Kells Irish Pub

Dear Liza,

Our long visit to the Midway got us tired out and thirsty, so we followed Grandpa Nelson’s direction through the old Chinatown to a place we had heard about for two years but never visited… Kells Irish Pub.

Opened in 1990 by Irish ex-pats Gerard and Lucille McAleese, the Portland Kells is a spin off of the original Kells in Seattle, Washington.

Because it is in a building built in the 1890s, Kells is reportedly haunted by several ghosts. One seems to be the spirit of a victim of the Shanghai tunnels, where drunken men were kidnapped and taken off to be crew for the old sailing ships.

Another ghost has been identified as David Campbell, a Fire Chief who died in 1911 working alongside his men in a building that exploded. He haunts the basement cigar room and is more likely to be seen by those with ties to firemen. There is also a piano that sometimes plays itself and furniture that moves.

We witnessed none of these things. What we did notice was friendly service, cozy decor, and the best bread pudding ever, to go with our Guinness and cider. There was even some Trad music (what you think of when you think of Irish music) and audience participation. It was a musical, slightly raucous respite from the Midway.

Once we were refreshed and it was properly dark outside, we went back to the Midway and found one of those benches, to sit and watch the fireworks. The combination of good company, colorful lights and fiery flowers blooming over the river made for a perfect end to a mighty fine day.


Grandma Judy

At the Midway

Dear Liza,

Rose Festival is here! Portland has been called The Rose City since 1888, and this city really loves the flowers. But Rose Festival is also about parades, rides, and fun.

Down by the Willamette, at Tom McCall Waterfront Park, a full carnival has been set up. Tiny rollercoasters for little kids, whirling vomit comets for teenagers, and benches for old farts like me to sit and watch.

It was fun being in the middle of all those kids, none of which were my responsibility. The joy of Not My Kid looms large.

We enjoyed all the silliness that comes with a midway…

A very macho dance contest…

Misspelled signs offering treats…

And rides too cute to believe.

But the highlight of the Midway was the tent sponsored by Quarterworld, where we found a pinball game inspired by the 1960s TV show BATMAN. It had the graphics, villains, music, and even clips from the show. It was discounted, too, with a mere quarter getting you a full game. It was classic, silly, fun.

When we had seen everything twice, we walked down the riverside for a while, enjoying the view of the Eastside from the Westside.

Then we went in search of a glass of something…..


Grandma Judy

Timber Culture

Dear Liza,

After leaving the Rose Garden, we took the park shuttle to the Discovery Museum, which proudly calls itself a “Center for Timber Culture”. This means it is a museum about forests, built and paid for by the lumber industry. Which is sort of like having a museum of Pig Culture run by the sausage industry.

There were many good parts of the museum. It was pretty, and very kid friendly.

It had beautiful examples of wood carving and furniture, including a magnificent table that had been featured in the “World’s Largest Log Cabin” at the 1905 Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition. The table had been removed for refinishing in the 1960s, and was safely out of the building when that huge wooden structure burned to the ground in 1964, in a fire that could be seen for thirty miles.

As a way of showing the many different kinds of forests around the world, there was an introductory movie and then a set of exhibits. Each exhibit focused on a region and the mode of transportation you would use to visit that region. To see the endless Russian Boreal forest, we sat in a mock- up of a Russian train and watched the forest zip by. For the tropical rain forest, we stood in a bucket that shook as it rose into the treetops.

I could see how small kids would be interested and entertained.

However….Fully half the second floor was taken up by exhibits about “harvesting” the forest. There were simulators where you could practice running the required heavy equipment, and a giant tree harvester parked right in the middle, its claw wrapped around a tree trunk. It felt violent.

I am a tree-hugging, nature-loving Old Hippie Grandma. To me, if you didn’t plant something, cutting it down isn’t harvesting, it’s stealing. Any film that starts “Clear cutting doesn’t look pretty, but…” has an agenda.

There were even out and out misstatements. “Trees only absorb CO2 from the air as long as they are growing. Once they are fully mature, they need to be cut down in order to continue.” That is NOT true, any more than saying humans only breathe until they grow up.

On the way out, we sat by a simulated waterfall and noticed something. There weren’t any field trips…even though it was a school day and late May is the height of field trip season. I couldn’t help but wonder if this museum of timber culture was too industry-oriented even for teachers desperate for a day out of the classroom.

The one part of the museum that made me really happy was a decade by decade display showing Smokey the Bear. I had a stuffed Smokey as a child, and grew up knowing that “Only I Could Prevent Forest Fires.”Love,

Grandma Judy

Looking for Roses Again

Dear Liza,

Grandpa Nelson and I returned to the Rose Garden in Washington Park again last week, hoping that three more weeks of sunshine had coaxed some blooms. We found a few.

First, we got to ride on a Trimet bus with a driver who seemed out of his depth. This was the first time I have seen a driver who was clearly lost, and it was unsettling. Apparently some road work had re-routed the bus line, and our young man kept having to back up and make different turns. His confusion made everyone nervous! You can bet that as soon as we were within walking distance of the garden, we walked.

We got some donuts from a fellow who runs a food cart and enjoyed a snack and the cool sunshine before heading into the garden.

What we found were a few more blooms, tall and climbing or small and bushy, all making the most of the May sunshine, and literally hundreds of buds, waiting, right on the cusp of exploding. It felt like they were all just holding their breath.

We sat for a moment on the bench dedicated to Jesse Curry, who founded the International Rose Test Garden in 1915 as a way of rescuing and preserving roses that were being destroyed in Europe by World War I. We owe a lot to his vision and stubbornness.

At the garden we saw one of the e-scooters that have started appearing in the city for the summer. These are rented scooters you can sign on to with your phone and take for a spin! They are silent, eco-friendly, and a very popular way for folks to get around town easily and quickly.

When we had seen all the roses and said encouraging things to the late bloomers, we headed off for the next part of our adventure.


Grandma Judy

Portland Parkways

Dear Liza,

As I have told you before, Portland really likes to ride bikes. Kids ride to school, grown ups ride to work, and everyone rides on the weekends, just for fun.

During the warmer weather, the city sponsors an event called Portland Parkways one Sunday a month. Each month, the ride is through a different part of the city.

This past Sunday was the first one of the year, and it started right up the block at Laurelhurst Park! Since it was the first time we’d had the bikes out, we needed to put some air in the tires and get some practice in.

The Park was going to be a ‘hub’, a place with entertainment, snacks, repair booths and places to get information on all sorts of groups. We went early and met folks from “Friends of the Trees” and “Friends of Laurelhurst Park”, two groups I am really interested in. Grandpa Nelson talked to a fellow about bringing Major League Baseball to Portland.

There was a jazz band playing in the dog off leash area, so we hung out and enjoyed for a while, having pretzels and chicken hot dogs to make sure we started with lots of energy.

Then we started off on the eight and a half mile circuit, guided by chalk marks on the road, traffic barriers, and lots of helpful folks who stopped traffic for us and shouted encouragement. We rode through some very familiar streets, then south all the way to Clinton and east almost to Mt. Tabor!

There were a lot of wonderful downhill swoops and some tough uphill slogs, but I didn’t get off to push, not even once. This was a major victory for me.

At Ivon Park we stopped at the Portland Police booth and registered our bikes. It was free! Bike theft is a real problem here in Portland, and it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Along the way were other hubs to catch snacks or a rest, visit with people or just watch the wonderful parade of biking humanity go by.

All the way around and back to Laurelhurst, where more music was going on, as well as the Cascadia Circus fun zone, where kids and grown ups could play. A few more snacks and back home to rest our weary bones.

What a wonderful day out and about!


Grandma Judy

More Saturday Fun

Dear Liza,

After we saw the beauties of the Farmer’s Market, we walked along the Park Blocks, enjoying the dappled sun and people watching. Auntie Bridgett hadn’t found lunch at the market, so we stopped in to the Portland Art Museum cafe to get her a salad.

The museum has closed “The Map is not the Territory“, the exhibit with the floating rocks piece by Annette Bellamy, and is currently setting up something Auntie Bridgett is REALLY looking forward to, “Paris 1900“. This will include paintings, decor, and styles from what is called La Belle Epoch, or Beautiful Era, in France. It will be gorgeous, I am sure.

We wandered a bit in the courtyard of the museum, enjoying the outdoor pieces like “Rhododendrons”. I like looking at one piece of art through something else, or just past something else, seeing how they go together.

Today I noticed how the tower of the First Congregational Church made a pretty arrangement with the giant Orchids, the elm trees, and Mistral #2.

I also realized how much I enjoyed exploring this lovely city with my wonderful people. How lucky can one Grandma Judy get?


Grandma Judy

Downtown Farmer’s Market

Dear Liza,

Now that we are into Late May, the weather is becoming more predictably pleasant, and all the wonderful summer events are happening. Today we took our Magic Bus (the number 15) downtown and walked to the South Park Blocks. These are about 7 blocks that were set aside as open space when the city was first laid out in the 1850s. There are lawns, tall old elm trees, and two of our favorite statues: Mr. Lincoln and Colonel Teddy Roosevelt.

At the south end of the Park blocks is Portland State University. It merges into the city and parks beautifully, combining fountains, lawns, and lovely architecture. Today, we also got to see the Farmer’s Market.

Hundreds of farmers, butchers, wine makers and bakers brought their goodies. We chatted about local honey, learned which sausages don’t have nitrates, and heard the health benefits of herbal vinegars. We bought snap peas, asparagus, and two small basil plants to grow in the window pots now that we have eaten all the lettuce.

There was music from Africa and Hawaii, as well as a young man playing “Mr. Bojangles,”, one of my favorite old songs. There were dozens of places for lunch. I tried a new place, Grand Tang, and ate my pork and green onion dumpling. Yummy!

What makes this market so special is that, while it hosts hundreds of producers and thousands of customers, it is just a few feet in any direction from grassy spots where irises grow and bees find roses. The intertwining of urban and agricultural, hard surfaces and soft foliage, is magical.

I will tell you more about downtown tomorrow!


Grandma Judy