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Portland and Friends

August 29-Sept 5, 2015
Written August 30+

Dear Diary, Friends, and Families,

d150829_02_trip.jpg On Saturday (29th) we packed up early and left the coast for Portland.  We drove through a storm that provided much-needed rain to western Oregon and Washington.  Locals claimed they had not seen rain all summer, so they were happy.  For us, it made the drive in just a bit more exciting as we needed to dodge fallen limbs and worry about slippery road surfaces.

We will have an extended stay in Portland and have splurged on a water-front condo for the week.  The advertisements for the place stressed the central location and easy walk to Portland's trendy Pearl District.  However, we discovered that the  apartment complex for our very nice one-bedroom unit was mostly surrounded by homeless encampments and urban redevelopment projects-in-progress.  And "The Pearl" was only walkable in good weather by experienced trekkers.  Oh well, we do have a car.
We started our Portland exploration right away, walking past the homeless, through a grungy Chinatown, and onto the streetcar system.  We purchased one-week "Honored Guest" passes, available for folks over 62, for just $7.00 - a real bargain, if we can figure out how to get from our apartment to the transit system.  The Saturday goal was a farmer's market in the South Park Blocks.  This was a pleasant exposure to the "new" Portland, filled with young urbanites: a far cry from my college days fifty years ago, when downtown Portland was on a long, downhill slip into decay. Today the city center is filled with young folks enjoying an urban lifestyle at prices more affordable than San Francisco or Seattle.  Nice.
d150829_18_dinner.jpgOur social engagement for the evening was dinner with my brother-in-law Ron at his friend Nancy's house in Washougal, Washington, a few miles upstream from Portland. After my sister passed away several years ago, Ron moved back to his roots in Portland and has become a real fan for the area, despite a rough period this year fighting off cancer.  It was wonderful to see him and note that he seemed back to his ornery self.  Great!

On Sunday, we spent the morning exploring the Pearl District a bit, enough for breakfast at Byways Cafe (recommend), a street fair (complete with pig-on-a-leash), and a sign-up for a 24-hour gym membership.  Hopefully this will force us to get the workouts we need.
d150830_10_uofp.jpgd150830_12_dorm.jpgAfter that, we drove out to NW Portland to take a look at my alma mater, the University of Portland. The place has changed dramatically, as I should have expected in almost 50 years, especially in the sports complex that now occupies the plain grass fields we had used for pick-up football games.  Everything looked very professional nowadays and, I suppose, that explains the increase in yearly costs from about $2,000 per year to over $40,000.  I was able to find my old dorm, an ancient converted motor hotel originally built in the 30s I believe.  Nowadays it serves as a residence for the Holy Cross priests and brothers who still teach at UofP.

After our UofP tour, we met with a handful of my fraternity buddies at our local watering spot, The Twilight Room.   The T-Room had changed remarkably little in five decades and the buddies were still recognizable, although suffering from less hair and, in some cases, more pounds.  A good bit of conversation covered the inventory of friends no longer with us, a common occurrence among mostly 70-years-old folks.  It was hard to tell if we were just whistling in the dark, and the conversation did move on to personal histories and, a bit, to current events. 

My biggest regret was that I completely forgot to take a picture of the group!  The next best thing for my own memory is a list of the attendees:
-- Joe and Carol Cersovski
-- Tim and Susie Corrigan
-- Mike and Candy Chapman
-- Paul Griffith
-- Bruce Gilbaugh
-- Skip Roberts
We started Monday with a slow breakfast before we headed to 24 Hour Fitness, full of resolve to make up for the non-diet eating of the past few days.  By not keeping up the three-times-a-week regime from home, I have definitely slipped in overall condition.  I am discouraged by how quick it happens.  Age, I guess.

d150831_02_connie.jpg To make sure we didn't get too healthy, we had a very nice lunch with Connie, one of Marianne's school chums.  As with my fraternity guys, it was nice time for talking with a contemporary interested in sharing histories and observations on our current worlds. 

On parting, Connie had recommended that we tour Washington Park, just a few minutes drive from our Nob Hill restaurant.  It was a great recommendation, but I will warn you that the Japanese and Rose Gardens prompted me to take way too many pictures!

Japanese Garden
The Portland Japanese Garden was started in the early 1960s as part of a Sister City program with Sapporo Japan.  The 5.5 acre site is divided into five different gardens and is reportedly the best example of traditional Japanese gardens outside the island nation.
Our hour-long tour provided interesting background for both this garden and Japanese culture in general.  There were carefully crafted scenes around every corner.

International Rose Test Garden
Portland, nicknamed The Rose City, has been focussed on rose gardens since the late 1880s, when Georgiana Pittock, wife of an original Portland businessman, opened her gardens to her wealthy neighbors.  Early examples of tea roses were brought in from Lyon, France, as part of the trade in silk from there to the American West.  Since then, the Portland garden has grown to be one of the largest "test" gardens, where new rose varieties are developed and certified for distribution throughout the world.
I never tire of taking pictures of the colors of flowers and the Portland Test Garden was filled with all the colors of the rainbow.
Dinner involved a quick pass through a local Safeway store, where we were led astray by the baked goods.  Keeping weight off while on vacation will be very, very tough!

Tuesday.  Another fairly quiet day.  It's the way we like to travel.  My morning exercise was to take the camera out and wander in our neighborhood.
Just outside our apartment.
Union Station.  Nicely restored, but so quiet.   Less than a dozen trains per day, a far cry from the European stations we used to use!
The Portland skyline from the walking bridge over to the train station.
A "Benson Bubbler" by the train station.  Businessman Simon Benson donated the original four-outlet drinking fountains in 1912, reportedly to keep the transient lumbermen out of the bars when they needed a drink.  The bronze fountains have become unique symbols throughout the old parts of downtown.
d150901_18_3257sesherman.jpgAfter a stint at the gym, we went out to look at my old neighborhoods.  As a young teenager, I had lived for three years in Southeast Portland, within the now-trendy Hawthorne and Division neighborhoods.  These were originally working class neighborhoods and, over the years, the houses had deteriorated.  Now, many provide a somewhat more affordable housing option for younger families and are being colorfully restored.  My own childhood home still had the rock garden that I hated to care for 50+ years ago!

We also drove around the nearby Laurelhurst neighborhood.  Many houses there were always grand and remain so.  Overall, it was nice to see how Portland has managed to maintain its historical feel and remains a real city, one with real neighborhood character.

For dinner, we joined my fraternity friend Paul Griffith and his wife Midge at Andina, a very popular Peruvian restaurant back in the downtown Pearl neighborhood.  We arrived at 7 and managed to close the restaurant three-and-a-half hours later.  The food was all authentic and well-prepared and the conversation was as if there had not been 45 years since I last saw Paul (and we had never met Midge.)  We vowed to not let such a gap happen again.

Then it was Wednesday and, again, we started with no plans for the day, or for the month for that matter.  So, our first order of business was to come up with a September plan.  Until now, we'd had only vague ideas about wandering around the Pacific Northwest, seeing friends and relatives when we can, and visiting interesting places. 

d150902_01_nextplan.jpgSince we only had three more nights lodging reserved, it was time to think.  The September anchor is a Trotter family gathering on September 19th in Seattle and our October anchor is an old-friend gathering in Sonora on October 3rd and 4th.  That left two periods of a couple of weeks each to plan.  We decided that we should go to Glacier National Park in Montana in the first period and Bend in Oregon in the second.  The resulting loop is over 2,000 miles, a bit intimidating, but what else to do?  We decided to travel and travel we must.

After successful long-range planning, we decided the daily plan needed an "art fix".  Such travel destinations used to be primarily for Marianne's benefit, but I have to admit I have come to enjoy some time surrounded by paintings and sculptures, but NOT weird contemporary "installations".  The Portland Art Museum turned out to be a very nice stop, with a mix of famous artists' works and examples of some of the less-famous.  Here is the story in pictures.
Monet is remarkable, wherever we find his works.  He captured the sense of his flowers with just blotches of color.  "Interesting Conversation" by Frederico Zandomeneghi was a favorite of Marianne's.
The Picasso bronze bust, done in 1909, was placed in front of two of his 1962 drawings, illustrating his long movement from more to less detail.  Contrary to my normal prejudice, I actually liked the Nancy Reddin Kienholz installation titled "The Western Motel" . Other contemporary pieces were also ... interesting.
The Native American collection was impressive, although I found I did not take a representative collection of pictures.  Trust me, there was plenty more!
Finally, on a building nearby, art creation continues in Portland.

After lunch, we walked down to the Willamette River, to check on the times for river tours.  Several are available from Portland Spirit Cruises and others, but their local jet-boat trip was going to board in 20 minutes, so we made another last-minute decision to join in.  Good decision.
Activity on the river included rowing practice, two maritime museums, and a WWII crane being from the large shipbuilding activity in that war.  The crane had been subject for destruction, until discovery of a bird nest part-way up.  In Oregon, birds rule, so the nest and crane remain.
Modern activity along the Willamette, all the way to the Columbia.
University of Portland, "on the bluff".  And our rented condo
Portland is famous for its collection of bridges and the view from the boat was special.
St. Johns Bridge, on the left is my favorite.

On Thursday we needed to do chores.  Not very exciting:  Breakfast, pick up cleaning, and go to the gym.  We also had to figure out how Marianne could give her routine blood sample, a traveling complication we were encountering for the first time.  Fortunately, Portland does have Kaiser facilities, and after help from the as-usual-friendly Kaiser folks, she had her normal post-sample arm bandage.  (Her results were good too, despite all the changes in our routine.)

Ron called and we joined him and Nancy for dinner at Bar Mingo, yet another of the foodie establishments in downtown Portland.  This place will be hard to leave, meal-wise.

Friday was our last Portland day.  We started the day with a visit to Powell's Bookstore - a huge, brick and mortar book store that has defied the Amazon assault, in part by competing both on-line and as a Portland native and tourist attraction.  Everyone needs to visit.

From there, Marianne and I split up.  She went to visit friend Connie and I headed over to OMSI, the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry.  From her visit, we have nothing on the record, except that Connie's house in the west hills of Portland was lovely and talking with her was a reminder that talking with old friends is our best goal for this trip.

For myself, the OMSI visit was split in two parts:  the kiddie-centered displays and the tour of the USS Blueback, the last diesel-electric submarine (decommissioned in 1990).  First, the displays. 
I remember the old OMSI from my early teen years, but the new facility is far more sophisticated and may be the most complete of the various children's museums we have seen in our travels.  Next time though, we need to bring kids!
As for the submarine tour, I can tell from the quantity of pictures that I took, that this was my favorite part of my day.  The Blueback was essentially the test hull for the 1950s introduction of nuclear submarines.  Smaller than the later nuclear vessels, it was still advanced well beyond WWII submarines.  The interior tour was especially interesting to me since it illustrated details from all the sea stories I suffered from years of listening to my ex-Navy work colleagues.  Too many pictures, I know, but there were so many story details to recall.
Our tour group was small, two or three young boys and some old timers.
Officer territory, including the captain's cabin.
The spooky, red-lit, maneuvering quarters.  Just like the movies.  (The Blueback was in fact featured in The Hunt for Red October.)
The torpedo room, with bunks above the underwater missiles.
Other crew bunks had even less room, and there were only 66 bunks for the crew of 88.  Crew would "hot bunk", wake the on-going sailor and then sleep in that still-warm bunk.
The food was reportedly excellent, although there need to be imagination to store two-months-worth of food.
Three diesels charged 33 tons of batteries and all the equipment was operated by two crewmen and one officer in this small space.
Back outside, we had a waterside boat looking over the Blueback.
Back on land, there was a memorial to all the submarine lost at sea.  It was always a dangerous occupation.
After the OMSI visit, I joined Marianne at Connie's, then we headed to the 24 Hour Fitness gym for one last attempt at compensating for all the food and drink of our Portland stay.  At least we tried.

On Saturday, we headed east.  The next story.

John and Marianne


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