by Jacob Albert

OK, here's the situation: Friends are in Spokane for a short vacation. And what? They want me to show them a good time?!

All right, calm down and turn off DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince. We're going to get through this just fine. Let's look at what we've got.

Basically, your twenty-something friends from another city are coming to the 'Kan for three days and are expecting you to be their hospitable, entertaining host. Is it possible? Could you really fill days with enough cool stuff to send your friends away happy they came to visit this hot/cold, flat/hilly, liberal/conservative, big/little, town/city of ours?

I think so. But please keep reading. The important component to make Missy and Buddy's visit successful is not to raise their expectations too high. Tell them something like, "Yeah, that's cool, you totally should. Just come up, chill out a little bit, kick back, you know, just hang out." Stress the "laid-back" descriptions. I ran out of phrases but make up some of your own and just keep saying them.

The reason for this is obvious: Spokane is not necessarily a Mecca for tourists. We don't have musical "experiences" financed by local billionaires and our amusement parks are about five flags short of six. The most impressive view of downtown occurs while descending the freeway and the best place for people-watching is probably Dick's. (By the way, these two make a great way to introduce your friends to Spokane. You can say, "This is my town, and these are my people. Are you done with your tartar sauce?")

Most people who come to Spokane are looking forward to spending their time outside, which is fortunate because that is what Spokane offers best. For example, in my last article I wrote about jumping off the cliffs at Tubbs Hill in Coeur d'Alene, and when my buddy Matt came to visit from the OC one summer, that's where we went.

When Jeremy came from L.A. during the winter, he spent his two days trying to hit me in the head with snowballs, until I hit him with a well-honed "ice ball." (Poor rookie.) When Irene came from D.C. by way of L.A. in the fall, we walked around Rockwood Boulevard and Browne's Addition through the piles of leaves looking at historic houses that neither of us could ever afford.

When I spoke to them later, they had good things to say about Spokane, things even I had never noticed growing up here. That is the opportunity having a first-timer visit you provides, like a ball-in-hand shot when you're playing eight-ball.

Seattle Jeff and I were walking home from a restaurant one night and he said, "Wow, those houses look so cool all covered in snow." It was true, too. Here was a neighborhood I had always thought would look better gone, but the three blades of grass comprising the front lawn were covered in snow and the house looked warmly quaintish.

If your friends arrive at night, go to Dick's, talk some shizznat and hit up Laser Quest, then off to the Baby Bar or another subtle spot for a bit o' pre-funkage and excuses. Finish the night at the Detour or Mootsy's, the Big Easy or B-Side for some live music and atmosphere.

If they come during the day, get Dick's to go, grab some beers or wine and head out to the Arbor Crest Winery or Finch Arboretum for a picnic. You can yell at the construction workers fixing the Monroe Street bridge to hurry up; then wait in line until the gondolas start running again.

Maybe you go out to a lake somewhere for the afternoon, read The Inlander together, drive them around some of the old neighborhoods and tell them your good childhood buddy Patsy Clark used to live in that "big house there" and you'd always spend the night in the round tower room. (My grandma would call that a "good" lie.)

Go to Green Bluff to pick apples and confirm stereotypes; do some sledding at Manito; hike around the Bowl and Pitcher; get cultural at the MAC or the Lorinda Knight gallery; go skate at UTF and say, "Isn't it cool how it's under the freeway?"; plunder the truly thrifty "thrift" stores; spend 383 nights karaoking at different dive bars; point me out and say "That's Jake Albert. He writes for a weekly every two weeks and earns minimum wage at two different jobs." Go ahead, you can tell them you know me. I don't mind.

Like so many different aspects of Spokane, it is what you make of it. The trick is to ensure that your expectations aren't too big. That way, when your friends leave, both of you may have good things to say about Spokane.

Hey there people, it's your takes next, so let me know about living in Spokane in your twenties - how it is, what it has, what it needs, what you need. watchstevenseagal. See your name in print and let's get pointed out together.

Publication date: 6/24/04

American Original: The Life and Work of John James Audubon @ Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture

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