Arrow-right Camera
Go to e-Edition Sign up for newsletters Customer service
Subscribe now

This column reflects the opinion of the writer. To learn about the differences between a news story and an opinion column, click here.

Opinion >  Column

The Slice: Welcome to the city that always sleeps

‘The wife and I are contemplating taking the Amtrak Empire Builder from Chicago to Seattle. I believe it runs through Spokane. If we do, I’ll look you up.” – from an e-mail sent to me Friday by Matt Tanksley, who was my best friend in the sixth grade.

My first impulse was to write back and say it would be great to see him. It has been a long, long time.

Then I thought about the fact that passenger trains come through here at predawn-of-the-dead hours. If Matt is envisioning a quick hello and fast peek at the city, I’m afraid Spokane will look pretty sleepy.

What else would you expect at that hour?

I have to confess, though, that I am not considering this in an altogether rational manner.

I’m proud of Spokane. And I have never thought it was a good idea for the city to pretend to be something it’s not.

But here’s the deal. Matt and I were always a bit competitive. Not in a bad way, mind you. It was just that we both liked to win.

And something about the vision of meeting him in a ghost-town train station doesn’t, to paraphrase a famous movie line, smell like victory.

OK, we were kids then. We’re grown-ups now.

I have no desire to put down the place where he lives today, Dayton, Ohio – even if it almost goes without saying that it can’t hold a candle to Spokane.

And I’m sure Matt would understand that walking around downtown for a few minutes at 2 a.m. wouldn’t be a fair sampling of my city’s charms.

But I really would like Spokane to make a good impression. So if I could just get about 1,000 people to come down to the train station and mill about on the morning Matt comes through, that would be great.

Please go ahead and volunteer now. I can get back to you after Matt confirms his plans.

The only requirements are that volunteers be extraordinarily good-looking, stylish dressers and capable of appearing bright and pointlessly alert in the middle of the night. Be ready to hustle, and bustle.

You could think of this as being an extra in an unfilmed movie about an ultra-happening version of Spokane. And, of course, you would have my thanks.

“Boy, this train station is jumping for 2 a.m.,” Matt might say, wide-eyed.

“Oh, yeah,” I could mumble with a shrug. “I guess so. Hadn’t really noticed.”

In the end, I wrote back and said I would be delighted to see him, which is true. I didn’t mention Spokane’s train schedule.

It’s a funny thing. I don’t think any Amtrak trains go through Dayton at all.

•Today’s Slice question: How sick are you of the whole TV conversion thing?

Write The Slice at P.O. Box 2160, Spokane, WA 99210; call (509) 459-5470; fax (509) 459-5098; e-mail For previous Slice columns, see There will be no Marmot Lodge meetings this month.

More from this author

Tags: the slice