Friday, September 11, 2009

Killin' Convention Time

Just a brief greeting from the lobby of the Portland Airport Holiday Inn, where I am actively killing time between my meeting and the dinner hour. I am at a convention of booksellers. The convention is, again, being held at a hotel seemingly miles from anywhere. Last year, I stayed here and at one point, walked out and around, making a roughly three mile circle, looking for something, anything, that might justify leaving the parking lot, after a second day stultified with heat and boredom and a very limited menu at the hotel's only restaurant. I couldn't find so much as a Slurpy. Very hot, very depressing, that walk-about. This year, I decided to stay instead at a hotel in Portland proper, and just drive over the bridge for my meeting. I picked a place, about a block up the road from Powell's Bookstore. I've stayed at the Mark Spencer Hotel many times, usually on trips bringing house-guests down to go to Powell's. I like the place fine. Moreover, last night I was able to take a Portland friend out to dinner at a lovely little place, a boite, I suppose? where I started with a delicious sidecar, where my guest had one of those fancy-pants-local-brewery-beer, and where we then had fabulous plates of rabbit with "hen's liver" and various other rather high end vitals. It was everything I could have asked of a meal, not in a suburban wasteland/convention center, but in a real city. And such a lovely city, Portland. Our great meal was followed by a long and digestively satisfying stroll about the town, the air being perfectly balmy, the company wonderful and the neighborhood interesting.

Today though, I'm back in the land of parking lots, warehouses and wasted hours smoking on a stone bench by the entrance. I've been to the actual trade show, I've eaten lunch with some of my delightful fellow committee folk -- I had a very generous Cobb salad that I remembered well from last year in the Holiday Inn's only restaurant -- and I've completed my work for the day. It was fun getting to see familiar folks on the committee, and to meet the newest members, good people all, but now I think I am just about done with conventioneering, at least for the day.

I have the bag with me of the few books I actually recommended to my committee, but I don't need to read any of these again. I have the New York Times from my hotel this morning, still need to get through that, and I have The Oxford Book of English Prose, the original edition, edited by Arthur Quiller-Couch. Thanks be for that little book! With hours to go and miles before I sleep, dear Q's selection of the best prose has been a respite and a refreshment after all these nominated, Northwest books. I don't think I could stand another snow-shoe walk, moose sighting, metaphor for rain, or argument for the preservation of mosquito habitat. Enough! Instead, I will go sit in my car, eat melting chocolates, smoke, doze and read a selection from John Arbuthnot's Memoirs of Martin Scriblerus. Don't know him or it.

And so, escape, if just for an hour or two, to civilization again.

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