Wanderin’ Around

Dear Liza,

I am thinking about starting a new story. The one I have been working on, about Clara getting ready to be in the 1903 parade, is being edited and, therefore, out of my hands for now.

Grey Portland Day

But they say that you get better at writing by writing…. so I will keep writing on a different story, using a side character from the first story as the main character. Her name is Abigail Lott and, at the time I am writing about, she is 21 years old.

I think better when I walk, and always love talking my ideas over with Grandpa Nelson. He asks good questions and makes me think. Of course he does! The same things that make him a good ‘idea guy’ are the reasons I have loved him for so long.

So we walked… about five miles in all, down to the river, across the Willamette River on the Morrison Bridge, and north about three blocks to the Pine Street Market, a big old building now being used as offices above and a luncheon/ mall below. There are sausage sandwiches, stuffed pork buns, pizza, ramen, and ice cream. We’ve eaten there before, and we both love Bless Your Heart Burger best.

Portland Saturday Market by the Skidmore Fountain

Our walk was mostly grey. Fall has moved past the warm asnd sunny part into the drizzly, rain-ish part. All the colors come from the leaves that are still changing color and drifting like bright snow.


By the Portland Saturday Market near the river, we saw this art installation, a tribute to the city’s firefighters, called “Ascension”. I must have walked right past it many times, but never noticed it! Silly Grandma Judy.

As we crossed back over the river, we got a panorama of the city, and it looked like a Dutch painting , as though it were painted by the Master of Browns (this was the nickname Vincent Van Gogh gave his uncle, a professional artist).

I’m a Boomer, and I don’t mind

One our way back, we saw this message spelled out with Post it Notes in a shop window.

It is a quote from a young New Zealand woman making a speech in their hall of government. In just two words, she managed to say, “Look, I know you older folks had good intentions. I know you are used to being the center of the Universe, but you’ve kind of screwed the world up and if you could just step aside, we’ll have a go at it now, okay?” And I’m okay with that!


Grandma Judy

Art Pop-Up

Dear Liza,

Our color box neighborhood

This weekend we got to meet some more Portland artists!

Auntie Bridgett and her new umbrella

Auntie Bridgett and I walked through a light rain to Dona White’s house and met her, Kass Battin and Bobby Mathews, and had a wonderful chat while enjoying their art. The art looked especially fine hanging against the bright wallpapers.

Dona White with some of her work

Dona White paints in many styles; abstracts, figures, and a wild, fun Impressionism.

Bobby Mathews paints people, animals and country scenes with a light, humorous style. Some are taken from old family photos and others from visits to farms that surround the Portland are.

Bobby Mathews and “Ladies in Hats”

Kass Battin is a woman after my own heart, a quilter. She and I chatted for quite a while about sewing machines (she has a fine Bernina) and fabric shops ( we share our love of Cool Cottons). I loved her use of bright colors contrasted with black and white prints.

Kass Battin and my favorite quilt

We enjoyed our visit very much, and headed out into the nearly clearing skies and made it home in time for lunch.

Sunlight through leaves


Grandma Judy

Jury Duty

Dear Liza,

The Call to Duty…. Jury Duty, that is…

Well, I guess I’m really a Portlander now…I’ve done Jury Duty! Actually, I never got on a jury, but I spent Wednesday and Thursday mornings sitting in Room 130 of the old Multnomah County Courthouse waiting for my name to be called. So, that’s something.

Courthouse style outside….

Of course, the fun part was being inside the courthouse. This beautiful old place was built in 1911, and by this time next year will be replaced by a NEW courthouse, a few blocks south. The current building can’t be torn down, but will be re-purposed as apartments or something, because it is an historic building.

Courthouse style inside.

The architecture is solid and sturdy, as you would hope from a courthouse. There are travertine floors, carved finials, and heavy wooden doors. Since I didn’t get into a court room, I can’t describe that to you.

The jury room is big enough to hold 200 people, mostly sitting in comfy chairs. There is an oddly exuberant painting on the wall of a Jester driving a circus wagon. I looked for a title but didn’t find one, and never caught Maia Ming, our delightful Jury Duty Clerk, away from her desk to ask her about it.

Ms Ming kept us entertained through the long mornings with asking trivia questions whenever she was about to call jurors to a courtroom. “What Christmas song, when listened to by goats, encourages the most milk production?” She asked. Mariah Carey’s “All I want for Christmas is You”, of course! But you can’t question trivia science.

Incongruously bright art

Along one wall there is a small room marked “Storage”, which has been turned into a small library with books donated by the Multnomah County Library system. I found a very good read, “Jonathan Unleashed” by Meg Rosoff, which I finished in two days. There is a sticker that says the book doesn’t need to be returned, so I will put it in a tiny library next time I am out.

Books! Hooray!

Once I was released, I enjoyed the rest of my time downtown by enjoying lunch at Fogo de Chao, a Brazilian Steakhouse that I have had my eyes on for a while.

The Market Table at Fogo de Chao

The menu is organized into odd parts…. you can have free rein at their upscale salad bar, called The Market Table, for fifteen dollars. This includes fresh, marinated and roasted veggies as well as olives, mushrooms, and all sorts of Brazilian sausages and meats.

My plate… cheese, lots of veggies, and a few slices of sausage

For a little more, you can have the “Vaqueros” come by and cut you chunks of pork, steak, or whatever. But I know my limits. Besides, there was a dessert tray.

Coconut Cream Cake….. yummmm…

After enjoying a plate of mostly veggies with s few slices of sausage, I asked for the waiter’s favorite and got Coconut Cream dessert topped with ice cream. Very sweet, and almost too much, but I soldiered through.

I needed a nice walk to make sure everything stayed put, so I wandered through the fall colors downtown. So pretty!


Grandma Judy


Dear Liza,

Today while I was out walking, a lady named Susan got hit by a truck while crossing Belmont Street at 35th Avenue. I was the second person to stop at the scene.

A gentleman driving a brand new Toyota Tacoma truck had slowed down for a cyclist crossing Belmont going north, and started up again, not seeing Susan over the very high hood of his truck. He stopped again immediately, but she was already hurt and sitting on the pavement just in front of his truck, bleeding from her right temple.

EMTs asses the situation

The first witness was already calling 911, so I sat down next to Susan there in the street. I asked her name, if she lived nearby, letting her know that help was on the way and that she was in good hands.

I noticed that Susan was holding a ‘poop bag’ and asked if she had been walking her dog. Yes, she nodded. The first witness told me she had gotten the dog out of the intersection and tied him to a sign nearby. I stuck around, sitting by the dog, letting the EMTs know the pup belonged to their patient. Another passerby stopped and petted the dog for a while.

A doctor pulled over and she took control, talking to Susan and taking her vital signs. Within 5 minutes the Fire Department, Police and EMTs arrived, working their magic to close the intersection, collect information, and care for Susan.

Susan gets gurneyed onto the ambulance

Before I left, Susan’s daughter came and took possession of the dog, who willingly went with the welcome, familiar face.

Scared little dude

As Susan had a neck brace applied and was loaded into the ambulance, I stood, catching my breath from this vicariously scary adventure. I said thanks to everyone who had made this less awful for Susan. I was grateful to see that good people stop and care for strangers, even in a big city.


Grandma Judy

Teeny Tiny Burning Man

Father/ Son boxing match

Dear Liza,

Is all you need, after all….

Burning Man is an annual Festival of art, music, and freedom. It is about being free to create your own art and is held way out in the Black Rock Desert in Nevada. That is a long way away from anywhere, but thousands of people go there every year.

Auntie Katie, Blackrock Ranger

One of those people is Auntie Katie. She has gone for years, and works as a Ranger. She is one of the people who keeps folks safe out on the Playa when the art installations are set on fire.

Everyone gets to make art! This sequin board was constantly changing.

Last night, a little bit of Burning Man came to Director’s Park in downtown Portland, and Auntie Katie invited us.

Name it yourself!

Director’s Park is where we have played in the fountains and played chess. It is a paved city block, pretty flat and open, so a perfect place for activities.

Rainbow Dancer

There are also plenty of electrical outlets, useful for all the light-up art installations. At the real Burning Man, most of the activity takes place at night since it is so hot during the day.

Black Rock Warrior ‘cage’

When we first got to Director’s Park, the sun was going down and the art was getting set up. We said hi to Auntie Katie and then headed off for dinner and shopping, then came back after dark. The park had changed completely, looking weird and magical in the neon lights.

Simon for grown ups!

We enjoyed the art and people watching, seeing kids and grown ups play and make music and noise just for fun. But it was time for us to head home.

There is always something new to see !


Grandma Judy

First Friday in November

Dear Liza,

Auntie Bridgett Spicer staffing the desk

The First Friday of every month, SideStreet Arts, the gallery Auntie Bridgett belongs to, puts on a reception for the new art that is hung every month. It is always fun to go and see what’s “up”.

This month’s artists are monotype printer Katherine McDowell and ceramic sculptor Kendall Jones.

Katherine’s work is colorful, with lots of deep blues and splashes of orange, but also still and restful, because of the horizontal lines. Many of the pieces have an almost ‘sunset’ feel, and I like them very much.

Lake Monotype 393 be Katherine McDowell

Kendall’s ceramic sculptures are of a darker nature. Her portraits of children seem to me to have a hidden meaning, as though these kids are more than they seem. It is a bit unnerving.

Hermanas by Kendall Jones

She also goes in a different direction with some of her pieces, exploring the process of growing up, growing old, and dying. As macabre as they are, I like them better. They reveal, rather than hide. “Yes, we grow old, yes, we die,” they say.

Inhale, Exhale, Repeat by Kendall Jones

Being at the gallery is also fun because I get to visit with the other artists. Dawn Panttaja, who plays in the Karaoke From Hell music group we saw on Halloween, makes delightful sculptures of blue-green mythical characters.

Flying Mermaid by Dawn Panttaja

Gail Owen is a printmaker with great color sense and a contagious, resounding laugh.

Hollyhocks by Gail Owen

Alicia Justice always looks like she just stepped out of one of her own mixed media pieces, classically beautiful and just a bit otherworldly.

Alicia Justice, left, and Gail Owen
Grandmother by Alicia Justice
And a new favorite piece by Bridgett Spicer!!

After Grandpa Nelson and I had chatted, looked and nibbled some treats, we walked home through the neighborhood, enjoying the Halloween decorations one last time before they are replaced by Christmas garland and waving Santas.


Grandma Judy

Karaoke From Hell

Dear Liza,

A really, really tall ghoul…

We have been so busy traveling, I haven’t had a chance to tell you much about our Halloween season here in Portland.

Grandpa Nelson as a Hogwarts’ alumni

It has gotten really cold and dry, with temperatures in the 30s and clear, icy blue skies. The leaves are more than spectacular and make it worth our while to bundle up and go for walks.

Cuddly spider

The neighborhood is well decorated, as usual. Decorations range from downright creepy to cute and cuddly, and it is always fun to see what folks put out.

Creepy former mannequin

Halloween night, we all got dressed up and walked over to The Eagles Lodge, stopping at Apizza Scholls for dinner first. Very tasty.

An Edwardian gentleman is a Ghoul’s best friend!

The Eagles Lodge is an old school Fraternal organization, like Elks and Odd Fellows, and it is run by folks between the ages of 70 and really, really old.

We were there to see a show called Karaoke From Hell. This is a live band that will play for you while you sing any of the hundreds of songs on their playlist. Most karaoke places have a video/ electronic music set-up, but these folks are the real deal. Real musicians, real music. It was wonderful.

Karaoke From Hell

Auntie Bridgett’s gallery colleague, Dawn Panttaja, plays guitar for the band, and it was fun to see her and Alicia Justice, another gallery member, in a different context.

The music options ranged from Ozzy Osborne to Glen Campbell and AC/DC to The Supremes, so we had sweet and gnarly interspersed through the evening. The quality of the band was excellent and the singing was better than I expected. Most of these folks are regulars and practice their songs. It shows, and made for a most enjoyable evening.

Jack o Pumpkins lighted our way home!

We had wine and cider and nibbled the inevitable Halloween candy that was passed out, until we were too pooped to pop anymore. We walked back home in the very dry cold, happy to wake up a bit before collapsing completely into our beds. What a Halloween!


Grandma Judy