OMSI

Dear Liza,

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We’re Here!

Yesterday Cousins Jasper and Kestrel and I went to OMSI, The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. It is only one train stop from their house and we spent the whole day there! At the train stop, we met a nice lady named Maria and her son Josue. They mostly spoke Spanish, so I got to practice speaking Spanish for a while. They met some friends and off they went.

The Museum moved from Washington Park, where the Zoo and Rose Test Garden are, to the current site on the east bank of the Willamette River, in 1992. It has a Planetarium, space capsule, a hall for changing exhibits, and a large hands-on room called Turbine Hall.

We started with a visit to the temporary exhibit on The Robot Revolution. The first floor was very informative, and we read a lot about how robots are built, how they ‘learn’ new information, and how they move. There was a small soccer filed sort of area where two robots were trying to score goals while another robot tried to block them. We could even make robots move, like this big spider walking one, or a robot about 10 inches tall who was programmed to do different moves, like push-ups, headstands, or wave.

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Big Spider Robot
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Learning by Watching, then Doing

Upstairs, the exhibits were much more hands-on. Kestrel played tic tac toe against a robot, and mostly played to a tie. She used “grippers”, what robots use for hands, and had to do a lot of figuring out to make them work. It was great to watch her brain work!

While Kestrel was doing these things, Jasper was building robots with Cubelets. These are, as you might guess, cubes that you put together to make robots. Each cube has a different job: battery, mover, light, rotator. By putting the different cubes together in different order, you can make robots that move, light up, or other things. Jasper worked on these for almost an hour, finally creating a robot different from anyone else’s, that walked in a weird wobbly fashion while lighting up.

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Jasper’s Robot

We bought lunch in the cafeteria, pizza and fruit juices, and ate on the patio that looks out over the river between the Tilikum Crossing Bridge and the Marquam Bridge. It was a very pretty day, so there were lots of bicyclists, joggers, and boats to watch, as well as cars and trucks on the Marquam and trains on the Tillikum, which is only for mass transit, walkers and bikes.

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Tillikum Crossing

After lunch we visited another part of the museum, Turbine Hall. This is a room almost as big as a football field, full of hands-on activities to study air pressure, gravity, wind, sound,water and engineering. The exhibits are so well designed that if a child can reach it, they can be successful at some level at it. Kestrel enjoyed exploring the wind and water areas, while Jasper enjoyed working with other kids to build an arch or make a machine play Score Four. There aren’t any pictures of Jasper because he hates having his picture taken.

We stayed at the Museum until almost 5 o’clock, and there wasn’t a cross word or bored moment. I highly recommend it to anyone visiting Portland with children!

We left in time to make dinner and feed the cousins and Auntie Katie when she got home from Books with Pictures.

What a wonderful day!

Love,

Grandma Judy

 

 

Sudden Storm

Dear Liza,

On Father’s Day it was hot! Auntie Bridgett and I needed to sell some books back to Powell’s, so we went early and spent the hottest part of the day indoors, reading, practicing French on Duolingo, and researching.

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Grandpa Nelson celebrating Father’s Day

By about six  it felt cool enough to enjoy a walk in Laurelhurst Park, so we all three put on sun hats, and sunglasses, and headed out. There was blinding sunshine in the western sky and ominous dark clouds to the east. We kept an eye on it.

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Ominous Clouds

The park was full of families and dogs, people in hammocks and on blankets, playing frisbee, guitars, even a fellow practicing his accordion by the pond. We sat down to listen and enjoy the sun on the water, when WHOOOSH! a wind came through and blew leaves, seeds, dust and even small branches past us at eye level.

The families packed up, called their dogs, making a small exodus out of the park. I took videos and photos. Grandpa Nelson and Auntie Bridgett just wanted to get home before the rain hit. On the way home, I noticed a big branch that had fallen across the road about a block from us. I went up to see, and met a lady who had come to see, too.

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Unsuspecting Accordion Player

Turns out, the big branch was really several very long branches, and they had fallen across a REACHNOW car, a rental business like ZipCar. The lady, and some other folks who stopped to help and I, managed to lift the branches off and get them out of the road, without doing further damage to the car.IMG_7195.jpg

I got the business information from the sticker on the window and let them know they have a damaged car.

Once we got home, I settled in to watch the storm as it progressed. Listening to the thunder was wonderful! We even got to sit out on the balcony for a while, until the wind shifted and brought the rain straight at us.

By eight o’clock, when we were meeting Auntie Katie for a post-Pride Day Father’s Day drink, the storm had passed and the sunset was pink and lovely.

Things are sure different around here.

Love,

Grandma Judy

 

Portland Pride

img_7094.jpgDear Liza,

On Saturday, I helped Auntie Katie set up her double wide booth at Portland’s Gay Pride Festival. It was hard work, but it’s always good to help.

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Katie, looking fabulous

Auntie Bridgett drove me to Auntie Katie’s house at seven in the morning. We loaded up a van she borrowed from a friend, then went to her shop, Books with Pictures, and loaded some more. Boxes and boxes of books, bookshelves, snacks, banners, and chairs, were all tetris-ed into a space that I thought was too small for them. Then we drove to the Tom McCall Waterfront Park, between the Morrison and Hawthorne Bridges, on the west side of the Willamette River.

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View of the festival from the Morrison Bridge

A friend of Katie’s named Dot, who has a strong back, cheerful personality AND many years of book store experience, was an enormous help. I unloaded and sorted, Dot organized and shelved, and Katie figured out where everything went.

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Dot on the job

By 11:00, we were ready for business! I took a walk around the festival to see the other booths. There were so many different businesses and causes, with booths run by cheerful people. There were banjo players, bankers, car dealers, a softball league, Fred Meyer stores, and even a booth supporting the adoption of deaf dogs. There were some outrageous costumes, but mostly just really happy people enjoying being out together on a sunny day.

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Banjos!

When the booth was ready and Auntie Katie had her lunch (of delicious pulled pork from Porklandia), I decided to head home. I had lots of snacks and water, so I walked across the Morrison Bridge and east for about 2 miles.

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The Willamette looking north from the Morrison Bridge

By the time I got home I was so tired, I ate a big lunch and slept for two hours! But Auntie Katie was at the booth until 10:30 Saturday night, and went back for a full day Sunday, so I think I got off easy.

Love,

Grandma Judy

 

The Grotto and Momma

Dear Liza,

Friday, June 15th, your great grandma Billie would have turned 97. To remember her and celebrate her life, we visited The Grotto in Northeast Portland.

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The Grotto

Not because of the religious aspect of The Grotto. Its real name is The National Sanctuary of Our Sorrowful Mother, and it is run by the Catholic Church.

Momma wasn’t Catholic, and she most certainly wasn’t sorrowful. She went to mostly Protestant churches, because that was what she was raised with, but her philosophy always seemed to be more of a Transcendentalist, believing in the Oversoul that created and loves all living beings and expects us to love and care for each other.

But mostly, The Grotto reminds me of Momma because she was a gardener. She loved flowers, trees,  and the birds that lived in them. She loved to quote part of the poem “God’s Garden”, by Dorothy Francis Gurney, which went like this:

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Japanese Maple through Rhododendrons

The kiss of the sun for pardon,

The song of the birds for mirth,

One is nearer God’s heart in a garden

Than anywhere else on Earth.

The Grotto is in two parts. The bottom section, where the parking lot is, has a church, a gift shop, and the grotto for which the place is named, a tall cave in a 110 foot stone cliff. Into this grotto has been placed a copy of the statue called The Pieta. It is a beautiful but very sad statue, and does not make me think of Momma.

But when you pay the ladies in the gift shop seven dollars, you get a token that lets you take an elevator to the top of the cliff. And that is where the magic happens.

At the top, you walk through 62 acres of gardens. There are statues, including one of St. Francis of Assisi, who Momma loved because he cared for animals. There is even a brick Labyrinth to walk on, if you like. There are lawns, ponds and small waterfalls. Banks of laurel bushes and azaleas line the pathways. Maple trees and pines give shade and peace. Roses and rhododendrons give color.

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Japanese Maples and Mugu Pines

The bird population is extraordinary. Happy robins, proud hawks and cranky crows provide bird drama, while the tiny sparrows busy themselves under the bushes.

Grandpa Nelson, Auntie Bridgett and I went together but split up at the top, so we could wander at our own speeds. There were other folks there in groups, some of whom seemed to be very noisy, but Momma would remind me that everyone enjoys places in their own ways. So when there was noise and I wanted quiet, I walked around again until the noisy folks were gone.

Whenever I take time to think of how Momma was, how she treated the world and the people in it, I feel more at peace with myself. It is worth doing, I think.

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Great Grandma Billie in her Own Garden

Love, Grandma Judy

Ladd’s Addition

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Confusing Street Signs

Dear Liza,

Even though Portland is a big city, there are lots of different neighborhoods, each with its own history and personality. Ladd’s Addition, where Auntie Katie lives, is one of my favorites. It runs from Hawthorne on the north to Division on the south, and between 12th and 21st west and east.

Ladd’s Addition is named for William Ladd, who was mayor of Portland for a year back in the late 1800s. He was a merchant, which meant he bought and sold things. He was very successful. After he had made a lot of  money from his stores, he started buying property. He bought 126 acres of Eastside Portland and, in 1891, when the city of Portland annexed the Eastside, he divided his land into a neighborhood. At that time, there were already streets and houses on the Eastside.

But what makes Ladd’s Addition different was the shape of the neighborhood. Instead of streets that ran north/south and east/west, like the rest of the city, he copied Pierre L’Enfant’s pattern from Washington D.C., and made it more of an “X” shape. Go to googlemaps and look it up. It’ll give you a chuckle.

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Lovely old houses
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Tree swing? Of course!

I love Ladd’s Addition because of its quirkiness, its huge trees, its family friendliness, and its architecture. Many of the houses were built between 1900 and 1920 from kits that came on railroad cars from stores back east. Newer than the gingerbread-y Victorians of other parts of town, they are Craftsman style, Foursquare, and Federal styles. Some are lovely small bungalows, and others are practically mansions!

And I haven’t even mentioned the rose gardens. Where streets cross between Elliot and Ladd, there are four gardens, called East, West, North and South. These are maintained by volunteers (since the city has had budget issues) and are magnificent. Beds of older and newer varieties grow higher than my head and are obviously very, very happy.

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Really Happy “Strike it Rich”

Of course, the odd arrangement of streets makes Ladd’s hard to navigate. It is easy to get disoriented when going around the central circle, as there are no right angles and ten streets to choose from. But you get the hang of it after a while, and if you get lost, at least you are in a nice neighborhood!

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Tiffany

And I get the walk through this paradise whenever I visit Auntie Katie’s house or even her shop, which is just on the other side. Life is sweet in Portland.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Family Artifacts

Dear Jasper and Kestrel,

This evening you two took ownership of your Great Great Grandpa Louis’s oriental rugs. This makes me very happy, because it means they will stay in the family, and you will get to tell their story. I am sure your Grandpa Nelson told you all about it when he helped you lay the rugs out in your play room and bedroom, but I will tell what I know here.

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Jasper, cars, and the rugs

The two rugs, along with a hallway runner that has since been lost,  were originally bought in 1932 with the money Great Great Grandpa Louis Fein made on a bet. He bet a friend that Franklin Delano Roosevelt would win the presidential election of that year. Mr. Roosevelt won and Louis took his winnings and invested them in these fine rugs.

Eight years later, Louis died while on a business trip in Montreal, Canada. While we were there a few years ago, Grandpa Nelson did some research to find out where Louis was when he died, why he was there, and what he died of. There wasn’t much information. That was just at the start of World War II in Canada, and the war was all the newspapers were covering. One middle aged Jewish man from  Atlantic City, New Jersey, wasn’t big news. We think he may have been working to help evacuate Jews from Europe. We think he died of a heart attack while staying at a boarding house because all the hotels were full of officers organizing the war effort. But we don’t know for sure.

The rugs stayed in the family, though, staying with your Great Great Grandma Hannah Fein after Louis died. When she moved in with your Great Grandma Mona and her kids Nelson, June and Dorothy, they played on them. Grandpa Nelson has told me of driving his tiny cars through the ‘forests’ of the rug, around their patterns. Eventually  the rugs came west with Hannah when she moved to California. They were given to your Grandpa Nelson by Great Great Grandma Hannah when she moved to a rest home.

We got the rugs just about the time your Uncle David was born, with your Mommy Katie coming soon after. We used them in our houses, and your mommy grew up on them. Sleepovers, popcorn spills, and even My Little Ponies parties happened on those old rugs.

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Jasper, Kestrel, and Great Great Grandpa Louis’s rug!

They moved to Portland with us last year, and now we are moving to a smaller place and have no room. I am so happy the rugs will have more children and grandchildren to play on them!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Too Many Books!

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Kitten and wall of books

Dear Liza,

You remember our house in Salinas. We had a whole room for books…three walls of seven foot high bookcases. Plus books in the family room, living room, guest bedroom, and Auntie Bridgett’s office downtown.

We don’t have that much space here.

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Temporary overflow

The rooms in our new house are bright and friendly, but a bit smaller than before…so, less room for books. We gave away tons before we left town, to friends, students, The Salvation Army, but there were still too many.

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Tiny Free Library

Our new house is a short walk from the lovely Belmont library and within fifteen minutes of Powell’s City of books. That sort of availability makes living with less easier. But sometimes a person just needs to pick up The Moon is a Harsh Mistress to read before bed, you know? So we kept Steinbeck, Twain, Heinlein, Asimov, Schultz, Shakespeare, and a fair–sized avalanche of art books.

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Selling Books at Powell’s

It turns out that the local library, the tiny free libraries, and Powell’s are part of a larger book ecology, a circle of life for books.  These places also accept books! Yesterday we carried bags and bags of books to the Powell’s on Hawthorne, and they bought quite a few of them, giving us $39 in gift certificates! Bonus: What they didn’t want, the library accepted, and gave us a receipt for our taxes.

Win. Win. Win. Circle of life. Buy a book, sell it back, buy it again, give it away…

Love,

Grandma Judy