Of course, everyone handles that escapism differently. For some, it's staying up for Leno. For Inlander intern Katie Dutli, it's blowing off collegiate steam with friends [page 14]. For visual art critic Carrie Scozzaro, it's cruising biker bars [page 8]. For Tony Edwards, it's eyeing Bistango's behind-the-bar man-candy [page 18]. For news editor Doug Nadvornick, it's coming home at the end of the night only having spent like 20 bucks [page 22].
That's the thing about escapism, isn't it? A night on the town doing things that aren't appealing isn't fun, no matter how drunk you get. For that reason, this guide isn't an attempt at getting you to expand your horizons. It's an attempt to chronicle what's available in our city so that you can choose accordingly.
Without being exhaustive -- that would be impossible -- we've tried to be thorough, giving you a sense of what's going on in various scenes at various times while, hopefully, not being didactic. Nightlife, in our town and any other, is only as dynamic as its people. Take these cues and sample liberally. Show those chimps the aspects of civilization that elude them. Rub it in their faces.
-- LUKE BAUMGARTEN
Through L.A. Eyes
BARS Nightlife in Spokane is what you make it, and who you make it with JOEL SMITH
& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & T & lt;/span & he booming beat from the sound system is shaking the walls of this tiny basement room in a small, unremarkable house on the north side. James Pants is in the corner in an Orioles cap, cradling one headphone in the crook of his neck. His beats and scratches and mish-mashes of 70s funk and old-school rap, Michael Jackson and the theme from Ghostbusters are rattling the ribs of 30-something hipsters, high schoolers and hicks, who have quickly turned this shag-carpeted rumpus room into a sweaty dance dungeon.
For just a second, Pants kills the beat and the room crumples. "Is anybody alive tonight?" he screams. Then drops the needle back into the groove. The place goes nuts.
& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & L & lt;/span & ast month, I left my one-bedroom apartment in Browne's Addition to move into a four-bed house on the South Hill with Ben and Jeremy (who I've only ever known as "Jerm"), two longtime friends from college in Southern California who'd decided they'd had enough of the music scene in L.A. and that they were going to move up to Spokane to form a band with me.
Sounds crazy. I know.
But though they'd never been here, Spokane struck them as an open kind of place, unlike L.A., where they'd played their peculiar brand of dance pop to automatons with folded arms. So they were hopeful that we could put a nice little band together, make some good music and play it for a bunch of genuine, appreciative Northwesterners.
As the only person they knew in Spokane, it fell to me to get the thing off the ground. I found the house. I found a drummer: Seaweed Jack member (and regular Inlander contributor) Anthony Stassi. And this week I took them out on the town to give them a good idea of what they'd just gotten themselves into.
"It looks like the Roxy," Ben said when we walked into the Big Easy (911 W. Sprague). They both looked stunned. Jerm's mouth hung open. They couldn't believe the size of the venue, said it made them a little nervous just thinking about someday performing up on the stage.
The fretting was premature. We were there to see Anthony play with Seaweed Jack, the pirate rock outfit that drives all the girls wild. It did. Halfway through the set, a knot of college girls dove into the unruly mosh vortex that had formed in front of the stage when singer Geoff Doolittle warned of an upcoming "dancey dancey dancey dancey" number.
I tried to be a good ambassador. I introduced Ben and Jerm to Adam David, the musician and amateur producer, and to his girlfriend Kaylee who (we discovered on New Year's Eve) grew up not three miles from me, on the west side of the state. We ran into a girl I'd had a brief relationship with, another I'd chatted with on MySpace before but had never actually met in person. Afterwards, we intercepted Anthony loading up the van and met the rest of the Seaweed crew. Party at their house, they said.
"It's like a sociology experiment," Ben said afterward, sharing a chair with me at the cramped Baby Bar. He was referring to the tiny bar itself, and the way it forces you to get to know people at the next table. I had pointed out some of the regulars. Patty, one of the finest bartenders in town, who told me she's buying the place later this year. Dan, a scruffy-looking but kindly middle-aged guy who will quiz you on the five boroughs of New York if you sit beside him at the bar.
Ben might just as well have been referring to the scene in Spokane in general. Everybody knows everybody here, it often seems. Through frequenting a place. Through a friend. Or a friend of a friend. Through MySpace. A week later, after my show at Mootsy's, I'd introduce Jerm to Claire, a girl who I'd met through Max, a friend of mine in Seattle, whom I'd met years before in college because he was a friend of Jerm's from high school in San Diego. It's a small town in a small world.
& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & W & lt;/span & e'd been to the big music venue in town, to the hipster magnet bar, to the Blue Spark (15 S. Howard) meat/meet market. On Friday I played a bunch of folk music at Mootsy's (406 W. Sprague), sandwiched between a wall of punk posters and a host of punk fans. Jerm felt at home, having been a punk in San Diego in high school. We met Claire, saw a high school friend of my high school drama teacher, a guy who seemed to recognize my name from the newspaper, Bob from Belt of Vapor, and Aja, a girl who followed me home from a show several weeks ago and hasn't left my side since.
We got out of there late and like everybody of our ilk at that hour, we ended up staring down a plate of fries at the Satellite (425 W. Sprague).
Saturday, then, I aimed to give Jerm a peek at the classy side of Spokane. (Ben, a social groundhog, stayed home.) Aja dropped us at the Safari Room (111 S. Post), the bar inside the new Davenport Tower. "Dude, I'm not sure about the stuffed tiger, but I do like the martinis," Jerm said, about summing it up. The safari motif -- stuffed tiger, boar's head, elephants with golden tusks -- was a little much, but my Lemon Drop was divine.
Twenty minutes in, Jerm ditched me to talk to a pair of unattended girls at the end of the bar. An L.A. recording engineer named E.T. had told him back in October that a good-looking guy like him should play the odds, introducing himself to attractive women as openly and frequently as possible. Some will buy you a drink, some will throw a drink in your face. But it's better to play the odds than sit and stew.
Sitting and stewing is what I do best, but E.T.'s theory was working well for Jerm, who dragged me over to prove to the ladies that I indeed worked for The Inlander. Their names were Kristin and Shelly, I think. Ten minutes into a conversation about how people meet in Spokane (answer: bars), one revealed she was "happily engaged"; the other mentioned how she'd met her boyfriend in a laundry room.
At least they didn't throw their drinks in our faces.
An hour later, we walked into Prago (201 W. Riverside) after hearing Michael Jackson wafting from the doorway. I didn't know a soul, but Jerm seemed to know everyone. They were almost all employees of Huckleberry's, where Jerm had become famous over the last weeks for showing up daily and asking for work.
I felt a little left out.
"You guys got any morphine?" We hadn't been inside the Mayfair (202 S. Washington) more than a few seconds before this question was put to us to by a scraggly-looking fellow with a wizard beard and an "Otto" button. Jerm hadn't yet seen truly divey Spokane. Dude's question was proof enough that I'd picked the right representative sample. We drank an adorable $4.25 pitcher of Pabst, played a couple 50-cent games of pool and watched WSU lose 77-74 in OT. Somebody behind the bar yelled, "Fudge fudge fudge fudge fudge."
I'd been trying to get Jerm to Trick Shot Dixie's (321 W. Sprague) for a week and a half -- you can't really understand Spokane's nightlife without glimpsing the bull-riding, lusty-glancing, dressed-up meat marketeers that flock there every Friday and Saturday -- but we got there too early. Nobody had conquered their nerves yet. Nobody was playing the odds yet. Not even Jerm.
So we picked Aja up and headed north, where we'd heard somebody was throwing a house party. When we got there, though, we realized we didn't know anyone at the house. Should we barge in? What if there were only, like, ten people? Would it be awkward? Maybe I'd know somebody through somebody else.
I didn't. But Jerm did. He recognized one of the house's owners, whom he'd briefly met through Anthony, and approached him on our behalf.
It's a small town in a small world. Eight days ago, Jerm hardly knew a soul in Spokane. So I started taking him out, introducing him to all the people I'd met since climbing into this social jungle gym myself two years ago. We didn't even get around to visiting all the places I wanted to show him because we kept running into familiar faces. Patty at the Baby Bar. Adam at the Big Easy. Seaweed. Or we made new friends, learned more faces.
E.T. was right. You gotta play the odds. Eight days later, this outsider from L.A. was showing me the nightlife.
Jerm's new friend waved us downstairs. The basement was packed with hipsters, high schoolers, hicks, their ribs rattling with 70s funk. The music stopped suddenly, then James Pants dropped the needle back into the groove. The place went nuts.
Riding the Bull
GIRLS' NIGHT OUT Getting raucous at a North Idaho cowboy bar can be empowering CARRIE SCOZZARO
& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & L & lt;/span & ike most folks, I've made good friends through work -- Katrin, Stacey and Betty -- but getting together is near impossible since everyone's moved on to new jobs, homes, etc. When Stacey flew in for business from Indiana, it seemed natural to try a reunion. Katrin, from Sandpoint, couldn't travel, though, and Betty was home waiting on friends arriving from Montana. "Isn't Sandpoint on the way to Canada?" Stacey asked, jiggling her rental car keys.
We picked up Katrin and drove slowly through Sandpoint, parked and strolled First Avenue. Stacey bee-lined to Coldwater Creek (311 N. First Ave., Sandpoint) to fondle silk and chenille while Katrin and I hit Zany Zebra (317 N. First Ave. Sandpoint) (like Boo Radley's). She contemplated fuzzy Buddha statues while I invested $2 for nose-shaped pencil sharpeners my students would really dig. We met up again at Foster's Crossing (504 Oak St., Sandpoint) antique mall, barely through the first of three floors before falling faint with hunger. (Shopping's hard work.)
So many restaurants: Eichardt's Pub, Caf & eacute; Trinity's southern-style, Spuds Grill. We settled on Second Avenue Pizza (215 S. Second Ave., Sandpoint) for the Carolyn Special, piled with artichoke, pesto, spinach and lots o' cheese. A debate ensued about pizza. Being from New Jersey, I'm a self-avowed pizza snob, but stopped short of ridiculing Indiana's "pizza" (really just square-shaped, cheesy cardboard). Stacey, after all, was my former boss. And she was driving. Katrin picked up the tab, feeling guilty about bailing.
Forty-five minutes later we were in Post Falls' Red Lion Templin's (44 E. First Ave., Post Falls) riverfront hotel where Stacey was staying. Scotty behind the bar fortified us with coffee, Bailey's and entertainment options. The last time Stacey visited, we'd cruised Coeur d'Alene, dined at the Wine Cellar and gone dancing at Mik-n-Mac's. Of course, if we'd planned better, Sandpoint would've been good, especially the Panida.
Betty finally called, suggesting Big Al's, which we hadn't been to since it was Kelly's (of Kelly Hughes Band), before Showgirls strip club cast aspersions on Stateline, Idaho's character.
Stacey checked her watch, feigning jetlag. "They give dance lessons," Betty coaxed. I'm with Stacey on this one... country's OK, but I'm more of a freestyle dancer (meaning I'm a goober when it comes to learning steps).
Betty suggested we meet her at Curley's (5005 W. Hwy. 53, Post Falls), then decide. It was early so we snagged a pool table. The inside doesn't seem to change: big stage overlooking a central, sunken dance floor; wraparound bar; booths lining the walls, including inside the original railroad car. Rustic Western paraphernalia everywhere. Ancient fish tank. Outside, though, the waterwheel, footbridge and gargantuan horse statue had been joined by an outdoor bar resembling a Western storefront. The fresh air was a welcome break from the cigarette smoke (one big difference between Washington and Idaho venues).
& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & S & lt;/span & tacey finally begged off, agreeing to meet in Coeur d'Alene tomorrow for a walk and breakfast at Java (best salmon bagel I've found, says me, the bagel snob). So Betty and I headed to Big Al's (6152 Seltice Way, Stateline) without her.
Cover charge was reasonable at $4 (free if you get there before 6 pm), cheap for a live band and plenty of people watching. Dean, a gravelly-voiced gentleman, greeted us and took our coats, filling me in on bits of his 23-year history with the bar. Betty went off in search of her friends, leaving me to explore the revised interior: a mechanical bull was prominently placed in front of the vast checkerboard dance floor, the pool tables had been moved up from the step-down area that now held darts, and an alcove just left of the "cowboys" and "cowgirls" bathrooms was labeled "kitchen." Nothing says girls' night out like something fried crispy, washed down with red beer.
I probably wouldn't go to Big Al's or even Curley's alone, unlike Templin's. No sooner had I thought that than a perky, blue-eyed gal walked up and introduced herself. She was Candy, the dance instructor. "I try to connect with single women as they come in," she said, "get them out dancing, make them feel welcome."
I found Betty chatting up two handsome fellows by the back bar under a blue neon glow. It occurred to me that these might be her Montana "friends" and the reason for her sudden country-music enthusiasm. Yee-haw. Was Stacey in on Betty's blind-date setup?
Betty needed no dance lessons; she knew how to scoot her booty so she and Mr. Montana two-stepped away, while I was happy just scoping everything out. The bullpen stood empty, and I found myself watching for anyone brave/stupid enough to pay the $3-a-ride (two rides for $5... such a deal). And of course there was the tall, handsome drink of water who was not from Montana but Seattle (not that I don't have a fondness for Big Sky guys), and preferred riding motorcycles to horses. Ah, the things we do for friendship.
The place was beginning to fill and I'd managed not to embarrass myself too badly (don't need lessons to slow dance), and by the second set, it was sizzling. Everyone danced with everyone: girls in groups, handsome couples swinging like they'd been born knowing, even the servers. We sang along -- badly -- to River City Rockers' rendition of Garth Brooks' classic: I'm much too young... to feel this damn old.
It suddenly seemed really late, smoke stinging our eyes, a long drive home awaiting. Betty walked the fellows out while I sidled up to the bullpen, knowing she'd be awhile warming up the, uh, car.
Mark, who ran the bull and basically managed the joint, promised to go easy. "Which end do you ride on?" I asked stupidly. Right hand holding on (for dear life), left hand for balance. "When the butt end comes up, lean back," he grinned. Sounded simple enough.
"I thought about telling you ahead of time," Betty apologized in the car, "but you always say how blind dates can be so..."
"Painful?" I offered, suppressing a smile, rubbing my knee where I'd almost been bucked off. I shook my head. "It was fun. We should do this again sometime."
Just maybe not 'til my bruises healed.
The Week in Rock
music Novelty rules music on the weekends, but stalwarts help to survive the midweek trough LUKE BAUMGARTEN
& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & A & lt;/span & brilliant man -- boy, actually -- once said "everybody's working for the weekend." If truer words have been spoken, I wasn't around to hear them. That's not to say, though, that weekdays are devoid of charm, or that, if you're having a hard time getting over the hump, there isn't some visceral -- in this case, musical -- relief.
Though it's generally true that you'll have to wait for the weekend to hear a dope out-of-town band, there are plenty of local engagements that happen on weeknights. For that reason we set off to fill the nights when we wouldn't be out catching some one-of-a-kind show on Friday or Saturday, with the weekly players, the workhorses of our music scene.
SATURDAY | KYRS Benefit at the Spread
Benefits are great because they're often able to pull together big groups of good bands in for a little benevolence. Idealistic liberal nonprofit radio stations like KYRS, as an added bonus, tend to shoot for a wide variety of music.The show at The Spread (230 W. Riverside) wasn't quite as nuts as it could have been. (Reggae meets Western swing anyone?) The four bands playing, though -- Jupiter Effect, La Cha-Cha, Tokio Weigh Station and Paper Genius -- offered enough variety within the indie-rock umbrella to leave us curious about what kind of crowd they'd draw.
Turns out, obviously, it was community radio's natural allies, the intellectuals and the ideologues. It made for a nice, though slightly sedate, night of music.
SUNDAY | Puking My Guts Out
I came down on a bad bagel or something this afternoon. By the time Cary Fly was supposed to hit the stage at Bluz at the Bend (2721 N. Market), as he does at roughly 9 pm every Sunday, I'd just managed to wrest myself up off my bathroom floor and hobble to bed.
MONDAY | Jonathan Nicholson, Europa
I honestly don't know if there's anything that typifies Europa's mid-'90s elegance (125 S. Wall) like finger-style guitar. Jonathan Nicholson's supplied that in the restaurant's lounge literally as far back as I can remember. (Granted, until I landed this job, I wasn't paying much attention.)
Though I'm sure a few would pooh-pooh the new-ageyness of it all -- some dude in a corner hammering on the frets of an acoustic guitar that's been plugged into an amp so as to apply a little chakra-aligning reverb -- it goes better with dessert and drinks than grindcore. The only problem, from my end, was that Nicholson was too quiet. Even from our spot some 15 feet from where he sat at the hearth, I could barely hear him play. When he'd plug in, the amp provided the reverb I mentioned, but no actual amplification.
It allowed for a little eavesdropping, though. Two young, bag-laden women came in clearly seeking the comfort of chocolate more than strings. One joked that she was angry at her friend for getting married off, leaving her no one to wallow with in the muck of singledom. The new wife made some offhand remark about wanting to actually be happy and tied into the massive looking cake thing they'd ordered. The unmarried one shot daggers. Second thought: good thing he kept that amp down.
TUESDAY | Danny McCollim and homies at ella's
Like Jonathan Nicholson at Europa, Danny McCollim's been playing jazz piano nearly every Tuesday at ella's for the year and a half I've worked here. When colleges are in session, he alternates weeks hosting an intercollegiate jam session and an audition showcase.
Though there were some pipes, it was clear that my girlfriend Adrienne and I had stumbled upon audition week. It was all very listenable, if often forced. Adrienne remarked that it gave her a new appreciation for the effortless emotion and range of singers like the club's namesake.
WEDNESDAY | Open Turntable Night, Raw Sushi
Good thing I was at Raw to listen to some amateur turntablism. It helped distract me from the fact that our server was AWOL for 15 minutes. We'd been seated by a very nice girl at the door. We'd situated ourselves. Then we waited.
I was initially distracted from the poor service by a dude spinning soul, festooned in jeans, a Locke and the Chris Wilson 5 shirt and a badass ponytail.
He was a flurry of activity, busy fingering through his box of LPs, picking out discs and cueing them. In idle moments, when not working ahead or reveling in what he'd created, he engaged in a kind of pidgin sign language with a dude sitting in front of us.
The waitress thing, though. I gleaned the hand jive's meaning pretty quickly, which left me with nothing to do but obsess over service. Except for the time Ben Cater waited on us personally, my crew and I have always had abysmal service at Raw. Those bad experiences reminded me of the one time I tried Okane (another part of the Spokane Sushi empire) and spent an hour and a half waiting on a noodle dish while Stephanie Vigil and her children, sitting three feet to my right, were served round upon round of sushi.
The collected injustice sent me sprinting to the bar, requesting our server be sent around, like, STAT. The bartender, jovial fellow who really, honestly seemed sorry, just said he'd take our orders.
Smoothly sailing after that, I was able to more easily engage the next open turntable guy, who spun hip-hop esoterica. Fiddling with cross-fades and BPMs more than his predecessor provided some interesting moments, especially given how much hip-hop routinely experiments with changing sample tempos. I remarked that Kanye West's "Spaceship" sounded strange sped up. Adrienne said she thought he'd slowed it down. Turntable geekery like that is why I continue to haunt this joint. I just wish they'd get their wait staff sorted.
THURSDAY | York at Far WestThursday is a hinterland. It has properties of both weekday and weekend. Chances are, you'll have to get to your job early Friday morning. Equally likely, though, the idea that your weekend is a mere eight hangover-fogged work hours away hasn't been able to stop your early weekend rock since, like, sophomore year of college.
Bar owners understand this and they want to help. Thus there are a surprising number of places that offer live music on Thursdays only. Places like Far West Billiards (1001 W. First) and Moon Time in Coeur d'Alene, who easily draw crowds on Friday and Saturday (because of pool and chronic hamburgers, respectively), try to draw a different clientele. This also brings about a palpable change in atmosphere.
Any other time of the week, you walk into Far West and you're greeted with a series of little cliques cloistered around the pool tables, the dart boards, the broken-ass sofa in the far back. It's a unique feeling, walking into a bar and getting everyone's back, especially when you have to cross the always empty pool-tableless no-man's-land between the door and the bar. At this point in my life I expect to walk into a bar and get at least one apprising look, a scowl or a whisper. That rarely happens at Far West, where everyone is so firmly in their own space.
Strange, then, to pop in on a Thursday and find the no-man's-land now well populated. There's a nice evenness to the vibe. Many people still doing their small group thing, but many more now out in the center, offering their attention. York has the crowd fairly transfixed, though a few scowls inevitably wing our way as we enter. This is going to be fun.
FRIDAY 26 | Saul Williams at SFCC
The best show of the week, in my opinion, had no instruments, no turntables, no laptops. That's not to say, though, that it wasn't all about music. Well, activism too.
And more than a little weed. In the clean, white, collegiate environs of the Falls' music building auditorium, about four minutes before Emcee, slam poet and author, Saul Williams came onstage, the back corner was filled with the rank of marijuana. The place had a lot of young people, but probably about half of those in attendance were middle aged. I recognized a few Gonzaga religion professors. People started catching the smell and smirking. Two forty-ish friends in tweed blazers looked at each other with alarm, then laughed. "Pot? That's pretty brazen," said one, offering his friend a fist to pound.
Williams uses the cadence and rhythms of rap -- even in his most form-obsessed poems -- to critique hip-hop culture and indict what he sees as its failed promise.
It was an affecting night, not just seeing such boundless we-can-live-as-one idealism in an intellectual who isn't Cornel West, but seeing a crowd of some 700 Spokanites hanging on his every word.
Hangouts & amp; House Parties
COLLEGE Why buy drinks when you can mix your own? KATIE DUTLI
& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & T & lt;/span & here's a tradition to the way my girlfriends and I begin our weekend nights. We concoct various drinks with whatever liquors (or liqueurs), juices or soda can be found in the fridge, make them a little too strong, and drink them from a straw. There's always a bizarre mix of music coming from the stereo; impromptu dance parties are inevitable.
The first weekend back after winter break begins the same way it always does. The alcohol of choice for tonight's pre-gaming activities is tequila, and my cran/raspberry-squirt combination puts any $6 cocktail to shame. We start to play a card game to pass the time while finishing our drinks, but after 20 minutes and a failed attempt at making it once around the table of four people, we give up and continue to sip our drinks without forced motivation.
Tonight we're hitting a birthday kegger. We leave the comfort of the house to walk the four long blocks to our destination. The alcohol's warmth kicks in, making the snow more beautiful than obnoxious.
We walk in like we own the place and are greeted by friends playing games, talking, and enjoying the best part of college-age birthday parties: a keg in place of the cake.
I'm among the small percentage of college students who don't like beer, so I bring my own supplies to mix with it. I mean, I'll still drink beer -- it's free alcohol, and the first rule of being a college student is to not pass up anything free. I fill my cup full, then add Fresca to attempt replicating a Rattler (usually lemonade and beer). Content with a red keg cup, comfortable surroundings and friends I need to catch up with, my girlfriends and I decide that a game of foosball is in order. We play the college version of any game -- the losers have to drink as punishment. Many drinks down, and losing track of the score, we easily get distracted by the steady stream of people coming into the house, the music on the stereo and a Packers helmet that has somehow now become the best prop for pictures -- ever.
When I was a freshman, the conversation at a loud, crowded, sweaty college party included three required topics: hometown, major, and residence on campus. Now the conversation takes a slower pace. Tonight, the main topics of conversation among a general group of friends are winter break excitement and plans for "the real world" after graduation. Alcohol provides enough bravery to chatter away with those whom you'd normally barely acknowledge on campus. There's a weird, unspoken rule that the people you meet at a party will be strangers again come Monday. Only rarely does the conversation progress beyond the typical drunken dialogue. Later, when you're walking across campus with a friend and you see your Saturday-night conversation partner, you must always say, "I met him at a party once. He was so wasted."
After countless games of beer pong, foosball and group trips to the bathroom, we make our way to the bars. We show IDs and enter the Bulldog Tavern's (1305 N. Hamilton) familiar red glow. It takes 20 minutes to reach the bar because I keep running into friends I haven't seen since break. Hugs galore, many statements of "I love you" and coffee dates are scheduled.
Few of them will actually happen.
A friend and I secure one of the good tables. After a trip to the bar, we take the opportunity to enjoy the prime people-watching spot we've secured. From the glow of the red Budweiser sign on the wall behind me, I'm able to see the random mixture of tonight's patrons. There's the resident old man who sits at the bar watching the girls and sipping his white wine.
There's the tall awkward cowboy (complete with Wranglers and a Stetson) who takes up residence at the pool table. And predictably, there are multiple girls who have obviously had too much to drink and need to be taken home.
We meet some new boys, one of whom is clearly enamored with my friend. This conversation goes way beyond the usual bar talk, even including the exchange of last names and house location (both huge steps). By now it's 1:30, and the bartenders start to kick us out, hoping to clear the floor before the official 2 o'clock closing time. But then drinks need to be finished, conversations need to be finished, and walks home need to be arranged.
After finally leaving the Bulldog, we make our way across the street to Jack & amp; Dan's (1226 N. Hamilton), where we meet up with more friends and say our hellos before immediately being kicked out and onto the cold street. We meet up with neighbors and sober drivers to arrange our homeward bound adventures, making plans for more adventures tomorrow.
& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & T & lt;/span & he next night, in the mood for something a little more low-key, we decide to get as far away from the Gonzaga Triangle as possible: Litz's Bar & amp; Grill (204 E. Ermina Ave.), just off Ruby, which is conveniently adjacent to my friends' house. We walk in and take residence at an empty table (in abundance this Saturday night) and coordinate drink orders. Being college students at Litz's has its bonuses: well drinks are only $2.75 as opposed to the $5 or so asked by the Bulldog and Jack & amp; Dan's. Another bonus is having spent enough time there to know the bartender, thereby maximizing our alcohol-to-mixer ratio. Heaven on a Saturday night.
We order a round and start to play pool. I apologize to my partners in advance, because I'm terrible. Soon I'm sinking one shot after another. Phil (former bouncer at the Bulldog, now working here) offers us free hot dogs because he doesn't want to have to throw them out at night's end. I don't know what's in the water tonight, but things just keep getting better. The hot dogs go well with a game of pool, darts, cheap alcohol, and country music.
Then, when we think it can't get better, an older voice chimes: "If I hear my daughter's name and 'orgasm' in the same sentence again...." We explode, laughing hysterically while shaking our heads at the amount of wrong in that sentence.
& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & T & lt;/span & he next weekend, I take part in a favorite activity of college students during the winter months: basketball season. Being a student at a particular school makes you an instant and loyal fan for at least four years. While the games have lost some appeal since my freshman year, they are still the highlight of a cold winter weekend. As one friend perfectly described as we were leaving the game, "It's just a huge party -- how could you not love it?"
From the pump-up music and crass behavior of the entire building that seems only appropriate in this setting, I feel OK being just one of the crowd in the red Zag shirt-wearing, head-bobbing student body horde. The older crowd to my left seems to love watching the mass of gyrating bodies on the student side as much as I love being in that mass.
By this point, the superstar status of athletes that usually bugs me is in remission. I'm looking at them as representatives of my school. In the euphoria of the Kennel, I feel as if the effort I put into cheering them on and waving spirit fingers towards the basket will actually somehow help them win. It's situations like this in which our class standing, sobriety level or love for the game don't matter as much as the fact that we're all there for the same reason.
Typically, after every game, you either drink to celebrate or to drown your miseries after a loss. (It's a vicious, alcohol-fueled cycle.) At this celebratory party, conversations are initially awkward and forced, though anything having to do with the game proves to be a popular conversation starter. Post-game parties closely resemble the stereotypes of house parties: little-to-no lighting, girls dancing on tables, loud rap music, sweaty bodies crammed into tight spaces and ridiculously long lines to get to the keg before the beer's all gone.
Typical weekends like these encapsulate what college means to me: an opportunity to be surrounded by good people. While some go out with the goal of getting belligerent, my own level of intoxication is nothing but a side effect of spending time with rational, fun and intelligent people my own age. Want to know why we don't venture beyond the comfort of the Gonzaga Triangle? We want to soak up the comfort and familiarity of this environment for as long as we possibly can.
A Not-So-Narrow Night Out
GAY-FRIENDLY More and more, gay singles and couples have places they can canoodle comfortably TONY EDWARDS
& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & P & lt;/span & eople talk about the Seattle gay bar scene like it's Paris in the 1920s, full of funky bohemian artists. They talk like it's dripping glamour. Conversely, Spokane's gay nightlife is often mentioned as being tired or listless. After living in Seattle for eight years and Spokane for more than two, I've found that neither statement could be further from the truth.
As Spokane carves out its own gay identity and vibrant nightclub scene, one trend is emerging just as it has in all big cities around the country: When the gay crowds discover a hot spot, watch it become the see-and-be-seen place for everyone.
While Spokanites generally seem to be more relaxed around gay people these days, the same can be said about gays and lesbians socializing in non-traditional gay bar settings. Gay men and women are heading out of the usual suspects, claiming new downtown venues for drinking, dancing and conversation -- or at least making an attempt at it. This leads me to
Spokane's hippest hangouts for gays and straights alike.
The cozy bar at Wild Sage (916 W. Second Ave.) has quickly become the intimate launching pad for a night on the town. Coffee-colored walls, warm wood tones and fresh cut flowers welcome mixed couples and well-dressed downtown-goers. The local owners have done a masterful job of breathing new life into a nondescript building at the corner of Monroe and Second Avenue.
Wild Sage calls to mind a sidewalk caf & eacute; in Europe. On-point servers and smart bartenders await all guests, whether they're having dinner or sipping martinis or mixed drinks at the bar. The gay-friendly ambience is reflected in my favorite drink, "The Scarlet Queen" -- a blend of Findlandia Cranberry Vodka that's shaken with Blood Orange spices and rimmed with sugar on the glass.
The scene at Wild Sage is a blend of thirty-something South Hill couples, small groups of friends, and out-of-towners looking for more than the usual bland hotel food and bars. Weekends are packed with urban pioneers, fostering the buzz that Wild Sage is known for.
Merging big-city sophistication and sensible Spokane manners, Bistango (108 N. Post St.) straddles the territory between River Park Square and the Davenport District on Post Street. Super-sexy Bistango is where Spokane's A-listers make their fabulous nightly pilgrimages.
A warm, brown leather-infused interior, a mosaic-tile waterfall wall and moody jewel-tone colors evoke a Zen-like feeling in this small, but high profile downtown location. Carry a plump wallet, because your "Am I in Spokane?" moment will cost you more than the usual watering hole. But for the price, you get hunky bartenders and hot bar staff serving up a mixologist's dream of key-lime pie martinis, cocktails and beers. Bistango also offers a small appetizer menu that is perfect for the after-shopping crowd.
As a matter of fact, don't be surprised to see tons of Nordstrom bags littering the floor next to Spokane's own "Sex and the City" girls. But don't worry about fitting in with the pretentious scenesters -- everyone blends together in perfect eye-candy harmony.
The Cavallino Lounge (1 N. Post St.) is always on the top my list. Located adjacent to the Hotel Lusso, its exposed-brick walls and soft mood lighting exude comfort, making it a great place to relax with co-workers or friends. The cute bar staff always know what is going on at local downtown venues and are happy to offer recommendations. The place feels comfortable and serene, but you're still in Spokane, baby: I would not attempt any same-sex kissing here yet.
But while I was there last, a lesbian couple was having a thoughtful conversation over wine while a young attractive straight couple was at the bar watching a Gonzaga game. This intimate coffeehouse-type vibe works well, even if you're gushing down a Cosmopolitan. Try to sit next to the windows to take in the city life. One of the best things about Cavallino is that you can always sneak away to the Hotel Lusso for a romantic evening.
With the demise of the Merq -- and its popular outdoor patio seating -- early in January, Irv's (415 W. Sprague) has already emerged as the heir apparent to the North Monroe classic. Taking the space next to the Satellite Lounge that formerly housed Pub Club (then, very briefly, the Avenue), Irv's owners have infused it with welcoming vibe. From the outside, it still looks like a seedy bar, perfect for notorious Sprague Avenue, but on the inside is one of the coolest and classiest scenes downtown. Patrons enter from the front into a large, open and airy space that is typically packed with singles and couples of all age groups. Don't be surprised if the owner, Steve, personally welcomes you to the joint -- something unheard of in Seattle. Irv's fills the gay void in east downtown left empty for years after other bars closed.
Irv's young and friendly bartenders serve up shots, cold beer and Long Island iced teas. I love the big, overstuffed booths, which are perfect for relaxing and canoodling. A mirror-balled dance floor suggests the disco era while a pool table and Internet jukebox remind us we are still in Spokane. Two huge mirrors on the opposite wall reflect back a relaxed jeans and t-shirt crowd. I am eager to see the theme nights and dance floor extravaganzas that are sure to emerge.
Refreshingly, Irv's manages to be one step above other clubs, due simply to its convenience, affordability and the casual atmosphere.
Only one block west on Sprague is the lobby bar at the Ridpath Hotel (515 W. Sprague). OK -- officially the bar is not even open yet, but I can predict this will soon become a gay spot just by the funky d & eacute;cor alone. Leopard skin rugs, sleek black leather sofas and kitschy nude Cleopatra statues line the lobby and the lounge space that used to be known as the Silver Grill; it's Egyptian flair meets a Las Vegas brothel. You can imagine Marlene Dietrich at the long bar or a drag queen in the corner at a microphone belting out "I'm every woman." Bravo, Ridpath. Bravo!
From the legendary Dempsey's to new local hot spots like Bistango, the gay circle in Spokane is emerging from its once over-protected cocoon and making its presence known. We still hear about a created gay district, but an organic gay district is emerging all across downtown Spokane. Bohemians and artists shouldn't be far behind -- not to mention glamorous surroundings.
Me. My Money and a Machine
CASINOS Losing cash on tribal land MARTY DEMAREST
& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & T & lt;/span & he difference between video games (two words) and videogames (one word) is obvious at 9 pm on a Saturday night in the parking lot of the Coeur d'Alene Casino (27068 S. Hwy. 95, Worley, ID). There, hundreds of cars from in-state, Montana, Washington and Canada testify, in the middle of nowhere (approximately a half-hour south of Coeur d'Alene), to the appeal of video games.
People playing one-worded videogames -- Wiis, 360s, PlayStations -- are safely at home. If they have any cars, they're tucked away in carports. Videogamers have already invested their money in the machines and the games. Any payoff is going to be in entertainment and amusement -- the payoffs of art.
At the Coeur d'Alene Casino, however, people leave their homes and park their trucks and cars in the parking lot outside. They arrive on regularly scheduled shuttles from Spokane. They stay overnight in the attached hotel. Each weekend the Coeur d'Alene Tribe makes a ton of money by allowing people to gamble that the digital wheels spinning on a video screen will land favorably. There's no way that anyone outside of the machine's programmers (and owners) can influence how those wheels spin. It's a simple gamble -- a game on a video screen.
If there's anything that can affect the outcome of a digital slot machine, it's the amount of money invested. So I decide to give the casino a fair shot: $40, invested in nickel-, dime- and quarter-sized slices.
A game named "Fox 'n' Hound" is a simple example. Instead of a single line across the reels, there are many, jumping up and down like jagged heart monitor displays. And there are more than three reels displaying dozens of pictures as they spin. The chances for winning, even by betting one penny on each of the game's twenty lines, must be good.
I don't win. I lose $20 in 15 minutes. For the next half hour I wander glumly through the rooms of illuminated, beeping game machines. False trees grow up in the hangar-like space, and a highly reflective black ceiling blocks off half of the casino's dark industrial ceiling. A hidden ventilation system does wonders with the cigarette smoke.
There are video slots based on every theme -- underwater, Old West, adventure, television, movies. Generic games sit next to clean, candy-colored Monopoly games with lit-up Monopoly boards perched above the slots. (They cost me $10.) A wall of Twilight Zone games looks intriguing, with a tall display above the machines advertising the rapidly increasing jackpot. Every stool in front of them is filled.
A few errant lost dollars later, I decide to invest the final portion of my evening in a sure thing: a Nathan's hot dog. At the casino's refreshment stand, a mother settles her two children down for snacks. A few feet away, a leathery man with a cigarette clipped between two nicotine-stained fingers wins 1,000 dimes worth of digital credits. The hot dog comes with chips I was not expecting.
& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & A & lt;/span & t Northern Quest Casino (100 N. Hayford Rd., Airway Heights), I had only been gambling a few minutes when I won five dollars and a very sweet lady offered me a free Pepsi. I asked her if she had Wild Cherry. Before I could win another five dollars, she returned with my soda. Already things were looking up.
Unlike the Coeur d'Alene Casino, Northern Quest offers live gambling. A poker room in the back bustles with the bent and bobbing heads of men seated around tables. Along an aisle in the main gambling room, college students try their hands at blackjack. I watch one young man in narrow black glasses lose $20 just while "learning" to play craps. I decide not to join the college kids in their increasingly costly education, and set off in search of a draw-poker machine.
Despite the abundant variety of game machines offered, there are very few draw-poker machines. The few that exist are tucked into corners, and most of them are occupied by ladies who sit staring at the screens with their hands spread palm down, fingers poised above the machine's buttons. The ladies bet, deal and draw their games with the velocity of typists. Unlike the poker players, they don't crack jokes or look around. They purse their mouths and gamble seriously.
I secure a spot next to one of them, and within a half hour I've turned my initial $20 investment into $50. Thinking that the evening's luck is swinging my way, I offer to buy dinner at the casino's Woodlands restaurant. I order pasta with prawns, which arrives with burstingly succulent prawns and no pasta. A quick question to my server later and a manager is apologizing profusely. I end up with a complimentary desert -- a mammoth hot fudge brownie sundae. Score!
& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & D & lt;/span & uring a second visit to Northern Quest, I lose all the money I had previously earned. Then I gamble some more, bringing my total contribution to the Kalispel tribe to $40. Not once did money touch my hand -- it simply became paper tickets and digital credits. In the end, I didn't even walk away with a sundae.
As a conclusion to my gambling nights out, I decide to head north to the Chewelah Casino (2555 Smith Rd. at Hwy. 395, Chewelah), where I heard they played with real money. Immediately upon entering the small, two-room casino, I smile to hear the sound of coins clattering into metal trays. Nearly as good is the complimentary refreshment station: In a region full of casinos serving Pepsi, Chewelah stands out for offering Coke.
Chewelah's slot machines are also the real things -- genuine rotating wheels that are set in motion with the pull of a single arm on the side of the machine. Grinding down with a series of rapid clicks, the arm flips back up and starts the wheels spinning inside the game.
Happy-eyed people look at their one-armed bandits with a degree of engagement that's lacking in the blank stares at the other casinos. At Chewelah, even a small victory can be translated into the jangling sound of real money. I immediately deposit $10 in a machine and lose it.
Around me, the clang of coins fills the air every time someone cashes out even a small victory. Winning is the vibe in the air, and I hardly notice it as a game called "Stampede" eats $20 over the course of an hour. (I chose it because it paid back whenever the wheels stopped on three blank spaces -- something that didn't happen as often as I wished it did.)
Before frittering my final $10 away on dime machines, I stop in the casino's food court. Smaller than the other casinos' dining options, it nevertheless tries to make up for its size with enthusiasm. Along with the usual buffets, the casino offers a Friday and Saturday midnight buffet for $5 that runs until the next morning. Late on a Saturday, the hospitality staff is already preparing food. A few local teenagers wander around, wasting time. One of the casino employees stops to talk to them.
"If I'm gonna get drunk, I wanna know a day in advance," he says.
The teenagers look disappointed, but instead of turning around and going home, they head towards the slot machines. I know where they're going. They want to be enlivened by the sights and sounds that no videogame can provide -- real money.
Empty Nesters Night Out
ON A BUDGET Take away the kids, add a few years, and
it's all about amusing yourselves DOUG NADVORNICK
& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & G & lt;/span & osh, we're pathetic! My wife Missy and I had a date last Saturday night and what did we talk about? Our long-dreamed-about trip to Ireland? A naughty fantasy tryst? Nope. We reminisced about our early days together, 20 years ago, when we were poorer than dirt, when going to Dick's (10 E. Third) for Whammies with our toddler son and my mother-in-law was the highlight of our week.
Jeez, I miss those days!
The kids have grown (we've had a daughter since then and she's almost out of high school) and so has our disposable income (not as much as our kids). We still share that "budget" mentality, honed by counting pennies, sometimes literally, for so many years. Even today, we rarely go out to dinner without a gift card or a "two-for-one" coupon.
We don't "do" Dick's much anymore (once or twice a year, for a cholesterol-laden treat); sub sandwiches are more our style. Among sit-down restaurants, our current favorites are Tecate Grill at Shadle Center (2503 W. Wellesley) and the Olive Garden (211 N. Wall St.).
& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & F & lt;/span & or our Inlander-funded night on the town, our challenge was to have fun for less than $30. We decided to go back to our first favorite -- the place we went when we felt really flush -- The Old Spaghetti Factory (152 S. Monroe St.), followed by a late movie.
We arrived at the restaurant around 8 o'clock. The place was full as usual. The hostess seated us in a nice booth by the window. Next to us was an extended family -- mother, father, two little children and grandparents. They reminded Missy and me of the many times we brought our own kids to this place. One night, an older woman stopped by our table on her way out to compliment us on our children's behavior. She'll never know how much we appreciated that.
Missy had her usual: the Manager's Special, spaghetti with clam sauce and Mizithra cheese. I ordered the spaghetti with clam sauce.
Missy noticed something on the menu we've never seen before: Add an extra three ounces of pasta for only a buck-and-a-half. Considering we usually cart home boxes of food when we eat there, we decided to spend the extra three dollars and take home tomorrow's lunch.
Gosh, we're pathetic!
As we waited for our entr & eacute;e, we munched on sourdough bread with garlic butter and I glanced over at the trolley that probably ran on some city's streets during days long-gone-by. I heard the father at the adjacent table say to his little boy, "The ice skating starts tomorrow at 11." I wondered if the family had come from out-of-town to see the national figure skating championships.
During our dinner, Missy and I tested the new digital camera we'd gotten from our kids for Christmas. We didn't feel like asking anyone if they wanted their picture taken, so we took turns snapping photos of our dinners.Our waitress walked over, puzzled. "Taking pictures of your dinner?" she asked. I explained our mission for the evening (to chronicle our night out) and she seemed flattered that we had picked her restaurant.
When we had finished gorging ourselves, we waddled out with two boxes and a half-eaten loaf of bread. Our bill? $23.46.
We had an hour to kill before our movie. We'd decided to see Borat at the Garland Theatre, not far from our neighborhood. We ran home to drop off tomorrow's lunch.
& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & T & lt;/span & he Garland District is one of my favorite parts of Spokane. On Saturdays, it's fun to go to Ferguson's Caf & eacute; (804 W. Garland Ave.) for breakfast or to the Milk Bottle (802 W. Garland Ave.) for a big, fat hamburger and a milkshake.
As we walked to the Garland Theatre (924 W. Garland Ave.), Missy stopped to take pictures of the marquee, with its spire going straight up and the bright green, red and yellow neon lights.
We plunked down $5 for two tickets and went inside, where a black light turns parts of the ceiling purple in the art deco lobby. Green glowed from the chest of a young woman wearing a black Shadle Park T-shirt. The closing credits from the last show were rolling on a TV monitor at the snack bar as a small crowd walked past us into the cold evening.
A few people, mostly younger, were waiting. We wandered into the theatre to look for seats. A frazzled young man, probably our daughter's age, asked, "Here for Borat? Can I have you wait in the lobby?" We could see he had quite a lot of work to clean the place before the next movie.
As Missy and I sat on the window sill, waiting to go back into the theatre, we saw a young man fingering a medal, like an Olympic medal with its red, white and blue ribbon, around his neck. He wore sparkly, lime green shoes. I wondered if he was a skater from out-of-town. Missy thought he was a local kid who bought his outfit from a second-hand store.
We watched a young lady with a bright shock of hair (was it blue?), who wore an obscenely short purple-and-black skirt and leopard-patterned leggings with big green spots on the side.
About that time, the theater was deemed ready and we followed the crowd in, claiming our seats in the lower section, back row, right on the aisle. New age jazz played a little too loudly. We watched ads for Garland District businesses flash on the screen -- one of the theater's nice touches. Sometimes they mix in old black-and-white pictures of the Garland and the neighborhood as it looked before I was born, but not tonight.
Finally, Borat started and the less said the better. I've never been more uncomfortable watching a movie. I spent more time covering my face than looking at the screen. I don't know why I was so embarrassed. I guess the image of French kissing my sister and watching two naked men wrestle on the bed aren't my ideas of fun.
Gosh, I'm pathetic.