Random Beauty

Dear Liza,

I had a feeling-lousy day yesterday, maybe from walking around cold the previous evening at the zoo. I slept a lot, drank tons of tea and was generally useless. And today I am better!

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Christmas tree and Journal Building in the daylight

Since I was on the couch most of the day, I was looking at the many pictures I have taken here in town and come to a major conclusion: Random beauty in a city this big usually doesn’t happen by accident. There are budgets, materials, design teams, artists, and the folks who install the art. This is a government decision to make art.

And I love it!

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Journal Building at night

For instance, the home of one of Portland’s oldest newspapers, The Journal Building, has been standing by the Pioneer Square since 1912. The paper closed down in 1982, but the building is still used for offices and stores and is a beautiful part of the downtown skyline. At Christmas, it gets even prettier!

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Lit up Christmas Tree

There are so many statues downtown it would take pages to just show and name them. One I just noticed the other day is called “Pile”, a statue showing a crow standing on a pigeon, sitting on some old books, standing on a pillow, sitting on a crate. I am sure it means something, but to me it was just random and wonderful.

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“Pile”

Up in the Kenton neighborhood, we saw a series of benches that feature sculpture.    Here is “Dog Bench”.

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Dog Bench

The last piece of art I will tell you about is one I noticed and photographed weeks ago during the wet weather. It is on one of the blocks of polished granite in Pioneer Square, and shows an architect’s blueprints, calculator and even coffee cup, all sculpted in bronze. It is so casual looking, as through the architect has just stepped away for a moment, it cracks me up.

 

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Blueprints sculpture

I am looking forward to showing you all the lovely things I have found in Portland.

Love,

Grandma Judy

 

Zoo Lights

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Happy Mouse

Dear Liza,

It is still very sunny here. Mouse enjoys sitting in the south facing glass and screen door, feeling the sun and watching the bird and dog action. Fortunately, the door keeps the cold out. The low has been 32 degrees, (freezing, actually freezing) and the high temperature only 44.

 

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Cousin Kestrel reading

Last night Grandpa Nelson and I picked up the Cousins at their school. Then we walked over to Auntie Katie’s shop, Books with Pictures, and we all took the bus and train up to the Oregon Zoo for Zoolights. The train and elevator were packed with families. This is something a lot of zoos do, but it was my first time.

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Waiting for the train downtown

At the zoo, since most of the animals are asleep or in dark corners away from the fences, the trees and lights become the attraction. All sorts of animals are outlined in lights.The trees become a fantastic forest of lights with the people just moving shadows underneath. It is eerie and wonderful.

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Glowing Ostriches
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Bremen Town Musicians in lights!

It was also cold! After about an hour, we were feeling chilly and empty. We stepped into the Africafe for corn dogs, hot cocoa and some warm conversation,  and soon were feeling cheerful again. More walking, including racing a lighted cheetah, and then we were done.

Auntie Katie and her dear friend Chelsea drove the tired cousins home, and Grandpa Nelson and I took the train and bus back. The newly painted train station was quiet and almost empty.

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Beautiful train station under Washington Park
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Sparkling Forest

We will take you next year, if you come up during winter. Bring your mittens!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Confused Plants

Dear Liza,

This afternoon Auntie Bridgett and I bundled up and went for a walk around the neighborhood. We saw the usual bare trees and brilliant blue sky, a few lonely piles of leaves no one had thought to rake, and a few folks out putting up Christmas lights.

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Winter-blooming Camillia
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Winter blooming Fuschia?

But what caught me eye were flowers! Real, blooming flowers, looking amazingly lovely but out of place.

It has been near freezing every night, and not much more than during the day. We haven’t had rain in a week.

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Shasta Daisy in December…

How are these growing here? They are not in fancy greenhouses, but rather tatty looking yards, looking sort of like they forget summer was over.

I have not a clue why, but I took pictures of them to prove they were indeed here. Just another surprise up here in Portland.

Love,

Grandma Judy

 

245 Tubas

Dear Liza,

Yesterday we had a long, cold, sunny day downtown. Our first stop was Pioneer Square, sometimes called “Portland’s Living Room”. This is a beautifully paved and decorated open square that is used for big concerts, markets, and just hanging out in.

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Statue of a Cat lady and her … dog?
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Two of the 245 tuba players

Yesterday was the Tuba Christmas Concert, which features 245 people playing Christmas songs (and other lovely tunes) on tubas, baritone horns, and sousaphones. We got there early but all the seats were taken, so we stood way back and could hear, but not see, the performance. The deep peaceful music floated in the freezing cold air, and contrasted nicely with the giggling of children and chatting of families. Everyone was enjoying the day, but not silently.

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Tuba Christmas Hat!

I enjoyed watching the people in the crowd. Since it was cold, most folks were wearing hats. As the day went along, I tried to take pictures of some of the more interesting hats without scaring anyone.

 

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Minion hat

After the music, we walked around town, enjoying the window decorations. We stopped at Dick Blick’s Art Supplies and Powell’s City of Books, to see what would make nice presents for folks. Auntie Bridgett wanted to do some secret shopping, so we split up and agreed to meet at Kenny and Zuke’s Deli in an hour.

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Bright hat

 

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Auntie Bridgett hat

We enjoyed a veggie Reuben Sandwich, french fries and chicken soup and then headed home to do the grocery shopping. The bus home was full of people all bundled up and carrying packages, just like us! When that was done, we finally got into jammies and crashed. I fell asleep during The Charlie Brown Christmas, and will need to watch it again.

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Grandpa Nelson matching a stranger

Hanging out inside this morning, watching a 34 degree wind blow past our window. It’s weird, because with no leaves left to blow along the street, you just see bare branches swaying in the wind. Sometimes your hear the wind more than you see it…..spooky, but nice.

Love, Grandma Judy

 

Early Morning Donuts!

Dear Liza,

It was really crisp and cold this morning, which is great if you are describing celery. But 37 degrees and crystal clear are new and a bit difficult for me. However, this morning was an up and out early day, because Grandpa Nelson was out of breakfast!

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Clear and cold!

A doughnut run was needed, and as long as we were in the car, we went up to Broadway and NE 17th, to Helen Bernhard Bakery, which has what Grandpa Nelson says are “the best doughnuts in the city…and maybe the world.” The bakery is a cute little cottage building on the busy street of Broadway, just six short blocks from our favorite Tiki Bar, Hale Pele.

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A lovely little building

The bakery has all sorts of things, not just doughnuts…wedding cakes, cookies, muffins, the full range of baked yumminess. I got a cinnamon roll for me and Grandpa picked out a Christmas Tree cookie for Auntie Bridgett. The ladies who run it are very pleasant and conversational.

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Grandpa Nelson and friendly ladies with doughnuts

On the way home we stopped for gas for Miles the Volkswagen, which is only the 2nd time we have filled the car in the more than 3 months we have owned him. We simply don’t drive much….this is such a walk-able city, and buses are easier than parking if we go downtown. I love it! I have been on a freeway ONCE here in town, since July! Such a miracle.

Another thing about filling up the car: Oregon is a NON-SELF SERVICE state. State law forbids you from getting out to pump your own gas….one of the few things we have in common with New Jersey. This feels odd for a California native like me, but on a cold day like today, or a dark rainy evening, it seems like a mighty good idea.

I hope your house is feeling like Christmas and you are having lots of fun with Baba Alla. I will see you in January!

Love, Grandma Judy

Neighborhood Clearing

Dear Liza,

Every time I go out into the neighborhood, I see new things. The falling leaves are allowing more details to show.

For example, garden decorations that have been covered by overgrown trees and bushes are coming into view. This retaining wall for a house down by Hawthorne Street shows its decoration of old doorknobs, but only when the ferns die back in fall.

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Door knob decoration

This obelisk has been covered by one rosebush, which has now been cut back to just a few twigs for the winter, revealing the lovely sculpture.

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Garden Obelisk

Of course, leaf clearing and collection continues. This pile that was taller than you was waiting to be scooped up down by Laurelhurst Park. Inside the park, small trucks drive down the paved paths and blow the leaves onto the grass areas, where they are vacuumed up later. This is good, because the paths get really slippery and dangerous where the leaves sit and start to rot.

Also inside Laurelhurst, the workers are putting in net tubes filled with wood chips. These help keep the ground from washing away on hillsides. This series of tubes was put just below the off leash dog area, where there is a bit of a creek flowing during heavy rains.

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Erosion protection
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More leaves

The other day I saw my first sinkhole! A sinkhole is what happens when the ground underneath a street gets washed away, so the asphalt has nothing to sit on, and starts to collapse. This one was in the middle of the Washington Street and 27th intersection, marked by orange cones so no one would drive over or fall in!

Life just keeps getting more interesting up here.See you in January!

Love,

Grandma Judy

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Sinkhole!!!

Busy Winter Weekend

Dear Liza,

Hello from Portland! Fall keeps passing, with most of the trees completely bare now. The ginkgo in Laurelhurst Park is a rare exception, but is fading fast.

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Last of the yellow ginkgo trees

On Friday, Grandpa Nelson and I walked down to Hawthorne Street to have dinner at another McMenamin’s restaurant. This is The Baghdad Cafe and is delightfully quirky, with oriental rugs on the walls, paper lanterns hanging from the ceiling, and the signature McMenamin’s hand-painted murals decorating any bare spot. The food was very good! I had a Harvest Moon Salad, with roasted sweet potatoes, pecans, and goat cheese …mmmm…

After dinner we walked a whole 20 feet to the Baghdad Theater, where the new Pixar movie, Coco, is showing. The Baghdad Theater is also decorated in the whimsical style of the McMenamin brothers, and we enjoyed looking at the design details before the movie.

The movie itself was stunning. The animation is bright and colorful, and the story is real, human and beautiful. It also has is sad in spots, so take a tissue. We laughed out loud in parts, and cried like babies in others. The movie is about family and music and finding oneself.

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Painted tapestry in Back Stage Bar

After we recovered from the emotional roller coaster of Coco, we walked another 20 feet, past a small cigar bar (too stinky!) called Trump’s, to the Back Stage Bar. Still a part of the Baghdad property, this is a long, narrow room with a ceiling at least 50 feet high. It used to be the backstage of the theater, where all the giant canvas backdrops were stored. It is now weirdly wonderful, with some of the backdrops, old neon signs, pool tables and pinball, and a perfectly restored old cherry wood bar. Up to our earlobes in emotion, visual beauty and music, we walked home through a nice drizzle.

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Weirdly beautiful Back Stage Bar

Saturday afternoon was Cousin Jasper’s eighth birthday party. I foolishly left my camera at home, so have no pictures of the boys playing video games or the cake Uncle Dave made with a game controller done in frosting on top. Auntie Katie, her friend Chelsea, cousin Kestrel and I escaped the video game nuttiness by reading comics in the other room.

On Saturday evening, Auntie Bridgett came home!!! She had stayed in San Diego with her sister for the week and we missed her like a tricycle misses its last wheel. She had caught a cold and we spend the rest of the evening keeping her warm and making sure she drank lots of tea.

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Naked Tree

Sunday was another big adventure: Getting the Christmas tree! After several wild goose chases, Grandpa Nelson remembered seeing a sign for a lot at 48th and Belmont….and there were trees! It just started drizzling when we found the perfect one and the nice young fellow loaded it up on Miles the Volkswagen (who we protected with a heavy packing blanket, of course). Our tree was so fresh it still had moss and leaves on it from the forest, and is just wonky enough to be charming.

We spent the rest of the afternoon and into the evening choosing the ornaments to go on it. Auntie Bridgett has so many ornaments, they don’t all fit, so we only put our favorite ones up….some are from your great grandma Billie, 50 years ago, and some are from our more recent travels. I love that every year we get to re-tell our story with the decorations.

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Fully dressed tree with kitten

It was so nice this morning to wake up to the tree, Auntie Bridgett back home, and a kitten sleeping on the rug.

Love,

Grandma Judy