Yesterday we got to do something normal! That is, something we have done since we have lived in Portland. We drove out to pick blueberries on Sauvie Island. Sauvie Island is the largest island in the Columbia River, and is a big dollop of farms and wild area just minutes from downtown Portland.
To get there, we crossed to the west bank of the giant Willamette River, drove north a bit, and then crossed the tiny Multnomah Channel, and there we were. Pastoral paradise.
Now, of course there were accommodations for Covid-19. We all wore masks, kept our distance, and used the farm’s boxes to keep from giving them any of our germs.
But the picking was the same. Pulling pounds of juicy berries off bushes, planning the dozens of cobblers and muffins, is very satisfying, in a hunter-gatherer sort of way.
Among the bushes, we listened to parents chat with their kids and smiled at our first post-Covid babies. We watched dozens of swallows swoop low to get berries, only slightly discouraged by the broadcast hawk shrieks. We reveled in just being outdoors, being part of the world. As the box filled up, we picked slower, not wanting our time to end.
There is so much of Sauvie Island we haven’t seen yet. There is a nature preserve full of water birds. There are farms that specialize in Marionberries.
But eventually, the call of lunch got too loud to tune out, and we needed to head off. Of course, this lead to another adventure! More tomorrow.
The Belmont Street Fair is always scheduled as the close of the summer street fair season. It is also the one closest to us, just a block down the street.
We got over early, because overcast skies are cooler to walk around under. We found Stitch guarding the west end of the fair, chatting with a person from Dick’s Kitchen. They had a bunch of tables set out on the street, which were empty.
Further along were jewelers, poets, second hand clothing booths.
Then came political parties and alternative energy companies, massage therapists and tarot readers.
Finally, the food!! Two Wahine’s Shave Ice is always a favorite of Grandpa Nelson, I had a dish that I am sure is NOT called an Ethiopian Taco (but was delicious, anyway). And Auntie Bridgett had a burrito from Laughing Planet.
Of course, what I really love to watch are the folks to come to see the fair. Young families enjoying chalk art in the middle of the street and out of town grandparents taking the kids out for a spin in their rented bikes make it all very Portland.
By this time, Dick’s Kitchen’s tables were bustling and Stitch had moved on. The sun had come out and it was getting too warm. I found myself longing for the predicted rain, and we headed home.
It is still a week until Fall, but the weather is starting to change. The awful heat seemed to have passed, though I expect there will be one last Indian Summer heat wave before we kiss summer completely goodbye.
The summer flowers are still blooming…. wisteria, roses, and dahlias.
Summer fruits are reaching their peak… apples, tomatoes, and grapes.
And yet, we are getting rain, lots of rain, cooler temperatures, and it’s dark by seven o’clock. Fall is on its way.
Pumpkins are ripening in the Sunnyside School garden, reminding me that we need to use up the frozen pumpkin purée from LAST fall so we can go get more pumpkins!!
When I grew up in Southern California, all my relatives there lamented the lack of “seasons”. A friend from Oregon once said the bright blue skies of Salinas were “obscene” in January. I had no idea what she was talking about.
Now I do. The seasons changing are like breathing out after breathing in, or hearing the splash after you throw the rock into the pond.
Sunday was another full day. As Summer comes to an end, it feels like we are all trying to fit as much sunshine time in before Autumn chases the big events indoors.
Auntie Bridgett was busy most of the day, helping host Mimosa Sunday at the SideStreet Gallery. Grandpa Nelson and I walked down to the Hawthorne Street Fair to see what was going on there. The weather was cool enough that I actually wore my jacket and hat!
The booths were a lively mix of local artisans, people with political agendas, and established businesses hoping to pull in some new clients. The more interesting of the first was a lady (whose name I neglected to get) whose company, Deja, makes lamps from old 33 mm film strips. Each lamp has film from a particular movie…my favorite was “ParaNorman”. The strips of film are hand-crocheted together to make lampshades. The lamps aren’t very bright, but are delightfully moody and I love the re-use of materials.
Another a creative example of re-use was this dress made entirely out of beer bottle caps. at The House of Resource booth. Each bottle cap was hammered flat, pierced, and strung to its fellows with a slightly stretchy rubber strip. I imagine it would need an undergarment and would be very heavy, but it was wonderfully creative.
A booth with a very unusual political agenda was the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement. This is a group of folks who see humanity as a real blight on the Earth, the one species that seems to be making it harder for all the others, as well as ourselves. They say that fewer humans would make a healthier planet and advocate that humans stop reproducing, or, if we have already, don’t pressure our children to. The members of the movement that I met are very positive, cheerful people, who just want to make sure people understand that, when it comes to population, sometimes less is more.
Pets and their people are always a big part of Portland events. We met Millie, a dog who must weigh over 100 pounds, and Hollandaise, a hen who looked very well cared for.
Grandpa Nelson and I got tired and went back home, and then Auntie Bridgett got done at the SideStreet Gallery. She and I walked to the library to return some books and then went back to the fair! I was totally worn out by the time we got home for dinner. We had planned to go to Laurelhurst Park for another symphony concert, but we were done in.
I am sad to say that there is such a thing as too much of a good thing, and we sure had it yesterday. We slept like rocks and today are enjoying the sounds of men pressure-washing the building prior to re-painting.
I know I have told you that one of the things I like most about Portland is that the grown ups here like to be silly and have fun, just like kids. Today we went to see the Adult Soap Box Derby up on Mt. Tabor, where a lot of really smart people get together to design push cars…just for fun.
Auntie Bridgett didn’t go, because she was not feeling well, but Grandpa Nelson and I drove up to Tabor Bread for breakfast. This is the bakery with the wood fired oven I told you about last week. Their quiche and rye doughnuts are just as yummy as their breakfast cookies!
We continued east and parked just at the base of Mt. Tabor. Thousands of people go to see the Derby, so parking is pretty tight. And of course, it’s all uphill to walk there. We followed the crowds up trails, cross country, and along roads, up and up.
At exactly 11:00, we heard the shouts as the first group of cars headed down the road. Each race has three cars in it, and they are timed. After a few races, the slower cars are eliminated, with races and eliminations continuing until there is a winner.
Some cars are built for speed, low to the ground with smooth turning wheels and careful engineering. The Tabor Accounting Group had the fastest car I saw, though I don’t know the final winner yet, and I didn’t get a picture because it was moving so fast!
Others are built just for fun, like the big rainbow slice of birthday cake and Wall-e. One, called The Rainmaker, had a water cannon and sprayed the squealing crowd as it went by!
The event was very typically Portland. Lots of kids, dogs, happy people, food and beer. The rules are few and even those are loosely enforced. Some people brought picnics and blankets, spread out on patches of dried grass (still no rain!) and got comfy. Others, like us, walked to the top to see a few starts and all the cars, then made their way down to the finish line, enjoying the mountain and the crowds, the scenery, and being outdoors.
It is fun to see what mechanically clever people can do when they decide to get together and have fun. I am sure many fine engineers and scientists may get their start designing a better, faster, slice of cake for the Derby.
As you know, I used to be afraid of big dogs. I only had to get within a block of a strange big dog, and I got panicky. This was a leftover from many years ago when I was badly scared by a dog, and it took me a long time to get over it.
In this respect, as in many. others, Portland has been good for me. Most of the dogs here are friendly, well-behaved, and just mellow critters. One of my favorite things about Laurelhurst Park is watching the dogs play in the off-leash area. Early yesterday morning I went for a walk around Laurelhurst, trying to work out some details of the story. The weather has been dry, so the park’s sprinklers had run most of the night, trying to keep the grass green. This made some good sized puddles, which the dogs were enjoying.
One woman with twins toddlers in a stroller and I were chatting. “See that dog that keeps going all the way down into the puddle?” She smiled. “That’s mine.”
Then this evening, we decided that since it was finally cool enough that we would walk over to Sunnyside Park and play badminton. This was our second time playing this summer, and we were so much better! We had fun whacking the birdie around, flailing less and hitting it more.
Across the park were some fellows who sleep in the park most on nights when the weather is good. They and their dogs were hanging out. For a while it was fine, but then they let the dogs all the leashes and it started to get uncomfortable.
While we were sitting on the grass to rest, the dogs came over to see what we were doing. They weren’t mean, but got very close and were not following directions, from us or their owners. I got nervous around dogs for the first time since I’ve lived here.
When we had rested, we thought about playing some more, but the idea of the dogs chasing us spoiled the fun. Sadly, we packed up and headed home
I know that no place is perfect, and one short bit of discomfort won’t ruin a day, but I am sad that for just a few minutes, I had that panicky feeling about dogs again. I will go visit Laurelhurst today and chase the bad away with some good.
So far, I have gotten to be here in the spring (for just a week), and the summer (for two months) and the trees and bushes keep changing and growing.
In the spring it was very wet and cool, with only the blooms of azaleas and rhododendrons making big wads of color amid the dark and damp. It seemed like the wet dirt was napping, just waiting for sunshine.
And it’s a good thing the ground was so damp, because we haven’t had rain for two months, except for a short, dramatic thunderstorm. The larger trees are doing well without help, but we see a lot of people out watering their gardens to make sure the plants stay healthy. Summers weren’t always this dry, but because of climate change we are seeing more drought conditions here.
Over at Sunnyside Environmental School, there are watering crews that come in once a week. They have even made signs which crack me up!
This part of town also has lots of food growing. There are apple trees weighted down with fruit and even grapes hanging on fences.
I love sharing my new city with you. I hope your new year at school goes well.
After I got back from my bus and train adventure to visit Terry, I rested up a little before we headed off to Laurelhurst Park for another production of Original Practice Shakespeare. This is the troupe of actors that doesn’t do regular rehearsals, and each actor carries a little scroll with their lines on it. They have an on-stage prompter, dressed in a referee uniform, who keeps everything running smoothly and occasionally stops the actions to ask, “So, Richard, how’s it going?”
They do it this way for two reasons. First, it is how Shakespeare’s plays were performed while Shakespeare was still writing them. Second, it allows a small group of actors to do 6 different plays a week, because no one has to absolutely memorize a whole play…they always have their lines with them.
Because the actors haven’t rehearsed this play as a group, the performances can be uneven. Our last experience with them, A Midsummer Nights Dream at the top of Mt. Tabor, wasn’t fabulous. The staging was confusing, the costumes didn’t make sense, and the actors were not very prepared. So we were skeptical.
Still, free Shakespeare is something to see when you have the chance, so we went. And we were not disappointed.
This production of the historical tragedy of Richard III, was beautiful, emotional, and so well acted that every line of every character made sense. Brian Burger, who played the evil, scheming Richard, used his soliloquies to bring the audience in on his plans, and sort of made us co-conspirators. We knew what terrible things he was going to do, and we enjoyed watching him do them.
The costumes were well chosen and helped define the characters. This troupe does a lot of cross casting, with women playing men’s roles, but they did it so well!
One scene was even more poignant with a woman, Ariel Puls, playing Lord Stanley. She wore a costume that was military, but wore her blonde hair in a pony tail and was clearly a woman. When Richard tells her she may go raise more troops, but she must leave her son with him as a hostage against her treason (which she is indeed planning), a mother’s pain is shown with her whole body. Fortunately, Richard is defeated at the Battle of Bosworth Field before he has a chance to kill the boy.
We cheered for the good guys and booed for Richard, some of us yelling advice to the actors when they seemed to need it.
It was a rousing, fun evening, and we walked home happy and exhausted.
It is hot again here in Portland, so I made sure my Monday with Jasper and Kestrel included lots of air conditioning and water.
We took the number 4 bus downtown to the Pioneer Courthouse. This nifty building was built in 1875, and is still being used. It has a wonderfully old elevator that feels like a birdcage, and lovely steps, as well. We enjoyed both as we headed for the main attraction, the cupola!
A cupola is a little tower with windows that sticks out the top of a building. The courthouse cupola was built because this was where customs officers could come and see what ships were in the port of Portland. In those days, this was the tallest building around, so you could see the river from here. Not anymore, I’m afraid.
But we enjoyed the old bubbly glass, the views, and knowing that we were in a special place. Looking down, we saw Pioneer Square, which is called Portland’s Living Room because of all the public events there. Once we climbed down from the cupola, we crossed the street and had snacks there while listening to bluegrass music.
But it was getting hot. So we headed up to the Oregon Historical Society, which is air conditioned and free, since I am member. Their main exhibit was about Oregon State University (OSU, Go Beavers!) and many of the famous and influential people who graduated from there. There was information about Linus Pauling, The McMenamin brothers, people who invented whale tracking technology, the fellow who invented the computer mouse, and much more. There was also a soft comfy couch for Grandmas.
Having filled our heads with history and science, we walked to Director’s Park, where there is a fountain designed for playing in. The kids got wet, splashed other kids, and generally had a good time. We ate a cobbled together picnic in the shade, played a big game of Connect Four until tempers started to fray, and then we headed home.
I had brought storybooks to read, and Kestrel had lots more. Jasper practiced Spanish on his Duolingo program. We made dinner, Auntie Katie came home, and Grandpa Nelson came to fetch me. I was one pooped Grandma Judy!
When it “cooled down” to 88 degrees at 9 o’clock, Auntie Bridgett and I went for a walk. The moon was almost full and the park was beautiful, but it was still too warm to be comfortable. Tomorrow will be a quiet inside day, I think.
Bicycles are very popular here in Portland. Not just to play with, but for people to get to work and school. The city makes this easier by designating some streets as greenways in the neighborhoods, where bikes are the main traffic and cars are discouraged.
But riding downtown or along busy streets like Division is still hard because there are just so many cars. So since 2007, the city and local businesses and hospitals have organized a fun way to enjoy riding in different parts of town. It is called Sunday Parkways.
For the five warmest months of the year, one Sunday a month, in one section of the city, streets are closed to car traffic in a loop from 7 to 10 miles long. Grandpa Nelson and Auntie Bridgett got to ride in our Sunnyside/Belmont neighborhood in May. Grandpa Nelson and I rode through the industrial and downtown area this past Sunday.
We started with coffee and pastries at Trifecta on 6th street, because every good day starts with third breakfast. I got to chat with a delivery person for B Line, a company that delivers Trifecta’s baked goods to restaurants and stores by bike! He said he liked being “in the middle of the future.”
When we saw other cyclists passing by (dozens of them, right in the middle of street!) we knew it was time, and off we went. The path for us was marked with signs and helpful folks willing to provide shade, water, directions and advice.
We rode up to the Moda Center, an indoor sports arena, where a bike fair was happening. There were booths for registering your bike, music, food, and a huge event with the Portland Trailblazers basketball team. It was so crowded, we had to get off and walk our bikes through the people.
When we were past that, we continued ACROSS THE STEEL BRIDGE. It couldn’t be closed to traffic, since it is so busy, but we got one lane to share for the bikes going in both directions. Downtown it was crowded again, with booths and so many people. Think of it like when you go for a Sunday drive and everyone else in town does, too.
But the joy of riding with thousands of other people on a warm sunny day is no small thing. Last year, over 74,000 people rode on some part of the Sunday Parkways. That is about half the population of all of Salinas!
In an unexpected historical moment, we passed the Simon Benson House. Mr. Benson was a lumberman from the 1800s and 1900s whose good works have lived after him. He donated money for Benson Polytechnic high school, the land where Multnomah Falls is, and the wonderful always-running water fountains called bubblers. One of them in right in front of his house!
Coming home, we rode over the Tilikum Crossing Bridge. This is the newest bridge in the city and is just for trains, buses, pedestrians and bikes. NO CARS, ever. We stopped to enjoy the view and chatted with some folks riding with three generations of family, and took each other’s pictures.
Back on the east side of the river we rode on the Vera Katz Esplanade, created by a former mayor and named for her. There was a band on a barge playing music, more treats and happy people.
The last part of the ride (as it often is) is coming back up the hill to our house. You understand that rivers are always at the lowest part of the land, and that we are 33 streets up from that. It adds up to about 150 feet of elevation change, which feels like an awful lot at the end of an 8 mile ride!
Finally home, we drank lots of water and enjoyed the wonderful cool rest of knowing we had done something very special, and very Portland.