Spring in Portland is an exciting time. You don’t know, hour to hour, if you will have sun or rain. Trees that have been bare all winter get dusted with petals before their lacy green petticoats come out.
The ground smells alive as the rain and mosses work together to create life.
Each Rhododendron bloom looks like a perfect bouquet.
Wild roses and strawberries burst with buds and fruit, bright red against the dark shady soil.
The state flower, Oregon Grape, which isn’t a grape, can be found putting on its tiny sour fruits.
I remember walking around this very neighborhood, just about a year ago, apartment hunting. I saw a yard with its just- out -of -the -flat zinnias and thought how optimistic the gardener was, planting heat loving zinnias in what I thought was the perpetual damp of the northwest. But last summer’s heat set me straight, and I walked by the zinnias everyday, being reminded of how much I still have to learn about my new home.
Being in our old neighborhood, I got to visit the flamingos! They are all decked out for Pride Day next weekend, lead in their own parade by their friend duck playing a kazoo. I smiled to see that our gnome is still lurking in the bushes, chuckling as people spot him.
Yesterday Grandpa Nelson and I helped Auntie Bridgett and our friend Jack Kent set up an art show at Motivasi Coffee, up on NE 42nd and Prescott.They have good coffee and very tasty muffins. Amanda, the lady who was working there, was friendly and helpful.
Jack draws a funny comic strip called “Gulls”, about a nutty group of seagulls, but he also does sketches of people he sees on the street, called “Sketchy People”. His Sketchy People and Auntie Bridgett’s Coffee Fairy collages are the main part of this show.
It took a while to figure out whose work was going where, and whether Jack’s and Bridgett’s work should be mixed together or hung separately, but once they figured that out, the work went pretty quickly. I held hammers and helped Auntie Bridgett, and Grandpa Nelson helped Jack. It was fun being the Minions and seeing the show come together.
Finally, it all looked like they wanted it to, and we packed up the bubble wrap and empty boxes. The show is up now and will stay up until late February. Jack and Bridgett will have a reception to meet people there on January 13, but I will be down with you by then.
We got home and had a walk around the neighborhood. Passing by the flamingo house, we saw Katherine, the lady who owns the flamingos, out tending her yard.
Today, the flamingos are set up to be ready for the Women’s March on January 21st. The are wearing colorful capes and tiny pink hats. They are, as usual, adorable.
There are so many beautiful, huge, really old trees in our neighborhood. Today, there is one less.
Down the block, between us and Babydoll Pizza, a giant mimosa tree has stood for, I would guess, 50 years, probably planted when the house we are living in was new.
Yesterday we saw the cherry picker drive up, along with a trailer, grinder, and compost truck. I didn’t get a chance to talk to the fellows doing the work…they were busy doing loud, hazardous work, and it was really cold. So I took photos from our window and thought about change.
I loved the trees because they were majestic and spoke of history and caring for one’s urban environment. They were part of this city that is so completely different from whence I came. I longed for change, and found it here. I found a new status quo.
And now they are gone, and that new status quo is different. I am still figuring out how I feel about that.
One change we love and count on is the flamingo drama down the street. They have now been celebrating New Year’s Eve for several days and looks like they had a marvelous time!
By lunch time on the 21st, it was almost up to 35 degrees…so Auntie Bridgett and I went for a walk.
She wanted to put some posters up for an art show she is putting on at Motivasi Coffee Shop in Northeast Portland, with her friend Jack Kent, and I was happy to help.
We also looked at things in the neighborhood, like a statue we have started calling The Soft Serve Fairy, because the big sea shell she is holding up looks like an ice cream cone from Dairy Queen.
And on our way back from Laurelhurst Park, we saw the new, improved flamingo Nativity! It is cuter, bigger, and just in time for the solstice.
Also, this evening we are all going downtown to see A Twisted Dickens, a Christmas show at the Armory, and going out for dinner at Henry Weinhard’s Restaurant. This is to celebrate Grandpa Nelson and I getting married 43 years ago today!!!
Today I walked over to Sunnyside Environmental School for a visit with their wonderful librarian, Gillian Grimm. Gillian had kindly agreed to share what she knows about the history of Sunnyside School and the neighborhood.
It is cold and grey out today, but my walk was improved by the latest installation at the Flamingo house: A Nativity scene! The already cheerful pink flamingos were dressed in red. It was adorable.
At Sunnyside, I learned a lot about the school. Although the current building was built in 1925, there has been a school at the corner of Taylor and 34th since at least 1904, and most likely, much earlier. There are photos of students and their teachers posed on the front steps of the old school in 1904, but newspaper real estate advertisements from the 1890s that offer houses in the Sunnyside neighborhood with the inducement “close to good school”.
Gillian also shared with me some trophies that have been awarded to the school over the years. The oldest was from 1908, a tarnished but lovely trophy to Sunnyside School for their entry into the Rose Festival Children’s Parade.
But back to the present: Gillian Grimm became librarian of Sunnyside in 2013. Before that, the position had been filled for ten years with library assistants and clerks, who checked out and maintained the books, but didn’t order new materials, cull old ones, or do any teaching. Gillian had plenty of work to bring the library up to speed and into the new century.
Gillian runs the library as a welcoming space, decorated by students and featuring squishy chairs for sitting and Winnie, an English Springer Spaniel who welcomes one and all. The students come in before school to check out books for silent reading as well as having regular visits with their classes.
Everything I saw at Sunnyside shows a school where the students are engaged, the teachers and staff excited about what they do, and the parents supportive. I almost wish I was 12 again so I could attend!
Happy Thanksgiving! I wanted to share some new things in the neighborhood with you today.
First, the Flamingos are back, but I have to wonder about them. It seems that for their Thanksgiving feast, they have roasted…a Flamingo? I hope when the holiday is over the one laying down gets up, brushes his feathers, and they all go out for brine shrimp. But you never know, with plastic lawn flamingos.
Laurelhurst Park keeps changing. I went out in the rain and parts of the park that used to be quiet are now really loud, because the leaves are off the trees, where they provided shelter, and on the ground, where they act like little drums and echo the rain.
The views are changing, too. You can now see from the top of the hill all the way down to the lake, because the leaves that blocked the view are gone. Dark has become light, green has become orange. I knew there would be changes in seasons, but I am still surprised.
The only people in the park today were a couple walking their dog and a tai chi class, who were all bundled up but undaunted in their energy and focus.
I am glad to have a nice warm house to come back to after a long cold walk.
Our fall weather is taking a break this week, reminding us how lovely summer was. Temperatures in the 70s and bright sunshine are warming the pumpkins and fallen leaves.
Yesterday was too pretty to stay inside, so I went walkabout. First I visited the Lone Fir Cemetery, hunting for the grave of my latest subject of interest, Frederick van Voorhees Holman. Since his parents had been pioneers, I looked in the oldest part of the cemetery, and there they were, the whole Holman clan. So now I have solid dates and family members. Check.
Then I took the #15 just across the Hawthorne Bridge. I wanted to walk along the Willamette River’s West Bank, called South Waterfront. Just south of the Hawthorne Bridge is a green swath of lawn, full of seagulls, geese, and people eating their lunch on the steps. The view across the river was of the very ugly Marquam Bridge and equally lovely Tilikum Crossing Bridge. Beyond both of them in the far distance, was Mt. Hood, shining white against the blue sky.
Past the Park was a long planted promenade and small boat harbor. It reminded me of all the lovely harbors along the coast of California, but tiny…maybe 50 boats in all, waiting at their docks for someone to come play. Serving this area are a dozen or so very posh shops. A restaurant called Three Degrees, a few bars and restaurants with outside seating, art galleries and even an Umpqua Ice Cream shop.
Further along was Poet’s Beach, an actual sandy beach you can walk down to and put your feet in the water, if you want to. Along the path were poems of young children carved into rocks. It was lovely. Standing directly under the double-decker freeway that is the Marquam Bridge, I remembered the evening that Auntie Bridgett and I drove over that bridge into Portland. We were strangers here then, lost in a new place. Now I feel so at home I give directions to lost tourists.
Just under the Marquam Bridge I ran into construction, with fences, noise and people in hard hats, and decided I had walked enough. Crossing Third Street to get to my bus stop, I passed Lownsdale Square and the memorial erected to honor the soldiers of the Second Oregon Regiment, a group of men from Oregon who fought in the Philippines during the Spanish American War. Just across that street is the historic Multnomah County Courthouse, a lovely old building that has been overgrown by the newer buildings around it.
I got home on the #15, walked through Lone Fir again, and had a rest and dinner. Since it was so warm and pleasant, we all walked out again. The flamingos are back! They were gone after the Cubs lost the pennant, probably feeling very sad. But they are dressed up for Halloween and seem to be all better. Welcome back, Flamingos!
I am sure you have been figuring out what your costume should be for Halloween. We are, too. Maybe we should be minions, Lucy and Gru? Or our very own Superheros? But while we are figuring that out, remembering some of our costumes in years past cracks me up, too!
Many of the houses in Portland have wonderfully large porches, which turn into stages for decorating! There are spider webs with bits of leftovers, ghouls and witches, all hanging around in relative safety from whatever rains come our way.
So, while we are out getting to know more streets and houses, looking for the perfect one to buy (once things get settled) we are noticing all the decorations.
But I also have some sad news. Remember the flock of flamingos who are always up to something? They watched the solar eclipse with special flamingo sized glasses and helped the Cassinni space probe crash into Saturn. As it turns out, they are also big into baseball, are fans of the come-back Chicago Cubs, and someone doesn’t like it. One evening the flock was out celebrating the Cubs’ victory, and the next evening, two flamingos were gone. Who would do such a terrible thing? Rabid National fans? Or are they just out for the fabulous flamingo fortune?
What a lovely, weird day this has been. I took another tour of the Lone Fir Cemetery. I know it seems weird to be spending so much time with dead people, but the history of a city can be seen in its old cemeteries. At Lone Fir are buried some of Portland’s heroes, its spiritual guides, and its villains.
Today I learned about Asa Lovejoy, one of the true pioneers of Portland. He and a friend, Francis Pettygrove, were on a canoe trip in 1843 when they stopped for lunch at a clearing on the Willamette River. They liked the spot and decided to stake a land claim and try to start a city here. This claim, after many people and a lot of work, became Portland. But Asa Lovejoy started it. I also learned about Daniel Lownsdale and Fenice Carruther, but I will tell you about them later.
We also learned about Sarah Wisdom. She was a runaway slave from the south and came to Oregon, even though African Americans weren’t very welcome here at the time. She and her first husband, Andrew Johnson, ran a boarding house and other businesses. When he died, she re-married and her second husband, Mr. Wisdom, helped her in her work. She changed the name of her boarding house to “The House of Wisdom”, and they were very successful. They also helped people who were having a hard time. She was the first woman in Oregon to buy her own headstone….she was an independent woman and wanted everyone to know it.
The villain we met on this tour was James Turk. He, his wife and sons were what was called “Shanghai” experts. They would kidnap men, knock them out, and sell them as sailors to a captain who needed a crew for a voyage to China (hence the name Shanghai, the main port there). By the time the men woke up, they were too far out at sea to get home, and they had to work for the rest of the trip. These were not nice people.
After an interesting morning in Lone Fir, I met up with Grandpa Nelson and Auntie Bridgett, and we went to the Belmont Street Fair.
This was big like Hawthorne and interesting like Alberta, but with more food than either. We started with lunch at Dick’s restaurant. A delicious milk shake for Grandpa Nelson and turkey burger sliders for Auntie Bridgett and me!
There were so many wonderful bands playing music, people to talk to, and dogs to watch, I can’t possibly tell you about them all. We got home with caramel corn, sticky hands, stickers, and a business card from a local publisher, for when my story is ready.
On the way home, we walked past the flamingo flock, as sure enough, they are up to something new. Apparently they are all working for NASA, because they have their lab coats on, watching the Cassini Space Probe ready to crash into Saturn.
After resting, snacking, and grocery shopping, we were sitting around, and the rain started!!! Blessed, cool, drippy rain! We sat out on the back steps and enjoyed it, watching people out for walks. After our long months here with hot, miserable weather, it is nice to finally be cool. I would even welcome, dare I say it? COLD!
See you next week! I am so excited for your visit!
As if our weekend wasn’t full enough with our new car, Sunday was the Hawthorne Street Fair. They close the street for 10 blocks and all sorts of folks set up tents to share their ideas and talents, and sell their things.
Auntie Bridgett spent the morning at a drawing “meet up” at the Portland Museum of Art, where artists look at art, draw about it, and talk about it. So Grandpa Nelson and I did the first part of the Fair by ourselves. First, we stopped at the Bazi Bierbrasserie because Grandpa Nelson had heard about their french fries and wanted to try them out. They and my “velgi” burger were very good, and the cider and beer were light and cold, just what was needed on a hot day. Outside the brasserie was a “Human Foosball” game, where four guys….well, you get the idea. Have a look at the picture.
Out on the street, there were food booths selling Cajun, Hawaiian, Lebanese, Mexican, Filipino, and American food. Pork, beef, chicken, tofu, if it could be fried, spiced and wrapped in something, it was for sale. It all smelled so yummy! There were also Gelato carts, shave ice trucks, and tents just giving away free cold water to anyone who needed it. These were all very popular.
There were political action booths, asking people to sign petitions, buy t-shirts, or volunteer to save the planet, the country, the forests and just about anything else you can think of. These were interesting but a little dangerous, because if you asked the folks about their cause they were so passionate, it was hard to walk away!
Auntie Bridgett joined us as the day was getting really warm. There were booths selling music! Old vinyl records by the box load called to us, but since we gave away our old turntable when we moved, we didn’t stop. A fellow named Sonny was selling guitars and ukeleles that he built from beautiful cigar boxes, and Auntie Bridgett gave them a try.
Musicians of every age were sitting, standing, or dancing, and playing music with their boxes set out for donations. The youngest were about 13, two girls playing ukeleles behind a sign that said “Tip the musicians (but don’t knock them over)”.
Auntie Bridgett hadn’t had lunch and we were all ready to fall over from the heat (we are not used to 98 degrees!) so we stopped in at the lovely and air conditioned Chez Machin. This french style creperie is friendly, small, and serves both savory and sweet crepes and drinks. The sit-down, cool air, and food were exactly what was needed.
After looking at hats from Ray’s Classic Collection shop and some vintage clothing, we decided it was time to head home. We all had some downtime, read, or napped. In the evening was the final performance of the summer “Music in the Parks” program, so we walked to Laurelhurst Park with our dinner and listened to the Providence band play jazz, big band music, and even some disco. People danced, kids played, and the sun went down. It was lovely.
On the way home, we saw that the flamingos had changed again! They were apparently home from their camping trip and were ready to go back to school! This running story played out on a lawn just cracks me up, and it is so ….Portland.