Blogs: Northwest

Liz Crain by Malte Jager

Liz Crain is the co-author of the Toro Bravo cookbook and author of Food Lover’s Guide to Portland and Grow Your Own: Understanding, Cultivating, and Enjoying Cannabis. She is a cofounder of the annual Portland Fermentation Festival. Her most recent work is Hello! My Name is Tasty.  Catch her at Wordstock at A Literary Dinner Party.

What books are on your nightstand?

Fasting and Feasting: The Life of Visionary Food Writer Patience Gray by Adam Federman which will be published this fall. The book's publisher, Chelsea Green, sent me a copy and I've been really enjoying getting to know more about this rest-in-peace British food and travel writer born in 1917. Patience is known among other things for her love of foraging, her fierce independence and for living the last 30 years of her life in a remote area of southern Italy with her Belgian sculptor husband, Norman Mommans. They had no electricity, modern plumbing or even a telephone.

I'm about to start the debut novel Marlena by Julie Buntin. My friend Jess and I just started a book club of two. I've never been in a book club because I find the larger groups with several members challenging and just not for me. She and I are going to take turns choosing a book by a woman writer every month and then when we meet up to discuss the book at the end of the month we'll meet somewhere for  food and drink that the narrative somehow inspires. I also always have a bunch of cookbooks and magazines that I subscribe to around that I'm reading — Food & Wine, The Believer (it's back!), The Sun, and Koreatown: A Cookbook.

 What's the most exciting part of what you do?

 All of my writing projects are passion projects so choosing what's next is always a rush. I had three books come out over the course of three months this summer so I was pretty dang busy. Too busy to give much thought to what next. Now that those launches have all passed and those books are out in the world I'm getting energized about what next. The ideas sticking at the moment are a cookbook on pressure cooking, a hard cider book, a cookbook for Shalom Y'all and finishing (finally!) my novel.

 What are you looking forward to at Wordstock (at the Festival, pop-ups, and/or Lit Crawl events)?

I'm really looking forward to the Literary Dinner Party panel that I'm on, of course, but also to hanging out with my boss and dear friend Rhonda Hughes and talking with folks and selling books at the Hawthorne Books table. I've worked there as an editor and publicity director since 2009. I always really enjoy visiting with friends at various publishing houses that I love, particularly Sasquatch Books, Tin House and Catapult/Counterpoint/Soft Skull. Julie Buntin, the author of Marlena, is going to be at Wordstock this year. I really hope I get to attend the panel that's she's doing with my friend Rachel Khong who edited Toro Bravo and also has a debut novel out that I loved — Goodbye, Vitamin.

Will you give us some  food/restaurant recommendations in Portland?

I actually wrote about that last year for Wordstock. One spot that I love that got cut off from that list is Maurice.  Oh and I'll also add that the previous location of Pollo Bravo is now Shalom Y'all which I also highly recommend. 

Elly Blue photo by Amanda Lucier

Elly Blue is a writer and bicycle activist. Her previous books include Everyday Bicycling, Bikenomics, Pedal Zombies, and more. She tours annually with the Dinner and Bikes program that she co-founded, and is co-producer and director of Groundswell, a series of movies about people using bicycling to make their communities better. She is co-owner and marketing director at Microcosm Publishing. Catch her pop-up talk with Cynthia Marts at Wordstock.

What books are on your nightstand?

The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben -- the coolest, kookiest, most wonderfully sensitive book about nature and empathy; How to Relax by Thich Nhat Hanh, because I often struggle with this basic life skill; my journal; oh, and Dog Boy by Eva Hornung, which I just bought from Fred Nemo at Black Hat Books. He recommended it to me on the condition that I not read the blurbs before finishing the book, and taped over them to make sure I wasn't tempted.

What authors inspire you?

Rebecca Solnit has a voice and scope that is aspirational for me as a nonfiction writer. As for fiction, the most recent novel I loved was Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie -- it reads like having a deep conversation with a brilliant friend about race, class, countries, and of course hair... but every time you come up for air you realize she's casually doing these incredible literary feats on every page.

What’s the most exciting part of the work you do?

In my publishing work, it's helping authors find their voices and connect with readers. As a writer and editor, producing feminist bicycle science fiction anthologies like Biketopia is especially satisfying. So much of our experience of the world is stories, whether it's the ones we're told on the news or those we tell each other on social media. Science fiction is so powerful because it lets us really push the limits of our imagination in ways that can liberate us from some of the thinking traps in everyday life. If we can imagine a world where we're more free, then it's easier to find the choices and paths that make us actually more free.

What are you looking forward to at Wordstock 2017?

I'll be spending most of my time behind the Microcosm table in the exhibit area, talking about books with people who love books, and that's one of my favorite things to do.

Any tips for biking to Wordstock and/or around Portland?

Yes! I find driving and parking downtown super stressful, but biking is relatively easy.  If you don't have a bicycle, the orange Biketown ones can get you there from anywhere central.  My main advice for biking downtown is to take the lane—that means, ride right in the middle of the rightmost lane that doesn't have train tracks in it. Since the lights are timed to encourage everyone to go about 10 miles per hour, you'll be going pretty much the same speed as car traffic and there's no reason to put yourself in the car door zone off to the right.

Artist's drawing of D.B. Cooper.It was a hot day in Central Library. The air conditioner was busted, the doors were propped wide open, and, thanks to the latest forest fire out on the eastside, the air was about as smoky as the Virginia Cafe circa 1975. I thought about lighting up myself since it couldn’t make things much worse in here, but then I remembered that I quit smoking 20 years ago. Something bad was going to happen, I could feel it.

Mercifully, this is not the actual condition in the library at the moment! Everything is just fine. But if this scene appeals to you for some reason, maybe you should be reading more Portland crime fiction.

Did I leave something important off this list? Let me know!

Are you moving out to a house in the country anytime soon? No? Me neither. And yet there's always that little 'what if' in the back of my mind. Find a nicely formed plot of land with swoops, curves, nooks and crannies, and build a small, self-sufficient house nestled into the hillside. Solar power, check. Gravity-fed water suppy, check. Composting toilet, uh, ...

Luckily those of us who make our living in the city can experience country-living vicariously through others. We can mentally inhabit the space that Dee Williams created in The Big Tiny (though even our ghosts might take up too much space in her tiny house); and now we can also enjoy the view from Evelyn Searle Hess's handbuilt house in the Coast Range in Building a Better Nest. Though the title might lead you to believe that you've picked up a how-to manual for building a sustainable house, the book is really a rumination on the meaning of home, how much is enough and the significance of community as we grow older. 

Hess and her husband aren't neophytes; they lived in a tent on their land for many years while dreaming of the home they'd build. Then, finally, when they were both in their 70s, they began. Yes! That's just one of the remarkable elements of this story, that reads more like an adventure than an instruction manual. And throughout there's Hess's calm and wondering voice thinking aloud about living more mindfully among the myriad creatures whose home she has invaded. I have a feeling she'll put out the welcome mat should you chose to inhabit her space for a while.

cover of walking in rainI found a single remaining copy Of Walking in Rain by Matt Love on the shelf of a coffee shop in Manzanita. It was high summer, but I couldn’t resist its pull, the feel of the paper, the promise of reading it on a rainy day in autumn. There was no price tag and the cashier seemed baffled as to what to charge. I had a $20 bill in my pocket and offered that. A signed copy for $20? Done.

It sat on my bookshelf the rest of the summer. And it was an unusually hot, long, and dry summer too. By the time the rains came and leaves began to change colors and fall, it was November. At last. Historically I have been a sun worshipper, but have long had a love affair with rain. Especially stormy downpours. The sun brings out the super efficient doer in me, while the rain gives me a reason to take a breath, pause, reflect.

This is Matt Love’s contemplative musings on rain. Will it make you a lover of rain?

Notes to Mr. Love:

p.s. Counting Crows have some of the best rain songs around and none were mentioned.

(Raining in Baltimore and Amy Hit the Atmosphere)

p.p.s. Also, I carry an umbrella and refuse to feel guilty about it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Big & Awesome Bridges of Portland and Vancouver book jacketBridges are one of the bonuses of living in Portland. Did you know there are 22 bridges over the Columbia and Willamette rivers in the Portland and Vancouver area? I love all of the different styles and types of bridges we have. Getting out of my car and seeing them from the river bank or a boat on the river adds to my enjoyment of them. The more I learn about our bridges the more interesting they become. It is easy to learn more about our bridges with Sharon Wood Wortman's great new book, Big & Awesome Bridges of Portland & Vancouver.

What makes this book special is that it is written for kids. It has lots of art and graphics as well as facts, bridge poems and interviews with bridge designers and workers. It includes the new Tilikum Crossing and Selwood bridges. Adults needn’t worry about this being a kids' book, there is plenty of information about the bridges. You also will learn about bridge building and design. There are even plans to build model bridges out of popsicle sticks that you can load test.

Sharon Wood Wortman also wrote The Portland Bridge Book. The first and second editions are illustrated with neat line drawings and the third edition, which came out in 2006, has photographs of the bridges. These books are also worth looking at, but they’re not as much fun as Big & Awesome Bridges. You can find out more about Portland’s bridges online at  Big & Awesome Bridges of Portland and Vancouver and at PDX Bridge Festival.

You see them on the corners of trendy streets, or casting forlorn glances at the Paul Bunyan statue over in North Portland… bearded young men in checked wool shirts and heavy leather boots, doing their best to project a studied air of vintage outdoorsiness. But lay aside that retro axe you bought on Mississippi avenue, urban lumberjack - have I got the book for you! Axes aren’t very useful at soccer games anyway, despite what local ad agencies might like you to think.

Golden Spruce book jacketIn the Queen Charlotte Islands of British Columbia, there once stood an impossible tree, a genetic mutant that survived against the odds, a seven foot diameter spruce that glowed with golden needles and that was known to the Haida people as K’iid K’iyaas (Elder Spruce). But one wintry night, Grant Hadwin, a logger turned radical environmentalist swam naked across a frigid river, towing a chainsaw behind him, and singlehandedly cut down this freakish and beautiful tree. In The Golden Spruce, John Vaillant examines the life of this enigmatic man, who could wander into the wilderness with nothing but light clothing and an open-sighted rifle, and emerge days later with a mountain goat slung over his shoulders, whose early years as a logger coupled with emotional strain sparked a terrible awakening to the devastation his profession had wreaked on the land he loved. Intertwined with the story of Hadwin are chapters about Northwest forest ecology, as well as history of the Haida people and the logging industry. Check this out if you want to know more about the forests that surround us here in the northwest, or if you’re looking for well-written true stories of wilderness adventure and calamity.

More books about forests, including fact, fiction, and photography, can be found here.

Driftwood fortAs a teenager growing up in Newport, Oregon, I couldn’t wait to hightail it out of town, but in more recent years, my nostalgia for the coast and all its beautiful quirks has led me back to books that feel like home.

I first recognized home in literature with my all time favorite novel Sometimes a Great Notion by Ken Kesey, but I owe much of my renewed appreciation for my Oregon Coast upbringing to local author Matt Love.

I’m a big fan of Love’s unfiltered writing style and his keen observations on Oregon Coast life.  I appreciate the way he celebrates rain, astutely describes people as OTA (Oregon Tavern Age, meaning anywhere from forty to seventy years old), and that he’s not afraid to quote both Rod Stewart and Walt Whitman in a single paragraph.

Super Sundays in Newport, Love's collection of essays about his first year teaching English at Newport High School and his exploration of the local taverns, perfectly captures my home town with its mix of natural beauty, offbeat charm, uneven characters and plentiful watering holes.

Matt Love is a vocal champion of public beaches as a great birthright of Oregonians, so it comes as no surprise that he writes the introduction to Driftwood Forts of the Oregon Coast by James Herman. Part guidebook to an age-old Oregon beach tradition, part exuberant call to participate in the gratifying work of driftwood fort building, Herman’s book is a rare gem that you ought to check out before your next trip to the beach. Whether you end up building a classic a-frame, a rotunda or repurpose an existing structure, how you use your fort is up to you. As the book points out “One man’s tuna sandwich-eatin’ shack is another’s love shack.”

You can find more Oregon Coast related reads on my list here.

Oregon sign

Photo: Oregon Department of Transportation

I visited again and again. I loved it.  I moved. 

People move to Portland for an assortment of reasons.  Access to nature, food, a slower pace from larger cities, and for some, the opportunity to grow a beard without abandon. Personally, I can't grow a beard, but three out of four isn't bad.

Chuck Palahniuk's Fugitives and Refugees fueled my early Rose City explorations. However, I quickly discovered there was so much more.  The stories of Oregon have something for everyone.  Want a true crime thriller? Try Sky Jack by Geoffery Gray.  It reopens the case of  hijacker D.B. Cooper who, in 1971, parachuted from a Northwest Orient Airlines jet with $200,000 cash. For a fictionalized version of the story, there's William Sullivan's The Case of D.B. Cooper's Parachute. How about a trip down to Corvallis to investigate the fascinating life of Edmund Creffield and fanatical following that would rather be forgotten in Holy Rollers?  Perhaps settling in with an Oregon classic is more your taste? Below is a sampling of interesting Oregon histories.  If you'd like more like these or any other recommendations you can always ask me.

bungalow1928. Our Portland house was built in 1928. As an east coast girl growing up in the suburbs, I couldn't imagine living in a house that was built in 1928. That's just so OLD. Then life brought me to Portland, and to the lovely story book cottage that we now call home. It was already a work in progress when I arrived, and the finishing touches are being added as I type. The house has special meaning to my partner, and it has been his labor of love for ten years now. 

The move from the suburbs to the city has been challenging, invigorating, and enlightening in so many ways, but none so much, I think, than making the transition from newer house to older. Our house has great character. I know some of the history of who has lived in the house, and I love to sit in the living room in front of the fireplace on a cold winter's day imagining the daily interactions that used to take place in that very room. We are fortunate enough to have photos of the house in its earlier days, both inside and out, and those only fuel my imagination. Yes, we work hard to keep our home period correct, and it is an ongoing (and sometimes messy and expensive) project, but the feeling that I get when I walk in the door at the end of the day is nothing I ever experienced in my homes in the suburbs. This old house welcomes me with its sturdy and strong arms, and I look forward to keeping them strong for decades to come.

Looking for more great old house resources? Uncover the history of your home at the library's House History page. You might enjoy Craftsman Bungalows: Designs from the Pacific Northwest. You can place a hold on that title here . And after doing all of that legwork, get busy renovating with our Do it yourself reading lists. Happy hunting!

Pages

Subscribe to