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]


  1. OK, I'll bite (so to speak), since the "cock and balls" doughnut configuration isn't obvious to *me*...is it a long john served alongside two doughnut holes?

  2. Ya know, I never actually saw it, but I think that's the idea. They had something called a "gay bar" on the menu, but both times I visited, they were out of it. The gays must be popular in Portland--speaking of which, there seems to be one tiny block downtown that belongs to the gays--lots of rainbow flags jutting out from the buildings and a drag club on the corner. It felt kind of quaintly old fashioned!