Adulting at the Zoo

Dear Liza,

Auntie Bridgett worked all day at the SideStreet Gallery today, so Grandpa Nelson and I went to the Portland Zoo, taking the number 15 bus and Red Line train. Of course, we have been to the zoo with Cousins Jasper and Kestrel, but going with just grown ups is a whole different experience. We were like our own island of calm in a sea of chatting, fussing, small people.

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Masai Giraffe

It was a perfectly Portland fall day, cool and cloudy but not raining. The animals were mostly up and about and, since I had no children to keep track of, I could really enjoy the critters.

On our way to the giraffes, which are Grandpa Nelson’s favorites, we stopped at the Columbus monkey enclosure. There was quite a crowd watching the new baby, sitting on a branch with his mom and learning to handle branches. His balance was precarious and every time the branch shifted, the crowd gasped. After a few minutes the father came over, and the baby became much less adventurous, seeming to keep Momma between himself and Big Dad.

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Baby Colobus monkey keeps an eye on Dad

The giraffes were delightful, walking elegantly around their enclosure, or leaning gracefully down for a drink. Grandpa Nelson says he likes them because they are quiet.

Having no children to keep track of, I got to watch everyone else’s. This was a zoo-going experience, too, watching this species of small human interact. I loved seeing the kids play with Jim Gion’s bronze sculpture group called Lunch Break, especially this little guy trying to be a cub.

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Cubs

It was also fun to see older siblings explain things to little brothers and sisters. “See this snake? See how you are red? He can tell you’re not a rock, so he can eat you!” And, on cue, the little brother squeals.

Heat sensing snake

Something I had never seen was an elephant enjoying a swim in the big pool. A keeper was fielding questions and telling us all about elephants, while we watched this giant animal duck and squirt in the water like you do in your bathtub. I imagine it’s about has hard to get him out, too, when it is time!

We noticed that the zoo is already getting ready for Zoo Lights, a wonderful night event held in December where the zoo is open very late and all the trees are lit up, and animals made of neon tubes glow and move. It takes weeks to take the lights down after the holidays, more time to refurbish them, and then another few months to put them all back up. But it is a delightful, if chilly, outing that we will certainly do again this year.

Getting ready for Zoo Lights

By the afternoon we were worn out and got back home for snacks and naps, because we had a date for the evening, as well. Auntie Katie’s book store, Books with Pictures, was sponsoring a showing of the 1984 movie, “Supergirl”, at the Hollywood Theater. I had never seen it, since in 1984 I was up to my eyeballs raising your Daddy David and Auntie Katie.

It was exciting to see Katie in her element, sharing her love of comics with a theater full of people. The movie wasn’t fabulous, but it did feature three strong female characters: Supergirl, Lucy Lane (Lois’s younger sister) and the villain, Selena, played by Faye Dunaway in all her evil glory. We enjoyed the silly camp and headed home, totally worn out.

Auntie Katie presenting SuperGirl

For being retired, I am certainly not bored! As my dad always said, “If you’re not having fun, it’s your own darn fault.”

Love,

Grandma Judy

Zoo Lights

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Happy Mouse

Dear Liza,

It is still very sunny here. Mouse enjoys sitting in the south facing glass and screen door, feeling the sun and watching the bird and dog action. Fortunately, the door keeps the cold out. The low has been 32 degrees, (freezing, actually freezing) and the high temperature only 44.

 

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Cousin Kestrel reading

Last night Grandpa Nelson and I picked up the Cousins at their school. Then we walked over to Auntie Katie’s shop, Books with Pictures, and we all took the bus and train up to the Oregon Zoo for Zoolights. The train and elevator were packed with families. This is something a lot of zoos do, but it was my first time.

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Waiting for the train downtown

At the zoo, since most of the animals are asleep or in dark corners away from the fences, the trees and lights become the attraction. All sorts of animals are outlined in lights.The trees become a fantastic forest of lights with the people just moving shadows underneath. It is eerie and wonderful.

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Glowing Ostriches
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Bremen Town Musicians in lights!

It was also cold! After about an hour, we were feeling chilly and empty. We stepped into the Africafe for corn dogs, hot cocoa and some warm conversation,  and soon were feeling cheerful again. More walking, including racing a lighted cheetah, and then we were done.

Auntie Katie and her dear friend Chelsea drove the tired cousins home, and Grandpa Nelson and I took the train and bus back. The newly painted train station was quiet and almost empty.

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Beautiful train station under Washington Park
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Sparkling Forest

We will take you next year, if you come up during winter. Bring your mittens!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Your Visit!

Dear Liza,

I haven’t written on this blog for a few days, and you know why…you were here in Portland! It was so good to see you and your daddy after these long months. You have gotten taller and smarter. Daddy is just as wonderful as always.

Of course, when you got here, there were snickerdoodle cookies to hold us until dinner. Grandpa Nelson had made reservations at a restaurant we had been saving for your daddy especially: The Laurelhurst Market, at NE 32nd and Burnside. Their specialty is meat: beef, steaks, pork, sausages…and they do it all very well. I had flank steak with chickory, which gave it a nice crunchy outside to go with the rich goodness inside.

After dinner we walked home through the neighborhood and talked about all the things we love about Portland. The tiny book-sharing libraries, the huge trees, the friendly people.

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The next day we got up early and took the bus/train/elevator to the ZOO at Washington Park! It was fun seeing things I had missed the last time, and showing you some of my favorite animals. Somehow, we missed the fruit bats, which I really like, but we’ll catch them next time.

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In The Discovery Zone
When we were too tired to smile, it was time to head down the hill and get lunch. Grandpa Nelson found The Picnic House, which is a beautiful old lobby of the Heathman Hotel, on Salmon at the South Park Blocks. The ceiling is at least 30 feet high, and there is a stuffed bear head wearing a hat and a monocle over the bar. The food was delicious and the slow pace gave us time to relax and rest from our long morning.

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Too tired to smile, even on a goat….
The bus trip home was very quiet. At home, you and I had naps, and Grandpa and Daddy sat and talked for hours. Then it was time for the SECOND big activity of the day: Picnic dinner with Auntie Katie, Uncle Dave, Cousin Jasper, and Cousin Kestrel! We packed dinner, wine, toys, and chairs, and headed off to Laurelhurst Park. The rest of the family came a little later, and we ate, played, talked, threw sticks and frisbees, and dug holes in the dirt.

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Making goop with Cousin Kestrel
It made me so happy to see everyone together and getting along so well. There aren’t a lot of cousins in this family, so we need to appreciate the ones we have. When it was too dark to see, we all came home and played Legos, while the Dads talked computers and airplanes downstairs. We ate the last of the cookies and sent everyone home to bed.

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Legos for everyone!
This morning, the cousins went to school and you and Daddy went to the airport. I was sad to see you go, but I know we’ll get together soon.

Love, Grandma Judy

The Oregon Zoo

Dear Liza,

Today Grandpa Nelson and I went to the zoo with Cousins Jasper and Kestrel. We took the #4 bus from their house to Pioneer Square downtown, then the Blue Line Max train to Washington Park, where the zoo is. The zoo is on top of a hill, but the train doesn’t go up the hill…it goes through a tunnel underneath the hill, and when we got off the train, we took an elevator straight up to the top. The train station is 260 feet below the surface where the zoo is, so the elevator is as tall as a 28 story building! That is almost 5 times as tall as the tallest building in Salinas. The elevator went really fast and we were at the top in about 10 seconds.

We got became members of the zoo, like we did for the Art Museum, so we can go whenever we want. It is also a way of supporting the zoo, because wild animals are expensive to take care of.

The first animal we had to see was Lily the elephant. She was born at the zoo when your cousins were babies, and they have sort of grown up together. When we got to Lily’s enclosure, which is in the area of the zoo called Elephant Lands, she was far away and hard to see, but the kids shouted hello to her, anyway. We walked down a hill and found a big grassy field called the Amphitheater.

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Kestrel watching the flying birds

The people in the show, both young ladies named Bree, had wild birds fly from different parts of the field, right over our heads! There was Eagle Owl, which is the largest kind of owl. They live in Africa and hunt African Hedgehogs at night. Bree and Bree also showed us a Red-Tailed Hawk, which is an Oregon wild bird that has learned how to live here in the city. They nest in large trees on the hillsides and hunt rats and pigeons, so they actually help keep the city clean.

We learned that different animals have different names for their groups. Just like there are herds of cows and flocks of birds, there are dazzles of zebras and crushes of rhinos. I don’t know who makes up the names, but they sure are interesting.

We visited bears and penguins and got sprayed by a fountain, and then we found the  The Discovery Zone. There was a building with all sorts of activities and critters inside, like a place for kids to make up their own puppet shows, baby turtles being raised in big tubs, and games to learn about how animals live.

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Jasper making a puppet show

 

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Kestrel and Grandpa Nelson…Jasper in the background

There was also the insect zoo,  a room where there were glass boxes with really interesting bugs. There were two kinds of tarantulas, stick insects a foot long, and even a Madagascar Hissing Cockroach, as big and your daddy’s thumb, which I got to pet! Cousin Kestrel watched, but didn’t pet it. It felt smooth, like it was made of glass. There were more games and young people telling all about the insects.

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Madagascar Hissing Cockroach

By this time, we were hungry for lunch we walked to the Sankuru Trader, way out by the giraffes, and had hot dogs and pretzels, with a blue raspberry icee for dessert. We felt so much better after the rest and food!

We walked all the way to the other corner of the zoo to visit the Great Northwest area. It felt just like hiking in the forest! There were beautiful trees and waterfalls, with windows that let you watch the ducks paddling on top of the water and diving underneath, too. There was a model of an eagle’s nest, and Jasper, Kestrel and I pretended we were a Momma eagle and her babies learning to fly. It was so much fun.

There was even art at the zoo. There was a wooden carving showing bears and silly cats, and a mosaic showing the stages of a salmon’s life, and a statue of mountain goats that we got to climb on.

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Kestrel, Salmon mosaic, and Jasper
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Silly Cat Carving
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Grandma Judy, Kestrel and Jasper on the goat statue

When we had seen all we could see, we took the elevator back down to the Blue Line Max train, changed to the #4 bus, and took the cousins back to their house. It had been a fun, but exhausting day. We all took naps that afternoon before dinner.

Love,

Grandma Judy