Your oldest cousin Jasper, the fellow who started this whole Grandma Judy thing, turned ten last week. We celebrated this momentous anniversary at Blackbird Pizza, at the corner of SE 20th and Hawthorne. They have several things to recommend them.
First, they are close by. Even on a near-freezing evening, Grandpa Nelson and I walked there. We took the umbrella to make sure it didn’t rain (you know how that goes) and had a chance to see the Christmas lights going up in the neighborhood.
Second, Blackbird makes really good pizza. Since there would be seven kids and five adults, we ordered two large pies, one plain cheese and one “Proctor Special” as the kids call it. This has pepperoni, olives, pineapple and basil. Weird, yes, but definitely good! We also got some yummy Malbec wine for the grownups.
Third, there are games, video games on the first floor and pinball on the mezzanine. The kids played with pocketfuls of quarters.
Uncle Dave brought cupcakes, candles and matches, and lit up the dessert. I was amazed at how pleasant this party was… no drama, no fussy eaters, no overly tired kids losing their cool. I guess everyone is growing up. It is a good step.
When it was time to head home, we bundled up and headed back up the hill, warmed by love of family, a little wine, and woolen sweaters.
Now that is is officially summer, our evening walks have moved from six o’clock to more like 7:30. It stays light until nine and it feels silly to waste all that lovely sunlight!
Yesterday evening Auntie Bridgett and I walked around the neighborhood and noticed that the flowers are really exploding. Sweet peas, roses, day lilies and hollyhocks are shooting up out of the ground like the police are after them.
Even the sunflowers are getting tall and majestic. The bees all seem to be prosperous and busy.
We met a new cat, a very friendly young lady with beautiful markings and a tag that declares her to be “The Princess.” She not just allowed, but demanded, that we pet her, squeaking in a very royal voice.
On the way home we passed The Belmont Inn, and stopped in for a few games of Monster Bash, our favorite pinball game. We played together for a few, then went head-to-head. My score of six million made me very proud until Auntie Bridgett whupped me with forty-four million!!! Holy smokes, I need more practice!
I will be coming to Salinas to stay with you for a while, so last night was my last Friday in Portland for about 2 months. To make sure I didn’t miss my new city too much, Grandpa Nelson and Auntie Bridgett took me out to some of my favorite places.
During the day, Bridgett and I walked down to the Belmont Library to return some books. We enjoyed the decorations in the Sunnyside neighborhood. We always see something new!
Since it was very dark and rainy when we left the house, I wore my light-up coat and Bridgett wore her new light-up HAT! We were colorful, I tell you. But we were easy for drivers to see.
We walked down to the Hobnob, a funny, friendly place on SE 34th and Morrison. They have good food, the drinks we like (including stout beer for me and Absinthe for Auntie Bridgett) and a really comfortable atmosphere. There was a birthday party going on for a fellow and we got to sing with all his friends. There were french fries for Grandpa Nelson, a pulled pork slider for Auntie Bridgett, and a cup of roasted pepper chicken soup and some macaroni and cheese for me. Yummy!
Then, since I had filled my pockets with quarters, we walked around the corner to The Belmont Inn, where our favorite pinball game lives. Monster Bash! We played 2 sets of five games each and had a lot of fun. It wasn’t a great night for scoring though…. we only got one monster to wake up.
As we were walking home, we noticed…wait, could it be? Yes, The Nerd Out, which we had been watching since the Belmont Street Fair in September, is finally open for business! We HAD to go see it!
First impressions were very good, as there were a half dozen Vespas and other scooters out front. The space is full of small tables, people, conversation, and comic stuff. One long wall is wallpapered with pages out of comic books and a shelf running all around the place is full of action figures. There is a full bar and a good menu. We were full of dinner and drinks, but they have desserts!
Grandpa Nelson had an Un-birthday Cake, and Auntie Bridgett and I shared a Seasonal Cream Brulee, which had wonderful diced apples on top of the hard shell of sugar. We talked to Mitch, the owner, chef and head Nerd. We had met him at the street fair, and it was wonderful to see him running the business he had dreamed of. He was so excited to tell us about his upcoming events, a Grand Opening on January 18th and a Cosplay night on the last Thursday of the month.
Friday nights are usually fun here…we find something different to do. But last night, the different came to us! Or rather, it went by us.
While we were having the first chili of the year (because it’s finally cool enough that cooking is fun), we heard a weird noise outside. We are used to loud noises here, since we live a block up from a yoga studio and many lovely places to eat and drink. But this was not traffic, car alarms or delivery trucks.
What is was, was a Mardi Gras style marching band! Dixie land jazz musicians and people in white suits waving streamers, were marching and sauntering right down the middle of our street. We went out and stood on the back porch, clapping and waving, and realized it was a wedding! In with the musicians and revelers was the happy couple, waving at everyone and looking goofily happy. The procession mosied on down towards the Goodfoote Lounge and the music faded..but what a treat.
The nice people who got married chose to share all that joy and silly and music with a whole neighborhood of people they don’t even know, and we were grateful. Serendipity seems to be guiding our lives at this point, and I am happy to go along for the ride.
Later, with the memory of Dixieland jazz still ringing, we walked down to a new place, the Belmont Inn. This is a pub at SE 33rd and Belmont which we have walked past many times and wanted to see what it was like.
There were six pinball games! One, “Star Wars” was more expensive than the others but not very much fun. The best one by far was “The Monster Bash”! Five games for two dollars, and monsters that move, cool voice overs, and sounds effects. We had way too much fun for grown ups. Auntie Bridgett and I played, mostly, but Grandpa Nelson got into the game, as well.
We wandered home thinking how lucky we are to be living in this fun city. And when we got here, we had a package! Eight, count them, eight classic monster movies had been delivered! Frankenstein, Bride of, Dracula, Wolfman, Mummy, Creature from the Black Lagoon, Invisible Man, and Phantom of the Opera, along with histories and how-they-were-made features, the theme of the evening! How can life get any better, I ask you?
SO, after an already full evening, we made popcorn and watched Bride of Frankenstein and drifted off to bed. I love my life!
Last night we took the #20 bus across the Willamette River to an area of Portland called The Pearl. It is the old warehouse district right by the river, and has had years where it was very depressed and grungy. Lately, it has become home to lots of art galleries, and to celebrate that, they do an Art Walk every First Thursday.
Unlike the street fairs on Hawthorne or Alberta, they don’t close the street because The Pearl is right downtown and dozens of buses and light rail trains run through it. But there were a lot of art galleries open late, and most have music playing.
We started the evening off, however, with video games. There is a huge arcade called Ground Control at NW Couch (say Kooch) and 5th Avenue. They have cool old video games like Pac-man and Asteroids, (Auntie Bridgett played some Paperboy) but also my favorite, PINBALL! I played a Hobbit game and Addams Family, and Auntie Bridgett and I played a Simpsons game. We didn’t impress anyone, but we hadn’t intended to…it was just for fun.
Walking in The Pearl at night is odd. It isn’t as bright or noisy as other parts of downtown, and there are blocks where the streets are a bit smelly and dirty. But there are also bits of magic, where light, darkness and color play together just right. A statue caught in the sunset, or street lamps heading up a parkway, or even just overlapping layers of advertising, can be lovely.
We went into several galleries, but, as you know, I don’t take photos of other people’s art in art galleries. But I can tell you, the most beautiful piece I saw all night was called “Carved into Twilight” by an artist named Tom Cramer. It was a circle about 4 feet in diameter, carved in delicate, curving lines, and painted with silver leaf and oil paint. It was like a galaxy unto itself and was hypnotizing. If it hadn’t cost $6,000, I might have brought it home.
Some of the galleries, like J. Pepin, were so crowded you couldn’t even see the art. Others had music that literally chased us out. But most were great fun to walk in, even if we didn’t care for the art. Art People watching is very interesting.
As we were getting worn out with walking, we ran into two places that made us happy we had not quit yet. The Blackfish gallery had watercolors by Robert Dozono that were charming and full of movement. I was able to take a picture of one of them, because it was a huge piece hung in the window, so, to me, counted as public art. Nothing like a cat in a room full of books to win my heart!
Then we found City Home, a store full of all sorts of interesting stuff. Old factory pieces, like these balloon molds, were mixed in with neon signs and new, silly signs, like one for “Camp Run-A-Muck”, which showed a pouncing raccoon and featuring “S’mores Nightly!”. Too silly, really….
Now totally sore and tired, we walked to our usual bus stop across the street from Powell’s Books. It is a busy corner and I enjoyed looking at the lights and traffic, even as my feet were aching. I was grateful when the bus came and I could sit down and just watch the night go by for a while.