I asked Eric if for Christmas he might like a couple of books. It was a busy week, with the Christmas baby on her way, and so Susan and I found ourselves in Powell’s on Hawthorne two days before Christmas looking around for things we thought Eric might find interesting, not an easy chore, since we have trouble usually identifying things that even we might find interesting. It’s not easy finding the right book at the right time for someone. Choosing a book is like picking a campsite. But Susan’s a genius at this sort of thing, and found Nick Hornby’s 31 Songs, perfect, and Nickel and Dimed: Undercover in Low-wage USA, by Barbara Ehrenreich (the perspicacious reader will pick up on the perfect pairing these two books make).
Then, waiting in a long Powell’s last minute Christmas line with a hundred other Portlanders on Hawthorne, I spotted what appeared to be a little, homemade paperback, This is Portland: 13 Essays About the City You’ve Heard You Should Like, by Alexander Barrett. Three of the essays are only one sentence long (illustrated, to give them a bit more heft), and I liked that he still called them essays, and that you could read an entire essay standing in line at Powell’s on Hawthorne and that by the time you got to the counter, you could finish the book, and if you didn’t like it, you could just put it back. But I did like it, and I thought Eric would dig it, and the essay that cinched the deal (two pages long, still standing in line), was “Hawthorne V. Belmont,” about the supposed value clash between the two alt-commercial Portland East-side strips.
The author of This is Portland had only moved to Portland eight months before the writing of his book, but the book’s undated, which we find a bit weird, but Portlanders are supposed to value weird, so there you go, but a bit of Toads sleuthing and we came up with an on-line version of the book ($5 at Powell’s, but we’re more than ok with that, see below), and not only that, but we discovered (ok, this was actually pretty easy, the sleuthing part, since Alex the brief essayist included his website address at the end of his book) an amazing website devoted to himself, the Portland essayist, apparently hosted by his parents.
About being ok spending $5 for something available on-line for free: obviously, emailing somebody a link doesn’t make for much of a gift, but beyond that, we continue to support hard copy whenever we can, and Alex’s little hard copy book has already been shared and read by at least six others, folks dropping in on Christmas day to visit and share-alike. It’s a wonderful Portland.