SG - Urban

by Joel Smith & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & F & lt;/span & or a lot of people in this area, summer means one of two things: airing out the tent and hiking into the woods, or moving into the lake house and zoning out for two months. Or both. In either case, it means abandoning the city for someplace more idyllic.

We'd posit that staying in the city can be every bit as entertaining, fulfilling and relaxing as escaping it.

Think of that great trope of the Italian cinema -- urban wandering. Give us the name of a classic Italian film that doesn't include a bunch of horny, mischievous boys roaming around a nearly empty city, looking for trouble, and we'll give you the name of an Italian director who should've been fired. The point here is that we can learn something from these films. While everyone else is away in the lakes and the woods getting their bliss on, we fortunate urbanites will explore parts of our cities we've never explored, people we've never met, trouble we never knew we could get into.

To hell with "getting away from it all." Try getting into it all this summer.

Film Fests & r & Speaking of film, one of the best ways we know of to enjoy summer in the city (the backs of our necks getting dirty and gritty) is taking advantage of summer film festivals. As dreary as our forecast for summer films was several weeks ago, there are a number of film series throughout the area this summer that offer up real quality. Sandpoint's Panida Theater has a couple of excellent films coming up (including the Academy Award-winning Tsotsi this weekend), and the Kenworthy in Moscow is showing a few (although the bulk of its artsy not-seen-in-Spokane films have already screened). But to really feel the summer, you need to be outside while you watch. That's why you should check out the series of films Liberty Lake is putting on in Pavillion Park (Howl's Moving Castle, Airplane!, etc.).

The mother of all local movie series in the summer, though, is the one put on by the Shop. When they project classic and cult films on the side of the building next door, it seems like everybody within a 10-block radius of South Perry Street shows up. Not only that, but they've beefed up their scheduling this summer to include live music shows prior to each film. So before you see Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone on July 13, you get performances by Harry and the Potters and Draco and the Malfoys. They've paired Casablanca with Jazz Attack, Say Anything with the Hereafter (whose music you might know from such TV shows as Grey's Anatomy) and Breakfast at Tiffany's with Anacortes indie star Karl Blau. They'll also show the Steve Martin film noir Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid and Fritz Lang's spooky, dystopic 1927 film Metropolis (among others).

Go a-Wandering & r & Next, take your urban wandering to parades and festivals, especially those that close off city streets. There's something about pedestrians reclaiming the streets and transforming the sense of place that we never tire of. Plus, the people-watching is unbeatable. Hoopfest may be the best example of this, locally. When else can you stand in the middle of Howard and Main and idly slurp at a snow cone? The busy intersection becomes almost unrecognizable as the masses obliterate the old familiar boundaries. Bring a flask of Beam to such a festival and things get even blurrier.

The people-watching is bound to be rich at Riverfest or the OutSpokane Pride Parade (both this weekend), at Sandpoint's Wooden Boat Festival, Coeur d'Alene's Artwalk or, better yet, when the handlebar-mustachioed Orange County Chopper dudes show up at the Spokane County Fair & amp; Expo Center at the end of June. Go check it out and pretend you're on an anthropological mission. Bring a clipboard. Count and measure mullets, and record your findings. Ask people in leather if they know where the powder room is. Show up in furs and a Viking helmet and ask to see the biggest drakkar they've got. Show up to the Holistic Festival in Coeur d'Alene on June 22 and keep asking people for a Tylenol. Visit Hempfest in Riverfront Park -- conspicuously take snapshots of people and appear to write something down afterwards.

Use the extensive calendar in this issue of The Inlander, along with the calendar we publish every week. Close your eyes and point to a page. Maybe you'll end up fingering the Rocket Market's Friday-night wine tastings. Or a reading at Auntie's. Go to gallery openings. Try speed-dating. Take lessons in Argentine tango or yoga. Join the Unlicensed Bicycle Racing in Browne's Addition every Sunday at 8 am. Look for vintage clothing at garage sales (you gotta get there early).

This is beauty of the city -- there's always something going on, even in little old Spokane. Even in Sandpoint and Coeur d'Alene. Those who say otherwise are just not creative enough. Bored people are boring people. This area doesn't have a dearth of activities; it has a dearth of creative people willing to make things happen. Make things happen. A vibrant city ought to surprise people. So get out there and yell "Surprise!"

Just Like Recess & r & Set up an elaborate croquet course in Riverfront Park -- paint the mallets yellow and allow anyone to use them. Take up freestyle walking. Start your own religion and preach its gospels outside the county courthouse. Design a disc golf course that encircles downtown -- instead of actual disc-catchers, use benches, light poles and dumpsters as your targets (being, ahem, respectful to people and property.) Let others know about it. Play your melodica on Third Avenue during rush hour.

Use MySpace's bulletins and event invites, or craigslist's event postings, or The Inlander's calendar to organize kickball games. You find the field, you bring the ball. All people gotta do is quit their bored whining, show up and play. Send a MySpace bulletin to everyone on your friends' list and announce a foot race from High Drive to Gonzaga, beginning at midnight. Don't give them any more information than that, but suggest that participants wear as little clothing as legally possible. Dress your friends up in farm animal costumes and go door to door on Sherman Avenue, handing out old books you found at garage sales.

The beauty of the rabble-rousing kids in Italian movies like Mille Bolle Blu is that they -- fearless, adventurous, ever-curious -- take the viewer places that older, more sensible adult characters can't. They hang around the town square after dark, they listen in on conversations at the bakery, they peek through windows and jump fences and stick their noses where they don't belong.

That's the task of the Inland Northwest urbanite this summer. It's time for recess. The city is your playground.

DON'T MISS & r & We don't know exactly who's going to be there yet, but the last show ever at Fat Tuesday's -- on June 30 -- promises to be a fittingly rockalicious send-off for one of Spokane's mainstay music venues, with five mystery bands and no cover for those 21 and older.

That Orange County Choppers thing should be an interesting scene, but for a real lesson in Spokane's anthropology, don't miss the Spokane Gun Show at the Fair & amp; Expo Center, July 22-23. Hobnob with crusty woodsmen, conservative judges and the occasional paranoid meth dealer. Just don't mention the Brady Bill.

Maybe I'm a little biased, having grown up near the fairgrounds in Mount Vernon, where the Scottish mayor kicked off the Highland Games each year with a kilt and a set of bagpipes. It's doubtful that Dennis Hession will follow suit, but all the caber-tossing at the Spokane Highland Games -- at the Fair & amp; Expo Center on Aug. 5 -- should make up for it.