When someone mentions adventure books, what do you think of? A big, burly man adventuring out into the wilderness to, I don’t know, claim his manhood or something? Thankfully, the patriarchy doesn’t have the adventure department completely cornered.
To kick off Pride Month and Summer, we’ve put together some of our best and favorite books about queer adventurers, because adventuring isn’t just for “cis-het normies” (as Eli Sasche likes to call them in True Trans Bike Rebel).
We’ve filled our list with fantastic adventures on bikes and down rivers, but also with adventures into everyday life and into the adventurer’s own, very rad, queerness.
A quick note for PRIDE month. We use queer as it’s a truly inclusive term that has room for every member of the community, including aromantic and/or asexual and transgender and nonbinary people. It’s been reclaimed as an umbrella term for decades, and so we refuse to give it back to the people who would use it to do harm and exclude vulnerable members from the community.
In this edition of our Taking the Lane series explores trans, nonbinary, and intersex folks’s adventures with bikes. This book ranges from one woman’s journey road-tripping by bike in “Everything I Needed to Know About Being Trans I Learned on the Pan-American Highway” to a story about a young person adventuring into nature to find solace and identity, and more.
While everything in the Lumberjanes series is great, Lumberjanes: A Terrible Plan is super great and super gay. Mal and Molly’s cute picnic date turns adventure-date when they are interrupted by a mysterious bear woman. Magical shenanigans inevitably ensue and the two must use brain and brawn to make it back to camp. This volume is the first in the series to really get into Mal and Molly’s relationship and is definitely worth a read.
In the second installment of her Invincible Summer series, Nicole J. Georges has another volume of adventures in her day-to-day life. Featuring vegan recipes, fashion advice, friendship, and the rise and fall of Georges’ long-term relationship, this graphic novel will have you smiling and laughing the whole way through.
Part comic, part essay anthology, and part intimate interview, Shut Up and Love the Rain follows author Robnoxious’ journey from early sexual exploration to his “sex-positive, constantly deprogramming, uber-healthy queerness” of today. Rob’s adventures through his own queerness show us how experimentation should start early, that guilty pleasures need not be so guilty, and that there’s nothing more adventurous and exciting than discovering and living your queerness.
Also By Robnoxious, Unsinkable: How to Build Plywood Pontoons & Longtail Motor Boats Out of Scrap, is an adventure story/how-to-book hybrid following his trip down the Missouri river on a homemade boat. Rob and his friends meet wild rednecks, see sublime sunsets and encounter deadly storms in this incredible rollercoaster of a read. If Rob’s boating adventure leaves you itching to go on your very own, the DIY schematics included in the first part of the book can equip even the least experienced to build their own boat.
Sometimes one of the biggest adventures you can go on is one into yourself and your life. Best selling author of Unfuck Your Brain, Dr. Faith throws out all that Cosmo-grade B.S. relationship advice and uses real science to dive into topics like kinks, consent, shame, and trauma recovery. Sections of this book also specifically cover queer relationship/sex topics, including for trans, ace/demi/aro people. Whether you’re looking to heal from past wounds, make better choices, improve an existing relationship, or figure out how to get the sex you want, this book is for you. We recently posted a review of Unfuck Your Intimacy, so you can learn more and see if it’s for you.
What adventures are you looking forward to this summer?
This post was written by summer intern Rachel Dutton
I grew up in a quiet suburb in Southern California, and as someone who is a biracial, Mexican American I didn’t feel like I’d ever have access to literary spaces.
When I was twenty-two I changed my major from business to English. A year later I made an even bigger life change and moved to Portland, which in many aspects is considered a literary mecca. It seems like everyone here reads- encouraged by an endless downpour of rain nine months out of the year. Being in such close proximity to best selling authors and aspiring writers trying to make it in the industry helped lift a creative roadblock that I was experiencing in California. Doubt and fear, all those general symptoms that come with pursuing your dreams, melted away. I began exploring avenues of opportunity available to writers that I wasn’t aware of before.
Part of lifting that mental roadblock that was getting in the way of my success was re-thinking my own relationship with books and reading; rethinking what I was told to regard as a great work of literature and what I actually felt was great. Up until college I was told that the best pieces of literature were written by white men or white women. Period. That was it. But then I was exposed to books that were equally as powerful, if not more so, and were written by Chicana writers, like Lorna D. Cervantes, or Chilean-American Isabel Allende. It’s tragic that this revelation didn’t happen sooner. It took nearly twenty years for me discover these authors, but when I did I finally began to recognize pieces of myself in literature, and that was key to piecing together my own identity — I was finally proud of my roots, not ashamed.
I can say with confidence that I ended up at Microcosm because a seed had been planted during this time period, a desire to figure out how to succeed in spaces that weren’t originally designed for someone like me. I was a big fan of their books and zines after discovering them at Portland’s Book Festival. I thought they were cool and edgy but also geared towards empowering audiences that you typically don’t see represented in publishing: LGBTQ, people of color, activists, people with mental disabilities, and even those who struggle with mental health.
During my interview for the internship position, I was asked why I wanted to join a publishing company. “What are you looking for?” they asked. At the time, I wasn’t sure how to answer that. I only knew that reading and writing had been a lifelong passion of mine. I was always the weird kid with my nose in a book, looking for the answers to my curiosities, or waiting until the moment when I could run home from school and find out what happened to whatever character I was currently reading about. Did I actually know anything about how those books that I loved so much were published? Definitely not.
When I learned that I got the internship, I was ecstatic. Reading their titles alone was a breath of fresh air and it is what ultimately brought me to Microcosm, because I knew that inclusivity for anyone that isn’t middle class, or white, is a huge problem in book publishing.
An infamous survey by Lee and Low Books, The Diversity Baseline Survey, indicates that the industry is 79% white, and only 4% identify as Mexican, Hispanic, or Latino. A 2016 Publisher’s Weekly article highlights that the homogeneity of the industry is not entirely due to publishing companies’ hiring practices. Although the industry giants have made claims to diversify their workforce, census data shows that the lack of diversity in publishing is also a symptom of a lack of access to higher education for people of color. Recent census data shows that 73% of Americans with college degrees are white. So a lack of authors, editors, and publishers that aren’t white can be traced to a much larger issue rooted outside of the industry itself.
Why does this matter and what does this have to do with Microcosm? It matters when you consider the immense power that the book publishing industry holds. Its impact on civilization is so far reaching, it’s scope is beyond measure. It’s an industry that is responsible for cultural production and intellectual movements, a vehicle of influence for individual minds and entire societies. Clearly, it’s time that the industry take notice of a wider audience, one that would like to see itself reflected in what they read. Microcosm intends to do just that and it shows in their business practices. They recently broke most of their ties with Amazon because their monopoly on the industry has been harmful for authors and publishers. And they not only offer their books and zines for underrepresented groups, but they offer them on a sliding scale price, to reach people that are disenfranchised by a lack of money.
After struggling with the idea that this industry may not accept me, you can imagine my excitement after taking this position. I knew this was where I wanted to be and where I could explore my place in the industry. But I was still worried that the environment would be cut throat and I’d crumble under the pressure. Now, nearly two months into my internship, I haven’t crumbled and the environment isn’t cut throat — quite the opposite in fact. Interns are encouraged to ask questions and grow from our time spent here. Once, the interns were invited in on a meeting where they reviewed the company’s past year performance. I was surprised by how business-focused the whole meeting was, and it was also eye opening because as an avid reader, it’s easy to forget that the book you’re holding in your hands didn’t end up there because of the author alone.
Microcosm has taught me that behind every book is an entire community of people. In this environment, it’s hard to ignore the work that goes in to getting books to the people. On a daily basis there’s constant contact with customers, from mailing catalogs, to making phone calls, to talking face to face with people who stop into the store.
This little community at Microcosm has revealed to me the importance of the day-to-day efforts required to publish and sell books in an ethical way. A small, independent company that stands on a firm foundation of integrity, its ultimate goal is to use their resources and means to carry a message that empowers their audience, to preserve and transmit knowledge, one book (or zine) at a time.
Continuing our year of adventure theme, a few of the Microcosm staff talk the many types of experiences that brought them where they are today. BONUS! Some even describe their life as if it were an adventure novel.
This year we went Independent with a big I, which means we both publish and distribute our own books on our own (with the help of lovely reps and teams) and also sell other publishers’ books, rather than having our books available through a single mega-distributor. This change has meant a lot of longer days and more complicated paperwork, new challenges and incredible possibilities. There’s no fantastical reason we’ve gone independent- it’s just the best way to do the best work. But there is a fantastical individual reason for why each of us have joined Microcosm in the first place. What brought us here, in so many cases, was adventure, big and small.
We all had the audacity to go after what we believed was a better way; to believe we could find a way to contribute to affecting people’s lives for the better, and in turn be changed for the better, too. We all took the step, often many steps, to become better versions of ourselves, one way or another, and want to share that sense of possibility with the world. Guess the real adventure was inside us all along (we say with cheesy jest).
Twenty five years ago Joe’s life expectancy would be minutes, not hours. The adults around him behaved like children, and morals were adopted to be convenient to the person pretending to exhibit them. Suicidal ideation was the norm, not the exception. Through a series of brief solaces and windows into a more meaningful life, Joe discovered punk rock and his life was forever changed. Publishing became a daily task rather than an occasional hobby. Before long he began coaching suicidal teens and twenty-somethings off the ledge on a weekly basis. It became the mission. But is it possible to create tools so those people never find their way to the ledge in the first place?
What adventures brought me to [creating] Microcosm? I was a drunk, autistic teenager who needed a hobby and wanted to create the resources that I lacked as a child. It seemed better than rotting in the gutter. It was!
In a world where little brown girls are told time and again that they’ll have to work twice as hard and be twice as smart to get ahead, this little brown girl is taking names and kicking ass with half as much imposter syndrome and double the self-love than ever before. Follow Sidnee on her quest to slay her to-do list, vanquish the disorganization, charm every customer, and manage and encourage the emotional well-being of the Microcosm Staff. She may be short, disheveled, and perhaps a little too perky but you’ll never guess where she’s headed next — and neither can she!
What kind of adventures brought me to Microcosm? Finishing college, falling in love, and realizing no matter how noble it was I didn’t want to work in the constantly heartbreaking social service sector.
In 2014 my partner and I decided to move to Portland. We left that summer and made it to Nevada where we ran into car trouble and had to stay and work the rest of the year to be able to save up enough for a new vehicle and to fund the rest of the trip. When we made it to Portland in February, 2016, the housing arrangements that had been made fell through and so we lived in a van for 3 months until we had again saved enough for an apartment. When we weren’t working temp jobs we were in the van, usually in the parking lot of a library or Walmart so that we could use their wifi, and I would work on beefing up my portfolio and search for full time work. It was during our time in the van that I first discovered Microcosm.One afternoon, we were parked in the Multnomah County Library parking lot and I stumbled across Microcosm’s website. I was blown away by their selection of books and zines and the way they utilized the publishing business as a form of activism. That same day I sent them a note through the FAQ page and tried to bribe them with food for an interview. Joe said sure and I’ve been working for them in some capacity ever since.
Adventure? I was in Port Peril, trying to rescue someone off a pirate ship, and suddenly found myself conscripted into a life of piracy. I’ve been fighting bilge rats and trying to make friends on the ship The Wormwood ever since, but it sounds like there might be a mutiny on the horizon and I’m not so sure I’m going to make the cut. [grins] Probably not the best to ask me about adventure the day after my bi-weekly D&D game. That’s all I have on my mind. We’re doing Pathfinder’s Mutiny on the Wormwood, if you were wondering. We’re on day 3 right now so shhh, no spoilers!
Cyn dreamed of travel and books her whole life, but the last place she had ever expected to be was the Pacific Northwest. But after stagnant years of underemployed depression, a manic period, and a craving for more, she pushed her life in a new direction. She packed up their little family and drove across the country to try a new kind of life and follow their weird dreams. As it turns out, the weird dreams are the most fun to realize …
Driving across the country to get here with my partner and our dogs and all our shit was an adventure. Driving back across again together was stressful as fuck, then driving back again by myself with the dogs and also my little sister was a nightmare. What changed? Was the first an adventure because it was the first time? The other trips stressful because they were no longer as exciting, just necessary? I guess it’s like when you start a new group or job or activity, everything is just a little bit exciting, but once you’ve done it for months, or years, most of it’s just work. Sometimes that work leads to the raddest results, sometimes just the right ones. Is work just adventure we’ve become used to? Is life? Excuse me while I go have my existential moment elsewhere.
Kellie didn’t mean to fall in love again. Hadn’t she admitted that the wounds from her last relationship were still healing? But this time was different. Nightly chats turned into dating, months turned into years, and soon she was finding herself flying out to Oregon, a magical land full of nature, bicycles, and stations where you DON’T pump your own gas. Spurred on to pursue her dreams even further, Kellie seeks out a publishing house as a volunteer base, hoping to gain valuable knowledge of the industry in preparation to create a children’s book, but as she walked through the doors of Microcosm Publishing, Kellie realized that her life adventures were just beginning….
Adventure, for me, can be anything. That edge of the sidewalk bordering the street? That’s not a sidewalk at all. It’s a tightrope, and if you fall into the ocean below who knows what’s lurking beneath it to eat you. That right fork on the hiking trail? It might lead to Mordor if you’re not careful, but it might also lead to Rivendell, and it would be a crime not to find out which it is. As a kid, my sisters and I were always on an adventure. Sometimes we’d shape it; sometimes it would shape us. As I got older, parts of life got more boring, and so, to keep the excitement alive, I’d turn average, everyday things into an adventure. What brought me to Microcosm? The adventure of romance and exploration. My boyfriend lived an entire state away and we’d been feeding off of Skype as supplement for four years. Further continuance just would not do. I moved to Oregon to continue the adventure, which turned into further exploration as I looked into developing a children’s book. My wanderings led me to Microcosm, where the adventure has continued as I learn more and more about the publishing industry, which was, after all, the reason I volunteered.
Chock-full of political science degrees, Kristine declined job offers from cab companies and the CIA to do the only thing that made sense in this crazy world: open and run a COMIC STORE. Highlights: meeting Will Eisner, Jack Kirby, Phoebe Gloeckner, and R. Crumb; what a weird superhero team they make! Wading knee-deep into publishing was the next logical step – promoting comics-as-literature, fighting monsters and apathy, here and abroad. Bonus: smuggling books to 5 continents. It’s a good life.
What adventures have gotten you where you are now? What do you still look forward to?
It’s our year of adventure, and we’re thinking about how everyday activities are really adventures in disguise. Which activity do we forget about the most? Bicycling.
We probably forget about it because we’ve written about it a lot. Like, a lot, a lot. But most of us here have gone through the excited, nervous fear of finding a bike, the thrill of taking it out onto the streets for a ride, the spidey-sense tingle when something threatens to go bad, and eventually, having to fix it when it’s broken.
On the way home from work recently, a car parked directly underneath a “no parking” sign in front of a bus stop. A tow truck was sent to retrieve it…during rush hour. The parked car blocking the bus lane meant that the bus had to use one of the lanes for cars getting off the freeway. The street was one way so the tow truck was in the middle of an intersection, blocking the light rail. As the traffic light changed, no traffic could move. Even on a “good” day cars in this intersection move at a miserable crawl and run the lights to prevent ten more minutes of compounding traffic delays. I imagined how infuriating it would to be trapped inside one of those cars sitting in traffic as the actions of one inconsiderate person inconvenienced hundreds of commuters. With wide eyes, I took a mental picture of everything that was happening in front of me, picked up my bike onto the sidewalk and proceeded through the intersection as dozens of cars sat unable to move. It felt like the one perfect moment that made my entire life make sense.
When you have a bicycle, it’s kind of like pet sitting. Sure, you can just leave it in a corner and ignore its needs, but it’s not going to do you any favors. You can turn the adventure intensity up to ten and ride it till the tires are bald, the chain is covered in gunk, and the brakes squeal, the ride getting a little tougher every time something goes further un-repaired. It gets harder to pedal, to change gears, to stop, to keep control. Who knows when you’ll have to carry it home- mystery can be adventurous too. You can do just the basics, sure: pump up the tires when you can tell they’re low, change the brakes when they’re bare…
But if you’re not actually taking care of it, it won’t stay healthy. Eventually, you’re going to lose that bike to the unaddressed damage.
What do you do instead? Get shit done! Like any responsibility, having a bike requires some work and upkeep. What has many a microcosmonaut done when approached with this issue?
An Illustrated Manual of Radical Bicycle Maintenance, Culture, & History by Shelley Lynn Jackson and Ethan Clark
This updated and expanded edition is fresh off the presses, and did I mention it’s shiny? I’m kind of obsessed with that part, especially when contrasted with the very simple, kind of dark original.
My all time favorite biking adventure happened in Chicago. June humidity suffocated me as I was riding home on the Chicago Lakefront Trail. I was anticipating my boyfriend’s (now fiance) parents would be there waiting. It was a nervous summer already but that day was particularly nerve-wracking. I was biking at break neck speed to slay a dragon (sorry future mother in law) and all of sudden the sky opened up and I was drenched in super sunshine showers. Truly soaked through- not even a hoodie to block me from the rain, I just had to revel in it. I showed up to the family affair sopping but washed clean of nerves- biked my way right to where I needed to be I guess.
I was just in Boulder, visiting an old pal. Judy is a bike-lover (we both have the same folding Dahon for urban commuting) and her partner is too. She’s got a new street cruiser, a gorgeous mountain bike, six bikes total, and Boulder has trails, trails, trails. We were only there 3 days and we ended up never getting out to ride. Dammit! Story of my life.
The last time I rode a bike purely for the fun of it I was in middle school. Me and a handful of friends would bike through the woods into neighboring towns and explore empty trailers or creek tunnels. It was a great way to escape for a while.
COOL HELPFUL THINGS IN THIS BOOK INCLUDE:
Types of bikes. It’s easy to mistake a cruiser for a fixie, a dirt bike for a street bike. And most of the time, the differences only matter when you’re looking to ride it. Then it’s a good idea to know what kind of bike you have, and how it works.
Changing brakes. One of the most seemingly simple tasks, that requires just a bit more paying attention to than we often expect.
I can not describe to you how useful these [Chainbreaker] pages were when my partner’s cheap Target bike’s brakes just straight up did not work, and neither of us had any kind of clue how to replace them. And the internet was not the best at clarifying the different types of brakes and the different parts involved. This book, on the other hand, actually did the trick.
The differences in tire tubes and how to replace them. Changing tires or wheels in any way has been one of the most obnoxious basic tasks I’ve ever had to do with a bike (ugh especially in the back). Most of the particularly obnoxious bike tasks are the more complex ones, or the long tedious ones like truing (also helpfully included!)), but many a finger has suffered the pains involved with taking a wheel off it’s axle, fighting with to get the rubber wheel off to get to the tubing inside, then figuring out how to get it out, the new one in, and put it all back together again — aagh!
For the second half of last year while we were planning our bookstore expansion, every bike commute or errand, no matter how mundane, was actually a foraging adventure. Eyes sharp for discarded furniture or boards, I’d stop and assess anything by the side of the road to see what it was made of and what dimensions it had. If it was what we needed, I’d figure out how to strap it onto my bike, or come back with a trailer, load it up (sometimes with the help of bemused bystanders), and haul it slowly and shakily home for Joe to disassemble and turn into custom shelving for our open warehouse. Every time I walk past these shelves I grin.
Adding shit to your bike. Do you want to haul heavy loads, or attach buckets to your bike for easy grocery shopping? Want custom handlebars or DIY accessories? Between the hardware information throughout Chainbreaker and the zine reprints in the back with even more info on add-ons, attachments, and DIY instructions, it’s got you covered.
SO MUCH MORE, like…
Dealing with shops, inclusivity, and safety
Converting to or from one-speeds
Locking your bike up
Have you used Chainbreaker to fix something frustrating on your bicycle? What bike adventures are you looking forward to this year?
Portland, Or. April 2019 — The first quarter of Microcosm Publishing’s self-distribution saw sales rise 64.8% over last year, with March as our highest net sales month ever.
photo credit Laura Stanfill
After parting ways with distribution-giants Legato/PGW/Perseus/IPS and Amazon in January, Microcosm Publishing has found even more success by being fully independent. The record growth and a strong future are results of years of preparation and groundwork and are being seen equally in both publishing and distribution numbers.
“This is normally the slowest time of year in publishing,” Joe Biel, Founder and CEO explains, “and often riddled with returns, but we’ve added 50 new accounts in March and found that being closer to the ground has turned it around, into a serious season for sales.”
Microcosm Publishing is a vertically integrated, worker-owned publishing house that equips readers to make positive changes in the world and their lives, emphasizing skill-building, showing hidden histories, and fostering creativity through challenging conventional publishing wisdom. Founded in 1996, Microcosm now has sold over three million books, offers a warehouse open to public browsing, and a staff of 14.
In January alone, net sales were up 86.3%, and first quarter net sales in dollars for 2019 are up 64.8% over 2018. All this without having to cave to terms from damaging mega-corporations like the big A.
“We have taken to ignoring Amazon,” Joe adds, “which ranged from 1-9% of our net sales by month last year, and are no longer servicing them under their unreasonable terms. Rumors indicate that they continue to order through wholesalers. If that’s what they want to do, it’s a win-win.”
With sales of both in-house and distributed titles up, Biel notes that “by focusing on accounts that no one else is thinking of, we continue to grow our small world. In any event, removing obstacles between us and our customers has been tremendously advantageous to selling more books.”
Exploring the Best of St. John’s: Laura O. Foster’s Stair Walk in Pictures by Briana Ybanez
Laura O. Foster’s “Portland Stair Walks” begins with a trip to St. John’s, one of Portland’s most famous and photographed bridges, and for good reason, it’s one of the most scenic places in all of Portland. I decided to try this stair walk tour after a long, stressful day, and it turned out to be one of the most enjoyable, calming days I’ve had all winter.
It was freezing cold when I walked down to the boat ramp at Cathedral Park, located right along the water of the Willamette river, under St. John’s Bridge. I was not prepared, only a light sweater to protect myself from Portland’s unusually cold March weather. I stood on the floating dock beneath the bridge, as instructed by Foster, and wondered to myself why I hadn’t made my way out here before, it was a serene moment, realizing that I was the only one standing out there so close to river’s small waves. Initially the sky was grey and cloudy overhead, “Ok, this isn’t too bad,” I thought, “If only it wasn’t so damn cold.” I started to walk back to the shore, wondering how I’d finish the walk under these conditions. But suddenly the cold didn’t seem to matter anymore, as I stood on the shore of the river, I watched as the mute, greyness that surrounded me dissipated, and a soft, warm light began to slowly wash over the bridges concrete anchorages. As soon as I began to wonder if I’d have the chance to witness one of Portland’s rare, yet spectacular, winter sunsets, it happened. The sky opened up to a bright pink, purple, and deep blue. The light posts that line the edge of the bridge in succession lit up as well. Here was the result:
I was so blown away by the sunset on the shore of St. Johns, I had to go back the next day to complete the tour. This was one of my favorite parts of the tour, walking up the famous “wedding stairs” and admiring the symmetry of the arches underneath the bridge.
The highlight of this tour is walking across the bridge, a .7 mile walk with Forest Park as a beautiful backdrop. I could feel the enormity of the structure, in contrast to the more unpolished and worn down neighborhood it stands in. Although it was cold and my shoes were damp from the rain, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of pride for such a beautiful piece of architecture. As Laura O. Foster writes, “This 3-mile, one-way stair walk rates high on covering intriguing ground, with a few unpleasant bits that make the good stuff all the sweeter.” Although this city was designed to get you outside, depending on the season, and how busy you are, it can be rare to have the opportunity to contemplate the nooks and crannies that Portland has to offer. “Portland Stair Walks” takes you away from the four walls of your home or work place, and into the unexpected: quirky wall murals and hidden graffiti, the boats resting on the Willamette river, or the white, snow capped treeline against the famous pale green beams of the St. John’s bridge.
As I stepped beneath the towering trees of Grant Park, grass softly crunching beneath my feet, mental note was taken of the soft, white flecks peppering my hair, scarf, and jacket. Snow was to be my close companion on this tour, with no apologies given. I smiled. Was there not many a time Beverly Cleary herself had traipsed through this park on snow-laden days? To walk in the footsteps of my favorite author, whether in the thick of winter or the heat of summer, was an honor more than anything.
The tour began on the west side of the park, near a towering sequoia. As I made my way there, several dogs with their owners greeted me near the off-leash area, complete with wet puppy kisses. Upon reaching (and passing) said sequoia, I noticed the first main attraction to my left: the Beverly Cleary Sculpture Garden.
A life-sized Ramona gazed wistfully into the distance, with Henry Huggins and his furry companion Ribsy completing the scene. It’s a lovely little dedication by artist Lee Hunt, worth seeing up close and in person. By this time, the snow was falling quite thickly, whipping the faces of all in the vicinity. Ramona didn’t seem to mind, though.
Continuing on past the track and field section of Grant High, I took a gander at the homes peeking through the trees across the way. They are noted in the Walking with Ramona tour for being modeled after English cottages, and they are, indeed, quite charming.
Having left Grant Park, I continued forward for some time until… oops! I’d gone too far! Doubling back so as to hook myself onto the right track, I soon reached the next marker.
At the corner of Hancock and 33rd, a short pause became necessary, not just to get my bearings, but also to admire the residential area of Hancock Street. Its river of concrete traveled quite a ways down past more than one interesting set piece.
But what’s this? At my feet were little hand prints, stamped into the scratchy sidewalk. Seemed like the kind of mischievous thing Ramona would have done.
Across the street, on the right hand side, sat the Fernwood Grammar School, now sporting a new cognomen: the Beverly Cleary School.
On the wall by the east entrance of the school rests a mosaic dedicated to said author and her books.
Turning a corner to travel west on Hancock for a brief spell will reveal the arched entrance to the oldest portion of the school. What might young Beverly have thought as she made her way into the building for the first time?
These days the green doors look out onto a small, grassy area. Something was pulling at me to kick off my shoes and run across the field for the pure fun of it. Maybe some of Ramona’s rascally nature was starting to rub off on me. Alas, I held back the urge and returned to the residential section, where a surprise awaited me….
Down this street, on 3340 Hancock, rests one of Beverly’s childhood homes, the third (and last) that her family rented in Portland. It’s a quaint little thing, all decked out in a coat of red and gray, complete with a soft white and tan-colored trim. I admired the porch, in particular. This is where a young Beverly came out to do her needlework, and perhaps admire the towering elm tree across the way, its branches stretching impressively over the street in an attempt to grasp the rooftops on the opposite side.
As timing would have it, the current owner of the charming abode just so happened to be outside, and he was kind enough to let me snap a few pictures, even giving me leave to access the porch! I was tickled to sit where Beverly once perched and catch a view of what she saw in the early 1900s.
Perhaps I’d lingered a bit too long at the house, for the position of the sun was reminding me that time was of the essence. I had started the tour rather late in the day, and if this was going to be a complete excursion and not a half-baked one, it was time to get moving.
Making my way down town (traveling a little faster than I would have liked), my speedy feet came to a halt at Sandy Boulevard, the home of a very well-known resident indeed: the Hollywood Theatre. There she stood in all her grandeur, reminding me quite fondly of the old movie houses back home in Southern California. The theater has been here since 1925 and, hopefully, she’ll continue to be here for a long time.
I must have looked like such a tourist as I kept checking the tour book for directions on where to go next, following its instructed path down Sandy to the corner of 43rd. Sandy Boulevard, as it turned out, had more surprises in store.
More photos were to be snapped, it seemed, for directly on my right stood the oldest establishment still standing in the neighborhood.
Paulsen’s Pharmacy opened its doors in 1918, and you can still pop in for an ice cream at the soda fountain from the looks of it. I imagined Henry Huggins, one of Beverly’s colorful characters, skipping by the drugstore on his way home.
Directly across the street, proudly positioned in a corner, stood an enormous structure — part apartment, part Whole Foods Market — ironically named “The Beverly”. Why ironic, you say? You’ll have to read the book!
Already the sun was starting to set. The snow had abated somewhat, but the sky was still bathed in gray… and getting darker all the time. One of the next hot spots on nearby Tillamook Street was the Hollywood Library, but this was a dangerous place to enter. Books are like candy to me. Once inside, I might never come out. Was it safe…? Tentatively, I took the risk and stepped past the doors.
The warmth of the library was a great relief from the cold outside, and I certainly wasn’t the only one who had the same idea. The place was well occupied with adults and kids alike, some cozied up at tables with a good book, others accompanied with a son or daughter eager to check out their favorite title. Down the children’s isle, while checking out one of Beverly Cleary’s “Ramona” books, I heard a parent on the other side of the shelves ask, “How many times have you read that book?” Replied their little one, “Seven or eight times!” I smiled at this. Kid, I can relate, I thought.
Sure enough, I’d let myself fall deep into the bowels of more than one book, and by the time I reluctantly trudged out of the library the street lights had turned on. Not good. There were still a couple more locations to visit before the end of the tour. Time to get moving… and quickly.
Heading north on 41st Avenue took me back into residential territory once more. Walking past old horse rings and houses with garages squeezed into their yards led me to Stanton Street and eventually to 38th, and it is here that the homes took on a rather impressive quality. This is the site of “the ridge”, a huge hill of gravel dumped here many years ago by Ice Age flooding. It’s easy to see why it was taken advantage of. From its base to its peak, the location is rich aesthetically. The climb up to the top of the hill offered views of some of the cutest little homes you ever did see — it was as if they were pulled right from a fairytale book. No picture, in my opinion, could have done them justice.
By this time the hour was waning on 6:00 PM. The tour was nearing its peak. And yet, there was one last stop to make on the way back to Grant Park. Returning to the bottom of the ridge, I traveled down 37th Avenue to gaze upon one last, significant house. At 2924 NE 37th rests the home that Beverly’s parents purchased after having sold their farm in Yamhill. Memories both troubled and cherished were made in and around this abode, and, though it would have been a treat to explore it further, I contented myself with admiring the house from the outside.
Not much further down the road lay Grant Park. I decided to take one more picture of the grand facade, all lit up and aglow like a summer firefly (pic 18). Here the tour ended, but not before I was given a friendly farewell. Perhaps the spirit of Ribsy was following me around that evening, for I was sent off with a healthy dose of sniffs and kisses courtesy of two park goers’ dogs — a pleasant way to end the day!
For those looking to extend their experience beyond the pages of Walking with Ramona, taking this tour with said book in tow is a great way to spend your day if you’re a fan of Beverly Cleary’s works, especially of the Ramona series. (Seriously, take the whole day if you want to check out every nook and cranny, grab a bite to eat, and maybe even see a movie if you’re so inclined. It took me three hours at a slow-to-medium pace and it still wasn’t enough time.)
Unless you don’t mind the cold (and possibly snow), I’d highly recommend taking this tour in the spring or summer; at the very least, it gives you an excuse to stop for some ice cream at one of the local shops in downtown Portland. And if you’re looking to add some beautiful shots to your photo album then, by all means, take your camera. You’re gonna need it.
This post was written by Spring intern Kellie Robinson. Follow Kellie’s work online, check out the book here, and learn more about interning at Microcosm in the FAQ,and learn more about Laura Foster in this recent Portland Business Magazine article.
Instead of New Year’s resolutions (ugh), at Microcosm we like to have loose themes to organize our year’s goals and activities around. And we’ve decided that 2019 is our year of adventure!
For us, it’s our first year of being independently distributed. This has already proven to be a serious adventure — not so much a leap into the unknown as a voyage back to our homeland, which has changed considerably since we last visited. There’s a lot to remember and a lot of new skills to learn. And like on any good adventure, the way we can navigate it safely and have fun is to work together, believe in ourselves, and stay flexible.
But What Is Adventure
Here’s a little from some of our staff about what adventure means to us (in general and in terms of this transition)…
Elly: When Joe and I met 10 years ago, he asked me what my needs in a relationship are, and top of my list was “adventure.”
He reminds me of this every time I’m pedaling a cargo bike overloaded with books in the rain, or setting off in a cab to pick up event supplies that didn’t make it to our destination, or pulling late nights to make sure our database transition goes smoothly.
And while I don’t require the constant adrenaline to get through my day that I did at 30, I do love that this work is full of unexpected revelations, surprising new areas of growth, and always a problem to solve and a challenge to learn from.
Sidnee: “Adventure” is the word I use when I’m afraid of what’s gonna happen next; but being afraid isn’t going to help me. To me it’s a prettier word for “holy fuck, here we go!” But I’m starting to believe that adventure is in our DNA. Like growing teeth or developing chronic aches. A will for the pursuit of adventure will appear in each of us at some point, programmed to persist and emerge.
The thing about adventure is that uncertainty is a necessary ingredient. I’m ripe with uncertainty. The other thing about adventure is that it forces you to grow. After ten short months, I’m bursting at the seams with growth too.
Joining the Microcosm team is my first post-school adventure. It’s like going from Chutes and Ladders to cross country parkour some days. Other days it’s like going from only ever wading in a swampy pond to sailing on a calm ocean during a brilliant sunset.
What adventures do you look forward to in 2019?
Continuing to survive adult life.
Trista: For me “adventure” means to seek change either from one state of being to another, or in the pursuit of something more meaningful like a change to one’s character. Often this will take the form of a journey, literally or metaphorically, where in the end a person will have experienced something new or experienced something old in a new way. In my own life the adventures I’ve enjoyed the most are the ones that have altered the way I view the world, the people in it, or the way I view myself.
What adventures do you look forward to in 2019? Something more gentle, like camping. Or getting to see more of my favorite bands. I got to do a little bit of both earlier in 2018 and I think I should do it more often.
Cyn: Adventure can feel like a loaded word. A big red X on a theoretical treasure map we never get to see. Some expensive, aspirational vision quest into new territory. Ugh. In my reality, my social anxiety makes it so my partner has to push me out of the door to get me to go to any social event, even when I know the people attending or it’s with a close friend. Why isn’t that ordeal considered adventure?
I guess I’d say that adventure is anything that pushes you outside of your boundaries in a way that is unexpected, daring, and propels you forward in some way. For me it has meant everything from the most daring trips to the simplest new get-togethers, to anxiety-ridden standard experiences or exciting, bizarre new friends. The experiences that push at our boundaries and fears and expectations are the ones that give us the space to grow, but those don’t have to be big, giant experiences of exploration, success, or conquest.
I don’t know about you, but just getting outside and meeting someone new is just as much of an adventure as traveling to a new place — and really, aren’t you doing that anyway, emotionally, by putting yourself out there, both literally and psychologically? With that in mind, I’d like to think that “adventure” for our (and the future) generation will be less about conquest, personal excitement and glory, and more about exciting changes, growth, and building new experiences and communities for each other.
What adventures do you look forward to in 2019? I’ve started “bullet journaling” and am working on making both productivity and self care balanced priorities in my life. I suppose I look forward to figuring that shit out and clearing out the mess that is my life right now for my future. Am I adult now?
Joe: Ten years ago, Elly told me she wanted adventure. I don’t think she realized what I was capable of providing in this department. Cars caught on fire unintentionally and it feels like we spent many years fixing the Millennium Falcon during combat.
What adventures do you look forward to in 2019? Getting WorkingLit [our secret work project] into a form that other publishers can use it, trips to new regional book trade shows, and continuing to grow as an independent publisher. It seems like we ship more boxes every single day around here.