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The Slice

Archive for October 2012

Upon further inspection

The seemingly impossibly good toddler Halloween costumes spotted at Garfield and Rockwood Boulevard just a bit ago turned out to be a flock of wild turkeys.

Spokane’s top seated-position hobby?

A) Speeding in residential areas. B) Angry typing. C) Talking loudly in movie theaters. D) Complaining about the entree. E) Bouncing grandchildren on knee. F) Reading in the employee restroom. G) Creating exclamation points. H) Considering getting up. I) Other.


Walked over to Riverfront Park to purchase my Ice Palace season pass and go for a quick skate.

There were about 15,000 kids there, give or take a few.

Think squealing, laughing and kid-voice chortles. Did I mention squealing?

I'm always pleased to see the rink supported. But sharing the ice with erratic hordes of children doesn't lend itself to quiet contemplation and reverie.

Still, I laced 'em up and hopped on for a few minutes. Because it is so warm, the ice was tacky. But I got to see the colorful new curling circles. And there were other compensations.

“I haven't ice skated in years,” said a little girl to a friend who had the decency to not point out that the speaker had not been ALIVE for all that many years.

And then there was the classic wide-eyed expression of terror-skating kids teetering on the edge of falling 100 percent of the time.

On my way out, I saw another adult weekday regular from years past.

“Hello,” I said from just a few feet away. “Hello!”

She didn't hear me. Too much background noise.

On my way back to the paper, about a dozen geese flew low over me and elegantly slid into the river near the carrousel. Their water-landings couldn't have been smoother. Still, there was a soft whoosh and splash.

If by some remote chance you were involved in the creation of Riverfront Park, I want to say something to you.


This date in Slice history (2000)

Today's Slice question: What's your best story about rising above the urge to be ugly or confrontational and how you've felt good about it ever since?


Guy No. 1: “Sometimes they go on a zombie run.”

Guy No. 2: “What's a zombie run?”

Guy No. 1: “Dress like a zombie and run.”

A job I am glad I do not have

A friend who is the Public Editor at a large newspaper far from here told me that almost 200 subscribers decided to cancel their subscriptions after his paper's presidential endorsement appeared.

I think he spent time on the phone with a lot of them.

What fun.

My new early birds rewards program

While I was out of the office last week, someone left a six-pack of microbrew beer under my desk.

There was no note. I have some theories, but as I write this I am not sure which of my colleagues left me with this thoughtful gift.

This morning I decided that, as a Halloween treat, I would present bottles of beer to the first four people who arrived in the newsroom after me.

I wonder if doing that every day would eventually alter certain day-shift staffers' arrival times.  

Greeting trick or treaters (a few do’s and don’ts)

Do: Say “Hey, are you Frankenweenie?”

Don't: Say “What the hell are you supposed to be?”

Do: Smile. The temptation to try to be scary is understandable. But it's not always a great idea.

Don't: Require kids to pass a political litmus test.

Do: Praise children carrying lights or adorned with reflective strips.

Don't: Offer kids beer.

Do: Wave to parents lurking in the background.

Don't: Knock any little ones off your porch when opening the storm door.

Do: Praise costumes.

Don't: Launch a long story about how you once went as the Lone Ranger.

Do: Have dog treats ready to dispense to canine companions. (The wisdom of trick-or-treating with dogs that might get spooked is another matter.)

Don't: Dispense marijuana.

Do: Reward kids who say “Thank you” with a bonus Snickers.   

The Wednesday Slice question

Which do you prefer?

A) “There's always something.” B) “Well, there you go.” C) “If it's not one damn thing, it's another.” D) “What fresh hell is this?” E) “So it goes.” F) Other.

This date in Slice history (1997)

Today's Slice question: What's the all-time classic Spokane pick-up line?

Meat snacks for trick or treaters?

Well, that would be one way to stick your thumb in the eye of Commie vegetarian families.

Or would it?

Is there really any animal tissue in treats of that ilk or is the jerky family of fine foods actually 100% preservatives? 

While supplies last

Liz Cox keeps getting renewal notices from Newsweek, which strikes her as odd since the magazine is about to pull the plug on the print product.

Cox said that if she next gets subscription offers from Life and The Saturday Evening Post she will listen carefully for the “Twlight Zone” theme. 

A Slice answer that made me smile

Lan Hellie, a reader in Colville, answered today's question.

“My driver's license picture looks more like a morgue photo than a mug shot.”

I-90 closed

No, not here.

But a stretch near Lake Erie is covered with water.

Why? What did you think I meant?

This reminds me of something in one of Bob Newhart's shows — the one set in New England.

He was hosting a local TV program called “Vermont Today.” And the producer, in an effort to create some buzz, starting using insanely hyped promos.

One was “GM Cars Recalled.”

The story turned out to be some retired guys sitting around talking about old Chevrolets and Oldsmobiles. 

Sometimes technology cannot spell

Scott Walker's phone system creates email messages from voicemail.

“The auto-correct or whatever text software they use is not always accurate,” he wrote.

Which might explain a recent email version of a phone message from a local political candidate.

It began, “Hi I'm dancing McGlocklin and I'm asking for your vote.”

Can you name the local media company…

…where, about a dozen years ago, layoff notices went out on Halloween?

Snow-capped style question

When referring to it in writing, do you say “Mt. Spokane” or “Mount Spokane”?

This date in Slice history (1995)

There's still time to get it fixed in your head.

Remember, when driving over smashed pumpkins, turn into the skid.

Oct. 30 on “Dick Van Dyke” in 1963

In an episode called “Too Many Stars,” the New Rochelle PTA plans to stage its annual variety show. Antics ensue.

How much money would you have donated to the fundraisers in exchange for not having to sit through said variety show?

This date in Slice history (1994)

Today's Slice question (finish this sentence): You know she's an Inland Northwest woman if she can…

When your team loses the World Series

Congratulations to the San Francisco Giants and their fans.

But it's not all doom and gloom for fans of the Detroit Tigers.

Here are half a dozen reasons why.

1. The early end of the series means no more “Grab Some Buds” commercials. (Assuming here that sports is the only thing you watch in real time.)

2. No more trying to figure what The Who or their songs have to do with baseball.

3. No more anthem/”God Bless America” singing, as someone on Twitter put it, in the key of WTF.

4. No more baseball in non-baseball weather. (The series used to end early in October, as God intended.)

5. If the Tigers had extended the series, there's a good chance I would have blundered onto spoilers this week before I could finally get around to watching my recorded Sunday night shows.

6. Fresh opportunity to take the “That's it — I'm done with sports” pledge and imagine all the important things to be accomplished with the time that will free up. 

Sharing a name with a natural disaster

“I think everyone should have a major storm named after them once in their life,” emailed Sandy Tarbox. “Should I be clipping all the great headlines that include my name?

“Any suggestions for how to make Hurricane Sandy a Halloween costume?”

Wednesday at 8 p.m., on KXLY

This one never packed the emotional wallop of the iconic Christmas show, even though some of the music gets recycled. But it has its moments.

The whole notion of pumpkin patch sincerity is Schulz at his best.

And it's always good to hear Charlie Brown say, “I got a rock.”

This might have offered the most dramatic illustration of the fact that “Peanuts” was an adult-free zone — a big part of its magic. When Linus falls asleep out in the pumpkin patch on Halloween night, no parents check on him. It's his sister who brings him inside.

Catwoman with a cat

A case could be made that this is Halloweeny.

Looking ahead to the “fall back” weekend

How do you plan to spend the hour we get back this coming weekend?

Besides resetting clocks, that is. 

Does he remind you of your doctor?

If yes, in what way?

A) Makes house calls. B) Similar beard. C) Never just says “Well, let's keep an eye on it.” D) Other.

A show I would watch

As you might know, KSPS is looking for someone to replace Bill Stanley as host of Channel 7's “Saturday Night Cinema.” Bill is stepping down after many years of genial movie introducing.

Well, the online form calls for applicants to submit video auditions. Wouldn't you guess that half an hour of sample try-outs would make for some pretty entertaining viewing?

Four on the floor

1. People here realize, don't they, that an air force base's reason for being isn't to help prop up the local economy?

2. Are architects especially good at arranging the wood in a fireplace?

3. Are you old enough to remember when little burn marks from cigarette ashes dotted practically every surface of indoor public spaces?

4. Did you know Expo '74 was still open on this date way back then? (The fair ended Nov. 3.) 

Or not

No. 1 song on this date in 1969

You might have heard of this singer.

Fill this out and get it back to me asap

Actually, there's no rush about filling this out. The Slice Blog is going to be on hiatus for a week.

Be back Monday 10/29 with some scary-good pre-Halloween time wasting. Get ready for Space Filler Theater.

If in the days ahead you find yourself wondering how come the print Slice keeps coming out (which it will) while the blog is on vacation, just remember that line from “Shakespeare in Love.”

It's a mystery.

Feline weather forecast

Our neighbor's cat always puts on weight as winter approaches.

We've seen it happen for a dozen years or so. She packs on a pound or two in anticipation of her neighborhood star turn as a small snow leopard. Then, come spring, she goes back to her sleeker silhouette.

Perhaps the annual added poundage is partly a result of reduced activity levels. I don't know. She has never shared her workout schedule.

What I do know is that she seems like a cat in a feeding frenzy lately.

This fall she has been demanding snacks with an urgency I cannot recall seeing before.

Maybe she knows something.

Oh, she has always been willing to express herself. And she has a pretty good vocabulary, both vocal instructions and body language.

But usually she is reasonably patient, at least once she is convinced that the food is on its way.

Lately though, it's as if she's got a train to catch.

One conclusion, obviously, is that we are in for a serious winter. And this cat is feeling a hurry-up need to acquire a protective layer of stored calories.

Animals know things.

Don't ask me how. They just do.

So if we really do experience a ferocious winter, don't say nobody warned you.

“Well, that was a good outing”

Do all couples have at least one person who, upon returning home from doing errands together, issues a general pronouncement on the merits of the excursion?

This date in Slice history (1996)

Warm up question: Do the co-workers you can't stand know that's how you feel?

Q: Why are those STA drivers smiling?

A: Because it looks like there are going to be traffic lights at 37th and Grand. 

This date in Slice history (1994)

Warm-up question: In North Idaho, what does it take to be considered a flaming liberal?


I thought I had heard it all back when an on-air drum-beater for Spokane Public Radio helpfully noted that one way to remember the all-important phone number was to think “EAT-KPBX.”

But an on-air volunteer this afternoon proved me wrong by playfully referring to the ongoing “Pledgetoberfest.”  

Smell the lunch

The Slice Blog has a theory.

If someone who sits near you at work eats lunch at his or her desk and often dines on meals that give off powerful aromas, your reaction is apt to be shaped by your feelings about this colleague.

If you like the person, you will get a whiff of the strong-smelling midday repast and think “What zesty international cuisine is he/she savoring today?”

If you do not care for the person, your first thought is apt to be “Good God, what is that stench?” 

New religious ritual?

A colleague saw a church sign this morning that included the word “pary.”

For a moment, she wondered if that was some religious thing with which she was not familiar. Then, of course, she realized it was simply a misspelling.

But what would “pary” mean if it really was a word?

Let us pary.

Just wondering

Before today, how would you have reacted if you had been watching a movie or TV show that included a high school football player kicking a 67-yard field goal?

A) “Right.” B) “Well, I've see enough of this.” C) “What do they take me for?” D) “Give me a break.” E) “Oh, for the love of…” F) Other.

This date in Slice history (1995)

Some people really know how to get out of a ticket.

“My aunt, Darleen Hubbard, was driving from Seattle to Spokane and was stopped by a Washington State trooper for speeding,” wrote Suzanne Jennings. “He asked for her license and registration but she insisted on showing him a picture of her second oldest son first. The picture was, of course, her son in HIS Washington State Patrol uniform standing next to HIS Washington State Patrol car. No, she didn't get a ticket but the trooper did get a good laugh.”

Trying to send Stevie Nicks on her way

Sometimes, when you get an old song stuck in your head, there's only one thing to do.

Pass on the infection to someone else.

So here you go.

“Drowning in the sea of love…”

Missed opportunity

Once, coming home from Nelson, B.C., I found a Canadian campaign sign in a trash barrel. It was still attached to a wooden stake. I put it in my car.

My plan was to bring it home and then stick it in the ground at one of those places around town that have clusters of political signs. It would have been a private joke, if you will.

But I never got around to actually doing it. Maybe it's just as well. Instead of being puzzled, there's a chance some here would have seen it as a sure sign of a plot to advance the cause of one-world government. Or something.

No need to name names

We all know that humans do not actually hibernate.

But are there people in your family who show signs of wanting to “den up” at this time of year?

You’re probably on thin ice

When you find yourself talking about how advertising agencies work and realize that most of your knowledge is based on having watched TV shows.

One reason to watch old movies

It's always a hoot to see people get off bicycles and go directly indoors without locking them up.


“Hey, look at that guy. He doesn't appear to believe that his bike is going to be stolen in five seconds.” 

Failure to span the generation gap

You know what's not a Norman Rockwell moment?

Seeing a sweet, ultra-wholesome interaction and describing it as a Norman Rockwell scene and then realizing the person to whom you are speaking has no idea what that means.

Advice for bus riders

Walked over to the STA Plaza to pick up some fresh bus schedules.

Want to be ready with my Plan B for the day when an overnight “weather event” interrupts my bike commuting.

(Yes, I walked to work for years and droned on about it in print. But since I got on the bike in 2008, my patience with how long it takes to walk downtown has pretty much evaporated. Maybe that will change one day. I sort of hope so. There's much to be said for walking.)

Upon unfolding a schedule for the No. 43, I saw a “Make Sure We Stop for You” heading.

Beneath that, “Some tips to make sure you get noticed.”

So, OK. Let's review.

“Be at the stop as the bus approaches.”

Can't argue with the wisdom of that. Sound advice.

“Face the bus and nod your head 'yes' or wave to the driver.”

Not sure about that waving thing. You might appear to be someone who has availed himself of a mood-altering substance or look like a politician.

“Hold up your pass.”

I don't use a pass. Maybe I could hold up a Juan Marichal baseball card.

“Wear light colored clothing or use a flashlight at night.”

I'll go out on a limb and guess that this gets ignored.

“If you're in a shelter, walk to the stop as the bus approaches.”

Unless, of course, you expect to be carried to the bus.

This date in Slice history (1996)

Actually the city's not quite that old: When Zachary Dexter was 4 years old and going through Spokane on his way to visit his grandparents in North Idaho, he noticed a few of the Lilac City's prominent churches. “Look at all the castles,” he said.

Did you ever read this publication?

Reports say Newsweek is calling it a day. The print version anyway.

Feedback on my career as a criminal

Several readers reacting to today's Slice column suggested that it was the route manager (or whatever the job title would be) that I was taking those quarters from, not The New York Times empire.

That's a good point. And if I could determine that person's identity with a high degree of certainty, I would be happy to make good. Maybe with a little interest thrown in.

But here's the thing. Whoever was actually in charge of that vending box was a bit of an underachiever when it came to maintaining its functionality. He or she seemingly did not care.

If the box had worked properly, I never would have been tempted to go on a crime spree.

I realize that's just another rationalization.

Reader Victor Buksbazen said it is a good sign that my conscience bothers me after all these years.

I'm not sure that it really does. But maybe he's right.  

One Slice reader’s pronunciation peeves

Here are a few from Karen Buck.

Saying “orientated” for oriented.

Saying “tore” for tour.

Saying “sing grrrr” for singer.

Saying “pacific” for specific.

Saying “liberry” for library.

Saying “pitcher” for picture.

Saying “sal-mon” for salmon. 

Spokane mentioned on “Modern Family”

A reader tells me Spokane was referred to in last night's “Modern Family” on ABC.

It came up, he said, in an error-riddled discussion of state capitals.

I have heard from this reader before and have no reason to doubt his account. But if anyone wants to confirm or deny, feel free.

The No. 1 song 50 years ago today

It caught on in a flash.

Could you get a kid to do this today?

Suppose you had coffee cans full of pennies. And let's further suppose that you found yourself in a position of watching a little kid for a few hours. Could you keep that child entertained for a while with the following plan?

“Hey, Timmy. You know what would be fun? Why don't go through these cans and see if you can find any wheat pennies. I'll give you a special prize for every one you come up with.”

Today’s Halloween costume suggestion

Yes, it's our tall friend from the “To Serve Man” episode of “The Twilight Zone.”

Or you could be the cryptologist in a tight dress who says, “It's…it's a cookbook!”

Another option would be going as the guy from “Manimal.”

Things not to put on your resume

I was reading a list on that topic and recalled that I once violated a basic rule.

I mentioned on a resume that I did not drink alcohol. (Unnecessary personal information.)

Now this was shortly after college. And that policy was the product of a talking-to I had given myself while still a student. You know, one of those “Get a grip, for God's sake” admonitions to the mirror.

I was not really a problem drinker, just a stupid kid. So a total alcohol ban was overdoing it. But apparently I liked dramatic gestures.

I got the job. But my new supervisor and a few of my new colleagues eventually confided that the no-alcohol thing had given them pause. It was a newspaper, after all.

I eventually eased off that prohibition. But I'm sure I never mentioned the topic again when applying for jobs.

Did you ever put something on a resume that probably should have been left off?

Please verify your age

There is a chance you might be too young for The Slice Blog.

So please answer the following question before continuing.

If a cartoon moose approached you and said, “Hey Rocky, watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat,” how would you respond?

This date in Slice history (1995)

Today's Slice question: What ticket stub from some past Spokane area event was saved by the most people?

What TV show is this from?

A) “Downton Abbey.” B) “Mad Men.” C) “Homeland.” D) “Dr. Oz.” E) “The Walking Dead.” F) “Antiques Roadshow.” G) Other.

The Wednesday Slice question

How do you decide when to first use your fireplace?

A) When it gets cold. B) We don't have a fireplace. C) Frost on the pumpkin. D) When my fingers feel like knotty pine. E) When I can see my breath. F) Halloween night. G) When my spouse/significant other says “Say, wouldn't it be nice to have a fire.” H) I wait for the first air-quality burning ban. I) We usually wait for Thanksgiving, and because we always forget to open the flue the turkey isn't the only thing that gets smoked. J) The first day I go skiing. K) After I remember to buy a petro-log. L) When I'm finally ready to admit that summer is over. M) Other.   

Where the street has our name

The info on this says it was taken in October of 2007. But I'm not confident about where it says this is. In any event, I like the photo.

This date in Slice history (1997)

The four stages of raking are: 1.) Denial. 2.) Anger. 3.) Acceptance. 4.) Snow.

Which of these is not like the others?

“Gone With The Wind”

“A Mighty Wind”

“Wind In The Willows”

“Wind On The Water”

“The Wind And The Lion”

“Inherit The Wind”

Feedback on today’s Slice column

The first item reminded Bob Launhardt of a story he heard motivational speaker Cavett Robert tell many years ago.

Robert's phone rang in the middle of the night. Robert told the caller he had the wrong number. The caller persisted in believing he had dialed correctly.

Finally, an exasperated Robert told the guy on the phone, “Friend! Have I ever lied to you before?”

Launhardt also passed along a few more Cavett Robert quotes.

“If you don't think every day is a good day, just try missing one.”

“Any man who selects a goal in life which can be fully achieved has already defined his own limitations.”

“Character is the ability to carry out a good resolution long after the excitement of the moment has passed.”

This date in Slice history (1998)

The Customer Service Revolution still has a few battles to fight: There's nothing quite like dealing with a salesman who clearly hates his job and hates you for asking questions.

Celebrity cookbooks: Yes or no?

I realize they are not all alike. But as a general rule, are you inclined to trust them? 

Does “World” in World Series bug you?

After all, having one team in Canada doesn't exactly make major league baseball rip-roaringly international.

Sure, there are plenty of players from places such as Venezuela. But this whole “World” business started long before baseball embraced diversity.

In case you are wondering, Navin Field would be renamed Briggs Stadium and then Tiger Stadium.

Re: Planning to watch debate/baseball

Switching back and forth could get confusing.

Especially if the candidates decide to hold baseball gloves up in front of their mouths when speaking.

Ever toss pebble against girl’s window?

Did anyone?

If yes, why didn't the rocks break the glass?

Can you imagine a young man in the cell phone era contemplating this approach to privately getting someone's attention?

Caption contest

Given what we know about what was in store for native populations, what SHOULD the tribal leader on this comic book cover be saying?

Just wondering

When was the last time you guessed wrong re: predicting someone's politics on the basis of his or her appearance?

This date in Slice history (1998)

Today's Slice question: What's the single best thing about Spokane's geographic isolation?

This date in Slice history (1999)

Upon being told how soft drinks get their fizz, 4-year-old Peter Chandler said: “I'm not going to drink this if they make it out of gas.”

My Monday morning in-box

A high percentage of the readers I hear from could not be more friendly.

But there's always a few delightful treats waiting for me on Monday morning in the form of irate phone messages or testy email. That's fine, of course. 

One of this morning's was a note scolding me for failing to realize that “Gonzaga” should, in fact, be pronounced “Gon-ZAH-ga.”

Reminded me of a classic moment in an ancient episode of “Cheers.”

I think I'm remembering this right.

Cliff is yammering on about something or other, not making much sense at all. Frasier looks at him with genuine curiosity and asks,

“What color is the sky in your world?”

No. 1 song on this date in 1978

I'm going to go way out on a limb and venture a guess that this was supposed to be suggestive.

Still, I have to admit I found the “'Til the night closes in” refrain catchy. 

One more pronunciation peeve

“We have had to struggle with our corp. identity here in Spokane,” wrote Joe Kelly, broker and owner at Soleil Real Estate.

He said the business has grown and grown. “But people still cannot pronounce the name. It seems odd everyone can use local French names like Coeur d'Alene and Pend Oreille but cannot pronounce Soleil.”

No. 1 song on this date in 1964

If this gets stuck in your head, there's a good chance you are getting up there in years.

It's all relative, I suppose.

Years ago, in a short news story, a young SR staffer referred to someone in his or her 50s as elderly. I'm still amazed that made it into print. But I've seen worse. Though the most entertaining newspaper screw-ups have nothing to do with ageism.

Back in the 1970s, a suburban Phoenix paper ran a sports photo that showed a high school runner competing while his unit dangled out of his bunched-up track shorts. That kid must be elderly by now.

No. 1 song on this date in 1980

I would be OK with never hearing this again.

Ice Palace opening postponed a week

Instead of opening on Friday, Oct. 19, the downtown skating rink is to begin its season on Friday, Oct. 26.

The ice is artificially chilled, but the Ice Palace is an open-air facility and the ice-makers need cooler weather to do their thing. 

Do those using leaf blowers go to hell?

Just wondering. If not hell, perhaps they wind up in a place where they have to answer questions about the propriety and logic of blowing debris onto a public thoroughfare or someone else's property.

The pep talk to end all pep talks

Facing a formidable challenge this weekend?

You might want to play this before hurling yourself into the fray.

What’s with the blue lines in middle?

Are those supposed to be contrails?

The whitest skies you've ever seen are in, uh, Spokane.

Bend and Peel could be a band name.

Our heritage of maiming

The Inland Northwest's foundational occupations have always been dangerous.

Farming, mining and lumbering are jobs that involve risk.

So I wonder how many extended families around here can point to at least one relative who has been seriously injured on the job.

Do people who bake have more sex?

I do not know the answer.

I just have a theory. It starts with recognition that cooler temperatures will soon have many people spending more time indoors.

And then there's the indisputable truth that the smell of pies, cookies and breads baking gives people a sense of well-being.

Feel free to extrapolate from there.

Never did buy the “Peanuts” sequence

You know how Lucy would yank the football away and Charlie Brown would go flying?

Did that make sense to you?

No, not the part about the blockhead falling for it every autumn. I'm referring to the depiction of what happens to Charlie Brown after he leg-whiffs. You know, the placekicking physics of it all.

Would he really go sailing through the air? No, of course not. He might get a hyperextended knee. But he almost certainly would remain upright as his forward progress carried him a few steps beyond Lucy.

But I guess it wouldn't have worked for Schulz to have him yell “AUGGGGHHHHH!” as he just stood there visualizing the bitter, lonely life that seemed to be Lucy's destiny.

If you want to see XXXL pumpkins

Check out the big boys on display at 37th and Arthur on Spokane's South Hill.

Having a familiar face

Was talking with a newsroom colleague about how much we both like broadcaster Kristi Gorenson.

In addition to being on TV and radio in Spokane for a long time, she did a stint at the SR when the newspaper dabbled in radio a few years ago. She was a pleasure to have around.

The mention of her reminded me of her husband, a gentleman I have not had the pleasure of meeting in person.

He emailed me a story a few years ago.

It seems that after I got off a crowded holiday-season elevator at River Park Square, a woman still on it mentioned to a companion that she was certain she knew my face from somewhere. Yes, she said, she was pretty sure I was a noted sex offender or wanted criminal of some other ilk.

Kristi's husband, who was also on the elevator, offered an alternative explanation for why she recognized me.

As I recall his telling of it, he wasn't sure if she bought it.

Columbus Day (not observed)

Today, of course, is the real Columbus Day.

I don't think there is a Las Vegas line, but you have to guess both versions are living on borrowed time in terms of enjoying any sort of holiday status.

But while we're on the subject, here's one of my favorite copy-editing stories.

A Spokane freelance editor was going over an online book manuscript a few years ago. She was understandably surprised when she came across a reference to the famous Christopher Columbus vessels, the Nina, the Pinto and the Santa Maria.

I thought that was amusing and briefly alluded to it in The Slice. And sure enough, some woman sent me a scolding email noting that the middle ship was actually the Pinta.

I cannot recall my reply. But I suspect it was kinder than she deserved.


Beyond bouncy music and cute babies

It's easy to understand why TV programs of long ago didn't depict gritty reality when it came to features on animals. The sponsors back then would not have been thrilled with the thought of millions of American kids being traumatized by devastating reports on wildlife poachers or a no-holds-barred reflection of the fact predators kill for a living.

But you have to think today's kids are better served by programs that at least occasionally present evidence that nature is rough and humans are the one truly scary species.

Just wondering

On what basis do you decide whether to contribute to public radio or public television?

Wheaty alternative WSU logo

OK, the colors give it away. This refers to Wichita State University.

Way up north

Have you ever lived at a latitude more northerly than Spokane's?

If so, I have a couple of questions: Do you recall the angle of seasonal sunlight being even more extreme than it is here? How and when would you notice this?


A different kettle of fish

Quite a few people assume everyone has tried sushi.

Quite a few people are wrong.

This date in Slice history (1996)

Contest results: The question was “At airports across the country, what's the most common question asked of people headed for Spokane?”

Dee Harvey, Sandy Van Campen, Matthew Kunz, Jim McGuirk, M. Schenach, Mike Kilgore and Amy McIntee all offered some version of “Doesn't it rain a lot there?”

Mike Burris, Shannon Woolf, Barbara Mayfield, Paul Sunderland and others suggested “Are you going to visit the Space Needle?”

Debbie Lewis nominated “Isn't that close to Seattle?”

Nanci Cram offered “Is Spokane a suburb of Seattle?”

Jeannie Maki said it's “Spokane?”

John Nord submitted “Why did they put GEG on your bags?”

Mike Kelly offered “Where is Spokane?”

Lee Funkhouser said it's “Are you going to a Mariners (Seahawks) (Supersonics) game?”

Other nominated questions included: “How long have you lived in California?”

“Is the polar bear still there?”

“Is it Bloomsday already?”

There were more. A lot were pretty good. But we're declaring Julie Wright the runner-up for “So where are you really headed — Montana? Coeur d'Alene? Canada?”

And Peggy Hoppes is our winner. She said the most commonly asked question is “My aunt lives there. Do you know her?”

In what movie bar would you hang out?

I think I'd pick “Butch's” from “The Best Years of Our Lives.”

Of course, seeing as how it is set in the 1940s, cigarette smoke would be an issue.

Same goes for the place in “Harvey,” which would be another possibility.

Two that would not be high on my list are the bars in “Star Wars” and “Flashdance.”

And the George-Bailey-was-never-born version of the tavern in “It's a Wonderful Life” seemed to attract a pretty easily amused clientele. I'd steer clear of that place, too.

The guy in this photo is…

A) An associate professor of religious studies at Gonzaga University. B) A North Idaho cardiologist. C) KREM's new sports anchor. D) A Spokane Police Department officer undercover. E) The Spokane Club's new activities director. F) A man found living in a Spokane bowling alley. G) The new golf pro at Indian Canyon. H) Other.

Were you around 50 years ago?

The second half of October in 1962 has been called the most dangerous moment in human history. Were you around back then? What do you remember?

Coming in Thursday’s Slice column

One of my all-time favorite kidspeak malaprops that became a family phrase.

Beer: The secret to getting out of raking

At least that's what this 1948 ad seems to suggest. All you need is some neighbors coming home with groceries. “Greetings, fellow hat wearer. I've never tasted mass produced lager before. May I come in your house and drink beer while your attractive young wife sizes up my real intentions?”

Let’s have a bet

I'll wager that once it finally does rain, there will be people in our midst who will complain.

Re: Those Brooke Cloninger magnets

You know, the ads stuck on the phone books.

Much has been said. But here's my question.

What do other Spokane dentists think of this approach? 

The sound of recycling

For city of Spokane residents accustomed to putting their trash and recycling out early on the morning of garbage day, the new blue barrels represent change.

Where the old bins could be carried to the curb in silence at 5 a.m., the new rolling barrels can be wake-the-dead loud if they contain a few dozen bottles.

The Wednesday Slice question

Politics, religion, income and leisure preferences can make one family seem unlike another.

But the thing that really makes life look different in various households is shoes policy.

In some homes, the rule is everyone takes their shoes off the moment they step inside. Stocking feet, slippers or sandals are the order of the day.

Elsewhere, people keep their outside shoes on even if they are sitting soles-down on the couch or lying on an unmade bed.

And there are plenty of in-between approaches.

Of course, households with little kids going in and out 1,000 times a day might lean toward a more relaxed set of rules. And everybody's standards get tweaked during snow season.

But for most of the year, what is your shoes policy?

No. 1 song on this date in 1976

You might say the relevance of the Top 40 was in question by this time.

This date in Slice history (1997)

Warm-up question: How do you feel about your spouse or significant other reaching across and honking at bad drivers while you are at the wheel? 

The Food Channel and you

Do relatives and friends in other parts of the country tell you after they have seen a Spokane area eatery featured on cable TV?

When you hear “wanker” in Spokane

You can be pretty sure that…

A) The speaker doesn't really know what that means. B) The speaker watches British movies and TV. C) The speaker wants you to think he or she is worldly. D) The speaker is asserting that the person described can fairly be labeled as one overly fond of masturbation. E) Other. 

Remember SRA reading programs?

They were part of life at some grade schools in the 1960s.

Instead of potentially stigmatizing labels for different reading levels, children were assigned different colors — according to their perceived proficiency.  

The breakfast dilemma

We all know you are supposed to eat breakfast “like a king.”

And so on.

But what if a truly hearty morning meal makes you feel drowsy shortly thereafter? If you are among those for whom going back to bed isn't an option, that's less than ideal.

Experimentation is probably the answer. You can try all sorts of breakfast fare and see what works.

Or perhaps you could even consider going to bed earlier.

But of course, there's just one word to describe how most adults manage to stay awake.


Slice spillover

“Your phone courtesy stories instantly brought to mind an incident involving my younger brother years ago, when we were all kids at home,” wrote Jill Simon. “He answered the phone and when the person on the other end asked for someone who did not live at our residence, my brother, Bill, said, 'No, he's not here and he never will be.'”

Bob Worley suggested a few more themed street names for a residential develiopment.

James Bond:

007 Square

Goldfinger Drive

Moneypenny Lane

Thunderball Blvd.

Moonraker Avenue

“Star Trek” theme:

Kirk Avenue

Enterprise Square

Vulcan Lane

Klingon Blvd.

Transporter Circle

Happy birthday, Jackson Browne

Have you ever actually read the lyrics to, say, “Late for the Sky” or “Fountain of Sorrow”?

He was so good.

This date in Slice history (1997)

Warm-up questions: How many people who moved here from somewhere else were victims of a crime during their first week of living in the Spokane area? Ever tried putting on a pair of glasses when you were already wearing another pair?

Trying to avoid a case of aphid-lung

Lots of Spokane area bike riders will tell you.

This time of year offers some of the best afternoons for cycling.

But in certain neighborhoods where there is an abundance of trees, there is a challenge for bike riders: Trying not to inhale aphids when rolling through an insect cloud.

The best advice, of course, is the classic all-purpose counsel that has served well in countless situations.

Keep your mouth shut.

Greeting Columbus Day (Observed)

I can't say I conducted a scientific survey. I just overheard some muttering.

But a walk in downtown Spokane this morning suggested that one way to greet the news that certain government offices and businesses are closed today is to utter familiar four-letter words.

Today’s Halloween costume idea

You could go as the Ridpath Hotel. But that might be too scary.

Is there a dress code at your workplace?

Could you wear a T-shirt that said “How about a nice cup of Kiss My Ass?”?

No. 1 song on this date in 1966

There were teen bands that tried to perform this, soaring harmonies and all, and the results were not pretty.

Hearing voices

It's my theory that most workplaces with at least a couple dozen employees have two individuals whose speaking voices, when heard from a distance, sound almost identical.

That's no big deal, of course. But the other part of this theory holds that your feelings about these two people are almost invariably polar opposites.

So what happens is you hear that voice in the distance and think “Hey, it's good old…” and then look up to see it is actually the other person, forcing you to “Oh, God, it's her again.”      

Sprinkler blowout season

It's about that time of year — Sprinkler blowout season — when grandfathers and others who enjoy pulling the legs of children get to take a few liberties with the facts.

“Look, Jason. Lawn geysers! That means the Earth's crust is fracturing and soon this whole neighborhood will be awash in oozing magma.”

Questioning the coverage

It that where he died?

Did no one at the paper contact the authorities?

What is the basis for the claim that the world mourns his passing?

What is that dog doing?

Is this why some like the tabloid format?

Has that cop decided it's better to not get involved?

The Picture News has zero photos on the front page?

What did she do while in Spokane?

A list I consult shows that actress Myrna Loy was among the entertainers who appeared at Expo '74. I have no idea what she did here. The SR's clip files might answer this. But I prefer to imagine that she cheerfully stood on a stage and allowed people to call out requests.

“Hey, Myrna. Remember that scene in 'The Best Years of Our Lives' when you are in the kitchen and you call out 'Who was that at the door?' and neither of your kids answers and it dawns on you that, Al, your husband, is, at long last, home from the war? Could you recreate that for us?”

Keeping track of who is still married

A friend was talking about encountering a Spokane man who turned out to be a good guy.

But here's the thing. My friend knew that the fellow was at one time married to a woman my friend had worked with a few years ago. He wasn't sure, though, that they were still a couple.

He had heard something about a divorce or almost-divorce.

So he wisely steered clear of that whole subject.

Smart man. There are so many situations where it is simply better to say nothing.

I was at a gathering about a year ago where I encountered a man I knew but had not seen in many years. I reminded him of a cookout we had attended not long after I moved to Spokane in the late '80s. At that time, his first child was just a few days away from being born.

He didn't seem to warm to this congenial stroll down memory lane. Later, I figured out why.

The wife standing with him at that event last year was not the same wife who had been great with child at that cookout almost 25 years ago.

Has this ever happened to you?

You are on a date.

You are at a movie in a multiplex. Everything seems to be going quite well.

You excuse yourself and exit the darkened theater to visit the restroom. When you return to your seat, your date is gone.

You look and look. No luck.

What the?

You go back out to the lobby to see if your date might have gone for a drink of water or whatever while you were away.

Strike two.

But while in the lobby, you realize for the first time that the movie you have been watching is showing on two screens, side by side.

Having already looked in Theater A, you try Theater B.

Happy ending.

This date in Slice history (1996)

Today's Slice question: How can you tell when you have enough wood to see you through winter?

Near nature, near perfect*

* Except for the countless people who spend all day looking for things to steal.

(OK, what qualifier would you place after the asterisk?)

Not ready for my closeup

Several years ago, I had written a feature story suggesting that, despite our latitude, Spokane residents didn't tend to be the hardiest of souls when it came to coping with winter.

I blamed Chicken Little TV news, among other things.

OK, I admit it. Driving on icy roads is no fun. And the thought of slipping on sidewalks sends some people to Arizona after Thanksgiving.

But there are things you can do to make winter endurable — tactics a lot of people here inexplicably ignore.

So anyway, this feature story was set to run on the upcoming Sunday. And it was decided that we would produce a short video to go with it. A guy here at the paper named Joe was going to handle the camera.

On the morning we were to do this, I lugged in an oversized travel bag stuffed with winter weather gear.

My idea for the video was to start out in just long underwear and then get dressed on camera while saying things like “This is called a hat” or “These are known as sensible shoes.”

And so on. You know. “This is an item of apparel called a warm coat. It can be purchased in stores.” Et cetera.

I'm not sure how great the video would have been. But I never found out.

The night before we were going to record it, Joe's girlfriend lost her job. I came in to the office and found an email from him saying he needed to take the day off to be with her.

Oh, well. There's always another cold season. And I'm usually up for one more winter-wimps rant.

Maybe when it comes time to reach into the closet in search of warm gloves I'll haul out that idea for the video, too.

Oktoberfest for vegetarians

We hear a lot about coping strategies for vegetarians as Thanksgiving draws near.

The psycho-social dynamics of not eating meat at that particular carnivorous occasion have been well documented.

But perhaps an even bigger challenge confronts vegetarians this month.

Yes, Oktoberfest gatherings can be a bit disorienting for those whose diet doesn't include sausage in a basket, sausage on a plate, sausage in a bun or sausage on a stick.

But that's why there's beer. And kraut (assuming it wasn't cooked with sausage drippings).

I suppose you could see how hot mustard tastes on various vegetables. Still, I think beer has to be the key here.

Remember to drink responsibly. 

Just wondering

Should downtown Spokane become a gated community?

More on street names

Got a note from a colleague.

“The neighborhood I lived in as a teen had all street names from 'Bambi,'” she wrote. “I lived on Felina, but I always wanted to live on Flower.”

If there were any angry old grumps in that neighborhood, it must have bugged them to have an address like that.

Imagine mailing a hate-spewing letter to the editor and having your return address place you there on Thumper Lane or Friend Owl Way.

Or what about hunters living in that neighborhood?

Today’s Halloween costume suggestion

You could go as Dr. Zaius.

But how would you localize? A ballcap? WSU face tattoo?

Seasonal transitions

Slice reader Rick Shaffer said that, in Wallace, the real question isn't when to switch from short sleeves to long.

“It's more like long pants over shorts.”


My brother would have been 65 today.

He died in 2000, a few weeks after we had moved our parents from New England to Spokane in September of that year. He was going about his day back home in Aurora, Colo., when his heart stopped. Totally out of the blue.

Because he was so much older, we had lived our lives on different sets of tracks. But he was a good big brother.

Sometimes just being his sibling was enough.

Once on Halloween night when I was a kid, some significantly older boys approached me and made noises about stealing my trick or treat bag, laden with a typical mid-1960s haul.

Then one of them said, “I think that's John Turner's brother.”

The would-be candy crooks contemplated the choice before them. Yes, they could rip off my candy. I was just a grade-school kid.

But if I could identify them, there existed the very real possibility that a swift and severe brand of suburban-frontier justice (in the form of the aforementioned John Turner) would soon rain down on their sorry asses like teenage thunder.

They walked away.

Nobody asked me but…

The Seattle Mariners' plan to move the outfield fences in next season reminds me of the rationale for Daylight Saving Time.

Start Halloween insanity 4 weeks early

According to the online ad, the costume below depicts Rosie, the robot maid in “The Jetsons.”

“The Jetsons” was early in its first season 50 years ago. Rosie did not look like this.

Do you know any couples named George and Jane?

How do you react to “Family Circus”?

Does it make you chuckle and say, “Gosh, those kids say the darndest things”?

Does it make you want to harm yourself and others?

I got to thinking about it because a reader, Tim Price, wrote and expressed doubt that a family would actually name its dog “Barfy.”

But here's where I admit I pretty much live in a FC-free zone. I just don't read it.

I realize, however, that others cannot avoid looking. If that's you, I'd like to know if it's because of the lure of the gentle humor or if it is more like gawking at a bad accident.  

Did you watch “Sky King”?

“Out of the clear blue of the western sky, comes…”

And if you were a boy, did you — like author Bill Bryson — happen to notice the pleasing shape of niece Penny's butt?

Personally, I was too young for such distractions. I was just glad to learn that most of life's tough spots could be successfully addressed if you owned a plane. 

Road hazards — Northwest style

Almost wiped out on my bike this morning when taking a turn on a stretch of road covered with about an inch of pine needles.

Reminded me of a Nov.1st years ago when my friend John Kafentzis said driving to work had been made challenging that morning by a smashed-pumpkins glaze on the roads.  

Jess Walter interview


I know this is old. But I noticed that today is Clive Owen's birthday. And my wife, a huge Jess Walter fan, once suggested to the Spokane novelist that Owen would be perfect for the lead role in a movie version of “Citizen Vince.”

Jess talks a bit about the books-movie connection in the interview linked to above.

This date in Slice history (1997)

Today's Slice question: Which personality type is more annoying to be around for extended periods — someone spilling over with knowledge of pop culture trivia or someone who recognizes zero pop culture references?

It’s International Walk to School Day

What are the Top 10 reasons some parents don't feel comfortable with having their children walk to school?

Here are my guesses. Feel free to disagree.

1. Certainty that the child will be abducted.

2. Doubts about the kid being able to find the school.

3. There's not an app for that.

4. Troubled by the word “International.”

5. Walking? What's walking?

6. Safety concerns based on the fact the boy/girl never watches where he/she is going because of stumbling along while looking at phone.

7. Would deprive parent of a chance to model classic “I'm driving and talking on the cell phone” behavior.

8. Shouldn't there be drugs to combat childhood obesity?

9. Trying to break the cycle of “Why, when I was a lad, I had to walk…” storytelling.

10. Sometimes there are Muslims outdoors.

A generation of Canadian girls…

Had Barbara Ann Scott dolls.

The Olympic figure skating gold medalist died the other day.

Ski lodge from hell

Nothing says “Well, I guess it's time to turn in” quite like an accordion.

The Wednesday Slice question

About which of the following do you wish you had better knowledge?

A) Trees. B) Old movies. C) Northwest history. D) Jazz. E) The economic and social forces that led to the 1950 list of America's 20 largest metropolitan areas being radically changed by 2000. F) Math. G) Car engines. H) Abnormal psychology. I) The secrets of selling that do not involve being a total phony. J) Childhood diseases. K) The night sky. L) Using power tools. M) World War II. N) The New Testament. O) Baseball between 1946 and 1964. P) Birds. Q) Cooking. R) Plumbing. S) Computers. T) Gardening. U) Wine. V) A second language. W) Opera. X) Sailing.Y) Investing. Z) Other.

Recalling someone else’s acid trip

It was pointed out to me that elsewhere on a commenter suggested I might have taken acid in the 1970s.

As it happens, I did not. Never even tempted.

But I knew someone who did.

Once, while under the influence of LSD, he found himself in the home of a friend. That friend's mother was there.

The guy I knew was sitting in a chair. But he believed he was somehow at the bottom of a pendulum swinging slowly back and forth.

In reality, a pendulum will usually cover less and less distance as time passes. But he believed it was swinging farther and farther out.

So he finally feared that he was going to crash into the other side of the room, where his friend's mother was seated.

He had no choice but to holler a panicky warning — “Heeeerrrrrrre I commmmmme!”

Brace for impact.

Don't take drugs, kids.

Bing and a German shepherd

Some people are scared of this breed, but I've always found them to be pretty reasonable. Don't try anything funny and there's usually no trouble.

I had an elderly neighbor whose shep would jump over the fence while his owner was away. But this dog always let me return him to his yard without incident.

This date in Slice history (1995)

Today's Slice question: What memorable movie title says it all about Spokane?

Three days later, I saluted Slice reader Bill Hudson for his suggestion, “Sometimes a Great Notion.”

Other movie titles readers mentioned were “Dazed and Confused,” “Vision Quest,” “Cheaper by the Dozen,” “The Good, the Bad and Ugly,” “A River Runs Through It,” “High Hopes,” “The Great Escape,” “Pillow Talk,” “A Few Good Men,” “American Graffiti,” “One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest,” “The Abyss,” “Never Give a Sucker an Even Break,” “Waterworld,” “The Parent Trap,” “It's a Wonderful Life,” “Bus Stop,” “Gypsy,” “The Big Sleep,” “They Shoot Horses, Don't They?” “Lost in America,” “Places in the Heart,” “The Way We Were,” “Moscow on the Hudson,” “Grumpy Old Men,” “Ship of Fools,” “East of Eden,” “Somewhere in Time,” “Far and Away,” “Clueless,” “Who's Minding the Store?” and “The Land that Time Forgot.”

Interesting hospital gown she’s wearing

Does that nurse or food services person despise her or what?

It pays to rehearse

You: “So I'll be off this coming Monday for Columbus Day.”

Your Boss: “That's not a holiday our company observes.”

You: “Oh, that's right. I meant to say I'll be off Monday for Canadian Thanksgiving.”

Don’t hate her because she is efficient

A reader who saw the reference in today's Slice column to there being exactly a dozen weeks of Christmas shopping left wrote to report that she was done with her gift-buying as of yesterday.

She has even finished wrapping.

I know. Even her relatives have a hard time comprehending this.

“My sis uses various words for me, some that are unprintable, because I can accomplish this feat so early.”

Her secret? Well, for one thing, she does quite a bit of shopping at after-Christmas sales. Then, for the rest of the year, when she sees something that would make a good gift she doesn't dither. She goes ahead and buys it. 

Won’t be long now

Apparently skiing was different in 1965. Though perhaps this transplanted beach movie should not be regarded as a documentary.

One of the classic bumper stickers

Would rank this right up there with “Question Authority” and “I Support The Right To Arm Bears.”

What would Navin R. Johnson say?

Came home this afternoon to find a new upright recycling barrel waiting for me.

Immediately thought of Steven Martin's character in 1979's “The Jerk.”

What would Navin say?

Of course, a recycling barrel doesn't confer the kind of fame and status a phonebook might. But still, it's something. And it sure is blue.

Mailing list fail

You never know what's going to arrive in the mail.

Got a correctly addressed credit card come-on from the University of Wyoming Alumni Association touting “The one and only card exclusively for University of Wyoming Alumni.”

“Dear Paul,

“We've partnered with Capital One to bring you the only card that shows your support for the University of Wyoming, You can choose to apply for one of three great credit card options, including the University of Wyoming Alumni Association Visa Rewards card.”

It goes on.

Two problems.

1. I don't want any more credit cards.

2. I did not attend the University of Wyoming.

Monday’s one-question quiz

Can you name the fictitious Washington resident who was a big fan of televised sports and Ballantine?

How to succeed in business

If the baseball team you follow is in a last-week-of-the-season pennant race with a team your boss roots for (and it is not looking good for his/her team), you had better hope your boss is a grownup.

Almost 20 years before “Homeland”

Some viewers knew Claire Danes was something special.   

Know how to pronounce “foliage”?

I'll just assume that you do.

Remember, we're on the honor system here.

The case against bike helmets

I keep reading that an insistence on bike riders wearing helmets discourages prospective new riders by making the activity seem more dangerous than it really is.

These arguments always note that Europeans don't wear helmets. And that, statistically, we might be better off wearing helmets when stepping in and out of the bathtub. Et cetera.

I think I understand the point being made. But I have no intention of discarding my own helmet. It's light and comfortable. And it affords me some small measure of safety. Why would I elect not to protect my head when it is so easy to do so?


This date in Slice history (1996)

In the Inland Northwest, October 1st is the unofficial start of Maybe I'll Grow a Beard Season.

As always, each man has to make his own decision. (We're pretending for a moment that wives and girlfriends do not have absolute veto power.) But everyone can join in the pre-winter spirit of Beard Season by offering reassuring comments to guys going through those first difficult weeks of whisker-sprouting.

“Got the mange?” has always been one our favorites. But we're sure you can think of your own special words of encouragement.

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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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