There are several different curses that folklore claims upon the city of Spokane, Washington. This city is said to have at least two different “Indian curses” and at least one “Gypsy curse”, plus many, many hauntings. There is also a tale that I found about a sort of blessing on this city, in which the river rapids that were once the terror of the Natives would become the source of great wealth for the White Settlers. The town is both rich and poor. It is a place of creativity and of hopelessness. But if you ask around, there are far more people that will describe this as a place one longs to get out of, not a place one longs to come to.
What is it about some cities that seem to have squeezed out most of their joy and now find themselves stumbling along in economic depression and physical disrepair? They are not quite dead towns. Some of them, like Spokane, may even be growing. But there are still problems with drugs and gangs and soaring unemployment. New housing is built in ticky tacky developments, hundreds or even thousands of apartments built into a neighborhood with no grocery stores, no jobs and no internal public transportation to take you away to those things. You’d better have a car, or else you will be walking a long way to the bus stop.
I don’t know whether I heard of the Spokane curse first or if I’d formed my own opinion of the city first. Back then, I only knew the downtown area, and it was a lot worse for wear than it is today. This is where I’d come when my mother was in the hospital after she had her strokes and her heart problems. This is where they turned her into a cyborg, replacing two of her heart valves with artificial ones that say, “tick tick tick” instead of “lub dub, lub dub”. This is the place where my friend who works in a plasma center would tell me about the hard luck cases who come in to sell their plasma as often as they are allowed, just to buy more drugs or make ends meet.
The city of Spokane was always at a disadvantage in my eyes, because it’s not Seattle. But there is that curse, and I can explain it all away with that. I’m not the only one who does. After all, someone told me about the curses. Someone told me about the series of crimes committed against Native people that lead their leaders to speak words of anger and revenge and about the police corruption in the city that brought a Gypsy leader to do the same. Someone felt that these were important enough stories to tell, to explain the state of Spokane to an outsider like me. I wonder if the greatest curse on a town like this is simply that the tale of the curse keeps being told?