Spokane is full of characters.
We found them all on Friday the 13th.

click to enlarge YOUNG KWAK PHOTO
Young Kwak photo

On Friday the 13th, under a full harvest moon, we dispatched five reporters and two photographers to document the bright lights and shady corners of Spokane. While downtown has been a hot-button issue during this campaign season, with the balance of power at City Hall up for grabs this November, our mission wasn't to defend or indict downtown.

Instead, ours was a good-faith effort to capture a snapshot of downtown after dark, guided only by our own curiosity about this place we call home. In the end, we'll let the people we encountered — everyone from a tuxedoed mayor, panhandlers, drag queens, karaoke singers, bouncers, bartenders, muralists, Uber drivers and cops working graveyard — speak for themselves.

— JACOB H. FRIES, editor

Just Checking In
6:20 pm, outside the Big Dipper

Rose Dull's big, bright-red suitcase clatters along the bumpy sidewalk near Washington Street. She circles the block as she searches for the offices of the Downtowner Motel.

click to enlarge ERICK DOXEY PHOTO
Erick Doxey photo

She just got off the Greyhound bus from Idaho, and the Downtowner is close enough to the Intermodal Center that it's easy enough to drag her big red suitcase.

"I'm staying for two nights because of my friend. I'm coming to see her," she says. "She doesn't know I'm coming. It's a surprise."

Dull says it's been three years since she's seen her friend, a mental-health worker in Spokane. Dull isn't from Spokane. And from the way she stretches out the "oo" in a word like "too," neither is her accent. She's from Michigan, she says.

But she has a soft spot for Spokane. There was a time, she says as she finally finds the Downtowner offices, that she wanted to live here. But not anymore.

"It was too big," Dull says. (DANIEL WALTERS)

click to enlarge Mayor David Condon at his annual gala. - DANIEL WALTERS PHOTO
Daniel Walters photo
Mayor David Condon at his annual gala.

Big Tent Party
7:05 pm, under the Pavilion

At Mayor David Condon's eighth Our Town charity gala, the sun is beginning to set, both on the Riverfront Park Pavilion and on the Condon administration.

In 110 days, Condon will be effectively laid off, terminated by term limits.

"I wish I was being laid off," the mayor jokes. "Then I would get unemployment."

It's a fitting end, then, that his final gala as mayor would be held here, under the webbed canopy of one of his most visible accomplishments. In one sense, this is a night about charity, about raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for causes like Family Promise and Fairchild Families Forward. But, inevitably, it's also a moment for some of the most powerful figures in Spokane to rub elbows in a beautiful setting, enjoying the finer things.

Here the bread is artisanal, the butter is apricot-thyme flavored. The spinach salad comes tossed with caramelized almonds, mandarin oranges and a celery-root vinaigrette. Those who forego the prime-rib carving station settle for the simple comforts of sockeye salmon in a herb-shallot sauce.

A few partygoers hike up the walkway, up the Pavilion, and behold the park and the sunset-kissed city below. They eat. They drink. They're merry.

It's the furthest possible thing from the images of the controversial "Curing Spokane" video, released last month, depicting downtown Spokane as drowning in crime, garbage, syringes, drug addicts, drunks and human feces.

In fact, the funder of that video, developer and businessman Larry Stone, is here, at Table 12, right next to the stage where the band from Condon's wedding is playing. Cindy Wendle — the council president candidate who wrote in response to Stone's video that "families are afraid to take their children to the park and businesses are closing because of the open drug use and crime" — is here, too. So is council candidate Michael Cathcart, who as director of Better Spokane, had talked about releasing a series of videos similar to "Curing Spokane" — though plans to wait until after the election.

Also in attendance is the woman who may very well be hosting her own mayoral gala next year: Nadine Woodward, the candidate who's painted the downtown library as dangerous, the STA Bus Plaza as a hotbed of sex trafficking, and the urban core as besieged by homelesness and crime.

But tonight, at least, Condon does not join the chorus of pessimists. Asked by the Inlander about what he thinks about downtown Spokane, the mayor is unequivocal.

"It's amazing!" Condon says, raising his voice to be heard over the music. (DANIEL WALTERS)

click to enlarge Beyonce Black St. James - ERICK DOXEY PHOTO
Erick Doxey photo
Beyonce Black St. James

nYne Lives
8:30 pm, nYne Bar and Bistro

Beyonce Black St. James (upper right) introduces herself to the small crowd that's slowly growing at nYne in between sips from her Shirley Temple.

It's almost showtime.

Pretty soon she'll be lip-synching to Lizzo's "Good as Hell," dressed in all red with a flowing cape, strutting across the dance floor.

She's a familiar face to the drag crowd in Spokane and has lived here since 1991. She spends a lot of her free time downtown, at the mall, coffee shops or the gym. By her estimate, things have gotten much better over the years, not just with downtown's revitalization, but also with increased access to services for homeless people.

As a transgender woman who performs at a gay club, she says she's rarely felt uncomfortable anywhere downtown.

"All the downtown clubs are really open and fun and adventurous," she says.

Her one complaint: There aren't enough LGBTQ establishments in Spokane.

"There aren't a lot of lesbian or gay or transgender business owners," she says. "Usually we're on the outskirts. I think that would bring more awareness to the community, even though they're more accepting from 10 years ago to now."

click to enlarge A performer at nYne. - ERICK DOXEY PHOTO
Erick Doxey photo
A performer at nYne.

Echoing the same concern is nYne patron Emily Routt.

"We love coming to nYne. When I'm here, I feel safe all the time," she says while smoking on the club patio. "I know that the bouncers have everyone's safety in mind. They want everyone here to feel safe and comfortable." (QUINN WELSCH)

Inspirational Stop
7:36 pm, Saranac Art Projects on Main

Kurt Madison tells me I'm the 34th person to stop into Saranac Art Project's downtown gallery today. The gallery closes in about 20 minutes, but it's an average turnout for a Friday that's not an opening reception, Madison says.

The local artist cooperative-owned gallery is currently showcasing Bleared Views, a two-person show by local artists Chris Tyllia and Lisa Nappa featuring ceramics and works on paper.

"Inspiration often starts like a leak in a faucet. The kind of leak that drips, drips, drips on your psyche... Sometimes it's a small note you jot down on an index card, a quick snapshot with your phone, or a shadow on the wall. Bleared Views are material translations of some of these inspiration 'drips' that seep into our imaginations," reads the artists' statement.

The art, in soft shades of blue and white, offers a peaceful respite from the increasingly busy street outside. I creep across the creaking hardwoods to take it in before heading back out into the dusk of night. (CHEY SCOTT)

click to enlarge Shane Heisey at House of Charity. - YOUNG KWAK PHOTO
Young Kwak photo
Shane Heisey at House of Charity.

'Sketched Out by People'
6:45 pm, outside House of Charity

The sun is setting at House of Charity.

People trickle down Pacific Avenue, clustering in small groups in front of the shelter's entrance where a security guard watches sternly from a metal fence. Across the street, Bridge Press Cellars is celebrating its newly renovated venue space with a performance from the Devon Worley Band. Two men carry a large storage bin filled with sandwiches, patrolling the block between Browne and State streets, handing out food to hungry passersby before the shelter's 7 pm check-in.

Shane Heisey has been homeless for the last five years, four of which have been in Spokane. He was "clean and sober" when he came here from Philadelphia, but he says his dad kicked him out shortly after.

"He didn't want to be a father to me," says Heisey, 33. "I've been really working to try and get out of this and get myself right."

Heisey says he likes downtown Spokane. It has great "feng shui," and he recognizes the work that's being done to improve the area. But he also says there are a lot of homeless people who don't respect that and who aren't trying to improve their own situation.

"Don't put everybody in that box," he says.

He's been volunteering at House of Charity lately and is waiting to hear back on a background check so he can become a "residential client" — a volunteer worker who lives at the facility.

Do you think downtown Spokane is safe?

He shrugs.

"It's safe to a degree. If you are going to be out all night, the chances of it being safe are uhhh..." He lifts up a tank top and reveals a deep scar running several inches down the center of his stomach.

"My ex-best friend took me to get jumped," he says. He says he was stabbed in the stomach and had to walk to the hospital by himself.

"Some people just get sketched out by people for no reason and they just hurt people for no reason." (QUINN WELSCH)

click to enlarge John Waite at Merlyn's. - CHEY SCOTT PHOTO
Chey Scott photo
John Waite at Merlyn's.

Game Night
6:17 pm, Merlyn's on Main

Among the group of mostly regular attendees of Magic: The Gathering events hosted at Merlyn's is John Waite, owner of the game and comic book shop as well as Auntie's Bookstore.

"I'm not doing very well here," Waite laments as a Fleetwood Mac song softly drifts through the open door connecting Merlyn's to the Saranac Commons, where crowds have gathered at Black Label Brewing to savor craft beer while a local musician performs.

The seven players are playing a variant of the 26-year-old collectible trading card game called draft. They're the only customers in the store. (CHEY SCOTT)

Busking For Booze
8:02 pm, the sidewalk near the Pin

Three buskers sit on the edge of the parking lot next to the Pin, the upstairs music club on Sprague. Each is holding a guitar as they talk to each other on a break between songs.

"We hang out together almost every night," says 20-year-old Karley Roger. "We've been here all day and we got like $3."

click to enlarge Street buskers. - SAMANTHA WOHLFEIL PHOTO
Samantha Wohlfeil photo
Street buskers.

With handwritten cardboard signs on the sidewalk reading "Broke and stupid, anything helps" and "F—- meth smoke weed," today they're saving up to buy some whiskey before the store closes. Usually, their earnings start small, but once people get a little more drunk, leaving bars in that area of Sprague, they find passersby are more generous.

Josh Hunter, 33, and Leo Costa, 29, who sit with Roger, tell a reporter they're not necessarily comfortable having their photo taken, wary it might be used "against the homeless" like footage of their friends was recently. They're referring to clips featured in the recent 17-minute video "Curing Spokane," which they found out about on Facebook.

"We're not all tweakers, we just travel," Costa says.

Hunter nods in agreement. "Everybody gets lumped in the same category," he says.

Hunter, who is homeless and originally from Dallas, says he disagrees with much of the overgeneralizations about people who are homeless, but he understands that for some people, seeing homeless folks downtown can be overwhelming.

"I understand to regular people it might seem... there's a lot of moving parts," he says. (SAMANTHA WOHLFEIL)

One Man Show
8 pm, Monterey Cafe on Washington

The scene at Monterey Cafe belies the atmosphere that will take over the bar and pizza joint sometime within the next two hours: jovial and tipsy, but not overly rowdy, karaoke singers belting out hits old and new on the mic until the wee hours of the morning.

There's just four guys parked on bar stools by the garage door window that's open to the dark street outside. Bartender Mallory Jones chats with them and others who wander in, including a regular eager to get the night's karaoke session up and running.

click to enlarge Norvel Huntley singing. - YOUNG KWAK PHOTO
Young Kwak photo
Norvel Huntley singing.

"Hi Norv, are you feeling better today? Doin' just water tonight?" Jones asks the man in a black baseball cap with a dark, full beard covering his broad chin.

Norv orders a Corona instead and heads to an open table in the back while karaoke host Alane Wilkerson gets the computer set up with his first request, "Forever and Ever, Amen" by Randy Travis.

Both women gush about how friendly and welcoming Monterey's karaoke fanbase is.

"We have people who want to come in and have fun and interact with other people, so it's a different crowd than if you were to go to other bars," Jones says. "We're very interactive and everyone comes in and it's like 'I have a whole new family!' It's a very fun, upbeat crowd every night."

Norv, whose full name is Norvel Huntley, is a notable member of that Monterey family, coming in almost nightly to sing karaoke. Other customers ask about him by name, Jones says.

"Norvel is like the second cousin who shows up to everything," Wilkerson jokes.

Most nights, Huntley, a 56-year-old retired construction worker who says he had to stop working due to having a bad heart, signs up to sing 10 songs, ranging from country to rock.

click to enlarge Cyclists outside Red Lion. - JOSH KELETY PHOTO
Josh Kelety photo
Cyclists outside Red Lion.

"They treat me like family, and it's a safe environment," Huntley says of why he regularly comes down to the bar from his home about five blocks away. "I just like the crowd and the bartenders are nice to me and polite."

With nobody else on the request list yet, Huntley is up again, this time singing the Kid Rock and Sheryl Crow duet "Picture." Wilkerson joins him this time to sing the female vocals. (CHEY SCOTT)

#WhoDidtheDicks?
7:31 pm, sidewalk by the M Apartments (formerly Macy's)

Sixty-two-year-old Rick "Harpman Hatter" Bocook — a street musician and the closest thing the downtown Spokane chalk art scene has to Banksy — is more than happy to show you his latest creation: A bleary-eyed Gandalf the Grey gazing up from the concrete outside the M Building. Bocook does have one request, however.

"Just don't take pictures of the dick pics," Bocook says.

Indeed, right beside Gandalf, as if conjured by the dark wizard Saruman himself, is a duet of crudely scrawled penises. Frankly, they're not up to Bocook's artistic standards. (DANIEL WALTERS)

click to enlarge "Troggy" Victor and Destiny Brown. - YOUNG KWAK PHOTO
Young Kwak photo
"Troggy" Victor and Destiny Brown.

Basket Case
8:05 pm, Red Lion BBQ & Pub

The group of cyclists milling about outside the Red Lion is small but spirited. People are checking out the light arrays on each other's bikes and sipping beers from the bar — or beer they brought from home.

They're there for the full-moon group ride put on by FBC Spokane, a casual bike club that puts on monthly bike rides that start at a bar and end at a surprise location. The turnout this time is pretty good, organizer Joshua Hagen, 42, says while leaning over the patio fence: "Better than average."

It's a first ride for Jim Kogler, a 32-year-old software developer who recently moved to Spokane from Portland with his significant other. (They were previously involved in the cycling community in Portland; "I love group rides," Kogler says.) But that didn't stop him from bringing their cat, Kepler, who is coiled up in a basket attached to the front of Kogler's bike. Kepler is looking surprisingly content, relaxed and even sleepy, given the low-key commotion surrounding him.

For Kogler, downtown Spokane doesn't feel unsafe — at least compared to some parts of Portland's downtown, which he says he would avoid when he used to live there. He says homelessness is definitely an issue here, but the way it is discussed absent any analysis of the root causes of homelessness isn't helpful.

"The panic-stricken tones of the coverage of the problem is not doing anyone any favors," he says. "It amounts to demonizing homeless people. It is a problem and it is something that we need to think about. But I've never really felt unsafe downtown."

Kogler notes that policy makers and the public need to look at Spokane's overheating housing market when addressing homelessness. He's a fan of capping the rate of rent increases.

"If we want to be proactive about preventing people from being homeless, then we have to address the housing crisis," he says. (JOSH KELETY)

click to enlarge Terrie Jelsma at the STA Plaza. - YOUNG KWAK PHOTO
Young Kwak photo
Terrie Jelsma at the STA Plaza.

Another one Rides the Bus
7:50, STA Plaza

Terrie Jelsma, a woman in her forties, waits for her bus. She's a writer — she likes to write poetry, songs and plays. She's working on a historical fiction book right now, which may or may not involve time travel. She doesn't feel comfortable enough yet to write on the bus. After all, it's only her first week riding the bus. She doesn't yet know all the South Hill bus stops yet — and STA is about ready to change up her route.

But so far, she loves rising the bus. She finds it more relaxing than driving. She doesn't have to worry about the traffic around her. She loves watching the mishmash of humanity while waiting at the Plaza.

"I like the broad mix of business professionals, people kind of in the middle like me, and people on hard times," Jelsma says. "You hear interesting stories of things they're talking about. Moms with their kids going to a doctor's appointment. People who are wondering where they're going to sleep next. And then people who are going to Sacred Heart to work. I like that." (DANIEL WALTERS)

Helpful Hal
7:25 pm, Uber ride

Hal Hudson, who drives about four hours a day for Uber, slowly pulls his silver Ford F-150 over in the west end of downtown, picking up a reporter as a light rain darkens the sky.

He's been doing this for about three years now.

"I just gave my 6,500th ride earlier today," Hudson says.

In that time, he's had some memorable experiences.

"I once picked this kid up in the Valley, and he wanted a ride to San Francisco," Hudson says. "I got him as far as the Tri-Cities, and then he got another Uber there."

The rider didn't have a current ID, so he wasn't able to fly or get a bus ticket, which meant spending what was probably in the range of $1,500 to $1,800 to get there, Hudson says. Hudson made around $175 for his part of the trip.

Hudson lives in the Valley and used to own a towing company with his brother. He's mostly retired these days, though he helps with AAA's rescue program and enjoys driving for Uber, which he doesn't think he'll give up.

click to enlarge DANIEL WALTERS PHOTO
Daniel Walters photo

"This is really fun. I've become friends with some people who live near me," Hudson says. "It turns out we have a lot of Kenyan [certified nursing assistants] who work in the hospitals, and it turns out some of them are my neighbors."

He doesn't want to age himself too much, but he remembers how little there was for young people to do downtown before Expo '74.

"Now, it's great," Hudson says. "There are lots of places to go eat and for young people to go out." (SAMANTHA WOHLFEIL)

Art as a Way Out
8:45 pm, the sidewalk outside Crave

"Troggy" Victor, 30, and Destiny Brown, 36, sketch in their notebooks while sitting on the sidewalk around the corner from the entrance to Crave, a bar on Riverside. A book of Nordic Runes lays on the ground next to their drawings for sale.

"We try to sell our art and not ask for a handout. Instead we're offering something," Victor says. "When people ask us 'Why don't you get a job?' we say, 'We have one, it's our art.'"

Brown wants people to see her for her creativity and how she's different from some addicts.

"Amongst some of us street kids, we've been talking about how to make some changes," she says. "Things like picking up after yourself, because it's getting out of hand.

"The more society makes us look like criminals, the more people retaliate," she adds. "We've had dangers in the street because of it — people throwing stuff out of trucks and screaming."

What could help, they say, are words of encouragement.

"We already think we're f—-ing pieces of shit," Brown says. (SAMANTHA WOHLFEIL)

click to enlarge Muralists Erin Johnson and Timothy Lacey. - DANIEL WALTERS PHOTO
Daniel Walters photo
Muralists Erin Johnson and Timothy Lacey.

A Blank Canvas
7:37 pm, the alley behind 618 W. Riverside

Right now, all artists Erin Johnston, 28, and Timothy Lacey, 30, have is a blank canvas: a brick square, painted white, on the alley wall next to Wall Street, between Riverside and Main avenues. Johnston is mostly a watercolor painter and printmaker, Lacey is a writer, a photographer, a performance artist and a sculptor. But tonight, they're muralists. Lacey's perched on a ladder, while Johnston takes measurements. In two weeks — maybe by the time you read this — it will be Spokane Arts' latest downtown mural.

What it is, they don't want to say exactly. They want it to be a surprise.

Besides, words can't always properly describe the je ne sais quoi of a truly transcendent piece of art.

It's about the "perspective of future," Johnston says. It will be a combination of geometric and organic, a contrast between the two-dimensional and three-dimensional spaces.

"I would say that there's a childish nature to it, too," Johnston says. "That way people from our generation — any one of us — can relate to it."

Thaddeus Collett, a homeless man who often frequents the downtown Starbucks, watches them work with anticipation.

"I love art in all forms," Collett says. "Music, art, sculptures, paintings, all of it." (DANIEL WALTERS)

When Everything is Roses and Butterflies
7:39 pm, Anchored Art Tattoo on Riverside

Minutes before Anchored Art is set to close at 8 pm, artist Simon Gentry, 38, sits in a well-lit corner of the shop, finishing up a design.

His client, 53-year-old Trina Lock, sits cross-legged on a tattoo table as her daughter Laci Johnson, 33, looks on while they go over the design on paper.

"It's taken us a couple hours just to draw it up," Lock says.

"With the cover-up process, it's sometimes hard to work from paper, you know?" Gentry says. "The body being present is a big benefit to kind of get the layout correct."

The tattoo that needs covering up is on Lock's lower back.

"It's a butterfly and flowers, and we're covering it up with a butterfly and flowers, but it's going to be the right butterfly and flowers," Gentry says as Lock and Johnson laugh.

Gentry, who's been tattooing for 11 years, talks with Lock about the photo realism envisioned for the art. She says the only thing left is for her to pick out some colors. (SAMANTHA WOHLFEIL)

click to enlarge YOUNG KWAK PHOTO
Young Kwak photo

Comedy and Tragedy
8:03 pm, STA Plaza

David Martin's sitting on an STA Plaza park bench next to his new orange and silver Schwinn — he just bought it this morning for $10 from another guy on the street who wanted to buy a bus pass.

"The street has its own vibe," Martin says. "And you better get in line or you're going to die out here."

He says he landed on the street, homeless for the first time. A year from now, he wants to be back on his feet: He wants to have a place to stay, a full-time job, and more time to pursue one of his hobbies.

"I like to do stand-up comedy at the comedy club here," Martin says.

Mostly, he says, he just focuses on observations about life.

"I'm 56 years old. I've been laughing at life for 56 years," Martin says. "It's all funny."

But he hasn't worked his homelessness into his act. When he can, he hits the open mic night at the Spokane Comedy Club on Wednesdays. But he says that it's hard to find time to get to the club. Homelessness is a lot of work, it turns out.

"Being homeless is a full-time job," Martin says. "By the time you figure out how to shower, eat, you don't have time to get a job. You get caught up in a cycle, and you don't realize it. It's real easy to suck you in." (DANIEL WALTERS)

click to enlarge The Ridpath - DANIEL WALTERS PHOTO
Daniel Walters photo
The Ridpath

The Ridpath's Ups and Downs
8:22 pm, in front of the Ridpath Club Apartments

The neon red RIDPATH sign on Spokane's infamously troubled former hotel is lit tonight — mostly lit anyway. Four years after the neon sign was restored, the "I" and half of the "H" are flickering or have gone out completely.

Ken Owens, a 60-year-old volunteer dishwasher with Shalom Ministries, sits out front with a plastic bag of loose-leaf pipe tobacco. Thanks to a hookup from Frontier Behavioral Health, the Ridpath is his home now.

"Temporarily," he says. "Until they boot my ass out."

Sure, he has his problems with the Ridpath apartments — particularly with some unsavory tenants in neighboring units.

"But I live here because I can afford it, it's close to work, and there's an elevator," Owens says. "Homey don't do stairs anymore. I don't do stairs."

His knees giving him trouble?

"Knees, back, the whole damn body," Owens says. (DANIEL WALTERS)

click to enlarge Good times at Monterey Cafe. - YOUNG KWAK PHOTO
Young Kwak photo
Good times at Monterey Cafe.

No Occasion Necessary
9:06 pm, Wild Sage Bistro on Second

Service is winding down for the night, with only a few tables left in each section. Some are already on dessert, while others are just being presented with beautifully plated entrees from the restaurant's kitchen overseen by executive chef Charlie Connor.

A table of six is out to celebrate birthdays, while some two-tops by the window host pairs of women quietly chatting over glasses of wine.

Server Greysen Bjork, 29, who's been with Wild Sage for the past seven years but remains the youngest member of its waitstaff, says it's been a bit of a slow night for the restaurant, but notes that traffic tends to drop off as summer wanes.

While he acknowledges that Wild Sage is a popular destination for special occasion dinners, "we don't necessarily want it to be that way. We want to be a good place to come to for no reason." (CHEY SCOTT)

click to enlarge YOUNG KWAK PHOTO
Young Kwak photo

We'll Leave the Light On
9 pm, under the Browne Street railroad bridge

The lights are on under the Browne Street railroad bridge. At night, they're always on, bright and glaring. The lights were added both to make the underpass safer and to discourage the crowd of homeless campers who sleep under the overpass.

"It's their way of trying to drive people out," says a bearded man in a gray hoodie, who asked not to be named or photographed.

But the people haven't been driven out. They're trying their best to sleep under the viaduct anyway, shielding themselves from the glare by burrowing under blankets or draping their forearms over their eyes.

"Where else are you going to sleep? I mean, shit. I don't have a home to go to," the man says. "You want people to stand out in rain?"

If it starts raining tonight, he'll sleep under the bridge, too.

"I thought I'd be sleeping in my tent tonight, but it got stolen," he says. "Along with my bedroll."

He's frustrated with the state of downtown Spokane, with the dearth of shelter space compared with the surplus of abandoned buildings. He wants Spokane to stop "f—-ing with the homeless."

"You see a bunch of people sleeping in the tunnel and your first instinct when you drive under is to honk your horn? To wake them up? Bwonk! Honk! Honk!" he says. "For one, it's disrespectful. For two, it's inconsiderate. For three — never get so comfortable that you can look down your nose on someone else, because it only takes a blink of an eye for you to be in the same situation."

And what about people who feel unsafe or uncomfortable walking past homeless campers?

"If you feel uncomfortable and insecure, take another route," he says. "You've got people who ain't got nowhere else to go." (DANIEL WALTERS)

A Birthday You'll #NeverForget
9:08 pm, Stevens Street

Emily Goodner, a Thomas Hammer barista, exits her car, a flock of birthday balloons bobbing around her head. She's turning 39. And in celebration of the final year of her 30s, she made a "whole mess of cupcakes" — "vegan vanilla and very-much-not-vegan chocolate" — and sent out a mass Facebook invitation, calling a bunch of her friends to Berserk to celebrate.

"It's a very informal affair. I mean, I'm making cupcakes for my own birthday," Goodner says. "I just want everybody to come and say hi to me and have a cupcake."

It's surely bound to be better than her 21st birthday.

"My 21st birthday was three days after 9/11. It was very somber," Goodner says. "I was feeling very sad." (DANIEL WALTERS)

click to enlarge Police Sgt. Mike Russo on the graveyard shift. - YOUNG KWAK PHOTO
Young Kwak photo
Police Sgt. Mike Russo on the graveyard shift.

Different Day, Same Problems
9:47 pm, Division Street

As a recently promoted sergeant, Mike Russo, a long-time Spokane police officer, spends more time catching up on paperwork in his squad car and monitoring his subordinates remotely than actively seeking out crime. He's had to adjust to the supervisory role since he used to work as a beat cop in downtown Spokane on the graveyard shift for roughly 12 years.

But not everything is different. He's still working graveyard — he clocks in around 8 pm and typically doesn't head home until about 6 am — and spends a fair amount of time downtown.

In his view, the area's problems haven't changed much. On Friday nights, things pick up right before and after the bars close at 2 am. Then incidents stemming from the liquored-up bar crowds start popping up, like fights — and the occasional stabbing or shooting. The 24-hour 7-Eleven on Second Avenue attracts a small crowd of loiterers at night, resulting in drug use, drug dealing and occasional assaults. (Russo caveats this by noting that it's "very rare" to see "true stranger-to-stranger" violence. Typically people know each other first.) He also monitors the foot traffic outside of Catholic Charities' House of Charity emergency shelter.

"It's been the same issues," Russo, 42, says from behind the wheel of his unmarked squad car. "The names of the venues have changed. But the problems have relatively stayed the same."

Hammered bar patrons aren't the only people walking downtown's streets at night. As Russo is heading north on Division, a white-clad man meanders across the busy thoroughfare, obstructing three lanes of traffic. Russo flashes his lights and veers off into the parking lot of Clark's Cleaners, where he finds the man lying down in a doorway illuminated by an overhead lamp.

"You almost got hit by a car," Russo tells the man in white, later identified as 35-year-old Steven Pitro. He says he's been homeless for a year and sticks around downtown, sleeping on sidewalks; he was going to sleep here before Russo bumped into him.

"I know. My bad. Sorry about that," Pitro says, still lying down on the ground. He seems relatively calm, but he talks at a fast clip that betrays agitation and his sentences occasionally devolve into incoherency.

Russo asks: "So what's your main problem?"

Pitro says he's been having digestive issues for the last few hours, like puking and diarrhea.

"We'll get someone to check on you," Russo says, before calling for back-up.

Pitro adds that he went to the nearby House of Charity emergency shelter earlier, but they allegedly wouldn't let him use the bathroom: "They wouldn't let me use the restroom, like what the hell?" he says. "They're like 'go to the Starbucks.' Like Starbucks really wants a homeless person to use their restroom."

When asked by the Inlander where he's from, Pitro says Colorado. His answer on how he ended up here, however, is less clear: "My mom's husband," he says, before launching into another tangent about how House of Charity denied him access to the restroom. He says that he doesn't get along with the staff at House of Charity or the Union Gospel Mission. And since he's out on the street a lot, his stuff gets stolen frequently, like money and clothes: "The stuff I need is always valuable. It's always wanted."

"I've been trying to get off the curb right now. Get an apartment, get a job is what I was thinking," he adds. "F—- being homeless."

Russo leaves Pitro with another police officer who arrives on the scene, telling him that there's "no enforcement action."

After he's pulled away, Russo says that he could have given the man a ticket for jaywalking or arrested him for misdemeanor pedestrian interference: "Three lanes of traffic had to stop to avoid making him a hood ornament," he notes.

Instead, Russo says he just wanted to get the man medical attention.

"It looks like he may be going up to the hospital," he says later while driving past the spot where he left Pitro, which is now crowded with emergency medical personnel. "Good." (JOSH KELETY)

click to enlarge The Gamer's Arcade bar. - ERICK DOXEY PHOTO
Erick Doxey photo
The Gamer's Arcade bar.

No Ticket, No Badge, No Service
8:34 pm, Intermodal Center

There are two solitary figures sitting in either corner of the Intermodal Center waiting room, a vast gulf of chairs between them. I don't get to talk to them, though.

The days when a reporter could just sit in the Intermodal Center for hours, interviewing strangers waiting for the most unreliable train in America, are over.

You can't be in here, the mustached security guard explains. He eyes me and my camera with suspicion. You don't have a ticket. Tickets aren't being sold until 10. He's not in the mood to argue. There's a sign and everything. The ACLU and the City Council have made a huge deal about this, he says. Indeed, outrage over regular Border Patrol raids at this facility have made national news and the City Council passed an ordinance barring Border Patrol from the station unless they have a warrant.

Yet while reporters are kicked out, Border Patrol agents have still been able to walk in and conduct raids any time they want.

What, the security guard responds, is he going to try to tell federal law enforcement agents what they can't do? You want to protest Border Patrol? Go down to their headquarters, he says. But without a ticket, you can't stay here. (DANIEL WALTERS)

click to enlarge A Lime bike juicer's ride. - CHEY SCOTT PHOTO
Chey Scott photo
A Lime bike juicer's ride.

Juice Squeeze
10:20 pm, the parking lot next to Revival Lighting on Main

James Meeker has 11 Lime scooters stacked on their sides in the back of his white RAV4 SUV. He can fit one more before it's time for him and his wife, who moonlight as Lime "Juicers," to head home and unload.

The couple has been charging the ubiquitous rentable scooters since June, and have already earned more than $2,700, enough to help fund an upcoming vacation to Florida, Meeker says.

"We're out doing it probably three to four nights a week," he says. "I have a full-time job so sometimes that does interfere."

Meeker explains that just before 10 pm each night, the Lime app populates a map to show scooters or bikes that need to be recharged, with batteries at 60 percent or below. Most of the scooters around Spokane needing a charge at that time should earn a Juicer about $4 each, but can be worth more later in the night as time runs out.

The next morning before 7 am, it's up to these Juicers to then drop off their collection of fully charged scooters at a designated "hub" noted on Lime's map.

The Meekers aren't the only Juicers out and about right now — it's prime time for juicing. An older couple parked next to the couple also have several scooters loaded up in their truck bed. Meanwhile, a large truck drives by on Main with several dozen scooters secured in back.

"This area right here is a huge population zone," Meeker says. "Just before 10 pm you will see three to four people with vehicles out here starting to pick them up." (CHEY SCOTT)

click to enlarge A bouncer outside the Globe. - YOUNG KWAK PHOTO
Young Kwak photo
A bouncer outside the Globe.

...Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys
10:30 pm, at the Satellite Diner counter

There's half a dozen staff working the counter at the Satellite at 10:30 pm. The men and women are all tattooed and pierced with long hair. Most are in their 20s. It's a busy night. Laptops are open as students with headphones silently bury themselves into their screens munching on french fries and slurping coffee as the early waves of bar hoppers file in in groups of two, four and five.

A man named "Cowboy" takes a seat at the bar by himself, peering around the room. He came down here with a friend from Lucky's, across the street on Sprague. It's been a long time since he's been to downtown Spokane. "It's cool," he says.

He's originally from Spokane, but had been living in Tri-Cities with his wife. She died in a car accident about a year and a half ago, he says. He came here to get back to his roots.

"I miss her everyday," he says, as he shows a picture of a blond-haired woman on his phone.

How do you cope?

"Drugs."

What kind?

"Meth."

He tips back the small cup of ice water and crunches down. The waitress, Sabrina, asks if he wants a refill, but he declines.

Cowboy is 49. His 20-year-old girlfriend also keeps him pretty distracted, he says. He was about to go home and "eat a bullet" the night he met her, but she saved his life, he says. She's in jail currently. He considered bailing her out, but he says she needs to learn her lesson.

"She wants to be a model, but she needs to get her act together." (QUINN WELSCH)

Bride and Bride to Be
10:43 pm, Division and Main

A bride and groom walk up Division, still in their gown and tux, followed closely by two of their groomsmen as they pass Borracho and Boombox Pizza on their way back to their hotel.

Seconds later, three women in high heels and form-fitting dresses walk out of Borracho. One stumbles slightly on the sidewalk before catching her balance and adjusting the sash she and her friends wear to let people know that they're out for a bachelorette party.

Meanwhile, dozens of partiers line the sidewalks along the block, waiting to get into Borracho and the Globe for dancing. A group huddles outside the door to Blind Buck, which is packed for its weekly drag show. (SAMANTHA WOHLFEIL)

click to enlarge Michael Schumacher - YOUNG KWAK PHOTO
Young Kwak photo
Michael Schumacher

'Hard Time Managing Things'
9:15 pm, the sidewalk at Washington and Riverside

"I was a very clean person," says 62-year-old Michael Schumacher as he sets down the large black trash bag holding his belongings.

He says he hasn't showered in maybe three months. Currently, he's been sleeping under the train overpass three blocks up on Washington Street.

The oldest of seven in a Catholic family, he says he worked for 37 years, most recently at a place that builds telecommunications equipment. He can't clearly say how long he's been homeless.

He stayed at Union Gospel Mission over a year ago and says he couldn't handle it due to claustrophobia, anxiety and depression, which he's seen doctors about.

"I have a really hard time managing things. It's an effort just to sleep," he says, his eyes welling up with tears. "I'm a very good person in my mind. I just need some help." (SAMANTHA WOHLFEIL)

click to enlarge Atilano's - SAMANTHA WOHLFEIL PHOTO
Samantha Wohlfeil photo
Atilano's

Late Night Snack
2:35 am, Atilano's on Third

There's hardly a line at Atilano's, which is surprising for the popular late-night restaurant now that the bars are closed.

A handful of young men in Davenport uniforms wait patiently in a booth close to the front, listening for their orders.

A staff member in a visor calls out three orders that have been sitting on the counter unclaimed. One gets picked up, the others remain abandoned for now.

The restaurant is out of flan tonight, but fried ice cream can be ordered to go, mounded up in a crispy tortilla shell with whipped cream and chocolate sauce.

A group of friends walks outside, happy to be carrying bags of warm food home and glad that nothing too eventful happened tonight, even though it was Friday the 13th and a full moon. (SAMANTHA WOHLFEIL) ♦

About The Authors

Josh Kelety

As a staff writer, Josh covers criminal justice issues and Spokane County government. Previously, he worked as a reporter for Seattle Weekly. Josh grew up in Port Townsend and graduated from the University of Washington. Message him through Signal @ (360) 301-3490.

Chey Scott

Chey Scott is the Inlander's food and listings editor. She compiles the weekly events calendar for the print and online editions of the Inlander, manages and edits the food section, and also writes about local arts and culture. Chey (pronounced Shay) is a lifelong Spokanite and a graduate of Washington State University...

Daniel Walters

A lifelong Spokane native, staff writer Daniel Walters is the Inlander's City Hall reporter. But he also reports on a wide swath of other topics, including business, education, real estate development, land use, and other stories throughout North Idaho and Spokane County.He's reported on deep flaws in the Washington...

Quinn Welsch

Quinn Welsch is the copy editor of the Inlander.

Samantha Wohlfeil

Samantha Wohlfeil covers the environment, rural communities and cultural issues for the Inlander. Since joining the paper in 2017, she's reported how the weeks after getting out of prison can be deadly, how some terminally ill Eastern Washington patients have struggled to access lethal medication, and other sensitive...

Polly Apfelbaum: Frequently the Woods are Pink @ Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art WSU

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