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Paul Turner: An exercise to figure out what makes Spokane tick

Do you play this game?

You’re looking at the newspaper and see a local story that you suspect will generate a letter to the editor. Do you try to imagine the opening sentence of that letter?

For example, “The city should absolutely call Hoopfest’s bluff in the matter of covering security costs.”

Or “Thank you for the Spokane reality check (Thief pries up commemorative medallions along Centennial Trail) amid the steady drumbeat of rah-rah stories about our undereducated, impoverished, lawn furniture-stealing city.”

Or “Is it too late to persuade Tom Sherry or Stephanie Vigil to run as write-in mayoral candidates?”

Or “I saw the list of movies to be shown at Riverfront Park this summer and I’m wondering if I am the only dude in Spokane who does not adore ‘The Big Lebowski’ ”?

It’s not a matter of necessarily agreeing with the point of view of these imagined letter writers. It’s more to do with being in touch with what makes Spokane tick. Or, more to the point, what ticks Spokane off.

Let’s move on.

Going yard

Sooner or later, just about every house dweller in Spokane will ask himself the question.

Should I hold a yard sale?

You know, to get rid of clutter and maybe make a few bucks in the process. But before answering, each person must ask a few additional questions.

Do I want a lot of sketchy looking strangers pawing through our stuff?

Would I enjoy haggling with someone about whether a Walk-in-the-Wild souvenir key chain ought to be worth a quarter instead of a dime?

How will you deal with it when you see someone stealing?

Do you really want to hear your possessions – and by extension, your life – judged by some foul-mouthed woman with a neck tattoo who’s wearing a tank top, alarmingly too-small shorts and flip-flops?

Will it cause a blood-pressure spike when you see that a couple of bargain hunters have parked in such a way as to block your neighbor’s driveway?

How will you handle it when the friend who gave you that vintage Eastern Washington State College Savages shirt shows up and sees it on the “Marked Down” table?

How will you react when you overhear someone characterize your garage sale as a “garbage sale”?

What will your spouse say if you have so much fun you want to do it every weekend?

Start the countdown

A Spokane doctor came into the exam room. He was smiling.

He had been treating some kids who were out-of-their-minds excited about the approaching end of the school year.

Sounding a bit wistful, he wondered aloud if there was any adult equivalent of that level of eager anticipation. He thought about it for a moment and then answered his own question.



My mother-in-law in Michigan came across a Reader’s Digest list of 35 commonly mispronounced world cities.

It included: La Jolla, Calif., Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania; Brisbane, Australia; Phuket, Thailand and a number of others.

Oh, and Spokane. Of course.

Then, just the other day, a reader named Jeff Clausen emailed me to tout some buttons available at the Dept. Z hair salon downtown. He said these buttons offered a corrective guide for pronouncing the name of our city.

The graphic features the letters SPO emblazoned on a pop-top beverage can.

Get it? Spo-can.

Now some people have been referring to the Lilac City as “The Can” for many years. And perhaps there have been graphic representations of this pronunciation over the years. But there certainly is now.

I wrote Jeff back and told him I liked the idea. Though, the truth is, I sort of dig the notion of a slightly cryptic button that says “Phuket Spokane.”

Well, I did until reading that the Thai city is pronounced “poo-ket” or “poo-get.”

Such a night

My friend Vince Eberly attended a young relative’s high school graduation. And as have many before him, Vince took note of some of the kids’ creatively spelled names. Yes, that baby-names trend has caught up with us.

Anyway, I had been thinking about the phenomenon of being a high school senior last week when I saw that the musician Dr. John had died.

His most commercially successful album came out early in 1973. And for at least some who were graduating seniors that spring, a couple of his songs are burned into memory.

So I suspect that’s apt to be the fate of many 2019 seniors. Even if they have no idea right now that the songs they are hearing this year might stick with them forever.

Hope those tunes wear as well as “Right Place, Wrong Time.”

Columnist Paul Turner can be reached at

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