Don't care, Could stop watching it anytime.'

“A few minutes later she was seen asking some of the nursing faculty if anyone could provide a prescription for 'Downtonadone' until Season 3 next January.

“She wasn't able to get one, but was offered access to Season 1 on CDs, to help her withdraw more gradually. Nurses are kind like that.”

He was in “Caddyshack”

He had scenes with Linda Evans and Julie Newmar in '60s TV shows.

And this actor lived in Spokane at the time of his death.

Can you name him?

Death of kids’ neighborhood newspapers

There are several reasons.

Here are five.

1. Children not allowed to talk to people on their block.

2. Online equivalents simply aren't as much fun. You can't hand someone a copy and say “That'll be five cents, please.”

3. No 10-year-old wants to be an ink-stained wretch. Kids yearn to be TV pundits saying “Well, the situation on the ground in Spokane is quite fluid.”

4. Kid newsrooms devastated by layoffs and early retirements.

5. Sports editor kept missing deadline because of yoga classes.

Answering “Are you ready to rock?”

A) “No. Not at this time, thank you.”

B) “Not really. Could we reschedule?”

C) “This really isn't a convenient time.”

D) “Could we do it later?”

E) “You know, I'm kind of busy right this moment.”

F) “Well, how long will it take?”

G) “I have rockin' penciled in for 4 to 4:15.”

H) “Define 'ready.' ”

I) “Yes, I'm always up for listening to bad but loud music and moving my head and limbs in a spasmodic manner.”

J) “Ready as I'll ever be, I guess.”

K) “Woo-hoo, et cetera.”

L) “Absolument.”

M) “Not quite.”

N) “I prefer the question to be phrased 'Are you ready to rock, Spokane?' ”

O) Other.

Ash Wednesday confusion

Quite a few years ago, a member of my extended family who had not grown up around lots of Catholics encountered a woman she knew who had a dark smudge on her forehead.

So my relative, who was a teen or young adult at the time, got a handkerchief or a paper towel and wiped it off.

Yes, that smudge had been applied by a priest at an Ash Wednesday service.

As I remember the story, the lady was nice enough about the misunderstanding but then hurried back to church to get more ashes applied to her face.

Apparently the lingering spirit of the occasion wasn't enough for her. She had to have the visible symbol.

One reason some people think Catholics are nuts is that some of them are.

But I suppose you could say that about any group of more than four or five people.

I’m sure I am not the only one

Who can't see ads for a local Glen Campbell appearance without thinking of this booking mug shot from a few years ago.

Question for those of a certain age

How far away is your current home from the place where you watched John Glenn 50 years ago?

(I'm about 2,000 miles away.)

This date in Slice history (1996)

Back when it was cold: Mary Jane Pynn's son Dave has a big orange cat named Blazer. Well, one night while it was snowing, Dave got in the hot tub out behind his house. Not wanting to be left out, Blazer jumped up on the edge of the tub. Only the edge was covered with ice, so the cat slipped into the water.

Dave lifted the soaked Blazer out of the tub and pointed him toward the little cat-door he uses to go inside.But on his way Blazer brushed against a metal barbecue-grill gas tank and his wet fur instantly formed an icy bond with it. So Dave had to take the flashfrozen feline AND the gas tank inside to his shower to thaw the frigid fur-metal connection.   

Slice answers (surprise birthday parties)

“I have done surprise parties twice,” wrote Marie Scott.

“The first was for my husband when he turned 60. I did as much as I could ahead of time and on the day I 'went to work as usual.' What I actually did was go to my daughter's house and bake the cake and get everything set up and then went home at the normal time.

“My daughter had invited us to 'dinner' at her house, so at the appropriate time we went over and voila, a surprise party.

“The second was when my daughter was turning 30 and my dad was turning 80 within 10 days of each other. I invited them to each other's party along with some of their own friends. They both came expecting it to be for the other until they saw who was showing up. It was quite fun and my dad especially still talks about it eight months later.”

Sandpoint's Ann Gehring shared this.

“My husband and my friend's husband both have birthdays in December (same age within three days). Their 65th was approaching but my friend (and husband) were going to be in southern latitudes by December. So we threw a surprise party in October.”

It worked. They were surprised.

Finally, here's something from Larry Hodge of Moscow.

“I've never felt that a surprise party on one's birthday was a good idea,” he wrote. “It seems like no surprise is big enough to overcome the days of disappointment leading up to a birthday thinking that no one has remembered. But several years ago I attended a surprise party for a friend's 50th birthday and it seemed like everyone had such a good time.

“I asked the wife who put on the party when was the actual date of her husband's birthday. She said, 'Oh, it's not until next month.'

“What a great way to surprise without any disappointment.” 

Swap meat

A fraction-creating slash mark was missing from the sign at the fast-food place at Third and Howard this morning.

The result was a reference to a “1 4 pounder with cheese.”

Something tells me you would need a nap after polishing off one of those.

Or maybe surgery.

State of redundancy

Was listening to NPR's “Morning Edition” today and the broadcasters kept referring to the mountain tragedy that took place in “Washington state.”

Is the state identifier really necessary in that context?

Do they have a lot of avalanches in the District of Columbia?

Not making this up

A Spokane friend who has a place over at Bayview told me this.

Apparently the advanced smart-phones with the Siri voice technology have been known to misunderstand spoken references to the North Idaho town of Athol.

“Now, now,” the computer responded on at least one occasion.

Just wondering

For those who grew in certain religious traditions…

What was the least impressive thing you gave up for Lent?

Born in Spokane Department

Try to keep your excuses straight

“I can't, I'm a felon,” is not what you say to a little kid selling cookies or candy outisde a store.

That's what you say to a petition signatures-gatherer.

This date in Slice history (1997)

Spokane's mission statement: “To maintain the gap between our bleak 'Can't do' attitude and our 'Great place to raise kids' philosophy.” — Craig Heimbigner

“To boldly go where everyone has gone before.” — Nola Barrett

Feedback on “masturbation”

Some longtime readers did not enjoy seeng that question in Thursday's Slice.

Me? I think it was legit.

Re: Pulling off surprise birthday parties

The key?

“A well thought-out set of lies carefully coordinated among participating family members or friends,” wrote John Frankhauser.

“Backstory: My daughters and I surprised my wife for her 50th birthday with three different events back to back.”

A pocket full of posies

Walked over to the park to skate.  But I did a 180 when I saw the crowd of kids on the ice. Must have been some organized group.

If they resurfaced the ice before public skating, well, who's got that kind of time?

No problem. I want the Ice Palace to succeed, so I'm always pleased to see the place doing some business. I can go back another day.

Besides, I got to hear a tiny little girl near the rink imploring her parents to play “Ring Around the Rosie.”

The mom asked her how the song goes. And the little girl gave it a shot.

Her lyrics were a bit hard to understand. But hearing her effort made me glad I had walked over to the park.

My unimpressive learning curve

A bit ago, a helpful reader emailed me. She wondered if, in the post below this one, I meant to refer to the “county library director” instead of, as I had it, the “country library manager.”

I thanked her and made the correction.

But it's not my first stumble on that road.

About 35 years ago, at my first newspaper job, I wrote a profile of the county manager of Coconino County in Arizona. I suspect that particular piece of American journalism failed to make our newsstand sales skyrocket that day.

Anyway, right there at the beginning, I called him the “country manager.”

And my overworked editor failed to catch it.

But I didn't even realize I had made that mistake until I bumped into the subject of that profile and he thanked me for the promotion.

Some here know about real winter

I noticed a brief in the paper this morning about the upcoming retirement of county library director Mike Wirt.

It seems like we have been announcing his impending retirement since the 1990s. But I digress.

Mike is one of those folks in our midst who have every right to roll their eyes when they hear someone complain about our long, hard winters.

He grew up in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. And in the Lower 48, the Soo is in the major leagues of winter. That Great Lakes city knows snow and cold

So congratulations on your retirement, Mike. I'd ask if you plan to move somewhere warm. But the truth is, from your perspective at least, you did that when you came to Spokane.

One last note on the GU tickets giveaway

I heard from a fair number of those who entered the contest but did not win.

Every single one was a good sport about it.

Over the years, that hasn't always been the case. But this time around, I did not hear one note of grousing.

So please allow me to tip my hat to my readers.

Three possible reasons…

…a Spokane area resident might have no enduring connection to the far-away city where he or she was born:

1. American mobility. (You might have noticed that nobody refers to Kentucky as the Land of Lincoln.)

2. Born into a carnival family.

3. Parents were there for just a short time because father was in the Air Force.

Bonus question

Ever decide against pursuing a job offer from a business that then went out of business shortly after your conversations with some people there? 

Today’s baseball card

So we can see Tom spent part of it here. But where were you in the summer of 1976?

True or false

Those who are most into Fat Tuesday revelry are also apt to approach Lent in a reflective, soul-searching manner.

This date in Slice history (2001)

Today's Slice question: What song is made most ridiculous by substituting “Spokane” for the name of the city mentioned in the lyrics?

Just wondering

Most people who write for newspapers quickly learn a basic lesson.

It's this: Not everyone read what you wrote.

Comes as a blow to some. But those capable of processing information quickly pick themselves up and move on.

A few reporters and columnists never quite grasp that reality, though. They repeatedly allude to their work in a way that clearly assumes the listener has read every golden word. This leads to a lot of blank expressions, disingenuous nodding and people saying “What?”

So here's my question.

What's the equivalent of that particular cluelessness in your field?

This date in Slice history (1999)

10 key questions: 1. What business or lifestyle trend presented by the media as universal and inescapable is not even remotely reflected in your experience?

2. Do you suspect that certain drivers go out of their way to find places where they can park with their front wheels up on a snow bank?

3. Does KSPS-TV being seen in Edmonton and Calgary have implications for Spokane-area businesses trying to market goods or services in Alberta?

4. Should Spokane be known as “The City of Grandparents”?

5. Ever met a well-read person who devoted a lot of time to tanning?

6. What little kid deserves the title “North Idaho's Champion Spiller”?

7. Are people driving cars made in the late '80s already thinking about the “three decades” thing?

8. Did you know that, according to The Steel Alliance, 130 tons of steel are used to make underwire bras each year?

9. What would be your equivalent of the “This Family Supported By Timber Dollars” bumper sticker?

10. How many people who go to bed early and seldom see anything on the late prime-time TV lineup have gotten hooked on “ER” reruns on TNT at 7 p.m. (and wish the NBA had never come back)?  

Why readers deserved to win tickets

The announcement of the winner of the two tickets to the GU men's basketball game on Feb. 27 is in today's Slice column.

But here is a sampling of the more than 150 entries.

“Winning will allow us to watch Kevin Pangos in person. You see, Kevin is our future son-in-law. (However, neither of our daughters know it yet.)” — Linda Anderson

“Two years of caring for my wife with pancreatic cancer has drained me; I need a break and have never been to a basketball game.” — Joe Pallaria

“We love Gonzaga as much as we love being nekkid in the outdoors. If we win tickets to the game, we promise to wear our clothes.” — Wayne and Tracy Wright

“I'm a Zags fan since before Mark Few. Wheelchair bound and on oxygen 24/7. It tops my 'Bucket List.' Might be my only chance.” — Jane Floyd

“No cable. Zags tend to lose games I see at a friend's. I need to see the Zags win live to break jinx.” — Joel Anderson

“I dress well. My companion and I will offer a sense of style to our row. I'm a season ticket holder for the GU women.” — Paul Ruch

“I deserve the GU tickets to take my mother-in-law to the game. She can name all the players by number and has never been able to attend.” — Greg Wheeldon

“My husband deserves the Zags tickets because he is my hero. And…I shamelessly plug your column to friends.” — Karen Botker

“My kid (hopefully) graduates from GU this year without managing to buy a single ticket into MAC. I would travel from Oregon for this game.” — Joe Hodge

“It's the only thing on my bucket list. Friends with tickets ignore me. I beg, threaten, promise anything. You're my last hope.” — Dorothy DeMers

“Tickets for two/ The Zags and Mark Few/ The ultimate prize/ Oh, what a surprise/ For a lady who's eighty.” — Marjorie Lefevre

“Because I'm more than 70 years old, have never been to a basketball game, and I just don't get what all the excitement is about.” — Walter Jakubowski

“I am writing for Eric Anderson (96 yrs.) the oldest living Gonzaga basketball player! Is that reason enough?!” — Karla Anderson

“On Feb. 27th I will be 70! I would like to celebrate the occasion by cheering the Zags on in person.” — Barbs Haedt

“Gonzaga's success, in 1999, gave my son Travis, then 17, and I a bond that's still strong. We watch every game, but never in person.” — John Graham

“At CVHS, I'm known as the biggest die-hard Zag fan. After every game, I get the first 15 minutes of science class to passionately recap.” — Abby Stolp

“I've been waiting to go to a game because I got a foam Gonzaga paw for my birthday.” — Grant Jones, 10

“A rabid Gonzaga fanatic/ Verges on the dogmatic./ She stands by them/ Through thick and thin./ 2 Tickets would make her ecstatic.” — Marcy Wise

“May not deserve tickets, my octogenarian parents do. They need sleep, I need GU! Send me to the MAC so folks can hit the sack.” — John Kraemer

“My wife turns 50 that day and she is a big GU fan! Can't think of a better gift for her.” — Marty Becker

“Unforgiven former Spokanite Clint Eastwood replied, 'Deserve's got nothing to do with it.' But, he added, 'We've all got it coming.' We need tickets.” — Rusty and Nancy Nelson

“My 9-year-old son deserves to win the tickets, because he still believes. He believes that good things happen and he believes in GU.” — Brad Crockett

“Two tickets I'd love to procure/ To witness a win for sure/ Cheering in person/ Would keep me from cursin'/ I promise I'll act mature.” — Jeff Williams

“Because Gonzaga Basketball saved our marriage.” — Penny Simonson

“My son is a GU student and I pay tuition but my attendance at a men's basketball game has never come to fruition.” — Michae'l Alegria

“My grandson suffers from mild seizures. He has had two at school, he is 8. Both times he was playing basketball. He said no one would ever make him stop playing ball because when he grows up he will play at Gonzaga.” — Lynn Puzon

“I'm your guy: the only person in Spokane who hates the Zags and will sit in the stands and root against them. Someone has to represent sanity. I'm your man, and my wife will be there to counter-balance me — she loves the Zags!” — John Myers

God’s speed

If you work at newspapers long enough, you see all sorts of politicians pass through. Once upon a time, anyway.

One need not be a bitter cynic to conclude that most of them are not special people.

But I've always been glad that I got to see John Glenn in person. It was in 1984, I think. I didn't say it, but I certainly thought “Hey, I watched you when I was in second grade. Well done, sir.”

The 50th anniversary of his historic flight is this coming Monday.

1:30 a.m. Spokane vocabulary

“Get stupid” — Cabbie's description of a drunken fare's decision to try to hold up the driver.

Thanks, I’ve seen it

I wish I had kept count of all the readers who emailed stories and pictures about an elk rescuing a drowning marmot at the Pocatello Zoo some time back.

The total would be a significant number.

If you know enough to find this, one of America's blogs, you know enough to track down a story on the interspecies assistance. But you need not forward it to me.

And in case you wonder. I called the Pocatello Zoo this morning and was assured the whole thing is on the level.

High-five to the elk.

There was a happy ending. 

Another Spokane Indian who moved up

And down.

Reader Les Norton mentioned several players I didn't know about. This guy is one of them.

On second thought, maybe I did post his card last year. That Cotton Bowl thing seems familiar. Of course, that's not quite as fascinating as the Indian/Dodger whose card noted that he really enjoyed hamburgers.

New ultra-relaxed dress code at SR?

When I go back to riding my bike to work, I will resume my habit of being the first person in the newsroom each weekday morning. That is the proper order of things in my confused little universe.

For now, though, a woman who has a combo city desk/website job beats me in by about half an hour.

We always exchange greetings when I arrive. But this morning, when I emerged from the stairwell and began lumbering toward my desk, I saw her from a distance. She was in a chair and facing away from me. And it appeared that she was wearing nothing.

That's unusual, I thought. Did I miss another memo? Has Casual Friday been replaced with Nude Wednesday? 

But then, when I got closer, I saw that the becoming top she had on was approximately the same color as her skin.

Difference between marrieds and singles

Single people sometimes have entertaining nicknames for the boyfriends or girlfriends of their peers.

Writing about greyhounds in the previous post reminded me of a guy named Sam. He was an artist at the newspaper where we worked in another city.

There was a greyhound race track there. (I never went, though I did visit the short-lived greyhound track in Post Falls for a story years later.)

The features editor at that paper never tired of assigning stories on the dog track. And Sam used to mock her by adopting an acid tone and saying with gushing insincerity; “Race dogs go fast!”

Anyway, Sam had a girlfriend widely known as Three Alarm Donna.

I'm not sure how fast she went, but there was a fair amount of speculation. 

Release the hounds

The televised dog show in New York always reminds me of my close encounter with greyhounds.

About 20 years ago, I was down in Pullman spending time with a WSU vet student who commuted from the South Hill every day. This was for a story.

The school operated some sort of blood bank for greyhounds. And at one point during the day, the student I was following and one of her classmates walked a couple of the resident greyhounds over to a big fence-enclosed ball field/park nearby.

Once safely inside the fence, the two women unleashed the dogs. And the greyhounds took off with a speed that was utterly astounding.

One moment, they had been right next to us. And then, in the next, they were way, way over on the other side of the park. It was as if they had made the jump to warp 9.

It was thrilling to witness. And what made it even better was sharing in the unbridled joy the dogs seemed to experience when getting to do what comes naturally to them.

I knew that breed was fast. Everybody does. But until you see them move up close, it is impossible to appreciate how truly blazing their speed is.

Does KXLY look a bit like a fort to you?

By the way, I'm not knocking it. People who work at a place that has been called the Death Star probably shouldn't throw stones. But when I find myself looking up at the channel 4 plex, which isn't often, I sometimes feel the urge to do my Kenneth Branagh impression and yell “Will you yield?”

Valentines repositories, continued

“Oh, I am dating myself here,” wrote Fran Menzel. “When I was a kid we used cigar boxes for Valentines. Covered with old wallpaper, they worked quite nicely and had a great smell as well.”

Just wondering

Are smart, educated young women in Spokane more apt than smart, educated young women elsewhere to settle for guys who might charitably be described as underachievers?

This date in Slice history (1995)

Today's Slice question: Who are the Spokane area's sex symbols?


Today's Slice question: What's the ultimate Inland Northwest putdown? (Our pick: “You spend a lot of time indoors, don't you?”)


Today's Slice question: Which is the Inland Northwest's best-looking bowling team?


Teachers Katie Chisholm and Mary Ann Migaki at Willard Elementary School passed along some Valentine's messages second-graders delivered to one another.

“You read like a movie star!”

“You are one fast writer. You write faster than a car!”

To a student from Russia: “You are my best friend who cannot speak English.”

“I think you are a very good kickball player.”

“You have a heart filled with treasure.”

“Thank you for the Britney Spears sticker in first grade.”

To a new kid in the class: “You're new but you are a fast learner.”

Valentine’s Day on “The Twilight Zone”

On this day in 1963, an episode titled “Jess-Belle” first aired.

A mountain girl who is losing her lover to another woman resorts to witchcraft to win him back. It works, but there are repercussions.

Tickets winner to be named Thursday

About 150 readers entered the Slice contest to win a pair of tickets to the Feb. 27 Senior Night men's GU basketball game against Longwood.

I'll name the winner in Thursday's Slice. 

Slice answer

Today's column asked readers if they recalled making special mailboxes for valentines out of shoe boxes.

Here's a note from one woman who does.

“We would take construction paper, ribbon, doilies, and wrap the boxes. We got those packages of valentines cards and gave the more romantic ones to the boys.The most important thing was to be sure and give one to everyone in the class. It wouldn't be nice to leave anyone out.

“And then you would run home and spread them out on your bed, hoping you got a really cool one from the cute kid.”  

All photo assignments marked down

SR columnist Shawn Vestal was talking to photo editor Liz Kishimoto. He must have been inquiring about how booked up the photo staff was at the moment.

“We're open all day tomorrow,” said Kishimoto.

To Vestal's ear, this initially sounded a little odd, almost as if the photo editor were describing the hours of operation for a retail outlet.

Realizing that, Kishimoto added, “Well, we ARE having a sale.”

Talking back to your TV

It doesn't always have to involve politicians or pundits.

Sometimes it can be prompted by seeing Katharine Ross in an old episode of “The Big Valley” and recalling her unforgettable role in “The Graduate.”


This keyboard style never caught on

Turned out that being able to type nothing but hearts was not especially practical.

Maybe this is a new card game

Noticed this morning that the South-facing illuminated sign atop one of Spokane's taller buildings said “WELLS FAR O.”

That's still not as good as when the sign urged us to get up and do what needs to be done by saying “WELL    GO.”

He spent a couple of years in Spokane

That's hockey hall of famer Lester Patrick.

Spent my first night in Spokane here

Now I sort of wince every time I see it. So sad.

If the theme gets stuck in your head

It might stay there a while. Maybe until Valentine's Day.

Perhaps you do not remember this movie, but it was a big deal in its day.

Guessing about crossover viewership

You might have noticed that most people have multiple facets.

It complicates dealing with the others, but also makes it interesting.

So I'm thinking there is a significant audience that watches both “The Walking Dead” and “Downton Abbey.”

And I'd bet a fair number of those people also record and speed through the Westminster Kennel Club dog show.

The rear-window college stickers game

Well, it's not really a game. But if the vehicle ahead of you at a stop light displays college stickers from more than one school, it's tempting to speculate about family dynamics. For instance, what gets said at Thanksgiving?

“At least Chinese students want to go to U-Dub.”

“What conference are your teams in this year?”

“How's everything at the normal school?”

“So how often do you wish that you had actually tried to get good grades in high school?”

“Do you know any of the athletes who have been arrested?”

“Where are your professors applying to?”

“You should have gone to Faber.”  

Reasons newsrooms seem quiet today

It's not unusual for visitors to the SR newsroom to note that it seems quieter than they expected.

Now many readers of would never get past security. But on the chance you ever did make it up to the fourth floor at the Review Tower, you might find yourself thinking the same thing. “Why is it so quiet in here?”

Here are 10 reasons.

1. Fewer reporters and editors than in the old days.

2. No teletype machines.

3. No typewriters.

4. Fewer phones ringing than before the Internet.

5. No pneumatic tubes.

6.  Less yelling.

7. Visitors aren't around at deadline.

8. The gap between reality and old movies.

9. Reporters and editors communicating with each other via email.

10. Fewer reporters and editors roaring drunk. 

Crossing paths again

No doubt you have heard people refer to Spokane as a small town or assert that everyone knows one another here.

Maybe it's sort of cute that some believe that. But I've always found those sentiments silly. Condescending might be a better word.

Clearly, Spokane is not a small town. And it would be statistically impossible for everyone to literally know one another here.

Of course.


A few years ago, back when I walked to work, I used to pass the same woman day after day. I was on my way downtown each morning and she appeared to be headed up to Sacred Heart a couple of blocks away.

It was still dark when we would see each other. But I must have established that I was not someone to fear. We exchanged hellos. And once I asked her about something she was carrying. I guessed it was a cake but it turned out to be burritos.

Then, in 2008, I started riding my bike to work most of the year and taking the bus in winter if the streets were iffy. So chances are, I wouldn't see the burrito lady again. Right?

Well, I had lunch yesterday at the assisted living place my mom moved to a couple of weeks ago. It's not far from Sacred Heart.

And there was the burrito lady. Her name is Laura and she works in the kitchen/dining room.

She remembered me. She said she had eventually connected my SR mug shot with the guy who walked past her each morning before dawn.

I told her I looked forward to seeing her again. Just not every day, and no longer in the dark.

False alarm

Several things race through your mind when you see the clock and think you have overslept.

Did I not set the alarm last night? Did it simply not work? Did we have a power outtage? Is the radio station that's supposed to come on off the air for some reason? Is that really the time?

Then comes the checklist. You know, a quick rundown of what you have to accomplish at work today.

This is bad. I needed to get a good start.

But maybe if I zoom through my getting-ready routines I can catch up. And perhaps the extra sleep will bolster me today.

Still, I'm late. Really late.

Wait. I don't understand. Didn't I finish that one thing at work yesterday?

Then it hits you.

It's Saturday.

Never mind.

Let heaven and nature sing.

Just passing through

The appeal of some collecting themes eludes me. That's fine. To each his own. But I could see acquiring tour date posters and list-of-cities concert shirts that mention Spokane. That seems pretty cool, if not staggeringly obscure.

Remodeling finds (behind the wall)

Will be taking up this topic in Monday's column. But in the meantime, here's an email from Ed and Jan Reynolds.

“As we remodeled the bathroom (originally a bedroom) in our 100+-year-old farmhouse, we found shards of a delicate bud vase, a tiny bottle that once held strychnine sulph. crystals, a three-inch cow horn grouped with several dessicated ears of corn, a section of a 1913 Spokesman-Review, and a June 1909 issue of Green's Fruit Grower.”

Della Stevens found an empty whiskey bottle. She thinks that might explain some of the workmanship she has encountered.

Don Ide discovered a couple of pairs of bibbed overalls being used as insulation.

A few years ago, a bathroom project at Jill Wakeling's house revealed lots of Spokane newspapers from the 1960s. “My three daughters had fun looking at the articles and advertisements.”

What really blew their mind? “Three television channels.” 

Re: Today’s Slice column

Sally Manning shared this.

“My sister has always referred to my kitchen as a 'one butt kitchen.'  And she's right.” 

Enjoying 1960s fake wrestling on TV

Even as a kid, you had to marvel at how absurdly ineffectual the referees were.

And if you had a friend whose father actually believed this nonsense was real, well, that could be a bit uncomfortable.


What should replace Casual Friday?

There was always one basic problem with the Casual Friday designation in Spokane.

It was redundant. In many workplaces, anyway. Most people here don't need a special invitation to dress in a relaxed manner.

Perhaps widespread recognition of that is one reason you don't hear much about it anymore.

Oh, sure. Maybe a few more people wear jeans on Fridays. But the whole thing seems to have lost its buzz.

So the question now is, what should take its place?

“Nothing” is certainly an answer worth considering. And there might be something to be said for I Don't Care How You Feel About the President Friday. But maybe that's too narrow.

How about Everybody Just Pipe Down and Do Your Work Friday? 

This date in Slice history (1996)

Today's Slice question: Would you be willing to work somewhere that required you to sign a religious oath as a condition of employment?

Being surprised by a person’s vehicle

I think that happens here slightly more often than the national average.

Some of us tend to think conservatives drive certain kinds of cars while liberals prefer others. And there might be some broad-brush truth to that.

But perhaps a case could be made that Spokane area residents' enthusiasm for outdoor recreation skews reality away from the stereotypes. A fair number of people here choose vehicles to suit their lifestyle, not their political self-image.

I suppose that's true to an extent all over. But Spokane isn't always like everywhere else.

I've lived here more than 20 years, and I'm still not used to the idea of self-proclaimed progressives playing golf.

A-breakin’ rocks in the hot sun

Regrets don't have to be big to be remembered.

One day between editions at El Paso's deservedly dying evening newspaper, my copy desk colleagues and I were sitting around talking. Someone mentioned The Bobby Fuller Four, a band that got its start in that West Texas city.

I don't remember how it came up. I vaguely recall a magazine story (Texas Monthly?) about the unusual circumstances surrounding Fuller's death in California. Maybe that is how we got going on to the subject.

Anyway, the lone El Paso native among us said something about how one of that band's original members worked at a paint store or an auto glass place right there in El Paso. I thought that was interesting.

Now this was almost 15 years after “I Fought the Law” was a hit. There was no Bobby Fuller Four anymore. But I knew I would enjoy reading a story about someone who had been in that band and now made a living in a more ordinary way.

One problem. Our features pages were a self-parody of an old-fashioned women's/society section.

And trying to interest one of the newsside reporters in the story seemed iffy. Most of the ones I actually knew were low-wattage prima donnas who tended to huff “Do whatever you want, just take my name off it” if a copy editor had the temerity to approach with suggestions about how an impenetrably confusing news story could be made almost understandable.

(Speaking of regrets. I was in my physical prime then and could have mopped the floor with any of those gentlemen. I sort of wish I had invited one or two of the most insufferable characters to step outside and exchange views in a way a Texan might have understood. They would have declined my offer, no doubt. But it might have made subsequent conversations more fruitful.) 

So what did I do about the guy who had been in The Bobby Fuller Four?

Nothing. That's what I did.

Now maybe my copy desk colleague with local roots had said something about that former band member having rebuffed previous attempts to interview him. With the weirdness surrounding Fuller's death, that is entirely possible. I just don't remember now.

But I do know I made no effort to locate the paint store or whatever and speak to him myself.

Have you ever seen the Tom Hanks movie “That Thing You Do”? It's highly watchable. It is about a 1960s rock band that had one big hit song.

Made for a pretty good story. But in order to tell it, you first have to get up out of your chair. 

This date in Slice history (1999)

Today's Slice question: What's your best locally themed knock-knock joke?

Longing to smell like Whitman County?

OK, I realize the brand-name allusion is to the railroading meaning of “Pullman” and has nothing to do with Eastern Washington. But I see it as my job to localize everything. 

Confounding scientists of the future

I once threw a rock that had come from the New England coastline into Puget Sound.

Let some geologist eons from now figure that one out.

“Clearly those two ancient seas, the Atlantic and the Pacific, merged at some point.”

(By the way, I carefully washed the rock. It transported no invasive organisms.)

Ever try to set fire to toy soldiers?

Wait. Don't answer that. Persons of a certain gender might hold it against you. They, uh, don't always understand these things.

Deconstructing grade school humor

I had a friend at East Elementary School named Rob Campbell. He made me laugh.

Once, during a lively round of riffing on advertising slogans out by the monkey bars, he came up with something I regarded as hilarious.

You might recall Madison Avenue's line, “You'll wonder where the yellow went when you brush your teeth with Pepsodent.”

Rob tweaked that into “You'll wonder where the yellow went when you brush your teeth with atom bombs.”

In the decades since then, it has been suggested to me that Rob's rewrite is not really all that funny.

But I insist that my grade school pal's Cold War humor styling was actually trenchant social commentary. He was staring into the face of fear and laughing at our existential absurdity.

I suppose reasonable people can disagree.

Perhaps her oral hygiene regimen included the use of a thermonuclear device.  

Planning your Presidents’ Day blowout

A serving suggestion.

Unless, of course, you just keep pounding them down.

Blame game

The 1:50 No. 43 bus going up the South Hill was Third World full.

So I stood and held on to a strap up near the front. How urban.

I didn't mind my position because the driver is a friend and my proximity allowed me to visit with him a little.

Then, near the end of my ride, things took an odd turn.

With the bus heading east on 37th, an elderly woman pulled the cord for a stop. She then marched up to the front and complained to the driver that she had requested a stop at Arthur, which we had now passed. The driver politely informed her that her tug on the cord had come too late for that stop and that the next one was at Perry.

She continued grousing, and the driver calmly pulled over and offered to let her off between stops. She still wasn't happy but said she would go ahead to the stop at Perry.

And at some point she gestured toward me and said “I couldn't see because of this man.”

The driver, in a joking tone, said, “Oh, yeah, THIS guy…”

Only she didn't realize he was kidding, and she continued to go on about how I was obscuring the view from where she had been sitting, et cetera.

I have some experience with being patient with elderly ladies. But I came close to offering her my own frank analysis of how we had arrived at this state of affairs. I didn't, though.

All I need is for some other passenger to then go around telling people that he or she had seen Paul Turner yelling at an old lady on the bus.   

Credit where credit is due

SR page designer Ralph Walter comes up with a lot of good ideas for which he does not get any public credit.

This injustice was mentioned to him the other day. And he responded by noting that flying under the radar also allows him to escape public blame when something doesn't go well.

I thought of that a little bit ago when a reader called features editor Carolyn Lamberson to complain about a photo of Adrienne Barbeau that ran with today's Slice.

I assume Ralph chose the photo. But the caller wouldn't know that. She probably thinks Carolyn or I selected it.

So maybe there are worse things than a little anonymity.

Of course, Ralph is actually quite celebrated in certain circles. But I'm afraid a full account of that would be offensive to some readers. So let's move on. 


This date in Slice history (1998)

Today's Slice question: If you got to rename the IN Life section, which would you choose?

a.) Living Life.

b.) Women & Women.

c.) Focus on People Like You.

d.) Scream.

e.) 8 Pages o' Features.

f.) Doin' Life.

g.) other.

Upcoming GU tickets contest

Keep an eye on The Slice column for details about how you can win tickets to the Feb. 27 GU men's basketball game against Longwood University.

OK, that's not exactly a clash of titans. I have a decent knowledge of U.S. colleges and universities and I had to look up Longwood. It's in Virginia.

But the game is on a Monday, so you would not tie up a weekend evening. And it is Senior Night. So it has that going for it.

If you win, the tickets (a $50 value)  will be free. And if you don't, you probably won't be crushed.

So everybody comes out ahead.

Bird is the word

Spokane's Jerry Cartwright was out for a walk and saw what he described as a “Hitchcockian” gathering of robins.

“Didn't look like they were up to anything though,” he added.

That's just what they want you to think, Jerry.

Voice of a new generation

Some colleagues who happen to be parents of young children were talking about flying with little kids.

There seemed to be agreement that occasional screaming fests are all but inevitable. But one mother said she has found other passengers will usually cut her some slack if it appears she is at least trying to address the situation and attempting to make it stop.

I tend to agree. All I want from the parent/parents in such a scenario is some sign that they are aware there are others on the plane who might prefer not to hear an hour of shrieking.

I guess, once upon a time, some parents would smack the kid into submission. But what if it is not a tantrum but is an eardrum thing or simple terror about flying?

I'd rather endure the screaming than witness a child getting throttled.

Though certainly, some kids are less charming than others. It's a good bet that it wasn't air travel that made them that way.    

Moon over Spokane

Was talking with a friend who rides my bus about this morning's moon.

We agreed that it was pretty amazing. (At least it was about an hour ago.)

I said it reminded me of a scene from “Star Wars.” He knew just what I meant.

But now that I review the scene in question from that megamovie, I see that the objects in Luke's sky are not nearly so large as this morning's moon. Of course, there are two of them. So I guess that counts for something.

Difference between real life and movies

We've shared a safe deposit box with my mother for several years. It's at her South Hill bank branch and has contained only the originals of my parents' will and my power of attorney paperwork. Until today, that is.

We went by this afternoon and put a few items in it. And I found myself wondering.

How many people who access a safe deposit box think about Matt Damon in the first Jason Bourne movie? You know, the scene where the amnesia-plagued operative opens a safe deposit box at a bank in Switzerland and discovers multiple passports with his picture, thick stacks of various international currencies and a gun.

Alas, when I opened ours, it contained just the will and POA.

I guess that means I don't have amnesia. 


Thanks for shating

Now and then I find myself thinking about my readers and wondering, why haven't I heard from so-and-so in a while?

One of my paranoid theories involves my most common email typo.

I'm not sure why. But I routinely respond to reader submissions by typing “Thanks for shating that.”

I like to think I always catch that and fix it to read “sharing.”

But chances are, a few of those shatings have escaped my notice. And that would be bad.

Obviously, it is sloppy and careless — even if email standards tend to be somewhat relaxed. But far worse than that is the prospect that the scatological-sounding mistake could be interpreted as my judgment of the submission's merits.

I might as well call someone's story or observation a piece of shat. Which I would almost never do.

So, if you ever got an email reply from me that said “Thanks for shating that,” please realize I meant to say “sharing.”

And please feel free to do so again. Share, that is. Not shat.  

So get a room already

This could also be called “Attack of the Mutant Grabber Hand.”

Remembering a 1960s CDA band

Godfrey Blaque

As always, this photo comes from…

This date in Slice history (1996)

Today's Slice question: What's the best way to deal with people who constantly talk about themselves but never ask a single question about how things are going in your own life?

Death comes calling at “Downton Abbey”

A reader named Alice called to say she is sure the coming flu epidemic is going to claim a victim and alter the storyline in the PBS series. 

The Clint Eastwood commercial

Yes, it was stirring.

And, yes, the domestic auto industry has sold a few cars recently.

But any implication that the city of Detroit is making a comeback is, of course, ludicrous. It's not. And it never will.

Metropolitan Detroit has long been a tale of two cities. And all the pep talks in the world won't change the grim reality inside the ring of suburbs.  

Don’t need a cell phone to be distracted

A little daydreaming can take your mind off the road.

I was driving on 8th Avenue and apparently forgot that I was in the middle of the Providence/Sacred Heart campus and some ongoing construction work.

Because when I saw a sign saying “Emergency Straight Ahead,” I had a split-second of wondering “What sort of emergency?” and “Is it really still an emergency if there has been time to erect a sign?”

Then, of course, I remembered where I was. 

Other places people have found Legos

Add to the list, bathtub drains and a dog's stomach.

And, as is noted in tomorrow's Slice column, kids sticking them up their noses is practically a given.

Where have those shoes been?

I only bring it up because John Blanchette tells a story about the glamour of sportswriting that involves interviewing Don Shula while the coach was on the toilet. 

Spokane, Saturday morning

Rode my bike up to the North Side for an 8 a.m. haircut.

Had I known how much fuzzy frost coated the streets, I might have reconsidered. But the ride went fine and I was glad to get the exercise.

Stopped at the Huck's beer sale on my way back up the hill and purchased a Boddington's Pub Ale. Don't know a thing about it, but the tall yellow can caught my eye.

Spoke with Mike the butcher about the Super Bowl (he hates both teams) and Scott the cashier about his guitar playing (sometimes the neighbors aren't wild about it).

But here's what I found myself wondering during my ride home.

Are people with dogs healthier?

Not because of the emotional connection and blood pressure-lowering implications of canine companionship. I'm thinking of the benefits of getting out and taking your dog for a walk.

If I'm any judge of expressions, some of the many dog walkers I saw this morning would not have ventured out if not for their responsibility as pet owners. And it just seems like, over time, all that daily activity has to add up to something good.

And, of course, the dogs like it.   

Tonight’s KSPS movie: “Local Hero”

It's not for everyone. But among its loyal fans, this film is beloved.

And unlike most stations, Channel 7 could be trusted to not ruin the touching ending by cutting in with blaring promos or going to a commercial two seconds into the credits.

The rider had a familiar face

I boarded the bus a little before 6 this morning.

And it was about 1:20 when I got on to go home. Same bus. Same driver.

He said, “When I start seeing people I took to work in the morning, I know it's about time to call it a day.”

It was, in fact, his final run. 

Remembering the Turner crime family

My father did not care about pro football.

If the Cleveland Browns were on TV, he might stop in the living room for a few minutes to watch Jim Brown carry the ball. But that was pretty much the extent of his interest in the National Football League.

On the other hand, when I was about 13, I was a devoted fan. So when someone at my dad's workplace started.a weekly NFL predictions contest/betting pool, my father picked up an entry form and then passed it along to me.

Though technically illegal I'm sure, there wasn't much money involved. Still, I agonized over my picks.

And we won — two or three weeks in a row, if I remember correctly.

My father, who had been quite open at his workplace about the fact that his teenage son was handicapping the games, delighted in reporting how my forecasting success really annoyed a few of his colleagues.

Looking back, I can only conclude that the people who got their noses out of joint were individuals for whom my father held little regard.

Under pressure from sore losers, the pool administrator eventually changed the rules. Something about entrants henceforth having to fill out their own forms.

My dad and I considered that weaselly change to be our ultimate triumph.

Three good songs from 30 years ago


This date in “Twin Peaks” history

On Feb. 2, 1991, an episode called “Double Play” first aired.

Leo awakens from a coma a changed man and a lot of other messed up Shinola happens. Small town Washington at its finest.

Perhaps you remember seeing these youngsters at the B Tournament. 

Getting ready for square dance gathering

People ask me: “Paul, how are you preparing for the 61st National Square Dance Convention, which will be held in Spokane in late June?”

Here are my answers.

Q: What are you doing to stay limber?

A: I've been watching some “Dick Van Dyke Show” reruns.

Q: Are you aware that square dancing is the official dance of the state of Washington?

A: I am indeed.

Q: How many readers of your print column have you seriously ticked off by appearing to not take the upcoming convention all that seriously?

A: Several.

Q: Do you think that when the visiting square dancers go home and tell folks how swell Spokane is that it will result in more people looking at the Lilac City as a possible place to retire?

A: I have no idea. But if I were a twentysomething person reading that question I suspect I might think, “Hey, that's just what we need here — more old white people!”

Q: Can you dance?

A: Not really. I used to attend dances in junior high and occasionally slow danced. But that was more like friendly tackling than anything having to do with steps or graceful movement.

Q: Thank you.

A: You're welcome. See you at “Circulate in Washington State” this summer. 

Can’t cite a study to back this up, but…

…I would estimate that this old picture of the “All Creatures Great and Small” cast reflects the dogs-to-humans ratio found in 5% of Spokane area households.

Panhandlers, the furry kind

Went over to Riverfront Park at lunchtime for a little Ground Hog Day ice time.

After skating, I was walking through the park and saw this guy who looked to be about 70. A plump squirrel stood before him and appeared to be inquiring about the availability of snacks.

“Does he know you?” I asked the guy.

“Never seen him before in my life,” he said.   

We could have been Bustown, U.S.A.

According to the high-quality site credited below, onetime Spokane resident Henry J, Kaiser once considered building articulated buses like this right here in Spokane (and in a couple of other cities). That could have changed everything. For the better? You make the call.

You have to like this brand name

Looks like this long-ago business made and distributed crackers and confections. A picture of a Tru-Blu delivery truck shows the slogan “Fine for children/Good for grown-ups.”

Not exactly “Tru-Blu biscuits give you the strength to get up and do what needs to be done.”

Still, it's sort of appealing in its own modest way. 

The case for decaf

Spokane in the fine print, once again.

This date in Slice history (2001)

Real life slogans for Spokane:

“You get what you pay for.”

“Sensible shoes and much, much more.”

“Quite a few medical specialists and pretty near the airport.”

“Great place to raise hackles.”

“Plenty of blame to go around.”

“It's easy to run errands here.”

“Still talking about 1974.”

“Where the future meets tomorrow.”

“It takes a village of idiots.”

“Expectations under control.”

What was your dad’s signature line?

A) “If it's not one thing, it's another.” B) “Get a haircut.” C) “You're not going out dressed like that.” D) “I'll give you something to cry about.” E) “Don't make me pull over.” F) “Turn that racket down.” G) “Use the brains God gave you.” H) “You paid how much for that?” I) “You're going to go blind in there.” J) “You've got it easy.” K) “My father would have knocked my block off if I pulled a stunt like that.” L) “Are you kidding me?” M) “You call that music?” N) “Good job, Jason.” O) “We're not trying to heat the whole outdoors.” P) “Use that tone with your mother again and you are going down for the count.” Q) “This report card suggests to me that you are not overly exerting yourself.” R) “Finish that, people are starving in Armenia.” S) “Go clean your room.” T) “How long have I been passed out?” U) “So that's what they're wearing these days?” V) “I woudn't do that, if I were you.” W) “If I discover that someone has absconded with the last piece of pie, there's going to be trouble.” X) “There are going to be some changes around here.” Y) “If Kathy Larson told you she was going to jump off a bridge, would you do that, too?” Z) Other.   

No, we’re not exactly right next door

But some of us live in the same state as these guys.

And that amazes me every time I think of it.

I firmly believe that every Northwest infant should be issued a stuffed killer whale and that parents should assist said plush toy in munching the kid.

Yes, it’s the guy from “Rockford Files”

Seriously. He played a TV news reporter.

What are the chances?

A kid from my high school in Vermont (he was about three years ahead of me) actually played in this 1971 game. Jeff Hughes was Nebraska's punter and also served as an occasional receiver.

Area man’s rink from a few years ago

Go to the site for his account of building it.

The gospel according to the Big O

My older brother had a copy of this thin book, and I read it about 50,000 times.

Wonder what ever became of the sign

This photo from the early 1960s suggests that Moses Lake was one of the more unassuming nuclear outposts of the Cold War.

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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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