Sunday, September 13, 2009

Powell's, Portland & Pitas

I make it into the maze of Portland. What's the answer: PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION. The MAX; the only way to go. So I take the Blue line across the river and into downtown. It feels great to be on the light rail--haven't used public transit since the TUBE in London last summer. Time to stop and slow down, read, meet local people, and travelers-- excited, friendly, ready to explore. Cause I am.

I chat with Helena, an Oregon transplant from Minnesota. A mother of four who works in the securities industry. But at heart, she says she's a writer. A woman with many stories to tell--heartache and joy all apparent in her generous, kind eyes and smile. We connect as mothers, as women, discussing the never-dull job of parenting pre-teens. Our stories connect, and I start to think how we all are storytellers. But only a few are lucky enough, or crazy enough, to write them down and follow the long, winding path of sharing them with the world.

I exit Morrison, head south a few blocks on toward Burnside. The streets are mellow. Crossing one-way streets as a pedestrian is actually quite nice. I pass a park, tiny trailers of various ethnic food, vintage clothing stores. Hip, outdoor cafes. Burnside is just ahead. And there it is...
Powell's. Ya-hoo! I'm through the maze of downtown Portland. Take that! Inside the store, a writer and reader's dream come true. So many rooms. All labeled by color: yellow, green, orange, and rose. Like a magnet, I find myself drawn to the literary section. The musty smell of old books wafts into my nose. Such a welcomed scent. I check out Mark Twain, admire his rebelliousness & skepticism. A true man before his time. I buy two books on writing (THE FOREST FOR THE TREES by Besty Lerner ((recommended by my fellow writing buddy, Monique Ruiz,)) WRITING THE LIFE POETIC by Sage Cohen.) On to the Mystery room where I buy Nevada Barr's HIGH COUNTRY, set in Yosemite (been meaning to buy it for years.) In the fantasy section, I admire Neil Gaiman's huge body of work (as I finish THE GRAVEYARD BOOK. Boy what a career Gaiman has!) Off to new-releases and politics. I buy TRAVELING AS A POLITICAL ACT by Rick Steves (very cool book. a concept I agree with immensely.) And then off to the children's section. I'm drawn to the Newberry & National Book winners. Awed by the long line of incredibly talented children's book authors and the impact they've made. I find my critique buddy, Kathryn Fitzmaurice's first novel, THE YEAR THE SWALLOWS CAME EARLY, face out on the shelf. Yipee! I buy SAVVY by Ingrid Law, THE DRAGONS OF ORDINARY FARM, by Tad Williams and Deborah Beale (my reluctant-reader son is loving this one.) My stack is huge. What am I doing? I have no control. Total book obsession. At least book addictions are healthy for the body and soul, just not my bank account. Ugh.

I sit on the floor of the children's section and gawk at my books, laughing out loud at this picture book:

Cover Image

A must read for dog lovers who appreciate the imperfection and

perfection of rescued dogs, or anyone who loves a quirky sense of humor (the author/illustrator, Berkeley Breathed is the artist who did the OPUS cartoon.)

I buy this one, and leave it with my brother and sister in law (to honor their quirky beagle and basset hound.)

Outside Powell's, I meet another writer. Rashib carries this sign: "VEGAN, HUNGRY, HOMELESS, AND HANDSOME." I laugh and head on down to the Pita Pit (OMG I love the Pita Pit. Why don't we have them in OC?) I order a veggie falafel with feta and all the fixings. Eat half, and take half back to Rashib, forgetting that vegans don't eat feta--NO animal products (makes me feel a bit guilty for my easy vegetarian ways.) But he's gracious, and accepts the pita to give to someone else who is hungry. A waiter walks out. Someone has already bought Rashib a slice of colorful vegan veggie pizza anyway. You gotta love Portland.

Rashib and I talk of the world. He says he's traveled all over the globe with this very same sign. He even wrote it in Indonesian when he was there. Rashib says he's been writing like crazy lately, and I should look for his book soon in the stores--GLOBAL NOMADS. That would be cool. We talk about Africa, he's still yet to go there. I recommend it (hauntingly for's been a year since I've been and my heart longs for that red soil.) He's glad to meet me. Glad to eat his began pizza slice. Glad to tell me his story.

Like bookends, I meet Helena on the way in and Rashib on the way out. So many storytellers. All of us so diverse, such different life experiences, yet all eager to share our stories, to share our piece in this massive, interconnected maze of life.


Kathryn Fitzmaurice said...

I didn't know you were traveling! But then, if I think about it, that's probably your favorite thing to do!

Lori said...

We took a 3-week trip at the end of June and into July. I'm just a BIT late finally posting everything. Better late than never, I say. Thanks, K!

Eunice said...

LOVE your connections with the people! I especially like the way you started a conversation with Rashib...why are we so afraid to acknowledge the "people with signs"?? At times we look away, or worse, pretend they don't exist. Thank you for sharing that particular part of your journey and for taking a picture of him. Like you said before, we all have stories within us. We just never know what treasures we will unlock...

Lori said...

Thanks you guys. Yeah, the people you meet, especially while traveling alone, are usually the true treasures.