More Out and About

Dear Liza,img_2655.jpeg

After we had seen the Chinatown Museum, Grandpa Nelson suggested we walk south and see what we could find out about Dr. Wo’s neighborhood on Alder and 3rd. We walked, looking around at the buildings. I took pictures as we went past old buildings so I could look them up later.

It turns out, there are quite a few buildings in this neighborhood that were standing in 1903. The Hamilton Building has beautiful clean lines and a modern look, but another (whose name I didn’t see) is very ornate and looks almost too pretty to be real.

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Too Pretty to be Real

The Bishop’s House from the Old Portland Cathedral is still standing, next door to where the Cathedral used to be. It was torn down and another cathedral rebuilt over on 19th Street, away from the danger of floods on the Willamette. But the Bishop’s House is still here.

We stood on the corner of SW 3rd and Alder, where Dr. Wo’s office stood in a small building. There is now a four story parking garage in its place. All the buildings at that intersection are modern and less interesting that I had hoped. I have to take a deep breath and chant “cities have to change or they die” a few times to come to peace with so much history coming down to make way for … cars.

Heading back to our car (yes, I know, I hate parking lots but I do sometimes use a car) we saw this old tiled entry in front of a deserted building. It means the building is probably from the 1890s, but there was no plaque to tell me.

It turns out Grandpa Nelson wanted some ice cream before we headed home, and there is a branch of Salt And Straw, a fabulous ice cream shop, in the Pine Street Market. It is called The Whiz Bang Bar and was delicious…chocolate shake for Grandpa Nelson, a vanilla custard swirl for me.

As we got into the car to head home, I noticed that we were parked behind the Kells Bar, which is famous for being “haunted”. But what I loved was the silly sign on the back, to make sure you didn’t forget where the bar was.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Portland’s Chinatown(s)

Dear Liza,

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The Hazeltine Building

In the story I am writing, there is a character who was also a real-life Chinese doctor here in Portland, Dr. C. Gee Wo. He advertised every day in the local newspaper, The Oregonian. He was very successful, also investing in other businesses and donating to charities here in Portland and all along the west coast.

In order to describe his neighborhood and office, I have been trying to learn what the Chinatown here in Portland was like in 1903. So you can imagine how happy I was when I learned that a brand new Chinese museum had opened up! Yesterday, Grandpa Nelson and I went to visit it.

But first, there was a doctor’s visit and then, lunch. We parked by a wonderful old building called The Hazeltine, which was built in 1893. Amazing stone work right out on the street!

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Pine Street Market

Across the street was the Pine Street Market, which is another old building that is now being shared by about five different restaurants. Checkerboard Pizza, Pollo Brava, Markum Ramen, and the Kim Jung Grill all vied for our attention.

We ate at “Bless Your Heart” Burgers, and they had wonderful burgers, fries for Grandpa Nelson, and Mexican Coke! I only have about two sodas a year, so I need to make them count.

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Cool Dragon Logo

Then we walked across Burnside, past Voodoo Donuts, and to the Portland Chinatown Museum. As I said, it is brand new. There are still pictures resting on the floor, waiting to be hung, and the model that shows how the museum is laid out is still sitting on a back table. But there are wonderful displays of Chinese stores and restaurants, and essays and photographs that show when Chinese folks came to America, what jobs they did, and where they lived.

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Mr. James Wong

I met James Wong, a retired teacher  who is on the Board of museum. He told me that he was born and raised two blocks from this museum in the 1950s. He explained that there were really TWO “Old Chinatowns” in Portland. The one from the time of my story, 1903, was south of Burnside, along 2nd and 3rd Streets. The later one, from about 1905 onward, is north of Burnside. That would explain why Dr. Wo’s office is so far south, on Alder.

We read, looked and walked all over the museum, bought a book called Sweet Cakes, Long Journey by Dr. Marie Rose Wong, and went off to see what else we could see.

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Model of the Chinatown Museum

I’ll tell you more about that tomorrow!

Love, Grandma Judy

Mr. Frank Dekum

Dear Liza,

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Mr. Dekum as he was

Yesterday Auntie Bridgett and I went for a long walk. We enjoyed the dogs and trees at Laurelhurst Park, and the pretty houses of the Laurelhurst neighborhood. We wandered for quite a ways before we decided to turn back towards home.

When we did, I realized that we were very close to The Lone Fir Cemetery and that it had been a long time since we visited the folks there. So we went in.

As you already know, I love the peace and perspective of this old cemetery. We saw familiar headstones; heroic pioneers and shady ladies, revered doctors and just plain folks. And, as so often happens, something new caught our eye. Mr. Frank Dekum.

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Auntie Bridgett with Mr. Dekum

We know the name, because a big stone and brick building built by and named for him is on the corner of 3rd and Washington and we pass it every time we go downtown. Mr. Dekum came to Portland in 1853 with his family and started a very successful fruit business. He was also a candy maker, so obviously, a lover of good things.

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His tallest namesake

When he had made his fortune in fruit and candy, he started investing in real estate development. He was involved in every building that went up on Washington Street between First and Third. He was on the Boards of banks and water companies, helping bring railroads and fresh drinking water to the city.

When the city was hit by a financial panic in 1893, property investments crashed and Mr. Dekum was badly impacted. He died the next year with only a fraction of his fortune intact. He is buried in our dear Lone Fir along with his eight children, so I can visit the whole family whenever I want.

Gone, as they say, but not forgotten.

Love,

Grandma Judy

 

Paris for a Bargain

Dear Liza,

One fun thing about Portland is that there are so many wonderful places to eat!

I have had spicy Ethiopian food, luscious vegetarian burgers, and some really indulgent Portland brunches. Last night, however, I had dinner at the best French restaurant outside of France. In my humble opinion, of course.

We took a Lyft car to Bistro Agnes at the corner of 12th and Alder, downtown.

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The Wine

Grandpa Nelson only ever orders French fries (or pommes frites, on the French menu) but he made up for it by ordering a very nice bottle of wine from the Rhône Valley. It was scrumptious.

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Grandpa Nelson talking wine

Auntie Bridgett was very excited about the restaurant’s dozen or so Absinthes and got some advice from Justin, our waiter. He said that the Jade 1901 was the most authentic old-time Absinthe, since it was copied from absinthe in bottles from that time. A lady came by to do the special presentation, with ice water dripped over a sugar cube and into the glass, and it all felt very fancy. Bridgett declared it smooth and sweet, totally delicious.

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Absinthe Presentation

We had escargot and mushrooms for an appetizer, served with wonderfully crunchy bread. We were glad we shared! There was so much!

While we were eating, we were treated to the greatest show on earth, the people of Portland out and about. Bistro Agnes has large windows that let us watch umbrellas, stylish coats and wooly hats go by in the drippy evening.

For dinner I ordered the Mussels Mareniere , which are mussels served in a buttery garlic sauce with MORE crusty bread. I would take a bit, have a sip of that delicious red wine, then go in for another. Yumm!

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MMMMMMMussels

Bridgett ordered a Winter Vegetable Pithiver, which was vegetables and cheese in a beautiful puff pastry. It was so gooey and tasty, she couldn’t stop eating it, even when she was full.

But even the good wine and great food weren’t what made Bistro Agnes the best French restaurant this side of the Atlantic. It was the people, and their attention to making us comfortable, informed, and relaxed. A lady at the door took our coats and umbrellas. Justin asked about food allergies and explained the dishes, including how long Bridgett’s puff pastry would take to cook. The absinthe and dessert presentation were delicious and beautiful.

We stayed two hours, incredibly long for an American dinner, but just about right for France. We never felt rushed or awkward, because every single person there was charming and welcoming.

We won’t be going to Bistro Agnes often, of course, since it is not an inexpensive dinner. But as a stand in for a trip to our home-away-from-home country, it is cheap at twice the price!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Just Thinking, Part 2

Dear Liza,

Once I was back home in Portland, I felt like I had a lot of catching up to do. I was here for good and wanted to get to know every inch of the city.

In June we went across the river to the place where the high class dead people end up, the Riverview Cemetery. Yes, one of our founding fathers’ was Henry Failing. But he made it look good.

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June: Visiting High Class Dead People

In July, Grandpa Nelson and I rode our bicycles eight miles around Portland in the Sunday Parkways event. Streets closed to traffic, signs to keep us from getting lost and wonderful sunshine made it a glorious day.

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July: Biking the City
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August: Back to Salinas

In August, I came back down to Salinas to visit you for your Daddy’s birthday. We had a nice dinner and I gave you a pretty head wreath from the Belmont Street Fair.

September brought Auntie Bridgett’s Birthday, with brunch at The Cricket Cafe, shopping downtown, and dinner at Kenny and Zuke’s. Here she is with the critters by the Pioneer Courthouse.

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September: Bridgett’s Birthday!
October: Thinking about Life and Death

 

 

In October we said goodbye to Barbara Kadden, celebrated Halloween, and did some thinking about life and death.

 

 

 

 

 

November saw me in San Diego to visit family, then back up in Portland to go on adventures with Jasper and Kestrel.

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November: Adventures!

 

 

 

 

 

 

December is just coming to a close, and I am still figuring out what comes next. But I’m not worried. With my lovely people to love, possibilities to ponder and trees to walk under, life is sweet.

December: Beauty of the Rain

Love,

Grandma Judy

Downtown Fun

Dear Liza,

The South Park Blocks with Mr. Lincoln’s Statue

My history story about Portland is coming along very well. I actually printed a copy out and had Grandpa Nelson read it! He reads so much that he is a good judge of when a story works, when it doesn’t, and what it needs to make it better.

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My story, under construction

He asks good questions, too, questions that I don’t know the answers to…yet.

As usual when I have questions I need answered, I headed downtown to the Oregon Historical Society. Auntie Bridgett came along, but went to the Portland Art Museum.

I spent a few hours reading books about the streetcars that used to run all over the city, and found some really interesting things to use in my story. Did you know there were streetcars that ran on steam engines until 1903? I didn’t!

First Congregational Church and other lights

At 5:00, the library closed and I went to fetch Auntie Bridgett at the Museum. They have so many beautiful things in their gift shop, it was hard to pull ourselves away. We bundled up and walked down the dark, Christmas-lit streets of Portland. The weather was clear and cold, and everything looked so pretty!

We got to Kenny and Zuke’s, our favorite deli, and Grandpa Nelson came downtown to meet us for dinner. When we were full of chicken soup, pastrami and French fries, we walked over to Powell’s bookstore.

Urban Christmas

The author of Lost Portland Oregon, Val C. Ballestrem, was giving a talk about his book. It is a history of a dozen or so important buildings that are no longer standing in Portland, and it is fascinating (of course we bought a copy!)

Some buildings, like the Temple Beth Israel Synagogue , were burned by an arsonist. Another, the Marquam Building and Opera, collapsed while being repaired. And still others, the ones that make me the saddest, were torn down in the interest of urban renewal….. to make room for a parking lot.

There were photographs of the buildings and the lots they stood on, which give a hint of how the city landscape has been molded and changed over the century and a half going from a cabin by the Willamette to urban metropolis.

It is interesting, sometimes sad, always amazing, and I am so glad I get to be here to learn about it!

Love,

Grandma Judy

City Crows

Dear Liza,

For such a big city, Portland has a large animal population.

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Bubbler Crow

We see this when the ‘dog parade’ heads from the neighborhoods to Laurelhurst Park for their evening walk. Cats greet us from sunny porches as we pass, and chickens talk amongst themselves when we go by Sunnyside School.

The squirrels, of course, have the best commutes ever, up trees and across power lines, chittering at everyone who will listen, but freezing on tree trunks to become invisible.

But by far the most vocal and numerous animals are the crows. Unlike their more reclusive cousins the ravens, crows thrive in close proximity with humans, and some even enjoy our company. And it’s not just people in general; studies show that crows remember certain humans, reacting positively to those who feed them and negatively to those they see as a threat.

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Queen of the Crows?

There is a lady who walks every day in Lone Fir Cemetery, bringing a large bag of dry cat food, just to feed the crows. She loves their attentions, and they love her, too! She is like the crow’s queen.

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Crow in the Artbar

The art in Portland reflects this affection (some might even say a fixation) with crows. This painting greeted us last week at The Artbar downtown.

And Laurelhurst hosts a fair few of the feathered fellows, as well.

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Laurelhurst Crow

I like having all these living critters in the neighborhood. Since I have fewer small people to talk with, crows and cats can be good conversation. Also, learning how critters get by and help the area (eating all that fallen fruit, for example) lets me see the neighborhood as an ecosystem rather than just a bunch of houses.

Love, Grandma Judy