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

Architecture, History, and Beer

Dear Liza,

Last week I took the good old number 14 downtown to the Oregon Historical Society. The weather was a cold but clear, and everything looked so pretty!

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NOT A.E. Doyle

As I get to know more about the architecture of Portland, I recognize certain styles of decoration. One of my favorite architects of Portland is A. E. Doyle. He designed the Central Library and the Bank of California building, as well as dozens of others, working in Portland from 1907 to his death in 1928.

Mr. Doyle used fired ceramic details to give his buildings a lovely artistic look, delicate against the dark stone or brick. It has stayed bright because of the glaze and reflects even the smallest bit of sunlight.

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A.E. Doyle

After admiring old and new buildings, I looked for more details for my story about 1903. How many synagogues were there? (Three). Was Jiggs Parrot’s father’s music store still open? (Sadly, no.) was there mail service between Brownsville and Portland? (Yes, and telegraph service…but no phone lines until 1908). The more I write my story, the more I need to know.

When I needed a snack, I went down to the lobby to eat. No sticky fingers in the library! The current exhibit on the first floor is called……. and is all about the history of brewing in Oregon.

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At OHS

This isn’t really surprising. Portland is famous for all our different beers, and we have learned that the McMinamen Brothers helped change liquor laws here so that small brewers could be in business.

The exhibit had all sorts of things… buckets for bringing “suds” (beer) home from the tavern, old Blitz Weinhard bottles, and a video explaining the devastating effects seventeen years of Prohibition had on the beer industry. It turns out, some brewers, like Henry Weinhard, were able to stay in business making root beer and other soft drinks (this was actually the beginning of the soft drink industry).img_1516.jpeg

There was a interactive display of the brewing process and recognition of Mr. Eckhardt, who taught the McMenamins all they know about beer. The displays were interesting and amusing, with the lights being large hop flowers.

The last exhibit was about the future of the brewing industry: Women! The Pink Boots Society works for education and inclusivity for women in the industry.img_1520-2.jpeg

When it was almost 2 and I couldn’t put off lunch any more, I headed for the bus stop and home.

I spent a few hours putting the new information into the story, and found more things that are needed.

This whole writing process may take a while…

Love,

Grandma Judy

Bridgett’s Birthday!

Dear Liza,

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Prezzies!

Monday was Auntie Bridgett’s birthday! The day started late, because Mouse the kitten actually let us sleep in. She usually starts dashing about like a maniac at 7:00, but this morning she was peacefully sitting on the bed until almost 8:30! Sweet kitty.

Our second lovely surprise was that it rained last night, our first measurable rain in 83 days! The clouds hung around for the rest of the day, spitting off and on. Very nice and Portland-Ish.

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The Open sign at the Cricket Cafe

Once we were all up and dressed, we walked to a place just a block away that we have been meaning to try, The Cricket Cafe. On weekends it is packed with brunchers, but Monday morning we had it all to ourselves. The biscuits and gravy were good and Auntie Bridgett loved her scrambled eggs, sausage, and fruit. The coffee was wonderfully rich and just the jolt we needed to get on with a big day. It is nice having so many delicious places so close by!

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Yummy!

We walked back home, where I made my first flan. Bridgett has been dealing with some sort of food allergy, so she is staying away from anything made with flour. Flan is just milk, cream, sugar and eggs! She also opened presents….earrings, sketchbooks, an IOU for our next trip to Europe from Grandpa Nelson, and an Annalee Birthday Mouse from Bridgett’s Grandma Bea. It is weirdly adorable.

Around 11 we caught the #15 downtown for shopping. As part of her present, Bridgett got some new clothes at the Gap. We had lunch at Kenny and Zuke’s delicatessen, which was very busy because today is Rosh Hashanna, the Jewish New Year. We ate, watched the passers by and recharged our batteries.

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Inside Dick Blick’s

A few blocks up the road we went into Dick Blick’s Art Supplies. New colored pencils for Bridgett, lots of fun looking at things for Grandpa Nelson and me. I really enjoy their wooden floor, which is made out of recycled basketball courts. Powell’s City of Books was next, where we had a fun time looking but didn’t buy anything except a shortbread cookie. Yummy, anyway.

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Cool skies!

Finally, under threatening skies, we headed back to catch the bus, got home, and rested our weary feet before starting dinner.

Dinner, as it turns out, was leftovers from yesterday’s potluck (baked beans with fruit salad) but the flan I made really turned out well. Creamy and not too sweet, I served it with berries and kiwis. And one candle, because Auntie Bridgett is ONE year older.

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Birthday Flan!

A walk through the park, a Scrabble game (not over yet) and a Facetime visit with  Bridgett’s sister Esther and the kids made the day complete!

Love,

Grandma Judy

 

Downtown with the Cousins

Dear Liza,

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The cupola

It is hot again here in Portland, so I made sure my Monday with Jasper and Kestrel included lots of air conditioning and water.

We took the number 4 bus downtown to the Pioneer Courthouse. This nifty building was built in 1875, and is still being used. It has a wonderfully old elevator that feels like a birdcage, and lovely steps, as well. We enjoyed both as we headed for the main attraction, the cupola!

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Cool old elevator

A cupola is a little tower with windows that sticks out the top of a building. The courthouse cupola was built because this was where customs officers could come and see what ships were in the port of Portland. In those days, this was the tallest building around, so you could see the river from here. Not anymore, I’m afraid.

But we enjoyed the old bubbly glass, the views, and knowing that we were in a special place. Looking down, we saw Pioneer Square, which is called Portland’s Living Room because of all the public events there. Once we climbed down from the cupola, we crossed the street and had snacks there while listening to bluegrass music.

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Pretty carpeted stairs

But it was getting hot. So we headed up to the Oregon Historical Society, which is air conditioned and free, since I am member. Their main exhibit was about Oregon State University (OSU, Go Beavers!) and many of the famous and influential people who graduated from there. There was information about Linus Pauling, The McMenamin brothers, people who invented whale tracking technology, the fellow who invented the computer mouse,  and much more. There was also a soft comfy couch for Grandmas.

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Tracking whales

Having filled our heads with history and science, we walked to Director’s Park, where there is a fountain designed for playing in. The kids got wet, splashed other kids, and generally had a good time. We ate a cobbled together picnic in the shade, played a big game of Connect Four until tempers started to fray,  and then we headed home.

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Kids and water

I had brought storybooks to read, and Kestrel had lots more. Jasper practiced Spanish on his Duolingo program. We made dinner, Auntie Katie came home, and Grandpa Nelson came to fetch me. I was one pooped Grandma Judy!

When it “cooled down” to 88 degrees at 9 o’clock, Auntie Bridgett and I went for a walk. The moon was almost full and the park was beautiful, but it was still too warm to be comfortable. Tomorrow will be a quiet inside day, I think.

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Moonshine

Love,

Grandma Judy

Sunday Parkways

Dear Liza,

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Grandpa Nelson and me on the Tilikum Crossing Bridge

Bicycles are very popular here in Portland. Not just to play with, but for people to get to work and school. The city makes this easier by designating some streets as greenways in the neighborhoods, where bikes are the main traffic and cars are discouraged.

But riding downtown or along busy streets like Division is still hard because there are just so many cars. So since 2007, the city and local businesses and hospitals have organized a fun way to enjoy riding in different parts of town. It is called Sunday Parkways.

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Just the place for third breakfast!

For the five warmest months of the year, one Sunday a month, in one section of the city, streets are closed to car traffic in a loop from 7 to 10 miles long. Grandpa Nelson and Auntie Bridgett got to ride in our Sunnyside/Belmont neighborhood in May. Grandpa Nelson and I rode through the industrial and downtown area this past Sunday.

We started with coffee and pastries at Trifecta on 6th street, because every good day starts with third breakfast. I got to chat with a delivery person for B Line, a company that delivers Trifecta’s baked goods to restaurants and stores by bike! He said he liked being “in the middle of the future.”

When we saw other cyclists passing by (dozens of them, right in the middle of street!) we knew it was time, and off we went. The path for us was marked with signs and helpful folks willing to provide shade, water, directions and advice.

We rode up to the Moda Center, an indoor sports arena, where a bike fair was happening. There were booths for registering your bike, music, food, and a huge event with the Portland Trailblazers basketball team. It was so crowded, we had to get off and walk our bikes through the people.

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Traffic downtown

When we were past that, we continued ACROSS THE STEEL BRIDGE. It couldn’t be closed to traffic, since it is so busy, but we got one lane to share for the bikes going in both directions. Downtown it was crowded again, with booths and so many people. Think of it like when you go for a Sunday drive and everyone else in town does, too.

But the joy of riding with thousands of other people on a warm sunny day is no small thing. Last year, over 74,000 people rode on some part of the Sunday Parkways. That is about half the population of all of Salinas!

In an unexpected historical moment, we passed the Simon Benson House. Mr. Benson was a lumberman from the 1800s and 1900s whose good works have lived after him. He donated money for Benson Polytechnic high school, the land where Multnomah Falls is, and the wonderful always-running water fountains called bubblers. One of them in right in front of his house!

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Simon Benson House

Coming home, we rode over the Tilikum Crossing Bridge. This is the newest bridge in the city and is just for trains, buses, pedestrians and bikes. NO CARS, ever. We stopped to enjoy the view and chatted with some folks riding with three generations of family, and took each other’s pictures.

Back on the east side of the river we rode on the Vera Katz Esplanade, created by a former mayor and named for her. There was a band on a barge playing music, more treats and happy people.

The last part of the ride (as it often is) is coming back up the hill to our house. You understand that rivers are always at the lowest part of the land, and that we are 33 streets up from that. It adds up to about 150 feet of elevation change, which feels like an awful lot at the end of an 8 mile ride!

Finally home, we drank lots of water and enjoyed the wonderful cool rest of knowing we had done something very special, and very Portland.

Love,

Grandma Judy