November 2, 2008 — We went into Portland today, finally. We chose Powell’s Bookstore as our first destination for the GPS — we took the longer route so that we would see more.
No doubt, Portland is an excellent city. It is a big city, but it didn’t feel like one as we drove in. Not like Phoenix, or even Tucson. I’m not a city person, but I could live in this one (right next to Powell’s and Whole Foods would suit me perfectly). To me, it felt like an oversize Portsmouth, NH, with the river running through it and the multiple bridges and a unquantifiable “hip” feeling to it. Carl thought it felt like a large Cambridge, Massachusetts — which is probably a more appropriate description. Mind you, we didn’t spend a lot time here. It was drizzling raining and colder than we have been used to. And no sun. But, still, this is a place we could most definitely live.
For me, I’d move to Portland just to have access to Powell’s. This is no doubt the best bookstore that I have ever been in. But then again, I have never been in one that took up a whole city block before. You navigate the store by color group — and there is large directory that tells you in which color that you find what you are looking for. For example, Science Fiction is in the “Gold Room, which was up a set a stairs. As we entered the Gold Room, there is a graffiti column in which different sci-fi authors have signed their names. Right off, I noticed William Gibson and Neil Gaiman, amongst others. Of course, the store is no dummy, the signatures are protected behind a plastic shield.
There are a lot of books in each section. I mean a LOT. I think they carry the complete bibliography of most every author — and they can do this because they mix the used books with the new books, paperbacks with hardcovers. (They also have posters that advocate buying used to save trees.) The other interesting thing is the way they have built the bookshelves — rather than being straight up and down, they curve out so that it is easier to see all titles. The shelves are tall with overstocks on the upper areas. Also, the shelves are made out of rough wood, and are not uniform looking. You get the impression that the books are what’s important here…
Like any bookstore, they use the “cap end” to promote recommended books. But unlike most bookstores, they didn’t worry about publication dates. Although some books are newly published, but many were not — a lot of the “top picks” are ones that we recommend at MostlyFiction.com as well.
They seem to have every book that I have ever owned. It was so comforting to see books that I never thought I’d see again — it takes away the pain of having to “let go” my thousands of books just before we started this trip. This is better than a library.
Because they keep books by author — mixing hard covers with paperbacks with new and out-of-prints — it was fun to see the different cover arts for multiple printings. It was like visiting a book museum.
One more comment — Carl and I agreed to meet in the cafe. Of course, he wasn’t there when I finally broke away from perusing a city block’s worth of books. What struck me as unique about this cafe was that almost everyone was looking down, reading. (Carl stuck to the scifi section, so he was easy to find.)
So what did I end up buying? I decided to buy THE DART LEAGUE KING by Keith Lee Morris because Poornima and Sudheer really liked it and feel that the author needs more recognition. So I “voted” by buying it. (BTW, I couldn’t remember the name of the book or author, but because Powell’s wifi works for free, I was able to bring up MostlyFiction.com on my iPod and find the book title and author. When I went to check out, I noticed the Powell’s flyer featured a Q&A with Keith Lee Morris — and he will be reading at the bookstore on November 10th!
After we left Powell’s we drove around the city plugging in different addresses, such as Earth Mail — the company that is managing our mail while we are “homeless.” Unfortunately, they don’t have the means for customers to pick up mail at the facility, so we still don’t have our mail. We drove around both within the city and outside (driving up into Washington state and back down). Our impression of Portland and Oregon is extremely positive and we still plan to come back to live here — but not right now — we want warmth.