Thursday, November 16, 2006

Haunted Spokane #2

A former Whitworth student emailed me earlier today. She had read what I had written on November 15 about "A Hidden Life". Her response:
I was a little creeped out to read what you wrote about the
frontline segment because I watched it as well, with
[my husband],and told him the same story
about the gentlemanin question. A synchronous
moment to be sure.
I can't pass this off as meaningless coincidence. At the same time, I can't pretend to know why the two of us, she, who watched the program on television on the 14th, and I, who watched the program online on the 15th both thought about my friend.

The reason this former student and I both knew my friend was that he had helped me teach a course at Whitworth in January of 1984 entitled "The Family in American Drama" and this was one of the classes she took from me, and him.

His death was very disturbing because of its violent nature and because it never became a source of criminal investigation. I don't know much about that. I was thinking today, while driving to school, that it's such a terribly cold case. I don't know if even those miracle workers on those CSI programs could go back and piece things together.

It puzzles me that I hadn't thought about what happened to my friend for quite a while in any sustained way. And now, because of a Frontline story, something about seeing those pictures of Spokane neighborhoods and knowing that my friend may have been trolling for sex some weekends the same way, I guess, Jim West trolled for young men on line, has made me think about my friend's death again.

The last time I saw my friend was in early July,1984. He was in intensive care. He was in a coma, but responded when I spoke to him with nodding and he opened his eyes.

That night, Chris and I went to the Viking to have some beers and to talk about what we couldn't understand. Somehow, I saw a chair sitting a bit back from a table and I shoved the chair violently into the table. A guy at that table picked up the table and tipped it over, pitchers and glasses of beer flying. He puffed out his chest. I made some kind of "peace out" gesture, but he wanted trouble. Chris moved forward. His chest was puffed out. A bartender intervened. Just like that, peace was restored.

We drank some more and I got into some baseball trivia talk with some guys and their girls and Chris and I left and went up Monroe Street to Casey's and got some food to sop up all the beer in our guts. The food was perfect. The beer and baseball talk and girl who squeezed my hand when she left the Viking and the near fight all seemed to remove me from the mortal danger my friend was in.

But, I never was removed. It's twenty-two years later. I am feeling more about his death since watching "A Hidden Life" than I did when he was killed, or have since. My former student is my friend, and she, too, had his death return.

A ghost in Spokane, a terrible deed on the Spokane's streets, is not done with this matter. I can feel the hauntedness of this past and it seems connected with whatever Jim West did and with what David Hahn did and with the boys who weren't safe in their churches and the boys who weren't safe at Morning Star Ranch and connected with the prostitutes randomly picked up and killed by Robert Yates and connected with the women on the South Hill who were raped by Kevin Coe. The ghosts of these deeds are not done calling to us.

I know every city has its ghosts. They have to . Ghosts keep the past alive in the present. Spokane is not exceptional. I feel it more because I love Spokane. Its ghosts unsettle me much like the ghosts of family secrets or of deeds I've done that I'd rather forget do.

I would have never guessed when my mother called me when the story first broke, that the secret life of Spokane's mayor would eventually so occupy my thoughts and feelings and memories when his story was told on PBS.

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