Friday, September 19, 2008

Portland - Day 2

I'm starting my first real day of the Garden Writer's Association annual symposium, in Portland, Oregon. Although my head didn't hit the pillow until close to midnight last night, my eyes opened a little after five and I couldn't get back to sleep. Weird. My Marriot Residence Inn bed was very comfortable, the street was quiet, but the sandman was off somewhere, clocked out.

I did a bit of reading hoping to get drowsy, put in a half-hour with my little biorhythm monitoring device, and made my way out the door to Peet's coffee, little realizing how freakin' heavy my laptop bag had become.
[I'm not giving the Marriot any points for horticulture -
if I never see another pink and white begonia combo again...]

I tend to overpack and bring all my little comforts with me, but this time my comforts made me quite uncomfortable. But I forged on to Peet's, had a great cuppa and a muffin, immersed myself in a new program I'm using to organize my projects (Omni-Focus) and chatting with a few delightful locals.

I needed to deposit a couple of checks and inquired about the nearest branch of my bank. Twelve blocks later, laden like a sherpa and wearing my toasty warm Harris tweed coat, I trudged on to a very bizarre conglomeration of businesses, all under one roof and going by the name of Fred Meyer. Mega grocery, department store, bank branch, Starbucks, uranium mining supplies, feed lot, army firing range, federal prison, particle accelerator, habedashery, smog check, sheep pasture, and wetland. I made my deposit, bought a few things, smashed a few atoms, picked up a geiger counter, fired off a few rounds and hoofed it back in the direction of the hotel.

Although every step reminded me that I should have winnowed down the contents of my pack, I did get to walk through the Sullivan Gulch neighborhood of Portland - a delightful area with some stunning vintage architecture, lushly planted landscapes...... (amid some bone-headed crap)......and opportunistic veggie beds in the public parkways...

A little after noon I hauled my already-tired feet to the conference at the DoubleTree, signed in, picked up my free shoulder bag (just what the doctor ordered) and slid the name tag holder over my neck . There's something about this system that makes me feel like a little kid being sent alone on a plane to visit the folks back home - that giant name tag that allows anyone and everyone to greet a stranger with a folksy "Howyadoin Billy!" even though we've never even been on the same side of the Mississip'.

The first session was a meet and greet with other garden writers from the western region. I was astounded at the diversity of interests and talent, from an Alaskan school teacher who specializes in garden programs for his students, to a woman who works for a hazelnut research center.

Next up - the new kids on the block reception. All the first time attendees were welcomed to the fold. I was hoping to learn a secret handshake, or receive a secret decoder ring. Instead, I had a very nice local beer, met a few new people, aaaaannnnndddd, got to meet one of my favorite garden bloggers - Susan Harris, one of four contributors to the sometimes-outrageous Garden Rant. Here's the back of her head and a portion of fellow ranter, Amy Stewart (I'll not be pursuing a career as a paparrazi photographer anytime soon).

Now it wouldn't be an annual conference without some kind of exhibit hall with lots of booths, lots of sales folks, and lots of information being tossed out way. Everything from high-end tool purveyors, to compost tea makers, pheromone manufacturers, and hundreds of new plant introductions, few of which would stand a chance in Santa Barbara, with our puny winter chill and alkaline soils. Did I mention the inexplicable costumes some folks thought to wear? There was a lady bug lady, a very bizarre dude in something like a bear or gopher suit (not shown), a frog person, a mannequin festooned with various bits of green detritus, and some kind of cut-out figure with an oversized sweatshirt.

On a positive note, this lady had the most divine jacket, shimmering in the industrial glow of the exhibit hall's florescent fixtures.

One reception to go, this one hosted by Timber Books and Storey Publishing, two giants in the world of horticultural books. I scored a few free volumes (Designing with Succulents, by Debra Lee Baldwin, and Garden Your Way to Health and Fitness, by Bunny Guinness and Jacqueline Knox) that will come in handy, plus some exquisite calendars with plant images.

On my way out of the DoubleTree, I overheard someone mention "Santa Barbara" and found myself sitting with Joan Bolton, local garden writer extraordinaire. I've read her stuff for years, and although we live in parallel worlds and live within a few miles of each other, we've hadn't met until tonight.

I'm already enjoying this little sojourn. Hope I pick up a few new tools for my writer's tool belt.

Additional photos...


Shirley Bovshow "EdenMaker" said...

Billy- Thanks for the preview! Look for me on Sunday- I'll be looking for you.

Frances said...

Hi Billy, I feel comfortable enough to address you like that after spending a second day with you. Free stuff is great and the costumes help explain Susan's feather boa, sort of. And that orange metallic jacket is superb, I would be very comfortable wearing that anywhere. The use of grasses in those last shot gives one some design inspiration as well. Keep up the good writing, but more specifics please. Like, what free books did you get? ;->

Frances said...

Oops, I didn't see that. I am writing from southeast Tennessee.

Garden Wise Guy said...

Frances - sorry for the omission of the book titles and authors. I've edited the post.

Pam/Digging said...

I'm late to the party but am enjoying following you through the GWA conference as a newbie. I'm off to read Day 3 now.

Dee/reddirtramblings said...

Hi Billy, I love what you wrote about the nametags. I never thought about it that way, but they made me uneasy, and now I think I know why. You had some great info about the conference. Thanks.~~Dee

sue said...

glad to see you also highly regard Joan Bolton. We here in South SLO CO are lucky to read her in the Santa Maria Times. Wonderful prose and not a drop of information that would lead a reader astray. Always right on the mark. I'm envious of your lunch!