I Got New Books!

In Uncategorized on January 24, 2011 by ryepdx

There’s a story that goes with this one.

A few days ago I took two boxes full of books to Powell’s City of Books. (Most people just call it Powell’s, but this often confuses me as there are no less than six different Powell’s bookstores in Portland, two of which I spent a lot of time around in high school and neither of which are the City of Books.)

Usually they look through my trade paperbacks and inspirational/evangelical books still left over from my Christian days and find nothing they need. It’s always somewhat embarrassing when that happens, like I have bad taste in books or something. I know that’s not the case; probably has to do with inventory or something; but there it is.

This time they found things they needed. Naturally, I took store credit. Or, rather, my girlfriend (who was with me at the time) did, because you need photo ID to take store credit and I have a terrible habit of leaving the house without photo ID.

Policeman with radar gun.

Most people call this the radar gun. I call it the "Oh shit, I left my driver's license at home AGAIN, didn't I?" gun.

So I returned later with my girlfriend, ready to spend the $40 in store credit I’d earned. Powell’s City of Books is a pretty popular place. Not hard to believe, since it’s only the largest used (and new) bookstore in the world. A whole city block of bookish goodness stacked three stories high. One room from this place is about the size and inventory of your average neighborhood used bookstore. It’s a bibliophile’s wet dream. A bookworm’s orgasmotron. And it’s open thirteen glorious hours every day.

Running into people one knows should not be surprising, given the draw of the place, and yet at the same time… it is.

I had just finished drooling over the stacks of Cory Doctorow books and was meandering over to the wall of manga (it’s a sickness, I know) when I found myself being hauled by the shirt collar into the adjacent cafe.

“She’s here!” My girlfriend whispered into my ear.
“Who’s here?”
“My ex-roommate.”

“My ex-roommate” is not strictly a technical term. It does refer to an ex-roommate, but she’s had many roommates in the past. There’s only one person I’ve heard referred to as simply “my ex-roommate,” though. It’s a little like saying “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named” instead of “Voldemort.”


Now, I’m sure I’ve seen a sociopath up close. It is estimated that something like 1 out of every 100 people in North America are sociopaths. But I’ve never seen someone in person who I already, before even meeting them, strongly suspected to be a sociopath.

“Where is she?”

After getting her description, I wandered back into the Gold Room, like Steve Irwin on a hunt. “We have to be very careful with this one,” I felt like whispering. But my accents have always been horrible.

It wasn’t very exciting. She looked like anyone else. I frowned and made a note to get my “sociopath radar” fixed.

Lots of meandering and browsing ensued. Then, up in the Pearl Room, among the stacks of music books, who should I spy but Tweaked Out Elvis Costello (from my bandmate’s blog) and his girlfriend?

My gut instinct? Hide.

Except I walked right past him and did an over-the-shoulder “wait, is that really who I think it is?” as I passed. Except I hid myself on the opposite side of the very bookshelf he was looking at. Except I couldn’t bring myself to say anything lest he hear and recognize my voice, trying instead to communicate with hand signals as my girlfriend kept asking me what was going on and why I wouldn’t say anything.

Somehow that worked.

But then as we were leaving the Pearl Room about fifteen minutes later, I glanced over my shoulder just as TWOEC was coming around a bookshelf. We locked eyes. Pretty sure I looked like a deer facing oncoming traffic. (This is why you should never look back when attempting a daring escape.)

The Great Escape

And THIS is why you should you never, EVER respond to English when escaping a POW camp dressed as an Nazi officer.

“Oh, hi,” I said.
“Hey,” he said.

Awkward silence.

“How’s it going?”
“Pretty good. How are things with yourself?”
“Pretty good.”

Awkward silence.

“Well, see you later.”

Not sure why I was so concerned about meeting him. Maybe it’s because last time I saw him I was in the rain, hauling my guitar back to my car after a band practice. He tried to start a philosophical debate with me. I remember it now…

“What is the role of the troubadour in modern society?”

Troubadour, eh? I thought. Does he mean “troubadour” in the historical sense, as in “one who chooses a lady of the court as his muse and waxes poetic about them,” or in the broader, popular sense of “one who writes music with lyrics, intending to make a person think?”

This came out as: “Define troubadour. Are we talking courtly love and all that, or Bob Dylan? I mean, this could extend out as far as to include Lady Gaga, really.”

My feathers were already somewhat ruffled. It was cold, rainy, I was ready to go home, and here he was trying to start a debate that sounded like more like a philosophical pissing contest than any kind of earnest inquiry. I get terse under those circumstances.

But at the same time I do love a good debate.

“I mean someone who wanders around, playing songs on their instrument for people to hear.”

“Oh, you mean a busker.”

“No, I mean someone who goes out into the woods, into nature, writing songs and stuff.”

Pissing contest. No, wait. Worse. I took a look at his girlfriend, who was standing with him in the stairwell, at the tiny little smirk under his pencil-thin mustache, at the oversized hipster glasses, at me in my button-up shirt, and I knew exactly what was going on.

I’m not quite sure how I got myself out of that one. It was the precipitation, I think, and the cold that kept me from standing there and tearing his logic apart. The bloodlust was upon me, so to speak, but so was the rain. I took my chance when he turned to his girlfriend to get a light for his cigarette.

“I should get going. See you later!”

I was amused and yet somewhat angry. I had gotten quite a bit wetter and colder for his intellectual chest-beating, but the whole encounter was, taken as a whole, laughable. I added this to the stories I already knew about him and moved on.

I thanked sweet Athe that I hadn’t gotten dragged into a repeat of the encounter above. I had things to do and Powell’s (City of Books) was closing in about half an hour.

Just to top the night off, I then met a much more pleasant individual from the same apartment as TWOEC. He remembered my name; to my chagrin I did not remember his. He complimented me on my band’s music, I thanked him and wished him a good night, and then we were off.

Three people I was somehow connected to in one night. I’m always amused and comforted when that happens.

On a closing note, I got two new books. One called The Checklist Manifesto (by Atul Gawande) and another called Overclocked
(a collection of short stories by Cory Doctorow.) I am more excited about the Cory Doctorow book. I feel like I need the checklist book more. :-p

I look rather manic in this photo. Maybe I'm just excited to have a copy of The Checklist Manifesto? :-p

Read books!


2 Responses to “I Got New Books!”

  1. Second largest. It’s the SECOND largest bookstore in the world. Largest in the country. 😛

  2. From their website:
    “Powell’s City of Books is a book lover’s paradise, the largest used and new bookstore in the world.

    So… maybe they’re wrong. But that’s what’s on their website.

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