Able to Enjoy Outside Again

Dear Liza,

For the last week, it has been uncomfortably hot in Portland, over 90 degrees during the day and barely dropping to 70 at night. It has been hard to sleep and impossible to go for walks.

But today, it was blissfully cool! Auntie Bridgett and I walked all the way to the Fred Meyer store, almost a mile away, to buy ink for the printer. It is time for her to print and send out her zine, which is called Art-o- Rama. This month it is about her study of Picasso and experimenting with abstract art.

As we passed Sunnyside Environmental School, we met a boy named Jase. He was dribbling two basketballs at the same time and had misplaced his dad. The two of them were on the watering crew for the gardens around the school. Jase used Bridgett’s phone and left a message, but headed off to find him. I had great confidence in a happy outcome, so we headed off.

We did the shopping and headed home, passing Sunnyside School again, and there was Jase (and his dad) and some other boys playing basketball. We stopped and chatted for a few minutes.

The rest of the afternoon, we all worked on our own projects, then had dinner. The weather was still lovely, so we three walked to the Postal Annex to send off Bridgett’s zines. Walking in our neighborhood is always a treat. The oldest trees make pockets of deep shade, younger trees make dappled patches, and bright sunlit yards are full of tomato plants and flowers.

Since the new surface on our balcony isn’t dry yet, we enjoyed our shady patio downstairs instead. We haven’t done that much, and it was fun! We got to visit with new neighbors Kara and Trevor and watched some crow drama. The sun went down and it was time to head inside.

The forecast is for just a few more days of pleasant weather, then it’s supposed to get horribly hot again. We will enjoy what we can and take lots of pictures to remember this once the seasons change and it starts raining.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Writer’s Block

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As you can tell by all the writing I’ve been doing, my brain has been running full speed for a long time. Now, I seem to have hit a bump. IMG_8410.jpg

Besides these letters to you, i am writing a history story about Portland, Oregon. I’ve done all the research, but it isn’t turning into the story I want. It feels clunky, slow, and bossy. It has a teacher’s voice, which is understandable, since I spoke Teacher as my primary language for 30 years. But it is not good voice for stories.

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I have realized that I have a lot of work yet to do on it, and it is frustrating. It feels like I somehow got to mile 24 of a marathon and realized that I am just coming up on the Starting line.

As a remedy, I am, as they say, “getting out of my own way,” and letting the story sit for a while. I am reading other things, walking when it is cool enough, and trying not to give up on it. IMG_6281.jpg

I am looking for inspiration elsewhere, listening for a voice that isn’t bossy. In the meantime, I will send these lovely random pictures.

Love,

Grandma Judy

The Coast with Grownups

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Re-employed Country Bear running a shooting gallery

Dear Liza,

It has been so hot here in Portland, people are either staying inside air conditioned buildings or getting out of town to stay cool. On Sunday, Auntie Bridgett, Grandpa Nelson and I headed for the coast. It was 100 degrees in Portland, and 70 in Seaside…so, good call.

We drove to Seaside, which is a pretty little touristy town on the beach. There are dozens of shops selling salt water taffy, tee shirts, and souvenirs, as well as bumper cars and a tilt-a-whirl. There is bad traffic and limited parking.

But there is also a beach, with long lovely dunes and beach grass, which is what you get to keep when you don’t plant your dunes with ice plant. The weather was sunny on the dunes, but just over the waves and coming onto the sand was this weird blowing fog…it made everything delightfully spooky. The tide was way out, so there was LOTS of beach. Not many sand castles, though.

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Creeping beach fog
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Lovely dune grass

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The fog and sand were wonderful, but we here getting hungry, and headed into town for some lunch at Sam’s Seaside Cafe, a pleasant enough diner (though later I began to question their refrigeration). There is a little river that flows through town and rental boat that go along it. Rowboats and swan boats were for rent….both looked like too much work!

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Swan Boat Fail and Rescue

We drove on up to Astoria, and it was a very different visit than I had with Katie and the cousins. We didn’t visit the wreck of the Peter Iredale, the Tower, or the Battery.

Wandering in the old downtown area, we looked at the cool 1924 architecture and contemporary art. The Riversea Gallery had really beautiful work, including some by Portland artists and friends Dawn Panttaja and Jesse Reno.

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The John Jacob Astor Building

Walking along, we saw some young men and women wearing colorful clothes with bells on their legs… Morris Dancers! The Morris dance is a traditional Irish way of celebrating spring, with dancers, drinking and fun. In old Ireland, troops would travel around the country. July seemed late for celebrating spring, but this fellow said in America, they go a bit longer.

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Morris Dancer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It seemed time to head back towards home, since we had an almost two hour drive. Auntie Bridgett’s stomach was feeling queasy (was it the Cole Slaw? We may never know) and Grandpa Nelson’s feet were tired. We drove along the Columbia, our California eyes amazed at all that water just running free.

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The Columbia, just rollin’ on….

At Kalama Bay, where there used to be a ferry to take railroad cars across the river, the McMenamin Brothers have build a NEW resort…not a re-purposed old building, as they usually do. We enjoyed the bright fourth floor bar, but from the inside looking out…coming inland this far, the temperature was back up into the 90s.

Auntie Bridgett had a fizzy tonic to try and settle her stomach. Snacks and drinks and we were on our way home, to watch baseball and fall asleep early.

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Always fun art at McMenamin’s

I hope the weather breaks soon! I am longing for my nice cool Portland.

Love,

Grandma Judy

 

 

The DoubleClicks

Dear Liza,

Last night Grandpa Nelson and I drove down to Auntie Katie’s bookshop to watch a show. I know we usually walk, but it was 96 degrees, which is too hot to walk a mile.

First, we all went to dinner at The Smokehouse Tavern on Morrison. The pulled pork sandwich was smokey and tasty, with cold, refreshing cocktails for the hot day.

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Bridgett, Hand, and me (in the reflection)

The show was a pair of sisters, Angela and Aubrey Webber, who go by the group name “Doubleclicks”. They play guitar, ukulele, and electric cello, and even a cat keyboard that “meows” when you play the keys. But mostly, they write and sing very sweet, funny songs about being different, even a little weird, and being okay with that.

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Katie introducing the Doubleclicks

The Doubleclicks are very popular here in Portland, especially with people who like comic books, so they were a good match for Books with Pictures. By the time the show started, all forty chairs were full and there were probably thirty more people standing in the back. The audience was mostly people in their thirties and forties, but some much younger (8 or 9) and some much older (like us!)

The first song they sang was called “Cats at Parties”. It is about being awkward in large groups of people and seeking out pets to hang out with instead. I do this, sometimes. They had me.

Other songs paid homage to Wonder Woman, Dimetrodons, and board games. There was lots of funny conversation between the sisters, and with the audience. Auntie Katie asked them to dedicate a song to Grandpa Nelson, called “I have Nothing to Prove.” It was very sweet, about being happy with yourself and your accomplishments.

During the break, I got to visit with Chelsea Wright, Auntie Katie’s dear friend, and other folks in the audience. A lady named Kathleen, who sat right in front of us, was signing the lyrics as the Sisters were singing. I told her how much I enjoyed watching her and we had a nice conversation.

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Kathleen and her fella

When the show was over, we all hung up our chairs and headed off. As we got in the car, the train gates came down, and we. Were. Stuck. For thirty minutes while the train got rearranged and ready to head north. The main train tracks crossing a main road is a drawback of driving in this neighborhood. But, small price to pay.

We got home, wide awake, and watched the Giants win their ballgame, then went to bed.

More adventures tomorrow, I’m sure.

Love,

Grandma Judy

 

 

A Song for Fun

Dear Liza,

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Sunsets

Your Mommy or Daddy can teach you the tune for this silly re-write. The Song is called “My Favorite Things.”

(Read the captions!)

First Verse:

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And artists

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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And baseball with Pickles

 

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Beaches with grandchildren, giggles and tickles
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Kittens in fl’wer pots

 

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And wrecks by the sea

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These are the things Portland’s given to me!

Second Verse:

 

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Art found on sidewalks and up on a tower
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Hearing the voices of love’s greatest power

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Old friends and new friends

 

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And pinball for fun

All of these just since the summer’s begun!

 

Bridge:

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Ghosts and mystery!

 

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Creepy History!
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Yummy food and wine….

 

 

 

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I’m up to my eyeballs in Portland, my friends,

 

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And I want to say…
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It’s fine!

Love,

Grandma Judy

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Astoria Column

Dear Liza,

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The Astoria Column

After Auntie Katie, the cousins and I left The Battery Russell, we were starting to think about dinner. Auntie Katie looked on her phone and saw that The Astoria Column was on a hill overlooking downtown, where the restaurants are. Why not go see the column, and then go get dinner?

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Astoria Bridge from Coxcomb Hill

We drove under the Astoria bridge, which is over four miles long, and through a thick forest on the way to the top of Coxcomb Hill. We were overlooking the Columbia River, with a view west to the Pacific Ocean and east over miles of forest.

The overcast had gone and we were in dazzling sunlight. We looked at the painting on the 125 foot column, but not for long, because as soon as we found the staircase inside, we knew we had to climb it. IMG_8206.jpg

Up and up and up, around and around…164 spiral steel steps. I just kept holding on to the railing and not looking any further than my feet.

The Astoria Column was built in 1926 with railroad and business money to commemorate Astoria’s role in the development of the northwest. It is patterned on Trajan’s Column in Rome and the Place Vendome Column in Paris. The paintings on the outside show important things that happened in Oregon history.

Finally, the top! The views were even longer, the perspective even better, the breeze even cooler, than below. It was almost overwhelmingly beautiful. We all just stood and stared, feeling light headed.

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The View from the Top

Then we remembered. Dinner! Auntie Katie and I knew we were working on borrowed time, as all of us were getting spacey and a tad cranky.  It was time to find food. We walked down, watching our feet at every step, played Animal Impersonator for a few minutes, and headed off

The GPS directed us to Mo’s, which is famous up and down the Oregon Coast for clam chowder.

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First Course

Once we had some steamer clams and crackers we all felt better, and we enjoyed watching the sun go down over the water. We filled up on hot dogs, fish and chips and Petrale sole, and were ready for the long drive back to Portland.

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The end of a lovely day

Auntie Katie drove, the kids slept, and I watched the forest get dark and thought about how grateful I am for my life.

Love,

Grandma Judy

The Battery Russell

Dear Liza,

After Auntie Katie, the cousins and I finished exploring the wreck of the Peter Iredale and brushing the sand off our feet, we headed further into the Fort Stevens area to something marked on the map as The Battery Russell.

Jasper exploring The Battery Russell

This is a series of rooms, platforms, observation stations and gun emplacements that was installed by the Army in 1890 and was used until 1910, de-activated, then re-activated in 1941 to 1945. It held two 10-inch rifles with 30 ton gun barrels, designed to defend the coast from enemy bombardment and guard against beach invasions.

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That’s the pit. Don’t fall in.
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Baby swallows in their nest!

The guns have all been removed, and what is left is a fascinating combination of stark grey concrete and swallow’s nests surrounded by wild roses and blackberry bushes. There are stairs and ramps, cavernous rooms and pits, where groups of kids (including cousins Jasper and Kestrel) can play Capture the Flag or Hide and Seek.

Kestrel enjoying a vantage point
Katie watching out

There are signs posted: This area contains pits and deep drop-offs. Watch your children! So naturally, the kids took about two minutes to figure out where the pit was, then ran around like kids do.

When the other kids left, the cousins made up other adventure games. Auntie Katie’s role was a villain who had captured Kestrel, but Kestrel had more energy and kept escaping our dungeon. Eventually Auntie Katie and I (her loyal minion) rounded up the captive and her friend (Jasper0 and hauled them off to the next adventure.

Love,

Grandma Judy