the essential guide tour Pitchapalooza #13: coming home to Portland, autumn leaves, and packing ’em in at Powell’s

Portland, Oregon is one of our favorite cities in the world. In the name of full disclosure, David not only went to, but graduated from Reed College in Portland, and parts of his family has lived there on and off for a couple of decades. So it was a homecoming of sorts.

We landed in Portland on Tuesday or Wednesday afternoon. Frankly, we can’t remember which. Exhaustion was beginning to set in.

But as we deplaned, we witnessed a true miracle. Rain was not falling from the concrete Northwest sky. Our increasingly beloved travel agent put us in a gorgeous hotel right on the river, and the leaves were putting on a fireworks display of wild autumnal explosions.

Immediately we were struck by that unique combination of biking/hiking/outdoorsivity mixed with the attitude of chillaxation which makes Portland Portland. Plus the hotel had free, warm, fresh-out-of-the-oven chocolate chip cookies that made you feel all warm and happy and cozy. David’s sister Liz came down and we all had a lovely dinner, as she regaled us with hysterical stories of insanity from her gradeschool teaching. Then it was off to our gig, with Liz in charge of Olive while we were doing our thang. Olive is at that phase where almost everywhere we go, she looks around in bedazzled wonderment and exclaims joyously, “Wow, this is BEAUTIFUL!” Although it might seem counterintuitive to recommend taking a three-year-old with you on a book tour, I highly recommend it. She has already, at this point, become the go-to person when it came to keeping it real.

Powell’s Bookstore on Burnside may well be our favorite book emporium in the galaxy. David’s been going there since he was in undergraduate in the 1970s, soon after Michael Powell had the outrageous, outlandish, much-ridiculed idea of selling NEW books side-by-side with USED books. Gasp! What started as a cockeyed dream and a small room full of books, has become over the decades a mecca, shrine and heaven for books and those who love them, as well as an intellectual center in a city full of writers, artists, and musicians. This was David’s third event at Powells, and it’s always a transcendent thrill to be presenting his book in the very place he dreamed of being a writer when he was a bent and folded 18-year-old.

We were blessed with a truly top drawer all-star panel. Michael Schaub of Bookslut, Alison Hallett of the Portland Mercury, and Lee Montgomery, book guru of the venerable and influential Tin House (Sadly, Lee arrived after we took this photo).

They were assembled by one of our ATF* booksellers (and an excellent writer in his own right) Kevin Sampsell. To illustrate what a book mensch Kevin is, he proposed to his wife in front of 200 of his closest friends at the book release party for his memoir, right there at Powell’s.

As Olive was whisked away by David’s sisters Liz and Kate (who had joined us at the bookstores), to have her own book adventure, we were overwhelmed with gratification when 100 people showed up to pitch. Standing Room Only.

There was an apocalyptic kid’s book. A rhyming Christmas kid’s picture book. A cancer survivor looking to help sick kids book. An intelligence of Turtles book. A 15-year-old with a YA book about a pop star trying to find true love. But the winner was a young adult graphic novel about low riders in outer space. Full of beautiful poetry and wild action. The panel rocked HARD. The hour went by and about 10 minutes. Olive had a mad blast with her aunties. Portland, as usual, was everything we expected, and more.

*All-Time-Favorite for those of you without texting vocabulary