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Westin Portland (no flying involved)

Westin Portland (no flying involved)

Old Feb 11, 00, 10:00 am
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Join Date: May 1998
Location: Kirkland, WA
Posts: 6,932
Westin Portland (no flying involved)

Pluto and I needed to get some of the new gold dollar coins, so we headed down to Portland to the Wal-Mart store an hour north of the border. Traffic was slow southbound on I-5 through Tacoma but quickly picked up once we passed the Tacoma Dome. It was almost exactly two hours when we took exit 79 to the Wal-Mart. We quickly found a space by the front door of the sprawling boxy building and entered. A non-smiling young woman wearing a red apron with a six-inch diameter smiley face stood by the door and didn’t greet us. “Where do we get the gold dollars?” I asked, getting right to the point. “You have to buy something,” she said, “and then they’ll give you up to 10 at the register.”

The U.S. government somehow decided to make these gold coins available only at Wal-Mart stores rather than at banks until March 1. I couldn’t help but wonder what the U.S. government and Wal-Mart were getting out of the deal. Is Wal-Mart buying the dollars at a discount? Paying the government a piddling amount of money for the privilege? It was a puzzlement.

Pluto and I each picket up a 96¢ bag of Halls Mentholyptus cough lozenges and headed to the express lane. “Do you have the gold dollars?” we asked, cough drops in hand. “I’m out.”

So we headed to another line. We waited behind a fat old woman buying Huggies who took seven minutes to write a check and find her ID. Finally the conveyer belt advanced our purchases to the scanning window: separator, Halls, separator, Halls. “We’d like ten gold coins each,” I declared, smiling. The enormous young woman staffing that register swiveled her head, owl-like, to a thin man adjusting plastic bags at the adjacent empty register. “Have you got any gold?” she asked. That’s what we’ll be calling them? “Gold”? The Canadians call their dollars Loonies and their two-dollar coins Twonies. “Gold”?

“I’ll have to go to the cash room—it’ll be about five minutes.” We paid for our Halls Mentholyptus cough lozenges, $1.03 each including tax, and tagged along with the thin man. After a few minutes more fiddling with bags, he walked over to the customer-service counter and asked the girl scowling there if she had any gold for his two customers. “They have to buy something,” she replied, answering instead the question, “Do they have to buy something?” He explained that we had already bought something (Pluto and I eagerly displayed our Halls Mentholyptus and receipts), exchanged a few more words with her, then turned and went into the back room. He returned moments later with a small sack.

He proceeded to walk back across the store to the farthest possible checkout aisle and sold the woman staffing it a roll of quarters and a $25 roll of Gold. She then proceeded to sell us $10 each in Gold, counting the coins twice.

The new coin is the same size as the old Susan B. Anthony dollar but is gold colored. “It’s a wonder they didn’t come up with a colored dollar coin before,” said Pluto. “We know we have the technology, as proved by the penny.” Gold in pocket, we continued to Portland.

Gas in Oregon is full-serve only and slightly more expensive than in Washington, so we stopped to fill up a few miles north of the border. It was only a short drive over the Columbia River to Portland. Pluto directed me to the new Westin Portland, where an eager valet took my white Pontiac Sunfire convertible in exchange for a lavender claim check. The hotel staff fell all over Pluto like he was Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate, recognizing him and calling him by name. We asked to spilt the bill on our two accounts but were asked to take care of that at check-out. Pluto asked the clerk to make reservations for us in five minutes at the hotel restaurant, Oritalia. We dropped our bags upstairs in our 16th-floor double room, I changed for dinner, and we went down after calling Service Express to request two bathrobes and a Platinum amenity kit which were missing.

Loyal readers will remember that, while the original Oritalia in San Francisco was one of my favorite restaurants, I was less than impressed with the Oritalia in Vancouver at the Sheraton Suites Le Soleil. This one, however, was wonderful. A stunning young hostess escorted us to a private booth in back with curtains that could be drawn and a light switch to call the waiter. Pluto was buying me dinner to thank me for driving him down, and he ordered a superb and pricey Oregon Pinot Noir to follow the two Metropolitans we started with. For dinner, Pluto had the crab and cod spring rolls (superb) followed by the sea scallops (a bit dry for my taste but he loved them). My two dishes were both first rate: tuna tartare on rice cakes and swordfish on risotto. We closed the curtains and talked big deals until it was time to get the check and head off to the movie we wanted to see, Topsy Turvy. The biographical film about Gilbert and Sullivan was well done if a bit long.

We returned to our room and were disappointed to find no bathrobes, but there was a white box. The Heavenly beds were great but even on the 16th floor the street noise made it difficult for me to sleep. There’s a steel plate on the road right outside the hotel, so perhaps a room facing a different direction would be quieter. We played a few rounds of “Who wants to be a millionaire,” getting up to $125,000 before retiring.
QuietLion is offline  
Old Feb 11, 00, 10:53 am
Join Date: Sep 1999
Location: Kirkland, WA
Posts: 321
Glad to hear Oritalia was better than the one in YVR - I like the idea of the curtains and the light switch!
Hunnybear is offline  

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