Collecting bottles, tossing leftovers, taking out the garbage
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Erin Van Rheenen divides her time between California and Costa Rica. She has taught writing at City College of New York and in the San Francisco County Jail. She has a new book titled Living Abroad in Costa Rica (Avalon Travel Publishing).
At Powell’s Books in Portland, Oregon, they hand out maps of the store, as if it were a forest you might get lost in. My mother is looking for a novel; I want something that will help me identify the birds and trees of the Northwest. Oregon is much more lush than I remember; its green makes California look brown. My mother grew up in Portland but doesn’t recall the names of things. I lived here until the age of seven.
At the other end of the bar stood a stocky man with thinning hair and black-rimmed glasses. His skin gave off an unhealthy sheen; his eyes swam, magnified and vague, behind thick lenses. So this was the Pulitzer Prize–winning author (let’s call him Moe) who’d chosen my unpublished book as best new novel.