Jazz on the Porch

Dear Liza,

It has been a long, long time since we heard live music. Before the pandemic, it was one of the great joys of living in Portland: somewhere close, almost every evening, folks were playing music.

Oh, yes!!

But before the summer outdoor music season even got started, the whole country shut down. Movies, concerts, even outdoor venues, were all closed for the duration. Poop.

While out picking up litter the other day, we saw this sign and confirmed what we had heard talked about: Jazz in the neighborhood!

Gordon Leem and company

Just a block from our house is a lovely front porch where a group gathers to play gentle jazz, for whatever people want to put in the tip jar. Lead by Gordon Leem, the ensemble includes a keyboard, stand up bass, trombone, drums, and some fine scat singing.


It was wonderful. “Blue Skies”, their opening number, celebrated the return to our clear skies after nine days of toxic smoke. Folks slowly wandered in, carrying camp chairs, wine, and snacks. The sidewalks and even Alder Street itself became seating, and no one seemed to mind. The sun started to go down and we all just reveled in being there.

Being out in the world, watching people with their kids and dogs, was as important as the music itself. It wasn’t perfect, of course. A group close by us were so happy to be out of the house they chatted a bit too loudly. But I realized that was part of it. We have missed the luxury of being irritated by strangers.

The tip jar got regular donations, and Gordon reminded us that a part of that money will go to the Red Cross, who is helping lots of people in Oregon who have lost everything. After an hour and a half, it was time to head home. We waved at neighbors ( hard to recognize after months inside and with everyone masked!) , packed our chairs and headed off to dinner.

It almost felt like normal life.

Love,

Grandma Judy

On the Cusp

Dear Liza,

It is still a week until Fall, but the weather is starting to change. The awful heat seemed to have passed, though I expect there will be one last Indian Summer heat wave before we kiss summer completely goodbye.

The summer flowers are still blooming…. wisteria, roses, and dahlias.

Summer fruits are reaching their peak… apples, tomatoes, and grapes.

And yet, we are getting rain, lots of rain, cooler temperatures, and it’s dark by seven o’clock. Fall is on its way.

Pumpkins are ripening in the Sunnyside School garden, reminding me that we need to use up the frozen pumpkin purée from LAST fall so we can go get more pumpkins!!

When I grew up in Southern California, all my relatives there lamented the lack of “seasons”. A friend from Oregon once said the bright blue skies of Salinas were “obscene” in January. I had no idea what she was talking about.

Now I do. The seasons changing are like breathing out after breathing in, or hearing the splash after you throw the rock into the pond.

They are what comes next.

And now I understand that.

Love,

Grandma Judy