Le Fete de la Bastille

Goodies for sale

Dear Liza,

Lovely totems at Jamison Park

We love visiting France, speaking French, and eating and drinking French food and wine. We usually celebrate the 14th of July ( called le quatorze de juillet in French) by making crepes and drinking wine. It is THE big holiday in France.

The Urban Tide Pool

Here in Portland, there are many people from France, and others who love everything French as much as we do. Le Alliance Francais, The French American International School and other groups put on a nice celebration Saturday in Jamison Square to celebrate Bastille Day. So of course, we went.

So much fun!

Jamison Square has a wonderful fountain for kids to play in. It is an “urban tide pool”, where water rushes over rough cut blocks and fills a shallow wading pool, making a great place for kids to play and grown ups to cool off. On a hot day like Saturday, it was very popular.


The booths of the Fete were set up around the perimeter of the square, with the fountain as the centerpiece. There were crepes from C’est Si Bon, croissants from Honore Boulangerie, and a wine garden sponsored by Hardy Cognac. Everything was delicious.

Helpful Rose holding bear
Grandpa talking cars with a 2CV owner

Booths from the Fencing for all Ages school, as well as used books from or about France, and dresses and table linens inspired by France made for fun looking. Auntie Bridgett got some books and I bought a French verb conjugation wheel (42 irregular verbs! Oh yeah!)

Waiting her turn

Grandpa Nelson enjoyed talking to fellows about their vintage Citroens. There were balls set out for a game of Boulles (also called Bocci ball in Italy) and we watched a cute couple play.

Line up for the Waiters’ Race

But the highlight of the day was The Waiters’ Race ( Le Cours des Serveurs). Five men and four women, dressed in wait staff’s standard black and white uniform with a white towel over their left arm, each carried a tray with a bottle of Perrier and two full glasses, three times around the Square.

The Winner! He didn’t spill a drop!

They were judged not only on speed, but on spillage. It was especially inspirational to me because, as you know, I spill everything. The two waiters who crossed the finish line first did not win, because they had spilled too much. The fellow who came in third had a totally dry tray, and was declared the winner.

The winner of the Women’s section. Not a drop of Perrier spilled!

The women finished behind the men, but the lady wearing number 8 was fastest, had a dry tray, and was declared the winner of the women’s’ race.

By then, we were starting to fade, but we weren’t done yet. We took the streetcar to PAM to get Auntie Bridgett some reading glasses she had seen there. They are so cute!

Auntie Bridgett and her cute new specs

Catching the magic number 15, we got home to crash and watch the Giants win their second game against the Brewers! It was Hispanic Culture Day in Milwaukee. Viva Gigantes!


Grandma Judy

Going to New Heights

Dear Liza,

Grandpa Nelson had a medical check up the other day, and it turned into a new adventure!

The Pill on the Hill

We needed to get to both of the Oregon Health and Science University campuses within half an hour. One is at the bottom of Marquam Hill, by the Willamette River, and the other is at the TOP of the hill. At the bottom they perform the cat scans, and at the top of the hill, you meet with your doctor.

A few connections….

Seriously! But there is a way, and it is fabulous.

We took the magic number 15 bus downtown, then transferred to the North/South Streetcar. We took this to the bottom of the hill campus. This is a shiny-new area of medical and dental buildings, condominiums, apartments, and restaurants. I finished reading a book and played with visiting babies while Grandpa had his scan.

South Waterfront Medical Plaza
“We got a ticket to ride…”

Then we got our tickets for the OHSU Aerial Tram! There are actually two trams, each 22 feet long. They are called Walt and Jean, after the first African American (Walt Reynolds) and the first woman (Jean Richardson) to graduate from Oregon State University. The nickname of the tram is “The Pill on the Hill.”

The tram travels at 22 mph , takes three and a half minutes to get to the top, and carries about 10,000 people on a regular weekday. The trams are usually pretty full, with tourists, doctors and nurses getting to work, and technicians carrying equipment and even medical specimens (in those little beer coolers) up and down.

Left to right, the Marquam, Tilikum, and Ross Island Bridges over the Willamette

The tram has been running for 12 years and has carried millions of folks up and down. The views of the river, bridges, and downtown are amazing, especially on a bright summer day like today.

Left to right, the Burnside, Morrison, Hawthorne, and Marquam Bridges

I was worried that Grandpa Nelson would be scared (he hates heights) but he held up very well. We met with the doctor, who gave us good news about bone density, and then we headed back to downtown for lunch before heading home.

And of course, Mount Hood

Even doctor’s appointments are exciting!


Grandma Judy

Cameron’s Used Books

Some whimsical metalwork in front of Cameron’s Books

Dear Liza,

Tiled entryway shows the building’s 1890 credentials

The other day when Grandpa Nelson and I were wandering around downtown, we walked past Cameron’s Used Books. It looked interesting, but we were on a mission for French fries, so the shop had to wait. Today, I went back by myself and explored a little.

Morse ran for Senator many times between 1944 and 1960, both as a Republican and a Democrat!

Cameron’s has been in Portland since 1938. That’s eighteen years longer than I have been alive! That’s a long time. It has been at its current location at the corner of SE 3rd and Harvey Milk Street (formerly Stark) since 1960.

It was started by Robert Cameron, who opened it after realizing he couldn’t make a living in stamp collecting. Robert ran it, sometimes working nights at other jobs, until 1976. His friend Fred Goetz had been planning on buying a different bookshop and it fell through…so Robert sold Fred HIS shop instead.

Sometime back then, the shop’s owner came up with a novel gift idea: Giving a friend or loved one a magazine published on their actual birthday, in their actual birth year! Many of his magazines go quite a ways back, so I could even get one!

Lotsa books!

In 1982, Fred hired Jeff Frase, who admits he inflated his bookshop experience to get hired. Jeff fell in love with the place and, when Fred wanted to retire in 1989, bought the place rather than work for someone else.

I met Jeff (who didn’t want his picture taken) at the shop, sitting behind his desk. A small, quiet man, he was nearly invisible among the shelves of books and stacks of magazines. This Portland landmark has been the subject of articles in the local newspapers for years, including this one from The Portland Reporter in 1962.

History right there on the wall

Hand-lettered signs reading “Cell Phone use tenuously tolerated” and “No Cell Phone Cacophony allowed” were posted. Not wanting to irritate the man keeping this chapel of books alive, I turned off my ringer and only took pictures when I was around a corner.

Illustration from early 1900s Boy’s Life Magazine

There is good organization in the shop, but the shelves are so full it took me a while to see it. I enjoyed seeing the large collection of plays, though Guare’s House of Blue Leaves was not among them. One or two John Varley science fiction collections, but not Blue Champagne or The Barbie Murders. What DID come home with me was a sequel to Ursula K. Le Guin’s Catwings which will be a gift to Cousin Kestrel.

I enjoyed my hour or so in Cameron’s Used Books, and may stop in again sometime.


Grandma Judy

Off the Grid

Very early acorns

Dear Liza,

I know it must seem like I am having adventures everyday. Since I am not working, I have time for more big things in my life. But it is the little things that make my life so sweet.

I like going walking just to walk. If I notice flowers or acorns, I can stop and look, and not make anyone late.

Poppies at the Abernethy School garden

I like being able to read a whole story in one sitting. Maybe I move from the sofa to the comfy chair on the patio halfway through, but basically, one sitting. I am enjoying old friends like John Varley and Robert Heinlein, and new ones like David Litt.

I like being able to take a day to recover. All the big things, parties and helping and adventures, take a toll on old knees and backs. It’s nice to be able to give myself the day off.

My little garden fairie, Kestrel

I like having time between chores to enjoy the smiles of my grandkids, and to appreciate the wonderful people they are growing into.

I like being able to work in projects that may, or may not, go anywhere. My Portland 1903 story is on hiatus for now, while I hunt for a proper voice for my main character. So far, it is being elusive.

Experimental map

But in the meantime, I am messing around with a map of Portland, appliqued and embroidered on the machine. It is very experimental and may end up in the bin, as they say. But that’s okay.

What all this comes down to is that after years of scheduling 190 days a year down to the minute, I now have whole weeks at my disposal, when what I do or don’t do doesn’t make much difference to the world at large. Sort of like being off the grid.

And it feels good.


Grandma Judy

Surprise Adventure

River and city view

Dear Liza,

After such a busy weekend, I thought I was ready for a restful day. I planned to attend a lecture by author James Blase at the Oregon Historical Society, about President Teddy Roosevelt’s visit to Portland in 1903. Grandpa Nelson was interested and came with me.

Author James Blase

The lecture was disappointing, I am sorry to say. Considering the President’s trip was politically motivated, it was a shame that Mr. Blase was unaware of Oregon politics of the time, or even if Oregon was a state in 1903 ( this is when he started to lose his audience). He had a very worshipful opinion of President Roosevelt, unaware of the President’s now-unacceptable opinions on race and eugenics. I admire Teddy for many reasons, but this doesn’t blind me to his faults.

An interesting bookshop to explore later…

I was hoping to buy Mr. Blase’s book, called Keep it for your Children, but since I felt that I had learned more in my research than he had in his, I left without it.

After an hour of sitting in the air conditioned lobby of the OHS, Grandpa Nelson was ready for a walk. We wandered north through downtown to the Pine Street Market, where we got great fries from Bless Your Heart and not-very-good pizza from Ken’s Artisan. Cold drinks helped a lot, because once the clouds blew away, it was really warming up outside.

We headed for the Willamette River and walked south along Tom McCall Waterfront Park, enjoying the parade of life. Boats and jet skis on the water, kids on bikes and old men pushing their wives in wheelchairs, young men on skateboards being pulled along by large, happy dogs… everyone was out and about.

We saw some historic notes in the paving I hadn’t seen before, showing where the First Wharf was and the corner of the original city as it was laid out in 1846. This put things in perspective, especially when I looked up from visualizing the first wooden wharf and to see the magnificent, modern city Portland has become.

Under the Morrison, looking at the Hawthorne…
Looking past the (zipper) Marquam to the Tilikum!

We kept walking, passing under bridges while looking past them to see the next one. Burnside, Morrison, Hawthorne, Marquam, and finally, the newest and prettiest, Tilikum Crossing.

This small poem makes me like the Marquam Bridge a bit more…

This, as it turns out, was Grandpa Nelson’s goal. He wanted to walk across this beautiful pedestrian and transit bridge on this bright July day. The views from and of the bridge were wonderful! There was even a poem set right into the concrete sidewalk.

Almost too much!

But there was no shade, and the reflection from the paving was very bright… we were pretty done in once we got to the east side.

We caught the B Loop of the Streetcar and transferred to the magic number 15 bus, getting home to drink lots of cold water and have a much deserved lay down.

I got more of an adventure than I bargained for, but it sure was fun!


Chatting with other adventurers

Grandma Judy

Kestrel Turns Eight!

Baby Kestrel Gayle

Dear Liza,

One thing about being a Grandma…I get to carry a lot of fun memories around in my head. I remember Cousin Kestrel’s first hours on this planet, and her tiny babyhood.

Almost standing up!

And now her eighth birthday party was this past weekend. It was so much fun! It happened the day after the Grand Re-Opening party for Books with Pictures. I still don’t know how her mommy Katie keeps going… I would be a sleepy heap.

The Abernethy School garden

The Galaxy themed party was held just across the street from Kes’s house, in the gazebo behind her school, Abernethy Elementary. It is a very nice place, with the school garden and a mural by Botjoy artist Gary Hirsch.

Gary Hirsch’s positive vibes

Kids and grownups snacked and chatted,

Lots of snacks and fun

and the little girls made ‘galaxies’ out of paper and foil, and then played a game that Kestrel made up… Comet Toss!

Making the galaxy sparkly

I sewed the comets, and Kestrel invented the game and scoring plan. Chelsea and I laid out the game area with planets and suns for targets. The game changed as the kids played, which made it even more fun! Everyone was a really good sport.

Kestrel demonstrating the Comet Toss game

After the game and some cake (baked by Katie after midnight and decorated by Kes and Chelsea this morning), tree climbing was in order.

The cake! Yummy!

Kestrel showed her skill here, except for one little slip that left her with a scraped leg. Some ice from the cooler and my striped scarf helped her feel better.

Showing her skills…..

and her resilience.

Then came presents! She got some nice art supplies from friends, and a book from me… “Stuart Little”, one of my favorites. She really loved the card that Auntie Bridgett made for her, with a kitten in a space suit.

Space Kitten!

After a while it was time for Grandpa Nelson and I to say good-bye and head off on other adventures.

But in November will be Jasper’s birthday. The parties never end, I guess.


Grandma Judy

Big Bash at Books with Pictures

Auntie Katie and Nicole doing retail

Dear Liza,

Yummy spread (and lovely Chelsea)

After months of hard work by lots of people (especially Auntie Katie), Books with Pictures had it’s Grand Re-Opening this past Saturday night. It was a humdinger of a party!

Outside fun

The store looked wonderful, outside and in. The mint I planted is still a little scrawny, but a friend donated potted plants to give away, and they filled in the broad sidewalk nicely. Chalk drawings encouraged people to do their own art.


Inside, food from The Nerd Out (thanks, Mitch!) and beer from a local brewer helped feed the crowd. I met so many people!

Auntie Katie being silly….

Conch, who runs a local podcast, has been promoting comics shops, including Books with Pictures, for years.

More silly!

Besides people eating, drinking and chatting, people were buying comics! Hooray for retail! Because as much as the shop is the center of a vibrant community, it is book sales that pay the bills.

My Vinyl Underground’s Chris, chatting with Auntie Bridgett

Downstairs, a really interesting, quirky record shop called My Vinyl Underground has opened up and was full of folks looking for old, new, or unusual records. I found a Vickie Lawrence record my mom had back in the 1960s, and Grandpa Nelson saw a record of Yom Kippur songs. Now, THAT’S unusual.

Enjoying the people (and the beer!)

Auntie Katie was in the middle of all this hubbub, making sure the food was managed, people had wine, and everyone got talked to.

We didn’t stay long, because it was very crowded, but later on there was a drawing contest. I’m sure everyone had a good time.

Congratulations, Auntie Katie! Long live Books with Pictures!


Grandma Judy