Between the political unrest and the pandemic, people are feeling very stressed these days. The big signs of this are protests and violence, which can overwhelm the small goodnesses that are happening in corners of neighborhoods.
When I go out walking, I look for these small signs and take comfort in my fellow humans’ capacity for kindness, cleverness, and joy.
And yet, amid the apples and sweetness, we need to remember that the fight for fairness isn’t over yet.
We need to keep those who have been killed and brutalized in our mind as we make decisions about who will run our cities and our country.
We had some errands to do yesterday, so Auntie Bridgett and I went for a nice long walk. And since all the places we needed to go were down on Hawthorne, we saw how that street is changing during the lockdown.
We saw that Chez Machin, a lovely French bistro type place, has changed its name to Frog and Snail. I am hoping it is just a name change and the owners are the same. They are nice folks, and too many people are losing their livelihoods because of the shutdown. We will have a taste of their frogs and snails when the city opens up more.
We still found a lot of businesses closed, but the art and messaging is beautiful and hopeful. I took pictures as a way of holding tight onto goodness and love.
I have been so dismayed these last few days at the level of anger and violence that has swept over Portland and the rest of the country that I sometimes just want to curl up and sleep until all the hatred has passed.
But love, beauty and just plain human goodness are making themselves heard, too. And that gives me comfort.
After dropping off dry cleaning and mailing packages, we stopped at Hawthorne Liquor. Auntie Bridgett is on a mission to find a certain kind of yummy cognac that we had on an Air France flight, years ago. We have yet to find it anywhere in the city. But I did have time to wonder at this improbable bottle of pear brandy!
On the way home we stopped at Whole Bowl for lunch, which we ate while sitting on the chairs outside the temporarily closed Common Grounds coffee shop. We stopped at Chase bank to return someone’s lost credit card, and enjoyed some more street art.
By the time we got home, we had walked nearly three miles! I felt pretty accomplished, after these long months of too much sofa-sitting. Maybe we can put ourselves out of this hole, after all.
Yep, it’s still winter here… dark, grey, and drippy. Last night we needed to get out of the house, but it was too nasty to walk very far. Our first choice, the Suzette Creperie, was closed, so we stopped by a tiny place we have walked past a thousand times, called Rendezvous Vous. Since it was early, we were the first customers in.
There was interesting lighting and an appealing informality about the place… tables of different heights and styles, a few velvet sofas and chairs. A tall bookcase made of old doors held books and games, Star Wars Monopoly among them.
We were waved at by Norah, who seemed to be running the place by herself. She got us water, and got us some wine. I had a Bordeaux and Grandpa Nelson got a Chilean Pinot Noir. Both were tasty… really different from each other, but tasty. The Bordeaux had the dark balance of most Bordeaux wines, and the Pinot was sharp, like cider.
We enjoyed the music… Frank Sinatra, Pink Martini, and cool jazzy covers of old rock and roll songs. After a while an older fellow came in and sat at the bar, reading his newspaper and chatting with Norah. We got the feeling he was a regular.
We ordered our dinner. Mati, something totally new, for me, and tuna poke for Auntie Bridgett. Turns out, Mati is a dish of small beef dumplings in a garlicky, tomatoey, yogurt sauce, and absolutely delicious!
I ate and enjoyed the combination of wine, spice, music, and soft lighting, and being in a new place.
When we got home, I had to brush my teeth three times before I could get a kiss goodnight! The garlic sauce, tasty as it was, had real staying power. I will remember to tread more lightly next time (burp.)
For the past year or so, we have been watching a new building go up on Belmont Street. In a small vacant lot between two buildings from the 1890s, fences went up, foundations were poured, and walls were built. Sometimes weeks would go by with no change, then a whole flurry of trucks would come go, and, presto, the lights were on, or the flooring was in.
The people in the neighborhood had mixed feelings about this. Some were happy to see the ugly lot go away. Older residents mourned the business that had been there 20 years ago and bemoaned the modernization of our lovely neighborhood. I was just interested in what would come next.
Turns out, it is a Pub, and it opened this week. We went over for dinner last night to give it a try. The going home traffic along Belmont made the dark, rainy street very loud and splashy. It was nice to step into the bright new place.
The cement floors, red walls and shiny wooden tables made the pub very bright and welcoming. Drew, the fellow behind the counter, took our orders for beer and cider and we had a seat. My Chocolate stout was really rich and comforting and the ciders, from Excelsior, were sharp and refreshing.
Grandpa Nelson had fries, of course. They are the thick cut kind, which the Brits call “chips”, and very good. Auntie Bridgett had a bean and cheese burrito, which was tasty and a generous size. I had a chicken pot pie, which seemed small for the twelve dollar price and was very bland. The menu has a wide variety of choices and we will come back, hunting for our favorites.
The owner of this new place, Valerie, stopped by to say hello, and we wished her luck with her Pub.
Along the back wall are games for kids, and a large chalkboard, which Bridgett could not resist.
We enjoyed the space, which was friendly and welcoming, and a few other people did, too. I hope The Belmont Pub finds its feet and has good business through the holiday season.
As I have said before, cities, and even small neighborhoods, are always changing. The other day we got to watch it happen and talk to the folks behind it!
On the corner of Belmont Street and 34th, just a block from our house, is a small family-run store called the Belmont Market. It has been there for many, many years, changing hands but basically staying the same.
The painted front of the store was old and sort of, well, sloppy. It took a while looking at it to realize it was, indeed, a market. I am sorry to say that it was so unspectacular that I never even took a picture of it!
Tuesday afternoon we saw that the old front had been painted over, and a promising new front had begun.
Wednesday, as we were walking to lunch, we noticed some lovely people up on ladders, lettering and continuing the new work.
I stopped by to tell them what a great job they were doing, and got to visit with Janet, the designer and head painter. She told me that they were working with the Portland Street Art Alliance, the same group who has painted so many of the other murals we love.
In addition to rainbows and sunshine and fine lettering, they will paint a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer and a bottle of Underwood wine on the sign, as advertisements. For this, the Pabst and Underwood companies have paid them enough to pay for the paint. The design and painting was done as volunteer work, for the good of the neighborhood.
This coming together of volunteer and paid work, private and public cooperation, and art and commerce just makes me happy. I love my new city!
I love walking around Portland, and especially our Belmont neighborhood, looking for signs of the past. They are like layers in a painting or the growth rings of a tree, showing you what has come before.
One example of these signs are, literally, signs. Many of the tiled doorways that businesses laid down in the 1890s are still looking good, even when the original business has long gone.
The Pantorium, for example, was a dry goods store on Belmont in 1894. Since then the building has been more shops than I can count, including “It’s a Beautiful Pizza”, “Hall of Records” and currently, “Suzette”, home of sweet and savory crepes and delicious cocktails. But the tiled entryway still reminds us of what has come before in an elegant, useful way.
Other doorways graced by tiles show the permanence of cities. The Laurelview Apartments have been right here, renting space within sight of our beloved Laurelhurst Park since the turn of the century. Back then the park was fairly new, and the trees were just coming into their own.
Another way the tiled entrances show us the history of the city is by the addresses. As Portland grew, it incorporated smaller surrounding cities, which then became neighborhoods. St. John’s, East Portland, Albina, and others had their own street systems and addresses, which were carried over to their new status as as part of Portland, causing duplicate streets and addresses. This confusion was solved in The Great Renaming of the 1930s, which introduced an organized grid system. Numbered streets told you how far east or west of the Willamette you were, and north and south told you where you were in relation to Burnside Avenue. It was a few years’ work, but sure makes getting around town easier now!
The address of this shop used to be 1114 Hawthorne. After the renumbering, it became 3741 SE Hawthorne, which places it 37 blocks east of the Willamette, and south of Burnside Street. I am happy that all the owners in between have chosen to keep the old tiled entryway.