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Saturday, May 30, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Spokane

Thankful for Spokane’s revered, underrated and ignored blessings

The people who study this stuff say that expressing gratitude can make you experience gratitude – that you can literally create a sense of thankfulness and appreciation about your life, to a degree.

With that in mind, I have been thinking about the small, good things in Spokane that make me glad to be here. I’m not talking about big stuff, not family and friends, not health and relative good fortune. Those are easy; I am lucky.

No, I’m aiming lower today, thinking of the tiny pleasures I get from living in Spokane.

So here are a few of my not-necessarily-favorite things, things I like about Spokane but usually don’t even notice:

Slinking down Grove Street. Most weekdays, I drop off my son at Roosevelt Elementary (a place for which I am deeply grateful) and drive to work downtown, north on Bernard Street, which turns briefly into Grove Avenue before turning briefly into Ben Garnett Way before turning into Washington Street. (I’m thankful I’ve lived here almost two decades, which is how long it takes to start to interpret the hieroglyphics of our street layouts.) This little stretch of roadway snakes down the lower South Hill, under the bridge that spans Cliff Drive (a sleek little modernist bridge that looks like an Eames chair or something) and the bridge that carries Stevens Street uphill, and it has the effect of framing the downtown cityscape as you enter it, a cityscape now prominently marked by the Grand Hotel (which I have appreciated as an addition to downtown, both in looks and effect, much more than I thought I would) and into the heart of what I have become very grateful to think of as my city.

The visual poetry of winter. We haven’t had too much of this yet, but at its best – pausing before a ski run on a mountaintop, say, or at a city park packed with sledders – there is something so pure and strange and wonderful and elemental about winter that it arrives each year with the force of an alien experience, all icy edges and soft slumps, and it makes me feel a little bad for people who live without it.

The neon sign at Tormino’s Sash and Glass, 147 N. Helena St. There are many old neon signs around town that I like. The Jesus Saves cross on the side of Redemption Church Spokane is a good one. So is the Crescent Machine Shop sign on Monroe. The Garland Theater sign is in a class by itself. But I think Tormino’s is my favorite, a regular old business sign with flair, and part of it may be that I usually see it when I’m parking to go into another one of my favorite places in Spokane: Sonnenberg’s Market & Deli.

Bloomsday morning. It’s truly incredible – the heart of the city just packed with people, healthy, happy people, all smiling and energetic and excited to be alive, ready to get the blood pumping with a run or walk through the city. Every year I look forward to it. I mean, I like sleeping in any time, but sleeping in on Bloomsday morning is especially glorious, knowing that 40,000 eager beavers are out there sweating through the streets, pushing their strollers, waving to Bill Robinson in his vulture suit, getting that T-shirt – to know that by the time you’ve gotten your coffee, the Kenyans have already crossed the finish line.

The King of Glory. He rides a stamping horse with a wild mane and flaring nostrils, and He wears a crown of glory, and He is emerging from an opening in the clouds with a hand outstretched, as if to radiate power or solace, and His eyes are intense bulbs of light and from His mouth emerges a ray that seems meant to scatter the sinners of the earth. The painting – on the side of the Pathway House building, facing the interstate – is a reproduction of the work of an artist who paints scenes from the Biblical book of Revelation, and it is a depiction of the second coming of Christ, and while I can appreciate it on those terms, I just love it in terms of scale and spectacle and grandiosity. The King of Glory looms over the town with exactly the impression I imagine the people who put it there intended: One of otherworldly authority. It also looms over my desk at work, in the form of a print by local artist Chris Bovey.

The South Hill Turkeys. They root around on our lawn. They step carefully and with an almost arrogant slowness across the road while cars await their passage. They seem to range widely, lower to upper hill, east to west, and they’ve been hanging around so long now that I wonder if I’m not seeing the great-great-grandturkeys of the original gang I first saw roaming the neighborhood years ago.

Santa Claus. Same guy, same spot. Year after year. The dude at River Park Square with the actual beard, and our son on his lap, year after year.

Makes it a lot easier to believe.

Shawn Vestal can be reached at (509) 459-5431 or Follow him on Twitter at @vestal13.

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