So the stakes are coming up, and within a couple of days the Lilac City will be a dust-colored speck in the rearview. But before I leave Spokane to return to the birthplace of Letterman and Vonnegut, it’s time to reflect the only way I know how: in list form.
Top 5 foods I’ll miss
1. Irish Nachos at The Globe
A pile of thick waffle fries covered in cheese, bacon, and sour cream will shut your heart right down, but you will not care.
2. Maytag Blue Fries at Zola
More fries? Sounds right to me. But these are crispier and smothered in a ridiculous blue cheese sauce. I never said it was the top 5 healthiest foods.
3. Biscuits and Gravy at Frank’s Diner
Case in point. I’ve had biscuits and gravy in a lot of breakfast places, but this is the only place in Spokane I will still order them.
4. Curry Fried Rice at Thai Bamboo
I could swear that what makes this so good is the curry, but Rachel insists the pineapple is its secret weapon, so I will defer.
5. Orange Watermelon from the South Perry Farmers’ Market
I only ate it a couple of times, and I still think about it way too much.
Top 5 worst drives
1. Division Street
The traffic is actually bad always, which is why the north/south freeway is a good idea (but not where they’re going to build it–oh, Spokane, you never learn). But during rush hour and on Saturdays it’s the worst, and in the summer the heat of the sun mixes with the baking car exteriors and the tons of exhaust to make you sick.
2. South Hill, where 9th turns into Grand
Very specific, I know, but if you’re at a stop sign going either way on 9th, where that dead man’s curve is, you’re going to wait breathlessly for a long time. Bonus: Old people who don’t notice the painted lanes frequently try to barrel right into the front of you.
3. I-90, towards Spokane Valley
Do you know why those horrible ruts in the highway are there? Some of it is snow chains, but it’s also that the concrete they used for 90 is of such poor quality that every year the simple fact of traffic creates deeper trenches. I’ve told people from out of state that there are ruts in the highway, and they don’t believe it.
4. Huckleberry’s parking lot, on 10th and Monroe
Because even though it’s a cliché, hippies cannot drive.
5. Anywhere, between November and April
Once the snow falls, every drive is a thrill ride, because no major streets (or minor ones) are plowed until it’s way, way too late. Ice on Main, three inches thick. Giant snow berms in the middle of Second and First. Hills so slick you can’t drive home on them. Insanely dangerous sidewalks outside of hospitals. For five straight months. Out-of-towners don’t believe that, either.
Top 5 shows
1. David Byrne at the Fox, 2/09
2. The Hold Steady at the Big Dipper, 10/09
3. Mom Party at the Empyrean, 6/07
4. Conan O’Brien at the INB Performing Arts Center, 4/10
5. Troll 2 at the Garland, 10/07
George Hardy, dentist and “star” of Troll 2, approached us in the lobby of this midnight showing and asked, “Y’all seen Troll 2?” After the showing he did a Q & A with the audience, during which someone yelled, non-ironically, “God bless you, George Hardy!”
Top 5 things customers said to me at Auntie’s Bookstore
1. “Where are the Stephanie Meyer books? … In teen!?“
2. (When the total was a little over $16) “I only have a twenty. Can you give me change?”
3. “Do you guys sell shoes or boots at all?”
4. “Have you ever lived to be 66? I have.”
5. “There is a guy in the men’s room furiously crapping.”
Top 5 places I will wish I could go hang out
1. Park Inn (103 W. 9th)
It’s strange, the attachment we feel to certain bars, since, with few exceptions, they’re pretty much the same. But the P.I.—which, for most of its patrons, seemed to be a late-night bar-crawl pitstop—is somewhere I can easily sit for five hours. The drinks are cheap and strong, the bartenders stand-up guys, the conversation always good (though yelled), the assembled crowd subjected once again to Fela Kuti’s “Zombie” and LCD’s “Yeah.” Sorry about that, folks.
2. Madeleine’s (707 W. Main)
I’ve reached the point where I can’t grade anywhere in public for more than an hour without getting antsy—except Madeleine’s. There I can stay till the job’s done. The coffee’s damn good, the quiche is excellent, the desserts make me feel like I’m sinning. And it’s even nicer when I’m not grading.
3. The English Annex (Gonzaga University)
I used to tell my students it was the “whitish, house-looking building,” but really it was a house, where the department farmed out its composition faculty. I did not mind. Give me a big, cluttered office far from HQ and adjacent to a living room, and I’ll spend my days holding scintillating student conferences and burrowing deep into Wikipedia with my officemate—studying, one afternoon, the electoral maps for every U.S. Presidential Election. Time well spent.
4. The old Willow Springs office (3rd floor, the old Spokane Center)
This one—defunct these last three years—I already miss. Lying on the couch, reading slush from a heap of manila envelopes, while the office computer plays the video for “Tiger,” by Cheeseburger: Now that’s editing.
5. Anyone’s porch on a summer night
Because the summer’s the best time to be in Spokane: The heat is dry, and at night it becomes cool and pleasant. Good drinking weather. In Indiana, the summer night air is like a pair of damp sweatpants around your face.
But in the winter, the streets have been cleared. You win some.
Soon enough, I’ll be barking on the regular again. But for now let’s leave it.