Speakin’ Spokane

I arrived in Spokane, Wash., in the evening on Tuesday, Jul 14, after a couple stops in Detroit and Minneapolis. The flights were smooth as was the Lyft ride to the AirBnb. While waiting for my brother in-law to arrive, I took a great shot of the sunset:

Look familiar?

This was a sure sign this trek across the northern states was going to be a beautiful one. A trek that started in Spokane.

What’s Spokane (pronounced spo-CAN) famous for? Gonzaga University, it’s the birthplace of Father’s Day, the smallest city to host a World’s Fair, and is home to the second largest urban waterfall in the United States (next to Niagara Falls, of course). The nicest factoid is that the city’s name is Native American in origin, meaning “Children of the Sun,” which is beautiful and pleasant.

Even signs in Spokane don’t pronounce the “e.” Awfsome!

Julia Sweeney, John Stockton, Michael Winslow, Craig T. Nelson, and Chuck Jones are some famous people born there. Bing Crosby’s family moved there when he was a child. Other musical acts are very select. There is a western folk quartet called The Mom and Dads, who are actually tolerable, and disbanded before they were in their 90s. There is The Mayfield Four, formed in the mid-1990s, who never really took off but was fronted by Alter Bridge (a.k.a. Creed Redux) frontman Myles Kennedy.

Then there is nu-metal band Five Foot Thick, which also received (some) fame in the late ’90s. [Author closes eyes, shivers.] Five Foot Thick’s record label was New Jersey-based Eclipse Records, whose major claim to fame was putting Mushroomhead (Cleveland) on the map with their XX album, which is a compilation of the band’s older tunes from self-released efforts. It was a one-and-done relationship.

The experience in the northwest city proved to be a strange one. Nighttime presents Spokane differently compared to the daylight hours. At night, the city seems to be a nice, quiet place to live. It’s comfortable and nonthreatening. However, the cloak was pulled off.

Cut to the nearby Safeway, a supermarket. It’s a supermarket poster child. It’s more supermarkety than most supermarkets in similar fashion that one Wes Anderson film is way more Wes Andersony than the rest. There is a particular style that cracks the ball out of the park. The lights were most fluorescenty. The aroma was somewhat reminiscent of a doctor’s office — a doctor’s office that smelled more stale and sold produce (emphasis with broccoli heads — more broccoli-ly?).

In one word: Blatant. Safeway is a blatant supermarket.

We were looking for supplies for the trip: water, Gatorade, extra toilet paper, and trail mix ingredients. Isaac, my brother-in-law, proved to have a knack for pouring the right kinds and amounts of ingredients into a bag. While Supermarket Sweep-ing for trail mix morsels, he mentioned something about needing nuts. A guy we passed didn’t miss a beat and bleated out, “My nuts in your mouth.”

It was loud.

Isaac and I stopped for a split second and we looked at each other in disbelief — did that guy really just say that? It was a freeze-framable moment where a voiceover, preferably Sam Elliot, says: Yes, he did, folks. Yes, he did.

Kudos for comic timing, however.

The phrase sounds like a very antiquated thing to say. “My nuts in your mouth” also comes across as an unfortunate catchphrase uttered by some inept secondary antagonist from a late-90s/early-2000s film. It’s a catchphrase written by overtired, stoned writers trying to outdo whatever teen comedy was the rage during that time. The more the phrase is repeated, the more it sticks.

Safeway presented a cast of familiar background characters in those television shows and movies. The workers were Dante and Randal from Clerks but they were happy to be there. The clothing, shirts and jorts included, were mostly baggy. There were wallets chained to belt buckle loops. Hair was matted down and still gelled. These styles once were thought as cool but, in reality, aren’t. I should know because I was guilty such atrocities.

There was a lot to take in. This place felt familiar. It sparked memories and I felt like a teen again, although I’ve never set foot in Spokane until this point. Or have I? Suddenly — cue the glass shattering sound effect from the “Spoiler Alert” episode of How I Met Your Mother, when each character’s quirk is revealed — everything boiled down to one culminating observation: Could Spokane be stuck in the ’90s?

The fear of such a possible time stint placed me as I lay awake in my AirBnB closet bedroom.

So quaint…

As we packed up the car in the morning, the daylight revealed a setting that revealed a city in all “Wayback Wednesday” glory.

Metal fences lined most of the houses, which needed paint jobs. It had this initial east coast urban familiarity but with a west coast aura.

All the cars that drove by were models dating back to the ’90s and early 2000s.

A little yippy-yappy dog was relentless with its high-pitched, unnecessary barking. It’s similar to a woman lambasting her children, who are on leashes, while in public and for no reason.

A guy with no helmet whizzed by on an electric scooter. His ironic navy blue T-shirt said Busy Doing Nothing.

Doyle’s Ice Cream looked awesome though. It boasts that classic aesthetic that’s embraced by these contemporary years. The weathered look comes across as aging gracefully. Whether in film or real life, Doyle’s is the spot, determined by looking at it, where it would be the go-to hang out. I wish they were open during my time in Spokane because I’d love to try some of their treats.

Sill, as Isaac arranged the trailer, I was waiting for someone to go by, preferably on a bicycle, with a boombox playing music.

On that note: Spokane, you were good to us for an overnight. It was real. It was weird. It was real weird. Perhaps our eagerness to leave sparked something. About a half hour later, right after we crossed the state line into Idaho, the first tire on the trailer blew.

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