Dear Liza,

Having more time to think about life is such a blessing. For most of the thirty years of my teaching career, Thanksgiving was experienced as class art projects that needed to be finished in time to send home, massive cooking projects, and long drive to Great Grandma Billie’s.

This year there are no class art projects…just my fiddling with embroidery.

There is no massive cooking project…we are eating elsewhere.

There is a flight to San Diego….but I am not doing the flying.

We will see family and friends, eat good food, drink some wine, cuddle babies, and go for walks in the autumn sunshine.

And that will be quite a blessing.

Love you very much,

Grandma Judy

Friday Night In Woodlawn, Part 2

Dear Liza,

After we had finished our dinner downstairs at the Oregon Public House, we went upstairs to The Village Ballroom. This is a large open space with a lovely old wooden dance floor and small stage, which was used as a grange hall in the 1920s. We were there to see and hear the Ne Plus Ultra Jass Orchestra.

If this name sounds familiar, it’s because we went to the Clinton Theater before Halloween to hear this same group perform spooky, silly tunes from the early part of the 20th century. They specialize in vintage band music and are a joy to behold. The Village Ballroom is their home turf, where they have played show every month for two years. In keeping with the charitable intent of the Oregon Public House, half of the money from every show goes toward local charities.

Playing with them last night was Jennie Spada playing something you almost never see, a Theramin. This is an instrument that was invented by Leon Theramin in 1928, and relies on radio waves. You don’t touch it to play, but hold your hands just right, and the distance between your hands and the antennae creates interference which makes the eerie, science fiction-y sound. Jennie played with the band on a few tunes, and it was fascinating to watch, but clearly not what the Theramin was designed to do.

Samuel Murray Hawkins, as band leader and vocalist, was charming as ever, wearing a top hat and tails. The 10 piece orchestra all did very well at such tunes as “Louisiana Lullaby” and Duke Ellington songs like “Black and Tan Fantasy”, “The Mooch”, and “Black Beauty. ” Hawkins’s favorite novelty song, “Don’t Bring Lulu” was funny and delightful, telling all the mischief a young lady gets into and advising boys not to invite her along…then says that the singer will bring her himself.

At our table by the dance floor was Lily, the young lady we met at the Halloween concert, and some of her friends. Except for joining in the conga line, none of us got up to dance during the evening, but many other folks did!

It was so much fun watching young, nimble footed couples dance by elderly pairs who had been obviously been dancing together for decades. The dance floor had room for about 14 couples, and for many songs, it was quite full.

The couple that caught my attention, though, was a man and his grand daughter, who was about five years old. Their contrasting sizes were no impediment to their fun, with Grandpa swooping to lift her up into a swing, or spinning her gently by the hand. The little one was a good sport, too, remembering where the other dancers were so as not to trip anyone up.

After 2 hour-long sets and an encore, the band was tired and so were we. Grandpa Nelson called for a Lyft car and we were home and in pajamas by ten o’clock. What a fun evening!


Grandma Judy

Friday Night In Woodlawn, Part 1

Too full!

Dear Liza,

Last night Grandpa Nelson had an evening of music planned, but first we needed to have dinner. He isn’t fussy about food, but gave us some ideas we hadn’t thought of.

Swiss Hibiscus is a Swiss restaurant up on NE 14th and their Online menu looked good! Onion soup, raclettes (bread with melted cheeeeese) and escargots all sounded like just the thing for this cold, almost-winter evening. But when we got there, we realized that we should have called for reservations. The tiny restaurant was booked up with no relief in sight. Sigh.

We were on Alberta Street, which is a main drag in the northeast, but places were filling up for dinner. The Tin Shed, which is more of a bar with food, was also full. Across the street was a highly decorated (seems a bit early for Christmas…) shop called Frock, but no food.

No Food!

We finally decided to make life easy and get a Lyft to our final destination, The Oregon Public House, and eat there. It wouldn’t be escargots or raclettes, but that was fine.

The Oregon Public House is a special place. Its motto is “Have a pint, change the world.” It is the only non-profit pub in the whole country. Let me explain.


You order drinks and food from the bar. Burgers, sandwiches, fries and sweet potato tots are the fare, all tasty and inexpensive. You pay and then decide which of the charities you want the profit from your meal to go to.

Food for Families, The Northeast Portland Tool Library, Keep Oregon Well, and Carpe Mundi, are just a few. There is even a Give-O-Meter, a small wooden counter fitted with beer steins and clear plastic tubes, that lets you donate cash to the different charities if you feel like it.


The pub itself is family friendly and lively, with small people making laps of the place accompanied by their patient parents, as well as hipper folks chatting at tables. All the employees were young and cheerful.

After dinner, we went upstairs for the second part of our adventure. I’ll tell you about that tomorrow!

Love, Grandma Judy

City Crows

Dear Liza,

For such a big city, Portland has a large animal population.

Bubbler Crow

We see this when the ‘dog parade’ heads from the neighborhoods to Laurelhurst Park for their evening walk. Cats greet us from sunny porches as we pass, and chickens talk amongst themselves when we go by Sunnyside School.

The squirrels, of course, have the best commutes ever, up trees and across power lines, chittering at everyone who will listen, but freezing on tree trunks to become invisible.

But by far the most vocal and numerous animals are the crows. Unlike their more reclusive cousins the ravens, crows thrive in close proximity with humans, and some even enjoy our company. And it’s not just people in general; studies show that crows remember certain humans, reacting positively to those who feed them and negatively to those they see as a threat.

Queen of the Crows?

There is a lady who walks every day in Lone Fir Cemetery, bringing a large bag of dry cat food, just to feed the crows. She loves their attentions, and they love her, too! She is like the crow’s queen.

Crow in the Artbar

The art in Portland reflects this affection (some might even say a fixation) with crows. This painting greeted us last week at The Artbar downtown.

And Laurelhurst hosts a fair few of the feathered fellows, as well.

Laurelhurst Crow

I like having all these living critters in the neighborhood. Since I have fewer small people to talk with, crows and cats can be good conversation. Also, learning how critters get by and help the area (eating all that fallen fruit, for example) lets me see the neighborhood as an ecosystem rather than just a bunch of houses.

Love, Grandma Judy

Another Transit Adventure, Part 2

Dear Liza,

Yes, it’s supposed to do that!

At Tanner’s Spring Park, we all enjoyed the undulating fence made from old railroad rails and the paths paved with ballast from sailing ships.

The Spring itself rises through a paved circle and meanders along tiny streams on its way to the Willamette, creating an environment enjoyed by birds, insects, and lizards, and us! We imagined our characters shrinking to one inch tall and adventuring on the tiny “river” and flying between the tall grasses. My delight in this nature preserve surrounded by glass high-rises must have been contagious.

Urban nature preserve

At lunch time, the kids agreed on sushi. We stopped at Sinju, where the ladies were very accommodating and made Kestrel mango sushi. Though she ended up mostly lunching on the crackers and fruit I had brought along, her roll didn’t go to waste: Jasper enjoyed his California roll AND his sister’s lunch. He’s a growing dragon, after all.

Jasper of the Jungle

Walking toward the streetcar home, we watched it go by…but no harm done. It went by just in front of Cool Moon Ice Cream! A wonderful snack, Shel Silverstein poems (I always bring books on adventures)  and interesting knit cow heads helped pass the time until the next streetcar.

Knit Cow? Why not?

Our energy was starting to fade as we watched the city pass by the windows. Crossing the Tilikum Crossing Bridge, we had incredible views of Mt. Hood with a fresh frosting of snow, rising like a ghost over the east side of Portland.

We switched from the streetcar to the Orange line at OMSI and rode it just one stop down to get off by Books with Pictures. We were all pretty much out of gas. The kids tucked in with books on the beanbag chairs, and I walked home and napped for an hour. Adventuring is exhausting!

Mt. Hood with frosting


Grandma Judy

Another Transit Adventure, Part 1

Dear Liza,

Kestrel at Union Station

The other day I got to take Cousins Jasper and Kestrel and head into another part of Portland I hadn’t been to yet: North of the Pearl District to Jameson Square. It was journey of transit and imagination.

I walked down to Auntie Katie’s shop, Books with Pictures, to pick them up, and we got on the Orange Line train. It took us through downtown and all the way up to Union Station, which was built in 1896. Being so close, I couldn’t help but step inside. It has been in  use for over 120 years, so it has been redecorated, but has kept that lovely vintage look…giant clocks, shiny floors, and neon everywhere.

Very Vintage Decor

This train station is actually in my story of 1903 Portland. I had to stop for a few minutes to mentally erase the car traffic and picture horse carriages pulling in to fetch passengers. I love being in a space where the past overlaps so perfectly with the present.

We walked a few blocks between the tall glass and stone apartments and office buildings, playing Adventure.  This is an ongoing, free-style fantasy game, where we create our characters. Jasper becomes a human/dragon hybrid, Kestrel channels her inner baby water dragon, and I am the Grandma horse who can fly. We fight invisible foes and overcome obstacles. Imagination makes everything better. The high rise buildings became sheer cliffs as we walked through the canyon.

Flying with Viny the Bear

At Jameson Square, we found that the water feature was turned off for the winter, and the waterfalls became cliffs to climb. We also found a stone bear, which Kestrel immediately named Viny, who took us flying. We talked about seeing what was on the tops of the ‘cliffs’, like gardens, helicopter landing places, and barbecues.

The passage to Tanner’s Square Park is a lovely paved path lined with camellias, but Jasper named it Marauder’s Passage and found all sorts of pitfalls to make it interesting.

Viny the bear became invisible came along with us, reminding me of how the Panther at Hartnell College walks along with you and me as we adventure in Salinas.

I will tell you about the rest of our adventure tomorrow!


Grandma Judy




Architecture, History, and Beer

Dear Liza,

Last week I took the good old number 14 downtown to the Oregon Historical Society. The weather was a cold but clear, and everything looked so pretty!

NOT A.E. Doyle

As I get to know more about the architecture of Portland, I recognize certain styles of decoration. One of my favorite architects of Portland is A. E. Doyle. He designed the Central Library and the Bank of California building, as well as dozens of others, working in Portland from 1907 to his death in 1928.

Mr. Doyle used fired ceramic details to give his buildings a lovely artistic look, delicate against the dark stone or brick. It has stayed bright because of the glaze and reflects even the smallest bit of sunlight.

A.E. Doyle

After admiring old and new buildings, I looked for more details for my story about 1903. How many synagogues were there? (Three). Was Jiggs Parrot’s father’s music store still open? (Sadly, no.) was there mail service between Brownsville and Portland? (Yes, and telegraph service…but no phone lines until 1908). The more I write my story, the more I need to know.

When I needed a snack, I went down to the lobby to eat. No sticky fingers in the library! The current exhibit on the first floor is called……. and is all about the history of brewing in Oregon.


This isn’t really surprising. Portland is famous for all our different beers, and we have learned that the McMinamen Brothers helped change liquor laws here so that small brewers could be in business.

The exhibit had all sorts of things… buckets for bringing “suds” (beer) home from the tavern, old Blitz Weinhard bottles, and a video explaining the devastating effects seventeen years of Prohibition had on the beer industry. It turns out, some brewers, like Henry Weinhard, were able to stay in business making root beer and other soft drinks (this was actually the beginning of the soft drink industry).img_1516.jpeg

There was a interactive display of the brewing process and recognition of Mr. Eckhardt, who taught the McMenamins all they know about beer. The displays were interesting and amusing, with the lights being large hop flowers.

The last exhibit was about the future of the brewing industry: Women! The Pink Boots Society works for education and inclusivity for women in the industry.img_1520-2.jpeg

When it was almost 2 and I couldn’t put off lunch any more, I headed for the bus stop and home.

I spent a few hours putting the new information into the story, and found more things that are needed.

This whole writing process may take a while…


Grandma Judy