Name & Age: Laura O. Foster, 49
Hometown: Portland/grew up in Aurora, Illinois
Current Neighborhood: Skyline
How do you pay the rent and what is your slash? I write books about exploring Portland neighborhoods and close-by towns on foot/lead walking tours for government agencies and groups/speak on Portland topics/edit other people’s books
What do you create? Passion and enthusiasm, I hope, for exploring and being good stewards of our Northwest places. Every Portland neighborhood or nearby town offers up a mini-vacation day when you take time to explore it. I love when readers write that they’ve been exploring with their kids, parents, friends, or significant others, using my books. That makes my day.
How did you land in Portland? In the 1980s, when potential newcomers contacted Chambers of Commerce for packets of relocation info, I wrote to Sacramento, Portland and Seattle. I was in Tennessee and had had my fill of people who were reliving old battles and of sweating from April to October. Portland’s Chamber of Commerce promised utopia: mountains, affordable homes, a mellow climate, natural beauty, and a nice size. Emerging into the rain from PDX in March with a six-month-old baby in arms, I gulped in the wet, marine-smelling air, and knew I’d landed in the right place.
What is the last book you read? My Abandonment by Peter Rock. Wonderful—accurate and inventive—about the father and daughter who lived in Forest Park
Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson. Caustic and hilarious, if a bit kvetchy at times. He inspires me to inject more attitude when writing about local sites.
Name your favorite tattoo. A staircase, of course. Theoretically.
What was the last thing you ate at a food cart? I haven’t had good luck; I have a knack for picking bland Mediterranean fare.
Oregonian, Willamette Week, or Mercury? Oregonian; but it’s just one source for the local info I use. I love the Tribune and its related papers. Also: the Northwest Examiner. It’s delicious—the kind of paper that when it comes, I pour some coffee, settle in to my cushy chair, invite the dog onto my lap, and know I’ll be entertained and informed by writers who aren’t afraid to let their bias show. And that’s what’s missing from other papers—they whitewash themselves into blandness, pretending they have no bias. But every piece of print authored by a human or owned by a corporation has a bias.
What is your favorite bridge and why? St. Johns. It’s a bridge that enhances the landscape around it. When I’m in an appreciative mood and the clouds are stacked in epic formations, I get choked up when I see it, the same as when I visit NYC or Washington DC and see the beautiful structures humans are capable of creating.
Stumptown Coffee or _________? Posie’s Café. Good coffee and food in Kenton, one of my favorite districts in town.
Coast or Mountains? The Cascades because they range from temperate rainforest to alpine starkness higher up.
Only in Portland moment? I asked my nine-year-old what she thought “Good Sam” Hospital was short for. She, the most tribal Oregonian I know, pondered a bit and said, “Is it for Good Salmon”?
A favorite local business? Annie Bloom’s Books, Broadway Books andPowell’s. They support local writers and readers with affection, enthusiasm and good advice. Don’t just browse there and buy on Amazon! Pay the little extra for what they add to our collective urban wealth.
Are you a car person or a bike person? Living 17 miles out in the hills from downtown, I am a car person. It’s an old Prius at least. I OD’d on biking in 1996 on Cycle Oregon and have rarely been back in the saddle.
If you could change one thing about Portland, what would it be? We’re a bit smug here. And it’s not enough to be weird. I cringe when I see that bumper sticker. I’d like Portland to lead in returning to small manufacturing—where people can have living wage jobs building or growing real things, not just disseminating information.
And finally, where can we find you on the web?