Monthly Archives: May 2016

Indie Bookstore Love: The Powell’s Interview

Kevin Sampsell poses beside the book pillar at the entrance to Powell's BooksWhat can we say about Powell’s Books? It’s a huge, used-and-new, independent bookstore in downtown Portland that takes up a whole city block, plus a couple of smaller but still large and equally interesting outlying stores. It’s one of the best things about living in Portland, and any time we need inspiration—professional or otherwise—we head straight to one of their locations to get lost in the stacks. It never fails.

Powell’s has also been one of Microcosm’s longest running customers. Starting almost 20 years ago, when Joe moved the business from Cleveland to Portland (you can read about those early days in his new book, Good Trouble), and continuing to this month when we’re partnering with Powell’s to spread the indie bookstore love. All month, Powell’s is featuring our newest edition of The Zinester’s Guide to Portland at every register. And for a week mid-month, you can see a display of Microcosm books at their downtown store—keep an eye out for it.

For this month, we asked Kevin Sampsell, who we’ve long had the pleasure of working with during his 15 years and counting reign over the downtown Powell’s storied Small Press section. When not curating the zine rack and slinging books, Kevin’s writing, editing, and running his own small press, Future Tense Books.

1. What’s your history working with Powell’s? How did you become the Small Press guy?
I started working at Powell’s at the end of 1997 as a holiday temp but I dug my claws in and worked hard and passionately so they couldn’t let me go. In 1998, I became an events coordinator, which means I get to schedule and host author events at the store, which is a privilege and a thrill. I became the small press guy around 2001. My predecessors were the amazing Vanessa Renwick and the late great Marty Kruse. Running the small press section is almost like running my own store. It’s an amazing experience. I love my jobs.

2. Do you remember your first encounter with Microcosm? Do you have any embarrassing or hair raising stories about our early days in Portland?
I remember Joe riding his bike down to the store with his plastic buckets strapped on with all the zines and books crammed into them. A couple of times the zines would be a little rough around the edges or dirty from the rain or dirt. I’d have to flatten out things or wipe them clean before I put them out on the shelf.

3. What’s your favorite Microcosm book or zine?
I was a big supporter of the Zinester’s Guide to Portland, even in its first pamphlet-size format. I thought it was a good idea, and before Microcosm had bigger distribution, I’d be the one who had to email you guys and ask for more. Eventually, after the more polished paperback editions came out, our main book purchasers wised up and started buying them in chunks of hundreds. It’s been one of our most consistent best-selling books in the store for several years now.
Some of my other favorites over the years have been Coffeehouse Crushes, Indestructible by Cristy Road, Sarah Royal’s The Book Bindery, the About My Disappearance zines by Dave Roche, and Sarah Mirk’s Sex From Scratch.

4. You’ve been a mentor and something of a bellwether for Portland’s small press and zine culture. How have you watched those scenes change over time? What do you predict for the future?
Thank you. I have always enjoyed supporting small presses and individuals through my job. The scene here has grown just as the city has grown–very quickly and with a wide swath. I think we’re slowly getting more diverse and inclusive and there’s a beautiful synergy that can often be witnessed between established writers and authors and newer writers coming up. I think that’s one of the reasons writers keep moving here, because they know something special is happening here. But in the last couple of years, the rent problems are making it a challenge to stay here. It’s a trend (the higher cost of living) that I hope doesn’t continue because when you discourage the creative class—who often come from financial struggle–it results in the sad decline of artistic excitement in a city. I don’t want that part of Portland to be “over”—I want it to to stay a haven for artists and risk-takers.

Our Fall 2016 Books

We’ve got an exciting lineup coming out this fall. Here’s a little bit about each of them, and a link to order or pre-order. We’ll let you all know on social media as soon as these are available, or you can sign up for our monthly email newsletter to find out the latest:

manor threat snake pit book cover
Manor Threat: Snake Pit Comics 2013-2015
(paperback, 256 pages, 6×8″, 978-1-62106-381-0)
The latest three years of Ben Snakepit’s life, in the form of a daily 3-panel diary comic, each titled with a punk song. In this latest book, Ben turns 40, makes a whole bunch of life changes, continues to play in bands, and finds out he can’t party as much as he used to.

railroad semantics box set cover
Railroad Semantics: Better Living Through Graffiti and Train Hopping
(box set, 4 books, 5.5×7″, $19.95, 978-1-62106-356-8)
Join Aaron Dactyl on his travels all around the U.S. west, hopping freight trains, hitchhiking, sleeping indoors or out, dodging bulls, tagging, and experiencing every day as it comes.

Sprouts: Live Well with Living Foods
(paperback, 128 pages, 5.25×6.75″, $9.95 978-1-62106-491-6
Ian Giesbrecht shares his passion for the magic and science of sprouts, including helpful year-round, indoor sprouting instructions and tips, and tasty recipes!

Bikenomics: How Bicycling Can Save the Economy (second edition)
(paperback, 192 pages, 6×9, $14.95, 978-1-62106-240-0)
An updated version of Elly Blue’s vision for a more equitable, economical, environmental world, plus a new introduction to the book that originally came out in 2012. This book makes the case for bicycle transportation as a strong investment for individuals and communities, and has been successfully used at creating changes in cities and advocacy approaches around the world.

Punk Rock Entrepreneur: Running a Business Without Losing Your Values
(paperback, 6×6, 128 pages, $9.95, 978-1-62106-951-5)
Caroline Moore takes business lessons from the unlikeliest of sources—touring DIY punk bands—and shows you how to apply them, plus a ton of hard work, to succeed in launching and growing your passion into paying work in today’s tough economy. The real takeaway: Lack of money and resources can actually be a good thing when it comes to building your biz.

god, forgive these bastards book and LP set photo
God, Forgive These Bastards
(paperback + vinyl record in a polyvinyl slipcover, $19.95, 978-1-62106-218-9)
Rob Morton and his band The Taxpayers team up for this multimedia release, with a page turning novel and a jazzpunk LP combining to tell the story of a disgraced college baseball star who roams the world burning bridges and courting catastrophe, and ultimately finding something, well, not quite like redemption.

sad nick cave vegan cookbook cover
Comfort Eating with Nick Cave: Vegan Recipes to Get Deep Inside of You
(paper over board, 6×6, 128 pages, $14.95, 978-1-62106-613-2)
Poor Nick Cave has a lot to cry about. Fortunately, while he sheds his tears, he can soothe himself with vegan variations on comforting classics. Joshua Ploeg wrote the recipes to accompany Automne Zingg’s poignant artwork.

sad moz vegan cookbook cover
Defensive Eating with Morrissey: Vegan Recipes From the One You Left Behind
(paper over board, 6×6, 128 pages, $14.95, 978-1-62106-203-5)
It’s tough being the saddest pop star in the world. How does Morrissey cope? By making sure he never, ever, ever runs out of delicious vegan food. Recipes by Joshua Ploeg to accompany illustrations of Moz and friends by Automne Zingg

beard coloring book cover
The Beard Coloring Book
(paperback, 8×10″, 128 perforated pages, $12.95, 978-1-62106-995-9)
We are proud to present to you Meggyn Pomerleau’s utopian universe of beards—beautifully drawn, brilliantly diverse, and meditatively colorable.

post-structuralist vulva coloring book cover
The Post-Structuralist Vulva Coloring Book
(paperback, 8×10″, 128 perforated pages, $12.95, 978-1-62106-138-0)
We were just going to make a plain old Vulva Coloring Book, but the more we contemplated the idea of an entire book focusing on one single culturally-loaded body part and all of the identity and gender and historical and gaze implications of that, the more wigged out we got. We decided a healthy dose of poststructuralist philosophy would serve to confuse and illuminate matters in equal part, and so we present to you the labors of Meggyn Pomerleau’s art and Elly Blue’s scouring and decoding of literary theory, so that you too can appreciate fully the fact that nothing is inherent and the center cannot hold.

amicas world book cover
Amica’s World: How a Giant Bird Came Into Our Heart and Home
(paper over board, 6×6″, 128 pages, $16.95, 978-1-62106-282-0)
Jane Goodall wrote the foreward for mom-son team Washo and Meadow Shadowhawk’s photo account of what it’s like to adopt and raise a large, flightless bird in their not-so-large suburban home. Spoiler: It’s not a walk on the park! We learn a ton about rheas (a relative of the ostrich and emu), and Amica in particular, as he goes from sweet-natured chick to angry teenager practically overnight, eventually mellowing into an inquisitive, loving, high-maintenance adult.

Commute Diary #6: Problem solving by bike.

On my commute, I usually spend about equal amounts of time thinking about what’s going on around me (Is that car up ahead going to dart out in front of me? Whoa, that old park is now a construction site!, etc.) and thinking about *problems.* Problems can include anything from figuring out how I should have managed a difficult conversation to a tricky editing conundrum to worrying about all the people who used to sleep in the park that is now being converted to a huge new building. Not every problem can be solved, but when they can be the solution usually comes while biking.

I don’t know if it’s the repetitive motion, or the the passing landscape, or just the big block of time when I can’t even glance at a computer screen or device, but biking time is pretty much the best thinking time. Entire essays write themselves, negotiations become untangled, and perspective on everything gets clearer. When I get to work, I’m ready to rumble.

At least… sometimes that happens. On other commutes, I just get further mired in my thoughts, finding new ways to argue a point that’s already been won or lost in years past, finding new reasons to resent problems that were never actually that big a deal. Even so, when I get to work with such a disorganized brain, I’ve usually gotten whatever it is out of my system and am ready to go. Problem: solved by other means.

Remembering the years when I had no commute, except to stumble into my living room with a cup of coffee, I wonder how I worked anything out or got anything done. I also wonder, though, if it’s the same with any sort of commute. Is the time you spent driving, or on the bus, as productive? I know walking is—maybe even more so, for me at least. I’d like to hear how these things play out for everyone else.

Commute Diary #5: Takes One to Know One

american flag stock photoLast week, on whatever day it was in the nineties, I was riding home with our six foot long trailer attached to my already long cargo bike. On the trailer was another bicycle that I’d just picked up from the repair shop. It wasn’t the heaviest load, but I was cruising slowly to keep from jostling my load, enjoying the sun and my music.

As I went through the traffic circle in the center of Ladd’s Addition, I heard a roar behind me. It was a giant pickup truck, and as it passed me slowly, I saw a truly giant American flag waving in the wind behind the cab. I gave the driver a nod and a thumbs up, from one weirdo vehicle to another. He blushed bright red and almost smiled back as he continued on past, enjoying his own sunshine cruise.

On the next corner was the friendly woman who’s often there with a big red cooler, selling food to hungry passing cyclists. Instead of yelling “tamales” as usual, she was holding up her phone, filming the truck ahead of me. I saw her almost put the phone away, then spot me and keep filming, her commentary amping up a notch.

Was flag guy cruising around lefty southeast Portland to make a point meant to differentiate himself politically? Or was he like me, going home from work after picking up his flag at the flag repair shop, and making the best of the way people reacted to his rig? Either way, on our own we each looked like a different brand of freak; converging this way in the Ladd’s circle, we became something else entirely, either a set piece from Portlandia or just a couple people doing their own thing as they saw fit, and with an undeniable performative flair.

damaged box

This is What Happens When You Drop a Pallet of Books

When the truck arrived Monday to drop off Manor Threat, the much-anticipated new Snake Pit book, we were excited. New books set off a whole chain of reactions around the office, from smelling them and flipping through the pages and checking the spines and the colors to sending them off to reviewers and customers who’ve pre-ordered them, to updating various spreadsheets and things on our website and social media. This book was running four days late, so we were all extra ready, and people were already starting to walk into the store wanting to buy it.

So imagine the general dismay when Nathan opened up the pallet and found a bunch of the boxes looking like, well, see below. You can imagine that the freshly-printed books inside are not exactly in mint condition, either.

The truck had already driven away. But it was immediately clear what had happened during those four extra days of transit: The pallet had been dropped on its side, possibly from a height, and then strategically repacked with the damaged boxes on the inside of the stack, where they couldn’t be seen without unwrapping and unloading the whole thing. Very canny!

At any rate, there’s your snapshot of a day in the life of book publishing. It’s not all power lunches and polishing sentence structures to a high sheen… in fact, very little of it is. Most of our work honestly consists of dealing with stuff like this. The dreaded dropped-and-repacked pallet scenario has certainly happened before and will likely happen again. The worst part was holding the book an extra few days while we documented the damage and negotiated with the freight company. It throws a wrench in everyone’s work flow.

The good news? Most of the books weren’t damaged, and our shipping team is in the process of getting everyone’s pre-orders out the door this weekend. And the book… if we do say so ourselves, it came out looking really great. If you want your copy asap, you can snag it right here.

Thanks for joining us on this journey through the wonderful world of publishing!

Exploring Ramona’s Portland: An Interview with Laura O. Foster

Walking with RamonaOne of the most charming, fun, and satisfying books we’ve had the pleasure of publishing here at Microcosm is Walking with Ramona, a very special and specific guide book that comes out this month. The book takes you on a 3-ish mile loop of the neighborhood where beloved kids’ author Beverly Cleary grew up, and set many of her bestselling novels; more than that, it connects you with the books’ characters and events and takes you into a very real Portland of the past, even if you never end up walking the same sidewalks as young Beverly.

Part of the joy of working on this book was getting to collaborate with the author, local guidebook writer Laura O. Foster. We asked her a few questions over email in preparation for the book’s May 31 publication date. She sent in satisfying answers—and, characteristically, a bunch of colorful photos to illustrate them—see below!

1. What is the story of Walking with Ramona, the tour and the book?
The tour
In 2009, Portland’s Hollywood Library asked me to create and lead a series of walking tours in honor of the neighborhood’s most famous actual resident, Beverly Cleary, and its most famous fictional resident, Ramona Quimby. I’d written three books about exploring Portland’s historic neighborhoods on foot prior to that.

So I read (or re-read) all Mrs. Cleary’s Portland-based books and her two autobiographies, taking notes whenever some site in the city or state was described: the pond where Ellen Tebbits steals Otis Spofford’s shoes, the park where Henry Huggins collects night crawlers, and of course the homes and schools of Beverly’s own childhood. I called the tour “Walking with Ramona.”

37th and Klickitat a few blocks from Beverly's home

37th and Klickitat, a few blocks from Beverly’s home.

Mrs. Cleary is internationally famous. She’s sold over 90 million books, and was awarded the National Medal of Arts. So the tour was a big hit. Everybody had a warm memory of reading her books as a child. Over the years, demand for the tour didn’t go away, but I am primarily a writer, so except for some school groups and nonprofits, I led it infrequently.

In September 2015, Katrina Sarson, host of the television show “Oregon Art Beat,” called to ask if I’d lead the show’s crew on the tour, as they prepared a special half hour show in honor of Mrs. Cleary’s coming 100th birthday on April 12, 2016.

The book
A few weeks before the tour date, I met Joe Biel and Elly Blue at a book trade show. I was in the production phase of a self-published guidebook about the Columbia River Gorge. I went to their educational talk to learn about publishing from the other side of the fence—my other books had been published traditionally, and I didn’t know much about the business end of publishing.

E 37th St N

You can learn about the history of Portland’s street numbering system in the book.

After learning a notebookful that morning, and liking Elly and Joe’s style, the next day I pitched them a book idea I called Walking with Ramona: Exploring Beverly Cleary’s Portland. Working with them seemed like it’d be fun, and finally I’d get the tour out of my files and into a format where more people could enjoy it. Plus my Beverly Cleary file bulged with a lot of other info I’d collected and wanted to share with readers that didn’t get included in the tour.

Send a proposal, they said. I did, and within a week or so we signed a contract. By December 31, Microcosm had the manuscript in hand. Everyone worked fast to shine it up, and with a Kickstarter campaign to fund a special, birthday-edition print run, we were able to have books available for Mrs. Cleary’s 100th birthday celebration in April.

The book is five chapters: an introduction to Beverly Cleary and her characters, a look at what life was like in pre-Portlandia Portland, the tour itself, a scavenger hunt of sorts—sites all over Oregon where Beverly fished, swam, hiked, raked crabs, shopped, worked, etc.—and a bit of wider history that surrounds these places. Plus it includes where to eat, drink and shop while you’re in her neighborhood.

A street in Portland's Hollywood neighborhood

One of the streets you’ll visit on the Walking with Ramona tour

2. How did you come to be a professional walking guidebook writer?
After college I wrote financial analyses of small businesses in Knoxville, Tennessee. I got to leave the plushly stuffy bank offices and ask a lot of questions of people who manufactured woven clothing labels, or repurposed fly-ash from coal-fired utility plants into a road-building material—not unlike how ancient Romans built roads with volcanic ash. Fascinating stuff! I wrote stories about these businesses and their financial histories, and made my pitch as to why their loan request would be (or not) a sound investment for the bank. It may seem irrelevant to a writing career, but my learning to tell a compelling tale with both technical and narrative info about a mundane topic brought me a lot of satisfaction. It was a good lesson.

By my late 20s, I’d left banking, studied ornamental horticulture, moved to Portland and soon took up contract writing, which ultimately led to book publishing. I worked at Beyond Words, a frisky company in Hillsboro, where anyone’s initiative to take on a job was rewarded with a show of confidence. Within a year I was its acquisition and developmental editor, working in adult nonfiction.

velo cult bike shop

Velo Cult, a bike shop and bar along the tour route

With publishing demystified, it seemed to me I could write a book. The book I’d been wanting to read wasn’t out there: one that’d tell you stories while you wandered Portland’s hidden trails, side streets, overgrown staircases and wild/industrial beaches. I’ve always liked to get lost and work back to home using a AAA map, and I’d been poking around the city for years. And then I met my husband. Not only a born-here Portlander who knew the secret trails and stairs of the West Hills, he’s a geologist and engineer who taught me to look forensically at landforms and interpret what had taken place there. After a courtship of rocks and walks, I’d discovered a new layer of Portland. We got married and I had a book I knew would be fun to write, and fun to read.

That book, Portland Hill Walks, was the first of several Portland-based guidebooks.

3. In developing Walking with Ramona, you thoroughly explored Beverly Cleary’s old neighborhood in Northeast Portland, read all of her Portland books, and read her memoirs. What fact, place, or story did you learn that surprised you the most? What is your favorite historical spot on the tour? What is your favorite shop, cafe, or restaurant on the tour to take a break at?

A former Cleary family on NE 77th Avenue

A former Cleary family on NE 77th Avenue

Surprised and delighted me: that the places of Beverly’s childhood are still intact today. Combine that with her meticulous memories of one girl’s 1920’s Portland means you can escape your 21st century reality and get a sense, just by walking, of what life was like here 90 years ago, long before we were hip, famous, and running out of affordable housing. And it’s even better now: good coffee (Fleur de Lis Bakery and Cafe) and beer (Velo Cult) are along the book’s walking route, something not available during her Prohibition-era childhood. You can even buy a retro swimsuit along the route at Popina, one of Portland’s homegrown active wear manufacturers. It’s part of an industry that wasn’t even a glimmer when Beverly lived here. In her day, logging and milling were the state’s big economic engines.

In developing the book, I loved discovering esoteric bits of Portland life, like Beverly’s six-year orthodontia odyssey with kind Dr. Meaney, in downtown’s Selling Building at Southwest 6th and Alder. That building is still home to professionals, and has its own fascinating story that I tell in the book. As with Beverly’s train trip to Rockaway, on the Oregon Coast, prescribed as a cure for illness one summer, I use her life’s places and events as a way to weave in a larger Portland story—of what’s changed, and what hasn’t.

I loved the fact that Beverly learned to be a reader by going to the Roseway Theater during the silent movie era and reading the titles as they streamed by. That theater is still running films, talkies now, on historic Sandy Boulevard, an ancient road whose tale I tell in the book.

Beverly loves cats. This one has a good life.

Beverly loves cats. This one has a good life.

I loved how she wrote that, the year she went to Gregory Heights School, she’d ride to school on the handlebars of a bike pedaled by her crush, an eighth grader. He earned her ire, though, when he offered gallantly to bury the family’s cat, but then carried it to its grave by its tail. With my book, you can gaze upon the house where the cat now reposes in peace, presumably somewhere in the back yard. In Beezus and Ramona, Beverly has her characters treat a departed cat with much more respect.

4. What other projects are you working on now? What’s next for you?
In May 2016, my company, Towns to Trails Media, is releasing its first book, Columbia Gorge Getaways: 12 Weekend Adventures, from Towns to Trails. As a set of multi-day itineraries that covers everything from picking cherries to paragliding, it’s the first complete visitor’s guide to the gorge, one of the nation’s few designated National Scenic Areas.

And of course I’ll be out there walking around. Join me on a “Walking with Ramona” tour! I lead the 3-mile walk as part of the free Ten Toe Express series of walks sponsored by the City of Portland. Meet at the Beverly Cleary Sculpture Garden in Grant Park on Thursday, June 9, 6 p.m. or on Saturday, September 10, 9 a.m.

YMCA where Scooter McCarthy took swim lessons

The outside of the YMCA where Scooter McCarthy took swim lessons

Inside the YMCA where Scooter McCarthy took swim lessons

The YMCA where Scooter McCarthy took swim lessons

Manor Threat: Snake Pit Comics 2013-2015

Manor Threat contains three more years of daily diary comics from Ben Snakepit. This episode brings us to the town of Manor (pronounced “MAY-ner”), a suburb of Austin, Texas. Ben buys a house with his wife and adjusts to slow-paced country living. He also turns 40 and gets a new job, and then gets another job. Along the way, he draws a three-panel comic describing each day’s events, however dramatic or monotonous. Against that steady march of time, patterns emerge and shift and the result is a meditative, addictive read that captures the humanity of everyday life. Bonus for true fans: A surprise ending!

Walking with Ramona: Exploring Beverly Cleary’s Portland

Walking with Ramona explores the streets, schools, characters, and neighborhoods of author Beverly Cleary’s Portland. With this newest and most unusual Portland guidebook, readers can walk the very sidewalks Beverly walked and climb the very school steps that Beverly climbed. You’ll see the grocery parking lot where Ramona got stuck in the mud, the park lawn where Henry Huggins hunted nightcrawlers, and the real Portland street that became Klickitat Street, their fictional home. Beverly Cleary’s Portland was much different than the Portlandia of today. Walking with Ramona brings to life what that 1920s and 1930s Portland was like for the “girl from Yamhill” who went on to become an internationally beloved author. Characters like Ramona and Beezus, Henry and Ribsy, and Ellen and Austine come to life on this hour-long walking route through the Northeast Portland neighborhood where Beverly grew up.

The book features an approximately three mile walk (or bike ride!) around Northeast Portland, plus other Oregon destinations.

Threadbare: Clothes, Sex & Trafficking

Ever wondered who makes your clothes? Who sells them? How much they get paid? How the fashion and sex industries are intertwined?

Threadbare draws the connections between the international sex and garment trades and human trafficking in a beautifully illustrated comics series. Anne Elizabeth Moore, in reports illustrated by top-notch comics creators, pulls at the threads of gender, labor, and cultural production to paint a concerning picture of a human rights in a globalized world. Moore’s reporting, illustrated by members of the Ladydrawers Comics Collective, takes the reader from the sweatshops of Cambodia to the traditional ateliers of Vienna, from the life of a globetrotting supermodel to the warehouses of large clothing retailers, from the secondhand clothing industry to the politics of the sex trade. With thoughtful illustrations of women’s stories across the sex and garment supply chain, this book offers a practical guide to a growing problem few truly understand.

Featuring the work of Leela Corman, Julia Gfrörer, Simon Häussle, Delia Jean, Ellen Lindner, and Melissa Mendes.

Commute Diary #4: Maxed Out

the feeling of driving a carLeaving work right around 5pm and biking home in rush hour traffic is always a big treat. Swooping past the blocks of cars waiting to get on the freeway in Portland’s Rose Quarter is one of my life’s not-so-guilty pleasures. I don’t take pleasure in the frustration of people caught in traffic, but the freedom to move down busy streets with relaxed alertness rather than stiff, fearful caution is a joy I’ve only experienced during group bike rides like Critical Mass. During rush hour in Portland, cars form their own Critical Mass. Their daily demonstration is more effective than the bicycle variety, as it’s always well-heeded by leaders who want to widen roads and add more asphalt to our green-ish city. I wish these blacktop-happy folks would read up on induced demand before making their case, but that’s beside my point today, which is the extreme joy that comes from even a minor, exhaust-choked respite from having to dodge moving cars.

Anyway, on Tuesday we left work at 5:10 and the traffic was backed up for blocks and blocks and blocks. It’s always fascinating to watch the inappropriate and dangerous ways drivers react to other cars being in their way, and this particular commute was especially stimulating, which made up for the extra caution needed as we watched cars swerve into the bike lane, accelerate suddenly to turn down side streets, and, at one point, scoot out of the way as a frustrated bus driver took to the sidewalk for a dozen feet to get around a box truck that was taking its half out of the middle.

We passed the freeway and the traffic only seemed to get worse. As we crossed Burnside, we ran into a friend waiting to cross the street, and stopped to say hello. He told us what was up: The light rail was skipping downtown during a long construction period, meaning most commuters were skipping the light rail and its clunky shuttle over the gap. He was walking home from work, he said because the buses were packed, and way off schedule because of the roads clogged with cars. Maybe he’ll start biking later this week, he said.

If this all isn’t an argument for functional commuter rail transportation, I don’t know what is. In the meantime, I’ll take my joys where I can get them, even when they’re in the most unlikely (and probably unpopular) places.