Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A Walk in the Park

Saturday evening we decided to go for a walk downtown at Riverfront Park, and it turned out to be quite an adventure as Geo and I took to the city streets to see what was happening in the heart of Spokane.

Riverfront Park is beautiful. I mean, there is something really special about a park in the middle of the city where people can walk around and relax, pal around with friends and bring the kids and have many activities to choose from while they are there or simply choose to do nothing but watch the world go by. Riverfront is one of those places.

Probably the most spectacular thing about the place is the river than runs through it and the numerous bridges you can cross from which you can view the churning, rapidly flowing waters. There's hills, trees and green grass too, but in addition to the natural beauty there is also a ferris wheel ride, an Imax theater, a gondola ride across the river, a carousel, and an amusement center as well as a new water fountain people can walk and play in. There is also the convention center and symphony hall that is part of the park, and this is all adjacent to the downtown theaters and mall. It's kinda neat that we have such a place as this to visit.

There were a lot of people who think that too. We were amazed that so many people were there. There were pedestrians, skaters and bicyclists tooling about the place, enjoying the beautiful weather.

I watched one bicyclist bit the dust as his bike fell from two feet high. He landed on his back against the concrete as he was attempting to do a stupid bike trick on the bridge, his friend doing the same thing on the other side, but without the fall. He was apparently uninjured; probably sore the next day though. As I watched, I was thinking, that in another day and age, doing what he and his friend were doing, (riding their bikes up the side of the bridge and flipping around to come back down,) would be unacceptable behavior, thought of at a defacement of public property or a safety hazard.

When what appeared to be a park service truck drove directly past the two (who BTW were adults) without saying anything to them about their activity on the bridge, I couldn't help but think of how complacent we have become as a society. I would have thought that maybe the bikers would see the park authorities and move on, but they didn't. I also thought maybe the park authority would suggest to the two that they stop riding their bikes up the support to the bridge; but there was no change in behavior. everyone just minded their own business.

I know that the bridge was not constructed so people can do bike stunts, and certainly the tire marks that the bikes left behind are unattractive. I also do not think that park personnel want to spend time cleaning the bridge, or that the city will pay them to clean the tire tracks off or repaint the bridge anytime soon. Such is the disintegration of not only a nice city park, but of a society. You do not see it happen all at once, but little by little the damage takes place. No one addresses the issue, no one bothers to clean up the mess, and the next thing you know, the dilapidation that has taken place has had a lot of time to set in and it becomes overwhelming.

After walking around the park we ventured to the city streets. When I see the architecture of buildings I cannot help but think about the people who built such amazing things. I was looking at a stone building, wondering how each was so perfectly cut and laid, one atop another, designed to create the postal facility. A man in a security uniform walked past me and I began to think about the many people who have made the city their home in days gone by, walked the very streets, past the very stores on these same sidewalks years ago.

We walked past the Bing Crosby Theater, (which I knew until the recent name change (2006) as the Metropolitan Performing Arts Center or "MET") to the Martin Woldson Theater, (which I knew until the recent name change (2007) as "the Fox" Theater.) this only after walking around in circles trying to follow directions on a GPS device.

When we (finally) arrived the doors were locked, but a man was coming out as we were attempting to go in and we asked him about who it was that was preforming. He told us that it was a band called The Wallflowers playing, a band we never heard of before, and he offered us an unused ticket as well as the stub he had used to get in, asking the now attending the door activity usher if we could use his tickets. The usher let us and we went in and found some seats in the dark, art deco theater.

The crowd was subdued but engaged in the music, and the man on stage singing sounded a little like Bob Dylan, but the experience was a little like watching a PBS concert series on TV and kinda boring in that regard, so we listened to a few songs and decided to go out and walk some more. Later we found out from our daughters who happened to be at the same show and who had obtained complimentary tickets from a band member because she took a photo for the band while in Riverfront Park that day, that the lead singer of the band was Bob Dylans son.

We rightly reasoned that this why probably why we thought he sounded like Bob Dylan and concluded that with this information we had a whole new appreciation for the musical experience. The girls enjoyed the concert and stayed for the whole time, meanwhile were were walking. We caught up with them later in the evening and then when home.

But before we went home, while we were still walking, we met up with some of our younger friends( and made some new friends too,) who apparently have made the park a regular hang-out. They were having fun or so they thought, with friends, just being kids. Obviously struggling to figure out life and who they were, who they would become, seeing where and with whom they fit in. I could relate so well, not only to their youthful folly, but to the struggle of understanding this thing called life and life in the world some of them must be in.

There were many people downtown, all apparently doing their own thing. Some strutted about with wild hairdo's and costume-like attire, seeking to draw attention or maybe simply make some kind of statement about themselves by the way they appeared to others in the crowd. Tattoos, piercings, trench coats, halter tops, black lace, hair, guitars, skateboards, cigarettes; the walk downtown was quite a show.

Spokane is not so innocent a city. Watch the news. Gang members, thieves, prostitutes, drug pushers, child molesters, murders, rapists and vagabonds abound. They abound even moreso today than they did when I was a child, growing up in an inner city area. I kinda think that it's because so few are willing to correct the bad behavior. I never thought I would see so called "adult" aka erotica stores on the main street in Spokane, but they are there and they have been there a while. My guess is that they are there because people in our fine city are willing to frequent them and keep them in business.

We had walked past several martini bars and taverns. There were several loud head-banging type concerts in town that night. I saw a poster advertising for a band called GodSmack (of all things to call yourself... and what does it mean? ?Slap God in the face? ) and we even saw a seven-foot inflatable male body part paraded in a crowd outside one establishment as we escorted one daughter to her parked car. I imagine the scenes of nightlife in Spokane were much like that which was taking place in other cities, maybe even kinda like Bangkok, Calcutta, New York or San Francisco, only on a smaller scale.

As I headed back to my little, now seemingly boring and quiet little house in the suburbs, the city lightss receded; the skyline grew dark. Overhead I saw the stars.

I couldn't help but contemplate a passerbys conversation I had overheard that evening in the park as two young men in their early twenties greeted each other and began talking. It was obvious that their lives had crossed each other's... unexpectantly... once more;

"So, where are you sleeping these days?"

To which the other young man replied, "City Park."

Thursday, June 11, 2009

A Walk in the Desert

While in Arizona, Geo and I went for a desert walk along a snake path. No, not literal snakes, although we did see holes in the ground like what you find where snakes do usually live. This was a sidewalk in the shape of a snake, complete with a head and rattle. It was a giant sidewalk rattlesnake.

All along the snake were sidepaths. These were simply trails of dirt that went off in different directions along the main trail into what I will call a story centers or to a picnic table. The story centers had short stories engraved on stone surrounded by interesting steel sculptures of whatever the particular story for that area was, usually a creature of the desert... a coyote, butterflies, things like that. It was fun to sightsee and read the little tales as we walked around.

The best part though was seeing all the desert wildlife. Besides the vast array of cacti in bloom, we saw wrens, a woodpecker, chipmunks, rabbits, lizards, bees, ants, and a family of quail as we walked this little trail, reminding me that there is an abundance of life in the desert. The quail were particularly interesting because it was a male and a female with about fourteen little ones flocked together.

We explored the trail and enjoyed the artwork, especially the main large snake that made the winding path we followed. Starting at the coiled part of the rattle, as if walking along "the Yellow Brick Road, (like the movie Wizard of Oz) we ended up... on it's head.