There is a new attraction in downtown Portland. I’ll give you the details later, but it involves France and Art, so of course, we went! Thursday was cold and rainy, but we caught the bus and headed downtown.
By the time the number 15 got us there, it was lunchtime. We know better than to start any adventure on empty stomachs, so we walked a few blocks further along to the McMenamin’s Market Street Pub. Set in the courtyard of a modern set if high-rise apartments, this is not one of their usual historic re-furbishments. But it is delightful, anyway.
We enjoyed our views of downtown passersby as we waited for the short-handed staff to bring us food. There was also some delightful art.
The McMenamins Company has a large staff of artists who give their establishments a unique look. Lyle Hehn is one of our favorites, and we saw his work here. His delightful surrealistic scenes pull you in, always showing you more. This one featured the McMenamin’s beer witch, Ruby, overseeing a dance party of wood carved Hammerheads.
When we were fed and ready, we headed off into the drizzle. After a tiny stop at Seasame Donuts (for Grandpa Nelson) we headed to ….Portland Museum of Art!
Last night Grandpa Nelson, Auntie Bridgett and I got all bundled up and took the #20 further than we ever have, all the way to Northeast 17th and Burnside. Then we walked north to Glisan, where we found the Mission Theater, an Evangenical Mission Church that has been renovated and turned into a restaurant and movie and live theater by McMenamin’s. This is the same company that has saved the Kennedy School, Edgefield Poor Farm, and many other beautiful old buildings here in Portland by turning them into venues that people want to visit.
As a restaurant, the selection is limited but tasty: Nachos, hummus plates, and pizza. The wine, ale, and beer selections are good. The theater itself is well done, with curving balconies and old posters and programs on the wall, but the bathrooms are very dark. The stage isn’t big or fancy, since it is usually used for movies.
The performance of Shakespeare’s The Tempest was by OPS, The Original Practice Shakespeare Company. We saw them do Midsummer Night’s Dream and As You Like It in Laurelhurst Park this past summer. Each actor only learns their own part, and carries a scroll with them. Since every performance is about half improvisation, the performances are unpredictable.
Last night was a mixed bag. The woman playing Prospero the Wizard was good and very gentle, which is unusual for that role. The woman playing Caliban was a very sympathetic monster. Some of the shipwrecked lords were quite screechy, but the story was well-told and pretty easy to understand.
One thing I really like about OPS is the audience participation. When Prospero is describing how she was exiled to the island, the audience groaned in sympathy, and she looked out at us and said, “I know, lousy, right?” We got to boo and cheer and some folks even helped hold Miranda’s drawings up so the audience could see them. It is fun to be part of the show.
When Prosero had broken her staff and given up magic to return to Milan, we gathered our things and walked back down to the bus stop.What a lovely evening.
On Sunday, Auntie Bridgett met up with some fellow artists at the Portland Art Museum for some drawing and talking. I went along to research and walk about downtown. I am still working on my story about Portland and some of my characters are newly arrived Irish immigrants.
During my two hours online, I learned a lot about the history of Irish people coming to Portland. The Potato Famine in Ireland brought many people to America in the 1800s. These people left Ireland so they wouldn’t starve and landed in Boston, New York, or New Orleans, and lived there for years. It was expensive to travel and once they got settled into a new city, it was hard to leave. But some came west to Portland.
Most of these Irish immigrants were not well educated. They had been farmers and didn’t have a lot of other skills. But the men took hard jobs like building railroads and loading ships, while the women cleaned houses. They were successful and improved their situation and their children’s future. They built beautiful churches that we can still visit and schools that still teach hundreds of children.
When Auntie Bridgett had finished with her art, we went for a walk. We headed north from the Art Museum, enjoying the beautifully decorated buildings. My Saturday spent looking at Minor White’s photographs of lost treasures made me appreciate what we still have. We turned west on Burnside and saw another McMenamin’s Restaurant, an impossibly skinny old building restored as a pub.
We crossed the 405 freeway on a very noisy overpass and found St. Mary’s Cathedral, one of the Irish Catholic churches I had been reading about, at NW 18th and Couch! It is “the new church”, being built in 1926, but it replaced a church that was built in 1885 at SW 3rd and Stark, not far from the river, and destroyed by a flood on the Willamette.
We continued our walk and found more churches! Trinity Episcopal Church, where the first Rose Show was held in 1889, and the Christian Science Church, built in 1909, which is now home for the Northwest Children’s Theater.
Now completely worn out, we crossed back over the freeway and found the wonderful Irving Street Kitchen. It is an old warehouse space decorated with bookcases full of a wild assortment of old books from the Multnomah County library: a Chinese-Japanese dictionary, a book on French history, in French, and one about Russian religious icons, in Russian. There were also American books on music, gardening, history, and even some Dan Brown adventures. It was fun to look at the books while our lunch was prepared. I ordered Succotash, which isn’t a very fancy name, but my wonderful vegetables and egg sure were tasty. Auntie Bridgett had Salmon cakes and they were good, too.
Fully restored, we found the #20 bus and headed home. It had been another day that left my feet tired, my tummy satisfied, and my head filled to overflowing. Now, off to sleep.