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Fun & amp;amp; Sober 

by Jake Albert

During an interview for a past article, I asked what could make Spokane a better place for people in their twenties. Tim, the interviewee, thought for a moment then offered an option that I hadn't thought about. "How about more things to do that don't involve drinking?" he asked.

I have since asked other people this question. For the most part, their reaction is the same as mine. Following the moment in which you smile and begin to laugh, you realize they are not joking and it dawns on you what a strange and difficult-to-answer question this is. Of course, during the day there is outdoor recreation aplenty (the subject of a future article), but what is there to do in this big little city of ours, after dark, that doesn't involve friendly Mr. Al Cohol?

The tricky part about the non-drinking question is the fact that the angel walking a straight line on your shoulder is telling you that there must be something to do. But then even he starts whistling and looks the other way.

Coupled with the complete profundity of such a question, I thought this would be a unique side of the nightlife in Spokane to check out. When I was living in L.A., drinking was never such a fundamental part of nightly entertainment as it is here in Spokane. It may have been due to the $6 pints that I was a little too proud to pay for -- "proud" as in "nobly poor" -- but it was more likely the simple fact that there were always art shows, outdoor events and other activities that didn't require drinking to attract people in their 20s looking to enjoy themselves. But what is there in Spokane?

On a recent Tuesday night, I went

to Interplayers to see their

production of The Underpants. The price was $16 (with an outdated student ID), but I learned you can purchase tickets between noon and 1 pm the day of the play for the very reasonable sum of $10.

Besides relishing the intensely intimate and lively atmosphere that makes theater what it is, I was also happy to see a good number of young people like myself out on a Tuesday night. Most of these fellow twentysomethings were coupled up, but there was a select group of young folks who, like my almost tragically hip self, were thoroughly enjoying this Steve Martin rewrite all by their lonesome.

I was anticipating Friday night (the sober first half) so much that I took a second shower to erase any possible repellencies I may have developed after tearing up tiles all day at my buddy's house. I was looking forward to my first First Friday artwalk downtown, co-mingling with the artsy crowd I expected to see walking carefully along the sidewalks from one exhibit to the next. In the end, I only managed to find one gallery that contained a sizeable amount of hands-on-tilted-chins and comments about artistic "moods." I sincerely hope this was just an off-night because the aim of the First Friday artwalk is a praiseworthy one.

I followed this relative letdown with a surprisingly entertaining two hours at ComedySportz, which just opened its new location across from the B-Side. This cost me 10 bucks, but if I had been one of the first 15 people to sign up between 5-6 pm, it would have been free.

While it wasn't quite as deft as "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" the energy of the comics and the amount of crowd participation was inspiring. Even I, Jake, whose most active involvement at a show is usually getting elbowed in the throat by someone flying by in the mosh pit -- even I found myself yelling out suggestions for the various improvised challenges posed to the comic athletes.

I eventually got a bloody nose and spent the remaining half-hour hoping I wouldn't be called on to participate. But even then, staring at the ceiling and cursing my amused allergies, I still managed to yell out "A doctor!" when the referee asked for "something that could fit in a trunk." (Funny, right? No? Well, you don't know anything.)

This may seem like a fairly sobering range of available sober options, but there are more that I missed due to peer pressure from less-sober people. In the past month, the Garland has shown Reservoir Dogs, The Big Lebowski and Army of Darkness at their midnight Friday showings. The Avalon Dance Club offers Salsa and other kinds of danceable music that usually open with a lesson before the show so you can move your hips in a more enriching way than standing in line for the bathroom at a bar.

Going out and getting tipsy or just plain stumbling is a vital part of many people's twentysomething experience. I am a card-carrying member of this society, and in the next article I will perform extensive research into this happily mind-numbing and beauty-enhancing practice known as "getting one's drink on, yo."

But, let it be known that when your friend with the Xs tattooed on his hands comes to visit, there are alternatives. I don't mean to imply that you could fill every night with these clear-headed pursuits, but it is possible to enjoy an occasional visit to Soberia.

Write in to [email protected] and provide your own takes or suggestions about the nightlife for people in their 20s in Spokane, please... please!

Publication date: 05/13/04

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