A long time ago I had visions of a book blogger retreat in Portland, Oregon. Those plans never panned out (but have instead morphed into a book blogger convention to take place either right before or right after Book Expo America in New York in May 2010), but since I still wanted to visit Portland, I planned to go up there and have a fun weekend with other book bloggers.
The weekend was more fun than I can even tell you.
From left to right: Suzi from Whimpulsive, Gabe from Reading Local, Wendy from Caribousmom, Gilion from Rose City Reader, Ali from Worducopia, Kristen from We Be Reading, Teddy from So Many precious Books, So Little Time, Bethany (in front) from Dreadlock Girl, and Trish (ME!).
So the nine of us decided to have the BEST. WEEKEND. EVAR. Okay, maybe we didn’t say that in our emails, but that’s how it turned out. At least for me.
We met on Friday night at McMenamins Ringlers Pub in downtown Portland. I was nervous because the only person I actually knew in person was Wendy from Caribousmom. Everyone was really nice and we talked about…wait for it…wait for it…blogging. Betcha couldn’t guess that, couldya?
Side story that relates to the whole weekend: I guess I should tell you that I love donuts. I love donuts with a passion. I used to eat three donuts for breakfast (and would wash them down with a cold Pepsi) at least once a week if not 2-4 times a week. Also, I can’t just eat any donut. Having eaten that many donuts, I can pretty much tell the good from the bad just by looking at them.
Bethany and I met Teddy and her husband on Saturday morning at SweetPea, a vegan bakery. I’m not a vegan, but SweetPea has fresh donuts Saturday mornings and WHO AM I TO PASS UP FRESH DONUTS? They were still warm. They were pretty good, but they *were* vegan, and while I’m trying to be healthier and live a greener lifestyle, I still like my fried dough to have eggs and butter. I was definitely out of my element, and I think my eyes got as wide as saucers when I ordered a latte and the girl said, “Do you want soy, almond, or rice milk?” I’m just glad I didn’t blurt out, “You mean you don’t have REAL milk?”
Our first appointment was at Powell’s for a private tour. Holy books! I think there is a heaven for book lovers and it is called Powell’s. Here’s some facts about Powell’s:
- Powell’s was established 38 years ago by Walter Powell.
- He decided that instead of separating new and used books, he would put them all together.
- It only took him a year and a half before he had to move to a different location, which is where they are now located.
- Powell’s has 27 used book buyers.
- There are 9 “rooms” at Powell’s. Each room has a specific kind of book. For example, the blue room has fiction, and there’s a green room, an orange room, etc.
- Powell’s used to be four stories tall, but it’s currently only two stories. They plan on tearing down the green and blue room and using that space to build a three story building.
- They can fit 350 people in the room where they have author events.
- Per week, 35,000 books are bought at the main Powell’s location, and the same amount of books are being purchased online.
- 1 MILLION books sit on Powell’s shelves.
- Powell’s employs about 190 people just in their main location.
There’s a really cool pillar outside one of the entrances to Powell’s.
The employees helped pick which books would appear on the pillar. The title of each book is written in the language in which the book was written. The books chosen were what the employees considered to be the best books of all time. They are:
- Moby Dick
- War & Peace
- 1,000 Nights & a Night
- Tao te Ching
- The Odyssey
The bottom of the pillar, the four sides, say in Latin, Buy the Book, Read the Book, Enjoy the Book, Sell the Book.
Our tour guide showed use Powell’s rare book room, which was really cool. We got to see this old book from (I believe) 1814 that still had the map attached. It’s a book about the Lewis & Clark expedition.
We got to see a book with fore edge painting.
See how it looks like a regular book?
Now look at the edges when someone fans them out:
Unfortunately, we only had about an hour between our tour at Powell’s and our tour of the rare book room at the Portland library, so I didn’t get to browse the books at Powell’s as much as I would have liked. That’s probably a good thing, though, since I *shouldn’t* be bringing more books into my house.
I thought the tour of the Multnomah County Library’s rare books collection would probably be cool but now BLOW-MY-MIND-and-leave-me-wanting-more cool. Jim Carmin was the best kind of host: nice, funny, enthusiastic, and totally cool. And how could he know that I love Geek Love and Katherine Dunn? He couldn’t, and yet he brought out a rare copy of Geek Love that has a cover that was illustrated by a friend of Katherine Dunn. Bethany was kind enough to take a picture of me holding the book, so here I am geeking out:
Needless to say, Jim had my devotion after showing us this rare copy of Geek Love.
The only complaint I have is that our time with Jim just wasn’t long enough. If I ever go back to Portland, I will be sure to schedule an appointment with Jim so we can geek out over all the cool books residing at Portland’s library.
After seeing all these cool books, we got to talk more about books with Molly Gloss. It’s so rare to get to sit and chat with an author and ask all the questions you ever wanted to know! We talked to her for almost an hour and a half, and she’s really piqued my curiosity in her works. I plan on reading The Hearts of Horses and The Dazzle of Day.You can see a picture of all us bloggers with Molly Gloss over at Teddy’s blog.
After talking to Molly Gloss, most people had to break off and go do their own thing, so Bethany and I went back to Powell’s, browsed a little bit, then went out to dinner where we talked and talked and talked. The food was only so-so, but I absolutely loved talking with her and only wish we lived closer. You know how you sometimes meet someone, and you think, “How could I have gone through life and NOT KNOWN THIS PERSON? My life is so much RICHER by knowing this person.” That’s how I felt with Bethany.
So the trip was FANtastic. But I was determined to go to Voodoo Doughnut for breakfast on Sunday before I had to catch my plane. I left my hotel at around 6:30am so I would have plenty of time to get my donuts and still catch my plane. When I finally found Voodoo Doughnut, I was like ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME. The place is a tiny hole-in-the-wall, and supposedly their donuts are really good…SO good that they’re able to stay open 24 hours. So I go in and basically all it is is a counter and space for about 5 people. More than five people and it would be crowded. And there was a rotating display case that showcased their donuts and I was like, Gross, I’m getting donuts that aren’t even FRESH! GAH! So I order my donuts, and instead of pulling them out of the display case, the lady pulls them off of the racks used to transport mass quantities of baked goods. This is a good sign, I thought. I waited until I got through the airport and to my boarding gate before I ventured into what would be awesomeness or grossness. I even picked up a cold Pepsi along the way. I needn’t have worried. My maple bar and raised glazed were the best donuts I’ve had in a long time. I licked my fingers and promised myself that Voodoo donuts are the only donuts I will eat if I’m ever in Portland again.
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