February 8, 2009

This morning I went on a quest to find a perfect place to write Don Quixote. Yes, I know Cervantes is like been there done that, but I am adapting his (oh, very, very long) book for a magical children's theatre in New England (which for the last ten years has been bewitched by an evil sorcerer who sought only to exploit young people for his nefarious personal gain, but is now restored to a safe and wonderful place for kids to make art). So I am once again penning for the Playhouse. And I need a place to do it.

In my head, this perfect place is a reading room with long, wooden tables and glowing lamps, sconces, red plush rugs, stacks of books everywhere, large glass windows with sunlight streaming through. And there's a fireplace.

I started my search at the Portland State University library, which is just a hop skip and a jump away from downtown Portland. What I found there, however, was serene and modern-looking study carrels sitting atop white tiled floors and under fluorescent lighting. The view was pretty spectacular, but the whole carrel experience brought me back to college. And, while I can wax nostalgic about it now — we used to sneak snacks into the stacks and pass them from carrel to carrel; strangers passing peanut M&Ms and Doritos and Oreos to other strangers… the quiet hush after dark, small desk lamp, dusky smell of old books, time slowing — I am happy to leave that experience in my past.

I left the library and walked up the park blocks, peeking into coffee shops and cafes to find that perfect writing spot. Though I saw some viable options, I was happy walking, and happy to soak in this rare February sunshine, and continued on, crossing Main, crossing Taylor, crossing Stark, crossing Davis. I knew I didn't want to write in Powell's — lovely feel but a bit too noisy — and I knew I didn't want to write at Stumptown — too spare, too hip. I began to wonder if my quest was really only a lengthy form of procrastination; though I felt good about having walked several miles in my beautiful city, I knew I was likely only putting off the Odd Uneasiness That Comes With the Start of a Big Project.

And then I looked up and I was in Chinatown and I was at the Chinese Gardens and I thought, oh yes, I remember coming here and thinking, I must come back here, I must write here, I must create something here. And right then and there I purchased a yearly membership and walked beneath the arch and into Asia, crossed the pond, walked over the upturned pebbles, through the cupola, into the teahouse, and upstairs, where I perched on a wooden stool and sipped tea and gazed at the sundrenched wood floor, the beamed pagoda ceiling, the wide open windows, while I pondered how to re-write a classic.