245 Tubas

Dear Liza,

Yesterday we had a long, cold, sunny day downtown. Our first stop was Pioneer Square, sometimes called “Portland’s Living Room”. This is a beautifully paved and decorated open square that is used for big concerts, markets, and just hanging out in.

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Statue of a Cat lady and her … dog?
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Two of the 245 tuba players

Yesterday was the Tuba Christmas Concert, which features 245 people playing Christmas songs (and other lovely tunes) on tubas, baritone horns, and sousaphones. We got there early but all the seats were taken, so we stood way back and could hear, but not see, the performance. The deep peaceful music floated in the freezing cold air, and contrasted nicely with the giggling of children and chatting of families. Everyone was enjoying the day, but not silently.

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Tuba Christmas Hat!

I enjoyed watching the people in the crowd. Since it was cold, most folks were wearing hats. As the day went along, I tried to take pictures of some of the more interesting hats without scaring anyone.

 

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Minion hat

After the music, we walked around town, enjoying the window decorations. We stopped at Dick Blick’s Art Supplies and Powell’s City of Books, to see what would make nice presents for folks. Auntie Bridgett wanted to do some secret shopping, so we split up and agreed to meet at Kenny and Zuke’s Deli in an hour.

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Bright hat

 

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Auntie Bridgett hat

We enjoyed a veggie Reuben Sandwich, french fries and chicken soup and then headed home to do the grocery shopping. The bus home was full of people all bundled up and carrying packages, just like us! When that was done, we finally got into jammies and crashed. I fell asleep during The Charlie Brown Christmas, and will need to watch it again.

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Grandpa Nelson matching a stranger

Hanging out inside this morning, watching a 34 degree wind blow past our window. It’s weird, because with no leaves left to blow along the street, you just see bare branches swaying in the wind. Sometimes your hear the wind more than you see it…..spooky, but nice.

Love, Grandma Judy

 

Downtown Delights

Dear Liza,

On Sunday, Auntie Bridgett, Grandpa Nelson and I took the #20 bus downtown. We admired the architecture while hunting for a place to eat. The problem is, Portland is a very Sunday Brunch-oriented city. If there is a restaurant open, they are packed. We tried Cheryl’s on 12th: a mob. We looked at Tasty n Alder: packed. Finally, we went to our old stand by, Kenny and Zuke’s Deli, at 11th and Stark. They had only a 10 minute wait, and we enjoyed reading the newspapers and magazines they had out.

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Kenny and Zuke’s looking out
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Church and leaves

After a filling and delicious meal of roasted veggies, eggs and rye toast with lots of butter, we headed off. Since we weren’t in a hurry, we got to notice all sorts of things. The leaves keep changing and are beautiful at every turn.

Odd things, like a dog fountain guarded by a brass bulldog named Zelda wearing a top hat, standing in front of the Hilton Hotel, just cracked us up.

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Zelda the water fountain guardian

At Pioneer Square, we saw the 45 foot Christmas tree being put up. The lower branches had been removed to make it easier (something I had never seen) and some workmen were busy re-attaching the branches onto the tree while other men were running electric cables down the tree for when they light it up next week. Down below, a fellow was stringing lights on smaller trees to make everything cheerful.

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Christmas tree going up!

We kept walking and got to The Oregon Historical Society. A group of talented musicians and historians were putting on a show about The Art of the Protest Song, a history that runs from before I was born to today; people using music to tell other people how they feel about what’s going on in the world, and to let people know they aren’t alone in their concerns. We heard some Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Phil Ochs, and several original songs by the musicians. It was wonderful, and very well attended. There were 100 chairs up when we got there, and almost 100 more were added before the show started.

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Quilted logo of the show

After the show, Grandpa Nelson suggested we try walking home. We were surprised, but willing. It wasn’t very cold, and there was even some blue skies coming between the clouds. And there was always a bus close by if we got tired.

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Light on the River

 

 

 

We walked down to the river, then north along the Tom McCall Riverfront, to the Morrison Bridge. A curvy on ramp took us up to the bridge, and we walked across the Willamette River. It was beautiful. The trees, seen from above, spread out and drop their leaves onto the roadway. The sidewalk is separated from the big traffic by a bike lane and fence, so we felt safe. The sky had gotten grey so the river was, too.

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Trees seen from above

On the east side, we walked past warehouses and car repair places, up Morrison Street, through the Lone Fir Cemetery, and home for dinner. Auntie Bridgett’s Fitbit said we had walked almost 5 miles! Hooray for walking!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Downtown again

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Old newspaper building

Dear Liza,

Yesterday I went downtown to do some more research at the Oregon Historical Society Library. The ladies there were very helpful and I learned about the horse pulled and electric trolley car lines of 1880’s Portland.

Because the streets were so muddy before the days of storm drains and paving, street cars made getting around easier. They let the city grow and have room for more people. The lines ran north and south from downtown and east across the Willamette River, opening up East Portland for housing and businesses. I am glad they did, because that’s where we are living now. Except we take buses to get downtown.

There was rain this morning, but it cleared up and then didn’t rain again until afternoon. I enjoyed having some time to look around downtown. I like how the lovely old stone buildings and the shiny new ones seem to get along.

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Shiny new bank building

I also enjoyed a nice cool drink of water from one of the Benson Bubblers.There are 20 of these lovely drinking fountains in downtown Portland, and they run all day and all night, year round. There is no water shortage here in the rainy northwest like there is in California, so this isn’t a problem.

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Benson Bubbler

The bubblers were a gift to the city from Simon Benson, a man who came to Portland with nothing and ended up being very rich. He chopped trees, built buildings, and eventually owned a lot of land and even some banks. Being so successful, he wanted to give something nice to the city.

One thing he noticed was that, except for saloons and bars, there was no where to go to get a drink of water. This bothered him because once a man was in a saloon, he tended to order a beer or two, and wasn’t much use for the afternoon. He had the bubblers installed in downtown and people have been enjoying them ever since. People still drink beer, though. Sorry, Mr. Benson.

Mr. Benson did a lot of other good things with his money. He said that no rich man should die without giving some of his money away, and he wanted to give it away when he was still around to enjoy seeing the results. He donated $100,000 for a high school, now called Benson High School, on the east side of Portland. He donated some property in the Columbia Gorge, called Wakeenah Falls, to the city as a park.

Portland has many people who have been successful and donated nice things to the city. I will tell you about them as I come across their stories.

Love,

Grandma Judy

My First Day in Portland

Dear Liza,

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Salmon Springs Fountain

Today I got up really early and Grandpa Nelson drove me all the way to San Jose.     I caught my flight and landed in Portland, in a warm, sunny day. I got the Red line Max train and got off around 1st street and Washington, where the buildings were tall and beautiful and I could smell good restaurants making lunch.

I walked to a restaurant called the Rock Bottom Brewery and had southwest eggrolls…not really egg rolls, but tasty and filling. I sat at a table on the sidewalk, enjoying the sunny day and all the people and traffic going by. I listened to bits of conversation, watched workmen load and unload trucks, and just enjoyed being in a vibrant, busy city.

I knew I wanted to see the big Willamette River, so I walked downhill to the Tom McCall Riverfront Park. It is a wide walkway with trees, benches, grass, and a big, changing fountain, at Naito Parkway and Salmon, for everyone, kids, grown ups and dogs, to play in. One fellow was trying to get his big dog into the fountain to cool off, but the dog was having none of it. When the man finally carried the dog in, the poor wet dog looked so embarrassed! But I bet he was more comfortable. I chatted with John, an older gentleman from Adena,Texas. We swapped stories about the places we’d been and what we learned about them.

I continued wandering north, heading for the best bookstore in the world!

POWELL’S!! A whole city block, at Burnside and 10th, four floors high, and all books. New, used, kids books, atlases, french, German, Arabic, comic books….you name it, it’s here. There are so many you can’t even see every room in one visit. It is like a national park of books.  The coffee shop, with pastries, makes sure you have sustenance to continue. Sitting in the foyer resting up from my travels, I watched my species interact. A group of teenagers were having an existential crisis. Parents were bribing their kids to leave the bookstore (!!) by promising them ice cream.

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Shannon the Poet

Then  I heard the unmistakable sound of an old fashioned typewriter. Click clack, music to my ears. It turns out that Shannon, a young poet, was sitting on the sidewalk just outside Powell’s, writing poems on any topic you requested for whatever you felt like paying. She said she was incredibly grateful to be able to do this for a living. What a joy. She wrote me a poem, but it is sort of personal. I may share it with you sometime.

Having rested my feet and rejuvenated my spirit with books, snacks, and good conversation, I headed to the Lan Su Chinese garden at 2nd and Everett. It is just a city block, but the walls seem to hold the noise and heat of the city out and the peace and cool of the garden in. The tiny lake has koi and water lilies, and is viewed from pagodas, bridges, benches, and even a tea house. The pavings were mosaics of pebbles and intricate stonework.

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At Lan Su

I realized, coming back out into the city, that I was done in. Walking down 2nd street, checking the bus stop signs, I found the stop for the number 4 bus that would take me to Auntie Katie’s house.

And here I am and here I’ll stay until morning.

Love, Grandma Judy

 

 

Ready to Leave Salinas

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What I’m leaving Behind…

Dear Liza,

     Tomorrow I start my new life in Portland. Leaving Salinas for such a big city will be exciting and a little bit scary, I think.

     I will fly into PDX airport and take the Red Line Max train to downtown. This train is part of Trimet, the name for all the trains, busses, and streetcars in the city. There is an app I can load onto my phone that lets the phone be a ticket for all of Trimet. That will make getting around easier.

     By the time I get downtown, I will be hungry. I know there are lots of interesting places to have lunch there. I will walk until something looks (and smells) good. I will tell you all about it.

     After lunch I will walk around and look at the city. There are statues, fountains, tall buildings, and even little parks all over the place. There is also the Willamette, a big river that divides the city into two parts, west and east, and there are ten bridges that cross from side to side. Each bridge is different!

     After I have explored downtown, I will get on the number 4 bus and cross the Willamette on the Tilikum Crossing Bridge. It is the newest bridge and is only for busses, trains, bicycles, and walking…no cars! I can get off the bus and walk past Auntie Katie’s bookstore and then to her house. I know where the key is, so I can get in and cuddle with her cats, Wanda and Pietro, and have a nice quiet evening.

     I will tell you all about my day tomorrow!

Love,

Grandma Judy