Swinging Symphony

Dear Liza,

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Ceiling of The Artbar

One of the many things I love about Portland is that theater and music are everywhere! Last night we took the number 15 to The Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall downtown and enjoyed “Swing is the Thing”.

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The Schnitz

But first, dinner! The Artbar, a pretty restaurant in the same theater complex, fed us not-too-fancy quiches, fries, and nice local wines. As we entered the lobby of the theater, we heard applause coming from the balcony and went to investigate. Two pairs of dancers were jitterbugging to lively swing music, egged on by the well-dressed crowd. We could tell we were in for a good time.

“The Schnitz”, as it is sometimes called, was built in 1928 and has been restored to its historic voluptuousness. Ceiling decoration, lighting, and painted iron railings all let you know you are in a special place. The performance included the entire Oregon Symphony, directed by Jeff Tyzik and, at certain points, the theater took on the feeling of a opulent lecture hall, with Mr. Tyzik explaining the finer points of jazz and swing and how they morphed  into early rock and roll.

Mr. Tyzik and the Symphony were assisted by Julie Jo Hughes, a wonderful vocalist, and Dave Bennett, who plays clarinet and does vocals as well as a wicked Jerry Lee Lewis turn on the piano. Dancers Stephen Sayer, Chandrae Roettig, Hunter Krikac and Karine Hermes came on stage every now and then to stun us with gravity-defying moves and light footwork.

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Dancers put on a show before the show!

The first half of the program was dedicated to swing music, starting with “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy”, “Pennsylvania 6-5000” and “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore”. There was also an original piece called “Harlem Street Scene”, written by director Tyzik. It had a swingy, jazzy dissonance that was easy on the ears but definitely not boring.

The second half was rock and roll, and not nearly as good as the swing portion. If it were not for Dave Bennett’s crazy acrobatics on the piano, the music selections would have felt disappointingly like a mother-daughter dance.

No, I take that back. A song that was not even listed on the program, Julie Jo Hughes singing Peggy Lee’s “Fever”and taking a turn dancing with Mr. Tyzik as he was conducting, was knock down gorgeous.

When the show was over, we crossed the street to catch the bus back home, along with some other music lovers and a violinist. Another lovely night in Portland!

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In the Mooooood at The Schnitz

Love,

Grandma Judy

Pizza and Kidlets

Dear Liza,

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Auntie Bridgett making Monsters

We finally got to have Auntie Katie and the Cousins over for dinner at OUR house last night. I’m not sure why I kept putting it off,  I just really needed to feel I was home…and now I guess I do.

The day started with baking! Auntie Bridgett and I made a peanut butter and oatmeal candy I learned from a mentor teacher about 42 years ago. Her name was Joann, so I call them JoJos. We made them for First Friday at The SideStreet Arts Gallery this evening.

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Yummy tiny Monster cupcakes

Once they were cooling, we started on tiny cupcakes for dessert with Katie and family. The kitchen sure got messy, with buttermilk flipping onto the counter and powdered sugar making little clouds, but we got them baked, cooled and frosted. The candy eyeballs Grandpa Nelson found at the market last week sure came in handy!

I made pizza dough from a Bobby Flay recipe and had a rest before our guests arrived. We made pizzas, played with Legos, chatted about everything and caught up on Cousin Jasper’s after school program of computer coding.

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Kestrel, ready to hand me the paper

Cousin Kestrel taught me a game called “Exquisite Corpse”, which is not as gruesome as it sounds. It is a drawing game. You fold a piece of paper into three sections, one above the other. The first player draws the head of a creature, with the neck lines going just slightly below the old. This gives the second player a place to start. Without looking at what the first player drew, the second adds to the creature. This continues with the third player, who adds the legs, or bottom part.

When everyone is done, you open up the paper and see what you have created! Kestrel suggested I write a story for this one. I will try.

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Our finished critter

When Auntie Katie and the Cousins had to leave (bedtime!) we loaded the dishwasher and melted on the sofa for a while before going to bed.

Love,

Grandma Judy

 

 

 

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

South to Clinton

Dear Liza,img_0387.jpg

With cooler weather coming on (although it is sunny today) I decided it is time to start thinking about how I’m going to keep busy when it gets too cold to go for long walks. I have started knitting, but what I really love is making quilts. So I need to find some fabric.

Hunting online for fabric shops, I found the ones I already know about, The Whole Nine Yards, which only carries upholstery and drapery fabrics, and Cool Cottons, which carries only cotton/polyester blends. I want a store where I can find heavier and lighter fabrics, cottons and blends, corduroy and sheers, all in one place. I want to be able to see all the fabrics before I buy any of them.img_0393.jpg

A bit further away I found Josephine’s Dry Goods, about a mile and a half south on Clinton Street. I dropped Auntie Bridgett at Luke’s Frame Shop and headed off.

Along the way, I saw some lovely things and made some discoveries. These beautiful red balls that I have been seeing are actually dogwood tree seeds, and there is another sweet chestnut tree at 26th and Division.

Just past the sweet chestnut tree, I smelled something delicious and realized it was lunch time, so I stopped at La Panza Cafe, It is a small New Mexican place that doesn’t look like much from the outside. I was made to feel at home by the young waiter, whose name I carelessly forgot to ask.

From their lunch menu (though you can get breakfast all day) I ordered chili verde stew with meatballs and a cold, creamy horchata to drink. Maybe it was the long walk and the warm day, but both were incredibly delicious. Jose, the chef, knows his flavors.img_0404.jpg

After that delicious meal, I continued south to Clinton Street. I found a theater, a video store, art gallery, and comic shop, but finally, Josephine’s Dry Goods, my fabric store of the day.  Josephine’s has a beautiful selection, but again, a narrow focus. They carry natural fabrics, the sort used in high-end dressmaking: silks, wools, cottons, linens. Beautiful, but not what I can use for a quilt. I drooled over the silks for a while, thanked the lady, and headed off. Cloud Comics, next door, was clean and bright, but not as nice as Auntie Katie’s Books with Pictures.img_0413.jpg

The Clinton neighborhood is very pretty, filled with Victorian homes from the turn of the century and old, well tended trees. The street signs highlight the fact that Clinton Street is a Bicycle Throughway, a road that has very little car traffic. Indeed, you can ride down Clinton Street to the river and cross the Tilikum Crossing Bridge. I want to do that bike ride!img_0422.jpg

I continued up past Sewallcrest Park (which, according to the map, is actually Hazeltine Park) and then home. A three mile walk, a fine lunch, and new things to see…I am a happy Grandma.

But pooped!

Love,

Grandma Judy

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New, Old, and Changing

Dear Liza,

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Giant Dahlias

Here in Portland, Summer isn’t willing to give up just yet. The roses and dahlias are blooming in what looks like a joyous shout before tucking in for the colder months. Portland is known as The Rose City (since 1888, anyway) but all flowers do well here.

We are having days that start damp and grey with wet sidewalks, burst into sunshine for lunch dates, then get cloudy again by dinner. It is dramatic and beautiful.

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Coy Dahlias

Our painters are almost done with the outside of the building, so today I get to put all Momma’s geraniums back on the patio. The poor plants have been holding their collective breath for two weeks, in a foyer with not enough sunlight or fresh air.

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Geraniums in exile

The Green Rain trees in the neighborhood are putting on their big show: seeds pods! They start as small swellings on the bud, and are now these bunches of pods that rattle like maracas when you shake them…which I do, every time I go by! Hey, it’s a toy, I’m a just big kid…what do you expect?

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Green Rain Tree

Today I will walk up to Yen’s and have her cut my hair. I am feeling too shaggy and need to spruce up a bit. Also, I want to show her this photo of the ginger cutting she gave us when we were last in, about 7 weeks ago. Bridgett put the cutting in water and, after a rocky start, sprouted roots like crazy! I am sure she will be happy to see her baby doing well.

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Yen’s Ginger sprouting!

Off to make the day happen!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Cats in Portland

Dear Liza,

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Creepy hairless cat doubts our sincerity

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!

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A Mariposo at the Symphony

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.

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Kitten showing super powers

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.

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This cat, on this corner. Always.

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.

I enjoy their company very much.

Love,

Grandma Judy

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Thanks for petting me, now go away. New people are coming!

River View Cemetery, Part 2

Dear Liza,

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Memorial to the Second Oregon Regiment

There were so many interesting things (and people) at River View Cemetery, I wanted to share some more with you. The famous people memorialized here don’t stop at founders and politicians. Important people like Henry Weinhard, one of the first and most successful brewers here in the land where we love beer, is buried surrounded by his family and whimsically remembered with a can of beer.

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Beer!

Colonel Owen Summers and his Second Oregon Regiment from the Spanish American War in the Philippines are all here. The men are buried in a circle that surrounds a statue of a soldier, the flag nearby at half-staff for the late John McCain. Colonel Summers himself is buried away from this area, with his wife and family.

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Captain Couch

Captain Couch, a sea captain who developed an entire portion of the city, is buried under an impressive, nautical themed column with chains, an anchor, and compass. Another set of “streets” buried nearby are Flanders, Glisan, and Hoyt.

You see, when Captain Couch mapped out his neighborhood in Northwest Portland, he labeled the streets by letters: A, B, C, etc. Later city planners wanted something more “romantic”, so they chose men from Portland’s history to coincide with the letters, like Ankeny, Burnside, and Couch himself. This decision now gives us a shorthand history lesson as we drive through town.  We can also see that, like today,  offspring of important people often married offspring of other important people, which we see in headstones such as “John Couch Flanders” and ” Caroline Couch Glisan”.

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Couch merges with Glisan

David Campbell, the Fire Chief who died saving his men in 1911 and who is also memorialized on West Burnside, is buried here.

Harvey Scott, who was editor of the Oregonian newspaper for many years, is here. He and I don’t see eye to eye on things, as he opposed women’s suffrage and public high schools. Interestingly, his sister, Abigail Scott Duniway,  a suffrigist and prolific author who also edited a newspaper ( The New Northwest) is buried at River View. I wasn’t able to find her memorial, but I haven’t covered even half the ground yet.img_0111.jpg

In the words of another famous dead person, “I shall return.”

Love,

Grandma Judy