The Spokesman-Review : interns

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Jessica: Eating More than My Words

I grew increasingly concerned at the end of May with the laughter that followed my announcement: I’m moving to Spokane this summer.

“You’re going where?” was the response from some Berkeley elitists who view any city with fewer than seven different ethnic restaurants as uninhabitable.

It’s not my summer internship at The Spokesman-Review that made them scoff. The paper is well regarded in journalism schools for its regional coverage, including the one I attend, University of California-Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. What spurred the chuckles was the notion these Northern California die-hards carried about Spokane, described to me as something between a Midwest turnpike stop and an industrial-based, Mohawk-sporting town.

I told them that’s part of the reason I chose to come. It’s an area of the country I’ve never encountered. As I reporter I need to learn how to cover town council meetings as eloquently and thoroughly as protests in Kosovo. Plus, it’s beautiful, I added. To further pacify myself, I would spout off one of Spokane’s numerous mottos and reiterate key phrases from the guidebook regarding scenic views from South Hill or trails along the river.

Actually, I gulped. I packed my Vietnamese hot sauce and rice noodles. I threw a library of books into the trunk of my car. I read what I thought would be my last hard copy of The New York Times.

Then I arrived.

I entered Huckleberry’s and found that the prices rival San Francisco’s. The beer selection is greater than in my hometown of Washington, D.C. I walked downtown and discovered a minimalist-style wine bar lodged between classic brick buildings. There was even a skyline.

Beyond the availability of goods--although being an outrageous but broke foodie, I did feel some relief at these discoveries--art and music festivals were taking place the weekend I arrived and posters advertised concerts and events throughout the summer.

The city oozed a character that surprised me. Somewhere between yuppie trendiness and blue collar comfort, Spokane is reinventing itself. But it’s doing so at its own pace. First impressions are often overly generalized, and I hesitate to make such assumptions so quickly. Yet, visitor perceptions can sometimes reveal what longtime residents have ceased to notice.

Most importantly, the people characterize a town, and there’s something to be said about community. A Friday afternoon discussion with two women at an outside café in Browne’s Addition grew into a table of eight and an entire evening, followed by sailing on “the lake” the next day.

I might not be used to smiling at strangers and I will probably crave Indian food at some point during these next two months. Yet, to cast aside Spokane as a bland small town on the way to somewhere else is to miss out on a city worth exploring.

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3 Comments:

  • fyi, there are at least a couple of indian restaurants in spokane. try the phone book.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:15 PM  

  • Try Taste of India in Spokane Valley. (11114 E. Sprague Ave.)

    It's a reincarnated version of downtown's Bombay Palace which unfortunately closed this spring.

    Have fun!

    By Anonymous Jennifer, at 7:41 AM  

  • If you're a frustrated Bay Area resident considering selling your overpriced condo and coming to Spokane to carve a mini-ranch out of the woods and sell pottery or whatever, please ignore what you've read here. You can't buy rice noodles in Spokane, we only have one restaurant - Arby's - and it closes at 5:30. Plus we get like 300 feet of snow in the winter.

    Seriously - you wouldn't like it here...

    By Blogger ken, at 4:06 PM  

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