by Ben Cater & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & I & lt;/span & t's tough to write definitively about Spokane's nightlife. My time running the B-Side, quite honestly, has left me pretty disillusioned about the state of the scene. Downtown isn't lacking in people who believe in its future, but it's getting increasingly more difficult for these people: Their optimism is shifting into realism.

As a bar owner, I never got accustomed to the mammoth swings that appear to be commonplace in the industry. The graph of nightlife vitality in Spokane features the kind of spikes and dips that have the stock market's day traders edging off window sills 30 floors up. There are times when our nightlife can be very encouraging. Other times, however, it's hard to reflect on nightlife in Spokane without considering the city as a whole.

But hopelessness often turns into sheer denial -- that's why I've been spending time concocting fantasy visions for our city. It may be that only supernatural means are going to save us, folks -- that's why I invite you to share with me my latest imaginary hero: Urban Avenger.

The Urban Avenger fights a lonely battle against all consumer-crazy Spokanites whose superficialities are sucking the city's soul and pimping her instincts. Urban Avenger doesn't expect you to stop being a consumer. Instead, he wants you to consider how and where you're spending your dollars. He wants you to resist being dumb.

Being a superhero, Urban Avenger will rid Spokane of its problems in just five days.

Day One & r & With superhuman speed, Urban Avenger will manually tune everyone's radio in town to KYRS (Spokane's newest public radio station, Thin Air) at 92.3 on your FM dial. His reasoning is simple: Commercial radio is making the people of Spokane dumb.

So that no one will forget where to find mind-nourishing music, he will also plaster everyone's bumpers with Unified Groove Merchants stickers.

Day Two & r & Like the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future all wrapped into one, our hero visits downtown's denizens deep in the night. He shows them vision of what happens when they don't support local businesses, local bands, local clubs. With empty storefronts and more people moving to Portland, the future looks grim -- and boring. All the Scrooges wake up in a cold sweat, determined to vote with the wallets and support local stuff in all its glorious variety.

Day Three & r & Inspired by his progressive day with Betsy, Urban Avenger will pull all national chain restaurants downtown up at their roots and fly them to Division, Sprague or Third Avenue. Locally owned restaurants give our downtown core character. Conversely, one could argue that an obscenely long strip of national chain restaurants also lends a certain amount of character. It's a win-win.

Day Four & r & After three days of physical exertion, our hero decides to exercise his intellectual super-powers by lobbying the Spokane City Council to supply public funds for the creation of rickshaw service downtown. The service will unify Spokane's nightlife and give all those pesky smokers something to do 25 feet from the door.

Day Five & r & For four days, Urban Avenger had noted the stench of overwhelming evil rising from the downtown core. Nefarious vehicles seemed to be spreading their smell. But how could an ice cream truck be a source of evil?

These vehicles contained no ice cream and yet were causing the people of Spokane to curse a lot. Urban Avenger took it upon himself to load a barge full of all of the city's parking meters, enforcement vehicles and ticket-writers, then flew them all to Yakima, where he presented them as a gift from Spokane -- with love.

& lt;span class= "dropcap " & S & lt;/span & pokane's nightlife is just an appendage of the greater beast that is Spokane. Though I spent a lot of time booking live, original music for the B-Side, I think the effort was lost on a city that prefers Top 40 deejays, karaoke and cover bands. This is symptomatic of popular culture in general, which I find to be generally shallow. Trends of materialism and blind consumerism are becoming all too common. What kind of city are we cultivating?

The sad reality is that we will not always have the Urban Avenger to fight our battles. At some point, we are going to have to take charge. I know this sounds hypocritical coming from a guy who just gave up trying to make his bar work, but hey -- do as I say not as I do. The fate of our nightlife and our overall vitality is in your hands, Spokane. It's time we became our own superheroes. After all, that's how Urban Avenger would want it.

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