A Day Downtown

Dear Liza,

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Later Diebenkorn

I needed to do some more research for my story yesterday, which means a trip downtown. Auntie Bridgett had a morning free and came with me. We caught the number 15 and off we went. My first stop was supposed to be the Oregon Historical Research Library, but it turns out they don’t open until 1:00 on Tuesdays.

IMG_7503.jpgSo, Plan B, I walked back across the  Park Blocks to the Portland Art Museum, where Auntie Bridgett was enjoying the Richard Diebenkorn exhibit. I enjoyed the sketches he did early in his career, when he was in the Marine Corps, as well as the abstract paintings he did later.

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Early Diebenkorn

 

While I was looking at art, I got a text from Grandpa Nelson. He told me about the City of Portland Archives, which are right downtown, that had (he had discovered) a whole file on the 1903 parade Portland held for President Theodore Roosevelt when he came to visit. I figured since the OHS library was still closed, I’d head to the archives. They were about 15 minutes away. This became Plan C.

But it took me longer. I saw a young family walking down the Park Blocks wearing matching T-shirts that said Free Ice Cream. They looked so friendly, I mentioned their shirts and we had a nice conversation. They were helping a friend advertise a new church downtown, and this was their fun way of getting to talk to people. I met some nice folks AND got a coupon for a Ben and Jerry’s ice cream cone! Score!

At the City Archives, I found that once again, timing wasn’t on my side. They were closing in 20 minutes! But the lady was very nice, brought me the thick folder, and left me alone. It had lots of information, but not what I was really looking for. But she took down my contact information and said she would have another look when she had time, and I promised to come back tomorrow to see what she had. I would come back to the OHS, anyway, because by this time I was brain dead and ready to go home.IMG_7516.jpg

So we had a snack and caught the bus. Auntie Bridgett suggested we get off a little early and walk through Lone Fir Cemetery, since it had been a long time since we saw the dead people. Does this become Plan D?  It was peaceful and beautiful as always, and we saw this lovely carved headstone for Elenor Springer. There were smaller stones from her three sons that outlived her, but no marker for Mr. Springer, to whom she was “beloved wife.” Another mystery!

More downtown time tomorrow, and hopefully, fewer Plans and more results!

Love,

Grandma Judy

New House!

Dear Jasper and Kestrel,

Even though I am here in Salinas, Grandpa Nelson, Auntie Bridgett and I have just bought a new house in Portland!!

About a month ago, after looking at many houses that were too expensive or in the wrong neighborhood, my two wonderful people found this nice condominium just a few blocks from many of our favorite places. Laurelhurst Park….3 blocks away.  Lone Fir Cemetery, the Belmont Inn, the Nerd Out…all in the neighborhood. The number 15 bus to the Portland Art Museum and the Oregon Historical Society…. two blocks away.

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Lone Fir in fall
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Desserts, Drinks, and Action Figures!

It was within our budget, new enough to not need major repairs, and bright and sunny. It has room for Auntie Bridgett to paint, for me to write, and for Grandpa Nelson to work on his computer. It has a patio where I can grow a rose or two and a balcony for all of Great Grandma Billie’s geraniums.

Auntie Katie’s friend Alyssa Isenstein-Krueger is a Real Estate Agent with Living Room Realty and helped my two people get in to see the place before the first Open House, so they got first dibs. And boy, did they dib!

We made an offer that afternoon. There was a lot of traffic over the internet with signing papers and passing banking information, but the final papers couldn’t be signed over the net…they needed to be signed in person. A notary named Jasmin printed out the papers and we met in the delicatessen department of the Nob Hill on South Main. So I signed the papers for my house in Portland in the grocery store I shopped at here in Salinas. Nob Hill is the bridge, sort of, between my life here and my life there.

I signed the papers on that rainy evening of the Union march at the Board meeting, going directly from signing papers to marching in the rain. What a day that was!!

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The “Three” of us in front of the new house

Tonight, Grandpa Nelson and Auntie Bridgett had a bottle of wine at the new place, sitting on folding chairs, and we had a Facetime visit with all of us having wine here, to toast our new home. My two sillies brought along a large ceramic duck to stand in for ME.

We are all emotionally exhausted and ready to have a new nest to feather and be comfortable in. I get to see the house next week when I go to Portland for Spring vacation, and I am looking forward to deciding where everything will fit.

I can’t wait to start my new life in my new home!

Love,

Grandma Judy

 

Strange Icy Magic

Dear Liza,

I grew up in Southern California, and have lived the last 30 years in Salinas, where ice and snow almost never happen. So having a few days to really get out and see what ice does to a familiar neighborhood has been fun.

First, clothing. Three shirts, long underwear under jeans, wool socks and boots, plus scarves and hats. Gloves, too,  if you want to keep your fingers.

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Footprints in fluffy Snow

Next, walking. Any kind of movement becomes very thoughtful. Since the ground is squishy or slick, and cement is hard, you pay a lot more attention to your feet…the actual placement, checking for traction every second.

This means you need to stop in order to look up, which you must do, because everything is so different. The snow that fell three days ago had changed from fluffy and soft to grainy and icy, and has melted and re-frozen a few times, making some weird shapes along the way.

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Icy Camellia Bush
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Ice on our stump

 

 

The evergreen camellias common in yards around here hold up to the ice well, even forming molds which the ice flows into. It was amazing to hold one of these!

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Camellia Ice Mold

Familiar things, like our gnomes on the back steps, take on new meaning. Not just “I’m a gnome” but “I’m a really freezing, patient gnome.” The plaster sun becomes a study in irony.

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Winter Sun

We had such a wonderful visit from Great Auntie Christy and Cousin Kyle, showing off this new city that we love. We walked the neighborhoods, looked at houses, saw art museums and bookshops, ate Babydoll Pizza and marathoned Christmas movies. We are now ready for a few days of downtime before the new year.

Love,

Grandma Judy

 

 

Family in Portland

Dear Liza,

Merry Christmas!

Your Great Auntie Christy and Cousin Kyle have come up to spend the Holiday with us, and we have been showing them the town.

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Carolers at Kennedy School

The first day they were here we had dinner, then drove up to the McMenamin’s Kennedy School to show them that wonderful space and listen to the Dickensian Carolers. It was so wonderful! Every time I go there, I see new art work.

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Artwork at Kennedy School

The next day Grandpa Nelson and Cousin Kyle got dressed early and walked down to the Rocking Frog for fresh doughnuts and cinnamon rolls. Then we all walked around Laurelhurst Park, which was COLD and almost naked of leaves.

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Freezing, happy family

After lunch, we headed downtown via Lyft car, which with this many people, is cheaper than the bus, and did some shopping at Powell’s City of Books.

Then, carrying the 20 pounds of books we had bought, we walked down to the Portland Art Museum to show them the Laika exhibit. Kyle is a big fan of the Coraline and Kubo and the Two Strings movies, so he was delighted. We all enjoyed it, as well…it is the sort of show you can see many times and always see something new.

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Kyle and monster from Kubo

After resting and snacking at the museum cafe, we hired another Lyft car and got a ride to Auntie Katie’s store, Books with Pictures. We shopped and visited, then we all (including Katie, who got off work) over to the Double Dragon Restaurant, at SE Division and 12th,  for dinner. It was noisy, but the food was good and sitting down was a nice break. Grandpa and Auntie Katie wanted ice cream, so we walked (more walking!) down to Fifty Licks Ice Cream on Clinton Street, where, in spite of the cold, we all ate ice cream. I had the blackstrap gingersnap…so good!

When it seemed that we had bought, eaten, and seen everything, we got another Lyft home and fell asleep watching the classic movie, The Bishop’s Wife.

What a great day!!

Love,

Grandma Judy

 

Laika in Portland

Dear Liza,

One of the very nice things about living in a big city like Portland is all the museums and places to learn new things. The Portland Art Museum, called PAM, is one of those places. Because Auntie Bridgett is an artist and we all love art, we became members of PAM and got to visit a special show that opened last weekend and goes until next May. It is all about Laika.

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Maquette of a Scene from Boxtrolls

Laika is a movie company that makes stop-motion animated films. Their four movies so far are Coraline, ParaNorman, Boxtrolls, and Kubo and the Two Strings. These movies are made, not by drawing the animation so that the pictures seem to move, but making puppets (called maquettes) with wire inside them, and filming them so THEY seem to move.

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Coraline

In stop-motion animation, every tiny gesture is made by hand, then photographed, then the next gesture. It can take days of work to get a minute of film done. Everything in every shot is created….the sets, the sky, the toys the kids play with, leaves and the wind that blows them.

In PAM, many of these sets and maquettes were on display, as well as tiny props (Coraline’s teddy bear, Kubo’s guitar), and they were all works of art. The teddy bears were the tiniest things, and a 20 foot tall robot monster from Kubo was the largest. It was incredible, scary, and beautiful.

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Twenty foot tall Robot

At a conversation about Laika, the presenter said that these movies are art not only because they are beautiful, but because they deal with humanity and the problems we face; isolation, belonging, friendship. The stories ask questions about who is human, what is family, and why we need each other.

Sometimes looking at art makes you see things differently. When we got home and I was making dinner, I cut an onion and saw a face! I played with it a bit, and got this funny thing. Then it all got chopped up and put in the pan.

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My own puppet

 

 

I hope you come visit sometime before the show is over so I can take you to see it!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Irish History and Walking

Dear Liza,

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.

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Skinny McMenamin’s 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.

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St. Mary’s Cathedral

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.

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Old church, now home of 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.

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Great place for reading and food!

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.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Art, bocce, bugs, and chess

Dear Liza,

On Tuesday the cousins and I took the number 4 down to to Portland Art Museum. There was a lot going on before we even got inside! The giant orchids were still there, and there was a piano painted like a raccoon. Several people came up and played a song or two, then wandered away. It was sort of magical.

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Raccoon Piano

There are statues in the courtyard that I hadn’t noticed before. They are called Her Leaving, It Up and It Sitting. They are tall, lumpy figures covered with what look like rivers of paint.We imagined we were tiny and the statues became mountains with caves. We followed each river of color as it flowed into others and down ‘waterfalls’.

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Her Leaving

Inside the museum we looked at portraits by different artists. We played my favorite game of making up what we think the person in the portrait is thinking. A young lady looking tired with an accordion on her lap is thinking, “I want to go ride my new bike!” We saw shiny silver dishes and statues carved out of smooth, white marble.

But our favorite room had three pieces of art by Jennifer Steinkamp. They were moving, digital trees ten feet tall, projected onto the walls. The trees were growing and changing as we watched. The bare branches got covered in pink and purple blossoms and leaves which rustled in the breeze, changed color and fell, and the bare tree began spring again. It was hypnotic, and we sat for a long time watching. Jasper and Kestrel had fun going around the room, pretending to gather the leaves.

At lunchtime, we walked outside to the South Park Blocks, areas of shady grass with benches and statues, to eat our lunch. We saw some people playing bocce ball, tossing balls at a small target. They were having such fun that Jasper watched and got invited to make the last throw.

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Bocce Ball Players

Then an incredibly big, beautiful bug joined us on our bench. About two inches long, he was very patient and let us get very close to look at him. I looked him up later, and he is an Alder Boring Beetle.

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Very Patient Alder Boring Beetle

After lunch we walked down to Director Park. This park isn’t grassy, but has a big fountain that is good for wading, a cafe with a big shady patio, and a chessboard bigger than your bedroom. The pieces are about two feet tall, light and easy to move. Jasper and I played a good game while Kestrel watched cat videos on my phone. We listened to a violinist play over by the fountain.

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Chessboard in Director Park

It felt like the perfect time to end our perfect day, so we walked past some lovely statues of forest animals and caught the number 2 bus back home. I am sure enjoying getting to know your cousins.

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Cousin Kestrel and a deer

Love,

Grandma Judy