Looking Back

 

Dear Liza,

It is a new year, and I am looking forward to some more big changes. I will be coming to Salinas to stay with you for a few months while I teach, and my life here in Portland will be put on hold. Grandpa Nelson and Auntie Bridgett will stay here and take care of Mouse the kitten, the houseplants, and their jobs…but we won’t be together. This will be weird, and sometimes sad.

Before looking forward, though, I want to look back on the crazy trip that got me here and what I love about Portland.

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Auntie Katie and Cousin Kestrel

During the hot Summer, we learned about getting around on air-conditioned buses and trains. We got to visit our new favorite Laurelhurst Park with Auntie Katie and the cousins. We even walked to the Willamette River and put our feet in!

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View from under the Hawthorne Bridge

It was fun getting to show you all the things in our new city, like the zoo.

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Being a Squirrel

 

The biggest thing that we learned about is the weather. It rains a lot here, and we are getting used to asking Google if we should take an umbrella. It even snows! This takes getting used to, but is such a nice change from highs of 70 and lows of 50 that I don’t mind.

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Snow on the back steps

 

I have fallen in love with the theater and art here in Portland. Theaters are made from old churches, warehouses, and even set up in parks. Art and music are everywhere.

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Young violinist on SW Salmon and Park

People playing music, reciting and writing poetry on street corners just isn’t something we saw in Salinas, and it is a real treat.

And of course, the history! I have been studying about Portland’s past…it’s buildings, trolley cars, and people. It is just about as old as Salinas, but since it is a bigger city, it has more stories.

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I am still trying to find out who this young lady was

There is so much I love about Portland. I will miss it, and then return in June to re-discover my new city all over again.

 

Love,

Grandma Judy

Random Beauty

Dear Liza,

I had a feeling-lousy day yesterday, maybe from walking around cold the previous evening at the zoo. I slept a lot, drank tons of tea and was generally useless. And today I am better!

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Christmas tree and Journal Building in the daylight

Since I was on the couch most of the day, I was looking at the many pictures I have taken here in town and come to a major conclusion: Random beauty in a city this big usually doesn’t happen by accident. There are budgets, materials, design teams, artists, and the folks who install the art. This is a government decision to make art.

And I love it!

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Journal Building at night

For instance, the home of one of Portland’s oldest newspapers, The Journal Building, has been standing by the Pioneer Square since 1912. The paper closed down in 1982, but the building is still used for offices and stores and is a beautiful part of the downtown skyline. At Christmas, it gets even prettier!

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Lit up Christmas Tree

There are so many statues downtown it would take pages to just show and name them. One I just noticed the other day is called “Pile”, a statue showing a crow standing on a pigeon, sitting on some old books, standing on a pillow, sitting on a crate. I am sure it means something, but to me it was just random and wonderful.

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“Pile”

Up in the Kenton neighborhood, we saw a series of benches that feature sculpture.    Here is “Dog Bench”.

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Dog Bench

The last piece of art I will tell you about is one I noticed and photographed weeks ago during the wet weather. It is on one of the blocks of polished granite in Pioneer Square, and shows an architect’s blueprints, calculator and even coffee cup, all sculpted in bronze. It is so casual looking, as through the architect has just stepped away for a moment, it cracks me up.

 

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Blueprints sculpture

I am looking forward to showing you all the lovely things I have found in Portland.

Love,

Grandma Judy

 

245 Tubas

Dear Liza,

Yesterday we had a long, cold, sunny day downtown. Our first stop was Pioneer Square, sometimes called “Portland’s Living Room”. This is a beautifully paved and decorated open square that is used for big concerts, markets, and just hanging out in.

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Statue of a Cat lady and her … dog?
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Two of the 245 tuba players

Yesterday was the Tuba Christmas Concert, which features 245 people playing Christmas songs (and other lovely tunes) on tubas, baritone horns, and sousaphones. We got there early but all the seats were taken, so we stood way back and could hear, but not see, the performance. The deep peaceful music floated in the freezing cold air, and contrasted nicely with the giggling of children and chatting of families. Everyone was enjoying the day, but not silently.

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Tuba Christmas Hat!

I enjoyed watching the people in the crowd. Since it was cold, most folks were wearing hats. As the day went along, I tried to take pictures of some of the more interesting hats without scaring anyone.

 

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Minion hat

After the music, we walked around town, enjoying the window decorations. We stopped at Dick Blick’s Art Supplies and Powell’s City of Books, to see what would make nice presents for folks. Auntie Bridgett wanted to do some secret shopping, so we split up and agreed to meet at Kenny and Zuke’s Deli in an hour.

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Bright hat

 

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Auntie Bridgett hat

We enjoyed a veggie Reuben Sandwich, french fries and chicken soup and then headed home to do the grocery shopping. The bus home was full of people all bundled up and carrying packages, just like us! When that was done, we finally got into jammies and crashed. I fell asleep during The Charlie Brown Christmas, and will need to watch it again.

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Grandpa Nelson matching a stranger

Hanging out inside this morning, watching a 34 degree wind blow past our window. It’s weird, because with no leaves left to blow along the street, you just see bare branches swaying in the wind. Sometimes your hear the wind more than you see it…..spooky, but nice.

Love, Grandma Judy

 

Rain, Friendly History, and Pizza

Dear Liza,

Yesterday was another busy day. Auntie Bridgett and I took the #15 downtown just as the rain started, and walked up the hill to the Oregon Historical Society. This was her first time in the Research Library, and after she had signed in and our stuff was put away in a locker, we did our separate research.

I was hunting for pictures of Mrs. Pittock’s house on the corner of SW Park and Washington, and for information about a big party she had there in 1889. Bridgett was looking for information about a very funny KGW radio program called “The Hoot Owls”, which started in 1923. Librarian Scott Daniels helped me with boxes on photographs and folders full of newspaper clippings, and white glove to wear so I didn’t damage the old, delicate paper.

We were both fairly successful. I was able to see and sketch photos of Mrs. Pittock’s house and figure out what other buildings were on the property, but found absolutely nothing about the party. This puzzles me: Every story about the Rose Festival starts with a mention of Mrs. Pittock’s Rose Party…but no one seems to know when it happened, who was there, or what anything looked like. Did this party really happen? I will keep digging!

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A Burl

Bridgett found booklets of the silly songs “The Hoot Owls” sang on their radio show, and had a good time reading them. The producers of the show would publish the booklets and sell them, raising money to give to charity, like Comic Relief raises money today.

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Credit where due

By four o’clock, we were hungry for a snack and ready to head home. We walked up to catch the #20 home, walking down 6th Avenue, which was a new street for us. We saw some new statues and an old bank building with the letters F-A-R-G-O in huge letters across the top. Guess which bank built that?

We got home just in time for dinner, but didn’t want to cook, so after Grandpa Nelson had some dinner, we all walked down to Babydoll Pizza and enjoyed a slice and some cider, and a game of “Ghostbusters” pinball. A very satisfactory end to a lovely day.

Love,

Grandma Judy

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Another bit of Burls

First Rain…Maybe

Dear Liza,

Today was predicted to be our first real rain in over two months. Portland usually gets some rain even in the summer, but this has been a really dry one. Today that was supposed to end.

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Interesting signpost downtown

But we had things to do. Grandpa Nelson and I wanted to go downtown, so we had coffee and fresh doughnuts at the Rocking Frog on Belmont and then caught the #15 bus.

Going across the Hawthorne Bridge, we saw a whole long line of people walking, and most of them were wearing PINK! T-Shirts, hats, tutus, all kinds of things, and all bright pink. It was the last bit of the Susan G. Komen Walk for the Cure, a fund raiser for breast cancer research. There were hundreds of people, walking, jogging, and laughing. I bet they raised a lot of money!

At Tom McCall Waterfront Park, along the west bank of the river, there was a stage with loud music and lots of booths selling food, snacks, even ice cream! But we had just eaten doughnuts, so we passed.

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The Old Portland Theater
 

Turning west on Yamhill, we walked up towards Pioneer Place,  an old building that has been re-done to have new stores inside. Inside the atrium, the high glassed-in part, there were statues made of cans of food! This one was supposed to be a copy of Rene Magritte’s self-portrait, which your mommy and daddy will recognize as the man in the derby hat with the green apple in front of his face. If you look really closely, you can see it a bit.

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Self Portrait by Magritte…with cans

Grandpa Nelson needed some Clark’s shoes. The ones he has are really old and getting sort of floppy. But we didn’t get any. It turns out, the kind he really likes, they don’t make anymore. So we passed on those, too. We went outside, expecting the rain to start any minute. We walked towards Pioneer Square, since I have always been in a hurry when we are there., and I wanted to get a good look at it. But it was closed off for a private party! Grrr.

So, with a frustrating morning behind us and rain ready to start, we got back on the bus and headed for home. We did see some more statues of animals, though…it’s hard to be angry where there are brass seals and beavers on the sidewalk!

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Seals
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Beavers

Got home, no rain…read some history, no rain…Auntie Bridgett got home, no rain… I got antsy and decided to go for a walk in  the park, and FINALLY the rain started! Not only rain, but wind and swirls of leaves, all dancing and turning around like happy confetti.

Fall has finally fallen! Hooray!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Mosaics in Portland

Dear Liza,

This will be a short post today. I have a story idea in my head that won’t let me think about much else. But I wanted to share something I have noticed about Portland ….mosaics.

You know I love mosaics. I make mosaics. I teach my students to make mosaics.

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Student mosaics
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A Mosaic in Progress

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is a lot of public art in Portland, statues, murals, and fountains for playing in. I have posted pictures of your cousins and Auntie Bridgett with statues of deer and lots of other public art. Even some of the buildings are like art. These are all public art, as in, paid for by public money. I respect this, and love it. I like that my tax money goes to make art that I enjoy.

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Buckman School Mosaic in Public
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The Calico Room Mosaic

The other kind of art that everyone can see is privately funded art that is in public. The Buckman School, in our neighborhood, decorated their retaining wall with mosaics made with donated tiles and dishes. The Calico Room restaurant in East Portland advertises with a wonderfully modern cat mosaic.

These are interesting, pretty pieces of art that we walk by all the time and get to enjoy. They help me see things differently. They inspire me to make my own art. I am grateful for the creative people who share their art with all of us.

“Tell them, dear, if eyes were made for seeing, then beauty is its own excuse for being.” Emerson

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 4 back home. I am sure enjoying getting to know your cousins.

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Cousin Kestrel and a deer

Love,

Grandma Judy