Portland, Minus the Otters

I wish I’d had Ezra with me on Thursday. While he and the rest of my family were in Los Angeles, I traveled to Portland, my hometown, to spread the word about Following Ezra.

I started the day with an appearance on “AM Northwest,” the morning show on the local ABC affiliate, KATU. As I waited in the green room, the next arrival was not a person, but a dog—a large black Lab mix, accompanied by a representative of the Delta Society, a non-profit that trains therapy animals.

While I waited to go on air, I  chatted with the dog lady and with another guest, a therapist named Donald Altman who’d written a book called One Minute Mindfulness. But I knew that if Ezra had been there, he would have been on the floor with the dog, peppering the handler with his usual litany of questions: “How old is your dog? Is it a male or female? Is she friendly?”

I went from the TV station to a meeting with my wonderful literary agent, Betsy Amster. Ezra would not have tolerated that. If he had been along, we would have stopped first at the Oregon Zoo, a required visit on every Portland trip. Instead of talking business, I would have been watching him delight in his favorite creatures there, the sea otters.

“See the sea otters?” he would have been asking me. “Do you see them? Those are sea otters!” And he would have held forth for me (and anyone else who happened to be passing by) in great detail about the otters, their native habitat, how endangered they are, and how these otters compare to other otters, like the North American river otters he visits at the L.A. Zoo or the Asian small-clawed otters he knows by name at the Santa Barbara zoo. (Okay, I know their names, too: Bob and Jillian.)

Ezra knows a lot about otters in part because he has spent so much time poring over his collection of animal encyclopedias, many of which he has purchased in Portland at his (and my) favorite bookstore, Powell’s Books. That’s where I stopped by Thursday evening, to discuss Following Ezra with a warm and welcoming audience of friends, relatives and friendly folks who had an interest in hearing our story. Even my childhood rabbi and my high school journalism teacher showed up. I was humbled and thrilled to receive such a warm and enthusiastic welcome, and I particularly appreciated meeting parents and grandparents of children with autism and hearing a bit about their kids and their journeys.

Many folks hung around to chat after my talk, so by the time I made it to the exit, the hour was late. Then, as I walked down the street away from the bookstore, I realized something: It was the first time in recent memory I had left Powell’s without picking up a new animal volume or animation book for Ezra’s collection. (Or an origami book for our son Noam.)

Maybe I need to read that mindfulness book.

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