On the Cusp

Dear Liza,

It is still a week until Fall, but the weather is starting to change. The awful heat seemed to have passed, though I expect there will be one last Indian Summer heat wave before we kiss summer completely goodbye.

The summer flowers are still blooming…. wisteria, roses, and dahlias.

Summer fruits are reaching their peak… apples, tomatoes, and grapes.

And yet, we are getting rain, lots of rain, cooler temperatures, and it’s dark by seven o’clock. Fall is on its way.

Pumpkins are ripening in the Sunnyside School garden, reminding me that we need to use up the frozen pumpkin purée from LAST fall so we can go get more pumpkins!!

When I grew up in Southern California, all my relatives there lamented the lack of “seasons”. A friend from Oregon once said the bright blue skies of Salinas were “obscene” in January. I had no idea what she was talking about.

Now I do. The seasons changing are like breathing out after breathing in, or hearing the splash after you throw the rock into the pond.

They are what comes next.

And now I understand that.


Grandma Judy

Bea is for Bend, Part 3

Dear Liza,

Raindrops and reflections on the river

While we were visiting the city of Bend, we walked to the Deschutes River, whose bend the city is built on. It is a wonderfully smooth river, at least through town. The surface doesn’t let you know how fast it is moving, but play a game of Pooh Sticks from the foot bridge and watch them scoot away!

Perfect venue for Pooh Sticks

The river, of course, is why the city is here. There was water for crops and people, power for a lumber mill, and transportation to get the lumber to the Columbia River markets. It is historically the heart of the city.

A “High Wheel”, used for hauling trees to the mill

Now, the river is mostly recreational and decorative. In drier weather, there would be hundreds of folks out on kayaks or stand up boards. Today, because of the intermittent storms, there were mostly ducks and reflections.

Duck Weather!

It was getting late, and we still had the four hour drive back to Portland, so we waved goodbye to Bend and drove past the tiny town of Sisters, through more great weather, past pointy Mount Washington, and home to a happy Mouse-cat.

The storm passes
Mount Washington

Another fine adventure.


Grandma Judy

Bea is for Bend, Part 2

Dear Liza,

Aunt Bea and me

After we got settled into the Ed Danahy Room at the Old St. Francis School, we headed off to see Aunt Bea. She is staying at the Mt. Bachelor Assisted Living Care and it is a wonderful, bright place. Carpets keep the noise down, large windows let the sunshine in, and friendly personnel make everyone feel welcome.

Aunt Bea’s apartment is on the third floor, so she has a nice view of the surrounding hills and trees, and we had a great view of the thunder storm as it rolled by, with flashes of lightning and window rattling thunder. Aunt Bea’s cat, called KittyCat, hid under the bed for a while.

Bea and KittyCat

Auntie Bridgett and I went to lunch with Bea, and the dining room was full of chatting folks. One lady introduced herself as Bea’s “bad influence”. Knowing Bea, I told her, I doubt that.

During our visit in Bend, we got to have two long visits with Bea. But it’s exhausting for her, so we headed off to tour the city.

Bend, logically enough, is built at a bend in the Deschutes River. The oldest buildings date from the early 1900s and testify to a thriving business community. The O’Kane Building was built in 1916 and is still the largest commercial building in town. The circular “Bend” logo in the windows has become a symbol of the city, reproduced on stickers, magnets, tee shirts and cards.

Window logos on the O’Kane Building

Walking down Wall Street, we stopped for a delicious dinner at 900 Wall. Delicious fresh local vegetables (the corn on the cob was so juicy I got splashed on my glasses!) and two different local wines kept us healthy and happy.

900 Wall

Public art, ice cream parlors and neon lights amused us as we wandered the quiet downtown before we returned to the Old St. Francis School.

We even indulged in the soaking pool, which is the fanciest place I ever got wet. We soaked until our muscles were tapioca pudding and stumbled back to sleep for ten hours. TEN hours.

I didn’t take pictures Of the pool, but here is a photo of the postcard.

We had more adventures the next day, and I will tell you about them tomorrow!


Grandma Judy

Bea is for Bend, Part 1

Dear Liza,

Art coming in…..

I’ve told you about my Aunt Bea. She is one of my Dad’s two surviving sisters, and the one I am closest to. She was living in Corvallis when I got to visit her at Easter, and has now moved to an assisted living apartment in Bend. So, you know what that means….

Road Trip!!

Volcanic geology in eastern Oregon

The trip around Mount Hood was delightfully foresty, reminding me of all those summer vacations I spent camping with my parents. We drove hours through maples, then pines, then entered the layered volcanic plateau and lost almost all the trees. As we gained elevation we found lodgepole pines and junipers, and when we got out of the car in Bend, the air smelled of gin and tonic!

Our reservations were at a McMenamin’s Hotel, the first such establishment we have ever slept at. It was magical.

We never did learn the story behind this one!

The Old St. Francis School started life as the first Catholic School in Central Oregon. Founded by Fathers Luke and Dominic in 1936, it was St. Francis School until 2000, when the growing student population needed more space out of town.

Honoring St. Francis

Brothers Brian and Mike, the McMenamins, bought the property, added their magic, and opened for business in 2004, with a major renovation in 2016.

All the elements we love about the McMenamin’s style were there.

Our host, Ed Danahy

The history of the place was celebrated everywhere, even the names of the rooms. We stayed in the Ed Danahy room, named for the janitor of the St. Francis School, and remembered by many students as their favorite adult there. He had a sense of humor and was a good listener. We were honored to be in his smiling presence.

Father Luke in glass

Art was everywhere, framed on the walls, but also in unexpected portraits over doorways and a stained glass portrait of Brother Luke. The orbs that are a featured motif were everywhere, all hand painted and wonderful.

Hand painted loveliness everywhere

Finally, it was quirky. In the newest building, called The Art building, there were hidden rooms. When you would see a blue light in the ceiling, you needed to start pushing on the walls to find the hidden room! It was so much fun!

Hidden rooms!

We had been told of a bar called The Broom Closet. When we found it, we realized that these weren’t sweeping brooms, these were flying brooms! But the bar was there, just the same. We were amazed.

Not so much a closet as a broom parking lot!

There is a lot more to tell, and we DID get to have a long visit with Aunt Bea, but I will end here and continue next week.

And art going out!


Grandma Judy

Strolling the Pearl

Dear Liza,

Old Warehouses share the skyline with newer buildings

While we were in the Pearl District, we wandered around, got some coffee, and shopped a little. I was delighted with what we found!

Beautiful brick!

Just off the North Park Blocks we found Barista Coffee, housed in one of the dozens of old brick warehouses that were built in the 1890s. Since Portland was (and still is) a PORT city, there needed to be places to house the lumber, dried fish, tanned cowhides And other things on their way out, and fabrics, machine parts and other “fancy” goods on their way in.

Showing its history

I love seeing the layers of old paint on the bricks, the hints of old signs and logos, like seeing into a building’s past.

Historic relic? Nope, family vehicle!

We saw this truck parked across the street. From the strikingly awful condition of the paint and the business name “Snider Bros. Body and Paint”, assumed it was a prop, a display for the sake of historic flair. But then two fellows came out, started it up, and drove away!

Auntie Bridgett’s pictures always make me look good…

We found “Oblation”, a shop that seemed to feature high end stationary and paper goods, which of course, Auntie Bridgett had to step into. I am so glad we did!

A new adventure…

Besides pens, papers, maps, and other such treasures, we found …typewriters!!! Old, mechanical, click-clacky typewriters! They worked, they typed, they smelled just like high school, and I spent way too much time enjoying them. At one time, we owned three of these lovely beauties, but we let them go when we were lightening our load to move. I miss my old Smith- Corona.

Russian typewriter…so cool!
And the tag makes it even cooler!

Just behind the typewriters was a real, old fashioned print shop, with half a dozen platen printing presses. They weren’t running when we were there, but I can imagine it would be mighty impressive when they are.

Power of the press, laying wait

We finally got tired and head home, catching the streetcar to the Magic 15 bus. Another lovely day on the books.


Grandma Judy

Art in the Pearl

Dear Liza,

A map of the Pearl

The Pearl is a part of downtown Portland that has seen a lot of ups and downs. In the 1890s it was an important business district, with posh offices and beautifully built brick warehouses. Henry Weinhard’s Brewery operated here for over fifty years. But things changed.

When we visited here in the 1980s, The Pearl was the scary part of town…. you just didn’t go there. Abandoned buildings became home to illegal activities and legitimate businesses fled the neighborhood.

The First Regiment Armory built in 1890, surrounded by shining towers

Folks determined to change that, though, and gave the area the nickname The Pearl to help sell it to investors. Tall shining condos have replaced many of the burned out buildings, and even a few parks have been established to give some light and airflow to the place. New businesses, restaurants, and art galleries inhabit the old warehouses and are bringing people and cash into this corner of town.

On Sunday, we went to the 22nd annual Art in the Pearl festival in The North Park Blocks. Dozens of art and crafts booths lined one part of the park, and dozens of food booths lined the other. There was a river of people looking, eating, chatting, and enjoying the shady venue.

River of folks at the North Park Blocks

As always seems to happen, we got hungry as soon as we arrived! The food booths were very crowded, so Grandpa Nelson found us Fuller’s Coffee Shop, which has been on the corner of NW Davis and 9th since 1947, and looks like it hasn’t changed much in decor since opening day. However, the burger, grilled cheese sandwich and French fries were delicious and very affordable. Sixteen dollars for a three person lunch is a bargain in town!

Lunch at Fuller’s

Once we were fed, the Art-ing began. We walked past most of the booths, but were occasionally drawn in. We chatted with Marjolyn van der Hart, from Toronto, about her painterly collages.

Sheet music, wallpaper, old advertisements and artistry…

Dona Reed, from Anacortes, Washington, does wonderfully evocative linoleum prints of ravens and loons, with just a touch of red. Her booth was very crowded and she was beaming! This one reminded me of our three person household. Grandpa Nelson is in back, saying “Look what I found!” Auntie Bridgett says, “I like this one!” and I am saying “Oops! I dropped mine…”

Linoleum print of ravens

As we continued, I found a booth that reminded me of your Great Grandpa Lowell. Anthony Hansen uses old metal, from cars, factories and license plates to make metal ‘quilts’. They are welded and grommeted together in interesting ways while keeping the original colors.

At another booth featuring metal, Auntie Bridgett recognized the work of an artist that shows at SideStreetArts, but whom she had never met. Amy Ruedinger is a metalworker and they had a nice getting-to-know-each- other conversation.

We stopped by Kim Murton’s booth because of the whimsical ceramics but stayed for the fabric prints and conversation. Kim has been part of the Art Fairs in Portland for about six years, she said, and is finally getting her booth the way she likes it. She was very modest, not mentioning that she had designed the tee shirts being sold this year by the Fair. We got the very last one in our size from the Information booth!

The last artist we visited with was Josh, of Pacific Northwest Sculptors. He works in my own favorite medium, paper mache! He uses flour and paper for the outside and all sorts of things for the armature, even creating a unicorn strong enough for children to sit on! He made this for his daughter, because, he says, “I am not a monster. If I make a unicorn, my daughter should be able to sit on it!” We saw him working on a series of tentacles that just cracks me up.

We found more in the Pearl, but that’s all for now!


Grandma Judy

Gender-Bending Shakespeare

Dear Liza,

Rusty Tennant as ‘Lady’ Jacques and Jacquelle David as Phebe

This is a post about gender. Gender means being a boy or a girl. For a long time, girls had to dress in ruffles and pink, they were supposed to like dolls and be afraid of spiders. Boys were supposed to dress and act a different way, like wearing jeans and boots and playing rough, and never showing their feelings.

Rusty Tennant again, as Touchstone, and Evan Tait as Audrey

Also for a long time, people thought you had to be a girl OR a boy. There was no neither, and no in between. Now there are. I have friends who have taught me about it, and plays like As You Like It help me see it more clearly.

Many people are saying we should be able to decide how we want to act and dress, no matter what gender we are born with. There are lots of words for this, but the one I used when I first learned about it was “gender-bending”.

Cat Miller as Rosalind, pretending to be Gannymede

I like this idea, and this word. I was always the girl in jeans and thirty feet up a tree, or under the car learning about engines. I wasn’t very good at being a ‘girl’.

Paul Bright as Duke Senior, admitting that he is fifty years old

This weekend we went to see As You Like It, a Shakespeare play, at Reed College. It is a play about gender, and gender-bending, and it was written 420 years ago! So you see, this gender thing isn’t new.

Alex Blesi as Orlando

The play was really interesting because in addition to Mr. Shakespeare’s gender bending characters falling in love, some of the actors who played men were played by women, and the other way ’round. You had to pay attention to keep things clear… but it was worth it!

Kate Cummings as Olive and Evan Tait, again, as Le Beu

The actors from the Portland Actor’s Ensemble are incredibly talented. As well as being great actors, they are comics, singers, boxers, and sword fighters. Many actors played two or three roles, sometimes switching costumes and roles while walking across the stage. It was a amazing to see. The staging was fun, too, with lots of making faces and playing with the audience.

Counting out the kinds of Courtly Lies

The basic story of the play is that some people from a noble castle are exiled to the forest, meet and fall in love with people there, then return home. There are three or four sets of people in love with other people, and it all gets confusing and funny. There are beautiful music, bad poetry, goats, speeches, and tantrums.

Sofia Molina as a tree, which has been hung with odes to Rosalind by the lovesick Orlando

It is all of human nature… but louder. I loved it.


Oh, yes…the goats sang, too!

Grandma Judy