I love research. Yes, I’m a history geek as well as a writer, and that’s just the way it is. First thing in the morning I caught a bus to downtown Portland and walked the couple of blocks from the bus stop to the Oregon Historical Society Museum. Fortunately, the weather had cleared up nicely, and was even warming a bit.
Their library didn’t open until the afternoon, but the museum opened in the morning, and since I’d never been there before I wanted to see the exhibits. The early history exhibits were well done, but the part I liked the best was the recent history room, highlighting Oregon’s somewhat schizoid politics. I lived in Eugene, Oregon, for several years during the mid-80s, and had been rather struck by them then — Eugene at the time was a cross between a college town, a logging and other resource-heavy economy, and the hippie equivalent of the elephants’ graveyard. The juxtaposition was, fascinating, I think, is the term I want to use. I’d forgotten a lot of that bemusement, and the museum brought it back to me.
After the exhibits and before the library, I walked up the park blocks, a lovely thing to find in the middle of a city, to Pioneer Courthouse Square, in search of some of Portland’s quasi-legendary food carts. It was a good place to look for them. My choices included burritos, cheese steaks and several others. I chose a cheese steak, which was as good as the ones I’d had in Philadelphia, their hometown, if a sandwich can be said to have a hometown, years ago.
But the fun part was the quiz the proprietor gave me, based on a page-a-day calendar about famous mustaches, of all things. The first question described Cesar Romero as the Joker in the old Batman series, and the second Raul Julia in the movie version of The Addams Family. I got them both right, which won me a very surprised proprietor and a free soda.
After enjoying my cheese steak, and my soda, and watching floral decorations being installed on the square for the upcoming Rose Festival, I ambled back to the museum by way of the Multnomah County Library‘s main branch, where I wandered into the children’s room, named after Beverly Cleary, who is a Portland icon, and upstairs to the history section, where I wrote down the titles of some books that looked useful for research that I will interlibrary loan later. I was very surprised that they didn’t have a local history room. The Multnomah County Library is, I suspect, the biggest Carnegie library I’ve ever been in (it certainly fits the style, architecturally), but no local history room?
And then there was the library at the Ohio Historical Society Museum. Maybe that’s why the public library doesn’t have a local history room? What I do know is that the librarian pulled a number of goodies out of her closed stacks, including a forest service document, book, really, of all things, discussing the early history and architecture of Heceta Head Lighthouse and its keepers’ quarters, which is going to be the setting of my new book. So that made my day.
After several hours in that library, I decided to check out Portland’s streetcar and see where it went, since I had the all-day pass, which includes the streetcar and light rail as well as the bus. The streetcar went to northwest Portland and the trendy shopping district on NW 23rd. I hadn’t been there in years, and it was only a couple of blocks from the end of the line to the New Renaissance Bookshop, another favorite bookstore. So I strolled there and browsed for a bit, but it was getting late and I was tired, so I wound my way back to the hostel via streetcar and bus, and collapsed in a heap on my second evening on the road.