indie bookstores

Salt Lake - Impressions & Top 5

I loved this sculpture largely because it's called a "fountain." This is the correct way to have a decorative fountain in the desert.

I loved this sculpture largely because it's called a "fountain." This is the correct way to have a decorative fountain in the desert.

First Impressions of Salt Lake…


…the final frontier. Or, the sense you get when walking several blocks in Salt Lake City. Everything is just so wide here, and the blocks are 1/8 of a mile, rather than about 1/20 of a mile as the street blocks are in Manhattan. Wide enough to turn an ox-driven wagon, I overheard someone say. I would verify this information on the internet, but the hotel wifi is not working at the moment and I’m hoping to limit my phone bill to just one data overage charge this month — tour life, amIrite? — and anyway Trump is still president so who cares about pesky little things like facts. Suffice to say, space is at the opposite of a premium in this part of the country. 

As a born & bred Southwesterner, this kind of space hits me on a mitochondrial level. I’ve been to Salt Lake twice before, once stopping for lunch on a road trip right after highs school and once for an academic conference in college, and didn’t realize, having never lived outside the Southwest at that point, how much like home it would feel. But as the flight from Portland began its descent and I watched the expanse of arid, mountainous, low-population-density land come into sharper focus, I was filled with a deep sense of familiarity. This was like home, but a little less Mexican and a little more Mormon.

Lots more thoughts on all of the above, but will save for another time. 

My top 5 favorite Salt Lake places/experiences:

  1. The King’s English independent bookshop! Can’t say enough great things about this place. In Seattle I knew about Elliot Bay Book Co and in Portland of course was Powell’s, but I had to do some research. (Backstory: I have a goal of visiting an indie bookstore in every city and buying at least one book by a local author.) I liked the name of the shop, then saw on the website they had a local author event on our first Tuesday in town, and we didn’t have a Tuesday night show because of the travel distance from Portland. Perfect!

I preordered Cheat Code, a YA sci-fi/gaming novel, intending it for my nephew, and ended up getting Lost & Found and Choosing the Right after hearing their authors speak. Waiting for my uber, I chatted with the cashier, Paula, about my indie bookstore/local author quest. Paula stepped away for a moment and came back with the gift of The King’s English memoir, written by Betsy Burton who founded the bookshop in 1977. Paula also invited me to her own book release; of course I’d be working that night as I am most nights, so I regretted that I wouldn’t make it and bought her previous book instead. (A Case of Espionage, which I read cover to cover on our travel day from Salt Lake to Costa Mesa!)

The visit and reading the memoir was definitely a highlight of our time in Salt Lake. I love books, and I love small local businesses that provide nourishment to the community that in turn sustains them. Win win!

2. Organ concert at the Tabernacle. My Dad would love this. I love imagining what it would be like to hear a pipe organ before electronic amplification.

3. Red Butte Gardens — nice for varying levels of physical exertion: stay on the level paths thru the botanical gardens, or hike one of the trails that shoot off from the main gardens. Beautiful. I hiked for about an hour and a half, restored my rugged New Mexican soul, then ubered back to the hotel, ordered room service, and restored my privileged urbanite body. Gemini much?

4. Red Iguana, family-run Mexican restaurant; for quick & easy, Taste of Red Iguana at the City Creek Mall. Comfort food for Kat! I told myself I wasn’t allowed to eat there every day, so I only ended up going there like 5 or 6 times. 2 meals worth of food for about $8. 

5. Cupla Coffee — just opened recently. Great coffee, friendly owners, yummy breakfast burritos! If Romy & Michele were twin sisters, and were into coffee instead of design, this would be their shop. It was my favorite treat breakfast.  

Til next time, Salt Lake…

Portland - Impressions and Top 5


the tap of a phone
gets you onto the light rail
futuristic life

When I was living in New York and having a bad NYC day/month/year as periodically happens, Portland is where I would threaten to move. Dreams of going “where young people go to retire,” etc. Instead I landed a great opportunity a couple hundred miles north in Seattle in 2014, and spent over three years working at the 5th Avenue Theatre. I was looking forward to getting to finally spend a few weeks in my would-be place of youthful retirement on this tour, having only made it to Portland once for a weekend right after I moved to Seattle.

The tour opened (conveniently for me) in Seattle and next stop was Portland. My college bestie, Erin, lives in Seattle and was able to take the travel Monday off and drive me down to Portland, where I’d be staying with my friends Christi and Grayson and their dog Rio for the three weeks we were there. Friends, check; kitchen, check; furry pal, check — an easy, gradual transition to really being on the road.

My first visceral feeling that “I’m really on tour now!” came when we stopped for donuts in Tacoma. I’m not a great gift-giver — birthdays and holidays stress me out — but the one git-giving tradition I get into is the Japanese one of bringing omiyage to friends and hosts when traveling. My mole in New York (my dear friend Kurt, Christi’s brother) had told me some of Chrsiti & Grayson’s favorite treats, including that Grayson is coocoo for donuts. I’d meant to swing by a spot in my neighborhood in Seattle, but in the chaos of packing up my life and saying “hasta!” to my cat et al, we were already several miles south on I-5 when I remembered.

Luckily Erin is an attorney who basically spends her life between car and courtroom advocating for families all over western Washington. “Erin, is there a great donut shop anywhere between here and Portland? But still in Washington, not in Portland, because that would be bad omiyage form.”

Erin took us to Legendary Doughnuts in Tacoma, where after being paralyzed by the number of options (sizes, flavors of donuts!), I ended up getting one of each flavor of doughnut balls for Grayson and same for the Hamilton band, and a treat for the road for Erin & me (Erin chose the “Conan the Bavarian”). They were a hit!

kat with legendary doughnuts.JPG


Top 5 Favorite Portland Places/Experiences

  1. the wall of sound from 3,000 people cheering the show at Keller auditorium was incredible!
  2. Wildfang - discovered when our dance supervisor Kourtni was wearing a really cool button down shirt from them and I gave her a compliment. Portland-based, “female founded, women run” - just expanded to SoHo and soon to LA, but I feel like a hipster because I bought a blazer and several other things there before they had stores anywhere but Portland. I narrowly escaped with most of my bank account. Love what they stand for and support, and have bought some gifts there since.

3. Thriving tech industry notwithstanding, Portland is a beautiful city with lots of nature, and we were lucky enough to be there during cherry blossom time. Loved the view of the cherry trees on the waterfront as rode to work, as well as the big tree out front of the house where I was staying. 

4. When my personal keyboard showed up with two broken keys, Inner Sound in Clackamas repaired it overnight, and advised me how better to pack it, and what to look for in purchasing a new one should the key weights/suspension simply not be able to cope with the bumps of travel (so far so good). 

5. One thing I love about touring is getting to meet up with friends and acquaintances I mightn’t otherwise see. In addition to getting to spend some time with Christi and Grayson, I got to meet up with my sound designer friend Justin, who popped down from Seattle where he was doing a show, and my new friend Flint, another pianist-conductor I’ve been hearing about for years who happened to be in town and found me by the pit when he came to the show. Yay new friends! Q Restaurant and Bar provided great food and drink for hanging out and catching up with each of them (…admittedly I’d have gone back alone had I not had a friend to take). Thanks Flint for finding me and introducing me to that delicious place!  

I actually got sick in Portland, so spent a disproportionate amount of time huddled in the lovely basement space sleeping/watching Star Trek: Voyager. But it was nice to be huddled in a home with friends and not in a hotel. Left much to explore in Portland: my visit to Powell’s City of Books was perfunctory (just long enough to grab The Left Hand of Darkness and The Authenticity Experiment, and Cannon Beach will have to remain on the “someday wanna go” list. Til next time, Portland!