Saturday, August 29, 2009

A Powell's pilgrimage

What could possess me to wake up at 4:45 on a foggy August morning? Further, to rouse five sleepy girls (mine plus one sleepover pal) just 15 minutes later? To bundle up for the still chilly air, to buckle into the Suburban fortified only with a cup of coffee in the pre-dawn moments? To drive three and a half hours on the Interstate? Oh, my. What could be worth that?

Downtown Portland is nice.

Waiting for the train with strange silent umbrella guy, equally nice.

Oh! Powell's famous independent bookstore. Covering one full city block on seven levels of near-heaven (I'll have to ask them if they designed that many levels purposefully) is tailor-made for a perfect day for a bibliophile and her bookworm brood. Totally worth the pilgrimage.

Madeleine stood mesmerized in the young adult mystery aisle and caressed the vintage Nancy Drew collection.

Laura happily read Eloise Wilkin as we walked and shopped. Literature and reference sections for Mommy. Curriculum for the school year. Maritime fiction for Daddy (who had to work but was with us in spirit). Forensics for the big girls. Oops. Gory. Let's move on from that to see if they have any age-appropriate references on crime solving. Well, of course they do! It's Powell's famous independent bookstore, the City of Books. So the girls chose some books that detail how to make and use fingerprint powder and how to tell (without a polygraph) whether a suspect is lying. That should make life in our little town interesting.
I visited my old stomping grounds in writing and literature but didn't dare take all five girls into my favorite haunt: the rare book room. You can peruse that ever-changing collection at Powell's online, but it's not the same as being there, breathing in the particular scent of centuries-old hand-decorated volumes nestled up next to signed copies of first edition Ursula LeGuin.

So in lieu of the rare book room we had lemonade and sandwiches in the coffee shop, which is not as funky or fun as it was in my pre-mommy days when my husband and I used to close down Powell's like some 20somethings close down bars. But it's probably cleaner. I'm alright with that tradeoff.
Sarah kept a notebook close to her chest. What was she writing all day? A list of "strange" things she witnessed. The dog in a "wheelchair" to support its paralyzed back legs. The men with "inappropriate" piercings. The woman with no apparent disability in a designated seat on the train really offended Sarah's sensibilities. Green hair, blue hair, business suits and tall buildings that reflect everyone passing alike. Someone wrote on that window with a diamond. Someone didn't buss their plate. "City people are colorful," she concluded in her notebook. I just love the little editorial journalist in her.
I successfully navigated city traffic in the Suburban -- so much different than in my Volkswagen! The kids played highway bingo and catalogued nine different state license plates. We stopped at the Northwest classic Burgerville for real ice cream shakes (none for me, thanks, Carb Police) and drove along the river through Oregon City and meandered back roads all the way home.
We were back by dinner, bags full of books and hearts full of memories.


Barb said...

I guess I was with you in spirit, too.

HonuGirl said...

wow... what a great day... wish I could have met you for coffee!! =) Glad you maneuvered your way through the big city again ... many things to "explain" and wonder about eh... ?

Welcome to my world!

Katie said...

*sigh* Powell's is only THE coolest place I have ever been.

Glad you made it there and back without any mishaps!

Misty said...

What a fantastic way to spend a day! Can I sleepover next time you embark on such an adventure?
I LOVE portland!