random notes from portland (day 7)

Allan and I are both sick, apparently with a flu or some other virus. I rarely get sick -- it's been more than four years -- and this has hit us with both barrels. I'm concerned that I may have passed something along to my mother.

The world's smallest hamster wheel

We took my mom out for breakfast at my favourite Ashland restaurant, Brothers'. She was very chipper and talkative, saying the same things over and over and over. She has a small repetoire of chatter, and after speaking, she clearly has no memory of what she said.

I asked questions that would prompt her standard soundbites, and showed great interest as if I hadn't heard it all before.

Her breakfast. The menu. The "verandah" (her current word for the tiny patio outside her room). The exercise class. The baby's hair. They show movies. Her breakfast. The menu. The verandah. The exercise class...

After taking her back to the home and settling her in her room, there was much hugging and many I love yous, but I needed to leave quickly. I barely made it into the hallway before breaking down, sobbing. It is really hard to say goodbye.

Crappy customer service at Brothers'

Brothers' has a few tables downstairs, and more seating up a steep staircase. I asked for a table downstairs, and was told, "There's more room upstairs." 

Really? You don't see I'm standing there with an elderly woman? I said, "We can't sit upstairs. How about that table?" There was a large table for four, which the servers were using for staging.

"That table is not available." 

"It appears to be available." 

Long pause. She clearly expected me to apologize and withdraw. I waited.

"We'll just clear that for you." 

"Thank you." 

Then the server was curt and annoyed through the entire meal. I guess she didn't get the memo about Pacific Northwest friendliness.


We had been planning on taking the coastal route up to Portland. The Oregon coast is magnificent and we haven't seen it since a 2003 baseball road trip. But Allan was already sick and I was feeling strange, and five hours on the highway was enough. 

We picked up In-N-Out at the last available opportunity in Oregon. Later, in the hotel room, I regretted this decision.

Powell's lets us down

We have four large boxes of books from my mother's apartment, which we wanted to take to Powell's for store credit. They are mostly art books, a few novels and some nonfiction, all hardcover, all in perfect condition. (There were many other books; these are the ones Allan chose for possible sale.)

Unfortunately, Powells' only buys books on certain days of the week, and we wouldn't be there on those days. We took the books with us anyway.

On the road to Portland, I learned that Powell's buys books online. You enter the ISBN number, and ship the books via UPS at their cost. This seemed like a great idea. Allan schlepped the boxes up to the hotel room, and we entered an ISBN.

"Sorry, we are unable to purchase this book." 

We tried another, and another, and another. 

"Sorry, we are unable to purchase this book."

This was the outcome:

Of 83 books, only three would be purchased, and for pennies! We're not going to bother shipping three books to "earn" less than five dollars!

So now we have boxes of books with us, and I really don't want to go home with them. We have a few ideas. We'll see.

At the moment, I can't imagine doing anything but lying in bed. 

Hotel greenwashing at the expense of workers and customers

While I'm complaining, I'll throw in this gripe about hotel amenities. Our hotel in Portland is nice -- a bit upscale, and not cheap. Yet housekeeping is offered only on request, and a maximum of every third day. Linens are not changed unless your stay is more than a full week.

This is supposedly for water and energy conservation, but given the disposable coffee service, the bottled water, and the tiny soaps and shampoos, it seems a rather transparent ploy to save on labour costs. 

I think if you're spending money on a nice hotel, having your room serviced daily is not too much to ask. Who doesn't like coming back to a neat and tidy room, with clean towels and a freshly-made bed? And if housekeeping is only upon request, and never during a one- or two-night stay, the housekeeping staff is not seeing many tips. Of course I will give the hotel this feedback, even though I'm sure they don't care.

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