Summer Surprises

Dear Liza,

This weekend brought some lovely surprises. Even though the weather was really warm on Saturday, Grandpa Nelson suggested a walk. “Let’s head down to Division,” he said. “There’s ice cream, and gelato, and even frozen yogurt.” So we headed south.

The sun was hot, and the sidewalks got hotter as we walked. It was afternoon, but the shade wasn’t much help. “Maybe we find a pub a little closer?”Grandpa sighed. We agreed, and found the delightfully decorated McMenamin’s Bagdad Cafe and theater, down on Hawthorne. They had food and drinks, A/C and friendly folks.

Some pretzel fondue, tuna sliders and beverages later, we were refreshed and ready to head off. Grandpa Nelson was still feeling the heat, so he headed for home. Auntie Bridgett and I continued on to Laurelhurst Park. It can be full of surprises.

And it was. We found an impromptu violin concert along one end of the lake, and a reading of a play I’d never heard of at the other. Both had collected small but appreciative audiences. We listened for a bit and walked on.

I love walking in the park when it is buzzy! There were folks walking dogs, playing frisbee, and practicing circus tricks with hoops and slack ropes. Kids hollered and ukuleles were strummed. It is a like all the best of life, just out playing on the lawn.

When we left the park we were absolutely vibrating from all that human energy! And the surprises weren’t done yet. Growing on a telephone pole-supported grape vine were the beginnings of this year’s grapes.

Always something to see….


Grandma Judy

Full Speed Into Summer

Dear Liza,

This week, summer will hit full blast. Our weather will be in the 90s, with the sun coming up at 5 a.m. and not going down until almost 10 p.m.

Tiny baby carrots!!

Everyone’s gardens are beginning to bear fruits and vegetables. We have been eating our own lettuce for a few days, and even had some teeny tiny carrots with dinner.

Strawberries and cherries are growing, often right onto (or over) the sidewalk! The world is so full of sweetness it just can’t be contained.

And after a long silence, Laurelhurst Park is filling up with music again. I went walking last evening and got a free concert by a group called Johnny Franco, who was making music in two trumpets, a saxophone, drums, four different guitars and a vocalist.

It was a delightful blend of rock and reggae, and a crowd of about a hundred people was scattered around, enjoying the music and the weather. There were picnics, and kids and dogs ran all around. People danced, frisbees flew. It felt like LAST summer had finally come, fifteen months late.

Have a good weekend! Stay well, stay cool, and find ways to share your joy.


Grandma Judy

Just a Quiet Sunday (Part 2)

Dear Liza,

Once Auntie Bridgett and I finished our long walk home from Eb and Bean, she checked her fitness watch. We had walked four and a half miles! We had big glasses of water and were reading on the balcony when we got a text from Grandpa Nelson, who had gone out for a short walk around the park.

“Music at the park!” He said. We were up in a minute, packing salami and cheese, water and peanuts and grabbing the folding chairs. As we walked, we got another text. “Finishing up. May have missed it.”

Well, heck. But we decided that we might as well go and enjoy some snacks in the park, anyway. Another text. “New band setting up!”

Hooray! We found Grandpa Nelson, set up the chairs, and watched people, dogs and kids hang around as the next band set up. Fellows with saxophone cases wandered in, then trombones and trumpets. A keyboard was set up. Then a lady in a wonderfully flowy, showy flowered dress walked toward the stage.

A Jazz band! Indeed, the Jumptown Jazz Band, with their vocalist, Claudia Knauer. What a treat!

They started with “I’ve Got a Lot of Living to Do” from Bye Bye Birdie, and continued for an hour and a half through Count Basie, Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, Johnny Hodges, and Peggy Lee’s “I Love Being Here with You.” (“East is east and west is west, north and south, they’re both the best. But I’ll only visit them as a guest, ’cause I love being here with you.”)

The band was crisp and harmonious, and Claudia belted out the tunes with love and gusto.

We enjoyed the music and the impromptu dancing of kids, men and ladies in the audience. Dogs came and went, fetching sticks. Kids collected sticks that the dogs left behind. It was top notch Laurelhurst magic. But the music had to end sometime. And when it did, it was time to leave.

Before we headed home, I wanted to get a good photo of the wonderful Claudia. She was chatting with some friends and I got brave and just walked up. They were taking about a National group called “Women On the Fly”, a sort of Girl Scouts for grown women. They specialize in camping, encouraging women to enjoy themselves like they did (or didn’t get a chance to) when they were younger. Their motto is “Making Girls Out of Women.”

I joined the conversation and found out that Claudia is as nice and welcoming as she is talented. She laughed and posed and we had a lovely time. I plan to look into “Women on the Fly” and maybe even go camping! Grandpa Nelson and Auntie Bridgett don’t enjoy it, but I did when I was younger, and may enjoy it again.

I got home and realized that for just a quiet Sunday, we sure were busy!


Grandma Judy

Hawthorne Street Fair

Dear Liza,

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.

Human Foosball

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 playing a cigar box guitar

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)”.

Young musicians

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.

Back to School Flamingos

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.

Silly, artistic, not fancy, but fun.


Grandma Judy