Ten years of column writing and hoping for another 10

It’s been 10 years since my first column appeared in this space. And I haven’t gotten arrested for all the bad jokes, run-on sentences or attacks on the Spokane Valley City Council – yet.

That first column suggested Spokane Valley join forces with the City of Spokane rather than become its own city. It was such a powerful and effective piece that voters promptly ignored it completely. Perhaps that’s why, in my deep and bitter disappointment, I turned away from carefully crafted prose and reasoned argument to the dark side of humor. It’s a far cheaper way to drown sorrow than alcohol or drugs. Then again, crying in your beer might improve its flavor.

Subsequent columns covered a variety of fascinating and illuminating topics, including the excitement of getting hooked up to the sewer and the thrill of drilling through live electrical wires. Some columns skewered the Spokane Valley City Council while others took an ironic look at ways to create a civic identity. Valley issues and national cultural phenomena were mixed in a sometimes bizarre tasting brew, including references to Star Wars, Britney Spears and American Idol. Even Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was taken to task.

So much has happened in 10 years. At the start of decade there was neither iPod nor iPhone, and the “big three” were GM, Ford and Chrysler – not Randy, Paula and Simon. Only the first three volumes of the Harry Potter series were written, twilight was a time of day and “ratatouille” was an unfamiliar French vegetable dish. And oh yeah, there was no city of Spokane Valley and no Hooters. Those were dark times, weren’t they?

It’s been a lot of fun. It took a few columns to get used to the format, but I’ve come to enjoy the process. The sage advice of my wife, Deborah, has been greatly appreciated, and the paper has been very lenient with editing. The only word stricken from a column was “Ozymandias,” a reference to Percy Shelley’s poem, which has an important message to those who desire to be builders of cities. I think the longest sentence so far was more than 60 words, almost a tenth of a column. Next decade, I think I’ll figure out how to work in a lot of nested parentheses. (I started and abandoned a number of columns, but only one disappeared from the computer, and that was a hilarious satire about the opening of Hooters. My wife and Casey (our Tabby cat, who regularly lays on the paper) plead ignorance so I have to suspect some secret cabal. Nested parentheses are good with white wine, I hear.)

And who knows what the next 10 years will bring. Will the ugly billboard at Indiana and Sullivan get even larger and fancier and start dancing in the street? Will Spokane Valley stores continue to sell city of Spokane souvenirs? Will Ralph Nader run again for president, or will he finally repent, buy a Corvair and drive off into the sunset?

Print media nationwide is going through very trying times, as you know, and the future is pretty murky. That’s straight talk. Who knows how much longer this space will be available for us citizen journalists? I want to thank the editors and publisher of The Spokesman-Review for giving me and my fellow columnists the opportunity to share our points of view on a wide range of subjects all these years. It has been a phenomenal gift to the community and is greatly appreciated.

One last thought that’s not an obscure cultural reference or alcohol gag. At the end of the next 10 years I’ll be a card-carrying senior citizen – a genuine, grumpy old geezer – and that’s no joke.

Can you imagine the things I’ll have to write about then?

Richard Chan lives in Spokane Valley. He can be reached at richard-chan @comcast.net.


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