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