Old Friends

Dear Liza,

This weekend I got to visit with an old friend from Salinas, Cynthia Lott. She is a teacher at Laurelwood School in Salinas, and we have known each other for years. She was in town for a celebration, and between Grandpa Nelson’s Birthday, the wedding, and her flight home, we managed to juggle some time together.

I walked over to where she was staying, the Jupiter Hotel, and we had breakfast together. Surprisingly, there wasn’t a big crowd! Usually, trying to eat out on a weekend morning is a several hour, reservation only situation. But not so! Good food and friendly service, and off we went.

Cynthia likes to walk, so we had a tour through the neighborhood so she could visit Auntie Bridgett, who was working at the SideStreet Arts Gallery. The spring flowers were showing off! Peonies are huge, amazing, and look almost make believe.

We had a nice chat, then I needed to put her in the bus back to her hotel so she could head off to the airport.

It was so nice to see her and catch up! Life never stays the same, but with old friends, it’s fun to be able to go along for the ride.


Grandma Judy

Grandpa Nelson’s Birthday!

Last week we got to celebrate Grandpa Nelson’s Birthday. I won’t say how old his is, but the Beatles wrote a song about it…

The day started with presents on the couch and snuggles with Mouse. Bamboo straws, left-handed soap (” Smells like weird scissors!”) and a book about wine from Auntie Bridgett’s Mom, Donna. Also, a new Irish cap to replace a lost one from Trinity College.

On our trip to visit Aunt Bea a while back, Grandpa Nelson had noticed all the wineries south of Portland, so off we went to Mcminnville. Spring has made the country even more beautiful, a hundred shades of green accented with pink dogwoods.

We found the closest McMenamin’s establishment, the Hotel Oregon, built in 1905, and enjoyed a good lunch. The building was old and quirky, with the good food, friendly, easy service and artsy touches we have come to expect from the McMenamin brothers. The views of the Willamette Valley from the rooftop bar were lovely and green.

Walking the streets of the delightfully funky Old Town area, we saw a turn of the century Elk’s Lodge and other historic buildings, housing art galleries, cafes and wine tasting rooms, as well as stores selling books and art supplies for students at nearby Linfield and George Fox Colleges. Also, founding fathers hanging out in the sun.

Grandpa Nelson enjoyed a flight of red wines from Willamette Valley Vineyards and we watched people go by and thought about how lucky we both felt to be alive, happy, and together.

We found the Currents Art Gallery, and chatted with Sharon Cook, the artist staffing the place. She and Auntie Bridgett talked about art and the art business, for quite a while. It’s always good to hear other people’s ideas.

Feeling the need of some greenery, we headed for the local park and had snacks…fruit, water (to combat all the wine) and peanuts. We saw historic grist mill stones from the mills that helped establish McMinnville back in the 1840s. Loving the history, we were also delighted to see a tiny maple seedling starting to grow in a crevice in the stone.

Heading back north we stopped at Walnut City Winery. McMinnville used to be a major walnut growing area until the famous 1962 Columbus Day Storm literally ripped many trees from the ground and threw them around. New trees would take 10 years to produce, while filberts, also called hazelnuts, can be ready in 3 years. Needing to make a living, the folks planted filberts. Now Oregon grows almost all of the filberts in the country, and 30 percent of all the filberts in the world! So it was a good move.

We enjoyed the last wine for the day and continued on our way, stopping at Newburg for a tasty dinner, then drove home….tired, over-wined, and ready to be done. We had a quick video chat with you and your family, watched the Giants win their game against the Reds, and we all went to bed.


Grandma Judy

An Evening Out and About

Crush Bar

Dear Liza,

Last night we went to two activities. The first was a Belmont Business Association “Mixer”, which is like a party where you meet folks you might want to do business with. I am not in business, but Auntie Bridgett is, so we went along for dinner, drinks and conversation.

The Mixer was held at Crush, an informal bar/restaurant on Morrison. It is in a beautiful old building and the folks are friendly. We had fries, quesadillas, Absinthe, wine, and cider.

Photogenic Drinks

When folks started showing up, we chatted and met a real estate agent named Tina who loves Auntie Katie’s Books with Pictures and also loves Side Street Arts! Hooray for business camaraderie.

Auntie Katie introducing the Nib folks

After the mixer, we headed (via Lyft) down to Division to see the release of the new Nib Cartoon books at Books with Pictures. I love the Nib because it is smart and funny, political and sharp, but not vulgar.

Matt Bors

We got to met Matt Bors, Eleri Harris and Sarah Mirk, who are some of the many editors and artists for the magazine.

They walked us through the process of making a comic book…how they decide on, research, and write the stories, how they edit, illustrate and format them. The whole process showed me, once again, that one single mind can’t get things done. It takes different points of view and different areas of expertise. Understanding this helps me let other folks work on my story.

Artist Eleri Harris

Since I’m not an artist, I was most interested in how the text, the writing, was worked on. It turns out, it is mostly written and then cut, cut, and cut again. Eleri’s story of turning a 1,600 word interview into eleven sentences was painful but familiar.

Sarah Mirk explains formatting and image selection

We got to hug Auntie Katie, whom we will see again on Mother’s Day. We will head over to her apartment for breakfast, then downstairs to the new shop to sweep, paint, and whatever else needs doing.

Love, Grandma Judy

An Early Visit to the Rose Garden

Dear Liza,

It was another pretty day! This makes three in a row! It might really be spring this time. But we aren’t taking it for granted.

Auntie Bridgett needed to do art work, so Grandpa Nelson planned an adventure for he and I. We started by boarding the “Magic Bus”, the number 15, and heading downtown. I needed to put some money in the bank, and it is always nice to walk around downtown, taking time to notice the old buildings.

This one, The American Bank Building, was not the bank we needed to go to, but is pretty just the same. It was built in 1913 by A.E. Doyle, the same fellow who designed Reed College. I love how he makes huge buildings pretty but not garish and dark. He used white glazed terracotta for the decorations, so they have stayed bright all these years. We took the train to Washington Park, then the number 63 through the park to the Rose Garden. We have seen a few roses blooming in town, and hoped for a good show.

We looked and looked, but out of the 10,000 rose bushes at the garden, we found two, count them, two, tiny miniatures in bloom. Debut, a lovely dark pink, and Dee Bennett, a bright orange, were the only bright spots in acres and acres of green. The view of Mt. Hood was fantastic, however, and the azaleas were nice. It’s hard to have a BAD day at a garden.

Grandpa Nelson, after he got done chatting with this statue of a Royal Rosarian, looked at the map and found a trail to lead us down the mountain. It was sunny, warm, and everything smelled wonderful. Wildflowers, crows, even a few butterflies, were all out celebrating spring.Coming off the trail, we found ourselves just across the street from an old friend, the beautiful statue of Sacajawea and her son, Jean-Baptiste. This statue was commissioned from artist Alice Cooper for the 1905 Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition. Besides city funds, it was paid for by school children who sold buttons to raise money for it. I have seen articles in newspapers of the time about contests between grade levels at local grammar schools. Apparently using school kids for fund raising is a time honored tradition.

Nearby is the less-beautiful column that memorializes Lewis and Clark, who were appointed by President Jefferson in 1804 to travel west from St. Louis, Missouri, and find a route to the Pacific Ocean. Thanks to Sacajawea, a Native American woman they met in North Dakota and who knew the land, plants and animals of the area, they made it through the mountains and to the coast safely.

After we rested a bit and enjoyed the breeze and the views of the city, we headed down about a million steps to West Burnside Street, where we bought lunch at Zupan’s. This is a very upscale grocery store, and it sure smelled good! The deli had pulled pork tamales and the bakery had cinnamon rolls, so we both ate just fine!

On the way down the hill we found a giant redwood tree in front of an elegant 1920s apartment building. At the foot of the tree was a brass plaque:

Hmmmm…. The tree is beautiful, and probably older than the building, but Portland’s FAVORITE tree? We have trees in our park that we have named, for goodness sake! We get very attached to trees.

As it turns out, during the 1987 Rose Festival, the Oregonian newspaper held a popularity contest, and this redwood, (a native Californian, I must note) growing in the west hills, won. Since the contest hasn’t been held since, this is the reigning champion.

Smiling about how silly, and beautiful, the world is, we caught the magic bus just a block from the market, got home, and crashed. Views, hikes, art and lunch…we had had a full day.

I wonder what adventure we will find tomorrow?

Love, Grandma Judy

Spring Jazz

After a northwest winter of grays and browns,

Rains and mud, getting by by hanging on,

Spring comes.

The sun appears innocently, like a child after a tantrum,

Rises over chilly neighborhoods,

And smiles.

The celebration starts with the cherry blossoms,

Pink and smelling of sandalwood,

Eventually dying in blizzards of pink, drifting in gutters,

Beautifying even in death.

And while they distract us, tulips rise, straight as redwoods,

Towering above tiny lavender bells.

Fiery azaleas explode, jealous of all attention.

Rhododendrons, reptilian buds impatient since January, all jump at once,

Impossible variegated globes.

Each player takes its turn, a great jazz riff, swaying in the breeze like dancers in a club.

Finally, as a quiet coda, a single white rose blooms behind the cemetery.

Springtime at Lone Fir

Dear Liza,

It was a pretty day today, much different from the chilly winds yesterday. I was feeling restless, so I went to visit the dead people.

Spring always makes the cemetery fresh and beautiful, allowing us to think about the permanence of death and the changing of the seasons. And besides that, it’s just pretty… the pinks and greens against the blue sky.

Today, since a large dogwood was blooming, I got a very nice photo of the Soldiers’ Memorial from the Civil War. This young man carrying a flag is usually in shade, but the white tree behind him let him show up better.

I found this sad little headstone, a marker for two little sisters, ages 12 and 9, who died within days of each other in 1880. Was there a flu epidemic? Measles? We may never know. Children died much more often in those days, before vaccines, antibiotics, car seats or sewage systems.

Walking around the back of the cemetery, I found two columns dedicated to David S. Stearns, who donated the money for this back entrance to the cemetery, which isn’t used anymore. I have found Mr. Stearns in articles in the Oregonian newspaper of the 1900s, where he is mentioned as building large structures downtown and negotiating all sorts of land sales. He and his family also took vacations with other prominent Portland families. He was what we call a “mover and shaker”…. he got stuff done.

I always learn new things at Lone Fir.

Love, Grandma Judy

Back to Abbey Road

Dear Liza,

I know you and your daddy listen to lots of music together, so I imagine you have heard of The Beatles. They were four musicians from England who were very popular when I was a girl, in the 1960s and 1970s. Their music is still studied and listened to today, and listening to it was the second part of our adventure in Alberta.

This year is the fifty year anniversary of the Beatles’ most popular record album, Abbey Road. To celebrate, a group called The NowHere Band were performing the entire Abbey Road album, live at the Alberta Rose Theater! Grandpa Nelson had bought us tickets.

We got there early, because the show was sold out and we wanted good seats. Waiting in line, we enjoyed some more of the quirkiness of Alberta with this sign.I didn’t take any pictures during the performance, because that is a very rude thing to do. I even asked an elderly lady to get off her phone, but I felt bossy doing it.

What surprised me most, at first, was that The Beatles only had four guys, but The Nowhere Band has eight regular band members, plus a few extra female singers, two violins and a cello, a few saxophones and a trombone. This is because for a lot of their later music, the band used orchestras to help give their music more interest and depth.

Also surprising was that since performing the whole album would only take 45 minutes, and that’s not much of a show (so they said) , the band performed a random and wonderful collection of Beatles songs first.

The music was wonderful! The website for the band is very vague about giving the members’ names… there will be a photo of ten people and a list of 20, in no particular order, so I can’t tell you who sang what. But they were all very good. The bass player, and drummer, as well as all the vocalists, have serious rock and roll chops. They kept the original arrangements, but seeing and hearing it live, with the room vibrating with drums and bass guitars, made every song more special.

The group said that some music just needed six voices, and when they sang Paperback Writer, it did. In My Life, a simple song about remembering, only needed three voices, but kept the original harpsichord piece which made it so special.

The group took a well- deserved rest at intermission. The woman who sang most of John Lennon’s most difficult parts, like She’s So Heavy, worked her voice very hard and needed recuperation time.

The second part of the show was, as advertised, the Abbey Road album start to (almost) finish, from Come Together to The End. The orchestrations, complexity of sound and harmonies were almost perfect. Because has really close harmonies, and they were just off enough to rattle my ears a bit. But the drum solo was amazing.

When the band took bows and left the stage after The End, several of us turned to our partners and said “They’re not done…where is Her Majesty?” And of course, the audience clapped and hooted until the band returned, singing the adorable 45 second love song, to finish the show.

We were all happily full of music and memories as we walked out into the really chilly evening, to find the car and head home.

What a wonderful day of art, music, food, and the company of my people!


Grandma Judy