Going Downtown

thumbnail_IMG_1431Dear Liza,

On Friday, Grandpa Nelson, Auntie Bridgett and I took the #20 bus down Burnside towards downtown Portland. We passed some useful shops that we will visit some other time, like Stitch in a Hurry alterations and the Whole Nine Yards fabric shop.

We got off at 10th and Burnside, right across the street from Powell’s City of Books, which I have told you about before. We walked down 10th Street, looking (and sniffing) for someplace good for lunch. About the same time I smelled pastrami, Auntie Bridgett remembered an old fashioned deli called Kenny & Zukes…and there it was!

The whole place seemed to be vibrating. Cooks rushing around the kitchen, waiters dashing around bringing food, and customers talking with their hands and playing with their children made everything move. The deli has a large chalkboard for take out menu things like smoked salmon, bagels, and bialies. Grandpa Nelson has given them the award for the Best Ever french fries and he also had a root beer float made with PDX Sodaworks Root Beer that he said was “heavenly”. Our pastrami sandwiches were also very good..nice and thick and juicy.

After lunch we walked some more and found our destination for the day: PAM, the Portland Art Museum. In the courtyard out front, near 30 foot tall statues of orchids, a bunch of people were setting up for a party. But more about that later.

We met a lady at the front desk named Tricia, and she helped up become members of the Museum, which means we can go in for free every day, if we want.

Now, here is where I have to make a confession. Whenever I go into an art museum, I have such good intentions of taking notes and studying each painting carefully. I take my journal and camera and… then don’t. I walk through the galleries, looking at each painting, but only stopping when something interests me. I may take a photo of a piece but totally forget the artist, or title, or what country it is from. Very often, I make up silly things for the people to say….I have fun and I enjoy the art. But I am not a very focused student in the museum. I am more like a kid in a candy store.

We wandered around until we were tired, when we had coffee and cookies at the museum snack shop, then wandered some more. When our eyes were full and we couldn’t see another painting, we had dinner at McMinamens, just down the street. Auntie Bridgett got a phone call and we arranged to meet some friends at the big party in front of the Art Museum. It was actually an art party! 30 artists sat at tables and drew or painted their own kind of pictures, and we got to watch them, and if we liked the picture, we could buy it. After an hour, those artists went to get dinner and 30 more came to paint and draw. Besides being fun and a chance to see and meet lots of local artists, the party raised money for kids’ activities at the museum.

By this time it was 8:30 and we had been out and about since 11. It was time to go home. We caught the # 15 bus home and walked to our new house from Belmont Street,  enjoying the cool of the evening and seeing all the people out walking and on bikes. I think this was the sort of day we hoped for when we moved to Portland.

I am glad we had a happy, fun day, because tomorrow, all our furniture will arrive from Salinas, and it will be a busy, hard-working day!


Grandma Judy



Feeling More at Home

Dear Liza,

Today our new house became our home for real, because we went to the airport to pick up Grandpa Nelson! He had been in Salinas making sure everything was safely on the moving truck, and managed to be the last person on a plane coming to Portland. I love the Portland Airport for many reasons. It is beautiful, bright, easy to navigate, has delicious food, and is easy to get to by train. I had never had to drive there. The passenger pick up and drop off is so congested, there was a man with white gloves and a loud whistle directing traffic. When you come, I will take the train up to meet you!

Auntie Bridgett was driving and got us home safe, after stopping at Killer Burgers on Sandy to get Grandpa Nelson dinner.  Even being tired, sleeping on an air mattress in a strange place is weird. We are all sleeping downstairs because it is cooler and has carpeting, so easier to sleep if the air mattress fails. But the kitchen and living room with better light are upstairs., so there is lots of up and down…a new thing for all of us.

It was a day of lots of small decisions. Our 1950’s era house has old electronics, so there is only one place the television can go. That dictates where the rest of the furniture can be….the three of us are good at discussing options and differences of opinions, but it can be exhausting.

Auntie Bridgett and I made a long list of things we needed for the house, and in a interesting hour at Fred Meyer, we found them all! We also found lots of friendly people…a flirty, dapper fellow with an ornate mustache, pink shirt and cowboy hat, an old man shopping with his even older mom for baby clothes, and helpful clerks who walked up and down aisles to find us what we needed.

The day was productive. The garage door got repaired, the internet got connected, and the kitchen got set up, laundry got done. We had dinner at home with some nice wine, a Goodfellow Pinot Noir from a local winery here in the Willamette Valley, bought at the wine shop down the block, Vino.

After dinner it started to cool down a bit, so we went for a walk though Laurelhurst Park and around the neighborhood. We looked at houses for sale, art galleries in tiny old store fronts, and trees, trees, trees.

These huge old trees are one of the main differences between Salinas and Portland. The climate here and the age of the city means there have been trees planted for more than a hundred years. Many of those trees are still here, as well as their younger, but huge, brothers and sisters. Maples, elms, birches, pines, oaks, all growing 50 feet and more, as well as rhododendrons 20 feet high and around, make Portland more a city in a garden than a city with gardens.  The shade they give cools down hot streets. The birds and squirrels have lots of places to live. The light shining through their leaves makes every treetop shimmer like church windows, a sacred, peaceful place.

I miss you but I am feeling more like I have a new home here.

Love, Grandma Judy





Waking up in Our New Home


Dear Liza,
This morning I woke up in Portland. I had slept on the carpet in the basement of our new house, because the truck our furniture is in will take a few days to get here.
Normally, falling asleep in a strange place is hard for me. Strange sounds and smells feel scary and I keep waking up.
But yesterday Auntie Bridgett and I drove all the way from our old house Salinas to our new house in Portland…. it took 14 hours! We stopped at Granzella’s super nifty deli for sandwiches and to let Mouse the cat out of her carrier to use the cat box. She was surprisingly cooperative and we were able to continue up over Mount Shasta and across the border into Oregon.

We stopped for our first meal in Oregon: jam sandwiches, cheese, and carrots, eaten standing by the car at the Valley of the Rogue Rest Stop. The heat and sunshine, smell of the lodge pole  pines, and sound of kids and dogs playing nearby made it a lovely way to celebrate our new state.
Somewhere around the middle of the Willamette Valley, we realized this was indeed a very long drive. But we were determined to get home that night. As we approached Portland, we had google maps guide us in. We knew we could figure the house in a round about way, but we were tired and wanted a direct route. Coming down a steep hill on a section of the road called The Terwilliger Curves, we saw the city and river spread out like a sparkly blanket under the soft pinky grey sunset. We crossed the Marquam Bridge with Mt. Hood, all lovely and pink, ahead of us in the distance. We swooped north past the glass towers of the Convention Center and exited the freeway onto 33rd street, just north of our lovely, quiet neighborhood.
And there we were: Home! During the next hour, we unpacked the kitchen stuff we had brought, all the plants, moved Mouse and her toys into the downstairs bedroom, took a shower, and called Grandpa Nelson to let him know we were home and okay. I meant to write you, but I was so tired, I fell right asleep.
Today Auntie Bridgett and I have shopped for groceries at Whole Foods, gotten shelf paper and a small microwave oven at Fred Meyer to set up the kitchen, picked up postcards at Powell’s, and had lunch at McMinamen’s Baghdad Cafe. I am tired all over again! Grandpa Nelson is still in Salinas making sure all our furniture is loaded on the truck and then your daddy will drive him to the San Jose airport and fly up so he can be home, too.
This is the hardest part of moving, besides saying good-bye to you, your mommy and daddy: Moving my idea of home from one place to another. The last few weeks, while we have been packing, we have slowly been taking our special stuff out of our old home, making it more of ‘just a house’. And as we move those same special things into this new house, it will become more of our home. It won’t happen all at once, I know. But it will happen. People are very good at adapting to new places and new situations. Especially when we have such an interesting city to explore!


Grandma Judy

The New People

Dear Liza,

Today was our last day of packing. Our refrigerator is almost empty, our clothes are in suitcases, and even Mouse’s cat carrier is set up for her trip north with us Monday. We have filled up a dumpster with all sorts of bits of lumber, old art projects, broken machinery, and cabinets with no legs.

Today we also met the new people who will be buying our house! They are a very nice couple named Ryan and Kayla. They are a little younger than Grandpa Nelson and I were when we bought the house. They are expecting their first baby very soon.

I love the idea of a new baby and a new family growing up in this house. We have poured so much love and care into it, it can’t help but be a happy home. The flowers we transplanted from Great-Grandma Billie’s house are here. The lemon tree Grandpa Nelson and Auntie Bridgett planted still  gives great lemons. And all the roses I have pruned and loved are still making the world more beautiful.

I keep having a carousel of feelings. Excited for the trip, then sad to be leaving our home. Happy to see Jasper and Kestrel, then sad to be leaving you. Up and down, up and down, around and around. No wonder I am dizzy!

Love, Grandma Judy

Last Fourth in Salinas

Dear Liza,
The Fourth of July in Spreckels, California, is something special. It’s not big, loud, or fancy. The town itself is only about 8 blocks square. But going there for Independence Day morning is like walking through a warm, friendly hug.
The parade is mostly an antique car show, with a generous addition of kids on bikes and scooters. The people in the cars throw candy to the people in the front row, who then toss it back to the people who are too far away to get any. Everyone had so much fun!
Going there, I knew I was guaranteed to meet at least a dozen folks I know, and I was not disappointed. We ran into Alex Carrillo and his boys, a friend of yours from summer camp, parents of former students, and even Mr. Jim Ross Riley, talking to everyone from the roof through his microphone.

Who I will miss the most

Local baker Adrian Jimenez from Blue Aces had all sorts of goodies, and other booths selling Indian, Mexican, Filipino food and burgers and hot dogs lined the tiny, very crowded street and made sure everyone got lunch.
After a much needed rest for everyone, we all got back together at Rick’s and Kevin’s house for our last fireworks show together on their driveway. Your daddy and Grandpa Nelson helped Rick set off so many fireworks, my eyes and ears were full. When we finished the last sparkler, it was way past everyone’s bedtime and we all walked home.
I know we will have more Fourth of July celebrations together, in Salinas and up in Portland, but this was the last one for the Liza who has just turned four and the Grandma Judy who I am right now. And that makes me a little sad.

Love, Grandma Judy

Flying Back to Salinas

Dear Liza,

Today I woke up to a bright sunny day. I went upstairs and Jasper was playing his Marvel game, but I was hungry. Rather than make a mess and noise in the kitchen, I walked up to Palio for coffee and carrot bread.

Stephanie, the young lady who works at Palio, is very friendly and fun to talk to. She is trained as a preschool teacher but also works in the coffee shop. The music here is very interesting. Many popular American pop tunes sung in different languages, like Tom Jones’ “It’s not unusual” sung in Japanese. Easy to listen to, but sure not boring!

I brought biscotti back to Katie’s house, we read Zita the Space girl and Kestrel and Jasper explained all the details to me. They love these stories! When Uncle Dave got up he made everyone eggs and toast, and then we all sat at the table and wrote. Kestrel and Jasper started comics, I wrote a letter to Jasper, and Katie worked on a story she started the other day. Then Uncle drove me to the airport to fly home.

I have loved getting to spend time with family in my new city of Portland,  but I am not quite ready to be up here yet. There is still a whole house to move, a cat named Mouse to drive up, and a city full of friends to say good-bye to. I will see you on the Fourth of July!

Love, Grandma Judy


Meeting Lovely New People

Dear Liza,

Today started out cold and drizzly, very different from our hot sunshine of the past few days. I walked to Palio, a small coffee and pastry shop just a few blocks from Auntie Katie’s house. I was a little early and they weren’t open yet, so I sat on the bench outside and listened to the life around me. There are so many trees that the wind sounds like a crowded room. Crows, like in Salinas, chase each other around and complain if someone else has something they want. Grey squirrels run easily across streets, up trees and across power lines, looking like small grey rainbows as they go.

I spent some time making sure my measurements of the new house were correct, building fairy houses with Auntie Katie and Kestrel, and then rested up to have energy for a party!

Friends of Auntie Katie and Uncle Dave have a house that is 125 years old, so they had a party for it! The food was all old-fashioned and delicious….roast chicken, pickled carrots and radishes, and an applesauce nut cake with sparklers on it! Thanks, Heather Arndt- Anderson! At the party I met some chickens, a woman who used to do puppet shows but is now retired, and learned to play a game called Crokinole.

After that party, we went to ANOTHER one! There were more friendly people. I met Steve, a man who is a big fan of the Women’s Soccer team called the Thorns. There is so much to learn about this new, big city!

We got home very late and I slept like a walrus.

Love, Grandma Judy Continue reading “Meeting Lovely New People”

Getting Into the New House

Dear Liza,
Today was another hot, busy day! I woke up in an empty house, because Auntie
Katie and her family were still at the coast. I sat on her porch, surrounded and
shaded by rhododendrons and birch trees. I heard crows calling and some other
birds I cannot identify…I will need to ask someone who knows more than I do so I
can learn.

Our new digs
Walking through this 1900s era neighborhood, I am reminded, by sidewalks stamped
1909, of how long all this has been here. Sidewalks alive with a hundred years of
lichen, ancient trees softening sunlight through thousands of leaves. There have
been a century of grandmas visiting,  a century of kids walking to school, a century
of people enjoying this neighborhood, these streets, these trees.
After this peaceful beginning, my day got very stressful. Borrowing Uncle Dave’s car,

I drove though heavy traffic to the town of West Linn, where I had to sign papers
and get keys for our new house here in Portland. Then I got a chicken cabbage salad
at a Vietnamese restaurant nearby and tackled the traffic all the way back. Uncle
Dave had errands to run, so I relaxed on the couch with Jasper and Kestrel, watching
cartoons and talking about video games, which I don’t know much about.
Then came the big job of the day. I walked up to our new house and measured all the
rooms so we will know what furniture will fit. Our new house is smaller than our
old one, so we had to choose..what do we keep? What do we give away?
I like that some things have gone to people we know. A old student will be sleeping on the sofa
Great grandpa Lowell and Grandpa Nelson built in 1975. Old friends will be using
some of the dishes. And of course, you, Liza, will be reading lots of my old books.
About half way through the measuring, the numbers stopped making sense…I
realized I was hungry, tired, and thirsty. Locking up the house, I walked down one
block, under shady tall trees, to Babydoll Pizza. It is in a really old building on Stark
Street. The floor is black and white checkered tile, and the walls are painted a dark
The people are so friendly! I asked for two pieces of pizza but the lady brought me
three because she said they looked too small to make a meal. I had an ice cold cherry
cola and very soon began to feel better. I spent a happy time watching a dad help his
toddler eat her first pizza (she loved it!) and then headed back to the house.
I made more measurements. I also removed the modern, metal mailbox that had
been stuck onto the outside of the house. I prefer the old fashioned mail delivery
system, a slot on the outside that connects to a tube on the inside of the hall closet.
When I was done, I locked up the house and walked the mile back to Auntie Katie’s
house. I walked a different route, past the old cemetery and a high school.
 That evening, I played legos with Jasper and Kestrel while Auntie Katie, Uncle Dave
and their friend Chelsea made dinner. We built houses and toilets for the super
heroes, as well as space ships, from their big box of legos.
By 9:30 I was fed and exhausted. I went to sleep in the coolest room in the house, the
basement guest room.  Another busy day tomorrow! 


Grandma Judy

My First Day in Portland

Dear Liza,

Salmon Springs Fountain

Today I got up really early and Grandpa Nelson drove me all the way to San Jose.     I caught my flight and landed in Portland, in a warm, sunny day. I got the Red line Max train and got off around 1st street and Washington, where the buildings were tall and beautiful and I could smell good restaurants making lunch.

I walked to a restaurant called the Rock Bottom Brewery and had southwest eggrolls…not really egg rolls, but tasty and filling. I sat at a table on the sidewalk, enjoying the sunny day and all the people and traffic going by. I listened to bits of conversation, watched workmen load and unload trucks, and just enjoyed being in a vibrant, busy city.

I knew I wanted to see the big Willamette River, so I walked downhill to the Tom McCall Riverfront Park. It is a wide walkway with trees, benches, grass, and a big, changing fountain, at Naito Parkway and Salmon, for everyone, kids, grown ups and dogs, to play in. One fellow was trying to get his big dog into the fountain to cool off, but the dog was having none of it. When the man finally carried the dog in, the poor wet dog looked so embarrassed! But I bet he was more comfortable. I chatted with John, an older gentleman from Adena,Texas. We swapped stories about the places we’d been and what we learned about them.

I continued wandering north, heading for the best bookstore in the world!

POWELL’S!! A whole city block, at Burnside and 10th, four floors high, and all books. New, used, kids books, atlases, french, German, Arabic, comic books….you name it, it’s here. There are so many you can’t even see every room in one visit. It is like a national park of books.  The coffee shop, with pastries, makes sure you have sustenance to continue. Sitting in the foyer resting up from my travels, I watched my species interact. A group of teenagers were having an existential crisis. Parents were bribing their kids to leave the bookstore (!!) by promising them ice cream.

Shannon the Poet

Then  I heard the unmistakable sound of an old fashioned typewriter. Click clack, music to my ears. It turns out that Shannon, a young poet, was sitting on the sidewalk just outside Powell’s, writing poems on any topic you requested for whatever you felt like paying. She said she was incredibly grateful to be able to do this for a living. What a joy. She wrote me a poem, but it is sort of personal. I may share it with you sometime.

Having rested my feet and rejuvenated my spirit with books, snacks, and good conversation, I headed to the Lan Su Chinese garden at 2nd and Everett. It is just a city block, but the walls seem to hold the noise and heat of the city out and the peace and cool of the garden in. The tiny lake has koi and water lilies, and is viewed from pagodas, bridges, benches, and even a tea house. The pavings were mosaics of pebbles and intricate stonework.

At Lan Su

I realized, coming back out into the city, that I was done in. Walking down 2nd street, checking the bus stop signs, I found the stop for the number 4 bus that would take me to Auntie Katie’s house.

And here I am and here I’ll stay until morning.

Love, Grandma Judy



Ready to Leave Salinas

What I’m leaving Behind…

Dear Liza,

     Tomorrow I start my new life in Portland. Leaving Salinas for such a big city will be exciting and a little bit scary, I think.

     I will fly into PDX airport and take the Red Line Max train to downtown. This train is part of Trimet, the name for all the trains, busses, and streetcars in the city. There is an app I can load onto my phone that lets the phone be a ticket for all of Trimet. That will make getting around easier.

     By the time I get downtown, I will be hungry. I know there are lots of interesting places to have lunch there. I will walk until something looks (and smells) good. I will tell you all about it.

     After lunch I will walk around and look at the city. There are statues, fountains, tall buildings, and even little parks all over the place. There is also the Willamette, a big river that divides the city into two parts, west and east, and there are ten bridges that cross from side to side. Each bridge is different!

     After I have explored downtown, I will get on the number 4 bus and cross the Willamette on the Tilikum Crossing Bridge. It is the newest bridge and is only for busses, trains, bicycles, and walking…no cars! I can get off the bus and walk past Auntie Katie’s bookstore and then to her house. I know where the key is, so I can get in and cuddle with her cats, Wanda and Pietro, and have a nice quiet evening.

     I will tell you all about my day tomorrow!


Grandma Judy