I have always known that I am happier when I am busy. Part of why I am sad during the shut down is that I have not been able to do research at the library or go for long walks around town.
After my friend Ruth cheered me up, I woke up this morning and decided to bake some cookies. I will to get them to Auntie Katie to share with her family and deliver to some of her Books with Pictures customers on her delivery route.
I like baking, and the good thing about baking fancy cookies like Florentines is, even when they are too ugly to give away, they are delicious! So, I cheered myself up by baking and eating cookies.
Then Auntie Bridgett and I celebrated Friday by getting take out dinner from Hoda’s Mediterranean Restaurant just a block away on Belmont. It was delicious, and enough food for lunch tomorrow, too. And we even got a short walk around the neighborhood to see the pretty dogwoods blooming.
I got an order of books delivered to my doorstep from Auntie Katie’s shop, Books with Pictures! In it was the latest by my favorite graphic novelist, Lucy Knisley. Lucy is a 35 year old artist, writer, and musician who lives in Chicago. She is talented, funny, and (sometimes painfully) honest. I am accumulating quite a collection!
“French Milk” is an autobiographical story of her trip to Paris with her parents when she graduated college. She loves that city of light, museums and food as much as I do, so I knew we had a lot in common. Her stories are amusing because people are funny, but not forcibly FUNNY.
The next book I fell in love with was “Relish”, about cooking and her love of food. Again, cooking, food…there is a theme here.
Last year I found “Kid Gloves”, about her difficulties getting pregnant and giving birth. It was so real and heartfelt that some of it actually hurt to read, but was at the same time so real and joyous that it was worth the pain (sort of like the birthing process itself).
And now, I have “Go to Sleep (I Miss You)”, about her first year with the new baby, whom she calls Pal. Again, her truth matches mine. I laughed out loud and cringed along with her discovery of needle-sharp nursing baby teeth and the self-losing love of new mothers for their babies.
Lucy makes the humanity of new motherhood real and sweet, while not minimizing the very real stinkyness or discomfort. I can’t recommend her books highly enough, especially to those folks interested in Paris, food, and new motherhood, respectively.
All this quiet time inside has reminded me how much I enjoy reading! And now that our weather is warming up a bit, the balcony can become my new den.
You know that Auntie Katie has a bookshop called Books with Pictures. She sells comic books, graphic novels, illustrated histories and biographies, and all sorts of wonderful stories. Her store is at 1401 SE Division Street here in Portland and has been doing very well.
But how can you sell books when people can’t come into your store because of the corona virus shutdown? It isn’t easy, surely, but Katie is finding all sorts of ways.
She has set up a Personal Shopping page on her website (BookswithPictures.com) so people can tell her who they are shopping for, what topics they like, and how much they want to spend. Katie knows her books so well, she can match any reader with something they will like.
She has set up subscriptions so that people can get their favorite newly-released comics every month, or Katie herself will choose books like the ones customers have enjoyed in the past.
She is doing curbside pick-up of these books, so that while you are out getting groceries, you can let her know you are on the way and she’ll have the books ready for you with proper social distancing protocols.
Katie is even doing deliveries! She is driving all over town in the evenings, dropping off books on people’s doorsteps like a literary Santa Claus.
I have always been proud of your Auntie Katie. She makes brave choices and works hard to make them work. She values her community and they, in turn, value her. If anyone can make this work, she can.
This past weekend, after Auntie Christy and Cousin Kyle left for home, we got a call from Grandpa Nelson’s Cousin Paul and his wife, Candace. They were in town to visit friends, and wanted to meet us for a Portland breakfast and see Auntie Katie’s bookshop, Books with Pictures.
We met them at Pine State Biscuits down on Division Street, just a few blocks from Auntie Katie’s place. I’ve eaten their biscuits before, with jam, and wanted to try their gravy, as well. They were delicious!
I was so busy eating that I forgot to take pictures.
Auntie Katie came by to eat with us and catch up on family news before heading off to open the shop at 10:00. We followed along, and spent a fun hour looking at books and visiting on the comfy couch in the shop.
When we had talked ourselves out, they headed off and we headed for home. What a lovely morning.
I have spent way too long looking at pictures from this year, and am using this letter to you to put things in perspective.
We started the year with snow.
Auntie Katie, the Cousins and I walked to Slappy Cakes to celebrate her birthday, getting all bundled up against the February cold.
Just about a week later, we were celebrating Katie’s purchase of the building that would be the new home of Books With Pictures, her bookshop.
The building would also be the family’s new home, and they started off with celebrations, knowing there would be lots of work to do.
Before the summer was over, the Cousins were moved in and making the place into a home.
Another change this year is in the health of my dear Aunt Bea. At Easter, we visited her in a hospital in Corvallis. She was recovering from a fall and feeling very… old.
But by the time we visited her in September, she had moved to Bend and had been reunited with her dear Kitty Cat, and was feeling all spunky and fun again. Momma always said, “Bea doesn’t leave a party…she takes the party with her.”
I will tell you more about the year tomorrow, as I continue getting ready for the New Year!
I have told you about Auntie Katie’s store, Books with Pictures, down on Division Street here in Portland. After thriving in a rented space at 12th and Division for three years, her new shop opened this past July 6th, after a huge building renovation and a community assisted, bike-centric moving day. It was a lot of work!
Katie was able to buy the 1927 building with the help of investors, and paid for the move and repairs with a Kickstarter campaign. As with all Kickstarters, she posted it on Facebook.
She offered different rewards for different levels of pledges, and raised more than she asked for! And yesterday, the pledge rewards arrived. The shop is full of them! Art prints, t-shirts, tote bags and other goodies are in boxes, waiting for Katie’s supporters. Many local fans will come by and pick the goodies up. Those destined for folks out of town will be mailed.
I am so proud of Auntie Katie. She has taken her wild dream of owning and running an inclusive, community supporting bookshop, and made it happen. When lack of money got in the way, she figured out how to get it. When too much work was the obstacle, she worked harder. She learned about plumbing, electricity, and woodworking. She hired skilled friends and worked with them.
And all this while raising Cousins Jasper and Kestrel to be kind, confident, and well-read kids.
Word has spread that Books with Pictures is THE place to go for comics, graphic novels, and illustrated books. When I am out and about in town and I mention Books with Pictures, people know it and love it. “Katie’s your daughter?” They say. “She’s wonderful!”
Before Auntie Katie can move into her new bookshop, in the wonderful 1927 building she has been refurbishing, she has to move OUT of her current shop. That means more than a hundred boxes of books that need to get packed, as well as all the shelves, fixtures, tables and chairs. This is a big job.
This morning I went over to help. I was not alone! Auntie Katie was there, as well as her helpful and skilled friends. Mel and Skye dismantled shelving, Leanne sorted the “floppies”, Sierra and I packed books, and Opus and his son Leo taped boxes to be ready to fill.
During the course of the day, we ran out of book boxes, so Skye went to the local U-Haul shop and bought them out! One hundred book boxes. “If you need more, we have to go to Clackamas, about ten miles away,” she said.
As we filled and labeled boxes with Manga, graphic novels, comics series, zines and LumberJanes, we began to build THE WALL, figuring it was the best kind of wall…one we could unpack and read if we wanted, and not keeping anyone out of anywhere.
Katie provided lunch for the crew, with cheeses and meats to go on those rolls I baked, and chips, drink, and Oatmeal Everything cookies.
As the day wore on and I worked my way backwards in the alphabet from X- Men to Archie, I realized that my 63 year old back was getting tired. “Once I finish this wall,” I told myself, “I’m gonna catch the 70 and head home.” But then, just as I sealed up The Avengers, in walked Grandpa Nelson! Hooray!!
I thanked all those wonderful people for their help in making my daughter’s dream happen and headed home to wash down some aspirin with a bunch of water and watch the Giants beat The Dodgers.
One way you can tell a really good Museum is when you can go several times in just a few months and keep seeing new things. Today I took cousins Jasper and Kestrel to OMSI, and I had so much fun! I picked the kids up at Books with Pictures and we hopped on the Orange Line train.
This huge locomotive was venting steam into the chilly air. The cloud was enormous! But what caught our eye was this fellow standing in the middle of the cloud of steam, apparently keeping an eye on things up there.
We got tickets for the regular Oregon Museum of Science and Industry and the King Tut exhibit, too. I had seen King Tut at the museum’s Halloween gala, but it’s always fun seeing things with kidlets…you see things through their eyes, and everything looks different.
For example, cousin Jasper was very taken with how Mr. Carter must have felt when he discovered the undisturbed tomb, and how exciting it is to discover new things. He was also pleased to actually see things that he had only read about.
I know I have told you before how much Jasper doesn’t like posing for pictures, so you will forgive me for having mostly Kestrel photos. Both kids were fascinated, listening to the commentary on the audio guides and staring at the artifacts. Kestrel was intrigued by the sarcophagus but hurried by the replica of King Tut’s actual mummy, but I can’t blame her. He’s been dead over 3,500 years and doesn’t look very well.
After we had looked, listened and read everything and were headed down for lunch, we saw a new thing which held our attention for another hour: The World of Animation. This well designed, hands on, kid friendly exhibit allows kids (and their lucky adults) to create stop motion animation, make sound effects for cartoons, and act in short movies of their own. It was wonderful!
By the time we were done, I was really ready for some lunch. I pried the kids away and we went downstairs to Theory, the museum’s cafe, for pizza on the terrace. It was chilly but not yet raining, and we had coats, so we enjoyed the fresh air. The terrace faces the Tilikum, Marquam, and Hawthorne Bridges as well as the beautiful Willamette, so we had a great view as we nibbled.
By then, it was two o’clock and we needed to leave by three, so I gave the kids one hour in the big Hall. There are so many hands on activities, I never want to leave. Kestrel launched a water rocket which flew straight up to the ceiling of the huge room and Jasper spent his time figuring out some Tangram style puzzles and playing with the orbit table.
On our way out of the museum, we stopped by a room where some amazing gingerbread creations were on display. A talented group of artists had made funny gingerbread art, using the King Tut exhibit as inspiration. Some had Minions, some had mice, and they were all beautiful, silly, and edible!
Finally, I had to pull the plug on the day so we could get home before we all melted down. We read comic books borrowed from Auntie Katie’s shop at the train stop and got back to Books with Pictures just as the rain started.
By the time I got myself home, it was raining for real and I was wet and cold, having forgotten my Indiana Jones hat at home. Oh well, hot tea and dinner put me right again.
I loved living in Salinas because I got to spend time with you, and, not surprisingly, one of the best parts about Portland is being able to see the Cousins as often as I want.
Last night I gathered chicken and Brussels Sprouts for dinner, Jasper’s costume, cookies to decorate AND the frosting, and walked down to Ladd’s Addition. The rain had stopped and I had a nice sun-in-my-eyes walk through wet neighborhoods and bright leaves.
I laid out the cookies and colored the frosting, then got dinner started. Things were well underway when Auntie Katie, Jasper and Kestrel got home from Books with Pictures and Abernethy Elementary School. Everyone picked a cookie and started in, being careful and artful in their work. Auntie Katie’s witch cookie cracked me up, and Kestrel’s appreciation of the phases of the moon was lovely to see.
Once we had eaten dinner and finished decorating (and eating!) the cookies, it was time to try on costumes. Jasper seemed very happy with his Stealth Ninja, and the costume wasn’t nearly as too-big as I had expected. He is growing so fast! He looked very fierce.
Kestrel’s costume for Halloween is a pirate, and she has it all together except the eye patch.
As the evening wound down, I texted Grandpa Nelson to come fetch me, and got home in time to watch a scary 1935 movie, Mad Love, starring Peter Lorre in his first American movie. He was so creepy!
Auntie Bridgett worked all day at the SideStreet Gallery today, so Grandpa Nelson and I went to the Portland Zoo, taking the number 15 bus and Red Line train. Of course, we have been to the zoo with Cousins Jasper and Kestrel, but going with just grown ups is a whole different experience. We were like our own island of calm in a sea of chatting, fussing, small people.
It was a perfectly Portland fall day, cool and cloudy but not raining. The animals were mostly up and about and, since I had no children to keep track of, I could really enjoy the critters.
On our way to the giraffes, which are Grandpa Nelson’s favorites, we stopped at the Columbus monkey enclosure. There was quite a crowd watching the new baby, sitting on a branch with his mom and learning to handle branches. His balance was precarious and every time the branch shifted, the crowd gasped. After a few minutes the father came over, and the baby became much less adventurous, seeming to keep Momma between himself and Big Dad.
The giraffes were delightful, walking elegantly around their enclosure, or leaning gracefully down for a drink. Grandpa Nelson says he likes them because they are quiet.
Having no children to keep track of, I got to watch everyone else’s. This was a zoo-going experience, too, watching this species of small human interact. I loved seeing the kids play with Jim Gion’s bronze sculpture group called Lunch Break, especially this little guy trying to be a cub.
It was also fun to see older siblings explain things to little brothers and sisters. “See this snake? See how you are red? He can tell you’re not a rock, so he can eat you!” And, on cue, the little brother squeals.
Something I had never seen was an elephant enjoying a swim in the big pool. A keeper was fielding questions and telling us all about elephants, while we watched this giant animal duck and squirt in the water like you do in your bathtub. I imagine it’s about has hard to get him out, too, when it is time!
We noticed that the zoo is already getting ready for Zoo Lights, a wonderful night event held in December where the zoo is open very late and all the trees are lit up, and animals made of neon tubes glow and move. It takes weeks to take the lights down after the holidays, more time to refurbish them, and then another few months to put them all back up. But it is a delightful, if chilly, outing that we will certainly do again this year.
By the afternoon we were worn out and got back home for snacks and naps, because we had a date for the evening, as well. Auntie Katie’s book store, Books with Pictures, was sponsoring a showing of the 1984 movie, “Supergirl”, at the Hollywood Theater. I had never seen it, since in 1984 I was up to my eyeballs raising your Daddy David and Auntie Katie.
It was exciting to see Katie in her element, sharing her love of comics with a theater full of people. The movie wasn’t fabulous, but it did feature three strong female characters: Supergirl, Lucy Lane (Lois’s younger sister) and the villain, Selena, played by Faye Dunaway in all her evil glory. We enjoyed the silly camp and headed home, totally worn out.
For being retired, I am certainly not bored! As my dad always said, “If you’re not having fun, it’s your own darn fault.”