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Broken Mic is far from Broken

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By Audrey Connor

I’ve been hearing about Spokane’s poetry scene for a long time – I was even invited to observe or participate at least three times in the past couple of months. So last night, I thought I’d go check it out.

A half hour pre-Mic—maybe 1/5 of the actual mid-show crowd

As it happens, this particular Broken Mic—an open-mic for fiction, non-fiction, and poetry writers at Neato Burrito—was the RiverLit Zine debut celebration, so the focus of the evening for the first half hour was its contributors. (I picked up a copy of the hard-spined, glossy-paper zine for a tidy ten bucks, and as Taylor Weech assured us, “these will be collectibles someday.” RiverLit is a product of RiverSpeak, a website and community built on the principle of getting more Spokane artists moved into the public eye. Painters, sculptors, musicians, printers, dancers, poets—pretty much all are welcome and encouraged at RiverSpeak. The network’s Community ranges from amateurs to professional Spokane art-scene staples, and the entire scope of the website is dedicated to resources for Spokane artists (and art-lovers) to connect, submit, and be promoted. The RiverLit zine features 19 writers in 3 fiction and 17 poetic works in their summer issue, number 2 in a series orchestrated by Keely Honeywell and Weech.

 

Broken Mic itself is a fairly loose-formatted, all-ages welcome venue for writers (fiction, non-fiction, as well as poetry) to get up and strut their stuff. It’s pretty clear that it mostly comprises of regulars who attend every week; however I saw at least five people get up and read who’d never done so before, including the aforementioned RiverLit-ers. The entire operation is championed by Mark Anderson, who radiates earnestness and a sincere affection for language as well as the crowd that fills up Neato Burrito’s small space to embrace it.

Want a Summer RiverLit Zine? Check out Magcloud

A Local Calling

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By Crystal Clark

This old phone box was standing on the corner of First and Jefferson, crying out for a bit of attention. A quick whip of string and tin can later we have a play on outmoded technology and the connections we make in our modern lives.

My son is a natural in front of the camera, that stance is all his own. The way his left knee bends and head tilts recall his no fuss attitude.

As of today, the tin can is no longer hanging there. Given the area the phone box is in, I’m guessing the can was clipped from it’s string for recycling money.

For Som: Grief.

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I am taking a walk with someone today whom I have only begun to know. He’s saying something about “my twin brother and I…”

“–Wait. You have a twin brother?”

“Did. He died, oh, about three years ago.”

“…”

I fumble through the awkward what-do-you-say’s in my head and settle on, “How is that for you?” Only because my time was up and I had to say something.

“Honestly, it hasn’t been awful. I reached acceptance really early.”

“Oh.” I don’t have a response for that because nobody has ever answered with anything other than: “Awful. Devastating. Catastrophic.”

I do the panic thing and start rambling on about my own experiences with grief because what the fuck else is there to do. He says he felt guilt about not doing grief right until a friend told him however he’s doing it is doing it right.

SomWe get back, he takes off and I open my laptop to Facebook.

“We’ve lost Som Jordan,” posts someone.

“What do you mean, lost?” says someone else.

Nobody is talking about cause of death, which means it’s suicide. I know that already but I pretend I don’t know and ask around just hoping it’s something else.

The paper later reports that Isamu “Som” Jordan, a huge influence in Spokane’s music and journalism scene, was found in his home this morning. Cause of death: apparent suicide.

There is this prevailing struggle with how did he possibly not see the glow around him that everybody else saw. Everybody’s posting this music video he made with Flying Spiders. The only text they include is the song’s title: “Spokane’s Finest.”

I know nothing about anything about this situation. I do know it’s not coincidence that those people we think are invincible, brilliant, miles above us — our icons — also often suffer very deeply. Searching for truth does not turn up unicorns and rainbows.

Now that that’s said, I want to talk about grief, and that you should do it however you want.

You don’t have to cry to care. You can go to a vigil or not go to a vigil. Nobody gets to tell you you didn’t know him well enough to grieve or that you’re not grieving sufficiently or right.

Today, as I grieve the loss of a friend, a lot of grief from past losses tumbles onto me as well. It all feels very messy and maybe someone would tell me I was missing the point.

When people pry about the details, some may say they’re missing the point. Maybe they are. Or maybe they have questions because they care. Because suicide is not a thing we talk about much, and it’s confusing and it hurts and maybe they feel like answers will make it hurt less. (Spoiler: It will very likely make it hurt more.)

When people spit out platitudes on the internet, some may say they’re missing the point. When they do, or they don’t, organize a benefit concert. When they speculate. When they try to talk about suicide in general or death in general or grief in general. When they do or don’t cry.

This is the messy that we’re challenged to navigate with grace: simultaneously grieving and giving others the space to do their own version of that. There are a lot of us because Som had a generous spirit. Let that be a good thing.

3 Deadly Excuses to Stop Stalling Spokane

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When you ask people in the park what they like about Spokane they say “it’s not too big” and “doesn’t have traffic like Seattle”. Some think Spokanites are “friendly” while others point out our access to nature and recreational resources.

On the flip side, comments about barriers to Spokane’s success contain equally generic and uninspired viewpoints. But this set of assumptions has a much more dire effect on our regional mindset. Let me challenge the basis of the top three most cherished Spokane excuses:

1) Spokane just needs more time.

PROGRESS IS NOT A FUNCTION OF TIME

Ask yourself “How many thousands of years was China under dynastic rule?” It is naive to assume some natural process of growth towards more democratic and/or sustainable societies. These practices do not develop on their own. They result from cultural patterns that are directly influenced by a complex variety of real world circumstances. THIS is where the focus should be kept, not asking “Is the time finally right?” I would agree with the truism that “timing is everything” – but this nugget of wisdom shouldn’t be taken proscriptively.

Creating your own opportune moments is a powerful skill to develop. If we can get past the limit imposed by this ‘glacial time assumption’ the challenge becomes identifying methods that accelerate the process of change itself. The social time scales of the past should not be inappropriately applied to the ever-changing possibilities for the future.

2) Spokane needs new people.

NEW BODIES WON’T REPLACE OLD ATTITUDES

Often I hear it said that we have to “be patient” and wait for all the old fossils to die off before things can really start to move ahead. A variation on this idea is that Spokane needs to import a bunch of “enlightened” Californians or outside corporate talent to cancel out the effects of suspicious natives or make our economy sing.

It is hopelessly narcissistic to assume that attitudinal barriers to change will disappear with certain members of the society that espouse them. Let us not forget that these people have children (often times a larger number of them) and ideas about the what makes the world tick have a funny way of transferring through generational lines. At some point social activists will have to suck up their uncertainty and (gasp) actually engage the criticisms they despise.

3) Spokane is too poor.

HOW WE SPEND IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN TOTAL SPENDING

First off, as an American city, Spokane has a lot of fat to burn. The question is how we burn it. Are our dollars squandered on flat screen TVs or invested into energy efficient dishwashers? Do we allow our limited money to be vacuumed out of the local sphere by national and international corporate conglomerates, or do we circulate our dollars faster and more effectively in our own vibrant micro-economy?

Culture change can be spearheaded on a shoestring. The question must involve how to win hearts and minds, the money will follow. Just ask a preacher! Let’s remember one doesn’t loose weight by buying a fancy gym membership, one actually has to work out to get rid of those pounds.

Bucking up.

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This is what I looked like before I was sad.

OH MY GOD JANUARY. It is so awful. There is science proving how awful it is — or “pseudoscience,” at least. According to Science, the most depressing day of the year hasn’t even happened yet — it’s on January 21st.

Factors include things like weather, holiday debt, motivation and days since falling off the New Years resolution wagon. There should also be something about “likelihood that you are hacking up a lung.” And “number of fights you’ve had with friends and/or strangers on the internet in the past week.”

Having moved through the preliminary stages of utter despair, including

pretending to just be having a bad week
getting drunk on bad beer several days in a row
coming to terms with the semi-permanent nature of the situation
and
unfettered self-pity,
I have now moved into a considerably more pleasurable stage: self-comfort. This is the part where you stop just feeling sorry for yourself and do something about it. Like eat scones every day, regard attending one yoga class in a week as a Feat of Strength, and read long-form articles about Lindsey Lohan making a low-budg film.

I’m even using my favorite mug — which (neurosis alert) I use as little as possible to prevent it from ever breaking or getting lost — on the daily.

It’s wonderful. I am pretending/recognizing that I have a disease, and treating that disease by treating myself awesomely. Which leads me to wonder why I don’t do this all the time.

Being inexplicably sad has led me to living more wholly. For now, as a survival technique. But later, maybe just for fun.

A Hotbed for Cold Electricity

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While the worlds stands aghast at massive oil spills in the Gulf, or the political football about where to bury left over atomic waste, Spokane has become a harbor for a handful of independent, non-funded technical researchers who are on a quest to revolutionize the way the world generates power. These fringe physicists and electrical engineers defy the laws of thermodynamics, and are working with humble means to discover a new technology that they believe will supply more energy than their inventions would consume.

This search for an endless fountain of “free energy” has become a lifetime calling for many in our area, and they have slowly evolved their own community of interest. Just a few weeks ago Coeur d’Alene was home to the first world free energy conference of its kind. Outside this network of support they receive no assistance whatsoever from academic or government organizations. This is not surprising, given that the law of Conservation of Energy is the solid bedrock for classical physics and chemistry. Despite opposition from every establishment, they trudge on in search of a system that would represent an age-changing event.

But why would so many of the country’s cold electricity researchers congregate in the Inland Northwest? They all agree, to the best of their knowledge, that there is no other place on the planet where so many authors, bloggers and active experimenters are engaged in this heretical subject. Is it something about our regional culture? Something in the ether, perhaps? Either way, for the sake of the planet, one can only hope they might stumble across that new Holy Grail after all.

A Parade for Peace

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Here’s what Michael Kinsley from Seattle’s Politico had to say about the shooting in Tucson:

“No one is suggesting that one of those voices in the assassin’s head was John Boehner’s cigarette growl or that Loughner had even heard of Sarah Palin when he started saying nutty, paranoid things. No one is suggesting that he got the idea that the number six is somehow indistinguishable from the number 18 from the 2008 Republican Party platform. The suggestion is that we live in a political atmosphere in which nutty views (President Obama isn’t a U.S. citizen.) and alarming rhetoric (“Second Amendment remedies” are the answer to disappointment at the ballot box.) are widespread and often go unrebutted. The suggestion, finally, is that the right is largely responsible for a political atmosphere in which extreme thoughts are more likely to take root and flower.But all of this is now too uncivil to bring up. So wherever could Loughner have gotten his paranoid contempt for government? Who told him that the government was this hulking, all-powerful “other” determined to control and ruin his life? Official answer: He’s crazy! What more do you need to know?…”

Just last week a similar attempt occurred at our Martin Luther Kind Jr. March. I first think of the catastrophe that would have occurred if this backpack bomb was indeed successful, and then of the heroes it took to thwart the attack. Now that Spokane has stopped showing up on CNN and The Rachel Maddow Show, it’s time for us to take a long hard look at the why this potentially tragic event occurred.

So many are blaming this event on the way political discourse has taken shape in the past could of years, others are attributing it to a complicated mental illness. Because the insight in to the mind or minds that planted the bomb in downtown Spokane is limited, it’s time for us to reflect on what acts of hatred could spawn from such a peaceful message.

I take the utmost pride in Spokane because on the variety of neighbors. It is when the variety of neighbors begin to do damage to others that I start to question our city.

What’s next? Is it our political rhetoric? Is it the Inland Northwest’s history of white supremacy? Regardless of last week’s bombing catalyst, we need to reflect, as a community, on the language we use to to discuss opposing political parties. More so, we must reflect on how we confront this attempted together.

What can you do to support peace, love and safety in the coming years? What can we do to ensure an attack like this is never successful?

Baroque Network Now

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Now that we are coming down off our high from Terrain people are wanting to know what is next. There is a yearning for more frequent “mini-Terrains” that feature local businesses and offer regular social networking opportunities. Baroque Design and their recently assembled “Creative Team” has got that wish list item covered. In a town as vibrant and bumpin’ as Spokane, you don’t have to wait another 365 days to have an exceptionally awesome experience with your friends. In fact, this debut event is going down this Thursday night at the Glover Mansion for free!

Not unlike the beloved Metro Spokane parties (may they R.I.P.) there will be a photo booth, except this one will have a themed back drop old school style, attended by house photographer Kelsey Woodward. This month is “Miami Vice” so be sure to break out your sleeker duds to work the scene. In Portland obscure theme parties were all the rage. In Spokane I feel some are still reluctant to venture outside the comfort of their favorite blue jeans, but that is OK. If you need a hint, here is a clue:

 

Anahie & Simona in Miami Beach, by Seth Barlow of Spokane

There will be artwork by Darcy Drury, tunes by Benjamin Jorgens, and laughs by Lance Paullin – the perfect comedian for this theme. Sometimes he can get a little, shall we say, risque? So who is behind all these generous people and why are they organizing parties to bring together Spokane’s creative/entrepreneurial circles?

We are very passionate about community, local business, and the arts. Networking and encouragement go hand in hand to create a better city to live in. With creating more ways we can be heard, we can create more opportunities to succeed.

We at Baroque want to create a collaborative of entrepreneurs, artists, musicians, politicians, or anybody who just wants to be involved in their community to create a tight knit Spokane local community that is pro active in their passion. -Matt and Alanna, Organizers

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Alice in White Park

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Maybe I’m exposing my own ignorance here, but what on earth is this White Park that shows up in Google maps? Clearly “Gloven Field” is incorrect (it is supposed to be Glover Field) but White Park is news to me.

Spanning much of the land that is slated for eventual development by Greenstone, we wonder if the above area would be more appropriately labeled White Parking Lot.

I wonder what documents the Google team draws upon when they create these maps? Was there a White Park on the books somewhere back in our City’s history? Not apparently. Searching for White Park Spokane results in a bunch of directions to Aubrey L. White Park up by the Little Spokane.

What our classmates didn’t know.

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I’m reposting this story today in celebration of a guilty verdict. It was originally published on May 29, 2012 at community-building.org. 

Jolie sat on a blue picnic table outside our school cafeteria, soaking in the sun in her pleather pants and snug purple top. She wore tall, black platform boots, I think.

Whatever she wore, it was proof of everything they said about her.

We — my friend group du jour (friends have never been my strong suit) — ate lunch on the bridge nearby. I stood next to Mark*, my new best friend, who had dated Jolie from middle school until earlier that year. She used to stand where I now stood, her “in” status in the social circle as tenuous as mine. And now that I stood there, I needed to fit in.

When Jolie and Mark split, everybody sided with him. When her name came up during lunch, everybody had something to say about her, and given the pleather and all, I figured it was all probably true.

She was definitely weird.

Proof: The year before, somebody had posted anonymous letters on our AP English class online forum, signed “OuTsIdEr LoOkInG iN.” In her poems, OuTsIdEr damned us all. She describing her lonely world — not fitting in, being judged for being different.

Jolie sat in the row ahead of me, right at the front of the class. We burned twenty holes in the back of her crimped hair. We were indignant. I wasn’t a super cruel person in high school, nor was I popular or rich or even happy — I had my own share of too-intense-for-high-school things to deal with — so I didn’t feel like she was talking to me. What had I ever done to her?

We all pretended we had no idea who OuTsIdEr could be. She was just crying out for attention, we concluded, and we moved on to Lord of the Flies.

Senior year, Jolie and I both made the alto section of our school’s A Cappella choir. Let’s put it this way: She projected. As such, she was moved to the back row, where I stood (I also, um, projected), and we made uncomfortable conversation between run-throughs.

In the Spring, I invited her to go to church with me (which is different from being friends, because it means  you’re trying to save someone’s soul), and she came, probably because people didn’t ask her to do stuff very often.

Somewhere in between learning the Second Alto part for the Spring concert and riding together in her purple sedan to youth group, I learned a few things about her that nobody had bothered to mention on the bridge at lunch.

Her house, at the gateway to our neatly-groomed suburban town, didn’t look like mine. It was dirty and small on the inside, with ratty carpets and dishes piled up in the kitchen. Her mother had leathery skin and cursed with a raspy voice. Her twin siblings ran around with hair poking out in every direction. Spaghetti dinner was served on plastic Mickey Mouse plates. Her stepfather was nowhere to be found.

Listening to Oasis in her bedroom, which was plastered with every Oasis poster ever printed, she told me about her biological father, who had become a vegetable after a motorcycle accident and was kind of an asshole anyway.

My dad was kind of an asshole, too, I said, so I understood. Since my parents had split, he’d kind of gone MIA and only ever bought pasta, yogurt and Cheez-Its when he went grocery shopping. I didn’t even like yogurt.

What did your dad do? I asked.

After my parents split, when I was a baby, he stole me and hid me out of state, she said.

Oh.

I asked about Mark.

We got pregnant, she said, and I had an abortion. He didn’t want me to, but he didn’t really want a kid at seventeen, either. Now he won’t talk to me.

Oh.

I think I stopped asking about stuff after that, but I eventually learned that her stepfather gambled, her mother didn’t work and her grandparents owned the disheveled house. When she’d come home after work at Jack in the Box, sometimes the electricity was shut off. She payed for her own choir trips and school fees with Jack in the Box money.

Just before the end of Senior year, Jolie came over with smudged mascara glistening through her glasses. She had told the school counselor something and she couldn’t stay at home anymore. It had taken four years for her to speak up; she hadn’t thought anyone would believe her. There was a warrant out for her stepfather’s arrest and her mother was so mad. Not at him, for what he’d done, but at her, for telling.

We pushed two twin beds together in my room and stayed up late talking. My father and my new stepmom said of course she could stay.

We cut class together on Senior Ditch Day, except we didn’t go to the pool with everyone else; we went to Lake Tahoe instead. We went to prom in the neighboring city with her new boyfriend — whom she had met at church — and his friends.

We giggled in choir, and I ignored everyone who was now looking very nervous when I talked to them. We were late to our own graduation, our hair still wet from an afternoon at the lake.

At the restaurant before the ceremony, her mother announced she had superglued in her fake tooth for the occasion. My mother sent back her Bloody Mary because it was too salty.

We caught air in the purple sedan going 55 over bumps on the way to the school, arriving the gymnasium just in time to thrown on our gowns and walk. We laughed the whole night.

Jolie’s stepfather made national news this month when the U.S. Marshalls finally tracked him down in New Jersey, where he’d stayed under the radar for ten years.

I hadn’t kept in touch after college. She became more involved in church and I stopped going at all. She got married and I didn’t. She got a “real job” and bought a house — things I never got around to doing.

When I saw the news — Jolie telling her story on TV in our hometown — I sat in my bedroom crying. Out of relief for her, mostly, regret that I had let small things interfere with our ability to support one another, and a rush of the pain knew she’d endured each day that she waited for justice.

Ten years ago, I filled an entire page with a pink glitter gel pen in Jolie’s senior year book. To close, I wrote, “Ten years from now, we’ll probably see each other and pick up right where we left off.”

Jolie and I saw each other for the first time in two years last month, and it was like we hadn’t missed a day (except that we had tons to catch up on, so we stayed up into the wee hours of the morning drinking wine and talking).

I had come home with a mission — to visit the places where we had grown up — and I asked her to come with me.

First thing Saturday morning, we went by the elementary school. Nothing, not even the crusty old pale yellow tether balls, had changed since we left. We recalled being in next-door classes in fourth and fifth grade and posed for a picture on the United States map still painted on the blacktop. I remember the drinking fountain being a lot taller.

We grabbed coffee at what used to be the town’s one grocery store, where we used to walk to after school.

When we arrived at the high school, Jolie tensed. We took a photo outside the choir room, making exaggerated singing gestures for the the camera, then walked toward the cafeteria, across the bridge.

Jolie stopped on the bridge and I lifted my camera to snap a photo. Through the lens, I saw that she was crying. I brushed back her bangs to wipe the black streak emerging from the corner of her eye.

Committed to the potential cathartic value of the experience, we trudged on to complete our tour — but it wasn’t one of reminiscing about first kisses and that time when the quarterback got in a fight with that dorky kid in the quad. (This is what I imagine other kids remember about high school, but maybe we were all quietly trying to make sense of bigger things.) We peered through the window of the library where she would hide for lunch, making friends with the librarian instead of the other kids; the classroom where OuTsIdEr sat staring straight ahead with her hair in flames.

We finally mustered smiles for a picture when we both raised a middle finger in front of the school mascot, a yellow and blue Trojan sprawled across the Administrative Office wall.

Then we ate really big cheeseburgers.

Our ten-year high school reunion was this last weekend. Jolie posted this on wall for the reunion’s Facebook event:

Over the past few months I have pondered how I can convey my anxiety for the event upon us tomorrow. I want so much to see many people and reconnect and get past the bad memories I have from my childhood but I also don’t want to be superficial and just pretend that everything is ok.

…I have described to many people that for me growing up in El Dorado Hills was extremely difficult. I was the poor kid in a rich neighborhood. When I came to Brooks in 4th grade I wore Salvation Army prairie dresses and spandex shorts while my peers were wearing Abercrombie & Fitch. I would come home to lights and water turned off because the bills weren’t paid. In high school my mom drove me to school in a car with an A-Trak while many of my peers were being driven to school in BMWs. On top of that my home life was difficult consisting of physical and emotional abuse and parents with gambling, alcohol, and drug addictions.

Some of you may remember the “OuTsIdEr LoOkInG iN”: a series of poems and writings I placed “anonymously” on the Carr webpage we had for our English classes sophmore year. In them I wrote of my feelings of being ostracized by my peers and the world. I remember sitting in class saddened that no one had empathy for that poor girl and instead called her names… and most didn’t even know who she was. I was broken and hurting and wanted so much to be accepted and loved… by someone… anyone… my family… my peers.

…I know now that none of us were equipped with the skills it took to truly be supportive of a person going through what I went through as a kid. I’m not mad at anyone and quite honestly I am ready to see people again. I am in a good place in my life now and look forward to the opportunity to face my childhood fears and connect with the many genuinely nice people we have in our class.

A number of our former classmates responded, most of them generously. One comment stands out: “I remember doing laundry with you at the laundromat because I didn’t have a washer and dryer and you were nice enough to keep me company,” wrote a girl whose friendship we found in the Alto section during spring of Senior year.

Through her compassion, and the story she bravely shares, Jolie has given a voice to other women suffering privately — we both know women who only spoke out about their own abuse after hearing her story. She has challenged the people around her, including me, to think twice before dismissing someone who does not fit the mold.

The trial begins in the fall. When Jolie stands to testify against her stepfather, I will be there. Even if she wears pleather pants, I won’t believe anything he says about her — and neither will anyone else.

Authors: Rachel from Rentbestcars.com

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