Yesterday Grandpa Nelson and I helped Auntie Bridgett and our friend Jack Kent set up an art show at Motivasi Coffee, up on NE 42nd and Prescott.They have good coffee and very tasty muffins. Amanda, the lady who was working there, was friendly and helpful.
Jack draws a funny comic strip called “Gulls”, about a nutty group of seagulls, but he also does sketches of people he sees on the street, called “Sketchy People”. His Sketchy People and Auntie Bridgett’s Coffee Fairy collages are the main part of this show.
It took a while to figure out whose work was going where, and whether Jack’s and Bridgett’s work should be mixed together or hung separately, but once they figured that out, the work went pretty quickly. I held hammers and helped Auntie Bridgett, and Grandpa Nelson helped Jack. It was fun being the Minions and seeing the show come together.
Finally, it all looked like they wanted it to, and we packed up the bubble wrap and empty boxes. The show is up now and will stay up until late February. Jack and Bridgett will have a reception to meet people there on January 13, but I will be down with you by then.
We got home and had a walk around the neighborhood. Passing by the flamingo house, we saw Katherine, the lady who owns the flamingos, out tending her yard.
Today, the flamingos are set up to be ready for the Women’s March on January 21st. The are wearing colorful capes and tiny pink hats. They are, as usual, adorable.
I will be coming to Salinas to stay with you for a while, so last night was my last Friday in Portland for about 2 months. To make sure I didn’t miss my new city too much, Grandpa Nelson and Auntie Bridgett took me out to some of my favorite places.
During the day, Bridgett and I walked down to the Belmont Library to return some books. We enjoyed the decorations in the Sunnyside neighborhood. We always see something new!
Since it was very dark and rainy when we left the house, I wore my light-up coat and Bridgett wore her new light-up HAT! We were colorful, I tell you. But we were easy for drivers to see.
We walked down to the Hobnob, a funny, friendly place on SE 34th and Morrison. They have good food, the drinks we like (including stout beer for me and Absinthe for Auntie Bridgett) and a really comfortable atmosphere. There was a birthday party going on for a fellow and we got to sing with all his friends. There were french fries for Grandpa Nelson, a pulled pork slider for Auntie Bridgett, and a cup of roasted pepper chicken soup and some macaroni and cheese for me. Yummy!
Then, since I had filled my pockets with quarters, we walked around the corner to The Belmont Inn, where our favorite pinball game lives. Monster Bash! We played 2 sets of five games each and had a lot of fun. It wasn’t a great night for scoring though…. we only got one monster to wake up.
As we were walking home, we noticed…wait, could it be? Yes, The Nerd Out, which we had been watching since the Belmont Street Fair in September, is finally open for business! We HAD to go see it!
First impressions were very good, as there were a half dozen Vespas and other scooters out front. The space is full of small tables, people, conversation, and comic stuff. One long wall is wallpapered with pages out of comic books and a shelf running all around the place is full of action figures. There is a full bar and a good menu. We were full of dinner and drinks, but they have desserts!
Grandpa Nelson had an Un-birthday Cake, and Auntie Bridgett and I shared a Seasonal Cream Brulee, which had wonderful diced apples on top of the hard shell of sugar. We talked to Mitch, the owner, chef and head Nerd. We had met him at the street fair, and it was wonderful to see him running the business he had dreamed of. He was so excited to tell us about his upcoming events, a Grand Opening on January 18th and a Cosplay night on the last Thursday of the month.
It is a new year, and I am looking forward to some more big changes. I will be coming to Salinas to stay with you for a few months while I teach, and my life here in Portland will be put on hold. Grandpa Nelson and Auntie Bridgett will stay here and take care of Mouse the kitten, the houseplants, and their jobs…but we won’t be together. This will be weird, and sometimes sad.
Before looking forward, though, I want to look back on the crazy trip that got me here and what I love about Portland.
During the hot Summer, we learned about getting around on air-conditioned buses and trains. We got to visit our new favorite Laurelhurst Park with Auntie Katie and the cousins. We even walked to the Willamette River and put our feet in!
It was fun getting to show you all the things in our new city, like the zoo.
The biggest thing that we learned about is the weather. It rains a lot here, and we are getting used to asking Google if we should take an umbrella. It even snows! This takes getting used to, but is such a nice change from highs of 70 and lows of 50 that I don’t mind.
I have fallen in love with the theater and art here in Portland. Theaters are made from old churches, warehouses, and even set up in parks. Art and music are everywhere.
People playing music, reciting and writing poetry on street corners just isn’t something we saw in Salinas, and it is a real treat.
And of course, the history! I have been studying about Portland’s past…it’s buildings, trolley cars, and people. It is just about as old as Salinas, but since it is a bigger city, it has more stories.
There is so much I love about Portland. I will miss it, and then return in June to re-discover my new city all over again.
There are so many beautiful, huge, really old trees in our neighborhood. Today, there is one less.
Down the block, between us and Babydoll Pizza, a giant mimosa tree has stood for, I would guess, 50 years, probably planted when the house we are living in was new.
Yesterday we saw the cherry picker drive up, along with a trailer, grinder, and compost truck. I didn’t get a chance to talk to the fellows doing the work…they were busy doing loud, hazardous work, and it was really cold. So I took photos from our window and thought about change.
I loved the trees because they were majestic and spoke of history and caring for one’s urban environment. They were part of this city that is so completely different from whence I came. I longed for change, and found it here. I found a new status quo.
And now they are gone, and that new status quo is different. I am still figuring out how I feel about that.
One change we love and count on is the flamingo drama down the street. They have now been celebrating New Year’s Eve for several days and looks like they had a marvelous time!
Last night was New Year’s Eve and we celebrated in downtown Portland. The weather was very cold, but delightfully dry…no rain, and just a few clouds, so getting around was easy and everything looked bright and festive.
We walked around downtown for a while, looking at shop windows and people walking by. We visited Powell’s City of Books and the Apple Store. Around 5, we got hungry so we stopped off at Case Study Coffee, at SW 10th and Yamhill for snacks. They closed at 6, so we wandered some more, finding the lobby of the Hilton a welcoming place with comfy sofas and friendly people.
By 7 o’clock we were ready for dinner, so we walked over to the Raven and Rose. Located at SE Columbia and Broadway, it is in what used to be the carriage House ( a combination of garage and barn, built in 1883) of William S. Ladd, one of the real movers and shakers of old Portland. The big estate and mansion have been torn down and built over, but this wonderfully restored barn, built in what they call the “Stick” style, has a restaurant downstairs and the Rookery Bar upstairs. It is one hundred and thirty year old, sits in the midst of modern brick and glass towers, and stands out as a jewel from another age.
Our dinner of beet salad, shrimp gnocchi, swede fondant, treacle tart, french fries and ice cream went well with the Pinot Noir and apple cider, and we felt indulged and sated. We chatted about our resolutions for the New Year and our hopes and plans for buying a house in Portland.
Wandering around some more, we stopped in at the ArtBar of the Antoinette Hatfield Hall and looked at a wonderful Steampunk art show. Steampunk art is a style that uses old industrial things like machinery and combines it in new ways with plants and animals. It is weird and spooky and delightful. After some tea and coffee, we headed across the street to the Arlene Schnitzer Theater at SW Park and Salmon for our main event, a concert by Pink Martini and the Portland Symphony.
“The Schnitz”, as it is called by those who love it, was built as the Paramount vaudeville theater in 1924. It must have been the most elaborate thing in Portland in those days, because it still dazzles the eye. The lobby is enormous and ornate, and every inch of stair banister, ceiling, and wall has been carved, painted, or plastered. We spent 20 minutes just walking around the place!
Once the show started, the fun really began. Pink Martini is a talented four person group that plays a delightful international salad of music. Backed by a hundred member choir and symphony, the vocalists sang dance hall tunes in French, popular American tunes in English, Opera arias in Italian, and frenetic rock songs in Japanese. The audience, which had kids as young as 10 and folks well past their 80s, clapped and sang and, when invited, many women joined the band onstage to sing Helen Reddy’s “I Am Woman”.
At midnight we all stood and sang “Auld Lang Syne”, but the show wasn’t over yet.
Full choir, Symphony, jazz band and four operatic soloists joined forces to perform Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony in German. It was powerful and wonderful. But it was after midnight, and during some of the quieter moments, I think I might have…dozed off. Just for a moment.
Once the show was over and thousands of happy people filed out of the theater, we caught our Lyft ride home and I was asleep in two minutes.
Yesterday, December 30, 2017, was the warmest day we have had in a month. The blue sky was decorated with puffy clouds, and the temperature got up to 50 degrees! Auntie Bridgett and I went for a walk. We noticed some premature gladiolus flowers shooting up through the mud. The warm weather has them fooled, perhaps.
Our first stop was Triumph Coffee at SE 12th and Ash. A busy, friendly place, with comfortably mismatched furniture. it is what Linus Van Pelt would call sincere. Neighborhood folks were enjoying coffee and having conversations. I didn’t see a single laptop open. Bridgett testifies that the coffee is excellent, and I stand by their carrot zucchini muffins. We got our goodies to go, and continued on our way.
We walked on Ash until it ran into Sandy Boulevard, a major street that runs diagonally through east Portland. It makes some connections easier, of course, but also creates really interesting angled corners. Portland has a lot of these odd corners, like on the west side where Burnside hits every street at an odd angle, and in Ladd’s Addition, with its “x marks the spot” plotting.
From the obtuse corner of 10th and Ash, we could look west and see the two tallest buildings in Portland, “Big Pink” and the Wells Fargo Building. It is nice to be able to find landmarks and get a better picture of where you are in relation to other things.
We turned left and followed Sandy southwest until it became 7th Avenue, and followed that to Morrison. In that neighborhood are many old industrial buildings that have been re-purposed. The Troy Laundry, a brick building from 1913, is currently for sale. I am sure it has an interesting future.
Heading back towards home on Morrison, we found Auntie Bridgett’s new favorite place: The Grand Central Restaurant and Bowling Lounge at 808 SE Morrison. This two-story playground for grown-ups (and kids) is in the old Grand Central Public Market building, which was built in 1929. It has bowling, a restaurant, two bars, pinball, Pac-man, air hockey, shuffleboard, skee-ball, driving games, pool tables, and giant televisions. It looks like a great place to spend a long wintry afternoon, and is not far from our house! Hooray for accidental discoveries!
We left the bowling alley, smiling, knowing we would be back soon, and continued east on Morrison. We went through the Lone Fir Cemetery to say hello to the dead people, and got to chat with some squirrels and tourists, as well.
We said a special hello to little Genevieve Gray, who died in 1912 when she was only 3 months old and is buried under the tiniest headstone I have ever seen. It is about 7 inches by 10, and is tucked under huge trees at the far northeast corner of the cemetery. I know visiting the cemetery might seem morbid, but it gives me perspective. I always leave with a sense of hope and purpose.
Back home, we headed off for shopping and reading. See you soon, sweetie.
Last night we went back to the McMenamin’s Kennedy School. The weather was really stormy, so we took a Lyft car.
We ate in The Boiler Room, which is decorated with wonderfully steampunk-y pipes and things, as well as having odd and interesting paintings on the walls. Auntie Bridgett and I shared an Aztec Salad of lettuce, corn, beans and spicy tortilla chips and Grandpa Nelson had his french fries.
We noticed several themes in the photos and paintings…they echo each other. In one wing of the school, there is a large photo of some kids holding birdhouses they had made. In a different corridor, there is a painting based on that photo. I love discovering this place, bit by bit!
Another interesting thing we learned was that this school, The Kennedy School in Northeast Portland, was where Mike and Brian, the McMenamin brothers, went to elementary school. So they saved their own school!
We were at the school to listen to an Irish music group called Katie Jane and Castletown which was playing in the Gymnasium. The room is small for a gym, but is a nice open space with a rug in the middle for echo-control and so tables and chairs don’t damage the wooden floor. In front of the stage, however, the floor was left bare as an informal dance floor.
The group is made up of three people: Drew is the pony-tailed drummer, Roger plays guitar and sings the low bits, and lovely Katie Jane, on violin, is the star. Her Irish fiddle playing soars and makes everyone want to dance! The audience was very mixed, but there were about 6 families with small kids who got up and did just that when the music started.
I enjoyed this part the most, I think… kids just having fun with the music, helping smaller ones, and even doing a crazy turn with their grandma. Castletown played Irish tunes, some American Gospel, and even some Rockabilly, but all were dance-able, some sing-able, and all very, very entertaining.
When the band stopped at 9, we tipped them and told them how much we enjoyed the show, and headed off. Our Lyft driver picked us up before we even had time to get wet, and we were home and safe by 9:30.