Whoa is me.  Now that we have gotten a healthy dumping of snow here in Chicago land, I am aching to be back in Spokane.  Where this amount of snow is completely normal for Chicago, only the last three years (out of the total four that we lived there) in Spokane got this much snow.  I am not sure what it is about a new crop of snow; it makes everything seem so wintery and beautiful as it covers all the unsightly riffraff beneath.  Mostly I miss the throngs of pine trees in their new coats of white, but I miss the general upheaval that occurs in Spokane after it really dumps on the city.  Chicagoains take it all in stride; blundering their way through snowbanks and slush at sixty-seven miles per hour in their little import cars.  Spokane folks are alarmingly cautious, creeping along through the unplowed, unsalted streets.  It slows things to an absolute crawl, but on the plus side people are genuinely helpful to those in need of it and all the over excitement causes businesses to close, banishing hordes of office workers to the slopes to snowboard and ski.

After leaving Spokane behind in June, Chicago does not seem to cut it for us any longer.  All the things I bitched and moaned about the first year we were in Spokompton; lack of big chain retailers, a shortage of good restaurants and an absence of all our friends and family are the things I really miss the most.  Spokane is small, with a healthy downtown and a small town feel.  It’s motto is “Near Nature, Near Perfect,” and while I am not so sure about the perfection, it certainly is close to the REAL wilderness, mountains and trees that have been placed my God, not the local city planner.  The 1972 Worlds Fair was held in Spokane and that must have been the pinnacle of development in all its history.  I can’t say that it is a very modern city but what it lacks in panache it more than makes up in charm.

But, as all bouts of reminiscing go, that time is long gone for us.  We have a child now, and are finally out of the military way of life.  Sadly, we can’t go back and reclaim what we had, so it is time for a new adventure.  With a move to Blah, Ohio in our future, Nathan and I can’t help but look forward to the future for where we really want to be.  In the spirit of our quest, I have decided to make a list of things that are absolutely necessary to our someday-hometown.

1.  250+ Days of Sunshine per Year & Low Humidity – Spokane had roughly three hundred, and Chicago has about six.  I love it when entire weeks go by without a cloud in the sky.  The humidity makes such a huge difference, too.  I would be able to get the mail in Spokane in a tank top and shorts on the coldest day of the year and still go out for a leisurely stroll at lunch on its hottest.  My skin absolutely hates the dry weather (and I am relatively sure that Spokane must rank up there in terms of lotion consumption per capita) but my hair loves it!

2.  Decent Size Airport (one that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg to fly to and from Chicago) – This is my one and only gripe about Spokane.  Sure, it had a good size airport; it was even international (I think it shuttles folks to Canada, so this must be a technicality), but you could never get a direct flight to anywhere except Denver, Seattle and, inexplicably, Minneapolis.  This means ridiculously high fares and extra airport taxes, not to mention a major ass-pain when you are halfway through your laptop battery and a six hour layover in Vegas.  I actually baulked when I had to step outside to board a plane with propellers on my first flight from Spokane.  O’Hare and Midway have spoiled me, and I would like to stay in an area that is easily accessible to a major airport hub.

3.  Close to the Mountains – I’m not talking rolling hills either.  I want the wonderful Purple Mountain Majesties that Katherine Lee Bates was so fond of.  This means rock climbing for us and snowboarding for Nathan (which translates to falling on my ass on the bunny hill), kayaking and nice leisurely hikes and drives to dig out the tart alpine strawberries in the summer.  To my eternal shame, I felt that nothing had ever been so beautiful as the sprawling asphalt and lights on my first flight home from Spokane (I had been there for two months; I was such a pansy.).  Wherever that came from, I’m not sure, but it is gone forever.  I shed a few tears when I finally left Spokane for good, and I intend to find someplace as beautiful in its scenery to rest my weary head.

4.  Dog Friendly – We are dog people.  We have two wonderful pooches and I would love to live in a place where they are welcome at sidewalk cafes and in parks.  A free dog park would be the ultimate bonus.  That puts Portland and Madison, WI at the top of the list.

5.  Happy, Friendly Locals – We got used to running into people we knew every place we went.  We had the same waiter almost every time we visited Pikabu Bistro (oh, Curry Chicken Bowl, how I miss you…) and he always asked if we wanted or regular selections, just like in the movies.  Even the people at the Social Security Office were friendly, and that says enough.  They line up the individual hot sauce packets at every Taco Bell in Spokane, and I’m positive that a worker furious with his boss did no such thing.

6.  A Big Enough Downtown (with cheap parking) – I am thirty five minutes from downtown Chicago and I have been there three or four times in the seven months we have been back.  Twice I paid over $25 for parking, and I am terrified to drive in the city.  I was shocked to find that I could park in the heart of the (albeit small) downtown district in Spokane for less than the price of lunch at the Golden Arches, all day on the weekend!  On top of that, every time we presented a movie ticket at the register we got a dollar off.  Score!  I was downtown at least three or four times a week, sometimes even more, and we could walk downtown on our lunch break.

7.  Crate and Barrel and Panera Bread – this may be silly, but there is nothing I missed more than a good dose of retail therapy at the enormous Crate and Barrel here in the burbs of Chicago.  I ache to look at sofas on the weekends, and with the prospect of buying property in a new city and only having the selection of furnishings in the basement of Macy’s to critique is wrenching at my gag reflex.  I feel the same about a good Asiago Roast Beef (hold the onions) and a cup of Creamy Tomato Soup.

8.  Not in California – It seems like every product nowadays proudly proclaims that “This complies with California Regulations for blah, blah, blah.”  I refuse to live in a state that has such a stick up its ass with all sorts of technicalities.  I used to work in HR, and if you think the regulations on children’s sleepwear are a pain in the ass, check out their employment law.  Frankie says relax.

9. One Major League Sports Team (or less) – I am obviously not one for professional sports, and I would be damned if you caught me catching any game short of the Super Bowl over a pint at TGI Fridays.  I prefer to share my space with folks that don’t have their brain cells wrapped around the stats of two major league baseball teams, a football team, basketball team and hockey team (not that anyone really gives two shakes about the Blackhawks around here).  If I were to choose one of the Chicago teams to love, it would have to be the Cubbies.

Where does that leave us?  I have absolutely no idea, but it sure the hell ain’t the Windy City.  Basically, the weather sucks and people are more concerned with their designer footwear than their fellow man.  I’ve had enough of it here, and I need a new home.  Any ideas?