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City of Books

I’d been looking forward to the last week of April for about 6 months. A good friend of my wife’s was getting married and had invited us to the ceremony and weekend activities. The event was to take place at the Hotel Monaco in Portland, Oregon.

I’d only been to Portland once before (in the summer of 2003) and honestly didn’t enjoy most of that trip. We stayed in a cheap hotel on the southeast end of town, had to drive and fight for parking way too much…

But I really enjoyed my time exploring Powell’s Books. I vividly recall walking into the store, feeling overwhelmed by the massive shelves, the sheer number of books, the impossibility of ever seeing everything.

When I heard the wedding was in Portland, I knew I was going to return to Powell’s and that was an amazing feeling. I made my list of 1st printings I wanted to find (it’s a new passion for me, collecting certain books in 1st printings. I am more of a snob all the time) and tried to keep my anticipation at a minimum.

We picked our hotel (The Mark Spencer, a great place if you’re looking to stay in a great area of downtown Portland. The food options alone will blow your mind) from those near the Monaco and in close proximity to Powell’s. We couldn’t have done better. This is the view from our hotel window. IMG_0987.jpg

We arrived on Friday and planned to spend all day Monday at the bookstore, but when our dinner with the bride and groom ended earlier than we expected, we had several hours to spend exploring and shopping. IMG_0999.jpg

In my head, I was going to find all these amazingly clean copies of books I’d been looking for for quite a while. When I reached the halfway point of my list and hadn’t found a single 1st printing, I began to worry. In my memory, Powell’s was the place to find specific copies of books, not just any old mass market or trade copy, but that is all I was finding.

Then the flood gates opened. I found 80% from the second half of my list. So many that my basket was almost too full for me to effectively search for more. My arms grew tired.

I also learned how tricky the staff at Powell’s can be. After my success in the second half of the list (and finally noticing copies in the staff only section), I revisited the first half, checking the overflow shelves to see if I’d missed anything. Sure enough, just out of my reach was a hardbound edition of a Russell Banks book I was looking for. I had to get a staff member to retrieve it, which I hated doing, but it was worth my discomfort as I  found a signed 1st printing of Cloudsplitter ($6.95 people). This trend continued with other authors, multiple trade copies on lower shelves and editions I wanted up high. It makes sense- Leave the less valuable copies where the average buyer can see them, and place the collectible copies just out of reach.

My unexpected score was a 1st printing of Watership Down. Of course when I was showing it to a friend, some of the glue snapped. Luckily the binding is sewn as well as glued, so it isn’t a total disaster.

We visited the bookstore almost every day and I regret nothing.

All in all I spent way too much money, but when I look at my shelves, see some completed collections, it makes my heart glad. Of course there are still many books to buy, and I have to decide if I want to hope for the serendipity of a thrift store or independent bookstore find or give in and buy from online sites.

As for the wedding- It was incredible. I get very emotional at weddings, and I am unashamed to admit that I usually cry. There is something wonderful about two people finding each other in this crazy world that always warms my heart. It is especially poignant when the people are older and have had a rough go of things, been treated badly.

Yeah, I’m a romantic and that’s fine.

Here is one last photo- some cool art on a building near our hotel. IMG_0998.JPG

What is your favorite bookstore? What sort of things do you collect? Am I a total nutjob?

 

 

 

 

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Old and…

Last weekend, I drove 8 hours from Salt Lake City to Lake Tahoe to attend my brothers bachelor party. I like driving long distances. It calms me, gives me ample time to think. Also, it allows for excellent conversations with travel companions. On this particular trip, it was me and one other fine gentleman, a close friend of two of my brothers. We talked sports, kids, dogs, politics, music, anything that came to mind. The first four hours passed quickly.

After stopping in Winnemucca for gas, my traveling companion crawled into the back seat for a nap. Out in front of me, the road stretched straight and unbending for what seemed like hundreds of miles. I put on some music, made myself comfortable in the seat, and drove. Hours passed. My mind wandered through so many topics, lingering on some for a while, allowing others to slip by almost without a complete thought.

Rhythms of the road.

When I find myself in that state of mind, I can go for hours without stopping. Small towns and cities passed by, and while driving through Reno (oops, I should have exited earlier as we were heading to Stateline, Nevada) was nerve-wracking, I adored the drive.

As for the party, well let’s just say that I am clearly too old for that sort of shenanigans. I love my brother and enjoy spending time with him, but this weekend I felt nervous and out of place most of the time.

At first, things were great. I drank some delicious beers, went on a spectacular group hike where we found a rock formation to summit. From there, the views were stellar. The lake was to our right, a sprawling valley of farms to our left.

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This was my favorite moment of the weekend.

We stayed in an amazing place- three floors and ample bedrooms for all of us (between 12-15 fellows depending on the day). IMG_9422

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All the elements were there for an epic gathering. I can only blame myself for not having an amazing time. Apparently, I’ve become a crotchety old man, always worried about everything. People were too loud, too happy, too drunk, too outrageous, too destructive for my comfort.

Maybe I should have drank more, allowed myself to be buzzed for three straight days, get into the spirit of things, but honestly, most of the time I just wanted to be anywhere else.

That worries me some.

For months, I had been looking forward to this weekend, anticipating the stories we’d have to tell afterward, the craziness we’d create. To then have a continual gnawing in my stomach, an anxiety that grew deeper each day; I have a hard time blaming that on age (even if it is super convenient).

I’ll have to ponder this some more.

The drive home was equally as pleasant as the ride out, and the conversations I had with myself (as my travel companion was exhausted from the weekend and slept for much of the ride) kept me stimulated and engaged. I’m super entertaining, really.

Also, the puppy love I received upon my return was epic.

 

Missed IWSG 

I am vacationing in the inland northwest and was unable to find time to compose an IWSG post for July. I will be returning on Friday and plan to comment on the usual blogs. 

I’m having a grand time, in case you were wondering.  Here are some photos, just because. 

Back From

Our family trip to Cancun was, as usual, wonderful. I can never get enough time near the stunning waters of the Gulf of Mexico/Caribbean. I have not stood and stared out at every sea, but I would still argue the water near Cancun is among the most beautiful in the world.IMG_8723

Even before I had ever actually seen one, I was compelled, intoxicated by the thought of the ocean. Incomprehensibly large, powerful, beautiful, my first experiences on the shoreline of the Atlantic Ocean have stayed with me throughout my adult life. I was 19, living in Maine, serving a mission for the LDS church. I stood on the sand of Old Orchard Beach, near dusk, staring out at the retreating tide, the evening sky darkening the water. I was humbled. Nothing has frightened or thrilled me as much as staring out at that vastness.

Most likely because of my affinity for the ocean, our Cancun trips usually consist of a week of sitting on the beach, gazing out at the water. The hum of it is endless. The ocean looks and sounds different as each day progresses. I tried to capture some of it.

At sunrise the sky dominates, and the ocean is a muted turquoise. IMG_8719

By mid morning, the sky pales and the blue green water is nearly impossible for me to look away from.IMG_8722

In the evening, the colors and textures are stunning.

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Under a bright yellow moon, words fail me.

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Last. A slightly edited image (shadows and light to bring out the textures of the clouds, the water) of an approaching storm. IMG_8718

I am glad to be home, back to the usual routines, but I miss the constant sound of the waves, the insistent wind. I’ll have to go back soon.

 

Wordless Wednesday 


Mostly wordless. 

I’m on vacation with the family in Cancun. Limited internet access calls for limited posting. Also, I’m liking being mostly inaccessible. Let’s chat next week. 

Back From the City

December in NYC is a strange and wonderful experience. An already crowded city becomes more so, as tourists and locals alike wander about, shopping, gazing at the amazing decorations, eating spectacular food, enjoying the festive time of year.

I fully expect everywhere I go in the city to be crowded, all the time, no matter the month, but I did not anticipate the extra crush of insanity December would bring. On Saturday we wandered down the heart of 5th Avenue, along with tens of thousands of other human beings. At times, we could not move for the mass of people, everyone waiting for the light to change, the person in front of them to move. The holiday lights were mesmerizing and the display windows equally stunning.

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It was uncomfortable at times, but most people were happy and friendly.

Rockefeller Center also impressed and the tree was beautiful.

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On this trip we were joined by some great friends from Salt Lake City. We had a great time showing them our favorite places, like the American Museum of Natural History and Central Park. img_8048

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We spent an interesting day out at Liberty and Ellis Islands. The temperature hovered around 30 degrees with winds approaching 35 mph blowing us all about. On the ferry ride over, the gusts took my breath away. Liberty Island is always a bit disappointing. The statue itself is impressive to look at, but the view from the water is equally good and does not require leaving the boat.

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Ellis Island, on the other hand, never disappoints.

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I am always awed by this room and the emotions it brings out. Imagining the thousands of hopeful immigrants who passed through this space inspires me. Members of my own ancestry were among those who entered the United States through this location. I wonder if I would have been as brave as they were. img_8031

We stayed in Midtown again (in the smallest hotel room/broom closet), making getting about very easy. We enjoy taking the subway, but prefer walking as it offers us a chance to see more. Even with the cold and crowds, I loved wandering the streets of Manhattan, especially in the evening, absorbing the lights and sounds.

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Seeing the city near the holidays was an unforgettable experience, but I think next time we go, I’d prefer and October visit. Anyone else want to come along?

Third

As the entire family is home today, I considered taking this week off. It is a holiday weekend, after all. Laziness is the word, the goal. Then I got to thinking, taking a week off three weeks into a writing goal is like taking a cheat day three days into a diet.

I am really good at cheating on a diet, in case you were wondering. If there were an award for it, I’d always be in contention for first place. Everyone needs a skill I guess.

I also wish there were an award for going to New York City.

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The wife and I will be heading back to our favorite place on earth in December. Part of measuring how much I love a particular city is visiting when it is either too hot, too cold, or both. I clearly remember walking down a frozen Boston street in early January, the wind whipping around my face, my friend and I wandering towards a fine watering hole for a drink or seven, and thinking how much I loved Boston.

Honestly, I already love NYC so much that I don’t think any weather or event would alter my opinion.

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We will be taking the Red Eye again (which we did last November), but this time have arranged an extra day at the hotel. Being exhausted with no where to sleep made for a rough morning, though it did give me opportunity to take some lovely morning images.

What about you? Where are your favorite places to vacation? Do you like visiting cities? If so, which ones stand out for you?