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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Friday the 13th reminds us how unlucky 2020 was. Here’s a look back

 (Chris Soprych/The Spokesman-Review)
(Chris Soprych/The Spokesman-Review)

Friggatriskaidekaphobia is the fear of Friday the 13th, and after a year like this, we all might have it.

It’s derived from “Frigg,” the Germanic goddess for whom Friday is named, followed by the Ancient Greek words “treiskaídeka” for 13 and “phóbos” for fear.

Folklore historian Donald Dossey, author of “Holiday Folklore, Phobias and Fun,” claims the origin of the unlucky nature of the number 13 lies in a Norse myth. Twelve gods have a dinner party in Valhalla. The trickster god, Loki, familiar thanks to the widespread popularity of “The Avengers” movies, was not invited but decides to show up anyway, making him the 13th guest.

It turns out “FOMO” (that’s Fear Of Missing Out) is not just a quarantine phenomenon, because Loki was enraged enough by missing out that he arranged for the god Balder to be shot with a mistletoe-tipped arrow. When Balder died, the Earth went dark and the whole world mourned. This monumental event led the number 13 to be considered unlucky from then on.

Not everyone buys into this Western superstition, but it permeates our culture enough to dissuade many hotels, elevators and buildings from having a 13th floor and cruise liners from having a 13th deck.

There can be up to three Fridays that fall on the 13th in a Gregorian calendar year, and each year has at least one. Today is 2020’s second. March 13 was the first. It arrived at the end of a week that officially began quarantine for much of the United States.

This calendar year was set for greatness. Valentine’s Day was on a Friday – early enough in the pandemic that Americans got to enjoy a date night. Cinco de Mayo landed on Tuesday, the day known for taco specials. The potential to capitalize on that day could have been grand. Fourth of July fell on a Saturday and we could have stayed up all night for fireworks. Halloween was not only on a Saturday, but also had a full moon and the night got to snag an extra hour by coinciding with the end of Daylight Saving Time. Christmas and New Year’s are both on a Friday and were ready to bless us with three-day weekends of big celebrations and gatherings. But no, this perfectly scheduled year has been scrapped.

Although dwelling on all the things missed won’t bring them back, take a moment to lean into this Friday the 13th and recall some of the ways this unlucky year has affected our lives.

Year of the jinx?

One of the heaviest hitters was the blanket cancellation of sports. Spokane was set to host a round of the NCAA basketball tournament. Instead of March Madness, we got March Sadness as the Gonzaga University men’s team was poised to earn a No. 1 seed.

The Gonzaga women’s team won the West Coast Conference Tournament and almost certainly would have played a few home games during March Madness. Now the Gonzaga men’s team has been named the nation’s No. 1 team in the AP preseason poll – satisfying for fans, but always feared as a jinx for the team.

Shows that might have been …

Arts and entertainment were decimated. “Hamilton” took Broadway by storm and its national tour was headed for Spokane until the pandemic caused major cancellations and rescheduling. Spokane also missed out on performances like “The Book of Mormon,” “Jersey Boys” and “Mean Girls.” Spokane Civic Theatre had a line up of “A Christmas Carol,” “The Little Mermaid” and “Spamalot” on its main stage and was in the midst of a sold-out run of “Cabaret” in its studio theater as shutdowns began.

The region also was scheduled for some premier concerts, like Cher’s “Here We Go Again” ABBA covers album tour, and The Doobie Brothers’ 50th anniversary tour. Kiss was set to bring their “End of the Road Farewell” tour to the Gorge Amphitheatre. The region’s favorite annual appearance of the Dave Matthews Band will have to wait for next year. Locals also missed out on the “Unity Tour” with The Pet Shop Boys and New Order, as well as summer concerts from Weezer, Ice Cube and Barenaked Ladies. The Spokane Symphony had to cancel most of its season on its 75th anniversary year, and notable annual performances, like the Northwest BachFest and Spokane Fall Folk Festival, went virtual.

Annual events went virtual – or away

Many of the community’s most beloved events, such as Bloomsday and Hoopfest, were postponed before eventual cancellation. These gatherings usually bring thousands of people to the heart of the city, but instead had to reinvent themselves entirely for the era of social distancing.

Hoopfest presented “HomeCourt” so players could participate in challenges from home, and Bloomsday went virtual with an impressive 22,000 participants running the 7.46 miles on their own. The Spokane County Interstate Fair was canceled, but did its best to offer locals the deep-fried comfort food they especially needed this year.

Local businesses felt weight of pandemic

As if foreshadowing what awaited businesses, Mountain Gear shuttered just before the pandemic struck Spokane. The community then lost a few iconic businesses, perhaps the most beloved being the Conley family’s White Elephant stores, marking the closing of a 74-year-old chapter of Spokane history. Although it wasn’t because of the pandemic, 2020’s bad luck still gets the blame.

Downtown recently lost a nightlife hot spot with the closure of Garageland. Another loss in the city’s center that always offered a quick and comforting bite to eat came with the closing of Rocky Rococo Pizza and Pasta after 35 years of business.

Tomato Street closed its location in River Park Square. The lower South Hill lost the delicious crepes of Fleur de Sel Artisan Creperie. North Side staple Prospectors’ Bar & Grill was closed, but was hit even harder by the loss in February of Mike Didier, who opened the restaurant with his wife, Cheryl Didier, in 2003. Cheap Shots, Tarascon Empanadas, Paper & Cup Cafe, Paint and Pints, Party Palace, River Rock Taphouse and music venue The Pin also closed this year.

Even The Spokesman-Review took a hit during the pandemic and stopped printing and delivering the Saturday morning paper on subscribers’ doorsteps. It’s a move akin to those at many newspapers across the nation that have cut circulation days or transformed into weeklies.

Pomp and (unforeseen) circumstance

Celebrations of the area’s graduating high school seniors and college students were greatly dampened. Not only did area high schools lose out on senior experiences like prom, but the traditional bustling and joyous graduation ceremonies had to be reimagined into what became memorable video productions and drive-by ceremonies. Area colleges went a similar route with commencement ceremonies being held virtually and with social-distancing measures in place.

Celebrity deaths round out dark

The nation and world also mourned many notable celebrity losses this year.

The January loss of Kobe Bryant shook the world before we even knew what else this year had in store when he and eight others died in a helicopter crash.

This year also marked the loss of several major champions of civil and human rights with the death of John Lewis, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, C.T. Vivian and Zindzi Mandela.

Music legends Little Richard, Kenny Rogers, Eddie Van Halen, John Prine, New Orleans jazz patriarch Ellis Marsalis, Maytals frontman Frederick “Toots” Hibbert, Fleetwood Mac founder and guitarist Peter Green, guitarist Bob Kulick, soul singer Betty Wright, Uptown Records founder Andre Harrell, folk singer David Olney and Rush drummer Neil Peart, all died this year.

It was the end of an era when Hollywood stars Kirk Douglas and Olivia de Havilland died this year at ages 103 and 104, respectively. James Bond legend Sean Connery recently died at the age of 90. Rising star and inspiration to many Chadwick Boseman died after a four-year battle with cancer.

Television and movie stars Naya Rivera, known for her role in “Glee”; Stevie Lee, wrestler and star of “Oz the Great and Powerful”; Grant Imahara from “Mythbusters”; Wilford Brimley, known for his role in “Cocoon” and being the face of Quaker Oats; character actor John Saxon; Mary Pat Gleason, who starred in “A Cinderella Story”; Jerry Stiller, father to Ben Stiller and comedic legend of “Seinfeld” and “The King of Queens”; Ian Holm, famed for his portrayal of Bilbo Baggins; international film legend Max von Sydow; Nikita Pearl Waligwa, star of “Queen of Katwe”; character actor Fred Willard; Lynn Cohen, star of “Munich”; Orson Bean; Diana Rigg; Anthony Chisholm, who starred in Spike Lee’s film “Chi-Raq”; Irrfan Khan, star of “Slumdog Millionaire”; Elsa Raven; and Rhonda Fleming were among others who died this year.

Television lost several hosts, such as Alex Trebek, Regis Philbin and James Lipton of “Inside the Actor’s Studio.”

Director Lynn Shelton and screenwriter and actor Buck Henry, who wrote the film “The Graduate,” also died this year.

Sports also lost former Yankees player Don Larsen, the Hayden resident who pitched a perfect World Series game in 1956, as well as Harlem Globetrotters star Fred “Curly” Neal, sportscaster Phyllis George and former NBA player Cliff Robinson.

Celebrity writers Elizabeth Wurtzel and Amie Harwick died this year as well.

To recount it all before the year draws to a close reminds us of how much bad luck and other hardship we’ve already lived through. It’s amazing to remember how adaptable we’ve all been with each new curveball 2020 has thrown.

Whether we’ll be able to trust the next few New Year’s celebrations is left to be seen – but at least the next two years will only have one Friday the 13th each.

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