City block of books

Because we’re frugal people, Susanne and I booked our Thanksgiving flights in and out of Portland. Okay, so “frugal” might be a bit of an exaggeration. Flights in and out of Walla Walla’s regional airport, after all, run about $500 more than in and out of Portland. So throw in gas and a one-night hotel stay, and we’re still netting a savings. It’s a no-brainer, really.

But Portland holds other interest for us as well. The first two recommendations we had were to go to Powell’s City Block of Books, and Burgerville. Not necessarily in that order. Although as it turns out, that is the order in which we drove. If I’d gotten $5 for each trip over the Morrison Street bridge — I guess I’d have $10. Okay, chalk that up to another money-making idea that won’t work.


Burgerville in SE

Burgerville in SE

Powell’s was pretty amazing. Books were arranged in that special way that only book nerds can manage — color-coded rooms housed major categories like social science, science fiction, etc. I think usability specialists would have a critique along the lines that the colors don’t actually have any intuitive connection to the organization, but maybe only Edward Tufte would care. If you know who Ed Tufte is, you can pay me $5. Hey, I’m looking for income wherever I can get it, and why should I have to send you money just because you can google the guy?

I limped through the orange section’s five aisles of cookbooks. Cookbooks by region. I discovered that fully a third of the Spanish cookbooks are unusable because there are so many fish and shellfish recipes, which Susanne can’t eat. I know it’s got a long coastline, but heck, does Spain think it’s the new Japan? Cookbooks for weddings. Okay, that’s the last thing anyone needs — you’re getting married and you think you should cook your own food? Don’t professional caterers have their own menus? Who’s buying these cookbooks, exactly? Celebrity cookbooks. “Celebrity” here means Food TV celebrities. Who cares? I can watch their shows for free and make what they make. Give me a real celebrity cookbook. Publish Kenny Roger’s cookbook. I want to see blackened, vodka chicken with jackass hangover sauce. I would make that chicken.

Susanne went upstairs to the politics section, looking for books to purchase so she can review them for future classes. So productive, that one. She bought nearly $300 worth, gleeful to be spending from her college allotment. She chatted up the cashier on how nice it is to spend someone else’s money. And of course the cashier quite agreed, growing dollar signs in her pupils that I found disturbing. I looked up at the chalkboard behind her head and saw that Powell’s takes a number of currencies — yen, euros, pounds — and has an updated exchange rate posted (hence the chalk). Let me get this straight — you happen to be in Portland, Oregon, and you see the sign and say hey, let me just pull out these 13,000 yen so I can get a copy of Toni Morrison’s latest! Thank goodness I walk around all day with foreign currency!

After taking our five sagging bags back to the car, we motored on over to Burgerville. There are multiple locations in the city, which I thought was something akin to there being multiple Lebanese Tavernas in the Washington, DC metro region. So I was thinking nice burger place. And then we drove up to the place in a section of town that looked a lot like west Baltimore. Let’s just say that there are a lot of air conditioner repairmen in SE Portland.

We were not expecting Burgerville to be a fast-food chain. It had the basic McDonald’s layout of front door, back door, drive through, and order counter. We sat down to a cheeseburger, a cheesebaconburger, a medium pile of sweet potato fries, and a Black Forest shake.


our Burgerville lunch

our Burgerville lunch

And it was very tasty. Indeed. It was just a bit empty, which made it depressing, especially in the midst of the closed-down auto parts shops and pockmarked street just outside. But still, a nearly perfect shake, even if I had to struggle to suck it up a bit, due to the chopped cherries in it. Bigger straw, please. It’s not like a bigger straw is going to make people think you’re trying to be Wendy’s, after all.

Next time we go to Portland we’ll have to find some other treasures. It looked like a fun city. Feel free to leave your recommendations here, and we’ll take them under advisement.


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Categories: visiting


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