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Paul Turner: ‘Get off my lawn!’ no longer a good slogan for Spokane

Paul Turner once proposed that Spokane make “Get off my lawn!” the city’s official motto. (PRN)
Paul Turner once proposed that Spokane make “Get off my lawn!” the city’s official motto. (PRN)

Maybe it’s time for Spokane confessions.

We could have a show of hands.

How many of us have never yelled “Get off my lawn!” – not once – even though this city is supposed to be a mecca of dyspeptic grouches predisposed to shout that at children?

I’m guessing it would be the vast majority of local homeowners.

OK, before we go any further, let me clear something up. Yes, I did propose a few years ago that we make “Get off my lawn!” Spokane’s official motto. Just imagine that in Latin.

But the thing is, I meant it in a tongue-in-cheek way. I’m not actually in favor of ludicrously misplaced anger.

Besides, what I had in mind was a scenario where you would step out on the front porch and yell it to a neighbor kid who, knowing you were kidding, would then burst into laughter – which you would immediately join.

In addition, I still believe road signs saying “Welcome to Spokane – Get off my lawn!” would be a huge hit. Nothing like poking fun at your own off-the-mark reputation to open people’s eyes to the exciting, dynamic truth.

But I’ve had a change of heart. I’m now thinking a simple acknowledgment that most of us never have and never will yell “Get off my lawn!” is the way to go.

Perhaps we could sign a public pledge. Or something.

Why is this important? I’ll tell you. It’s because Spokane is a lot more interesting than it’s often given credit for.

Oh sure, lots of people realize this. But not enough.

If we ever were a “Get off my lawn!” town, we aren’t now. Well, at least we’re moving away from that.

Sure, there are some holdouts. But I suspect that particular geezer subset is simply frustrated because the kids in their neighborhoods seldom go outside except to get directly into the SUV and be conveyed to this or that planned activity.

Must be a lonely vigil, waiting to say “Get off my lawn!” and not having the opportunity.

Oh, well. There are always dog walkers.

Just wondering

Do you ever have the feeling that sometimes Spokane gets blamed for things that really aren’t Spokane’s fault?

Take certain acts of idiocy, for instance. You occasionally hear people chalk up vandalism or small-mindedness as being somehow sweepingly indicative of where Spokane’s head is at. But that doesn’t really seem fair. I mean, aren’t there idiots everywhere?

(The correct answer is “Yes, there are.”)

Of course, there’s also the other side of the coin. I’m sure I am not alone in suspecting that Spokane sometimes gets credit for being uniquely bighearted or at least somehow special when, in fact, there are good people all over.

Many years ago, the S-R ran a small story about a kid’s bike being stolen – or something like that. There must have been something special about the incident. As I recall, several readers then stepped up to replace the bike. In a follow-up story reporting on that, a headline or photo caption proudly referred to this laudable impulse as a “Typical Spokane reaction.”

A few days later, a letter to the editor appeared that said, basically, “Really?”

The letter listed several specific ways in which the Lilac City arguably could be found wanting in terms of kindness or overall commitment to the nurturing of children.

That letter, while perhaps slightly churlish, nailed one aspect of our civic mindset. That is, the widespread need to think of our community as special.

If I didn’t know better, I’d wonder if that impulse might spring from a sense of insecurity.

You know, like those Archie Bunkers who cling to a chest-thumping embrace of American exceptionalism.

Look, all I’m saying is attributing everything that happens here to some innate quality of our collective character probably isn’t a swell idea.

There are some wonderful people in Spokane. There are some not-so-wonderful people, too. And most of us in between.

Everyone knows that. Right? Yet some of us seem to insist that it’s all one or the other.

At least that’s what it sounds like sometimes.

You can be proud of Spokane and celebrate our countless acts of decency and caring without being in denial about reality.

Maybe some of us simply can’t get our heads around the idea that Spokane is not a one-size-fits-all city.

I suppose life is simpler if you have one answer for everything. Still, Spokane is what we make it. And every new day reminds us we are, all together, a work in progress.

End note

After reading Sunday’s column, Colbert’s Heidi Penfield fired off an email.

“Had to laugh at one of your readers assuming your new email address was ‘Sir’ Paul Turner, and thought I’d throw in my two cents.

“The first time I saw it, I thought it was strange that you now wanted to be known as ‘Senior’ Paul Turner … a few seconds later the light bulb went on when I realized it was your Review address. At least the other reader’s interpretation was honorable.”

Thanks, Heidi. “Senior” would be OK, I guess. But there isn’t a PT Junior and I’ve never had an official newspaper honorific denoting my venerable status as someone who won’t go away. You know, “senior correspondent” or some such.

In any case, I prefer to be addressed as Old Man Turner.

Columnist Paul Turner can be reached at srpaulturner@gmail.com.