In the morning, we dropped off the dogs, along with their beds, toys, and treats, at the daycare, for their day in a private suite. Then we had a quick breakfast at a Peet's Coffee -- my favourite iced coffee -- and were at Powell's when it opened at 10:00.
Powell's. OMG Powell's. It is vast. It is beautifully organized. The staff is amazing. Their customer service is amazing. Did I mention it is vast? Powell's just may be the best bookstore I've ever visited.
Allan and I browsed a bit together, then split up. Since my brother successfully transplanted my old sim card and SD card into an old phone of his, we now have two phones and could safely go our separate ways. (I still need a new phone, but the loaner works as a stopgap.)
Allan had printed out his master to-look-for list, but my list somehow didn't make it here. It's not on Google Drive, not on my USB, not even saved in email drafts, which I often use to save something quickly. I was disappointed, but I contented myself to browse in subject sections. For fiction, I normally use the library, except for my favourite authors, which I'll buy new. But with nonfiction, I don't like the pressure of the due date, so I'm more likely to buy those titles. Often I borrow nonfiction from the library to see if I like it before buying.
When I bumped into Allan, we were both holding full shopping baskets, monstrously heavy! Allan found someone on staff to hide our baskets in a holds area. We both picked up fresh baskets, but I needed a break. I'm not a marathoner -- about anything. I had been choosing books for two hours. I needed to rest my feet and to eat something. Allan was still very busy tracking his list.
I walked to a food cart "pod". Portland's many food carts are grouped into pods, where you can find many varieties of food in the same place. I'd read that many have picnic tables and covered areas. The one near Powell's -- also near our hotel -- has 12 carts, but no tables or even benches. This may be to discourage people without housing from using the facilities. I don't know if that's the case, but I knew I wanted to sit down. I bought pot stickers from a Vietnamese food cart, and ate them while walking back to Powell's.
I was tired and felt dehydrated and was ready to leave, but Allan was in full-on search mode. We negotiated a bit. By the time I found a bathroom (in a Starbucks) and finished the dumplings, we were now three hours in.
I felt the day was shot, and announced I was going back to the room to lie down. This seemed to snap Allan out of his bookstore trance. We found a bench in the children's section, and went through our baskets. I put back any new titles that I can easily find at home. I was tired and cranky.
This scenario is pretty typical for me and Allan, and one of the reasons he usually goes to bookstores without me: a fun outing devolves into frustration and annoyance. No need for reminders: I know how lucky I am to share the love of reading, writing, language, and ideas with my partner. But that doesn't mean we don't get tired and cranky!
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Overheard at Powell's
Woman: Why are we here? I'm already reading a book.
Woman, frustrated and resigned: Fine, whatever, we'll stay, I'll just wait.
Man: I'm almost done, I'll only be a few more minutes.
Kids: I want this one! Oh look look look look! I've read this book four times! Oh look, I want this one! I want this one!
Kids who love books! Make me so happy!
Adult with child: I'd like you to get a better book. Can you get one better book?
Me to Allan as we walk away: Let him read whatever he wants, all the books are better books if he's reading them!
In the elevator, with a young staff member pushing a cart of books
Me: Do you like working here?
Staff: I really do. I love being around people who are excited about books. I love helping people find books. I love discovering books through our customers.
Me: I'm a librarian, and I say the same things.
Staff: Oooo, I would love to be a librarian...
Me: You can be. You should look into it.
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The Portland Street Art Alliance sounds like an amazing group that does fascinating work. If you like public art, I encourage you to spend some time on their website, which includes information on why street art is a public good, and a reading list.
Their mural map of the Alberta Arts District (pdf here) gave this trenchant introduction:
The Alberta Arts District is a culturally rich and dynamic area that attracts people from all over the city with its fine art galleries, graffiti alleyways, and community murals. Even the benches and ATMs are works of art! Galleries open their doors and vendors line the street for the monthly Last Thursday Art Walk. The annual Alberta Street Fair draws thousands of people into the streets for a party, complete with local music, food, buskers, and artists. While many of Portland's neighborhoods have experienced revitalization, Alberta is unique because it was historically home to the highest concentration of African-Americans in the city. With a painful history of racial segregation, redlining, and now gentrification, Alberta is a place of juxtaposition. Few areas in Portland offer the variety of cultures and artistic interventions that can be found in Alberta. This map is just a starting point. The streets are always changing, and finding street art is often times like a scavenger hunt. We have provided you some insider clues, but now it is up to you to find the hidden treasures Alberta has to offer!I enjoyed this -- not boosterism, not consumerism, but actual social context. And well-written, with the correct "its"!
We drove to the area, found a parking spot, and walked many blocks and saw many interesting murals (photos to follow). It was very hot. We saw two food-cart pods -- probably more than 10 carts between them, both with seating areas -- but it was just too hot.
NE Alberta Street is in the "fun and funky" stage of gentrification, full of independent stores of all types, progressive or radical politics displayed proudly, plenty of cheap eats and entertainment. But the next stage is also beginning to poke through. There are no chain stores (yet) but expensive boutiques are sprinkled in among the more earthy and affordable. I hope the neighbourhood can hold on to its unique life and beauty.
After murals and other street art, and a fresh, cold juice, we headed back to the hotel, dropped off the car (again), then walked over to the local food-truck pod.
Many were already closed, which was just as well. From three separate trucks, we picked up a lamb shawarma, Chinese roast pork and rice, and a torta, which turned out to be ginormous. They cost $9-11 each.
We paid for valet parking, which seemed exorbitant until the bellman reduced it to half price. (I assume this is typical.) We've been making ample use of the unlimited in/out service, and have probably spent the other 50% in tips, but that's fine, I'd much rather the money go in a worker's pocket.
We brought the food back to the room to eat and enjoy some air-conditioning. The food was delicious, and we haven't even touched the torta yet.
After that we picked up the dogs, who were happy and tired. I'd like to know more about how the day went... I may try to get some information.
Back at the room, Allan was plotting a walk to Voodoo Doughnuts for some baked goods. Donuts don't do much for me, and wacky toppings do even less, but we did identify a few flavours that I wouldn't mind having a taste of. Then Allan asked if he could go back to Powell's. That was kind of cute, because he doesn't need my permission, and kind of annoying, because if he was going back, why did we spend four hours there?
But that's the way it goes. He didn't anticipate having a second shot. I had time to write, and he got two more books, then got lost, then found the doughnuts and came back with a box of four. They were fresh and tasty -- but over-rated. But I would say that about any donuts.
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I want to note that we have seen hundreds of tent encampments, on the approaches to every city, and within cities themselves. This is very, very sad. Shameful.
Today we begin our two-day drive back to Port Hardy. Allan is ready to go home. I never am: I can always travel more, especially when the dogs are with us.
I'm pleased to report I have not checked my work email once, the entire trip. I will definitely look at it on the weekend, at least to delete hundreds of useless emails.