Unexpected Pie

Dear Liza,

The weather got beautiful for a few days (we call it Fool’s Spring) so Grandpa Nelson and I headed off for an adventure. Like most adventures, it started with lunch.

We had hot dogs and fries at Zach’s Shack while we watched some Olympic downhill skiing. As we were finishing up, Grandpa asked “Want to go up Mt. Tabor?” Of course, I said YES! We were on the right street, we just needed to go a mile east… and gain about 800 feet of elevation.

I love Mt. Tabor. How many cities have their very own volcano? Well, extinct volcanic cinder cone, actually. We followed the path up past the old reservoir on the west side and through the fir tree forest that covers the mountain. Spring growth is greening up the forest floor nicely.

There were lots of people with their kids, dogs, and strollers out enjoying the day. At the top, we chatted with some little girls, and Grandpa tried to tell them that hawks (we were watching one overhead) eat little girls! The oldest, who was about five, said, “No they don’t, they eat Grandpas!” I guess she showed him!

The view of Downtown from the top of the mountain always knocks me out.

We visited the plinth where the statue of Harvey Scott was the last time you visited. It was pulled down last year by folks who hate what he stood for, (which was rich white men being in charge of everything) and his replacement hasn’t been decided on yet.

By then, it was definitely time for pie! We crossed the top of the park and down the other side, finding this amazingly huge maple tree, and headed towards the Bipartisan Cafe.

We passed this cool sheet metal robot, the mascot for Vinje’s Sheet Metal Supplies.

Inside the Cafe, there were fewer tables than before and no couches, so we could all keep a safe distance. Vaccination cards were required, so we knew we wouldn’t be making people sick. I enjoyed the old campaign posters and the blueberry sour cream pie.

The red rosella tea was hot and sweet and just what was needed.

And when we had eaten every crumb, we stepped out and caught the number 15 back home and slept like dead people. We had walked five miles and felt very accomplished.


Grandma Judy

Visiting Ramona

Dear Liza,

We had a few days between rain storms, so Grandpa Nelson and I went for a nice long walk.

Not far from our house is this pair of wonderfully carved trees. The trees grew in this parkway on Glisan Street for many years. When the trees died, instead of taking them out, someone carved them into birds on pedestals. They just make me smile.

We headed northeast over the Banfield freeway and into the Hollywood neighborhood.

This freeway runs through Sullivan’s Gulch, a low spot that divides the east side of town. Since the Gulch isn’t very pretty and is no good for buildings, it also holds passenger rail lines of Trimet and freight train lines. Crossing the freeway when the trains are also running by is extremely noisy!

We got out of the cold with a stop at the Bitter Rose coffee shop and enjoyed coffee, tea and fabulous cardamom brioche bun. A few blocks along, we found this amazing display of hand-turned music boxes, mounted so passers-by can turn the tiny cranks and enjoy them. Again, I smiled.

Finally we arrived at our destination, Grant Park. This park sits between Grant High School and Beverly Cleary Elementary school.

It also is home to these delightful bronze statues of Ramona Quimby, Henry Huggins, and Henry’s dog Ribsy. These characters were creations of our local famous author, Beverly Cleary.

Beverly grew up here in Portland from the 1930s through the 1950s. She used street names, businesses and local landmarks in her stories, which have been beloved by many generations. She passed away last year in Carmel, California, at the age of 104.

The statues were created in 1995 by Portland artist Lee Hunt.

We headed home through the sunny cold afternoon, finishing up our five mile walk just in time to make dinner. Boy, were we ready!


Grandma Judy

Another Landmark Gone

Dear Liza,

It has been a hard spring for trees here in Portland. With so many of our tall giants being over a hundred years old, extreme weather takes a toll.

The other day in Lone Fir Cemetery, we saw with sadness that our General Joseph Lane Tree was gone. This maple tree memorial to the first Territorial Governor of Oregon Territory had come down in a storm and been removed.

The General Lane tree in 2017, with Pioneer Roses in the background

I can find no record of when this tree was planted. It may have been an accident of squirrels or an anonymous memorial to a loved one, as are many of the trees in Lone Fir. In 2009, the Pioneer Rose Association chose it as a memorial to General Lane and listed it as a Heritage Tree, and it joined a list of more than 300 other magnificent trees in the city.

It stood in the center of the cemetery, just across the way from the memorial to the soldiers of the Civil War and the Pioneer Roses of Oregon garden. It was Heritage Tree #295, and stood 100 feet high with a spread of 105 feet. It looked like it would stand forever.

I know in my head that this sort of thing is inevitable. Trees, like humans, are living things and subject to injury and age. But they are also landmarks, survivors of the past lasting into our present to remind us of who has come before.

Remains of the General Lane tree, 2021

But in my heart, I mourn for these living monuments. I wonder what finally broke them? Was there more we could have done? What will we do to remember them and honor their life?

And seeing that these monuments can’t last forever, I become obsessed with recording what we have, right in this moment, because I know that someday I will look and they won’t be there.

This year the city of Portland has lost many monuments. The statues of Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, even the Thompson Elk, have been vandalized and removed for their own protection. I understand some of the arguments against who they memorialize (except the Elk) but these statues were part of the downtown I loved and I miss them.

Time keeps sliding by. Let’s see and appreciate what we have while we have it.


Grandma Judy