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Opinion >  Column

Paul Turner: A lexicon for backyard smoke signals

Columnist Paul Turner (SR)
Columnist Paul Turner (SR)

On two different occasions, I’ve had neighbors come over to see if our house was on fire.

It wasn’t. I was just grilling with gusto out on the back patio.

Of course, in each instance, I thanked my neighbors for their concern.

But thinking about those incidents got me wondering.

Shouldn’t we have some sort of lexicon for interpreting backyard smoke signals? You know, to help us make sense of puffy semaphore generated by cooking out.

With apologies to indigenous peoples who might or might not have actually employed this form of communication, we could make it a Spokane thing.

It could be our uniquely Western social media.

These 2018 smoke signals wouldn’t even have to be messages directed to specific individuals. They could be broad-spectrum observations/rants simply released into the atmosphere – literally.

I would not presume to dictate the meanings of various signals, but I do have a few proposals. See what you think.

Short puff, long puff, short puff: “I’m not giving one more dime to WSU until I am convinced that football is no longer the tail wagging the dog there.”

Short puff, short puff, short puff: “My neighbor’s cat has threatened to sue me if I don’t stop urinating on their porch.”

Long puff, long puff, short puff: “Just because I live in this neighborhood doesn’t mean I vote the way everybody else here does.”

Short puff, long puff, long puff: “When my elderly father first moved to Spokane in 2000, he thought there was something off about the taste of the water here. So he asked me if Spokane had potable water. He actually used that word. Just how in the blue blazes are you supposed to respond to something like that? Soon enough though, he thought Spokane’s water tasted fine.”

Short puff, short puff: “I had a dream last night that I was in the old Spokane Coliseum and Jimi Hendrix was onstage doing a magic act.”

Long puff: “What’s the big deal about marmots anyway?”

Short puff, long puff: “Most of the first-run movies I have seen in my life were showing in Spokane theaters that no longer exist.”

Medium puff: “Does anyone know the proper way to grill salmon? My internet connection is down.”

Short puff, medium puff, long puff: “I have an old-fashioned rotary push mower and, yes, I am smug as all get out about it.”

Medium puff, medium puff, medium puff: “My older brother, who lived outside Denver when he died almost 20 years ago, used to get Spokane and Tacoma confused in his mind. I think that’s because my family drove to Tacoma from Ohio back in 1966 or 1967, so my Air Force father could then fly from McChord AFB to South Korea. We went through Spokane but stayed overnight at Moses Lake. On the way back to the Midwest, my brother was in such a hurry to return to his demanding teenage social life that he talked my mom out of stopping at the Little Big Horn battle site, even though we practically drove right by it.”

Long puff, long puff, medium puff: “Marijuana brownies can give you the wicked spins.”

Short puff, medium puff: “After watching the notched-up intensity of Stanley Cup playoff games, you have to wonder how the NHL manages to sell tickets to regular season games.”

Medium puff, short puff: “How would you rate yourself when it comes to correctly determining ‘whodunnit’ while watching crime mysteries on TV? And if you excel at this, what is your secret?”

Plenty o’ puffs: “My official Bloomsday time was just their opinion, man.”

Several puffs of indeterminate length: “Please turn down that music.”

Sixteen short puffs in rapid succession: “Attention squatter raccoons: We will be heading up to the lake place soon. Please vacate the premises.”

Short puff: “If I’m walking in downtown Spokane and some belligerent kid on a skateboard is playing chicken with me on the sidewalk, is it OK if I body-check him into next week?”

Puff the magic dragon: “The burgers are ready. Come and get ’em.”

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