Powell’s City of Books: Why I have the Best Husband

My husband Jim and I make some epic bets. Several years ago we made some lists of things we would like to achieve or try in our lifetime. Then, not much later, Jim was applying for a promotion at work and had some interviews and it was looking hopeful. I like to blab and he was quite concerned that I’d get everyones’ hopes up about the job before we really knew anything. Jim’s the opposite. He likes to wait until after his first day to officially say whether he got the position. Or possibly never.

In order to insure my secrecy, Jim bought my silence with the promise of one item on my wish list. I chose a shopping spree at Powell’s books in Portland. Years went by. The job didn’t pan out. I was still assured my spree would come.

Jim got another job, we moved two states away, and I ended up flying over Portland and the Powell’s City of Books. That’s as close as I got.
Another six months went by.

Jim’s new job had a random district meeting in Portland! But by that time I had a nine month old baby. The drive from Seattle to Portland isn’t terribly strenuous… without a baby.

The drive from Seattle to Portland in early Spring with a nine month old wee baby Henry in the backseat is ill advised. Add torrential downpour, a lot of stopping and starting, and a hopeful City of Books shopping spree? Oh no. Somebody should have told me no! And Jim is soft hearted and we were young and foolish. So off we went!

The wee baby handled the drive down alright. We sat in the back with him. He napped well. We stopped at Burgerville for burgers because burgers are delicious and shakes are, too. Burgerville is pretty good. It’s no Dick’s Drive-in. I should probably start a burger critic blog.

We checked in at the motel. I had packed reasonably well. The baby was a little tired but not terrible. Then we decided this was our chance to brave Powell’s City of Books. You know how I know I have a crush on something or someone? When I use their entire title. Like Michael-Paul Jensen in first grade. I bought him the nicest trapper keeper and pencils for his birthday. That was one heckuva pool party, Michael! Hope you’re reading this. How you doin? (I KNOW I’m married, Matt. Simmer down.)

We drive down to Powell’s City of Books. They have the weirdest one way old school parking garage. It was delightful. There are no elevators that I can see. I put the Ergo on and strap the baby in for ADVENTURE!! I’m so excited I’m vibrating with enthusiasm for all of the books.

I’ve given this trip a lot of thought. Three plus years of strategy and mapping and planning. I’m on the Powell’s email newsletter and I review the website for upcoming events and sales. They have an amazing Tumblr account.

After reading author reviews, author notes, frequent buyer tips, and seeing all the photos of the bar none displays, I come up with a few ground rules for this extravaganza:

1. I will not try to walk down every aisle and look at every shelf. Far from it. I can expect to see the highlights and miss a few treasured opportunities
2. Whenever possible, and with few exceptions, I will buy books I have never seen before and definitely books I’ve never read – no themes and it doesn’t have to make sense
3. Predominantly female authors – we’ll save my diatribe on misandry for another day
4. I will buy a maximum of two Powell’s mementos and few other sundries. This haul is 95% books.
5. It’s okay to buy things I want to share with my family
6. This trip needs to be fast and furious and passionate and not completely wear me out.
7. I will set aside time to revel in my new collection
8. The books will be contained primarily on their own pristine shelf in my library, so that I can continue my gloating well past a decent time period

It was everything. Henry was a sport! Jim helped me carry baskets around. Our arms did get a little tired. The baby got a little fussy towards the end. AND IT WAS GLORIOUS!

Powell’s is huge. It’s massive. That’s what she said.

It’s like heaven in there – they have a front, a back, a side, side to side, stairways to the next level.. three stories and so many shelves and the most amazing hand written recommendations from everyone. Customers, employees, authors, vampires, you name it.

There is a coffee shop. There are couches. There are comfy chairs. You can climb up to more books. There are soooo many books in there.

It’s a lot to take in. I wanted to live there but Jim said no. (just kidding, I didn’t bother asking. He knows I wouldn’t get anything done.)
Remember my misandry? One local author took it upon herself to write a tiny printed and stapled book guide called Instead of White Men by A.M. O’Malley. The book is a giant list of match ups taking time period, subject, and writing style into consideration. Pro tip: Instead of Robert Frost, read some Edna St. Vincent Millay. You’re welcome!

The two white guys with me proceeded unharmed and unfazed. Thank god for that!

I even bought myself a pair of socks that said “Carpe the fuck out of this diem” I wear them for bravery and not giving a fuck.

Finally, I bought some really cool children’s books I hadn’t seen before and some cookbooks and books about food. Not to worry, we’re feeding the children faerie tales and fettucine. And any grown ups that show up. I don’t adult most days, myself.

When we arrived at the register to buy all of my loot, the guy who rang me up offered to ship everything to me for a flat rate! I LOVE YOU POWELL’S! THANK YOU FOR COMPLETING ME!

Here is the no particular order list of things I picked up on my Powell’s City of Books Shopping Spree Delight:

La Tartine Gourmande
Don’t let the Pigeon Drive the Bus
Pioneer Woman Cooks Holiday
It Must’ve Been Something I Ate
Garlic & Sapphires
The Man Who Ate Everything
Art of Eating
Promise of Stardust
Dispossessed SF Masterworks
Wizard of Earthsea
Bitch Planet Volume 1Rat Queens Volume 1
Powells Ceramic Coaster
We Should All Be Feminists
Diamond Age
Instead of White Men
Night Bookmobile
My Kitchen Year
Waste Land & Other Poems
Notorious RBG
Boy Snow Bird
In My Heart
100 Things That Make Me Happy
Carpe Diem Socks
Furiously Happy

In summary, this was an amazing trip. We made it home in one piece and my books were waiting for me the next morning. The wee baby Henry seemed slightly frazzled and sorted it out within 48 hours. He loves the books. So delicious!


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