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TorgoX (1933)

TorgoX
  sburkeNO@SPAMcpan.org
http://search.cpan.org/~sburke/

"Il est beau comme la retractilité des serres des oiseaux rapaces [...] et surtout, comme la rencontre fortuite sur une table de dissection d'une machine à coudre et d'un parapluie !" -- Lautréamont

Journal of TorgoX (1933)

Friday July 18, 2003
06:29 AM

Portland

[ #13531 ]
Dear Log,

So I went to the conference last week. I had great fun!

I was dreading the experience of flying, but a Xanax for flying made it all very un-harrowing. In years past, I'd fly out of Albuquerque, which was always harrowing because of local weater conditions; for this I also used to take Valium, which sedated me but also made me feel crappy. But this time the flying was smooth all the way, and the Xanax, as far as I could tell, had none of the side-effects of Valium. In fact, its effects were so generally negligible (except in keeping me calm), that I couldn't quite see how people could form addictions to it; presumably at higher doses and/or in other people, it behaves differently.

While at the Conference, I stayed with my very generous friend Sam, who lives just a mile or so from the hotel, in a wonderfully cat-infested neighborhood.

My sleep schedule refused to synch up, so I spent most night unable to get to sleep until at least 3 a.m. local time and unable to get up before 11a.m. on most days; and one day I just had to SLEEP. I blame Sam's mind-controlling hypnocats. I blame the occasional heat. I blame the ambient pollen. But mostly things were just fine.

I got to see so many fun people at the conf.

Me and Sam also hung out, got good Thai food, watched neat DVDs (Brakhage! YOW!), etc; and since his resolution this year was to learn to cook, I got him a rice cooker and showed him how to roll vegetable sushi.
I also took him along one night to meet some folks -- he's just sticking his toe into programming, much less tech conferences, but he was quite impressed by how pleasant it all was. I think he was worried it'd be like having to interact with a hundred demented autistic Turkish nematologists or something. But we ran into Dominus, Joe Johnston, Dave Adler, and other personable hyoomons, and so a good time was had by all.

On Saturday, before I left, me and Sam went to Powells (the main store, not the tech annex), and I went nuts, and bought:

  • Lautreamont -- Complete Works including Maldoror (original French, and two English translations)
  • Philip K. Dick -- The Man in the High Castle
  • William S. Burroughs -- My Education
  • William S. Burroughs -- Naked Lunch
  • Sarah Vowell - The Partly Cloudy Patriot
  • Florence King -- with Charity Toward None
  • Senzaki et al -- The Iron Flute: 100 Zen Koans [Tetteki Tozui]
  • Shows -- The Legends of Chief Bald Eagle
  • various -- Open Gate: An Anthology of Haitian Creole Poetry [bilingual, facing pages]
  • A. A. Milne - Vini-der-Pu [Romanized Yiddish Edition]
  • Steinbauer -- Neo-Melanesian Dictionary: New Guinea Pidgin-English
  • various -- a book of hymns in Hopi from like 1930.
  • Balutansky -- Tambour Battant: A Collection of Haitian Folk Songs, Riddles, Proverbs and Poems
  • Say It In Yiddish
  • and a little gift-sized art book of details from the Book of Kells

All very cheap -- almost everything under $10. Living well and cheap is the best revenge.

And for Sam I got a copy of The Man in the High Castle plus a bunch of Bruce Sterling paperbacks: Holy Fire, Heavy Weather, Zeitgeist, Schismatrix Plus, Distraction.

I completely forgot that I wanted to go clothes shopping and CD shopping -- these things are not very interesting in Juneau, but still possible.

My general impression of Portland is that it's wonderful in a very subtle way. There's no obvious source of its wonderfulness: it's not shockingly clean, nor giddily busy, nor dazzlingly architected, nor can one just reach out and summon up churros, udon, and Acoma pottery (all these things being required for my dream city). However, Portland is nice, consistently. The locals all seemed vastly more competent, sane, interesting, and generally approachable than anywhere else I've visited or lived. Unfortunately, property values are reportedly pretty high; and like anywhere, commutes and traffic can be a bother. The demographics are interesting: it seemed solidly skewed toward white middle-class people in their 20s. It's unlike Juneau, where the average person seems to be a fit 55-year-old with a Master's in Public Administration, and very unlike Albuquerque, where the average person seems to be a 40-year-old meth-addicted prostitute named Pepper who never made it past the 8th grade.

My entire experience of Portland is summed up in one moment: I asked a young attractive clerk at Powell's if they had a certain art book by David Byrne. Not only did the clerk not make me spell "Byrne", she knew the book, and found its inventory record in the computer in under 5 seconds, and authentically apologized for not having the book in stock right then.
I was struck dumb. Maybe it was aaaaaaaall a dreeaaaaam.

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  • Not only did the clerk not make me spell "Byrne", she knew the book,

    Sounds like you were at the Strand in NYC.

    and found its inventory record in the computer in under 5 seconds,

    Except for that part....

    and authentically apologized for not having the book in stock right then.

    ...and that. I don't think the staff at the Strand apologized for anything, authentically or otherwise. :-)

  • About 6 years ago we drove from Seattle to LA (fantastic scenery, highly recommended; apart from LA obviously) and stopped for a drink in Portland. We stayed for all of half an hour and both left thinking "Portland feels really good, we'll have to go back and see it properly some time".

    And our first impressions were vindicated big style at OSCON.
  • My entire experience of Portland is summed up in one moment: I asked a young attractive clerk at Powell's if they had a certain art book by David Byrne. Not only did the clerk not make me spell "Byrne", she knew the book, and found its inventory record in the computer in under 5 seconds, and authentically apologized for not having the book in stock right then.

    Yes, it's wonderful that the largest bookstore west of the Mississippi actually hires book people to work there, not just cash-register people.

    --
    • Randal L. Schwartz
    • Stonehenge