Umbrellas Across America, Part Two

You have to give them back, though.

You have to give them back, though.

The paperback tour for The Manual of Detection brought me on Thursday to Portland, OR. It was my first time in that city, though I knew a bit about it from the many friends who live(d) there, and from Benjamin Parzybok’s novel Couch. I made the pilgrimage to the Powell’s mothership, did an interview for Reading Local, bought a pile of zines and ephemera from Reading Frenzy, then read to a wonderfully warm crowd at Powell’s on Hawthorne while the rain pattered on the roof. Ben Parzybok was there, and after I refused to answer his question during the Q&A, we went to a Thai restaurant called Pok Pok. There, I was faced with a conundrum: Do I eat boar? It turns out that yes, under the right circumstances, I do eat boar.

I was telling Ben and his wife, writer Laura Moulton, and their friend, writer Lisa Hoashi, about how much I appreciate the yellow umbrellas, made available for public use, that I’d been seeing around the Northwest. They said they had no idea what I was talking about, but then, right there in front of Pok Pok, we spotted a repository of these umbrellas, so they knew I wasn’t crazy.

Dark Carnival

It's like a hall of mirrors, except with books instead of mirrors.

I wish I could have seen more of Portland, but it was off to Berkeley the next day for a signing at Dark Carnival. This is an extraordinary place, a labyrinth of science fiction, fantasy, and mystery books, spilling out of the shelves to pile over the carpet and the stairs. You have to climb over the kids reading comics on the floor and duck under inflatable monsters to find what you’re looking for—in my case a copy of Gene Wolfe’s The Urth of the New Sun.

At Dark Carnival I made some more mystery bookmarks. This one here is waiting in a copy of The Manual of Detection for someone to find.

Later I was reunited, after eleven years, with my friend Deborah Steinberg, a writer who also sings in Conspiracy of Venus (check out their cover of Rain Dogs!). We attended a MediaARTS event curated by Tanya Vlach, which was a bit like a rave, except everyone was in theater seats and watching—well, it’s hard to describe. How about: “an exhibition of the intersection of emerging technology, performance, and the moving image attempting to compute what it means to love and to lose.” The performance by Ghosts and Strings was especially good, and I also liked the floating video cube that ocul8r made.

On Saturday I visited the Belmont Library, saw the headquarters of Tachyon Publications, and read with Laurie R. King for the SF in SF series. Among the many fine people in attendance was Edward Gauvin, whose excellent translations of stories by Georges-Olivier Châteaureynaud are forthcoming in book form from Small Beer Press.

I had an early flight home the next day, and just when I thought I might meet someone who isn’t a writer, it turned out that my cab driver has written four books, including this one.

I guess now it’s time to write something other than blog posts, mystery bookmarks, and LOST haiku for a while.

Goodbye, goodbye, California

Goodbye, goodbye, California.

3 comments on Umbrellas Across America, Part Two

  1. I half-believed that your cab driver would turn out to be be my friend Vanessa, and the link would lead me here. She has been driving a cab for a few weeks now.

    I only saw that you were in Portland ten minutes before the reading was to begin! Which was no time for bus commutes. I’m sorry i missed it! Plea for more warning next time you make it to Portland! (There will be one.)

  2. There must be something about taxicabs and writing. Laurel, I’m sorry I missed you—bad planning on my part. I intend to return to Portland before too long, and I’ll be sure to let you know far in advance next time.

  3. I enjoyed the Manual of Detection immensely and I am delighted to find The Third Archive.
    I ride my bike to work even through the long, cold, wet monsoon here (some of the natives refer to as “winter.”) Can’t wait to try it with an umbrella.
    Looking forward to your next book and your next trip to Portland.
    Jason Zenobia
    2214 NE 40th Ave
    Portland, OR 97212

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