Saturday, June 27, 2009

News From Spokane

(note: I decided against writing about Michael Jackson - left it to others - but it's made me so sad, melancholy... the whole world's been crying.)

Three things about Spokane in recent days.

First: Today is the first day of a weekend of Hoopfest. This is the largest 3-on-3 basketball tournament in the world. 6,701 teams will be competing on 428 courts spread through 40 city blocks in downtown Spokane. They expect a total of 200,000 players and spectators there throughout the weekend.

Second: There's a trumpeter swan named Solo who may be 46 years old who just sired a family with his new love. Apparently Solo got his name after his first mate died when they both were quite young. He'd played the field some in the ensuring years, but hadn't really settled down - until this year. Personally I didn't need him to have a bunch of babies (four total) to appreciate his new zest for partnership. But I was pretty impressed that he had it in him to mate for life again, after all these years.

Third: (this was southwest of here, in Prosser, WA): A marmot has made national news. This item is most interesting not for what the marmot did (he - or she - went into a restaurant) but for the fact that it all made national news, from the Los Angeles Times to the Washington Post. I thought, what did this marmot do - sit at a table and order dinner? So I read the articles. Apparently all he (or she) did was walk into the restaurant and hang out in a corner, creating enough of a ruckus to make headlines before getting "other" customers to build a tunnel for him out of advertising pamphlets.

Also interesting is how all the news items had to explain what a "marmot" was. The further east the article, the more likely that the story began with "what's a marmot." (For those wondering, a marmot is a lot like a varmint.) (ha ha.) No, seriously, it looks like this:

photo credit: Inklein, edited by jjron, photo found here

And here's a Wikipedia description.

But mostly a marmot is a lot like a beaver without the weird tail and sharp teeth (I'm thinking). They say marmots are essentially large ground squirrels.

The rest of the world may not know about marmots. But here in Spokane, we do. In fact, there's an actual marmot club here. It may have been started as a joke, sure. But there is an actual club, started by local newspaper columnist Paul Turner. They call it the International Order of Friendly Marmots. The group, through Paul, threatens to hold events someday (and sell hats and t-shirts). For instance, there may be a gathering sometime this summer, if only so that Paul can show all club members the secret Marmot Lodge handshake. (According to Paul, members have suggested gathering at "the park" or "the lake," which only adds to the rumor that Spokane is either very small or very clique-ish.)

As noted in the initial set-up for the club - published in the paper two years ago tomorrow: "Being accepted as a member in good standing of the Marmot Lodge will fully entitle you to all the rights and privileges of Marmotdom." And as they say at the Marmot Lodge: E Pluribus Marmot.

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