This past weekend Portland hosted, among many other things, The Rose City Comic Con. This is a convention for people who love comic books and the characters who` live in them. I’m sure thousands of people went. We didn’t, because we are concerned about indoor crowds in this age of Covid.
Auntie Katie, who runs a comic book and graphic novel book shop, Books with Pictures, would usually have a big table at the Comic Con. But she is concerned about Covid, too. So she took her books outside!
She posted on Facebook and Instagram to let people know that she and her books would be at the Food Truck Pod on SE 28th, just across the street from The SideStreet Arts Gallery. She and one of her staff, Kitty, showed up with boxes of books and shelves to put them on.
In the midst of the Saturday evening crowds, they set up shop. And as the Rose City Comic Con shut down across town, the crowds came to the food court to see Katie and buy her books!
It was quite a thing to see. We stuck around for long enough to buy a book and watch the crowds form, and then headed to the grocery store and the home. What a day!
Our Fourth of July was very busy! It was a warm but not deadly-hot day, so we felt up to some solid walking.
We packed a small picnic lunch and headed south to Seawellcrest Park. This is the same park where we had Cousin Jasper’s fifth grade promotion celebration, but on the Fourth, it was practically deserted. A few folks played frisbee with their dogs, but mostly it was just us and the giant maple tree we were sitting under. We enjoyed a nice lunch of cold sausages and cheese and listened to birds and happy dogs. Very nice.
We walked around the Seawellcrest community garden and enjoyed seeing how other folks arrange their spaces. Ladders are good for trellises! I am learning a lot for next year.
We continued through the neighborhood, greeting folks out walking.
Once we got to Division Street, there was Auntie Bridgett’s favorite frozen treat shop: Eb and Bean Frozen Yogurt. These friendly folks make healthy and yummy flavors such as Triple Blueberry Chèvre and Caramel Praline… what’s not to like?
We enjoyed the goodies on a bench in the shade, watching people and traffic go by. A young fella set up a lemonade stand and Grandpa Nelson was his first customer! Other folks soon followed.
Auntie Bridgett suggested, since we were on Division Street, that we walk a little way further and go visit Auntie Katie. The day was getting warmer, but we had tummies full of ice cream and we were good at staying in the shade.
We visited with Katie’s assistant, Nick, and then took her off for a walk and a snack at Palio. I know it seems like we were eating a lot. Yes. Yes, we were. Yummy! We had a wonderful visit, sharing some rose wine and berry cake.
Katie needed more of a walk, she said, so she decided to walk us up the hill and home. The heat of the day had really kicked in and it was a bit of a slog the final mile, but we made it! The three of us had covered five and a half miles, and we were pretty pleased with ourselves. And tired. We all had ice water and a rest before Katie headed off on her way.
The rest of the day was quiet, with reading and, later, watching the humans beat the aliens in IndependenceDay.
Belated Happy Fourth! Happy to still have a country to celebrate in.
With me being totally vaccinated along with so many folks here in Portland, I felt safe enough Friday to do the long walk down to Auntie Katie’s BookswithPictures to take her new kitties some catnip toys.
I always love the walk to and through the Ladd’s Addition neighborhood. Gardens, trees, and lovely Craftsman style homes are so welcoming and friendly. And at this time of year, they really show the love.
On the way, I stopped by Palio coffee house to pick up lunch for Auntie Katie, because she works hard and doesn’t always get time out to eat. A sausage quiche, salad, and blueberry muffin should hold her until dinner. While we chatted, she told me that her new kitties, now named Maggie and Hopey, had gone missing. They were probably still in the apartment, but still, some worried faces here.
Since the shop was busy and Auntie Katie needed to take care of her customers, I dropped off the lunch, got a hug, and headed for home. Passing by Palio, I remembered how yummy Katie’s lunch looked and stopped and got one for myself. A Roast Beef Reuben sandwich with horseradish was so yummy! Along with chips and an almond Italian soda, I was filled to bursting.
I continued home and had a long quiet afternoon…. listening to music, working on art and thinking about history. A very pleasant time. But Friday evening is our night out. So at five o’clock, out we went!
We thought of Bread and Ink, an old favorite down on Hawthorne. Their website said they were open, but it turns out they meant ‘for take out only’. I totally understand that folks are not all vaccinated and don’t all feel safe, so we moved on. What WAS open?
Turns out, the Portland Ciderhouse is! Their food menu was short and sweet… fat pretzels for Grandpa Nelson, pulled pork sandwiches for Auntie Bridgett and me, and tater tots. The cider menu was more extensive, and we all found something we liked. Mine was a ‘Runcible Hoot’ which I got for the name. It was dry and wonderful. Once we were seated, we could remove our masks, and enjoyed being inside a restaurant. We looked at art, including a nice portrait of the late Anthony Bourdain, labeled ‘St. Anthony’, and watching other folks. We ate and drank and felt very blessed to be safe. Our walk home was sunlit and lovely.
And, once we got home, I heard from Katie. The kitties were found! Cousin Jasper spotted them in their new cuddle cave behind the clothes dryer. All is well!
Let me tell you about an afternoon with a dear friend.
I first met Misha Moon a few years ago, helping your Auntie Katie set up her bookshop, BookswithPictures. Auntie Katie liked her very much, and it turned out, Misha and I liked each other, too. We have shared stories and pictures and marveled at our own progress through life.
Last March, just before the Corona virus shut everything down, we talked all afternoon at The Rocking Frog, a wonderful place that has since closed up shop. It turned out to be the last ‘friend date’ either of us had for over a year.
And this week, Misha and I had coffee together again. This time we met on a very rainy afternoon under the street-side covered patio of Albina Press Coffee shop on Hawthorne.
I got caught up on her news, and she on mine. We listened, shared, celebrated and sympathized. But mostly, we got to be a part of each other’s lives for a few hours. We got to see each other smile and watch the other person’s eyes sparkle as they laughed. We got to be people together.
Our spring has been alternating between rain and sun, so when the weather is nice, we get out in it! Grandpa Nelson and I headed out in Friday, with not much idea of where to go.
All sorts of flowers are blooming! The tulips are starting to fade, but azaleas and irises are going berserk. The colors are eye-smashing.
We continued south west, sort of in the direction of Ladd’s Addition, where Auntie Katie’s book shop, “Books with Pictures” is. The rose gardens had a few early bloomers looking good, with dozens more in bud, just biding their time.
Palio, a delightfully tasty and pleasant bakery/coffee shop on the Ladd’s Circle Park, has set tables and chairs out on the sidewalk. We ordered some delicious lemon custard cake and texted Katie with an offer. “Yes, please!”
Auntie Katie just her second vaccine just the day before and is on her way to being able to run her shop more easily. The business is doing well, mostly because she works hard to make sure she gets books to her customers. She has been driving to deliver all over the city for more than a year now. Exhausting, yes, but that’s what it took.
After a lovely chat and snacks, Grandpa Nelson and I headed back home through the Richmond neighborhood. It is full of craftsman style houses from the turn of the 20th century and hundreds of majestic trees and flowers bushes.
After weeks of feeling isolated and in my own head, Wednesday was a day that felt very connected, very Portland.
First, Auntie Katie’s bookshop, Books With Pictures, was voted BEST COMIC BOOK SHOP IN PORTLAND by our local newspaper, the Willamette Weekly. Hooray!
I am sure that her hard work and dedication to customer service in having an online ordering service and door to door deliveries during the pandemic has endeared her to everyone. With so many businesses closing down, it is wonderful to see her thrive.
And in the evening, Grandpa Nelson and Auntie Bridgett walked with me to deliver first aid supplies to the Black Lives Matter protesters. A group of volunteers called Snackbloc collect bandages, gloves, and other useful items in different neighborhoods to be used downtown to support the protesters against the Federal troops.
It pains me so much to see our government beating peaceful protesters. There has been some vandalism, but these troops are not dispersing crowds or stopping it; they are attacking unarmed people, shoving them down and gassing lines of singing women.
It is as though they have come to punish these people for standing against the beatings… by beating them, like an abusive father ranting, “Stop crying or I’ll really give you something to cry about.” This is not how I want my country to be.
But I am a coward. I fear beatings, teargas, arrest and undocumented detention by unknown troops. So I help in a small way so others who are braver can help in larger ways.
On Friday we got to visit Cousin Kestrel, Cousin Jasper and Auntie Katie and give Kestrel some birthday presents.
Grandpa Nelson and I decided to make a day of it, so we walked the two plus miles down to Books with Pictures. We stopped at Palio to get some pastries and met the family across the street from their shop and house.
We enjoyed the croissants and little apple pies, had a nice visit and got to say hi to our friend Misha Moon when she came by on her way to My Vinyl Underground, the record store in Auntie Katie’s basement.
After a while Grandpa Nelson suggested we play some games. This started with a race, which Auntie Katie won. Then Kestrel taught us a game called Gargoyle. In this game, the person who is the Gargoyle sits with their eyes covered (today, we used our face masks!) and guards an object. The other players try to sneak up on the Gargoyle and steal the object.
The Gargoyle needed to be able to hear the other players’ footsteps and call them out, and because of the street noise on Division Street, this was really hard! But it was fun to be sneaking and having to stifle our giggles. Jasper won that one.
After some other games and chalk art, we headed over for some ice cream from Zeds, the ice cream truck parked in the parking lot of Books with Pictures.
It was moving past lunchtime when we headed for home. Pastries and stolen ice cream licks just aren’t real food, so we stopped at McMenamin ‘s Barley Mill up on Hawthorne. On their very thinly populated open porch, we had cider, a wonderful oatmeal stout, and a veggie burger. Their fries were a letdown, but everything else was delicious.
By this time we were over-sunned, over-fed and over-walked, and we were still a mile from home. We found the shady side of the street and just kept at it, covering almost six miles by the time we crashed.
You might not remember when Auntie Katie opened her bookshop, called Books with Pictures, in 2016. You were only three years old. I remember, because it was one of the busiest and proudest weekends of my life.
Grandpa Nelson, Auntie Bridgett and I flew up from Salinas to help. The weather was hot, and the work was hard! Setting up food for the opening, shopping for wine and such, then visiting with the hundred or so wonderful folks who came to see the new shop and buy books.
We crashed at our hotel, then got up and flew to Colorado to be with Auntie Bridgett’s brother Matt’s wedding. The flight, the drive, and the altitude sure took its toll. We slept like rocks. The wedding was pretty and all, but I was reminded that I’m much more of a beach girl. Rocky places with thin air do not appeal to me much.
I realized that weekend how much work it takes to get a new business off the ground. And now, four years later, I realize that the work doesn’t stop. All the arrangements to open a business, then finding an almost-comfortable plateau, then moving to a new building with bigger obligations, then opening a branch bookshop in Eugene, and now, figuring out how to stay afloat during a quarantine, have been a huge challenge. And Katie has done it while raising two absolutely awesome kids.
I am incredibly proud of Auntie Katie for her professionalism, her caring for her clientele, and her focus on getting things done.
This past Sunday was Grandpa Nelson’s birthday, and we celebrated it inside. He is still weak from the bit of sort of Covid he’s had, which has been mostly fevers and fatigue, so it was a slow day.
But even a slow birthday needs some celebration. Auntie Bridgett had made him a beautiful painting of our beloved Laurelhurst Park, so he can visit even when he isn’t feeling well. It isn’t quite done yet, she says. It needs three people (us!) walking along the path. She also made one of her delightful, hand painted cards. Handy Hand was so pleased!
I made a new type of ginger cookies, and they turned out very well. Grandpa had some after breakfast and some more after dinner, because a nutritionally balanced birthday is important.
We ordered ice cream online from Fifty Licks, a local ice cream chain, and Auntie Bridgett went to fetch it. We got two pints for us to share and a chocolate milk shake for the birthday boy.
Auntie Katie and the cousins came by, after she had closed the bookshop, and stood just below our balcony. They banged cowbells and held up a great “Happy Birthday Grandpa Nelson” sign the the kids had painted. I wish I had taken a picture of their smiling, masked faces looking up, but I was too busy laughing and crying at the same time. It was wonderful, raucous, and celebratory.
I lowered some of the cookies and one of the pints of ice cream down in a basket-and-yarn rig that was half Rapunzel and half Swiss Family Robinson, and got the job done with just the right amount of whimsy.
We were chatting, and just then your Daddy David called us for a ZOOM video chat with the whole family! After a few minutes’ adjustment, and Auntie Katie and family dashing back to their own house, we had the three of us, both our kids and all their kids, looking at each other. It was so nice.
Auntie Katie and the cousins ate their ice cream and cookies, and you all had your dessert there in Salinas. We talked about what art and video games we had been doing and how tall the kids were. Everyone was even able to toast Grandpa Nelson with a glass of whatever they were having. The call went on for two happy, silly, hours.
By then, Grandpa Nelson was pooped. Everyone logged off and we three sat quietly for a while, listening to our nervous systems as they quieted down. I showed Grandpa Nelson the slide show I had made of photographs of him from when we has a little boy to now, and it was a nice walk down memory lane.
When we finally had to let go of the day, we ambled upstairs and drifted off to a happy, exhausted sleep. I am so glad you all got to celebrate with us.
I’m sure, after we are all free from the threat of Corona virus and free to wander about as we please, this part of our story will be a short, odd, chapter. But for now, it is where we are, every day.
Last night, Auntie Bridgett’s art gallery, SideStreet Arts, had their first ZOOM First Friday. Folks logged on at their houses with their own snacks and drinks, and we got to talk with artists Amy Rudinger and Michelle Sabatier about their art. Amy is a talented metalworker and Michelle is a gallery member and wonderful encaustic artist. That means she makes pictures by melting wax onto a surface.
Auntie Bridgett and I set up at the dining table, with wine, crackers, nifty goat cheese, sausages, and a bottle of Cotes du Rhone wine. Grandpa Nelson is still feeling tired from the fevers he’s been having, so he escaped upstairs.
It was fun to see familiar faces, and in their own homes! We saw one lady’s family heirloom sofa, another’s bookcase, and our dear Alicia Justice sewing away on one of her delicate, personable dolls.
We learned about how Amy goes to Mexico every year to gather the special coppers they mine there, and how she has learned from the artisans there. She says that her copper vessels and their wonderful patinas are ‘part chemistry and part magic,’ and I believe it. They are lovely.
During the event, a lot of folks logged on, listened for a while, and chatted. Even my friend Ruth Inman joined us from Illinois. I became aware, slowly, that pieces were being sold. Ruth noticed it, too, and said, “How do I log-on to buy before something ELSE I love goes away?” I’m not sure if she did make a purchase, but a lot of folks did! It was a very big sales night.
Actually, this shut down hasn’t been as bad for business as we all expected. Businesses that have figured out how to stay in front of their customers online and continue selling, like Auntie Katie’s Books with Pictures and SideStreet Arts, are having really good months. It is harder work, to be sure, with mailing and delivering, but if the alternative is going out of business, it’s worth it!
Hoping we can look back on this time knowing we did our best.