Cloudy with a Chance of Legos

Dear Liza,

The grey has settled in pretty well today, a slow solid rain. Lucky for me, I have hot soup, fresh bread and music, and writing to you, to keep me company.

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Mossy cobblestones

Now that almost all of the leaves are down, I am noticing the houses more. In summer, it sometimes felt like the houses were being eaten by their landscaping! 100 year old trees, bushes, fruit trees and annual bulbs exploded and covered everything with a heavy swath of green.

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Noticing the houses

But with the leaves, even the brilliant yellow ones, gone, the houses are emerging to be appreciated in their own right. Lovely pointy Victorians, square and true Craftsmans, even mid-century bungalows are coming into their own. It allows me to see the yards and shape of the houses and wonder which type of yard and house we will move into!

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Bare naked Street Sign

After a nice walk out, Grandpa Nelson and I met Auntie Katie and cousins Jasper and Kestrel at The Lego Minifigs place I told you about during the summer. We were there to have the kids choose a bag of Legos each as their gifts for Jasper ‘s birthday.

Actually, we offered Jasper two bags and he said Kestrel should get one of his.

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Pixelated Lego Art

I love that boy!

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Lego dude made out of Legos

After an hour of hard choosing, including Auntie Katie finding a great book with design information and advice for the budding lego-engineer, we headed over to Blackbird Pizza for dinner and pinball. This nifty place is on the corner of 20th and Hawthorne, right next door to Dr. Locke’s House that I wrote about the other day, so Grandpa Nelson got to see the stepping stone.

Off to bed and dream of coming to see you!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Downtown again

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Old newspaper building

Dear Liza,

Yesterday I went downtown to do some more research at the Oregon Historical Society Library. The ladies there were very helpful and I learned about the horse pulled and electric trolley car lines of 1880’s Portland.

Because the streets were so muddy before the days of storm drains and paving, street cars made getting around easier. They let the city grow and have room for more people. The lines ran north and south from downtown and east across the Willamette River, opening up East Portland for housing and businesses. I am glad they did, because that’s where we are living now. Except we take buses to get downtown.

There was rain this morning, but it cleared up and then didn’t rain again until afternoon. I enjoyed having some time to look around downtown. I like how the lovely old stone buildings and the shiny new ones seem to get along.

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Shiny new bank building

I also enjoyed a nice cool drink of water from one of the Benson Bubblers.There are 20 of these lovely drinking fountains in downtown Portland, and they run all day and all night, year round. There is no water shortage here in the rainy northwest like there is in California, so this isn’t a problem.

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Benson Bubbler

The bubblers were a gift to the city from Simon Benson, a man who came to Portland with nothing and ended up being very rich. He chopped trees, built buildings, and eventually owned a lot of land and even some banks. Being so successful, he wanted to give something nice to the city.

One thing he noticed was that, except for saloons and bars, there was no where to go to get a drink of water. This bothered him because once a man was in a saloon, he tended to order a beer or two, and wasn’t much use for the afternoon. He had the bubblers installed in downtown and people have been enjoying them ever since. People still drink beer, though. Sorry, Mr. Benson.

Mr. Benson did a lot of other good things with his money. He said that no rich man should die without giving some of his money away, and he wanted to give it away when he was still around to enjoy seeing the results. He donated $100,000 for a high school, now called Benson High School, on the east side of Portland. He donated some property in the Columbia Gorge, called Wakeenah Falls, to the city as a park.

Portland has many people who have been successful and donated nice things to the city. I will tell you about them as I come across their stories.

Love,

Grandma Judy