“In America, if there are those white lines in the street that’s where you’re supposed to cross. You should still look, but most people will actually stop for you.”


“In America, new batteries last longer than a couple of hours. They will last days or even weeks and sometimes months.”


“In America, if a store says it’s open till 7, then it will be open till 7. He’s closing 10 minutes early tonight, but that’s unusual. People tend to be very time-conscious.”


The other night, we went downtown and wandered round. It was fun introducing my kids again to NW culture. We went into Powell’s, which for you poor people that don’t live in the NW is just about the best bookstore in the world. It’s a place I dream about when I’m overseas; an entire city block, 3 stories high, crammed full of books of every kind on every topic by every author. I love Powell’s because they combine both new and used books. Elliot found some books he wanted, and I taught him my trick—you quickly skim through all the copies of the book you want and find the cheapest. Never just take the top one. We found 2 like-new-but-technically-used copies of the books for $2.95 each instead of the regular $7.99 price. I also got a few books for myself (insert dreamy sigh here). This is combined with a visit to my friend Tiffany, who is in many ways better than Powell’s because every time I go there, she loads my arms with books that she gives me! I’m blessed in my friends. Right now I’m reading “Inheritance of Loss” from her; she also gave me 12 others. I’m gorging myself on reading. (I’m also going to start doing book reviews in the blatant goal of getting people to send me free books. I have no shame. Watch this space, as they say in the biz.)

The children’s section of Powell’s is housed in the “Rose Room” and it’s huge—as big as many entire bookstores, bigger than many Oasis Books put together. The kids had no idea there were so many books, and who could choose? It was a complicated time for me. I had the sense that I should know where each child was at any given minute but that was hard as all of us were constantly sidetracked, our eyes caught by an enticing cover, title, alleyway between shelves. We’re still in a bit of culture shock, still doing a bit of that deer-in-headlights that this mall culture of excess choice does to the uninitiated.

I would find one child, say firmly “Now you stay right here” and then go to look in the next aisle for another child, get sidetracked by a sale book on Victorian history for children (fascinating!), go back, find that the first child had disappeared, find another child, and repeat from the top. This took some time. I thought things would get better once I put my foot down and insisted that it was time to go to MY section now, but it didn’t—kids are fascinated by grownup books too. Then we tracked Donn down in the Photography section (he joined us late) and went off for Vincente’s pizza, which is probably the best pizza in Portland. Abel told the waiter that, in his opinion, it’s the best pizza in the world! He may very well be right. It’s located on 20th and Hawthorne, for those of you who care.

It was nearly 9, but the kids were clamouring for a movie, claiming they weren’t even a bit tired. And what is summer vacation for? We took them to see Spiderman 3 at the Avalon on Belmont, where all tickets are $2.50 and all arcade games are a nickel and all floors are as sticky as a stereotype of cheap movie theatres. It was a great night. The kids loved the movie, loved the games, loved the whole evening. Sometimes it’s nice to be home.