by Amy Klamper & r & If You're Bored, Then You're Boring & r & I have lived in Spokane for four months now and have noticed a disturbing trend among the citizens of my newly adopted city: Many of you love to trash-talk your hometown. You know who you are -- jaded lifers who sadistically ask how I'm liking the cold; bored hipsters who balk at my decision to leave the East Coast; brainy slack-snobs who bemoan Spokane's many shortcomings -- everything from how stupid the people are or how staid the music scene is to the notion that Spokane is a cultural wasteland full of rednecks who can't find decent-paying jobs. The common thread running through this litany of complaints seems to be Spokane's modest size -- but trust me, kids, Spokane's size ain't what ails you.
There's No Hick Like a New York Hick & r & While you malcontents may look to the big cities to remedy your small-town claustrophobia, I guarantee if you move to Manhattan, Philly or Washington, D.C., you'll spend weeks at a time within five square blocks of what will likely be your tiny, miserable closet of an apartment. I spent the last six years living in our nation's capital, among a combined greater-metro population of nearly five million people, and rarely left my neighborhood. Even when I did, there was not a bar inside the District line where I could maintain a healthy sense of anonymity long enough to drink myself over to the dark side (and that includes the hotel bars, gay leather/biker clubs and more Euro-trash discos than I'm willing to admit).
The Green, Green Grass of Home & r & So before you flee Spokane in favor of a larger, more urban destination, consider how good you've got it. The Lilac City may have a ways to go in becoming more pedestrian-friendly, less homophobic and more ethnically diverse, but within its corporate limits, I've found both a nice place to raise a family and a town with all the ingredients of a cutting edge, culturally-inspired urban utopia. OK, maybe that's laying it on a bit thick -- Spokane could benefit from some improvements, not the least of which are a dog park and an all-night steak house frequented by drag queens. But if you want good public schools, lush urban parks, eclectic neighborhoods, lots of outdoor recreation, a strong college basketball team, decent restaurants and an espresso stand on every corner, then look no further.
As for culture and nightlife, Spokane's got 'em both and you know it. If nothing else, I've seen enough trendy kids in bohemian couture to put the average East Coast hipster to shame -- I can only assume these people are getting dressed up to go somewhere cooler than Denny's. Yes, I realize Postal Service will likely skip Spokane on its West Coast tour, and you may need to travel as far as San Francisco to get a glimpse of Broadway beyond The Lion King -- but you whiners still have punk luminaries like Henry Rollins, indie-films like Murderball, and Japanese garage bands like Guitar Wolf to keep your snooty sense of culture appeased.
Work What You Got, Baby & r & I'm not saying there's no room for improvement, but I would venture Spokane has the potential to be another Athens, Austin or Chapel Hill, and it's never going to happen if all you aspiring urbanites give up and leave. I swear, the next time one of you equates this city in an unfair apples-and-oranges comparison to Seattle or Portland, I am going to vomit all over your Sorels. It is precisely this kind of mentality that is causing Spokane to lose its so-called "creative class" to these Northwest beacons of cosmopolitan existence. It's not that I don't understand the draw -- especially to Portland, with its vibrant music and arts scene and well-maintained skate parks. (Some streets even have skate lanes.) But if you're between the ages of 15 and 30 and currently reside in Eastern Washington, there is nothing more obvious than wanting to move to Seattle or Portland.
Charles Bukowski Hated the Obvious & r & Again, speaking from personal experience, I lived in Seattle in the mid-1990s, and even then it was obvious. At the time I had an excuse -- I was hailing from Phoenix, a sprawling suburban mass of golf courses and strip malls that to this day is truly a cultural wasteland. So, like many Gen-Xers, I took my copy of Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge and made the pilgrimage to the Emerald City, where I milked the afterglow of the whole Nirvana-dominated grunge movement (I was so lame) and over the course of a year consumed enough narcotics to kill several dozen people.
I share this with you not to embarrass myself but to spare you a similar, albeit more contemporary poseur fate. Please, if you mutineers insist on leaving Spokane for what you think are greener pastures, don't follow in the footsteps of so many who have gone before you -- consider striking out for uncharted territory. Perhaps some little-known hamlet in the bucolic Montana countryside, or a hick watering hole in rugged Wyoming -- nowhere-towns just crying out to be put on the map. Or, if you're as cool as you think you are, stop complaining and put Spokane on the map.