October 25, 2005

Impressions of Portland

After I checked in to my hotel yesterday, almost the first thing I did was hie myself off to Powell's City of Books, a truly outstanding new-and-used bookstore. My hotel is next to the convention center, which is on the wrong side of the Willamette River, and I have no rental car, but not to worry--the "Max" light-rail line runs by the hotel, and took me across the river to within a few blocks of Powell's. I didn't stay long, as it was getting late and I wanted to get back to the hotel before dark; so this morning I took "Max" across the river but got off sooner and took a rather longer walk to both the main Powell's and also to Powell's Technical Books. I came away with a number of impressions. The urban population is rather more diverse than I am used to. I'm seeing lots of young folks with metal sticking out of their faces, and there are more smokers than I usually see. And I'm seeing a surprising number of people in wheelchairs on the train. Possibly, of course, the train makes it easy enough to get around that folks with wheelchairs tend to live near and its route; I dunno. And of course there are the inevitable homeless folks. Portland is a nice city to walk in; apparently they've really made an effort to work on that. The stores (and there are lots of big stores in Portland) have inviting entrances on the street corners. And for what it's worth, I walked about ten blocks along Everett from China Town to Powell's Technical Books and didn't hit a single "Don't Walk" signal. Everyone I've dealt with since I've arrived has been extremely friendly, from the cab driver who drove me in from the airport to the sales people at Powell's. And I have to say, the service at the Red Robin restaurant across the street from my hotel is as good as I've ever gotten in any restaurant anywhere. When I went there for dinner last night, the person who seated me saw that I was alone and offered to find me a paper to read. I didn't need one (having just been to Powell's), but it was a nice gesture. And as I'm trying to keep to my diet as best I can on this trip, I had a number of special requests, and the waitress couldn't have been more helpful or more attentive. It's not a fluke, either; I went back there for lunch today, and was just as pleased. Tonight I let myself go, a bit; I went out for pizza and beer with a group of folks from the conference. I thought we were going to some local joint; in fact, we ended up at BJ's Pizzeria and Brewery. It was a nice dinner, and I enjoyed it thoroughly, but at this rate I'm not going to be able to indulge in any of the Red Robin's mud pie. Posted by Will Duquette at October 25, 2005 09:57 PM