[Editor's Note: BikeSnobNYC will read at Powell's City of Books on Sunday, June 20th at 7:30pm. Click here for more details.]
Last October, I was fortunate enough to visit Portland, the home of Powell's, and I wrote an article about my trip in some magazine that appeals to the kinds of people who drive Subarus and who wear climbing apparel and "technical footwear" to Whole Foods. However, while I consider that my first time in Portland, the truth is I visited once before. I just don't count that visit because it was only for a day and I didn't have a bicycle with me. This is sort of like how some people choose not to consider that painfully awkward sexual encounter where it "sort of went in" to be their First Time. So as far as I'm concerned, until the fall of 2009, I was a Portland virgin.
I do, however, often think back to my actual first Portland visit. It was 1998. The Goo Goo Dolls filled the airwaves; people filled the theaters to see Titanic (directed by James Cameron, this now-forgotten film was the prequel to Avatar); Bill Clinton still insisted he had not had sex with that woman; and I was working for a well-known rotund liberal documentary filmmaker.
My job was to travel around the country with this filmmaker while he screened his latest movie, and my responsibilities consisted mostly of getting yelled at by the studio, getting yelled at by his production company, getting yelled at by him, and constantly plying him with bottled water and Ricola throat lozenges so that his voice did not fail him during interviews (or while he yelled at me). Ricola duty was especially difficult because I was under strict orders never to allow the soothing droplets to pass through an airport X-ray machine. (The filmmaker was convinced that if they did, they would become irradiated and carcinogenic, giving him throat cancer.) If I accidentally left the Ricola package in my bag and it did go through, I had to discard it and immediately procure a fresh one, since he was liable to request a Ricola at any time and to be caught without meant censure or worse.
After awhile, though, I learned to lie when he looked at the Ricolas suspiciously.
"Have these been through the X-ray machine?"
To this day I am haunted by that "Riii-co-laa!" jingle from the commercials, and I live in fear that I'll one day see the news headline: "Noted Documentarian Ailing With Throat Cancer."