Me and Harry

Dear Liza,

Harry Potter and his author, J.K. Rowling, have been famous for a long time now. The first book about Harry and the Sorcerer’s Stone was published in 1998 and has been both loved and hated all over the world ever since.

Wonderful display at McMenamin’s Kennedy School

I was first introduced to Harry through your Auntie Katie, who was in high school and working at a bookshop in Monterey at the time. Part of her job was to dress up in her black, star-printed cape and read the first chapter of each newly released book at the Midnight Release Party. She loved the books, so I gave them a try. I loved them, too.

Our wands, from Auntie Christy

Their magical world is complex and well described, and the story of a boy and his friends trying to conquer puberty, final exams, and world-dominating evil all at once is emotional, funny, and compelling. The story they tell of the importance of love and friendship makes us understand our humanity better.

Auntie Bridgett as a studious young wizard

We have gone a little nuts with the Harry goodies, I admit. We have all the books in English, and most of them in French, too. We also have background books like ““Quidditch Through the Ages” and “Harry Potter’s Bookshelf”. Auntie Christy even made us magic wands in her wood shop, and Cousin Kyle got us figurines, scarves and tee shirts! Yes, we like us some Harry.

Meeting a fellow Hufflepuff at Laurelhurst!

We have also enjoyed events in town that are all about Harry and our love of his wizarding world. We dressed up to attend trivia night at the Nerd Out and Harry’s birthday celebration at the Kennedy School, joining with lots of other Harry fans to eat, drink, play games, and have a good time in an imaginary world where we are all wizards.

Grandpa Nelson as a young Dumbledore

I am currently re-reading The Goblet of Fire in French, enjoying the story and understanding more as I go along. Last week, when I read about Neville making a mistake in Transformation class and accidentally attaching his own ears to a cactus, I laughed out loud! At French! Hooray!

Hanging out with Aragog at OMSI

Love,

Grandma Judy

McMenamin’s, Socially Distanced

Dear Liza,

Giant painted tapestry in the Backstage Bar

I’m sure I have told you about our chain of restaurants and pubs owned by the brothers Mike and Brian McMenamin. These two fellows started buying cool historic buildings in 1985 and turning them into places to sell their good food, beer and wine, and have concerts. They have been incredibly successful, now having more than seventy places, large and small.

Jerry Garcia weathervane at Edgefield

Speaking of size, Brian once said, “You can’t have too small a bar. We know. We’ve tried.” Inside their Kennedy School Hotel venue here in Portland, there are bars in hall closets, called “Honors” and “Detention”, which are about fifty square feet each. Tiny. Cozy. Delightful.

Whimsical school kids at The Kennedy School

The coronavirus has temporarily shut them all down, of course. No sunny afternoons at Edgefield. No pinball at the Back Stage Bar. No celebrating Harry Potter’s birthday at the Kennedy School. Big, sad sigh. Seriously.

Breakfast crowd at Kennedy School

Then we got some good news. Some of their restaurants, including the Bagdad Theater just half a mile way, were re-opening for take out! Hooray!! Not only could we get some yummy food and wine to celebrate Friday, but we could support our local guys and do our part to make sure they could weather this crisis.

“The Tempest” at The Mission Theater

We called, ordered, and walked down. Like most things they do, they had planned their partial re-opening well. Social distancing guidelines were taped on the sidewalk and a desk was set up for getting your order to you. Sterilized pens were there to sign your credit card receipt. The managers running the place were masked, cheerful, and efficient.

…and our local Bagdad Theater

It felt so good to have this little bit of normalcy, to eat a great Communication Breakdown Burger and tater tots, and drink the brothers’s yummy Black Rabbit wine, even if we ate it at home instead of their delightful dining room.

A toast! To Mike and Brian and their whimsical empire!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Castletown at McMenamin’s

Dear Liza,

Last night we went back to the McMenamin’s Kennedy School. The weather was really stormy, so we took a Lyft car.

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Portrait of John D. Kennedy, founder of the school

We ate in The Boiler Room, which is decorated with wonderfully steampunk-y pipes and things, as well as having odd and interesting paintings on the walls. Auntie Bridgett and I shared an Aztec Salad of lettuce, corn, beans and spicy tortilla chips and Grandpa Nelson had his french fries.

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Photo of kids and their birdhouses

 

 

 

 

 

 

We noticed several themes in the photos and paintings…they echo each other. In one wing of the school, there is a large photo of some kids holding birdhouses they had made. In a different corridor, there is a painting based on that photo. I love discovering this place, bit by bit!

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Painting based on photo!

Another interesting thing we learned was that this school, The Kennedy School in Northeast Portland, was where Mike and Brian, the McMenamin brothers, went to elementary school. So they saved their own school!

We were at the school to listen to an Irish music group called Katie Jane and Castletown which was playing in the Gymnasium. The room is small for a gym, but is a nice open space with a rug in the middle for echo-control and so tables and chairs don’t damage the wooden floor. In front of the stage, however, the floor was left bare as an informal dance floor.

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Katie Jane and Roger with dancer

The group is made up of three people: Drew is the pony-tailed drummer, Roger plays guitar and sings the low bits, and lovely Katie Jane, on violin, is the star. Her Irish fiddle playing soars and makes everyone want to dance! The audience was very mixed, but there were about 6 families with small kids who got up and did just that when the music started.

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Doing a turn with Grandma

I enjoyed this part the most, I think… kids just having fun with the music, helping smaller ones, and even doing a crazy turn with their grandma. Castletown played Irish tunes, some American Gospel, and even some Rockabilly, but all were dance-able, some sing-able, and all very, very entertaining.

When the band stopped at 9, we tipped them and told them how much we enjoyed the show, and headed off. Our Lyft driver picked us up before we even had time to get wet, and we were home and safe by 9:30.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Family in Portland

Dear Liza,

Merry Christmas!

Your Great Auntie Christy and Cousin Kyle have come up to spend the Holiday with us, and we have been showing them the town.

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Carolers at Kennedy School

The first day they were here we had dinner, then drove up to the McMenamin’s Kennedy School to show them that wonderful space and listen to the Dickensian Carolers. It was so wonderful! Every time I go there, I see new art work.

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Artwork at Kennedy School

The next day Grandpa Nelson and Cousin Kyle got dressed early and walked down to the Rocking Frog for fresh doughnuts and cinnamon rolls. Then we all walked around Laurelhurst Park, which was COLD and almost naked of leaves.

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Freezing, happy family

After lunch, we headed downtown via Lyft car, which with this many people, is cheaper than the bus, and did some shopping at Powell’s City of Books.

Then, carrying the 20 pounds of books we had bought, we walked down to the Portland Art Museum to show them the Laika exhibit. Kyle is a big fan of the Coraline and Kubo and the Two Strings movies, so he was delighted. We all enjoyed it, as well…it is the sort of show you can see many times and always see something new.

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Kyle and monster from Kubo

After resting and snacking at the museum cafe, we hired another Lyft car and got a ride to Auntie Katie’s store, Books with Pictures. We shopped and visited, then we all (including Katie, who got off work) over to the Double Dragon Restaurant, at SE Division and 12th,  for dinner. It was noisy, but the food was good and sitting down was a nice break. Grandpa and Auntie Katie wanted ice cream, so we walked (more walking!) down to Fifty Licks Ice Cream on Clinton Street, where, in spite of the cold, we all ate ice cream. I had the blackstrap gingersnap…so good!

When it seemed that we had bought, eaten, and seen everything, we got another Lyft home and fell asleep watching the classic movie, The Bishop’s Wife.

What a great day!!

Love,

Grandma Judy

 

History Pub

Dear Liza,

Yesterday was another really hot day. By 4:30, it was 101 degrees! Auntie Bridgett and I spent the hottest part of the afternoon in the nice cool Main Branch of the library, downtown. I found more books on Portland’s history and Auntie Bridgett found art books!

In the evening, we had a new adventure. Grandpa Nelson had read about an event called “History Pub”, held at the Kennedy School. There would be dinner and music. We love history, pubs, food, schools, and music, so we went!

The Kennedy School is an elementary school about three miles north of us, built in 1917. That was four years before my Momma was born! The school was named for the man who sold the land to the city of Portland, John D. Kennedy… not the president, as I had thought. The school had been abandoned in the 1990’s because there weren’t enough kids in the neighborhood anymore, and a restaurant company called McMenamin’s bought it.

McMenamin’s saw how this old building could be beautiful and useful again. They fixed the plumbing, heating, and electricity. They re-modeled the classrooms into hotel rooms (each with its own chalkboard!) and turned the cafeteria into a quirky restaurant. There is a small bar called Detention just down the hall from the Principal’s office.

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Fairy Painting in restroom

There is also beautiful artwork everywhere. The halls have murals of children learning and helping each other. Mosaics made from old dishes and things pay tribute to teachers at the school. Fairies even follow you into the restroom….it is magical.

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Teacher Mosaic

We had dinner, walked around the school a bit, then went into the auditorium. This has been re-fitted with cozy, velvet covered chairs and couches, with more artwork and murals on the walls. We learned about Obo Addy, a Ghanan drummer, from Susan Addy, Obo’s widow. Obo Addy came to Portland in 1978 with his four brothers, bringing real African music to this area for the first time. The group toured schools and gave concerts, teaching thousands of people about African drumming, singing and dancing.

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Poster for Obo Addy

Then came the best part of the already wonderful evening….music! Five musicians, a group called Okropong, came out in beautiful African costumes with bells and danced up and down the aisle. They set up different drums in the front and played, sang and danced. The energy was amazing, and the audience began dancing and clapping, too. The musicians went into the audience and took people’s hands, bringing them into the aisle to dance with them. People were having so much fun!

Every now and then, the leader would explain about the music. One piece was from Liberia, a country next to Ghana…he said, “Ghana went to Liberia, fell in love, and brought this one back.”

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The Ghanan drummers of Okropong

After almost an hour of exhausting performance, our musician friends did one final song and danced off stage. We gathered our things and headed for the parking lot, through the halls of the coolest school I have ever seen. We slept like rocks to be ready for the next adventure, whatever that might be.

Love,

Grandma Judy