Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Eternally Damned

Dear Spokanticles,

It's come to my attention that most of you know where you are because you have lived here your whole lives. I think that's wonderful. That's what gives a place character and local flavor. Thank you, you stayers you.

Consider this, you've never been lost in Spokane. You've never been new here or anywhere. The one way streets, the curving, sudden dead ends, the roads that suddenly bridge to other states, these you know like the tiles on your bathroom floor. These are quirks you can't even see. But we newbies, we uninitiated, we lost folks just trying to get home before the school bus... to us, these things are not obvious. When you honk at the 24-way stop without street labels, all you are saying is this, "I know where I am! I know what to do here! I wish you did too!" Believe me, when I say this: I wish I knew too! I wish I knew where I was. I wish I knew what to do at 36-way stops. I wish I knew what you know. But I don't. And your honking isn't going to suddenly make it clear. You're simply crowing about how smart and special you think you are because you know all 'bout Spokane's streets. Big deal. You know this town you were born in. Good for you.

Spokane is a very old town, with very old roads, and very quirky paths. The map of South hill looks like root-bound chives. It may be hard to believe, but there was a day, a time, an era, when I loved new towns. When I was never lost because I was free to follow any path. But the Old me, the me without a child sitting on the front porch, locked out of the house because I've been lost for two hours, that old me couldn't get lost. How can one get lost when one has no destination? I bragged, perhaps even to you here: I've NEVER been lost, except once in a town in Mexico. It's true. I've an infallible sense of direction. And if I were a crow, I'd be in luck. But here. I'm driving North, and suddenly the road careens west, then east, then south and now North again. Yes, I am going North. But where? In Idaho? In Canada? And if I take this road, does it get me back to the neighborhood I need to be in? Apparently not. It looked like it would, but then it doubled back and I'm going North again, in Istanbul.

My mis-adventures have, as they always do, brought be to beauty I didn't know I was missing. Your town, your 130 year old boom town is one of the most beautiful I have ever seen. Jaw dropping architecture. Tear jerking ancient estates. I have already wept beneath arches and embellished wedding cake towers, and not only because I am lost, but because I have found buildings worthy of the resources and hours put into to them, buildings worthy to stand through time, testaments to the greatest potential of human imagination. Sooo... perhaps that's also why I'm drifting into your honking lane. It's the surprising grace of brick and the elegant curl of stone, these perfect oxymorons your eyes are likely numbed to, that prevent me from driving straight and finding my way home.

So, my dear Spokanticles, if I'm not quite driving between the lines, it's because I'm drunk on the beauty of your town. And if I'm lost at the 48-way intersection, it's because they just shouldn't exist. I'll be laying on the horn too, just to vent the frustrations of the foreigner. Consider it the sound of the eternally lost, the eternally damned.


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