Dog Drama

Dear Liza,

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As you know, I used to be afraid of big dogs. I only had to get within a block of a strange big dog, and I got panicky. This was a leftover from many years ago when I was badly scared by a dog, and it took me a long time to get over it.

In this respect, as in many. others, Portland has been good for me. Most of the dogs here are friendly, well-behaved, and just mellow critters.  One of my favorite things about Laurelhurst Park is watching the dogs play in the off-leash area. Early yesterday morning I went for a walk around Laurelhurst, trying to work out some details of the story. The weather has been dry, so the park’s sprinklers had run most of the night, trying to keep the grass green. This made some good sized puddles, which the dogs were enjoying.

One woman with twins toddlers in a stroller and I were chatting. “See that dog that keeps going all the way down into the puddle?” She smiled. “That’s mine.”IMG_9149.jpg

Then this evening, we decided that since it was finally cool enough that we would walk over to Sunnyside Park and play badminton. This was our second time playing this summer, and we were so much better! We had fun whacking the birdie around, flailing less and hitting it more.

Across the park were some fellows who sleep in the park most on nights when the weather is good. They and their dogs were hanging out. For a while it was fine, but then they let the dogs all the leashes and it started to get uncomfortable.

While we were sitting on the grass to rest, the dogs came over to see what we were doing. They weren’t mean, but got very close and were not following directions, from us or their owners. I got nervous  around dogs for the first time since I’ve lived here.img_9152.jpg

When we had rested, we thought about playing some more, but the idea of the dogs chasing us spoiled the fun. Sadly, we packed up and headed home

I know that no place is perfect, and one short bit of discomfort won’t ruin a day, but I am sad that for just a few minutes, I had that panicky feeling about dogs again. I will go visit Laurelhurst today and chase the bad away with some good.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Sunnyside in Summer

Dear Liza,

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Shasta Daisies

Our neighborhood is so pretty!

So far, I have gotten to be here in the spring (for just a week), and the summer (for two months) and the trees and bushes keep changing and growing.

In the spring it was very wet and cool, with only the blooms of azaleas and rhododendrons making big wads of color amid the dark and damp. It seemed like the wet dirt was napping, just waiting for sunshine.

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Laurelhurst in March

And it’s a good thing the ground was so damp, because we haven’t had rain for two months, except for a short, dramatic thunderstorm. The larger trees are doing well without help, but we see a lot of people out watering their gardens to make sure the plants stay healthy.  Summers weren’t always this dry, but because of climate change we are seeing more drought conditions here.

Over at Sunnyside Environmental School, there are watering crews that come in once a week. They have even made signs which crack me up!

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This part of town also has lots of food growing. There are apple trees weighted down with fruit and even grapes hanging on fences.

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Baby Grapes

I love sharing my new city with you. I hope your new year at school goes well.

Love,

Grandma Judy

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Lettuce Turnip the Beet!

Weird Geography

Dear Liza,

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Floyd’s Coffee

Last night we went to a really old part of Portland. The buildings here were built in 1888, 1900, 1906… these are old! These buildings are beautiful, built of brick with either cast iron or glazed ceramic tile decorations. They were originally used as offices, warehouses or apartment buildings.

This part of town used to be busy and prosperous, but now it is more run down. Like many neighborhoods that have fallen into disrepair, it is looking toward a rebirth. There are some restaurants and offices being installed in these lovely old buildings.

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The 1888 Blagen Block, now being used by Air BnB

But the reason we went was to hear a talk by Joe Streckert on “The Mythical Geography of the Pacific Northwest”at Floyd’s Coffee Shop.

Joe also writes and does a podcast called “Weird History” and, it turns out, is an old friend of Auntie Katie! They went to college together in Eugene and are now both here in Portland. It’s a small world for history geeks, I guess.

Joe’s talk was about how people made maps of this part of the world in the old days. With no satellites or GPS, map making was really hard. People had to sail or walk across the land, making measurements and drawing them very carefully.

Sometimes, they just guessed.

Joe showed us a map drawn by Gerardus Mercator, drawn in 1606 that is supposed to show the North Pole. It includes things labeled “pygmies” and refers to a giant polar vortex where the waters of the ocean are sucked into the Earth to produce currents. Knowing what we know now, this seems silly. But he was a respected cartographer (map maker) and this map was taken seriously for a long time.

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Joe Streckert

There were also maps that described what we called the Bering Strait as being a narrow passage, (which he called the Straits of Anian) between North America and Japan, showing the Pacific Ocean as very small so it was just a short hop from North America, to Japan, to China. Ooops.

Another idea that stuck around for a long time was “The Island of California”. Spanish explorers sailing up the Sea of Cortez between Mexico and Baja California decided this peninsula was really an island. This reminded people in Spain of an old story about Queen Califa and her race of Amazon women who lived on an island paradise, so they named that area after her! Califa = California.

After just a few years, it was discovered by more sailors that it wasn’t an island, but the idea was so strong that it kept being on the maps!

There were lots of other mix-ups and historical mistakes about maps, which were very interesting. After the talk, we caught a ride home with Auntie Katie and were grateful for the cooler weather.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Art and Poke

Dear Liza,

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Park Blocks

Sunday was predicted to be another hot day, getting up to 96 degrees. I had gotten some good ideas about my story and wanted a new place to write, and Auntie Bridgett was heading off to the Portland Art Museum on the number 15 bus for her monthly ‘Drink and Draw’ meet up. (On a Sunday morning, the ‘drink’ is coffee).  I invited myself along. Walking up the Park Blocks, we met Jake, a writer who Bridgett met last summer in  this same spot, who is working on a story called “Book of Miracles” about touring with the Grateful Dead. We talked about writer’s block and wished each other well.

Writing in the Art Museum is always good. I am surrounded by wonderful creations made straight out of someone’s head, giving me confidence that more wonderful creations can come out of my own.

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Diebenkorn

Once in the museum, we split up. I found a comfy bench in front of the Proctor statue called Indian on Horseback, where it was very quiet and good for writing. My characters are coming to life and I am enjoying them so much! Whether it’s the art or just Writer’s Block disappearing, I am glad for it.

As people came in, kids started being just a bit too noisy for my taste, so I moved over to the Diebenkorn exhibit, where it was still quiet. I met Linda and Paula, two ladies who are in the Drink and Draw, and we chatted. When the drawing part was over, we all moved to the coffee shop, where the artists talked and I started looking up what children’s books were popular in 1903.

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Snacks!
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Proctor Statue

At lunchtime, we wanted to try something new. We wandered just a block down Park and went into Shigezo, a wonderful Japanese restaurant. We enjoyed poke (say po-kay), seaweed salad, delicious grilled pork belly, and some disappointing potatoes. But a small flask of sake (say sah-kay), smelling like bread and warming as it went down, made everything better.

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Yummy Poke

After lunch, Bridgett wanted to head back to the museum to buy the exhibit book on Diebenkorn. The heat was kicking in, and it was 85 degrees, even in the shade. We caught the bus and were glad to be home. By dinnertime, it was 96 degrees, only dropping to 90 by 8:00. Auntie Bridgett and I went for a walk in the park, seeing the new handrails by moonlight and a lot of folks who came out to enjoy the “Silent Disco” (using wifi headphones for music) and the relative cool of the evening.

Back at the house, we played Scrabble, and I was having a great game! I was ahead…right up until the end, when Grandpa Nelson caught me, passed me, and ate my lunch. Fun, anyway.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Richard III

Dear Liza,

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The Stage is set

After I got back from my bus and train adventure to visit Terry, I rested up a little before we headed off to Laurelhurst Park for another production of Original Practice Shakespeare. This is the troupe of actors that doesn’t do regular rehearsals, and each actor carries a little scroll with their lines on it. They have an on-stage prompter, dressed in a referee uniform, who keeps everything running smoothly and occasionally stops the actions to ask, “So, Richard, how’s it going?”

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The Prompter

They do it this way for two reasons. First, it is how Shakespeare’s plays were performed while Shakespeare was still writing them. Second, it allows a small group of actors to do 6 different plays a week, because no one has to absolutely memorize a whole play…they always have their lines with them.

Because the actors haven’t rehearsed this play as a group, the performances can be uneven. Our last experience with them, A Midsummer Nights Dream at the top of Mt. Tabor, wasn’t fabulous. The staging was confusing, the costumes didn’t make sense, and the actors were not very prepared. So we were skeptical.

Still, free Shakespeare is something to see when you have the chance, so we went. And we were not disappointed.

This production of the historical tragedy of Richard III, was beautiful, emotional, and so well acted that every line of every character made sense. Brian Burger, who played the evil, scheming Richard, used his soliloquies to bring the audience in on his plans, and sort of made us co-conspirators. We knew what terrible things he was going to do, and we enjoyed watching him do them.

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Evil Richard woos Lady Ann

The costumes were well chosen and helped define the characters. This troupe does a lot of cross casting, with women playing men’s roles, but they did it so well!

One scene was even more poignant with a woman, Ariel Puls, playing Lord Stanley. She wore a costume that was military, but wore her blonde hair in a pony tail and was clearly a woman. When Richard tells her she may go raise more troops, but she must leave her son with him as a hostage against her treason (which she is indeed planning), a mother’s pain is shown with her whole body. Fortunately, Richard is defeated at the Battle of Bosworth Field before he has a chance to kill the boy.

We cheered for the good guys and booed for Richard, some of us yelling advice to the actors when they seemed to need it.

It was a rousing, fun evening, and we walked home happy and exhausted.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Goose Hollow and Beyond

Dear Liza,

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Getting Around on MAX

My friend Terry Soria is in town! She is visiting her daughter and son-in-law, and she made time to have brunch with me. Her family lives way over on the northwest edge of Portland.

I knew it would be a long trip, so I started early. I caught the number 15 bus at 7:30 and rode up to Providence Park in Goose Hollow. Then I got onto the red line train (blue would have worked as well) and rode through the mountain, past the Washington Park station in the tunnel, to the Sunset transit center. This is where my plans hit a snag. I had planned my trip using the Weekday schedule, and I was traveling on Saturday. The commuter bus, the number 62, runs less often and was going to make me very late to meet Terry and her family.

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Terry and the BEST Coffee!

Sweet people that they are, they came to the transit center and fetched me! We drove to Grand Central Bakery, on NW Cornell, and had a wonderful second breakfast of croissants, coffee, and sandwiches. We chatted about how our family’s are, how work is, and how fabulous Portland is. They told me of their visits to the Columbia locks, Multnomah Falls, and the Microbrewery festival. Yum!

And they had another full day planned, an exciting jet boat ride on the Willamette from Portland all the way upriver to Oregon City! So they drove me back to the transit center where I caught the train, along with a dozen happy Japanese tourists heading to the zoo.

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Art at Lincoln High School

I have always wanted to see the area of town called Goose Hollow, so I got off the train there and walked. None of the shops were open yet, but I got to see the new construction at Providence Park. Situated just at the foot of the west Portland hills, this has been the main athletic field in town since the late 1800s. It was originally called Multnomah Field, and is where the Portland Timbers soccer team plays. I also enjoyed the mosaic and painted tile artwork along the walls of the Lincoln High School field.

This area is called Goose Hollow because, as the story goes, housewives in the 1800s would let their geese into the grassy area to eat and grow nice and fat before selling them. Apparently it would be quite a sight to see a few dozen geese strutting through field and road, stopping traffic when they pleased. These tall, proud geese are memorialized in a delightfully cocky bronze goose standing on the train platform.

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Cool Goose, Dude

Ready to head home, I walked down to Salmon and caught the number 15, finally taking a picture of the salmon coming through the building. In the evening we got to have some more fun, but I will tell you about that tomorrow!

 

Love,

Grandma Judy

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Giant Salmon in a Building

Hand Rails for Laurelhurst

Dear Liza,

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First section of rails is in!

As I have told you, Laurelhurst Park is my favorite place in Portland. It is 26 acres of grassy slopes, majestic maple trees, picnic areas, a lake, paths for walking and biking, and even places to hang out with dogs.

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Auntie Bridgett and Willie

 

 

 

In our short year here we have seen old trees fall or lose branches,  and new ones get planted. We have gotten quite attached to some of them. Auntie Bridgett has a favorite, a young fir tree she calls Oliver. She gives him a “high five” whenever we go past. He recently got his lower branches trimmed, so she has to reach higher for the five!

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A High Five for Oliver

There is a new tree, a Dawn Redwood we have named Willie because he has a snake-like wiggle near the top. He is still young and we look forward to watching him grow.

And Laurelhurst Park is now getting even better! The wonderful brick steps that lead from the deepest part of the ravine up to Ankeny Street are getting hand rails.

Last January, when I chatted with a fellow working on the plants near the steps, he mentioned that handrails were in the plans, but that I shouldn’t hold my breath.  Now they are becoming a reality.

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Leveling the new rails

A few weeks ago we noticed holes cut in the edges of the steps. Tuesday, Grandpa Nelson noticed the caution tape as we walked home from the movies. Wednesday, I met some of the men installing the beautiful rails. It is quite a complicated process.

Inside each hole is a steel sleeve, so the rails won’t put stress on the old bricks. Then the rails are set 4 feet into the sleeve with concrete and pea gravel and leveled in all directions. The concrete is smoothed and then painted with sealant so it won’t crack.

When I asked when the rails would be ready to use, the man answered, “Depends how hot it gets. We can’t pour if it’s over 100 degrees.” I will drop by the park later today to see what’s up, so I can show you!

Always looking for more goodness around here…

Love,

Grandma Judy