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Thisbe Nissen: Tour Diary

Preliminaries - Day 1 - Day 2 - Day 3 - Day 4 - Day 5 - Day 6 -
Day 7 - Day 8 - Day 9 - Day 10 - Day 11 -Day 12 - Day 13 - Day 14 - Day 15 -
Day 16 - Day 17 - Day 18 - Day 19 - Day 20 - Day 21 - Day 22 -
Day 23 - Day 24 - Day 25 - Day 26 - Day 27 - Day 28 - Day 29 - Home Diary - July 25 - July 26

Day 20: Seattle, Portland

Up before the seagulls in Bellingham. Katie and Kimberly meet us at the hotel for breakfast, which I decide should be on Alfred A. Knopf (I spend an inordinate amount of time having angst about what Alfred should legitimately pay for and what I should shell out on my own in the course of this trip, i.e. which receipts do I save and submit and which do I suck up) since some authors have people being paid to drive them around and Katie and Kimberly are driving us around without being paid (and I've even missed picking up the tab for one tank of gas, for which I feel miserably guilty). Anyway, so the four or us go into the hotel breakfast room and get leered at by the woman working it who doesn't seem able to comprehend that the whole bill for four breakfasts should go on the room bill of the girl wearing army shorts and Birkenstocks, and I wish I didn't have such a complex about this, but it just seems like you can't make assumptions anymore at all about who someone's going to be by what they look like, and you'd think especially up here in the land of Microsoft zillionaires who might look like some shlub off the street, you can't make those assumptions at all. Nonetheless they get made, and I find myself annoyed every time at the shallowness of people's vision.

Katie and Kimberly drop us at the Sea-Tac airport a few hours later where we pick up a car (a Jeep Cherokee actually, woo-wie!) and drive down to Portland. It's another beautiful day and the drive is green-treed and blue-sky-ed and lovely. Chris has made a ton of recordings of CDs for the drive but has neglected to mark any of the tapes so we spend the whole ride trying to figure out who we're listening to.

The view from the hotel, Portland, OR

The doorman at the Heathman Hotel is dressed like the Beefeater guy in red tights and a kilt-like get-up and red beret. Chris, who has been carrying our bags for days now, adopting a slump shouldered hobbled gait and answering to the name of Igor, is suddenly relieved of his position by a man in red tights. Poor Igor feels he has no purpose left in the world. He takes a nap while I go to the hotel library for an interview with Linda Swanson-Davies from Glimmer Train magazine. She is so nice to me it makes me want to cry, and so smart and so thoughtful, and I leave that library after an hour and a half feeling more fortified than I have in a long time. It is amazing what a few kind words from a good, thinking person can do for my state of mind and well-being. I feel very grateful to her and very honored to be interviewed in Glimmer Train, a publication I have long admired.

When I get back to the room, Chris tells me that the hotel has sent up a copy of "Good People" for me to sign for the Library downstairs. I am touched to be included.

The reading is at Powell's on Hawthorne, and we meet Erin for dinner at a crepe bistro a few blocks down Hawthorne called Chez Machin just opened by my old Iowa downstairs neighbors, Kim and Bruno. They're not around but my crepe is excellent (#7 on the menu). Erin has pretty much filled Powell's with friends and co-workers (Thank you E!) and there are some other folks there too, just on their own, not conned into it by Erin nor paid by my mother who I'm convinced must be compensating people across the country to show up at my readings and look alive. I read chapter 13, "Any Strange Beast There Makes a Man," which it turns out is really not a good chapter to read on its own, doesn't give a sense of the book and winds up sounding way too girly and teeny-bopper-ish. I read a little of chapter one to try and compensate, and people seems ok with it all, but still I berate myself for a few hours for reading a dumb chapter. I look out at some point and see Jenny Tilson in the audience, nine months pregnant and glowingly gorgeous and wish I were reading the Roz-gives-birth chapter. Why can I never seem to make a right decision? Three adorable girls come up and talk to me afterwards and I think again of the people who seem to scorn me at hotels and think I'd like to introduce those people to these three multiply-pierced and black-leather-clad girls who are A) sweet as anything, and B) incredibly well-read and articulate, and I want to say to the narrow-minded hotel people: "You try and keep up in a conversation about literature with these women here, I'd just like to see you try!" and blow their little worlds and little minds and make them think a little harder about how deceiving looks can be and why you should never presume anything about anybody.

We go back to Erin's house afterwards and hang out far too late on her beautiful porch with her wonderful friends and her black cats, Lucy and Sinclair, darting in and out, giving me small heart attacks when they dash into the street. When Jill finally drives us home I am afraid I am going to fall over on Naomi or Jake in the backseat and fall asleep drooling on their shoulders. We make plans to see everyone again tomorrow -- Jeff (like the hero he is) is going to try to come again when I read with Myla, and Colin is looking into music for us to go out to tomorrow night afterwards. Chris is loving talking with Colin about the music scene here in Portland. I am afraid I see that glint in his eye that says someday he's going to need to move on from Iowa City. Someday, maybe, he says. But not yet, he assures me, not yet.