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Greener Grass? 

by ROBERT ARCHER & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & T & lt;/span & wo weeks after I moved from Southern California to Spokane, my backyard was bombarded by rocks -- a few as large as softballs. A couple of these rounds actually hit my house; the others, thankfully, fell inertly far from my two young children. I was incensed because this kind of behavior I never imagined would occur in my quiet, unassuming Indian-Trail neighborhood. Several hours later, however, with a simple ring of my doorbell, I realized that my family's move had been the right one.





My wife and I stared out our front door in disbelief, for there, smiling with humble miens and extending hands of new friendships and preparing sincere words of apology, were five sets of parents with guilty children in tow. Every parent introduced himself/herself, with handshake included; every parent introduced his/her child, in a somewhat embarrassed fashion; every parent welcomed us to the neighborhood, apologizing that this incident had led to an ironic sort of welcoming committee; and then, in most impressive fashion, every child apologized, with eyes lowered and voices quiet.





Afterwards, my wife and I agreed -- in Southern California, as much of a mythical Eden as it is assumed to be, we would never have received such a pleasant second surprise following such an unpleasant first one.





Sure, living slightly north of San Diego for the past six years had its perks -- the utopian weather, the soaring palm trees, the white-sand beaches, the white-capped surf. All of these elements have been more than amply constructed into near-legendary status by Hollywood.





And then there were the attractions -- Legoland, Disneyland and a world famous zoo and wild animal park, all within one hour of my doorstep. Not bad for the entertainment value, especially with kids.





& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & W & lt;/span & ith these factors in mind, almost everyone I've met here in Spokane thus far, including my inquisitive 11th grade students whom I teach English at Lewis and Clark High School, has asked me virtually the same question: Why would I ever move from there to here? No beaches plus a bit of a coldish winter (as I recently experienced with snow shovel in hand) seem to make for a little less of an Eden-on-Earth than whence I came.





Even the Spokanites who adore this fine city continue (with just a tinge of disbelief hidden in their tones) with their questions: Did my job transfer me? Do we have family up here? Am I running from the law? Why (they subtly probe) would my family decide to move to the great Inland Northwest?





My initial answers were both simple and numerous -- a lower price of living, a slower pace of life, a smaller town feel, a larger home lot size complete with a quieter neighborhood (notwithstanding the incident initially narrated), a safer and cleaner downtown, and a desire to experience four complete seasons. When I would explain these answers to my new neighbors, simple nods of the heads would be returned to me. They understood, and they were proud.





However, now that I've lived here for going on 10 months, a fuller comparison/contrast (in true English teacher fashion) has begun to take place in my mind.





For example, little Spokane has the highest health-care premiums in the entire country. The same is almost true concerning gasoline prices. Moreover, an extremely pricey energy/natural gas bill that I receive each month combines with the previous factors to hurt my net paycheck more than I thought it would.





Furthermore, my employer, Spokane Public Schools, is facing a multi-million-dollar budget deficit this next year, a fact that will impact my children and could impact my job. And it seems that the entire city in recent years has had to cut back in the areas of public safety (e.g., police and fire departments) because of budgetary issues.





& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & A & lt;/span & ll of this is not to say that my wife and I believe we made a grave mistake in moving here. On the contrary, our wonderful neighbors have proven otherwise.





Yet it seems that there are some economic issues that this humble, mid-sized city needs to tackle soon before it inadvertently starts to encourage the type of exodus that Southern California is currently experiencing.I know being a high school English teacher does not allow me to comment on the specifics of how to fix an economically struggling community. I am, however, observant enough to realize when things aren't quite as rosy as they were initially perceived to be.





And for these issues, warm neighborly apologies will simply not do.
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