Wednesday, September 23, 2009

City of Books, City of Beer, Oh What a City!

Up and Adam, or up and at 'em as the case may be.

Day two in Portland started out a little rainy so I took a little time to do some writing before heading back to Milo's City Cafe (everybody loves Milo's) for another outstanding, albeit late, breakfast (complete with mimosa, of course). The rain had abated by the time I was done leaving behind a cloudy yet pleasant day.

I hopped on the MAX once again and headed into town. This time I jumped off at Pioneer Courthouse square, often referred to as "Portland's Living Room". This beautiful red brick square is sort of a downtown hub, an epicenter for transportation and people watching, where street musicians, suburban professionals, the homelessness and near homeless all merge together into one very "Portlandesque" street scene.

My destination today is Powell's City of Books. Started from a humble store front in 1971, Powell's has grown into one of the best known bookstores in the country and one of Portland's most visited tourist destinations. Although they have several stores in and around the greater Portland region, their downtown store at 1005 West Burnside is the main attraction.

This self-proclaimed "largest new and used bookstore in the world" (and I believe it) occupies an entire city block and stocks over one million new and used books across 3,500 different sections in nine color coded rooms covering 68,000 square feet. As soon as you walk in you know you're in bookstore nirvana.

I entered the store at the main southeast corner entrance and proceeded past the huge counter where they buy over 3,000 books daily to grab a store map. The store is laid out in color coordinated sections on four different floors. After carefully studying the map I made my way around the store with relative ease, only getting lost only once or twice amidst the impenetrable jungle of book shelves.

It takes a while to navigate the entire store, particularly when you're continually sidetracked by an endless array of amazing titles. After a few hours I wasn't sure if it was day or night or even what day it was. Luckily I was able to head down to World Cup Coffee and Tea, Powell's in-store cafe emporium to regain my bearings with a cup of superb coffee, a sandwich and...alright...perhaps a chocolate chip cookie or two.

I wandered back to the streets dazed and confused by the new reading lists swirling through my head. On my way back to Pioneer Courthouse Square to catch the MAX, I stopped in at a the nearby Deschutes Brewery for a pint (or two) of Mirror Pond Ale, my favorite Deschutes Brew. SWEETNESS!

It was getting late and after leaving Deschutes I had to high tail it over to the MAX to get back across the river to meet my host for a drive over to SE Portland and the Hawthorne area to visit a couple of stores that are not as easily reached via public transpo.

First stop was Longfellow's Bookstore, one of Portland's oldest independent used bookstores at 1401 SE Division Street. Owned and operated by father-son partners Jon and Nile Hagen, the store has been in continuous operation for over 17 years and offers a great selection of quality used books, collectible periodicals, first editions and ephemera in a store of elegant and loosely organized chaos that's fun to peruse. While some components of the inventory are more than gently used, there are plenty of nooks and crannies full of interesting titles that make this staple of Portland's southeast community a worthwhile stop for any booklover.

After adding yet again to the collection of books I'll have to fit into my suitcase, we left Longfellows and headed east on Hawthorne Blvd. to the super clean, super fun and super specialized (I'm running out of superlatives) Murder by the Book. This popular new and used indie has been "knockin' em dead" on Hawthorne Blvd. since 1983. They offer a great selection of traditional and hard-to-find mysteries in cloth and paper, with a great collection of mystery author backlogs. Owners Barbara Tom and Carolyn Lane truly know their stuff and can answer virtually any genre-related question you could possibly have, and even a few you couldn't. If you're a mystery buff (and what exactly is a buff?) this place has got the goods.

After the late start, it was quickly turning into a late finish and well past time for a dinner and a little R&R. We headed a little further east on Hawthorne and parked our rear ends at the Bridge Port Ale House for a superb slow cooked dinner washed down with perhaps a few too many pints of their award winning IPA. Oh Portland, land of great food and great beer, it's so great to visit thee.

Luckily, we avoided being pulled over on the way home (don't try this at home, kids). Staggering in well past midnight (sorry roommates) we hit our respective hays immediately, already lamenting the now immutable decision to leave for Bend, Oregon at the crack of dawn.

It's going to be a rough morning, but well worth it to enjoy the outdoor paradise of Bend, Oregon where we'll be climbing South Sister, the third highest mountain in Oregon and of course, visiting the many indie new and used bookstores and superb restaurants that populate the quaint streets of Bend. Join me, won't you?

Until then-


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