It is the New Year, when we are supposed to make resolutions and plans for the future. Last year was so unexpectedly eventful and wonderful that I am almost tempted to just ride along. But I realize that as in story writing, life planning is good.
Sometimes I made decisions on faith. When I decided to retire, my first worry was “What will I do with my time?” Then I remembered that my dad, (who was even a busier person than I), retired to Lompoc and found his life even fuller than before. So we decided to move to Portland and retire, knowing “something would come up.”
And it did. My interest in Portland history became a rabbit hole I kept going deeper into, until I knew enough about the world of 1903 that I wanted to populate it with my characters. For over a year now, I have written and read, researched and plotted. And the story is approaching … whatever it is that stories approach.
All that said, one of my goals for this year is to show my story to folks who know both writing and history better than I do, and get their advice. Then I plan to find an agent here in Portland who will help me get the story published and into the hands of Portland third and fourth graders.
There, I said it, right out loud. Now I’ve got to DO it.
Another thing I want to do this year is get to know Portland neighborhoods better. This will take a combination of planning and serendipity, both of which have served me well this year. Just getting on a bus or train and getting off where it looks interesting has put me in wonderful places.
I think these two things, writing and wandering, along with taking care of Auntie Bridgett and Grandpa Nelson, and helping Auntie Katie when I can, will keep me busy.
I hope you have a wonderful new year, and I will see you in the Spring!!
Once Fall has fallen and October comes, ya know what’s next? Halloween!! The grocery stores have had candy and Jack-o-lanterns, skeletons and light- up ghosts on display for two weeks already! The air is cooler and it is getting dark earlier….just right for spooooky decorations.
Yesterday, however, started with a more ordinary quest: Printer ink. The closest place that carries it is Office Depot down at MLK Jr. Avenue and Stark, about mile and a half away….so I walked. I passed one of my favorite places, the Lone Fir Cemetery, where crows and squirrels are enjoying the glut of acorns, chestnuts and walnuts. The clever crows even use the headstones to crack open their treats. Thanks, dead people.
Closer to the river were industrial sorts of places, warehouses and art-making shops with delightfully quirky murals, as well as urban breweries and wine makers.
After I made the very quick stop at Office Depot and bought the ink, I strolled the aisles of Sheridan Fruit Company, a family business founded in 1916, enjoying the smells and sights. Besides a dizzying variety of bulk goods and exotic sausages, they have a lively deli section which was crowded with people buying lunch to go…which reminded me of how hungry I was. I caught the bus home for lunch.
After an afternoon of reading and art, we had something new for dinner! I tried making pulled pork in the slow cooker and it was delicious! It is nice to know I can make Auntie Bridgett something she loves right here at home.
We walked through the neighborhood and saw the beginnings of Halloween decorations. Big and small, inflated and illuminated, they all make us giggly-happy.
So of course, once we got home, we moved the car, dragged the ladder, and pulled down the boxes of our own Halloween decorations!
I love walking around Portland, and especially our Belmont neighborhood, looking for signs of the past. They are like layers in a painting or the growth rings of a tree, showing you what has come before.
One example of these signs are, literally, signs. Many of the tiled doorways that businesses laid down in the 1890s are still looking good, even when the original business has long gone.
The Pantorium, for example, was a dry goods store on Belmont in 1894. Since then the building has been more shops than I can count, including “It’s a Beautiful Pizza”, “Hall of Records” and currently, “Suzette”, home of sweet and savory crepes and delicious cocktails. But the tiled entryway still reminds us of what has come before in an elegant, useful way.
Other doorways graced by tiles show the permanence of cities. The Laurelview Apartments have been right here, renting space within sight of our beloved Laurelhurst Park since the turn of the century. Back then the park was fairly new, and the trees were just coming into their own.
Another way the tiled entrances show us the history of the city is by the addresses. As Portland grew, it incorporated smaller surrounding cities, which then became neighborhoods. St. John’s, East Portland, Albina, and others had their own street systems and addresses, which were carried over to their new status as as part of Portland, causing duplicate streets and addresses. This confusion was solved in The Great Renaming of the 1930s, which introduced an organized grid system. Numbered streets told you how far east or west of the Willamette you were, and north and south told you where you were in relation to Burnside Avenue. It was a few years’ work, but sure makes getting around town easier now!
The address of this shop used to be 1114 Hawthorne. After the renumbering, it became 3741 SE Hawthorne, which places it 37 blocks east of the Willamette, and south of Burnside Street. I am happy that all the owners in between have chosen to keep the old tiled entryway.
With all the walking we do around the neighborhoods, we get to see a lot about people’s lives. We see them moving in or out, jump starting dead batteries, arguing with their children, picking the fruit in their gardens, and helping pull fallen branches from the street.
We see a lot of dogs being walked… on leashes and off, poking along behind, dashing ahead, or being wheeled in carriages. Portland is a very big dog-city. I heard that 50% of the households have one or more dogs. That’s millions of dogs!
I do enjoy the dogs. I love seeing the dog-joy on display when the leash is unclipped and they run at top speed, just because they can. I love how dogs are part of people’s lives wherever we go.
But you know me. I am a cat person. Their joy of sleep, their short list of needs, their “yeah, you feed me, but let’s not make a big deal about it” attitude.
Cats in Portland are mostly people friendly. They will saunter up to be petted, or dash over as if checking our credentials. They roll to be petted or stoically stand their ground. What they don’t do as much is run away. These are confident cats.
Bicycles are very popular here in Portland. Not just to play with, but for people to get to work and school. The city makes this easier by designating some streets as greenways in the neighborhoods, where bikes are the main traffic and cars are discouraged.
But riding downtown or along busy streets like Division is still hard because there are just so many cars. So since 2007, the city and local businesses and hospitals have organized a fun way to enjoy riding in different parts of town. It is called Sunday Parkways.
For the five warmest months of the year, one Sunday a month, in one section of the city, streets are closed to car traffic in a loop from 7 to 10 miles long. Grandpa Nelson and Auntie Bridgett got to ride in our Sunnyside/Belmont neighborhood in May. Grandpa Nelson and I rode through the industrial and downtown area this past Sunday.
We started with coffee and pastries at Trifecta on 6th street, because every good day starts with third breakfast. I got to chat with a delivery person for B Line, a company that delivers Trifecta’s baked goods to restaurants and stores by bike! He said he liked being “in the middle of the future.”
When we saw other cyclists passing by (dozens of them, right in the middle of street!) we knew it was time, and off we went. The path for us was marked with signs and helpful folks willing to provide shade, water, directions and advice.
We rode up to the Moda Center, an indoor sports arena, where a bike fair was happening. There were booths for registering your bike, music, food, and a huge event with the Portland Trailblazers basketball team. It was so crowded, we had to get off and walk our bikes through the people.
When we were past that, we continued ACROSS THE STEEL BRIDGE. It couldn’t be closed to traffic, since it is so busy, but we got one lane to share for the bikes going in both directions. Downtown it was crowded again, with booths and so many people. Think of it like when you go for a Sunday drive and everyone else in town does, too.
But the joy of riding with thousands of other people on a warm sunny day is no small thing. Last year, over 74,000 people rode on some part of the Sunday Parkways. That is about half the population of all of Salinas!
In an unexpected historical moment, we passed the Simon Benson House. Mr. Benson was a lumberman from the 1800s and 1900s whose good works have lived after him. He donated money for Benson Polytechnic high school, the land where Multnomah Falls is, and the wonderful always-running water fountains called bubblers. One of them in right in front of his house!
Coming home, we rode over the Tilikum Crossing Bridge. This is the newest bridge in the city and is just for trains, buses, pedestrians and bikes. NO CARS, ever. We stopped to enjoy the view and chatted with some folks riding with three generations of family, and took each other’s pictures.
Back on the east side of the river we rode on the Vera Katz Esplanade, created by a former mayor and named for her. There was a band on a barge playing music, more treats and happy people.
The last part of the ride (as it often is) is coming back up the hill to our house. You understand that rivers are always at the lowest part of the land, and that we are 33 streets up from that. It adds up to about 150 feet of elevation change, which feels like an awful lot at the end of an 8 mile ride!
Finally home, we drank lots of water and enjoyed the wonderful cool rest of knowing we had done something very special, and very Portland.
I know I have said it many times, but I love our neighborhood! There are so many delightfully odd, silly, adorable things just all over the place. This sad and lovely painting, for example, hung from a local tree. The lady looks so sad!
While out walking in the warm evening yesterday, we came across the tree with the “dinosaur infestation”, only to see that there are more! Now there is one in the birdhouse and even in the bird bath!
Not far away was this tiny fairy door, just there at the base of a tree.Other evidence of fairies were seen nearby. Small branches used to make fairy fences and pretty collections of pebbles are sure signs of fairies. Lucky us, to have magic so close by!
Then we ran into things that sort of fit the theme of magic, as well. A lovely black kitten came up and wanted some attention.
We saw a sign on a fig tree that said “Keep off the dirigible plums”, a reference to Xenophilius Lovegood’s house in the Harry Potter books.
And finally, at the teeny tiny library that is also a poll taking blackboard (this week the poll was “koalas or pandas?), we found a tinier library, holding tiny kid-made books! They were astonishingly cute and inspirational…. if I was going to write books for fairies, what would I write about?
I will ask Cousin Kestrel. She is my local expert.