Ordeal of the Phoenix

Wednesday July 02, 2003 @ 03:05 PM (UTC)

Matt and I are slow starters, I guess—I went to buy our community property copy of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix only yesterday. I guess the mad-rush-read-it-all-in-one-night thing (like Millie did) is less of an issue if you aren’t planning on downing it all at one sitting. Last book, Matt and I bought separate copies and read by ourselves, and we found that A) it’s hard to discuss things if you read at different speeds, and B) it’s over too fast. So this time, we plan to read it aloud to each other, taking turns. As we have a long road trip ahead of us, it seemed like about time to pick it up. We had resisted the urge to preorder the book off amazon because we wanted to support our local bookstore.

As I have previously lamented, I work in Portland, whilst my hearth is in Hillsboro. On Tuesdays and Thursdays I take the car. I drive home down Burnside, which is a big scary street with about three places along its whole length where you can cross it or turn left onto it, and a good many places where you can’t turn either way OFF of it either. It is a mess of narrow lanes, pedestrians under the influence, and traffic signs. It is a river of anguished souls, trapped and buffeted by the vicious flow of time. It is also one of the streets that borders Powell’s City of Books.

I decided to be brave and go to buy the Harry Potter book, even though it would require parking (curbside parking at a premium, Powell’s lot and structure both made for Morris Minis and the mini-men who love them). On my way up Burnside, though, it occured to me that I had no moolah, and parking meters don’t take Starbucks cards (or produce caramel floofy drinks, more’s the pity). I checked my pockets, I searched all the pockets and corners of my messenger-bag, I fumbled in the interstices of the car. This was all while driving down the river of souls, mind. I do dangerous things like this with my eyes fixed on the road and biting my tongue. That way, it’s funny, not stupid. I came up with four pennies. I leaned over and opened the glove compartment. A ziploc bag peeked from under the maps! I tugged, and discovered a ziploc bag with a tea candle. “In case there’s a power outage IN THE CAR?” I hollered, and slung it back in with the sailboat bathtoy and Corolla owner’s manual. Finally, I found a pocket of my purse with four pennies and a precious, shining (alright, sooty) nickel in it. I could park for 3 minutes legally.

So I turned off Burnside and started my frantic street-car-dodging, oh-is-this-a-4-way-stopping, one-waying, dead-ending circuit through the Pearl/Brewery district in search of parking. Finally, I found a curb spot right next to one of Powell’s main entrances. I parallel parked with much ado (parallel parking is a big deal in my family, and a rare thing in the suburbs). I hastily gathered in my discman-to-cassette converter and cord, and tucked it furtively into the armrest. I realized suddenly that I’d brought the office iBook home with me, and it was sitting in the footwell of the passenger seat glistening and whispering to all passers-by. (Since my car was burgled for makeup and aftershave, I’ve gotten kind of paranoid.) Since lugging it bagless through Powell’s seemed psycho, I covered it with my leather jacket (this is kind of like covering a chocolate chip cookie with peanut butter to keep the kids from eating it) and ran up to put my sooty nickel in the meter. The meter was broken. After doing my (very well-practiced) indecision dance (is it illegal to park at a broken meter? Will I be caught? Do I care? Will hitting the meter help?) I dashed into the store.

I felt like Colin in The Secret Garden—I expected there to be golden trumpets. But Powell’s looked just the same as usual. I was expecting at very least a life-sized Harry on a broomstick hanging from the ceiling. Chastened, I went on, trying to remember where the children’s books are, since they’ve moved them since I qualified. Board books, picture books, little table for little people to look at books. Collectible Children’s Books…Chapter Books. H.P. and the Chamber of Secrets caught my eye, and I dashed up to…the rows of empty shelves. Philosopher’s Stone, Chamber of Secrets, Prisoner of Azkaban, Goblet of Fire, Shelf of Dustmotes. I made feeble protesting whimpers at the other Harry Potter books, who did not care. I trudged over to information and said, “Excuse me. I don’t suppose you have any more Harry Potter 5s, in a double-super-secret place, or maybe in a very obvious place, so that I can look silly but have my book?” (yes, that is an exact quote. I was feeling prolix.)

The woman looked sympathetic. “But…this is POWELL’S!” I spluttered, remembering the ramparts and pinnacles of overstock H.P. 4s I had seen last time around. I remembered the comfortable decadence of knowing they had more Harry Potter books than God. “You can’t be OUT!”

“Ran out at 11:30 this morning,” she said, “Sorry…but there’s an order in.”

But….I wanted to say, I parallel parked! I foiled imaginary car thieves! I broke the broken meter law! I settled for spluttering instead. Poor woman.

I shuffled back to my car, assured myself that my electronics and lipsticks were not financing someone’s crack habit, and drove off into the dark torrent of smog and despair, calling Matt on the cel phone to whine.

So I bought H.P. 5 at the Tanasbourne Barnes & Noble – so much for supporting your local bookstore, I’d rather give money to sweet ol’ Amazon, thanks! – where they did have a great big display right inside the door (but still no golden trumpets), and as a reward for knuckling under to corporate soulless bookstores, I got it for 40% off. Of course, I still had to spend 15 minutes trying to get the best copy.


You know there are two other Powell’s locations (not counting the airport bookstore and Powell’s Technical Books), right? There’s one on Hawthorne Blvd. in Portland and another one much closer to home on Cascade Avenue in Beaverton, just off 217. I’ve never been to the Hawthorne Blvd. store, but the Beaverton store is really nice, and has plenty of free parking.

I’m not real crazy about the big store. It’s impossible to park near, it’s always packed, the checkout lines are painfully long, and last time I went there a creepy dork followed me around and tried to talk to me about every damn book I looked at.

Still, your misfortune is our amusement (again). ;)

Look, I just wanted to know if you were really going to buy that book on rhinoplasty or just look at it for the rest of the day! I mean, if you weren’t going to get it then I’D have to get it, and that would mean admitting to myself that I wanted to know enough about rhinoplasty to actually buy the book, not just politely show interest when you finished the book and borrowed in more of an amused manner than the desperate “I’d already have a new nose if I only knew how!” kind of way. Anyway, I’m not creepy.

Yeah. I tend to try to make my misery journey blog entries as pared down as possible (I leave in useless info only if I make it ludicrous or funny) so I didn’t mention—I did not ONLY call Matt to whine. He told me their website said 4 copies of the book “At Beaverton and Burnside”. Hrm.

Actually, it was 4 at Burnside (I’m guessing there’s some latency in the system, such that they can run out at 11am and the web site doesn’t notice till well after that). There was only 1 at Beaverton, and I’m sure that was gone. There were a few at Hawthorne, but I didn’t want to make you go all the way down there.

All trendy parts of Portland look alike to me, so sending me to Hawthorne is dangerous :)

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