Portland was wonderful, as usual, but the AWP was miserable.

First the enjoyable part–Portland has good food. We found a small boulangerie downtown with pastries to die for. As good as anything in Paris. And the locals are kind and friendly.

But Portland is growing fast. Too fast. 75,000 people fled the California fires and settled in Portland, the locals told me. High rise condos going up everywhere. And they have a serious homeless problem. Folks are camping out on the streets and along the river and around the bus station, to name only a few of the popular spots. I watched two security dudes in yellow vests try to roust a guy from a public bench. He kept yelling “I’m working here!” I think what he meant was “I’m living here!” But the security dudes wouldn’t find that acceptable.

And then there’s Powells. It’s a good thing I don’t live near them or I’d be there every day. I found a small book by Remedios Varo–Letters, Dreams and Other Writings. She’s one of my favorite painters. Lots of other good books, but I knew I couldn’t fit them in my suitcase, so I stuck with small, slim books, like the Varo.

The AWP, we heard, broke with the George Mason folks who had previously run the conferences and hired a private firm. But this private firm didn’t know what to do with 15,000 or so attendees who all wanted to register on Thursday.

I arrived early Thursday morning, and the line was huge. I left, stood in line for a cup of coffee, ran into a friend, and chatted with him for a while. Went back to the registration line and now it stretched back for a half a mile or so.

I left the conference. Bought a ticket for the light transport, the Portland Streetcar, and went back to the rental apartment, in the Pearl district. Came back in the afternoon on Thursday to the conference, and the line now was at the door of the convention center. Shorter than the long, long, long line, but it still took me 40 minutes or so to get registered.

What a waste of time. If they’re going to admit that many people to the conference, they’ve got to find a better and faster system. Like letting folks register online and printing their damn nametags. I was so pissed that I said I’ll never go to another AWP again.

Back home, I still feel the same way. If they can’t fix their registration, I ain’t going to the next conference, in San Antonio.