Wednesday, December 05, 2012


Went to Portland for the monthly medical adventure. The big west coast storms had discouraged any AngelFlight pilots from signing up for my mission, so I flew down via Kenmore Air and Alaska Air. (AngelFlight, determined to take care of me anyway, arranged for the AlaskaAir flight to be free. Thank you to AngelFlight and to Alaska Air.) Had a nice sunbreak for the flight out of Port Angeles...

December 2, 2012. Heading East Over Port Angeles Harbor (Click for larger image.)
The Olympics Peeked Out As We Flew By (Click for larger image.)
Not Many Passengers, So Kenmore Flew Us In a Piper Chieftain. (Click for larger image.)

This trip was all about urban delights. There I was in Portland, riding on the MAX (the light rail), and on the streetcar, arriving early enough in the evening to look around me. There are tall buildings and Powell's City of Books, and light rail and streetcars and buses, and restaurants and density, and people on bicycles zipping along the rainy dark streets with blinky lights on their helmets; brick buildings and pedestrians everywhere even on a rainy Sunday night. At the motel by the PSU campus, skyscraper out the window, sound of the MAX train's bell. I held my umbrella over a Portland State student at the streetcar stop; she was watching its expected arrival time at our stop via an app on her phone. Other stops have proper shelters and digital readouts, tick tick, the next car will arrive in 4 minutes, 3 minutes...

Motel Window at Dusk, 5th and Montgomery, Portland. Church of St. Michael the Archangel (Click for larger image.)
Motel Window at Dusk. The Portland Plaza and the Wells Fargo Center (Click for larger image.)

I got to Powell's after a quick supper in a noodle shop. Being there for the first time, wow, I was so excited I could hardly breathe. I mean, it wasn't just-a-bookstore-so-who-cares (which is what I expected and why I hadn't bothered to make it to Powell's on the previous eight medical visits to Portland) but TOTALLY BOOKSTORE, pulsing with energy the way midtown Manhattan does if you just stand there on the street. It was full of people buying armloads and even whole shopping baskets of books. It had shelves and shelves of Loeb Classical Library. No pix, I was too dumbstruck to fire up the camera. I had to close my eyes and leave altogether when I got to the natural history section. The store was so intoxicating I was about to forget that I am a lifelong public library user and only buy books sometimes, as much as possible buying via Port Book and News to help keep them in business...

All the time I was wandering through Powell's, I was thinking of a poem by Miriam Sagan (my co-editor in the once-was Santa Fe Poetry Broadside).

Miriam Sagan:
"Library", from Inadvertent Altar:

            Standing in the stacks of Widener Library
            For the first time, I could have found
            The Federalist Papers in Urdu
            If I'd looked hard enough
            Narrow space between the shelves, beneath a catwalk
            Scholars walked over my head, or graduate
            Students hugging tight cold Cambridge streets
            Avoiding deportation to some terrible regime back home.

            Level A, B, C
            Translucent floors are other ceilings
            Down at the bottom, books
            In languages obscure by the time
            Alexandria burned
            What Scythians spoke, or Assyrians
            Down here, I'm seized
            Not by a desire for knowledge
            But by desire
            Surrounded by the smell of paper
            Pages curling upward, I want to make love
            To anyone, myself, some old boyfriend
            Or current one
            For I'm alone.

            I told this story
            Twenty-five years later
            To a Buddhist scholar, who said:
            "Oh yes, that's bodhichitta,
            The thought of enlightenment."
            A nexus point
            In a diamond web.
            I'd always thought
            Bodhichitta was the smell
            Of the incense stick
            At the funeral
            Some wake up to impermanence
            Not this lovely sensation
            Of too much to read.

I've lived so long in smaller places (by choice) that I forget really what a city is, what it does, how it feels. It was great sparky fun. In the morning: streetcar to the medical center, appointment, then streetcar to light rail to airport to home.

This post is for CF and AO, with whom I have been talking about 'urban'; and for IJ, who claims, "I am immune, immune I say to any blandishment offered up in any book store. But just on the tiniest off chance that I don't know myself all that well, I don't darken the doors of the places. Well, not very often, anyway." And of course for the Other Miriam.

No comments: