Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Portland, Oregon, August 2009: Part 2

Shopping: Well, the big draw for me was Powell's City of Books, the country's largest independent bookstore, which takes up an entire city block. Bookstores were always a big draw for me wherever I visited, but I have lately felt a bit jaded about them; been there, done that, can't find anything, go to Amazon. But Powell's was pretty fabulous. Lots of big color-coded rooms crammed with books (but not claustrophobic feeling) with content clearly labeled (literature in the Blue Room, science fiction in the Gold Room, etc.), huge shelving units, and best of all, used and out-of-print books shelved together. I also particularly liked their section of recent "first novels" in the Green Room. I snatched up some hard-to-find fantasy novels by A. Merritt (and read one, The Moon Pool, while in Portland) among other things, and after two visits, was afraid to ask if they shipped books, because I could have done some serious credit card damage.

I also found ways to occupy myself at Columbia Sportswear and Fossil, which, to my surprise, had t-shirts (our Fossil only has watches and accessories), lovely soft t-shirts which fit me perfectly. I also bought a few things at Under U 4 Men, a men's underwear store, but I'll leave that to your imagination.

Sights: Chinatown was a disappointment (kinda dissipated and smelly--and not good Chinese food smells), but we enjoyed visiting the Classical Chinese Garden; lots of beautifully arranged small gardens, reflecting pools, stone walkways, and rooms and views for contemplation (though it's really too full of tourists for much silent time). Lots of pics in my Portland Flickr set. We also liked Pioneer Courthouse Square (pictured above), a nice place for sitting, sipping coffee, and people watching. On Friday nights in the summer, they show free movies there, and we happened to stroll by just as the first dinosaur scene in Jurassic Park was playing, and that being a favorite movie moment of Don's, we hung around a few minutes. A couple evenings were spent just walking, in perfect summer weather, through parts of town not too far from our hotel (the leafy South Park blocks, pictured below, and the "cultural" district).

I was most excited about seeing the M.C. Escher exhibit, "Virtual Worlds." I loved Escher's paradoxical architecture and flights of fancy when I was in college, and seeing this exhibit has re-awakened my interest--at least to the point where an Escher calendar will be on my Christmas wish list. Most interesting to me were the early woodcuts from the 30's and 40's which I'd never seen before. I was sorry that there was no published catalog I could have bought. The rest of the museum was OK (no photography allowed, sadly) although we noticed an awful lot of dust on many of the permanent collection items.

Finally, there was the quirky little Voodoo Doughnuts. As a donut connoisseur, I couldn't leave town without at least one visit there, up near Old Town. Every time I walked past it, there was a line of at least 15 people snaking out onto the sidewalk (it's in a very small space). Twice I braved the line, a mix of locals and curious tourists, to snag a donut or two. Their specialties are elaborate and occasionally rather kinky confections (a Dirty Snowball, a Maple & Bacon donut, and the rather obvious Cock & Balls), but I stuck with a good old cake donut with vanilla frosting and sprinkles and it was just fine, if not exactly magical (pictured moments before it disappeared down my belly). Overall, a very nice visit to a moderately interesting city. If Don reminds me of any other details I should share, I will. [The picture of the Powell's room is from their web site; the other photos are mine]

Monday, August 17, 2009

Portland, Oregon, August 2009: Part 1

Our last several vacations have been to New York City or Chicago, or family visits to Maine. This year, Don signed up for Sock Summit, a convention for sock knitters, in Portland, Oregon, and we decided to make it our '09 vacation--after not really getting in a vacation together in '08. We had been to Eugene, Oregon many years ago for an academic conference and we were both charmed by its slightly funky but crisp, clean atmosphere; it felt like a small big town, or a big small-college town, with lots of boutiques, interesting restaurants, and a huge weekend arts fair. Assuming Portland would be like Eugene, I figured that while Don was at the Summit (2 or 3 hours each day), I could occupy my time with street strolling and bookstore visits.

Portland does have a compact downtown area, easily walkable, though if your legs get tired, there's also a light rail system which is free of charge in the downtown area. But the vibe of the city is a little weirder than Eugene (hence the sign above). The downtown is grungier than I was expecting, with several empty buildings and a fairly large homeless and/or panhandling population. Some areas are artsy and almost collegiate (it's home to Portland State University, just a few blocks south of our hotel), some are crammed with shopping, some are lovely tree-lined neighborhoods, and some are traditional run-down "old town" sections.

We stayed at the Paramount, only a couple blocks away from the heart of downtown, Pioneer Courthouse Square and the multi-level shopping mall Pioneer Place, and had no complaints about the lodgings: lovely lobby, free computers and Internet access, and a friendly staff, and we had a nice view from our 15th floor room of the very green South Park blocks (pictured at top).

Eats: Our first night, being jet-lagged, we wanted dinner at 3:30; we waited until 4:30 but the place we had picked didn’t open until 5, so we wound up at Greek Cuisina (above), a perfectly fine Greek restaurant with a big purple octopus as its logo. Best drink of the trip was here, a Bombay Cooler, which was gin with pomegranate and grapefruit juice. We had a good breakfast at Mother's Bistro, though we weren't crazy about being crammed in next to three other tables when there was no one else in the restaurant [bitchy rant about hosts/hostesses who do this deleted], but had a better breakfast at the smaller, funkier Bijou CafĂ© (below) up near Old Town--in fact, we ate there twice!

My realization about food while traveling is that it's not really about the quality of the food, but more about the atmosphere. For example, in Chicago with friends this past spring, we ate at Topolobampo, a ritzy Rick Bayless restaurant. The food was too high-end for me, but the experience of eating there was memorable. I'm not sure we had as memorable a meal in Portland, but the two that stand out were Deschutes Brewery & Public House (a Portland microbrew pub) up in the Pearl District, and Lolo's, a Tapas restaurant where we met 17 of Don's closest on-line knitting buddies whom he'd never met in person before. I unadventurously had burgers at both places, but the ambience of the each restaurant was enjoyable--loud and lively.

Part 2 in a day or so...

Monday, August 3, 2009

Library day in the life

This is my contribution to the "library day in the life" meme. I think we're supposed to do this for a whole week, but I happen to be going on vacation tomorrow, and when I come back, my job will be a bit different (30 hours in Tech Services, 10 hours on the Reference desk), so I may re-visit this later.

The assignment: "Whether you are a librarian or library worker of any kind, help us share and learn about the joys and challenges of working in a library. Join us by sharing details of your day for a week on your blog. Not only is this a great way for us to see what our colleagues are doing and how they spend their days but it’s a great way for students who are interested in the library profession to see what we really do."


6:22: Alarm goes off--up to watch the local weathercast, into the shower, smooch the honey (who is already up and sitting at the computer), and leave the house by 7:00.

7:25: Arrive at my suburban library armed with coffee and donut; the only other people around are housekeeping folks. (Pic of darkened computer room at right.) I like to get here early to look at the New York Times online and maybe bang out a quick blog post, movie review, or tweet, or pick a few songs to DJ at blip.fm.

8:00: At my desk in Tech Services, downstairs, a wall-less cubicle. I catalog and process all the non-fiction books (except reference), DVDs, and children's books. Processing is minimal, as the books come in already wrapped; I stamp and put call number labels on books, and put rating and library address labels on DVDs. Fascinating, I know, but I do enjoy my work.

8:15: I buzz through a shelf of new titles, checking to see how many have full bib records in our system already (we are part of a consortium and share records with several other small libraries).

8:25: For those books without full bibs, I go to BookWhere to import records. For the handful I can't find there, I go to WorldCat, try to find a full record, and cut and paste what I can. For what's left, I compose an original bib record. The rest of the morning consists of me editing the records and attaching item records for each individual book.

My TS desk: note movie posters, Silver Surfer, pictures
of Jeremy Piven, Marx Bros. bears, and
year-round Christmas tree.

10:30: My buddy over in Acquisitions and I take our break together, our first 15-minute walk of the day, through the lovely shady streets of the suburb in which our library is located. Gossip and vulgar chat usually, with an occasional foray into philosophy.

12:30: Finished with my non-fiction books, I take my hour-long lunch, today at Qdoba, though I have a choice of many fast-food places (McDonald's, Taco Bell, Panda Express), slow/fast places (Panera), and sit-down restaurants. Any spare time during the hour I use to flip through newspapers and/or visit with my friends up in Reference.

1:30: Back at my desk (TS overview at left) with a load of DVDs, mostly catch-up on films for YS (Youth Services), like Jetsons: The Movie, and Wonder Pets: Ollie's Slumber Party. Boxed sets are a bitch, as they need to be totally re-packaged, with covers photocopied and/or cobbled together. Only one such set today.

2:20: The Secret of Loch Ness is giving me a problem. It's a DVD from one of several cheapie knock-off companies that market films that are kind of like other, more popular movies--a few weeks ago, I cataloged Plan Bee, an animated film marketed to look like Jerry Seinfeld's Bee Movie. This Loch Ness DVD looks like The Water Horse, but is actually, from what I can tell, a German made-for-TV movie. It's difficult to find out much information about it. I use Amazon, DVD Empire, or IMDb to flesh out bib record info that is not present on the product, but even the IMDb page for this film is fairly skimpy. Still, I got the bare minimum. It's actually "problems" like this that make my job challenging and fun.

3:30: Walk #2, with a Mounds Minature to get my flagging energy up.

4:45: Home stretch: cleaning up the desk, brushing blank labels and unneeded work slips into the trash, dumping empty coffee cups (yes, plural), trying to look busy for the last 15 minutes of the work day ;-)

5:00: On my way home, iPod plugged in so the car will be rockin'! Tonight, it's REM, Rolling Stones, The Go-Gos, Neil Young, Marvin Gaye, and the Decemberists.

The rest of my day is mostly non-library related (cooking dinner for Don and I; watching Jeopardy, Daily Show, Colbert Report; writing a blog entry, net surfing, watching a DVD--from Netflix, the library, or our extensive collection of mostly older movies). For me, this is how library work is different from my years in academics--as a grad student and teacher, "work" was always brought home, one way or another; here, it very rarely is, unless I'm still stewing about a squicky decision I might have made about a bib record. If I weren't going on vacation, it would all start again tomorrow at 6:22. But maybe I'll sleep in until 7:00!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Planning for Portland

Our summer vacation this year is to Portland, Oregon. Why, you may ask? Well, for one, we had a good time visiting Eugene, Oregon many years ago when we were there for a conference. There's also a lot of stuff to see and do there, as I've been learning all day long by using the Web and a Frommer's guide. My short list so far includes: 1) An M.C. Escher exhibit at the Portland Art Museum; 2) The Portland Classical Chinese Garden (in Old Town Chinatown, which would be my first ever "Chinatown" visit anywhere); 3) the Saturday Market, a huge arts and crafts fair; 4) The 3D Center of Art & Photography, with an exhibit of View-Master human anatomy reels; 5) lots of shopping, including Powell's City of Books, a couple of collector's record stores, and a men's underwear store (!!--see pic at bottom); 6) lots of interesting restaurants.

The real reason we're going there, however, is so Don can attend the Sock Summit, a huge 4-day conference for sock knitters, which he most certainly is! He's planning on taking a few classes (though frankly he should probably be teaching a few as he does here in Columbus on occasion, on his toe-up knitting style) and buying some yarn, and we have a Saturday dinner planned with some of his fellow online knitters. While he's knitting, I'll be roaming the streets of downtown, attending to shopping (of which he is not a big fan) and probably eating too much, and when we're together, we'll be doing arty things and, yes, eating too much.

As I said, I have pages of notes on things to see, and Google Maps by the score ready to print out, but if anyone has any recommendations, comment away. I'll report back here next week.