Looking Back

 

Dear Liza,

It is a new year, and I am looking forward to some more big changes. I will be coming to Salinas to stay with you for a few months while I teach, and my life here in Portland will be put on hold. Grandpa Nelson and Auntie Bridgett will stay here and take care of Mouse the kitten, the houseplants, and their jobs…but we won’t be together. This will be weird, and sometimes sad.

Before looking forward, though, I want to look back on the crazy trip that got me here and what I love about Portland.

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Auntie Katie and Cousin Kestrel

During the hot Summer, we learned about getting around on air-conditioned buses and trains. We got to visit our new favorite Laurelhurst Park with Auntie Katie and the cousins. We even walked to the Willamette River and put our feet in!

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View from under the Hawthorne Bridge

It was fun getting to show you all the things in our new city, like the zoo.

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Being a Squirrel

 

The biggest thing that we learned about is the weather. It rains a lot here, and we are getting used to asking Google if we should take an umbrella. It even snows! This takes getting used to, but is such a nice change from highs of 70 and lows of 50 that I don’t mind.

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Snow on the back steps

 

I have fallen in love with the theater and art here in Portland. Theaters are made from old churches, warehouses, and even set up in parks. Art and music are everywhere.

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Young violinist on SW Salmon and Park

People playing music, reciting and writing poetry on street corners just isn’t something we saw in Salinas, and it is a real treat.

And of course, the history! I have been studying about Portland’s past…it’s buildings, trolley cars, and people. It is just about as old as Salinas, but since it is a bigger city, it has more stories.

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I am still trying to find out who this young lady was

There is so much I love about Portland. I will miss it, and then return in June to re-discover my new city all over again.

 

Love,

Grandma Judy

False Spring

Dear Liza,

Yesterday, December 30, 2017, was the warmest day we have had in a month. The blue sky was decorated with puffy clouds, and the temperature got up to 50 degrees! Auntie Bridgett and I went for a walk. We noticed some premature gladiolus flowers shooting up through the mud. The warm weather has them fooled, perhaps.

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Wells Fargo from east side

Our first stop was Triumph Coffee at SE 12th and Ash. A busy, friendly place, with comfortably mismatched furniture. it is what Linus Van Pelt would call sincere. Neighborhood folks were enjoying coffee and having conversations. I didn’t see a single laptop open. Bridgett testifies that the coffee is excellent, and I stand by their carrot zucchini muffins. We got our goodies to go, and continued on our way.

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Big Pink from east side

We walked on Ash until it ran into Sandy Boulevard, a major street that runs diagonally through east Portland. It makes some connections easier, of course, but also creates really interesting angled corners. Portland has a lot of these odd corners, like on the west side where Burnside hits every street at an odd angle, and in Ladd’s Addition, with its “x marks the spot” plotting.

From the obtuse corner of 10th and Ash, we could look west and see the two tallest buildings in Portland, “Big Pink” and the Wells Fargo Building. It is nice to be able to find landmarks and get a better picture of where you are in relation to other things.

We turned left and followed Sandy southwest until it became 7th Avenue, and followed that to Morrison. In that neighborhood are many old industrial buildings that have been re-purposed. The Troy Laundry, a brick building from 1913, is currently for sale. I am sure it has an interesting future.

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1913 Troy Laundry Building

Heading back towards home on Morrison, we found Auntie Bridgett’s new favorite place: The Grand Central Restaurant and Bowling Lounge at 808 SE Morrison. This two-story playground for grown-ups (and kids) is in the old Grand Central Public Market building, which was built in 1929. It has bowling, a restaurant, two bars, pinball, Pac-man, air hockey, shuffleboard, skee-ball, driving games, pool tables, and giant televisions. It looks like a great place to spend a long wintry afternoon, and is not far from our house! Hooray for accidental discoveries!

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Bowling on Morrison!!!

We left the bowling alley, smiling, knowing we would be back soon, and continued east on Morrison. We went through the Lone Fir Cemetery to say hello to the dead people, and got to chat with some squirrels and tourists, as well.

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Yes, a disco ball in a bowling alley…..

We said a special hello to little Genevieve Gray, who died in 1912 when she was only 3 months old and is buried under the tiniest headstone I have ever seen. It is about 7 inches by 10, and is tucked under huge trees at the far northeast corner of the cemetery. I know visiting the cemetery might seem morbid, but it gives me perspective. I always leave with a sense of hope and purpose.

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Little Genevieve Gray

Back home, we headed off for shopping and reading. See you soon, sweetie.

Love,

Grandma Judy

After the Ghouls Have Gone Home

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Inflatable Dragon

 

Dear Liza,

Happy November! It feels weird when a holiday is over….all that preparation and decoration and anticipation and then…whoosh, it’s gone. But we had a nice Halloween and I hope you did, too.

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Owl tree carved from a real owl tree

We walked around the neighborhood and saw more wonderful decorations. An owl and tree were carved from a tree that had grown on that same spot. There was even a dragon roaring from a high balcony.

The autumn light has been most entertaining, as well. Yesterday I walked out at noon to go to the research library, and the sun wasn’t “at high noon”… it was in the southern part of the sky, low enough to be in my eyes as I walked south.

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Light and Shadows at Lone Fir

This odd light angle has also made beautiful shadows. Lone Fir Cemetery just keeps getting more beautiful as the season goes on. Laurelhurst Park, as well, changes with the light. The pond, ducks, and trees become wonderful Monet-style paintings.

And of course, for Halloween night, Auntie Bridgett painted us both up as skulls for giving away candy at the door. But no kids came! So we filled our pockets with candy and, in full make-up, coats and hats, walked around the neighborhood, giving candy to folks and withing everyone a Happy Halloween!

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Sweet Grandma Judy

Love,

Grandma Judy

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Monet style ducks

Halloweening

Dear Liza,

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Spooky crows at sunset

Things are really getting ready for Halloween up here! People are decorating their lawns and porches with graveyards, skeletons and big spiders. It is a nice blend of creepy and friendly….Not “Come get scared”, but “Come get scary with us!” The yards look good during the day, and I look forward to walking out after dark to see how they are lit up.

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Front yard grave yard
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Mr. and Mrs. James Stephens, who owned the cemetery first

Besides neighborhoods pretending to be graveyards, there is our actual graveyard, The Lone Fir Cemetery. They gave a delightful, strictly once a year after dark tour, called The Tour of Untimely Departures. A group of volunteers called The Friends of Lone Fir Cemetery put luminarias along the main roads of the cemetery and guide groups through, with people playing the deceased and telling us their stories of life and dead.

No one jumps out or tries to scare you, but the stories all ended badly, or they wouldn’t be on the tour….Untimely departures, in this case, means they died before their time.

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Professor Van Allsburg

After visiting the dead folks at Lone Fir, we came home and got dressed up for a Halloween Party given by our friends, Jack and Verity. We were all professors: Grandpa Nelson was The Idea Guy, Doctor of Smartness; Auntie Bridgett was Dr. I.E. Plinth, history of art, from Slug University; I was Dr. Beverly Pilkey Van Allsburg, Professor of Kid Lit. At the party we met Beetlejuice, Arthur Dent and a random alien lady, Pocilanus Rex, demon pig god, and many more characters. It was great fun and we stayed very late.

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Idea Guy

The next day we slept in because of our late night. But when I was ready to face the world, Auntie Katie called and suggested we meet at Mt. Tabor and go for a walk in the woods there. I took at #15 east and got off at exactly the opposite end of the park, so I had a good long walk before we got together, but the forest was so beautiful, I didn’t mind.

 

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Dr. Plinth

When we met up we had a snack picnic under a laurel tree, found a drained reservoir and practiced our echos, and gathered rose hips and lemon balm for making tea. Then it was time to head home. We met up with Grandpa Nelson at Fifty Licks Ice Cream for a treat, then got home to watch the Astros win a game of the world series with a bunch of home runs.

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Cousins in the woods!

What a weekend!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Walkin’ in the Sunshine

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Holman Family grave

Dear Liza,

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.

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Marquam Bridge

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.

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Mt. Hood!

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.

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Student Poetry carved in stone

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!

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Halloween Flamingos!

Love,

Grandma Judy

 

Hail, Hail!

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Roses and rainbows

Dear Liza,

The weather here keeps surprising me! Yesterday Auntie Bridgett and I walked down to feed Auntie Katie’s cats, Pixel, Pietro and Wanda. Grandpa Nelson warned us that there was weather on the way, but we headed out anyway.

There were looming clouds but also bright sunshine. We fed the kitties, then walked back, taking pictures of leaves, roses, and rainbows and chatting with a lady jump roping on the sidewalk. We had stopped in Lone Fir Cemetery to collect some more chestnuts when the looming clouds moved right over us.

The sky shook and rumbled, and the rain started, hard, heavy raindrops racing each other to the ground. We realized that ‘under a tree’ was not a good place in case of lightning so we opened the umbrella and headed up the path. By the time we reached the gate, the rain had turned to hail about the size of bb shot. The sky was throwing pebbles at us!

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Lone Fir Cemetery in the hailstorm    Photo Credit: Bridgett Spicer

We stopped by the gate, amazed at the storm happening around us. A poor jogger came by, shook like a dog, caught his breath and headed off, and several other folks found trees to shelter under. When we started walking again, the sidewalk was covered in tiny balls of ice, making it both crunchy and slippery. It sounded like Cheerios but felt like ice!

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Hail collecting all over the place
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Tiny hailstones

By the time we got home there were piles of tiny hailstones everywhere. We shed our wet things and had some warm apple cider, glad to be home and safe and dry. 

This storm, like the beauty and people of this new place, reminded me how big and interesting the world is, and how much I have yet to experience.

Love,

Grandma Judy

 

Weird Day: Cemetery, Street Fair, and Rain!

Dear Liza,

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.

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Tombstone for Asa Lovejoy

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.

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Grave of a kidnapper

After an interesting morning in Lone Fir, I met up with Grandpa Nelson and Auntie Bridgett, and we went to the Belmont Street Fair.

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Yes, it’s a real thing….

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!

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Beautiful dogs!

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.

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Flamingos at work for NASA

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!

Love,

Grandma Judy