Of Portland, Powells, Oysters and Anne Lamott

The memorable experience I am choosing to write about is a recent event, from the end of February (2012) when me, my mom and my stepdad went on a family trip to Portland, Oregon.  The moment we touched down on the tarmac, I knew I would like it there.  Why?  Rain, spattering and cold, hitting our now decelerating plane hard and fast, going sideways across the window.

The next morning, food was our only concern.  Our hotel was in a commuter district.  Once our feet hit the pavement, the sights and sounds and people were astonishing.  Breakfast ensued, our palates being mobbed by fried eggs, corned beef hash, pancakes and chile verde, homemade jam on rye.  The smells divine, the people assorted, the food heavenly.

A “quick” excursion to the square-city-block wide, four-story tall with built-in-elevator mecca for literary warriors, “Powells”, and our book-craving was satiated.  Books lined countless shelves, stacked high between stairs, ramps, elevators and benches.  You could find someone reading everywhere.  A section for everyone – classic, new, thriller, romance, supernatural, manga and poetry – anything you could ever want, in one building. 

Food books, language learners, pens, you name it, they probably have it.  Between three people, we bought three hundred dollars worth of books and we did not regret it.

For dinner that night we went to Dave’s Crawfish, a little spot near our hotel.  Once you walked in you wanted to fall asleep in the aroma of seafood and garlic.  We were seated almost immediately.  Me, not being of a seafood or shellfish disposition, was slightly shocked when that was all the menu contained.  After reading for a few minutes, I decided to suck it up.  “May I please have your smallest variety of oyster?” I asked our too-energetic waitress.  “Certainly.  Those would be our Gigamotos” she replied with a bleached smile.

Not too much later, she returned with an iced tray that smelled suspiciously like saltwater.  She laid the platter in front of me.  My mother whispered “good luck.  Remember, squeeze of lemon, and one bite”.  With trepidation I picked up the fork.  The instant the quarter-sized bivalve hit my tongue, my eyes snapped shut, and my mind wandered to a small place near Redondo Pier; the unbridled scent of the ocean assailed my nostrils and taste buds.  Once it was over, I hesitantly picked up another.  Same reaction.  No fishiness appeared even once, merely waves, spray and tides.

The smell of garlic coming from my mother’s mussels and malt-vinegar wafting from my father’s plate only enhanced and enchanted the experience.  Alas, they were soon gone.  After that, thick creamy white clam chowder and strawberry tarts rounded out the evening. 

As I lay on the couchbed pondering the day, I called my equally food-appreciative Aunt Debra, and told her of my triumph.  “You tried what?!” she said with pride and shock.  After that, the garlic-infused blur became too strong and I fell asleep.  The best part of all of this?  It was only day one.


Tobi Cogswell is a proud mom who wishes she could write prose as good as her son.