The Grand Hotel by Scott Kenemore, Narrated by Christian Rummel

Scott Kenemore’s The Grand Hotel takes us on a tour that leads us from one tragic tale of horror to another, each with its nuanced cast of characters and captivating narrative. As the sinister desk clerk guides the tour group through the halls of the hotel, he also nudges us from one long-term guest’s fantastic and unbelievable story to another. Reminiscent of Tales from the Crypt, if the Cryptkeeper were more somber and the crypt was a massive antiquated hotel, there’s a hidden truth embedded within each new story.
When the tour group finds their way into the seemingly abandoned hotel, they’re shocked to be greeted by a peculiar and chilling night clerk welcoming them to The Grand Hotel. More shocking is the tour of the ancient building, the introduction to various residents and employees, and the stories he prompts them to share with the unwitting guests.
Kenemore’s gradual revelation of the truth behind the hotel and its temperamental host is delivered smoothly, without coming across as forced or spoon-fed to the reader. Each of the individual tales incorporated into the overall narrative is distinctly voiced and unique from the others, making it feel all the more authentic. With the tour group, we get to experience tales of police detectives tormented by a haunted house, the tragic first manned mission to Mars, a naive dance student’s first experience with love and betrayal, and so much more.
Christian Rummel’s narration perfectly suits the voice of our host while also conveying the necessary separation for the other characters in the book. Upon completion, I’m not sure I could imagine a different voice for Vic.

Wandering Portland

Thursday, June 20th of 2019, was spent entirely in Portland, Oregon. It was time to take a break from long drives for a day. We’d traveled 474 miles on Wednesday, 324 miles on Tuesday, 241 miles on Monday, and a whopping 713 miles on Sunday. Of course, that was combined driving and walking, but only a small portion of that was spent walking…I was, as you can imagine, ready to spend a bit less time behind the wheel.

Besides, we had a great way to get the day started and a surprise for my daughter that evening.

Our first stop was The Waffle Window in Northeast Portland (that location no longer appears to be open). At 8:30 AM, nothing could have hit the spot quite the way that waffle did, the one I’d purchased no longer appears to be on the menu at the current Waffle Window locations, but it included strawberry and a cream made using rose hips. I believe it was the Rose City waffle, which may be available only at certain times of year. It was amazing.

After an excellent breakfast, we headed West toward Washington Park and the Oregon Zoo. We had a schedule to keep.

I’d spent a few hundred dollars a couple of months before, in preparation for this vacation, to experience something we simply had to experience for ourselves.

We received more than my money’s worth with the sea otter experience at the Oregon Zoo. I’d known we would be able to spend time behind the scenes, seeing the otters in their enclosure rather than through the usual viewing location. We got to watch as Lincoln was given treats and samples were taken from him. I expected that to be about as close as we’d get. Instead, we were given the chance to hand-feed Juno and Sushi for approximately ten to fifteen minutes. We were provided with a bucket filled with diced up bits of fish and other assorted sea life, and we were allowed to spoil them rotten. Photos of the otter experience are above.

After spending a rather long interval at the zoo, we returned to the hotel until a little after 5 PM.

We headed toward downtown Portland and parked in the Chinatown area.

Our next stop was the Lan Su Chinese Garden. A special event was soon to be taking place, and our time was limited, so the hostess offered us discounted passes to enjoy the lovely garden. While I would have loved to spend more time there, especially as the sun approached the horizon, it was incredibly considerate of the hostess to offer us the concession she did. The garden isn’t a large place, but it feels much larger when you’re inside.

You can almost imagine you’re somewhere far away from where you actually are, until you catch glimpses of the towering skyscrapers beyond the walls of the garden itself. Photos of the Lan Su Chinese Garden are below.

From there, we remained on foot. It was time to visit my favorite location in downtown Portland, Powell’s City of Books. It was 6:30PM when we arrived and we didn’t leave there until after 8 PM. There are few stores where I can lose track of time as effectively as within the mighty shelves of Powell’s. As one might reasonably suspect, I spent altogether too much money during that visit…we all did.

We had time to return to the Impala, where we deposited our purchases, before we made our way to the next destination.

From roughly 8:30 until 10:30 PM, we joined up with Portland Walking Tours for their late night ghost hunting experience. Naturally, there were no ghosts, but there was a lot of local history (mingled with a fair bit of mythology, I’m sure) and a fun experience to be had.

The first hour and a half of the tour involved wandering through a substantial chunk of downtown Portland. It was thoroughly enjoyable, less because I believe in ghosts than for the enthusiasm of the tour guide in his detailed assortment of tales and trivia items.

We returned to the starting point of the walking tour and made our way into the basement of the building, with only flashlights to provide us with illumination. Connecting, as it supposedly did, to the old tunnels beneath the city, there were tales aplenty that accompanied our descent into the dark underground. Of course, we did not summon a ghost nor did we witness any sort of evidence that there might be a ghost down there, but the atmosphere was quite excellent.

It was almost Midnight when we finally settled in at our hotel, after ordering takeout from a reasonably nice diner located near PDX and the Columbia River, Shari’s Cafe and Pies.