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.

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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.
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 pink.
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!

Love, Grandma Judy

My First Day in Portland

Dear Liza,

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 eggrolls, 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.

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.

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 my daughter’s house. And there I am and there I’ll stay until morning.

Love, Grandma Judy

 

 

Ready to Leave Salinas

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!