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Christmas (part two)

Started: 2009-12-30 16:28:11

Submitted: 2009-12-30 21:39:04

Visibility: World-readable

Christmas, phase two: In which the intrepid narrator visits Longview. See also: phase one.

Sunday, 27 December

Calvin managed to sleep in a bit on Sunday morning, at my parents' house in Walla Walla. Kiesa got up with him when he woke up, giving me a bit more sleep before getting up myself. Kiesa wanted to leave early enough so that our drive coincided with Calvin's morning nap, which suggested a departure around 09:00. She also hoped to get to her parents' house in Longview by 14:00 for her family's Christmas celebration, which was scheduled in early afternoon to allow her grandparents to return to Portland before it got too dark. I wasn't quite sure about the merits of this plan, but I didn't have any better ideas.

We bid my family farewell and headed out in the early-morning fog. Our first task was locating coffee; I didn't want to take the time to make my own coffee and subsequently wash my coffee press. Both of the coffee shops we knew about in College Place were closed, so we headed into Walla Walla and found an open Starbucks. Kiesa got a doughnut to round out her breakfast. Finding our way out of Walla Walla seemed harder than it should have been, which I blame on inadequate signage.

We headed west and Calvin took his morning nap. On the outbound drive from Portland, I used the rental car stereo's auxiliary input jack to listen to podcasts from my iPod, but on the return journey I didn't want to disrupt Calvin's nap. The drive was uneventful until Calvin needed a diaper change around Hood River. Oregon's rest stop restrooms seem to be missing baby changing tables, but I did find a bench that worked fairly well.

We rendezvoused with Tristan and Jessica at PDX's cell phone waiting area, where we transferred our stuff into the vehicle they drove and returned our rental car. Calvin was fussy on the drive up to Longview; it was time for his afternoon nap but he didn't want to sleep.

We arrived in Longview at about 14:30 and found most of Kiesa's extended family waiting for us. Calvin perked up when he saw he had an audience but started getting fussy again after we started eating. He didn't want to take his afternoon nap, and even exciting new bath toys weren't enough to keep him entertained during his bath. He did calm down once it was bedtime, giving the rest of us the opportunity to open Christmas presents in relative peace. Kiesa and I opened Calvin's presents, which included two sets of Duplos for him to grow into. (Most of the pieces in one of the basic sets should be safe for him at the moment, but he's not going to be able to actually build anything just yet.)

Monday

Kiesa and I left Calvin with his grandmother and headed into Portland for our traditional Powells pilgrimage and to get away for an afternoon. I considered various options for getting into and parking in Portland and ultimately decided to park at the Lloyd Center and take MAX across the river into downtown Portland. We drove Kiesa's mother's new (though previously-loved) Prius, which was interesting. It took a bit of time to get used to some of the design choices, like the tiny gearshift lever and the pushbutton engine start. It felt a bit like a concept car with a lot of interesting features, most of them half-baked.

Our first stop in Portland was the Chinese Garden, occupying a city block that used to be a parking lot. We stopped by the Tower of Cosmic Reflections teahouse for tea and a snack, which proved how little I really know about tea. I picked an arbitrary green tea, and Kiesa picked a flavored black tea. (Somehow I had the impression that she didn't care for tea, but the reality is that she simply doesn't go out of her way to drink it, especially since caffeine doesn't actually affect her.) We continued our tour of the garden, which was a beautiful refuge in the middle of the city, though it was a bit crowded by the post-Christmas crowds. (At least half of the visitors seemed to be Asian, which seemed to be a higher density than the Portland norm.)

We walked to Powells, aided by the map on my phone. The weather was crisp and sunny; the sun seemed out of place for Portland in December, but I wasn't going to complain. Inside Powells, I headed to travel and looked at Nepali trekking guidebooks and picked up a map of north-eastern India. (The latest incarnation of my plan for visiting Willy in India suggests spending most of our time trekking from Kathmandu, though before buying too many more guidebooks I'd like to double-check some of the sundry transportation logistics. Among other things, most standard treks assume one has weeks to spend in Nepal, which probably makes sense in the general case (why go to the trouble of going all the way to Nepal if one isn't going to spend very much time there?) but breaks down in our case.) I thought about heading to science fiction but got sidetracked in Indian history; I spent the better part of an hour studying the collection and walked away with four books about modern Indian history, starting with independence in 1947 and going through 1991. Most were focused on Indira Gandhi, but one covered Rajiv Gandhi's assassination in 1991. One was titled Underground Literature during Indian Emergency, and reprinted political resistance literature during the "emergency", when Indira Gandhi suspended the constitution from 1975 to 1977. I wasn't sure I'd be able to understand very much of it, but it seemed too good to pass up.

I found Kiesa in science fiction and managed to avoid looking at the books at all, since I already had an armful of books. Kiesa declared herself done and we headed to checkout.

Our final stop in Portland was dinner at Thai Peacock, a few blocks from Powells. Dinner was good; I had pineapple curry and Kiesa had pumpkin curry.

We took the long way back to the MAX back to Lloyd Center, which involved taking the streetcar for one stop and catching a crowded MAX train across the river. A few stops after we boarded, a small group of tea party activists boarded the train, carrying protest signs, headed for the stadium (or convention center; I couldn't quite tell which). I tried to figure out why they were taking taxpayer-funded public transit, especially since we were within the Fareless Square, where light rail fares are entirely free.

The rest of our journey back to Longview was uneventful. Calvin was in bed by the time we got back. I played one game each of Dutch Blitz and Settlers of Catan with Tristan and Jessica and entered my haul of new books in LibraryThing.

Tuesday

I got up when Calvin woke up at a modestly early hour. Kiesa's mother was up and took care of him. I amused myself trying to catalog a few of the guidebooks that I couldn't copy-catalog. Based on my collection, I wanted to put the Indian guidebook next to the Indian cultural reference for travelers, and it made the most sense to put both of these books in the same general section as my Indian history books. (I found a corner case where Library of Congress numbers break down; there is no specific place where South Asian guidebooks are supposed to go, but there are two or three places where American guidebooks might go. (I also discovered that my copy of Jarhead is shelved in Iraqi History, which isn't really the right place for it.)) This forced me to assign my own numbers for these books, which was exciting. Kiesa pointed me in the right direction as she caught up on her work e-mail and we both kept an eye on Calvin crawling around the living room.

Kiesa's parents' living room has two steps going down from the entryway into the living room. Calvin found these steps early in our visit and proceeded to pull himself up on the first step and then tried to attack the second step. This proved somewhat more difficult, but with some practice he managed to climb both steps, though he kept trying to turn around and sit up before he was fully secure on the top step. We kept an eye on him as he climbed, but only rarely did we have to break his fall. He seemed to adapt well to the stairs.

In addition to his new toys, Calvin especially enjoyed being pushed around the living room while sitting on a wheeled toddler walking toy. He made some effort to stand and push the toy via the handle designed for that purpose, but was far more interested in being pushed while riding the toy.

We ended up with a vast oversupply of books and other materials that we needed to take back home. I segregated my books into those that I wanted to use in the next several days and those that I wouldn't mind shipping home. (Many of these were Christmas presents. Some were those I borrowed from my family, and some were those I acquired at Powells.) Kiesa threw in two audio cds and a boxed set of The Bible in Living Sound. This filled most of a modestly-sized book box from the garage but left enough room for a handful of music books. When Calvin woke from his afternoon nap, Kiesa, Calvin, and I headed into central Longview to mail the books to ourselves and to visit the library. It was snowing as we left, large wet flakes that quickly covered everything. I had seen the art deco facade of the Longview post office but I may have missed the subtle art deco interior in the two-story foyer. We ended up mailing 30 pounds of books and cds to ourselves and got to use "media mail", the twenty-first century version of book rate.

Our next stop was the Longview Public Library, sitting in a stately building with classical pretense across the circle from the post office. (As we climbed the stairs to the main stacks, I noted that nothing says classical pretense quite like travertine.) Kiesa sat Calvin down in front of the board books, and he amused himself looking through the books, playing with the age-appropriate toys, and pulling out the letters in the letter board I gave him.

Calvin seemed fussier than normal during his evening bath but went to bed without complaining. I packed for the third phase of my holiday (flying to Lincoln for Megafest 8.2) and stayed up late documenting the first phase of my Christmas holiday, and Kiesa stayed up slightly later finishing the paperback (Victorian paranormal romance?) she got at Powells.

When the only tool you own is a hammer, every
problem begins to resemble a nail.