Friday Night In Woodlawn, Part 1

Too full!

Dear Liza,

Last night Grandpa Nelson had an evening of music planned, but first we needed to have dinner. He isn’t fussy about food, but gave us some ideas we hadn’t thought of.

Swiss Hibiscus is a Swiss restaurant up on NE 14th and their Online menu looked good! Onion soup, raclettes (bread with melted cheeeeese) and escargots all sounded like just the thing for this cold, almost-winter evening. But when we got there, we realized that we should have called for reservations. The tiny restaurant was booked up with no relief in sight. Sigh.

We were on Alberta Street, which is a main drag in the northeast, but places were filling up for dinner. The Tin Shed, which is more of a bar with food, was also full. Across the street was a highly decorated (seems a bit early for Christmas…) shop called Frock, but no food.

No Food!

We finally decided to make life easy and get a Lyft to our final destination, The Oregon Public House, and eat there. It wouldn’t be escargots or raclettes, but that was fine.

The Oregon Public House is a special place. Its motto is “Have a pint, change the world.” It is the only non-profit pub in the whole country. Let me explain.


You order drinks and food from the bar. Burgers, sandwiches, fries and sweet potato tots are the fare, all tasty and inexpensive. You pay and then decide which of the charities you want the profit from your meal to go to.

Food for Families, The Northeast Portland Tool Library, Keep Oregon Well, and Carpe Mundi, are just a few. There is even a Give-O-Meter, a small wooden counter fitted with beer steins and clear plastic tubes, that lets you donate cash to the different charities if you feel like it.


The pub itself is family friendly and lively, with small people making laps of the place accompanied by their patient parents, as well as hipper folks chatting at tables. All the employees were young and cheerful.

After dinner, we went upstairs for the second part of our adventure. I’ll tell you about that tomorrow!

Love, Grandma Judy


Dear Jasper and Kestrel,

Last night I received the last in a long line of birthday presents. Grandpa Nelson bought tickets to the touring company of Hamilton for your mommy and me, because she is the one who introduced me to the music and story of this fabulous play two years ago. Both of us, along with thousands of other folks, have been listening, singing, and dancing to the music. But Broadway is a long ways from both Portland and Salinas, and it seemed impossible. But the touring company came to Portland and Grandpa Nelson went on line last fall to get tickets for the show.

First, of course, was dinner. We took a Lyft car to pick up your mommy (and got hugs from you two as a bonus), then headed off for dinner at Henry’s 12th Street Tavern. Yummy Willamette Valley Pinot noir and Spire’s cider came along with great french fries, sushi, Kung Pao chicken and fish tacos. We ate and talked until it was time to Lyft over to the Keller Auditorium.

We had time to buy some souvenirs. I got a tee shirt that says RISE UP that I can wear to school and tell my students about the story of Alexander Hamilton, an immigrant who helped write the rules of our country. Your mommy got a show book so she could tell you the story of the show we saw, with pictures of the actors.

We had good seats, in the 14th row, right on the aisle to the right side. I have listened to recordings of the Broadway show for so long, I figured I had it all memorized. But every actor put their own spin on the lyrics, so it was new all over again. Your mommy and I were both afraid we would be disappointed that it wasn’t the Broadway cast, but we agreed that it was a whole new set of people to fall in love with. The funny parts, like when the pompous King George sings a sad break-up sing to his colonies, made us laugh. The sad parts, when young Phillip died, made us cry like we didn’t know it was coming. And the music was always, always beautiful.

I didn’t take pictures of the performance, because that is rude and against the law. But there was one backdrop for the first act, an abstracted version of brick walls and warehouses, and one for the second act, abstracted wooden buildings.

The rest of the sets, desks, chairs, and so forth, were brought on or taken by actors during the play. The costumes were modified

versions of costumes from the 1700s, enough to give the idea of the period but simple enough so they were not the stars of the show. There were also a new creation, a form-fitting costume that evoked the time but was not specific to either men or women. It allowed all members of the cast to be guests at a dance, be soldiers or shopkeepers, simply by putting a jacket or cape over the basic costume.

But the stars of the show were the wonderful writing and fine actors who pulled us into the story of a brilliant young man with a need to be part of something bigger than himself. He found a country ready for independence and fought with all his mind and might to help make that happen. The play lets us see his brilliance but also the selfishness and pride that were his downfall. It showed the people around him, the personal and political feeling of the time that helped shape our country.

When the play was over, we walked from the Keller across the Willamette River, talking about the play. The water was dark and lovely, sparkling with a few lights. The Hawthorne Bridge, which your mommy says is her pet bridge, is the oldest bridge in the city. We walked a ways, then called for a Lyft which got us both home.

It is past midnight now, and I need to get to bed. It is also almost April, and I can truly say that I am finally birthday-ed out. Thanks, everyone!


Grandma Judy

Our Favorite Things Part 2

Dear Jasper and Kestrel,

Lunchtime had arrived. We walked from the Rec Trail up to Lighthouse Avenue to Tilly Gort’s. It was founded in 1969, and the photograph of its original staff shows a smiling group of children of the 60s. Originally a vegetarian restaurant and coffee house, it has widened its offerings to include vegan and ‘with meat’ menu items, all of which are delicious.

tillie gorts.jpg

We had the tofu pesto scramble and Huevos Rancheros, and I had a freshly squeezed carrot juice. It was fabulous! I thought of Bugs Bunny and his oath never to mix radish juice and carrot juice, and that made me laugh. The art on the walls and the great food definitely rejuvenated us for the rest of our day.

Bridgett at Tilly Gort’s

Further down on Lighthouse is an art-making space called Progress, not Perfection, run by Jessica Ansbury. You pay a fee and get to use their supplies and space to make art. It is popular with birthday parties, but also individuals who live in small spaces and just need room.

Art Space!

We figured that as long as we were in the neighborhood, we should walk a little further down to Forest and visit our friend Germaine at her shop Imagine Art Supplies. Germaine is also an artist, and her beautiful and inspirational work hangs on the walls, above her well-chosen inventory. Bridgett asked her classic question. “What is your favorite new thing?”

Germaine in her element

Germaine immediately showed us Porcelain, a newly improved type of pen and paint, which can be used on glass or glazed pottery, fired in a home oven, and become dishwasher and food safe. THIS is a revelation! Bridgett loves decorating recycled to-go coffee cups, and this would allow her to make practical, usable art pieces. Very Exciting. We said good bye to Germaine and her shop cat, and headed off with several jars and pens to try out.

Bearing our prize purchases, we headed back down to the Rec Trail back to the Aquarium, where we caught the Monterey Free Trolley. We had walked a long way and were a bit foot weary. We got off at Alvarado Street so we could see the Plaza and shops on our way to the Transit Plaza.

Monterey Free Trolley

Realizing we were early for our bus home, we stepped into Old Capitol Books, a used book store with a great selection. There was also a poetry reading going on, so we had the lovely experience of milling about in literature and art with the satisfying cadences of poetry floating over our heads.

We caught the number 20 back to Uncle David’s house and crashed until dinner and Bridgett’s departure. Our friend Mark Gurley, the best Lyft driver on the planet, came by and whisked her away to the San Jose Airport.

judy head kiss.jpg
Me and my girl



It has been too short a visit, but I will see her soon!


Grandma Judy

Bridgett’s Birthday

Dear Liza,

Yesterday was Sunday. It was also Auntie Bridgett’s birthday, and we spent the whole day doing Auntie Bridgett’s favorite things.

Sunflowers on Bridgett’s Birthday!

First, we had a small breakfast to get ready for a busy day. Then we opened presents! She got some fancy silverware from her Aunt Chris and Uncle Ken, and Grandpa Nelson and I got her a badminton set! We have such a nice big park, we should have games to play in it. More about that later.

Passing Belmont Street, we noticed that the old murals I had taken pictures of are being painted over and new murals painted in. Here are the beginnings of the new ones.

New murals on Belmont
The Tov Bus








Then we walked through the neighborhood to 32nd Avenue and Hawthorne Street. Awhile back we had seen a red double-decker bus (like they use in London) being used as a coffee shop! It is called Tov Coffee (Tov means ‘good’ in Hebrew), and Bridgett wanted to see inside.

Inside the bus

Needless to say, the inside is TINY. It is a bus, after all, and also needs room for coffee making machines and dishes and fellows behind the counter. But it was pretty…walls and ceilings painted a nice purple, finely carved wooden everythings, and photos of Egypt. We ordered our coffees and went up the narrow twisty stairs to the top of the bus. A nice roof has been made of pvc pipe and heavy plastic, which keeps out the sun on bright days and the rain on not-so-bright ones. When our coffees were delivered we enjoyed the view of the street and people-watching.

Chai, Egyptian Coffee and just Coffee

Our weather is getting cooler, feeling very much like fall. Trees are starting to change colors and leaves are crunching underfoot. We walked to a pop-up restaurant called hunnymilk. A pop-up is when a group of cooks and waiters who don’t have a restaurant borrow a restaurant and serve their own food. In this case, hunnymilk, which makes fabulous brunch, borrowed the space and kitchen of La Buca, an Italian restaurant. We had the best biscuits and butter ever, fried french toast, roast potatoes, and pork ribs with garlicky cheese grits. OH MY, was it good. We ate until we were happily stuffed.

Brunch at hunnymilk

But we still couldn’t finish it all! We will have a day or two of delicious leftovers.

Five boxes of leftovers!
Setting drinks on fire

After we rested and digested for a while, we took the badminton set to the park, set it up, and started playing. We were delightfully awful…years of no practice had us running and flailing like windmills. But it was fun, so we kept it up. And by the time we were too tired to move, we had gotten much better. We staggered home for more rest before our final destination of the day. I didn’t get a single picture of the game! We were having so much fun, I forgot!

We got a Lyft ride to Hale Pele (say hall-ay pay-lay) Tiki Bar! This is a tiny place with all sorts of colored lights, tikis and blowfish, skulls and tapa cloth lamps. They serve food, (but we were still stuffed from brunch), and delicious tropical drinks, some of which get set on fire. It was fun watch to lights change, and watch the bartender mix the drinks, and then drink the drinks….

When we had all we could hold, we called Lyft again and got a ride home, and wished Auntie Bridgett a final Happy Birthday!

See you soon,

Grandma Judy