January 11, 2015
Sunday, 1:37 PM
Powell's City of Books
|My inside sidewalk view|
Riley is lost somewhere behind me in this labyrinthine and walled city of books. Best bookstore on the planet. Maybe best place on the planet. And also one of the most depressing. Depressing? Yes. Because every time I walk in I realize there would never be enough time to read all the books herein. Not unless I had an infinite amount of lifetimes. And even then it might be difficult.
We've been walking an enjoyable infinity symbol around the nearest three blocks the past 24 hours. Arrived here around noon yesterday and were allowed an early check-in at the Ace Hotel. Had never heard of the Ace before Friday. I'd called the Crystal Hotel to inquire about availability and the reservation gal told me they were full but suggested I try the Ace Hotel a block away. "Very Portland-esque," she said. I looked it up, and before reading any reviews (not like me) I booked a room for Riley and I (after googling promo codes and finding a "Stick-it-to-the man" rate of $167). Only then did I read the reviews. Some people couldn't stop gushing about how much they loved it. Others said the rooms were nothing more than overcharged and cramped dorm rooms and that the entire place and service has an overly forced and pretentious "Portlandia" vibe. I figured for the price and location it would probably be fine, at least I hoped, and might also massage our creative senses a bit better than a pricier, stuffier, and all-too-generic hotel someplace else likely would.
Having just spent the night there, I can see why some stuffy types might not like the Ace Hotel. But Riley and I loved it. Loved the feel of the lobby--with a large re-purposed from something (I neglected to ask what) coffee table surrounded by sectional type couch seating, we loved the quaint and intimate check-in desk and helpful and friendly service (which was far from pretentious), and just loved the overall vibe. We stayed in room 211, which has its own bathroom with a clawfoot tub (though I checked the private bath that is shared by rooms that don't have their own bath and it was impeccable), a queen-sized comfortable futon with wool blanket toppers and feather pillows, and old hard suitcases stacked and re-purposed as a nightstand. I love shit like that! Our room was just up the stairs--stairs that reminded me of the creaky wooden stairs at The Blue House--from the 1 and a half floor--which in turn reminded me of the magical Platform 9 and 3/4 at King's Cross Station in the Harry Potter series.
At the Ace Hotel, Floor 1 1/2
This special cabinet is approximately five feet wide and four feet high and has 59 drawers of varied size and condition (the facade of one drawer fell off when Riley opened it) with old brass drawer pulls and yellowed office labels. And inside each and every one of the 59 drawers there are notes.
After getting settled, and securing parking just kitty corner to the hotel ($15, and good till well beyond when we'd be leaving on Sunday), Riley and I walked around the block to our favorite Buffalo Exchange, which is the smallest one in Oregon I think, yet always has great finds. We'd planned on heading to Powell's next, but post BE we realized we were hungry so we went back to the hotel to put our new used clothing finds in our room and then asked the sweet gal at the desk where the locals like to eat and she, echoing another sweet gal from BE who we'd asked the same question, recommended Lardo, just down the street.
What sort of name is that for a restaurant, anyway? Lardo? It's a new year and I'm trying to eat LESS lard, not MORE! And nevermind I'm also a vegetarian who struggles with a meat addiction. They do have a vegetarian burger on the menu that looked quite intriguing to me, the Chickpea Burger, but Riley and I had agreed to split and she was hankering for the real thing. So we ordered the Double Burger (why go halfway when eating meat?), and oh my, what a burger! It only comes with "porkstrami," cheese, shredded lettuce, and Lardo sauce, all on a tasty multigrain bun, but was easily one of the best burgers I've eaten in the past off-the-vegetarian-wagon-hamburger-eating-i'm-sorry-to-all-my-cow-and-swine-friends seven years.
Casa del Matador, on NW 23rd
Would have loved to continue writing at Powell’s but Riley's stack of books was quickly becoming unwieldy and less than affordable. So I packed up and we found a couple stools in the cookbook aisle and she showed me what she had. The Brain that Changes Itself and The Sports Gene, which I'd like to read, and she also had This is a Call (a Grohl biography); 27: A History of the 27 Club Through the Lives of Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, Amy Winehouse. She chose to buy two others in her stack: The Good Soldiers, and a novel: The Martian. I wanted to let Riley buy the entire stack. I LOVE that she’s so into books! She’s sitting across from me right now reading a giant non-fiction book she started this week: Far From the Tree. Sounds incredibly fascinating. (She’s going to read me a quote right now…from middle of page 33.) The book is authored by a man who, as a young child, understood that he was both dyslexic and gay. Differences that didn't always go over so well with the society around him. His mother took him to a doctor who prescribed medicine to treat his gayness. He thought it was working, and he attempted to live a non-gay lifestyle for a while, but couldn't get past a guilty feeling. Guilt that he wasn't being true to himself. (If I’m paraphrasing at all accurately.) The book is a long look into people and their stories of being different, and differently-abled, and how they learn to embrace their differences and challenges rather than resist them. He also suggests, per the quote Riley just read me, that everyone is disabled by something. Religion can be seen as a disability as it can keep you from having an open mind. Atheism can be a disability as it can keep you from having hope. Etcetera. Riley loves stories. And learning what makes people tick, and all the different ways they do so. What a joy it is for me to watch her tick (and underline favorite passages in the two inch thick book she is working through).
After lunch yesterday we drove up here to trendy NW 23rd, basically because I knew you could walk in and out of a variety of stores without being in the weather as much as where we were downtown, and while there are some cool stores, we quickly tired of the walking and high-priced homogeneity and went back downtown to our room at the oh-so-convenient-and-more-real-feeling Ace to ready for the evening.
After "sprucing up" , , and stopping in the lobby to take photos in the old photo booth, we headed over to Henry's to take in a bit of the Seahawk's playoff game. We enjoyed a huge happy hour plate of fresh pita and hummus and an IPA each whilst watching the last few minutes of the first half and the entirety of the third quarter before we departed and went across the street to Al’s Den, a cool bar and music venue underneath McMenamin’s Crystal Hotel. I’d figured we’d just casually stroll in (or down below street level as the case may be) and find a place to sit. But the place was packed. And while the music had been slated to start at 7, and I’d been worried we were missing out, it was nearly 7:45 and it still hadn’t started yet. No place to sit, that we could see, aside from one lone high stool sitting by a side door. Riley sat on that and I stood next to her until I’d scoped things out enough over the next few minutes to realize that if we moved a piece of firewood from beside the chair Riley was in and scooted it closer to the booth next to her, there would actually be room for another available high stool I’d just spotted. Turned out to be perfect seating for watching the evening’s music unfold. Seems like things always work out perfectly...when I let them!
The first couple acts seemed good, but there was too much reverb to be able to clearly hear the vocals of either performer. Music was good though so I tried to just focus on that. And then it was time for the main performance. Christina Cano and Friends: Siren and the Sea. And what a treat to sit there with Riley taking in a performance by this talented young woman and her fellow bandmates (and wonder what sort of inspiration it might be to Riley, who dreams of performing). And, interestingly, the lyrics were perfectly clear now. She felt real and passionate, as well as dynamic and fresh. I liked that she seemed completely comfortable in her skin. That she wasn’t trying to be anything other than true to her own self. And patrons, as opposed to how loudly they were visiting amongst themselves during the opening acts, were completely at attention now. When Christina first came on stage she did a little solo thing and then she invited her bandmates up and one of them accidentally knocked over her cocktail. I assumed a friend or another patron would probably buy her another drink. And then half-way through the performance I realized no one had bought her another drink so I did and placed it on the stage midway through a song she was singing and she said “thank you” in the middle of the song. I sat back down next to Riley, wondering if she was embarrassed of me but instead she whispered, “Nice gesture, Mom.” And then when Christina was done with the song she looked right at me and said, “Thank you again, You’re the shit.” (And also something about people often meeting for the first time over alcohol.) All I knew was that it felt good to follow through on my heartfelt desire to go buy a drink for her, regardless if it might be seen as strange by anyone else or not.
After the music was over we exited this unique underground venue up to the street, hungry but unsure where to go. Had planned on hitting Grasse (a hand-made pasta eatery right next to and affiliated with Lardo), but they closed at ten and it was now after. Floundering a bit we decided to walk back to the hotel. Went into Clyde Common, the restaurant adjacent to the hotel, and got a seat. Cool spot. But perusing the food options, which are no doubt very good, we realized the options were fairly scant, expensive, and not really what we were looking for at this hour. So we offered our apologies and left. But we couldn't find anything else in the immediate vicinity that sounded good so we went back to Henry's and ordered the Grande Nachos...which were far from Grande. Compared to the large happy hour pita and hummus plate, these Grande Nachos were a pathetic disappointment. A small plate with a few chips, some weird and greasy cheeze-whizzy type glop drizzled over, and four sliced jalapenos. Nothing else. We'd ordered them with chili but they'd forgotten that, and with apologizes the server retreated to the kitchen only to bring out a tiny taster-sized ramekin of bean-less greasy red stuff they seemed to think was chili. And Riley and I gobbled it all up like we hadn't eaten in a month. And then--both of us looking at the one sad greasy chip left on the plate, and then at each other--we burst into uncontrollable and breath-draining laughter. Our makeup washed into our napkins and left smears across and down our faces. And we couldn't stop. It was as if the entire restaurant, and all its patrons and staff and tables and bottles and televisions just blurred into nothingness and it was just Riley and I in the whole world, unable to stop laughing.
Eventually, a bit of consciousness returning, I felt something with my foot underneath the table. I bent to reach for it to make sure it wasn't one of our scarves or something and Riley says, "Uh oh, don't hate me, but I just remembered that I left the umbrella at the other restaurant." It belonged to the hotel, and we'd used it all day, and I'd worried all day that we'd leave it somewhere and get charged the $80 replacement fee. And then I laughed some more, a bit more nervously this time, about showing up with tear-stained faces and red swollen eyes, inquiring about our poor lost umbrella.
We didn't finish that last chip. And we found the umbrella exactly where Riley had left it. And when we crawled into bed in our cool little artsy fartsy Portlandy room that supposedly had thin walls, we laughed about all of it, and more, in the dark, for a good hour, crying into our pillows and wondering and not caring who could hear us. I can honestly say that those pathetic nachos turned out to be the best damn nachos I've had in a very long time! And as I drifted off to sleep, I thought about how very lucky I am to share such precious moments with this best friend and daughter of mine.