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The Slice

Archive for September 2013

Blame the wind

Saw several campaign signs that had been blown over this afternoon.

And I'm wondering. If the wind dies down before people get home from work in a few hours, will those with uprooted yard signs remember the weather? Or, like in every other situation, will they blame the political opposition?  

A time-management role model

Coming in Tuesday's Slice column.

When vegetarians order the ribs

A colleague who does not eat meat recently spent a few days in Kansas City.

He decided that it would be crazy to visit that city and not have a plate of barbecue ribs.

So that's what he did. And enjoyed his dinner.

It was great. He thinks.

He admits recent memory doesn't offer much in the way of comparison.

Remembering when Slice readers sang

Boy, I sure wish I still had recordings of readers calling my phonemail and singing snippets of “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” and the old Hamm's beer jingle.

If I were to invite readers to sing something else, what should it be?

Speaking of butts

A friend was listening to oldies while driving the grandkids to day care.

A 1968 song by The Foundations came on.

Her radio has a readout that shows what song is playing but it has limited characters.

So the tune displayed as “Build Me Up Butt.”

She had a hard time explaining to her 4-year-old grandson what it was she found so amusing.

They must have butt-centric self-esteem

Have you ever wondered about the thought process that leads some women to go out in public wearing form-fitting leggings as pants?

I still say this was better than “Argo”

Watched this for a second time over the weekend. It won't be the last time.

In the red

Even after all these years, I still occasionally get notes from readers expressing dismay about the fact that I seldom address the serious issues confronting society.

So here's a question just for those folks.

Have you ever forgotten that you ate beets and then, a while later, found yourself experiencing momentary alarm?

Overheard Sunday at grocery store

Mother to a little kid who was skipping, singing and what have you.

“We're not here to have fun.”

Just wondering

How often does a phone ringing in a TV show make you briefly wonder if you are getting a call?

“Leave it to Beaver” and journalism

It's always interesting to see how newspaper work is depicted in the movies and on TV.

Take a 1962 episode of “Leave it to Beaver” titled “Long-Distance Call,” for example.

Beaver and two of his friends decide to call baseball pitcher Don Drysdale at Dodger Stadium. The call goes through, but the boys have to wait a long time before the big hurler finishes his shower and comes to the phone.

They subsequently learn that the call is going to cost almost $10. They don't have the money but assume they have a couple of weeks to figure something out.

But events throw them a curve. A grade school classmate hears about their conversation with Drysdale. That kid then tells his newspaperman father.

Here's where it gets good.

The father, who works for the paper there in Mayfield, writes a section-front story about the Drysdale call.

He does this without confirming that it actually happened. And he somehow knows how to spell the names of the three boys.

I guess it's nice that he trusted his own kid. Crazy. But nice.

Football, Montana graduates and beer

Let's say you have a loosely agreed upon college football bet with some friends at work.

If your team wins, which seldom happens, they purchase a bottle of some weird ass beer for you and deliver same on Monday.

If their team wins, you buy the oddball beer.

Well, what does it say about your confidence level if the game is Saturday night but you plan to do some beer shopping on Saturday morning?

This date in Slice history (1996)

The case for taking long walks: So this little boy stopped us on a Browne's Addition sidewalk. He held up a picture book about animals. We examined the volume and pronounced it a valuable reference work. Then we pointed to a photo of a striped big cat and asked the boy to identify it.

“Teeger,” he said.

Close enough.

If you were born on this date in 1975

John Denver's “I'm Sorry” was the No. 1 song on the radio when you arrived on the scene.

This date in Slice history (1994)

Julie Jeppesen was in a Spokane Valley ice cream parlor when she heard an anxious mother call to a wandering little girl, “Come over here, we're not in Coeur d'Alene anymore.” 

What’s your tartar sauce brand?

Do you know Spokane residents whose use of tartar sauce almost calls for an intervention? 

Do you have personalized place names?

Everybody knows about coming up with nicknames for neighbors you have never met.

I have long assumed that virtually everyone does that.

But do you also employ personalized place names in your family?

I'll give you an example.

It's about 10 streets away from our home. But if someone told me that there was some sort of minor emergency and my wife needed me to meet her at “the Cat Block,” I would know right where to go.

Do you have nicknames for certain places in the Spokane area? 

On this date at Expo 74

Porter and Dolly.

Is this a seasonal drink?

Or do you enjoy hot chocolate all year? Assuming, that is, someone else makes it.

“Object: Guess Archie’s answers”

That couldn't have been too hard.

He wasn’t really a priest

He just played one in the movies.

Where have you seen most roadkill?

You might think we have a lot here. But those who travel can tell you. Compared to bigger metros in parts of the country with more wildlife-supporting rainfaill, we are strictly minor league when it comes to the volume of animals killed by high-speed car traffic.

Another reason to like Spokane.

Another way newsrooms have changed

Back in the 1970s, the following actually happened at a newspaper in another state.

A part-time sports writer compiling the weekly prep football previews took to using the word “with” instead of “against” when alluding to, say, “Winslow's game against Kingman.”

His reasoning? “Against” sounded too belligerent, too warlike. He started writing “with” as a way to emphasize competition's more uplifting aspects.

The long-suffering sports editor, a man known for loud sighs, would mutter about cruel fate and change it to “against.”  

“I’m a serious person and you are not”

In Spokane, what's the No. 1 reason that thought occurs to people?

A) You aren't sufficiently earnest about environmental issues. B) You do not hate the president of the United States. C) You get your information from sources other than those approved of by the person judging you. D) Your facial hair. E) You do not have a lot of money. F) You enjoy popular entertainment. G) The messages on your T-shirts. H) What you drive, wear and eat. I) Other. 

Alternatives to brevity

Slice reader Don Shaw called and asked if I get paid by the keystroke.

He said his query was prompted by my recent use of the expression “intimate social congress.”

“Do you mean sex?” he asked.  

How badly would you injure yourself?

If you tried to do what that appealing Ferris High girl is doing in that photo on the cover of the Voices section?

That was a lot of money back then

From where that girl is standing, could she possibly see the screen?

Maybe she was just positioning herself in the classic human-remote spot.

“OK, try channel 2. No. Try 6. Back to 2.”

A failure to communicate

You know how they ask for your birthday when you pick up a prescription?

Sure. Well, if you aren't paying attention that simplest of exchanges can become a festival of confusion.

Let's say you are daydreaming and think the pharm tech has asked, “Havin' a good day?”

And let's say you answer, “Too early to tell.”

That just doesn't move the ball down the field.

Gaming “The Newlywed Game”

I was 11 and a confirmed bachelor when “The Newlywed Game” first went on the air.

But I knew how I would beat the system if I got married in grade school and somehow found myself on that show. My young wife and I would simply agree upon some predetermined answers. Then, no matter what we were asked, we would be in sync. We would roll up the score.

“Paul, what will your wife say is the most unusual place the two of you have made whoopie?”

“'In the Mood' by the Glenn Miller orchestra, Bob.”

Eventually, years later, I became aware that practically everybody had that same idea. I suppose the producers of the show told prospective contestants “Don't even think about it.”

Too bad. Would have been fun.

“Beth, what will Paul say is the one thing about your family that really drives him crazy?”

“Argentina, Bob.”

“I’m saving this candy for Halloween”



I believe you.

But maybe you had better taste one. Just to make sure it's OK.

Blessing of the pets season is here

Not all churches have such events, but those that do tend to schedule it near the Oct. 4 St. Francis of Assisi feast day. Just call the church office and ask.

I have been to a few of these over the years, and I recommend attending one — even if you do not have a pet.

No. 1 song on this date in 1964

On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest superlative, how would you rate this song?

This date in Slice history (1997)

Today's Slice question: What would happen to life in the Inland Northwest if you moved away?

This date in Slice history (1998)

Nominee No. 2: Teenager Calin Matney, who lives not far from Kettle Falls, believes his Manx tabby, Molly, is the Inland Northwest's best barn cat. Molly keeps the rodents under control, teaches stray cats how to hunt and once showed up at the door with a long bull snake in her mouth.

Hot ski lodge action

She might want to mull her complicity in this canoodling. And maybe get a firmer grip on his right arm.

A book-promo email I stopped reading

“Dear Mr. Turner

“Life is not always full of unicorns and rainbows…”

No. Darn it all. No!

I refuse to accept that.

“Quite rightly”

Hearing those words makes you think of what 1960s song?

September 25, 1954

You make the call.

Cornball or classic?

Would it be the same without the dog?

Yes, this is a photo of a jigsaw puzzle.

“No respect to you, but…”

One of the overlooked downsides to losing touch with old friends is that you no longer get to trot out insider phrases for the sake of amusement.

Let me illustrate what I mean.

Back when I was a college freshman or sophomore, I was in a history class when a fellow student took issue with something the professor had said.

Now I don't know if this guy — I hesitate to call him a “kid” because I remember he was a returned Vietnam veteran — was high or simply misspoke. But when he began to address the prof, in a courteous manner, it didn't come out right.

“No respect to you, but …” he began.

When I got back to my dorm, I shared that. And soon several of my fellow scholars were finding all sorts of occasions for recycling that botched expression.

“No respect to you, but …”

I lost touch with those guys long ago. But sometimes when I hear a speaker say “No disrespect” I find myself going back in time and enjoying the memory of my friends putting our special spin on that. 

Overheard in newsroom, then vs. now

Then: “There's a James A. Nelson downstairs demanding to speak to the city editor.”

Now: “A commenter who calls himself Mr. Mxyzptlk says you suck.”

The Wednesday Slice question

What do you suppose the partially undressed baristas really think of their customers?

Happy birthday, Cheryl Tiegs

Well, do you still look the way you did in the 1970s?

Large family/one bathroom

What does growing up in that situation teach a person?

You can decide for yourself what constitutes a large family.

Bill Simer and the seasonal “sweet spot”

You know how when you see certain people coming, individuals with a track record of relentless complaining, your reflex is to think “Oh, no, what's it going to be this time?”


Well, that's the exact opposite of how I feel when I see Bill Simer headed my way. The sharp-dressed Spokane businessman has an aura of positive energy. I am always, 100 percent of the time glad to see him.

Anyway, we crossed paths in the lobby of the Review Tower this afternoon. And he told me he was enjoying the seasonal “sweet spot” of not having to use the AC or turn on the heat either.

Which brings us to a question.

Are you doing anything right now to control the temperature in your home or are you content to roll with Mother Nature at this time of year?

How are Spokane, Jan Brady alike?

I'll start. We have Seattle and she has Marcia, Marcia, Marcia.

Your turn.

Noon quiz

One of these guys had the No. 1 song on this date in 1972.

Can you name the singer and the song?

So what became of …

…the person who was captain of your team way back when?

America in another century

This is the Sports Illustrated from September 24, 1962. 

Just wondering

The 11-month long National Hockey League season gets underway a week from today.

If Seattle had an NHL team, would you consider going over for a game once a year or so?

This week on “Twilight Zone” in 1961

In one of the series' Cold War classics, an episode called “The Shelter” shows what can happen when fear trumps reason.

When a suburban neighborhood faces the prospect of nuclear war, the gentlemen in the picture (above) break down the door of a doctor's basement bomb shelter so they can get their families in.

But even as a child, didn't you ask yourself: “What good is a bomb shelter with a door that can no longer close?”

Sunday drives

“When we arrived in Spokane in 1990, we looked for ways to enjoy the beauty of the Northwest,” wrote Joyce Mann. “One Sunday, the SR published a Barn Tour, with a suggested route and specific old barns in the Palouse to admire.

“Our teenagers in the back seat, we set out on a Sunday afternoon, not realizing how big the region really was and how few gas stations and fast food places would be open. Driving on fumes, more and more hungry as the afternoon wore on, we all just started saying 'Barn!' to any likely building we passed.

“The teens grew up and left home, but we still can text 'Barn!' to one another and get a good laugh.”

Coming in Tuesday’s Slice column

A newsroom colleague encounters an unexpected Spokane reference in a book he's reading.

Have been meaning to say

It's old news now.

But I was impressed with the way the Ferris High football coaches maintained their composure (or at least appeared to on TV) a few weeks ago after an epically bad call.

The Ferris offense faked out both the Central Valley defense and the referees so thoroughly that a whistle was blown stopping the play while the actual FHS ballcarrier waltzed toward the end zone unnoticed from about 20 yards out.

Never seen anything quite like it.

Expected the Ferris coaches to go all George “Pine Tar” Brett on the refs. Did not happen. It was almost as if they realized the referees hadn't screwed up on purpose.

Hats off to those coaches.

There are three kinds of people

1. People who watched “Breaking Bad” from the start.

2. People who intend to watch or are watching but are several seasons behind and have to be constantly vigilant about avoiding spoilers.

3. People who didn't watch and aren't going to watch.

The sort of strange website of the day

I find it mildly amusing to hear people try to pronounce Kjerstin Ramsing's first name with supposedly authentic Scandinavian nuance. So I was looking for a picture of the Spokane TV news woman to tack on to a short post about that. Instead I found photos of Stephanie Vigil on this first site.

Money message

I always find it interesting to see what people write on paper money.

Often, the message is cryptic. That was the case with something I noticed yesterday.

Written in black ink on a $20 bill I got at a bank drive-thru on Saturday was “MARILIN.”

No phone number or anything. Just “MARILIN.”

These days, that could actually be the correct spelling.

I assume that's a person's name. But I can only guess about why someone wrote it down on a $20 bill.

Maybe the back-story involves a great romance. Or perhaps mental illness.

Feel free to make you own guess.

Switching to long sleeves

How do you decide when to make the switch?

A) I switch on the first day of fall. B) I don't switch. I wear T-shirts 365 days a year. C) I would not be taken seriously in my profession if I wore short-sleeve shirts. D) During the transition from summer to fall, I make my picks day by day. E) Whatever is clean. F) Other.

Re: The location of your alma mater

Ever been wearing a shirt adorned with a name of a college (that is not also an obvious geographic place name) and been asked where the school is located?

Agree or disagree

Spokane's inner Hooterville really comes out when people start talking about the state of downtown.

The urge to purchase decorative gourds

It can strike at any time for the next couple of months.

So keep your wits about you.  

Things left unsaid

Yesterday at around noon, I walked to a grocery store about a mile from home.

I bought some Brown Cow yogurt, apple juice boxes and frozen raspberries. But mostly the outing was an excuse to get some exercise that wasn't bike-riding.

After paying the cashier, the girl who had put my purchases in the bag I brought from home asked if I wanted her to carry it for me.

I told her no, of course. But on my way out of the store, I had a thought.

If I had let her carry my bag and then started walking back home without saying anything, how long would it have taken her to speak up?

“Uh, sir, where's your car?”

“My car? It's in my garage at home. Why do you ask?”

Is this what jury duty is like?

What movie character said this?

“Most people never have to face the fact that at the right place and the right time, they're capable of ANYTHING.” 

LIFE cover on this date back in 1959

Of course, the whole story didn't come out until many years later. None of them had it easy.

Mail call

There was a misdelivered envelope in my mailbox at home Friday.

Addressed to a woman at the house next door.

No big deal. That happens.

But here's the thing. The addressee hasn't lived in that house since the late 20th century. She and her husband moved to Honduras or Guatemala or some place like that. I think they relocated in 1999.

The envelope was sent by ASURIS Northwest Health and had a Seattle return address.

My initial assumption was that it couldn't be all that important. But you never know.

So I was trying to think of what to write on the envelope before putting it in a mailbox.



Then I saw it.

There in the lower left corner of the front of the envelope was a four-word message.

“This is an advertisement.”

That simplified the matter considerably.

Before she moved to Spokane TV news

She interviewed in Metropolis.

Actually, that's the intrepid Jimmy Olsen dressed as a woman.

That's some hiring process they had at the Planet.

True or false

If he manages to not sound like Beavis or Butthead and keeps his gaze on her face, a noncreepy guy can say almost anything to a female colleague about her appearance if he prefaces it with “My aspirations of being a gentleman preclude me from going into detail, but…”

A day to quote Rocky and Bullwinkle

Today is the late Jay Ward's birthday.

He inspired millions of American kids to say, “And now here's something we hope you'll really like.”

Two visions of success in Spokane

Having a big diesel pickup that rattles every window in the neighborhood when you fire it up at 5:54 a.m.

Living in a neighborhood where nobody has a big diesel pickup.

One-question pop culture quiz

Please name the 2004-2011 TV series that featured an extended storyline about a young actor set to play Aquaman in a movie. 

On this date a long time ago


Norman Rockwell's “The Runaway,” from 55 years ago today.

Pure corn? Yeah, probably. But sometimes, the older you get, the less jaded you are about this sort of thing.

Surely there were protected little corners of our land where life in America actually did resemble this.

I love the counterman's expression.

If you got married 30 years ago today

This was the No. 1 song on the radio when you got hitched.

When I interviewed him after a concert even earlier in his career, I think I addressed him as “Bill.” 

Talk Like a Trucker Day

That was my friend Ken Stout's suggestion when The Slice asked what might take the place of Talk Like a Pirate Day.

Sadly, the examples he provided are unprintable.

(For the record, Ken — a trucker himself — did not print them either, opting instead to go the #$%!!&#%$# route.) 

Would you get the reference?

If, say, you saw one of these on a co-worker's desk.

Do you remember this player?

I don't. But he had a cup of coffee in Spokane, so here you go.

Know your AP Stylebook

See if you can tell where the Slice Blog has tweaked the following entry from the Associated Press Stylebook.

“theater: Use this spelling unless the proper name is Theatre, in which case you should avoid mentioning the venue altogether.”

Life and media in 2013

I was flipping channels and came across a radio talk show simulcast on a cable sports channel.

The format features a main host and four sports-geek helpers. It can be entertaining, in small doses.

Anyway, at some point, one of the quartet of underlings said something snide about another of the foursome.

The host halfheartedly called him on it.

The offending party's defense of his mean remark?

“It's content.”

Close encounter of the cougar kind

My friend Jeannie Maki lives with her husband out in the country near Colville.

The other day, she was outside with her dog when she turned around to see a cougar up close and personal.

How close was it? “I could have slapped it.”

Maki said it seemed clear that the big cat was thinking “Canine — it's what's for dinner.”

Bad kitty.

“It was looking at me like 'Are you going to eat it, or am I?'”

Maki carries a firearm and was prepared to protect her dog, but the cougar walked away and disappeared into some brush.

Well, sort of disappeared.

“I could see the end of the tail in there flicking and I knew it wasn't done with us. So I shot in there a few times, rounded up the dog, and backed out across the field.”

Playing football in the house

No, it was never a good idea. But people did it. I have a scar on my forehead from a time I was going for good yardage until tackled by some unyielding piece of household furnishing.

Who said this?

He's reading the cooking instructions on a snack package and says…

“Six minutes to microwave this? Who's got that kind of time?”

I'll send a coveted reporter's notebook to the first reader submitting the correct answer.

“Shelly Dubinsky on 514 in 10 minutes”

Ever had a friend who called or texted you when a certain movie was on or when a certain scene was coming up?

The movie in question doesn't have to be a fine film. And the particular scene might not be morally uplifting. But this friend wanted to alert you nonetheless. 

The continuing saga

Now the story is that, instead of being a little blog post, the much-discussed item greeted readers who picked up their morning paper.

Can't wait for the next development.

Reader challenge

Imagine the most unlikely circumstances in which one Inland Northwest resident would say to another, “Don't you have anything better to do?”

Coming in Thursday’s Slice column

Ten pounds of reader contributions in a 5-pound bag.

Pot stories

Got an email from my friend Mary Ann Barney.

“Your note about Sandy Tarbox wanting to know what euphemisms people used for acquiring a bag of weed prompted two long-ago memories.

“When I was a first-year teacher (back in 1966), I was waiting for the bus outside my elementary school in Seattle when I was approached by a young couple who asked me if I wanted to buy some pot. I said a polite 'No, thank you' but the young man assured me, 'Oh, that's all right. We'll take a check!' Then his companion murmured to him, 'I think she's a teacher.'”

They moved along.

“I thought it was a pretty funny story to relate until I was topped by my twin sister who taught in a high school in Northern California. She called to tell me a student of hers had given her a lid of pot for Christmas. 'Regretfully, I had to give it back to him,' she sighed. 'I told him teachers were not allowed to accept expensive gifts.'” 

Punting situation

Rockford's Rusty Nelson saw the question about punting a football.

“With a nasty case of tendonitis in my shoulder, punting is the only way for me to get a football any distance in the air or down the field. That reminds me of a time I was home from college, playing around with my younger brother, Monty, who was in junior high school in Thomson, Georgia.

“He had a classmate over. And with a weak arm even then, I was soon punting the ball back and forth with the two youngsters. It is no longer embarrassing to recall that both of those kids could out-pass and out-punt me.

“They went on to play together on four undefeated football teams (JV and varsity). Monty could have punted for most high school teams, but his friend seemed especially suited for that chore. His name is Ray Guy.”


The Wednesday Slice

Time again for another installment of “Ask a South Hill resident.”

The Slice: Do Spokane's leaders waste too much time hearing out cranks and crazies when any rational sense of time management suggests they should simply say, “Sir, I'm sorry that you are deranged. I have to move on.”

SHR: That's a question?

The Slice: Will boys respect a girl who kisses on the first date?

SHR: You are aware, aren't you, that this is 2013? And define “kiss.”

The Slice: Toxic waste: where should it go?

SHR: Somewhere on the North Side, I suppose. Or the Valley.

The Slice: Have you ever been misunderstood by those who do not realize you are attempting to be mildly humorous?

SHR: Yes.

The Slice: What do Spokane and Los Angeles have in common?

SHR: They have the same number of NFL teams.

The Slice: Are you into the new “Foyle's War”?

SHR: Not really. Not like before.

The Slice: What do you think of that commercial where the giant football fan catches his hand on fire while grilling?

SHR: Can't say that I care for it. I like the Honda Accord commercial with the dad and daughter.

The Slice: You know the beer pitchman, “The Most Interesting Man in the World.” Well, who is the most interesting man in Spokane?

SHR: That would be John Blanchette.


Today's Slice question: To what radio station do you listen? Why?

A question for parents

Have you ever been told so many knock-knock jokes that you feared you might black out? 

There are three kinds of people

1. People who can tell you about every car they ever bought or sold.

2. People who have bought and sold so many vehicles over the years that they couldn't possibly list them.

3. Children, lifetime mass transit users and others who have never purchased an automobile.

Who will be the first around here…

…to get angry about winter of 2013-14 studded tires?

This question will upset some people

And yet, in the words of Elizabeth Bennet's father, I am unmoved.

What percentage of Spokane area residents view “diversity” as synonymous with “criminal”?

I'll say 6% in real life and 42% among commenters.

Here is a large ego on display

Eventually this ticket gets around to mentioning the name of the band.

And I don't think it is a coincidence that the ticket is printed in the colors of Finley's baseball team.

It was 49 years ago today.

Admitting I was wrong

Early in the recently completed second season of HBO's “Newsroom,” I told several friends who watch the show that I was certain one episode would open with Charlie and Sloan in bed.

I was wrong. Didn't happen.

No, that picture is not from the show.

Just wondering

Have you noticed that boilerplate wording down at the end of S-R editorial page editorials that had come from other papers?

You know. The thing about “This doesn't necessarily reflect the view of the editorial board.”

Well, how do you react to that?

A) Seems a tad weasel worded. B) Well, why not find something that DOES reflect the view of the editorial board? C) Don't care. But I still think it is wrong for anonymous online commenters to get to rip letters to the editor written by people who sign their names. And I feel that way even though I regard many who write letters to the S-R as certifiable. D) It always sounds to me like that “Seinfeld” thing, “Not that there's anything wrong with that.” E) Other. 

If Ohio State can do it…

How about…

The Eastern Washington University

The Gonzaga University

The Whitworth University

The Washington State University

The University of Idaho

The University of Washington

How does your favorite school sound with the The?

What’s your answer?

Feel free to say “It depends.”

On newsstands 35 years ago

I saw Leon Spinks punch his ticket to the Montreal Olympics.

Do you remember when it was the Pac-8?

You can’t always believe a tee shirt

So it turns out that when supermarket employees are wearing shirts emblazoned with “ASK ME ABOUT FLU SHOTS,” they mostly want to tell you about how you get a vaccination there at the store.

They don't really want to be asked, “If it had been available at the time, how effective would immunization have been against the robust strain of influenza that caused the 1917-18 pandemic?” 

When anal is the way to go

It seems like a good idea.

But how many people make sure to set a back-up alarm clock (one that does not run on electricity) when going to bed on a stormy night?

Great name for a weekly newspaper

You can't see it all here, But it's the Hooterville World Guardian.

Coming in Tuesday’s Slice column

I cobbled it together on Sept. 6, and have not the slightest memory of what it's about.


Start your week by imagining short skirts

When she was in high school back in the 1960s, Sherri Hyams once showed up for class in a skirt that school administrators deemed alarmingly short.

So she was sent home to change.

“This was a public school. And girls couldn't wear pants. It was the Dark Ages.”

The need to view our area as special

There's a local TV news promo airing that deals with small-town high school football.

It suggests that community involvement in same is one of the things that makes our area special.

Um, OK. But I ask you. Can you name any rural area in the United States where high school football is not a community thing?

Why do people here feel the need to assert that life in our area is wonderful in unique ways?

Are we so defensive and insecure that we need to routinely dabble in such rah-rah nonsense?

Or maybe people here just want to balance the insane local voices that cry out after some horrible crime that Spokane has become one of the worst places in the country.

Colloquial language and marketing

Is there anyone in the Inland Northwest who would not buy a certain brand of pickup truck because of TV commercials that pointedly use “ain't”?

Not because of the word itself. But because of what it implies about the ad agency's reading of audience psychographics. That is, the target market is men who ain't had much book learnin' (or at least identify with an anti-elite sensibility).

So how old would these kids be now?

Maybe about 80.

Yes, I realize it is not a photo. But perhaps the artist borrowed this scene from real life.

No. 1 one song on this date in 1993

Ages ago, I thought “At Home With Mariah” could have been a decent “SNL” skit. It would not have been a flattering portrait of the bosomy pop diva. Every time someone said something to her, she would have responded with annoying melismatic singing.

The lamest possible political protest?

I've actually heard of people who refuse to sort their garbage because they don't like environmentalists and believe recycling would abet the enemy's cause.

Having a fantasy sports team means…

A) You enjoy interacting with friends. B) Real life just doesn't do it for you. C) Actually it means different things to different people. D) It's your best chance of showing co-workers that you know what you are talking about. E) You do it because you find it makes you more attractive to members of the opposite sex. F) Other.

Just wondering

You know how, over the years, Sunday night and Monday night NFL broadcasts have introduced the show with a singer doing some sort of football theme song? Sure.

Well, has the singer in question ever been someone that more than 3% of NFL players would consider listening to on their music devices?

Three not key questions

1. When the neighbors across the street are having a yard sale, is it possible to totally avoid going into Gladys Kravitz mode?

2. When people in other parts of the country hear about the loud fans at Seattle Seahawks games, do they have trouble reconciling that with their previous assumption that everyone in Washington's largest city spent all leisure time hikinig or reading literary novels?

3. If you were a Spokane TV news weather person, do you think you could manage to remember that some of your viewers might have a definition of “beautiful day” that is not exactly the same as yours?

Does this get to you?

I have to admit, it gets to me. And I even remember the product being sold.

Multiple choice

There are few categories of novelty video more cherished by TV news and sports than the frightened, disoriented animal that somehow found its way into a huge sports stadium.

We are supposed to find these scenes hilarious. But how do you actually react?

A) I wonder how it's going to end for the animal. B) It invites me to renew my loathing of the chucklehead anchors. C) I find myself hoping that the employees at the stadium tasked with dealing with the situation will not regard the whole thing as a joke. D) Other.  

Are you a city mouse or country mouse?

Here's how to tell.

If you tend to view airports larger than Spokane International Airport as being out of control, you are a country mouse.

No shame in that.

A few things have changed since 1959

A red couch?

Her expression makes me wonder if she put something in her coffee to cool it off.

Or maybe that's just the look one gets when blissed out by the morning paper.

The Wednesday Slice

I have never given birth, but I have experienced straining till I almost passed out as a nurse stood by and exhorted me…”PUSHPUSHPUSHPUSHPUSH!”

Lots of times.

Of course, almost any asthma patient can say the same.

You see, one of the ways medical teams check our lungs is by having us wheezers purse our lips around a mouthpiece and violently exhale into a device that measures air-flow and pulmonary elasticity. To register a useful test, one need continue exhaling even after it seems that all the air has already been expelled.

Red faces are common. And it is not unheard of for some patients to conk out, according to several nurses I've known over the years.

I'm actually fairly good at this test. Or so I am  told. So I suppose it will sound a bit self-serving when I say I would like to see the breathing test become an Olympic event.

But it's not for me, mind you. As always, I'm thinking of the kids.

Here's the thing. I would like to be involved in coaching.

“Tommy, this is your moment. Your whole life as an asthmatic has been leading up to this night. You are going to exhale like a boy who would send birthday-cake candles flying across the room.”

“Madison, they're saying the Chinese girls are a lock for the medals. But I think the reporters and talking heads have overlooked something. I happen to know that the bravest, toughest exhaler in the world is a 7th grader from Spokane, Washington.”

“God and your parents' genetics made you an asthmatic, Ethan. But son, you have made yourself a champion. You were born to be an out-breather. All that's left now is to blow away all the phonies and pretenders. All that's left is to go for the gold.”

OK, maybe it's not synchronized platform diving or the 400-meters final.

But I'd watch.


Today's Slice question: What did they not tell you when you were in your 20s?

A) Those dental fillings aren't going to last forever and you are going to need to have them replaced eventually. B) Trying not to be a jerk is fine. But assuming that she is giving you the green light and then discovering that she was not is still way better than letting self-doubt keep you from ever finding out. C) You might think of yourself as an adult but your emotional maturity is, in all likelihood, still a work in progress. D) There's no rule that says you are required to have the same friends forever. E) The music you're listening to is never going away. F) The size of your volleyball shorts will one day haunt you. G) Other.   

What’s your cat like when high on catnip?

My dental hygienist enjoys telling me about her cats.

I encourage this. In fact, I've written about her pets a time or two. Once it was about her older cat's ability to outsmart the automatic feeder. That contraption, intended for use when the human is away from home for a few days, is supposed to dispense just one serving of cat food every 12 hours. But Howie the cat figured out how to reach in and trigger additional releases of food. He pretty much viewed the whole thing as a self-serve setup.

Well, yesterday, the hygienist told me about how her felines react to the catnip she has been growing.

That's when she made me laugh.

She said, “Howie's sort of a mean drunk.”

Move it on over or sit your ground?

I have not been to many movies in recent years where the theater was packed.

But long ago and far away, I encountered that with some regularity. And at one particular multiplex, there was a related practice that irked me.

When it became clear that the screening was going to be a virtual sellout, theater employees would march down the aisles and instruct people already sitting down to move to empty seats in the middle of their row. That way, latecomers could simply plop down at the end of the row.

Well, for several reasons, I happen to like sitting at the end of a row. I regard the opportunity to select such a seat as a reward for having arrived on time.

So I did not comply with the orders to move in. I would cordially invite people to step past me and take those unoccupied seats in the center of the row.

Naturally, this sometimes created situations in which I was deemed to be the problem — not the laggards who arrived just as the lights were being dimmed.

No matter. I stayed put. First come, first served. 

Yes, I am aware of the biblical lesson (Matthew 20: 1-16) about the late-arriving vineyard workers being paid for a full day. But we're not talking about the path to God's grace here. We're talking about moviegoers getting their asses to the show on time.

Multiple takes

Ever been recording a new phonemail greeting and found yourself getting ridiculously tongue-tied?

You're just trying to utter a few coherent words. And yet, time after time, you foul it up.

At some point, you can almost hear someone snapping one of those movie-set clapper boards as an increasingly weary director says “A-gain.”

That happened to me Friday afternoon. I wanted to have my phonemail greeting announce that I would not be back in the office until September 16. But it was as if I had a mouth full of marbles.

“Hi, this Paul. Go ahead and leave a message. But please be aware that I will bean on chimney sprout.”

Eventually I gave up on my quest for the perfect take and just accepted one that seemed almost intelligible.

The Slice Blog will be a one-post-a-day operation this week.

Things will be back to normal, if that's the right word, one week from today.

You'll want to check back because we're slashing prices for an end-of-summer blowout.

“Don’t try any acts of preversion”

How often is that said in Spokane area households where “Dr. Strangelove” has been watched many times?

Remember Norski’s Fish Bar?

Slice reader Bob Dronenberg saw the question in today's Slice column about Catholics and meatless Fridays. It reminded him of that place on North Division and how it used to be packed on Fridays.

Just wondering

Can you remember a summer here with this many thunderstorms?

Bratwurst and brides

I wonder.

Has a chance meeting at a pregame tailgating feed ever led to a wedding?

You might have seen this

Originally had in mind a semi-serious post on a couple of bicycle seat issues. But happened onto this and got sidetracked. Don't know if this is on the level. (Her look is a bit suspicious.) But I could see someone doing this.

Four questions in English

1. Were you required to study a foreign language in high school?

2. Which did you select?

3. What did you learn?

4. If you have children, what did you advise them re: language study?

Do bartenders find it amusing…

When self-styled humorists order tranya?

This date in Slice history (2001)

Four things you seldom hear said in high school hallways:

“Don't mess with him, man. He's in the marching band.”

“I've decided to be shallow yet jaded.”

“Remind me again. What exactly is the point of our female classmates nearing the zenith of their physical attractiveness right now?”

“My parents are remarkably wise.”

Catwoman and a feline assistant

She once appeared in an episode of “The Twlight Zone” with an actor who later lived in Spokane.

Ms. Newmar, that is. Don't know anything about the cat's credits.

Yes, I realize that this is a ludicrous attempt at localizing, even by Slice Blog standards. But there are men of a certain age who have a bit of a thing about this particular Catwoman. And they are welcome here.

Having lived in different neighborhoods

There's something that can happen.

Check out Friday's Slice column.

Today’s oddball newsroom memory

After enough years go by, those tasked with writing headlines for stories about annual events can get a little punchy.

I think this is especially true of those who have to come up with fresh words to describe cultural events that roll around every year.

So maybe it was understandable when, a number of years ago, a page designer handling a story on a folklife festival came up with “The folk's on you”.

That did not run.

What’s the Spokane connection?

This is a bit obscure. But those with an encyclopedic recall of everything in The Slice Blog over the last couple of years will have a leg up.

This date in Slice history (1994)

Today's Slice question: What is the quintessential Spokane occupation?

Who is the INW’s No. 1 evangelist…

…for the blessed power of writing things down as a way to remember this or that?

Decisions and your life insurance policy

Have you ever not done something because you were not sure your life insurance policy would pay off in the unlikely event of your demise?

I cannot say that I have ever made a decision on that basis. But a few years ago, a guy I have known slightly for quite some time invited me to go flying with him in his little plane. He offered more than once.

I declined. It was a scheduling thing. He's a good guy and I am sure he is a fine pilot.

But I was afraid it would take an entire Saturday or Sunday. And I seldom book a whole weekend day away from family.

I have to admit, though, it did cross my mind that my modest life insurance policy has some small-print allusion to not covering accidents involving private airplanes.

I wouldn't want to judge before all the facts are in. But it would appear that I have, in fact, stopped rockin'.


Beginnings and endings

September 4th was my late father's birthday.

At one point today while thinking about him, I found myself wondering how many others who died in Spokane had been born in New York City.

I'll bet that, early in this city's life, it was common.

Not so sure about now. But it's probably safe to say that people born in NYC can be found all over.

What lesson do you draw from…

…the reluctance to fully embrace the metric system in the U.S.?

Are you old enough to remember back in the 1970s when it was assumed that this conversion was imminent. And then…uh, not so fast there.

Today’s bizarre newsroom memory

One thing about sitting within earshot of newspaper reporters is you get a preview of coming attractions.

Back in the late summer of 2003, my former colleague Heather Lalley was making calls for a feature story that would  be headlined “Queer Eye For The Mayor: We turn to a fashion-savvy team of local gay men to give the candidates advice on style”

As Heather freely acknowledged high up in her totally readable feature, which ran 10 years ago this week, the whole thing was spun from a cable TV hit of that summer, “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.”

Among the candidates with whom she visited were Sheri Barnard, Steve Corker, Tom Grant and John Powers.

And Jim West.

I still remember overhearing Heather on the phone trying to convince West to take part in this little project.

As I recall, he was less than enthusiastic at first. There was a pause after Heather mentioned the name of the Bravo channel show. He wasn't familiar with it, he told her.

But once the future mayor got over his concerns about the nature of the story, he provided Heather with some decent quotes.

Speaking of the gay consultant who gently critiqued his staid look, West said, “Tell that kid to call me and he can take me out and buy me a suit.”

Remember the heat wave 25 years ago?

If you check the record high Spokane temperatures this week, you will see 1988 show up.

It was hot. High 90s for days.

“I remember very well how hot it was,” said Susan Chapin. “I was nine months pregnant with our oldest daughter and spent a lot of time in the basement in my underwear trying to cool off.”

The Wednesday Slice questions

Do you remember when United and Northwest airlines had offices complete with ticketing counters in downtown Spokane — both on Sprague, just about a block apart?

Remember when you had to pay a toll — I think it was a dime or maybe a quarter — on the Maple Street Bridge? Well, did you have to pay in both directions or was it just when southbound?  

Furniture modeling as a second career

You know those furniture commercials that feature regular-looking people lounging in recliners or admiring the just-right firmness of a bed?

Sure. Well, have you ever been watching one of those and thought “Hey, I could do that.”

I have. I know I could project a sense of transforming satisfaction, the kind that would silenty say “This couch will fix everything that's not perfect in my life.”

And I can take direction. If the guy in charge of the commercial says “More intensity!” I would notch up the emoting.

If she said “Make it look like that bed fills you with an abiding sense of well-being” I would do my best to comply.

I'm not saying I can act. I can't. But if you have seen these commercials, you know that's not exactly what they want.

Mostly you just have to be able to sit down and not look as if you are in pain. 

Your change-password warning

If a computer is one of your workplace tools, you no doubt are familiar with the change-your-password message.

Sure. Here at the newspaper, the system used to give us a heads-up more than a week in advance of the required change.

But now, there's no warning. You come in one morning and the message on the screen declares that you need to change your password. Now. Do not pass “GO.” Do not collect $200.

This is not one of life's major injustices. Still, I liked to give the new password a little thought. Now I pretty much have to come up with something on the spot.

The obvious solution is to have a ready reserve of passwords. I realize that.

But let me ask you.

Do you typically have a new password waiting in the on-deck circle for when your system says you need to replace your old one?

Or do you prefer to come up with something on the spur of the moment?

Rufus Thomas met me wearing bathrobe

I had gone to his house in Tennessee a hundred years ago to interview his daughter, Carla, about charity work she was doing.

The creator of “Do The Funky Chicken” answered the door. He was friendly enough, but I don't think he had been up all that long.

I know I have told that not-so amazing story before. I enjoy typing the words “Funky Chicken.” But I was reminded of it the other night while watching some pledge-flogger show on KSPS about 1960s music.

At the time, my visit to the elegant Thomas home did not seem like a particularly big deal. But obviously, I still remember it.

Do you have memories like that? You know, from a day long ago that did not seem remarkably special at the time but from which certain images linger and linger.

One view of new Jefferson Elementary

I walked my bike into the Albertson's at 37th and Grand a few minutes ago.

I reported to the clerk selling me a newspaper that auto traffic right around the store at this time of day is calmer since Jefferson Elementary School moved.

“Yeah,” she said. “They built their own parking lot this time. What a concept.”

To be fair, the old school was in place long before the grocery store. It was not built at a time when a high percentage of kids got dropped off and picked up.

If anything, the store was the interloper.

Still, the store parking lot serving as a corral for circling parents never seemed altogether ideal.

Kids at rival schools mocked this name

How could they not?

This serves up “dip” on a platter and invites mean queries about whether students there are wearing their Little Swimmers super-soaker underwear.

Yes, I am aware that “The Jetsons” was not a documentary. But it did correctly predict back in the 1960s that, in the future, there would be goof-off workers like George Jetson and screamer bosses like Mr. Spacely.

As for sprockets and cogs being a big industry, well, that's still sort of up in the air.

Jane Jetson was a drag. But one always hoped daughter Judy would latch on to the possibilities of the future with a more tenacious grip.  

That “spider” insert in print newspaper

I'm all for the company making money.

Totally in favor.

But every time we stick that pest-control insert in the paper featuring a big spider graphic we invite at least a few of our readers to wonder if they could live without the S-R.

What’s the Spokane link to “Psycho”?

The original, that is. The one with Janet Leigh and Anthony Perkins.

Does anyone actually use brown bags?

You know, when taking lunch to work or school?

Did you ever?

I did. 

Headline of the day


Burglary With

Sludge Hammer

At Spokane

Office Depot


My friend Vince Eberly shared a snapshot of a Brand X Spokane news site's page featuring that eye-catching headline.

Referring to the unusual hammer referenced above, Vince said  “They make the crime scene so stinky.”

I could be wrong. But I'm guessing someone meant to write “sledge.”  

This date in Slice history (1996)

Warm-up question: When kids are faking illness because they don't want to go to school, what's the No. 1 most popular manufactured malady? Stomach ache? Malaria? Amnesia?

Wish you were here

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Thanks to the readers who sent postcards to The Slice this summer.

This date in Slice history (2000)

The four stages of reactions to a newcomer's observations about the Spokane area:

1. Reaction to someone who has lived here two weeks: “That's cute. I guess that WOULD seem odd.”

2. To someone who has lived here two months. “Look, people around here just say 'The Lake.' OK?”

3. To someone who has lived here a year: “That's how we've always done it.”

4. To someone who has lived here more than a year:”Hey, pal. Wake up. You're part of the problem now.” 

This date in Slice history (2001)

It's a bit early to be praying for snow days.

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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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