(Sorry, folks, this one’s kind of a meander, but it’s too hot to think straight)

I’m moving through Powell’s big downtown bookstore in a wierdly dreamy, deja vu kinda way, strolling the stacks and digesting the day I’ve had so far: Making art, viewing art, and needing art…or rather needing to get real artistic, real fast, to make sure Ernie Monstrocat has a GOOD home.

Three D&D kids stroll past, discussing what life must be like in prison. “I don’t know why everyone says it’s so terrible to be a prisoner. All they have to do is lie there and read; it’d be like living in Powell’s.”

I ponder this new take on penology as I follow them into the Powell’s coffee shop. Gigi-the-iPhone buzzes at me: Ernie’s new daddy may be having second thoughts. Would I know of someone who might want him instead?

The coffee shop is stocked with manga, coffee beans and about three dozen bookworms devouring pages. I spot one of my houseguests, Gary, sitting at a window seat and, judging from the volumes piled high in his basket, he’s now in reading mode. He barely looks up as I drop into the chair beside him and dig out an art magazine.

This morning, he and his wife Dorothy had taken off down south on business, leaving me to work out a sticky production problem in the studio: How do you remove too much wax from a plaster/silica investment, quickly and easily, without damaging the mold?

Normally I invest a thin, hollow wax shell which melts out pretty quickly, but this particular design doesn’t permit that. I’ve got as much as two inches of wax to remove in places, which means a LOT of steaming with a high risk of damaging the mold or scumming up the glass.

Usually when I get stuck like this I can delicately excavate the excess, slowly and carefully, but this is a production piece and I can’t afford to put that much labor into it.

Today, of course, it’s hot enough I could probably put the mold in a box lined with aluminum foil and let the wax cook out. However, for consistency’s sake I’m gonna try baking it out in the kiln on low heat.

When we get home from Powell’s I’ll see if it worked. And in future I now know I’ve got to consider manufacturing details more carefully when I design production work.

Morning toils completed, we’d given ourselves a reward: A visit to the Portland Art Museum, seeking lunch in their nice little cafe and two exhibits: A review of M.C. Escher’s work, and study of tattoos called “Marking Portland.” For dessert, a couple hours in Powell’s.

The museum strikes out twice: It’s eliminated the cafe in favor of more retail space, and the tattoo exhibit is really only small kiosks positioned around the museum. There is an impressive slideshow of tattooed glasslanders downstairs, and we watch that for awhile, but I find myself looking more at the gorgeous high-key photography than the actual tattoos. Not a good sign–I want the backstory, the process, and all I’m getting is anthropological data and a fashion shoot.

Then, a home run: The Escher exhibit is both an education in the fine art of printmaking and a really thoughtful portrayal of artistic development. Escher’s the printmaker whose fascination with interfaces presaged digital morphing (which is about like saying the US space program presaged the development of Tang but hey, I’m a geek).

You could see how his effort to get the intaglio engraving right evolved into preoccupation with the engraved lines themselves, and the whitespace surrounding them, eventually broadening into a provocative obsession with illusion. What fascinated me, though, was not the almost robotically perfect results, but rather Escher’s studies to get there. He drew these things by hand, and you could clearly see false starts and erasure marks. Something about that quest for perfection spoke volumes.

We also go glass hunting (surprise, surprise) and I’m pleased to discover that the reliable source who said the museum’s William Morris wall had been taken down isn’t so reliable after all. The wall is still there in all its three-story glory. Whew.

I’ve not been in the year-old museum expansion (shame on me), and it’s really lovely. There’s a pile of great sculpture in the foyer, including one of my favorite Arp series, and a fun piece by Henry Moore. I’m so caught up with Escher’s line and pattern though, that I’m instead mesmerized by the intricate lines woven by the elevator lights–I whip out Gigi and snap a bunch of shots for later reference (above).

A family rides the elevator with us, and one of the teenage sons says, “Look, I’m making art!” and he takes off his shoes and tie. “Richard, we’re getting off in a second,” his father says wearily, but our new artiste piles the things in the center of the elevator, adds his watch and mobile phone. “There! But it’s not modern art until it has a good name,” he says–which is strangely profound and (tragically) often true–and so he and Gary enthusiastically brainstorm the name and artist’s statement.

The elevator stops, the doors open, and the kid turns and bows. “Thank you for viewing my art,” he says.

The guard tells us there’s more glass upstairs. Sure enough, there’s a Nicholas Africano woman gracing the entrance to a smallish display, where Loughlin, Tagliapietra, Morris, Statom and a bunch of other glasslights play. It’s nicely done if a bit crowded (I like my art to breathe more than this).

I’m tickled that the museum is simply displaying this glass as contemporary art…until I see “Decorative Arts” in the gallery title. Humpfh. Since a chunk of this stuff was probably donated by Bullseye, I kinda wonder what Lani thinks of that…

By then it’s getting late, so we head off to Powell’s. Dorothy constrains herself to buying only those books that fit into ONE basket, and the added decision-making lets Gary and me get in quality reading time in the coffee shop. I text a potential ErnieMom and–yippeee!–she sounds amenable. I know she’d be an incredible companion for this charming cat-about-town.

A raggedy man walks past my window dragging two shopping carts, kinda like the homeless version of a doublewide. It’s 96 degrees but he’s wearing a jacket. His balding head is perched on the furriest neck I’ve ever seen–I had a French poodle that looked like that–and sweat has soaked the knit-wool cap he’s wearing. He whistles as he tries to keep the carts in line.

Gary and Dorothy head off to buy their baskets of books while I begin figuring out the Ernie transfer process with his fosterfolk. A plane trip might be involved, so there’s lots to work out. As I’m texting furiously, a very beautiful girl sits two chairs down and opens a Mac. The bookworm at the next table lights up, sweeps his bookpile into his arms and approaches her.

“Hi, I’m Dan,” he says hopefully, taking the vacant chair between us, “I haven’t seen you in here before. May I buy you a coffee?”

She gives him a look that would freeze a well-oiled engine. “This seat,” she says sternly, “is taken.”

“But this one isn’t,” I say helpfully, pointing to the chair Gary has vacated. The bookworm glares at me in pure disgust and walks off. I slip my magazine back into the shopping bag and head off to find Gary and Dorothy.