"Keep it badder, PDX." Artful graffiti on Alberta Street. PDX is the airport identifier for Portland International Airport, and has been adopted as one of the many nicknames of the city.

“Keep it badder, PDX.” Artful graffiti on Alberta Street. PDX is the airport identifier for Portland International Airport, and has been adopted as one of the many nicknames of the city.

For some Middle School reason, I think using the word “art” as a verb is hilarious. As in, “Don’t interrupt, I’m arting.”

One of my inexplicable Crystal diversions is that I like to catalogue wall art. Many cities have murals and many cities have spectacular graffiti, and I am crazy about it. I am even won over by 3-D wall art, like parts of airplanes or cars built to look like they are jutting out, mosaic tiles that lift from the wall, and religious icons set into walls. I am impressed with this living art:

The living wall of a business on Alberta Street.

The living wall of a business on Alberta Street.

Last week I talked a friend into driving me around to look for wall murals to photograph. This morning, Andrew at Have Bag, Will Travel posted wall art and it was the push I needed to get my photos out to you all.

There is a street in Portland called Alberta Street, that has been building its reputation for 100 years. From the 1920s, Alberta Street was known as a place where inexpensive housing could be found, as well as bus and streetcar service to transport workers into the city. This reputation attracted many immigrants, and it also became the site of a massive relocation in the aftermath of a devastating flood in 1948 that wiped out a large Black American community. In the 1950s and again in the 1970s, public works projects leveled impoverished areas close to the city center and forced the people to relocate. Many of them crammed into the Alberta neighborhoods.

The people in this area have cultural influences that include German, African, Chinese, and Mexican.

The residents in this area have cultural influences that include German, African, Chinese, and Mexican.

One thing I particularly enjoy here is the variety of artists' styles.

One thing I particularly enjoy here is the variety of artists’ styles.

Crowding and poverty resulted in unrest. I was not in the area during the 1980s and 90s, but the reputation north Portland garnered for itself decades ago is still spread as fact by well-meaning neighbors in other parts of the city, in their attempts to help me learn the area. It was famous for gangs, drugs, and violence. At the same time, the Alberta residents put their collective feet down and said, “No more!” Always leaning heavily on the arts, a concerted effort of neighborhood improvements began, and was ultimately successful.

Inspirational as well as attractive.

Inspirational as well as attractive.

This one is tiny: perhaps 2 1/2 feet tall. It includes a micro-mural of Haystack Rock, on the Oregon Coast.

This one is tiny: perhaps 2 1/2 feet tall. It includes a micro-mural of Haystack Rock, on the Oregon Coast, shown in a recent post.

The artists are not only talented, but also engaged and aware of their impact on the community, which probably explains why so many sign their work.

The artists are not only talented, but also engaged and aware of their impact on the community, which probably explains why so many sign their work.

A new ramen house I will definitely return to with Tara.

A new ramen house I will definitely return to with Tara.

Today, as often happens in diverse neighborhoods all over this country, the hard work of community activists has paid off, and the wealthy weekend explorers from downtown have “discovered” Alberta. The street hosts organic groceries and free-range chicken, gourmet ice cream, and a 100% gluten-free bakery. The cultural diversity of the local entrepreneurs overlaid with new trendy shops draws an entirely new crowd and – I assume – new growing pains as property values soar and gentrification claws its way in.

The character, the activism, and the arts from the complicated and heroic history shine through on Alberta Street today. It is one of the best places in Portland to park your car, get out into the air and join the community.

{Credit to Alberta Main Street for the historical facts.}

{My collection of Portland wall art on Flickr.}

We talked for a long time to these enthusiastic young men who had raised their own money through donations from passers-by, and then took it upon themselves to paint over unattractive graffiti. There must be no better affirmation of community action than when young men make it their own project.

We talked for a long time to these enthusiastic young men who had raised their own money through donations from passers-by, and then took it upon themselves to paint over unattractive graffiti. There must be no better affirmation of community action than when young men make it their own project.

Here someone has salvaged an old Coke advertisement.

Here someone has salvaged an old Coke advertisement.

We share the same sun.

We share the same sun.

I get a total charge out of this one. The artwork makes me think of Mayan writing on columns. I can't tell if it was intentional, but each column is stacked "on top" of the recycling bins.

I get a total charge out of this one. The artwork makes me think of Mayan writing on columns. I can’t tell if it was intentional, but each column is stacked “on top” of the recycling bins.

Rose City is another Portland nickname. This is an example of when graffiti can no longer be called an eyesore.

Rose City is another Portland nickname. This is an example of when spray-painted graffiti can no longer be called an eyesore.

Endangered tiger on a thank you card for wildlife rangers.

Endangered tiger on a thank you card for wildlife rangers.

Tara is applying for scholarships. We are both interested in as much financial assistance as possible. Oregon State University is not the most expensive school, and there is in-state tuition, but the fact remains that college is startlingly expensive for regular folks like us.

Here’s one from dosomething.org: Thank You cards for wildlife rangers.

Students make cards for wildlife rangers who are involved with protecting endangered species. The theme of the cards must be from the list of key species, including elephants, marine turtles, tigers, giant pandas, and rhinocerouses. Rhinoceri. Rhinocerim. Rhinos.

For every two cards a person submits, their name is entered into a drawing one time. There is a limit of 10 cards, and therefore 5 chances to win. The prize is a $10,000 scholarship. Totally worth the effort!

Tara designing wildlife cards.

Tara designing wildlife cards.

This is how we did it.

This is how we did it.

early draft rhino

early draft rhino

early draft tiger

early draft tiger

Tara and I and a friend got together at a coffee shop and brought art supplies and pulled up images of endangered species on our smart phones… and started drawing.

Drawing is slow work. Luckily, Tara already had a bunch of elephant block prints from last year’s art class. I aboslutely love this elephant. You’ve seen it previously, on my Good Things Jar (where it remains, of course). There were several other versions of the same elephant in Tara’s art folder, so they cut them up and pasted them to handmade cards.

I have called myself an artist for a long time, but I don’t prove it to myself often enough. I consider my writing an art, and my photography is an art. The way I think about the world is through an artists eyes and ears. But look, I can draw too! (I drew the rhino) And look what Tara can do! (Tara drew the tiger) We went in jointly on the sea turtle – Tara drew the first draft, and I finished up the details and did the colours. After the fact, it occurred to me that we had just copied a copyright image (Crush from Finding Nemo), so I made the turtle purple and yellow in a weak attempt to say “This is not Crush, this is a different turtle.” Our friend did the other sea turtle, insisting that all he could do was stick figures, and look how good it turned out!

Cross your fingers for us in getting a few scholarships this year to help soften the blow.

My rhinoceros. I love how it turned out.

My rhinoceros. I love how it turned out.

The original sketch of the elephant, that Tara used as a guide to carve the block print.

The original sketch of the elephant, that Tara used as a guide to carve the block print.

Experimenting with different paints on the block.

Experimenting with different paints on the block.

Catch ya later, Dude!

Catch ya later, Dude!

The valid sea turtle card, based on an actual turtle.

The valid sea turtle card, based on an actual turtle.

Elephants in the mist.

Elephants in the mist.

colour experiments

colour experiments

colour experiments

colour experiments

P.S. Last minute addition below. We discovered that we had only 10 cards, so Tara quickly folded a scrap piece of paper in half and handed it to me. Since it was small, I thought just a face would have to suffice.

My Siberian Tiger in full colour.

My Siberian Tiger in full colour.

California Condor shows off his lovely profile for us at the Oregon Zoo.

California Condor shows off his lovely profile for us at the Oregon Zoo.

My landlady wants us out of the house so she can sell it. We actually had this conversation a year ago, but I begged her to let us stay another year so Tara could graduate from high school first. Graduation is in one month and that means no more stalling: we have to go.

The Blue House, as I like to call it after its distinctive colour, went live on RMLS Friday, and my phone has been going bananas ever since, with realtors wanting to bring their clients through. The real estate market in Portland is astonishing, considering we are only a few years away from record foreclosures and joblessness and plummeting home values. These days, twenty people show up at once to view a house, offers come in at $30 thousand in cash over the asking price, and places sell in 24 hours. It is a piranha frenzy out here. I remember being confronted with this kind of competition when I looked for homes to buy near Berkeley, California in 2003. But that was before any of us knew what was coming. This time we should know better than to encourage a housing bubble. But we are humans, so we do not learn.

Tara and I have been asked to scoot out of here when people want to look around, and to be particularly absent last weekend. I worked 10 hours of mandatory overtime on Saturday and was off work at 4 pm. By 4:15 pm, there were people standing in our front yard. Waiting. We left to catch a movie and then a birthday party for a friend.

Sunday we needed something that would take more time. Our first stop was to Oswego Mortgage who is helping me with a VA loan so I can purchase my own home, so I stopped by the office (on SUNDAY! That’s how busy they are; it’s 7 days a week at the mortgage company) to sign eighty bazillion pieces of paper. Yes folks, I have been searching since November, and finally found a house. If Old Mother Hubbard kept homes in a cupboard, her cupboard in Portland is bare. And that’s why house-hunters are behaving like piranhas. I found a *beautiful* place. Negotiations are still underway and I don’t close till the middle of June, so I’m not sure yet if it will be ours in the end, but I will definitely leave updates here. The property is like paradise, and I am only slightly exaggerating. Just you wait. :)

“Whatchyoo lookin’ at, Huh?”

The bears were fun to watch. One played in a water trough for awhile, one rolled around on the ground playing with a branch, and a third napped in the background.

The bears were fun to watch. One played in a water trough for awhile, one rolled around on the ground playing with a branch, and a third napped in the background.

After signing documents we went straight to the zoo. I haven’t been to the Oregon Zoo for about 10 years, so it was high time. I could only remember the bats and the polar bears. The bats were again one of my favourite exhibits. Portland has a pretty nice zoo, and there is a lot of construction going on. Some of the structures are the original buildings from when it was constructed in 1959, and some, though newer, are still not to the standards that modern zoo-attendees want to see.

Construction has totally disrupted viewing of the elephants, but the elephants may appreciate being separated from the people. The elephants at the Oregon Zoo are a big attraction, since they are a healthy family group. Their current home was state of the art, revolutionary design in 1959 – a new idea in zoos to allow elephants to mingle together and sleep unchained. As a result, Portland became host to the continent’s first successful pachyderm nursery. Go figure. Six of the elephants here were born at the Oregon Zoo, including little Lily, born in November. We also host Packy, born in 1962, he was the first elephant born in the United States for 44 years, and the first to live past the age of 1 for 80 years. The new enclosure will provide them more space and a pond.

This is our actual view of the Asian Elephants, while barriers keep us safely at a distance during construction of Elephant Lands.

This is our actual view of the Asian Elephants, while barriers keep us safely at a distance during construction of Elephant Lands.

Luckily my camera has a zoom lens and I could get a better look at them. Here, one elephant appears to have open-mouthed delight as it scratches an itchy thigh on that log.

Luckily my camera has a zoom lens and I could get a better look at them. Here, one elephant appears to have open-mouthed delight as it scratches an itchy thigh on that log.

Ambitious zoo construction plans also include a much more homey primate area, which they certainly need. It is hard to view such expressive faces behind bars, even though I know a pretty cage is still a cage.

The Oregon Zoo partners with other organizations to promote strong populations of other animals, such as the California Condor (the lovely face at the top of this post) and Oregon Painted Turtles.

Baby turtles identified with nail polish on their shells.

Baby turtles identified with nail polish on their shells.

DeBrazza's Monkey gazes out at me from behind bars.

DeBrazza’s Monkey gazes out at me from behind bars.

These spirited Cotton-top Tamarins were leaping around and entertaining us.

These spirited Cotton-top Tamarins were leaping around and entertaining us.

It was difficult to get a good shot through the thick and scratched Plexiglas, but this one turned out ok.

It was difficult to get a good shot through the thick and scratched Plexiglas, but this one of an otter licking its paw turned out ok.

This is a different otter, who was swimming along the length of the pond, delighting the children who stood with their faces pressed again the glass. When one of the otters flashed past, the children would shriek and squeal!

This is a different otter, who was swimming along the length of the pond, delighting the children who stood with their faces pressed again the glass. When one of the otters flashed past, the children would shriek and squeal!

A Northern Shoveler trying to find a nap spot away from the eager crowds.

A Northern Shoveler trying to find a nap spot away from the eager crowds.

Look at the face of the Malayan Sun Bear! This one was in a playful mood.

Look at the face of the Malayan Sun Bear! This one was in a playful mood.

Northern Sulawesi Babirusa, or pigs with bloody great tusks.

Northern Sulawesi Babirusa, or pigs with bloody great tusks.

We stopped for a late lunch at the Africa Cafe, built with a view of the aviary so we watched the birds fly around while we ate.

We stopped for a late lunch at the Africa Cafe, built with a view of the aviary so we watched the birds fly around while we ate.

One of the lovelies inside the aviary.

One of the lovelies inside the aviary.

This photo makes either the giraffe look small or the birds look enormous. Answer: these birds are enormous!

This photo makes either the giraffe look small or the birds look enormous. Answer: these birds are enormous!

Tara pretending to be a baby eagle. A cranky baby eagle.

Tara pretending to be a baby eagle. A cranky baby eagle.

Polar bears enjoying the shade and the cool water of what turned out to be a very warm day.

Polar bears enjoying the shade and the cool water of what turned out to be a very warm day.

An Egyptian fruit bat. Gosh they are so beautiful I just want to cuddle. I love bats.

An Egyptian fruit bat. Gosh they are so beautiful I just want to cuddle. I love bats.

Straw-coloured fruit bat seems to be cackling with glee. Perhaps he is particularly big fan of bananas for lunch.

Straw-coloured fruit bat seems to be cackling with glee. Perhaps he is particularly enthusiastic about having bananas for lunch.

Our plan worked, and before we knew it, the sun was dropping toward the horizon and our home was again empty so that we could return. It was a Sunday well spent, and I may even have to thank the landlady for how our weekend turned out.

The Butchart Gardens in March offer a mood of dark quiet, wisps of foggy intrigue, and solitude.

The Butchart Gardens in March offer a mood of dark quiet, wisps of foggy intrigue, and solitude.

Prior to our long road trip last month, M had called from Boston and asked me, “What’s the weather on the coast like in March?”

I exhaled with doubt and not a little cynicism, “Wet. Grey. Temps in the 40s, maybe around 50.”

“That sounds great!” he gushed. It left me puzzled for several minutes, till I remembered he was going to fly away from New England, and a record snowfall in Boston. Obviously rain was an improvement, and 40s sounded like a heat wave.

Though it was cool and wet, it suited me just fine and kept most of the other tourists and locals away. We practically had the grounds to ourselves, as you will see from the photos.

A road trip on the coast in March may be just what the doctor ordered, as long as you bring a bright fuchsia rain jacket and a friend with a great attitude.

A road trip on the coast in March may be just what the doctor ordered, as long as you bring a bright fuchsia rain jacket and a friend with a great attitude.

My earlier blog post referencing our trip to Butchart Gardens included only a couple of lovely shots and a promise to post again. Here it is! Lots of photos. In fact, way too many for a blog post. If you really want to see a bunch of garden photos, please visit my Flickr page.

Jennie Butchart was the chemist for the family business, but her soul’s work was gardening. She and Isaburo Kishida began designing a Japanese Garden in 1906. Mrs. Butchart also had her eye on Robert Butchart’s quarry. As her husband exhausted the limestone quarry in 1908, Jennie was having topsoil hauled in to line the floor. One of the first things she planted was a row of poplars to block the view of the concrete factory, and those trees remain. Mr. Butchart was very supportive of his wife’s garden, and was pleased that the grounds and ponds were suitable to his own hobby of collecting birds.

The couple gave the garden to their grandson Ian Ross for his 21st birthday. Mr. Ross revitalized the garden and the couple’s home, and hosted events – such as the symphony – to share the place with the community.

By the 1920s, more than 50,000 people a year were visiting Jennie’s garden, and today visitors number nearly one million each year. In 2004 the garden was designated a National Historic Site of Canada. The garden has grown to 55 acres and spread well beyond the old quarry pit. In addition to the Sunken Garden (in the pit), other main gardens are the Rose Garden, the Japanese Garden, and the Italian Garden. (More info at The Butchart Story.)

The welcoming sign

The welcoming sign

The Sunken Gardens are one of the first things a visitor sees. It's a truly amazing and beautiful garden in a hole left from a old quarry.

The Sunken Gardens are one of the first things a visitor sees. It’s a truly amazing and beautiful garden in a hole left from a old quarry.

The water feature

Ross Fountain, built by Ian Ross

Another view of the Sunken Gardens

Another view of the Sunken Gardens

The Carousel. Look at those wonderful animals!

The Carousel. Look at those wonderful animals!

This is where they prepare their own starts from seeds.

This is where they prepare their own starts from seeds.

bells in the rain

bells in the rain

Petals provide enough rays of golden sunshine to suit me this day

Petals provide enough rays of golden sunshine to suit me this day

Twisty branch of Corylus with catkins

Twisty branch of Corylus with catkins

Cherry blossoms covered the ground as though it were snow!

Cherry blossoms covered the ground as though it were snow!

Entrance to the rose garden. It was not rose season when we were there.

Entrance to the rose garden. It was not rose season when we were there.

Entering the Japanese garden, I had M place a pebble onto the Torii gate for us. While I was in Japan, it was explained to me that, since the torii is a gate to the spirit world, the rock holds a connection back to your own world, so you have a better chance of being able to return. I don't know if it's a true Japanese tradition, but I love it. Torii that I saw in Japan frequently had pebbles along the top.

Entering the Japanese garden, I had M place a pebble onto the Torii gate for us. While I was in Japan, it was explained to me that, since the torii is a gate to the spirit world, the rock holds a connection back to your own world, so you have a better chance of being able to return. I don’t know if it’s a true Japanese tradition, but I love it. Torii that I saw in Japan frequently had pebbles along the top.

The Japanese garden is large and well done.

The Japanese garden is large and well done.

Lantern balanced on an uneven rock.

Lantern balanced on an uneven rock.

Path through a pool

Path through a pool

Butchart Cove is directly behind the Japanese garden, and is picture perfect.

Butchart Cove is directly behind the Japanese garden, and is picture perfect.

Part of the perfection of gardens is arranging features so that, when viewed from different angles, what you see forms a portrait.

Part of the perfection of gardens is arranging features so that, when viewed from different angles, what you see forms a portrait.

Frogs in the Star Pond.

Frogs in the Star Pond.

In the Italian garden.

In the Italian garden.

M had been asking me periodically what the plants were called, how they grew, were they found in the wild. We walked into the greenhouse and our roles reversed! M talked with delight at how many of the plants we saw grew wild in Sri Lanka where he grew up, and he found it a delight to see those same plants showcased as  "exotics" in the garden.

M had been asking me periodically what the plants were called, how they grew, were they found in the wild. We walked into the greenhouse and our roles reversed! M talked with delight at how many of the plants we saw grew wild in Sri Lanka where he grew up, and he found it a delight to see those same plants showcased as “exotics” in the garden.

Dripping with colour

Dripping with colour

Like cotton candy

Like cotton candy

Orchids are my favourite flower.

Orchids are my favourite flower.

This is me at the summit of Larch Mountain.

This is me at the summit of Larch Mountain. Volcanoes are in the background, trust me. No really, they are.

I managed to get out with my hiking group again on Sunday. Saturdays are sooo busy (this one was my Mt. Hood Cherokees meeting), and the option for Sunday hikes is appreciated.

My hike the previous weekend to Poo Poo Point gave me a chance to prepare my body a little, because this hike was 6.8 miles to the summit from the trailhead. It was .2 miles from the car, totaling 14 miles hiked and over 4000 foot elevation gain in one day. Believe me, my legs are still having a conversation with me about what took place…

One fun thing about the trail is that it begins at Multnomah Falls. You will be amazed to hear that I did not take a single shot of the stunning falls while I was in the viewing area with all the tourists. I have hundreds of photos of Multnomah Falls and was trying to practice restraint, ha ha! But if you want a reminder of which falls I mean, check out one of my posts on it from winter 2013  or from winter 2012.

One mile of paved trail leads you to the viewing platform at the top of the falls: 611 feet above the pool at the bottom.

Looking over the edge of Multnomah Falls, down to the parking lot and I-5 below. Doesn't this perspective mess with your equilibrium?

Looking over the edge of Multnomah Falls, down to the parking lot and I-5 below. Doesn’t this perspective mess with your equilibrium?

The trail after that is not paved, but is in great shape and there are so many more remarkable waterfalls I lost track. I included several photos of my hiking companions on the trail, to help with perspective, and add a contrast to the extravagant opulence of all the green. The ground was wet from a lot of run off and creeks crossing the trails, but we found solid purchase for our feet for the first five miles. We crossed five bridges, if my memory is correct, and each one of those was an adventure in itself. The first over Multnomah Falls, then a Troll Bridge, one that warned us it was falling apart, and two very sturdy bridges built from a single log with the top flattened for us to walk on, and a railing attached to one side. So clever.

Let me explain one aspect of my photos before I get too far. A friend who looked at my photos pointed out – correctly – that if I was in front of the group and turned back, I could get photos of all the lovely faces of the ladies I hiked with. This is absolutely true and it’s a loss that you won’t see them here. However, I am sensitive to the fact that when they registered for this hike, none of them signed up to have their faces on the Internet via my blog. I got permission to post butts (ha ha), but I promised not to show faces or names.

Our trail followed Multnomah Creek for quite a while.

Our trail followed Multnomah Creek for quite a while.

So many waterfalls, it was hard to keep track of them.

So many waterfalls, it was hard to keep track of them.

Troll bridge in the sunshine.

Troll bridge in the sunshine.

Part of the trail ducked under cliffs that had been carved out for us. See the waterfall in the distance here?

Part of the trail ducked under cliffs and is called Dutchman tunnel. See the waterfall in the distance here?

This is me in front of the waterfall in the shot right above.

This is me in front of the waterfall in the shot right above.

To our surprise, about 1.5 miles from the top, we walked into snow. It started off so beautifully: a lovely layer of white to change our forest views. We were very excited, taking photos and giving some accessories to a tiny snowman that someone else built along the trail.

The snow never got very deep, but it did make for some terrible trail conditions. First, the several inches of snow on the dirt trail ensured that it was a mud trail, particularly in the afternoon return home, when many many boots had tromped the slush into a dreadful slippery mess. Second, the snow on the branches of the trees above us slowly melted throughout the day, causing “tree rain” sufficient to soak us through despite the sky teasing us with copious blue that we spotted up through the trees. Luckily we all had jackets for protection, but it was impossible to stay entirely dry at that point.

At 1:00 pm were tired and discouraged and still walking uphill through the mud and tree rain. But occasional bursts of sunshine and the persistent blue above the trees were a tease that we couldn’t resist. Besides, we had come too far to give up.

Walking past yet another waterfall.

Walking past Ecola Falls.

Switchbacks. We became rather familiar with them.

Switchbacks. We became rather familiar with them.

You go first!

You go first!

Snow! It was so exciting that we took photos of it at first.

Snow! It was so exciting that we took photos of it at first.

Someone else built this snowman, but we added the character.

Someone else built this snowman, but we added the character.

Isn't this just lovely?

Isn’t this just lovely?

The summit was worth it! A lovely little rest spot has been built right at the top of the mountain, with benches and a fence to keep us from tumbling over the side. We gathered with other tenacious hikers and ate lunch. The sun had melted the snow off the tops of the benches, where we were able to sit. There was very little wind to speak of, but it did get a bit chilly when we stopped moving.

Sadly, the clouds had been gathering all morning, so by the time we arrived, all the volcanoes were obscured. Remember my view from Tom, Dick and Harry Mountain? On a clear day, the same views can be seen from Larch Mountain. Though the volcanoes (St. Helens, Rainier, Adams, Hood, and Jefferson) were hidden, we had a great view of the valleys around us, including the Columbia River.

The journey back down was somewhat lighter, since downhill is so much less of a struggle. Typically downhill is my challenge – not uphill – but my bad knee only hollered at me a couple of times, and I was able to get to the bottom without the help of any curse words!

It was somewhat surreal to finish the hike at a popular tourist destination, and I felt distinctly out of place, with my coat and pack and mud splashed up my legs and bleached blonde hairs frizzing out in all directions. The lovely people around me had perfect hair and clean clothes and some wore sandals (and heels! good gracious). But I could still smile to myself because I had just seen things that they would not. :-)

There it is! We made it!

There it is! We made it to Sherrard Point!

Islands in the Columbia

Islands in the Columbia

Icicles caught my eye

Icicles caught my eye

Lunch at the top in the snow.

Lunch at the top in the snow.

Snowy peaks in the distance.

Snowy peaks in the distance.

Mt. Jefferson not visible, but how lovely are the trees with natural flocking?

Mt. Jefferson not visible, but how lovely are the trees with natural flocking?

Evening view out the guest bedroom window

Evening view of the Space Needle out the guest bedroom window

Back to Seattle, can you believe it?

I don’t visit my brother for a whole year, and now it’s been two weekends in a row! It’s a good thing he is an awesome brother and I love spending time with him and his girlfriend.

Our plan was originally to check out the University of Washington campus, so Tara and I had made plans with my brother long ago to make this trip. Then two weeks ago we received a letter from UW that Tara was not accepted. I still thought it could be useful information to tour the campus. Tara grudgingly agreed to go, but our schedule changed and we never did make it to the campus.

Instead, Tara went to Sakuracon!

You may not be familiar with animecons (unless you’ve been reading my blog for awhile), so here’s an example of how popular they are: my views on my Flickr account grew from around 100-300 a day, to over 3000 each day since I posted my photos. And who wouldn’t want to look? Aren’t they great costumes!

Perfect pose

Perfect pose

Animation come to life

Animation come to life

DSC_0051

I caught them while they were posing for another photographer.

I caught them while they were posing for another photographer.

People attending will choose their favourite Japanese anime character, and come dressed as that character. Typically, in a three-day con, a person will have three cosplays (costume + play), and if there is an evening ball, an additional cosplay. If the costume is amazing and took months to put together, then the person will often wear the same one all three days.

Though most characters are from anime, creative people dress as anything else. I saw Alice In Wonderland, the Easter Bunny, and Elsa (from Frozen). Since these are hip young people, they will dress as anything trending on YouTube (Charlie the Unicorn or Nyan Cat), Tumblr or Vine, or non-anime web comics, a TV show (Adventure Time or Steven Universe), or even a radio podcast called Welcome to Night Vale. (Imagine how creative and attentive these kids are to listen to a radio program, then dress as they imagine the characters, and do it so well that other fans recognize the character. I think it’s wonderful.) One fun thing is to come up with an obscure cosplay – the author of Homestuck, Andrew Hussie, let’s say – and then get a total charge out of it when people actually recognize who the character is. This year Tara cosplayed a male character from Homestuck (Sollux) and made it a female character.

For a few days during a con, I actually recognize a few things (a group from Hetalia, who could miss that?), and can call out character’s names, and get a couple of appreciative – though surprised – looks from con kids. For a few days, I’m a sort of almost hip parent…and that is fun. A couple years ago I would have read these paragraphs and been mystified. As soon as Tara leaves home I’ll be right back there. I’m soaking up the cool while it lasts…

Trail to Poo Poo Point

Trail to Poo Poo Point

While Tara was occupied, I spent time with my hosts. They invited me on a hike to Poo Poo Point, and of course I had to go: for the name if nothing else. The trailhead was pretty close to downtown, and the drive to the trailhead never left the city congestion, so my expectations were not for a forested wildland, but that’s exactly what we got.

The trail was in great shape and not very busy, and it was the perfect amount of climbing (i.e. workout) for a Saturday on vacation. 7.2 miles round trip with an 1800 foot elevation gain. And when we came out at the top- what a view! All three of us were impressed, seeing the valley below, stretching to Lake Sammamish and the city of Bellevue in the distance. And, since I know you are wondering:

Loggers used whistles to communicate from the logging tower operator to the workers down the hill, signalling that two logs were tied to a cable, ready to be towed. The whistle made a sound like poo poo, hence the name Poo Poo Point.

The trail crossed a creek.

The trail crossed a creek.

Trillium - one of my favourite wild flowers.

Trillium – one of my favourite wild flowers.

Paragliding launch spot at the top.

Paragliding launch spot at the top.

Behind me you can see Lake Sammamish and Bellevue.

Behind me you can see Lake Sammamish and Bellevue.

We had a picnic at the top. Can you believe the trailhead to this incredible overlook is 30 minutes from the Space Needle?

We had a picnic at the top. Can you believe the trailhead to this incredible overlook is 30 minutes from the Space Needle?

That afternoon I walked to meet Tara and friend at the con, and bought smoothies all around. Tara couldn’t eat regular food because part of the cosplay was fangs – ha ha! Then I headed down the hill toward Pike Place Market and noticed an unusual amount of people in bunny ears and/or dressed as the Easter Bunny. At first it was easy to explain to myself: the next day was Easter, and Seattle people were probably just getting into the spirit or something.

Easter rabbits appeared from every direction, all walking briskly down the hill with me. I took a couple of photos, but remained puzzled. I walked into the fabulous outdoor market when I arrived, browsed the huge displays of tulips and daffodil bouquets because I had decided to pick one up for my hosts as a thank you. I glanced out onto the street when a cheer went up, and to my astonishment saw *hundreds* of Easter Rabbits all gathered in the street directly in front of the fishmongers’ stall. There was a huge furry rabbit in the center with a microphone and a drum, and they cheered and celebrated something – I have no idea what. I couldn’t find a place to get above them and get a photo, so I held my camera one-handed up into the air above us and took a couple photos. It’s the best I could do.

Suddenly, the group began to disperse, and within minutes there were cars passing on the street again. The whole thing had taken about 10 minutes. Don’t you just LOVE being the right place at the right time?

Convention Center

Convention Center

Tara as a female Sollux

Tara as a female Sollux

Weapons are often built to scale.

Weapons are often built to scale.

Cosplay team

Cosplay team

Great hair!

Great hair!

Battle-ready

Battle-ready

Um, you've got something stuck in...

Um, something’s stuck in…

back

back

front

front

I didn’t see Tara that night, and I’m assuming they found fang-friendly food. I walked to a great local place with I and K and we continued the conversation. Such a treat for me to spend so much time catching up on everything in their lives. K is getting ready to leave the Coast Guard, and my brother is contemplating changes to his business. They had given me a tour of the house the previous weekend and I saw that my brother has done huge amounts of work on the house. Re-finished wood floors, laid laminate, painted, repaired, built a custom spice rack, etc. It’s just exactly the tour I got at our brother E’s house in Boise: all the serious handiwork done by my brother. We are all three alike in our approach to home improvement, apparently. I’m glad they have done projects I haven’t, so I can use them as a resource.

Sunday morning while Tara rested up and prepared the cosplay for another day, the rest of us went for coffee at another great coffee shop recommended by K. No joke – Seattle is the place to find the best in coffee. Then we went to a farmer’s market and the mood was relaxing compared to the frenzy of shoppers I joined the day before. They explained that this was where the locals went. We browsed the stalls for farm-raised meats, spring veggies, and ate “salmon sliders” which were unbelievably delicious grilled salmon patties.

Finally I collected my kid and we said our goodbyes and headed back onto the Interstate for Portland. This time, we timed our departure better, and traffic was a piece of cake. In a little over 3 hours we were home.

a gathering of rabbits

a gathering of rabbits

Hey, nice ears!

Hey, nice ears!

Easter Bunny party in the street

Easter Bunny party in the street

Vegetables for sale at the Pike Place Market

Vegetables for sale at the Pike Place Market

Crystal M. Trulove:

I am sharing a post from a dear blogging friend that touched me deeply. Pauline has captured some of the most powerful wisdom of life in one honest, heartfelt outpouring of joy, gratitude, and thoughtfulness.

Originally posted on The Contented Crafter:

If you read this soon after publication, I am on my journey somewhere between the far South of New Zealand and the East Coast of the USA to spend ten days with four other WordPress Bloggers.  During this time there will be opportunities to meet up with other bloggers who will travel shorter distances to spend some time with us.

It’s very exciting, more than a little amazing and somewhat magical!

Before I go I just wanted to say thank you and to share a few thoughts – which for some reason, I feel are important to say at this time.

Thank you to all of you who have left messages and shared in the fun and enormity of this short, unexpected and totally spectacular adventure I am about to undertake.  None of us have said much about it – but this is a trip that has been gifted to…

View original 2,028 more words

Pike Place Market. A must-see if you visit Seattle.

Pike Place Market. A must-see if you visit Seattle.

{I called it right when I realized I needed to blog on the road or I’d never be able to post my whole week of road trip once I got back home. As you have noticed, being home is like entering the caucus race* from Alice in Wonderland, and time for blogging is hard to come by. But in any case, I’m here with bells on. Nice to see you again!}

One wall in Caffe Vita. This is a great coffee shop.

One wall in Caffe Vita. This is a great coffee shop.

Waking up walking distance from the Space Needle was perfect for me and my friend M on Friday morning. My brother recommended a coffee shop, and we hit that first. Caffe Vita is strongly encouraged, should you find yourself in Seattle!

EMP Museum and the Space Needle. The monorail track runs right through the building.

EMP Museum and the Space Needle. The monorail track runs right through the building.

I had it in my mind that I would lead M directly to the Pike Place Market, since he likes markets so much, but we chose a route that went past the Space Needle, because, duh, Seattle. Well, that’s all it took. Only ten minutes into our day, and we were in line to ride the elevator to the top!

My disappointment was palpable, and even M asked what happened. It was a particularly hazy day. Really bad. I pointed out Mt. Rainier to him, but a person sort of had to know it was there to find it through the airborne particles. M was unimpressed with looking in the direction of the mountain, and more excited about the view of the city. And he should be! It’s spectacular! Only, in my mind I was comparing it to all my other visits, and this was truly the worst one. I wanted to show off Seattle to a Sri Lankan/ Bostonian.

M with the hazy Seattle skies behind him, from the top of the Space Needle.

M with the hazy Seattle skies behind him, from the top of the Space Needle.

By the time we reached the bottom, we had to hustle to meet my brother and his girlfriend for lunch. We zoomed through the market, not there to shop, but only to jog through on our way to the federal building. M was in awe, as I knew he would be. I am SO glad we stopped in Seattle instead of pushing on home the day before.

We met up at the federal building, and K led us up to the 34th floor to her office and a one-of-a-kind view of the city. Everyone who has visited knows the views from the Space Needle, but we got to view the needle itself! What a treat! My spirits lifted.

The view from K's office. Outstanding! Even on this hazy morning.

The view from K’s office. Outstanding! Even on this hazy morning.

K, my brother I, and me. Look at the clothes and guess which one of us is on vacation? ha ha!

K, my brother I, and me. Look at the clothes and guess which one of us is on vacation? ha ha!

K bubbled about the “secret waterfall” on our way to lunch, so we went to visit the Waterfall Garden Park, built in honor of the United Parcel Service (UPS). It is enclosed by walls and completely invisible from the outside, but an oasis inside. Please see Lucy Wang’s photos and description of this place!

Across the street from the waterfall, we ate at another place I’m going to have to recommend: The London Plane. It’s a restaurant/flower shop/specialty goods store in a reclaimed industrial building. The light inside and the sky-high ceilings are transportive.

The counter at The London Plane.

The counter at The London Plane.

Looking down at a man making bread in the London Plane.

Looking down at a man making bread in the London Plane.

Spying on I, K, and M as they wait for lunch to arrive. They are at the table by the window, farthest from me.

Spying on I, K, and M as they wait for lunch to arrive. They are at the table by the window, directly across from me.

M was really excited about this monument to Chief Seattle, since he had been taught about the man in school as a kid in Sri Lanka. Wowzers. I never would have imagined.

M was really excited about this monument to Chief Seattle, since as a schoolboy in Sri Lanka he had been taught about the man. Wowzers. I never would have imagined.

Satiated, we said our goodbyes and walked back to the market. It was a delicious madhouse that never fails to delight me. We even caught a glimpse of the famous fish mongers tossing a codfish. Here’s an old video about the fishmongers that I had to watch years ago when I was a forecaster with the National Weather Service:

Flowers at the market.

Flowers at the market.

Springtime colours at Pike Place Market.

Springtime colours at Pike Place Market.

M with Smokey

M with Smokey

It was time to hurry home. We hugged goodbye to my brother I, and to the cat, Smokey, and in seconds we were heading south on I-5, and racing toward Portland at about 4.6 miles per hour, bumper to bumper in 5 lanes of rush hour traffic.

Somehow we made it on time to catch a show in Portland. We swung by the Blue House to pick up Tara, and went downtown to the Keller Auditorium to catch Shen Yun. I had purchased the tickets back in December, and we had been waiting to see it all this time! The show was made up mostly of dancers performing traditional Chinese dances and dances that told stories. There were two professional singers and one musician who played an erhu, a two-stringed instrument that M particularly liked. The orchestra was entirely Shen Yun musicians, who performed all the music for the dancers. There was a political message that was only possible because it’s a New York-based Chinese group and not a China-based group.

Saturday morning we took Tara to the Convention Center to get into line for Abby’s Closet, an organization that provides free prom dresses to people interested in a free, used, prom dress. We had barely begun our day when Tara texted us to come back. Turns out it was a six-hour wait and Tara had other plans to meet friends that day. So the three of us explored Washington Park, the International Rose Test Garden (sans roses this time of year), and Pioneer Courthouse Square. Tara went off and M and I rode the Tram up to Pill Hill (so-called because there are multiple hospitals at the top of the hill).

M at Pill Hill, at the top of the tram route.

M at Pill Hill, at the top of the tram route.

Sign in Pioneer Courthouse Square.

Sign in Pioneer Courthouse Square.

Portlandia!

Portlandia!

Our long, fabulous journey was finally at an end, and I took M to the airport for his flight home to Boston.

At home I began the daunting tasks of home upkeep that had piled up in my absence, beginning with laundry and mowing the lawn. I had just finished mowing the lawn, all green-smeared and in my cowboy work boots, when Tara came home and begged me to go back to Abby’s Closet to see if we could squeeze in before closing, in 30 minutes. I washed my hands and off we went, cowboy boots and all!

It was evening, and they got us through in two hours rather than six. The staff made an exceptional effort to keep us all happy and entertained and moving through. {Imagine: hundreds of teenagers and thousands of dresses. Instructions: Pick one!} I am glad I experienced that with Tara, who leans alternately from tomboy, to stereotypical masculine characteristics, to stereotypical feminine characteristics. It was a really girly experience, and neither of us is particularly girly, so it was good that we could lean on each other in that overwhelming cavern of pink and lace and sparkles.

What a long and action-packed week it was. I hope you enjoyed the journey with us. :-)

Post Script: M texted me from the airport. “You would not believe what happened in security! The TSA guy going through my bags said, ‘Let me guess: Tillamook! But why do you have so much cheese?!’ I started laughing, and had to tell him what happened at the border. He laughed too.”

*After swimming around in Alice’s pool of tears, the animals need to dry off, and the Dodo recommends a caucus race. There are no rules; all of the participants run haphazardly around in no particular direction, and everyone wins.

Girl In a Wetsuit, by Elek Imredy, in Stanley Park

Girl In a Wetsuit, by Elek Imredy, in Stanley Park

Thursday we were able to spend the whole day in Vancouver, and that was a boon, because this huge fabulous city deserves as much time as you can give her.

One of the first things that struck me was the number of apartment high-rises sprouting like shiny stalks from a garden. On both sides of the highway bridge, grey and glossy in the daylight, home to how many tens of thousands of apartment-dwellers, I don’t know. Right away M and I could see that people want to live in Vancouver.

Apartment high-rise buildings in Vancouver.

Apartment high-rise buildings in Vancouver.

We agreed that it would be a good idea to take a Hop On Hop Off bus tour, to get a sense of the place. I think those tours are a great idea for your first time in a big city: get off and look around at the interesting places, and then get on the next bus when you’re satiated. We took the trolley tour so we could push back the windows and take lots of photos.

I was struck by the creative architecture in Vancouver. I’m not used to so many modern skyscrapers in a single city reflecting so many elegant, sweeping curves. No fish-eye lenses used in the photos below: those are curved buildings. Seems like I’ll spot one stunning example in any given city, but here, there were many. Too many to catch them all from the window of the trolley.

One nice stop was the lookout over Lion’s Gate Bridge in Stanley Park. This is a 1000 acre forested city park on a high hill overlooking First Narrows, separating North Vancouver from Vancouver. The huge park holds gardens, biking and running along the seawall, memorials, wildlife, and some really old Western Red cedar trees.

We were hungry by the time we arrived at Fisherman’s Wharf on Granville Island, and it was the perfect place to be hungry. M was fascinated by the large open-air market, and commented how it was similar to the one he had seen in Arcata, California. I am used to these markets, so it was fun to be amazed again, through his eyes. We stopped at the butcher to ask for a recommendation on where to get a good steak. M owed me a steak from a little mishap on day one (someone forgot their camera battery charger and we had to turn around and go back). This resulted in our finest meal of the trip: steak and lobster perfection. The flavour was not better, but equal to the oysters earlier, but the presentation was fine dining this time.

We took the last trolley out of there, and the driver was hilarious and gregarious. Since it was the last trip, he delivered each person on board exactly to their final destination, even if it wasn’t part of the tour route. Score!

By then it was evening and we had to blast on out of town. Before we knew it, we were going through the border crossing. The man at the gate headed directly for the back of the Jeep, pulled out the luggage, and lifted the storage lid in the back, like he knew exactly what he was doing. The only thing we had hidden back there were nearly six pounds of Tillamook cheese! It had been my idea to keep it in the back, likely the coolest place in the car. For 10 minutes we had been grilled with pretty official questions, and then we were asked, “Why do you have so much cheese?!” M and I burst out laughing. “It’s Tillamook!” I answered. “Have you tasted it?”

As we made our way south in m.p.h. rather than kilometers, we debated whether to bang out the last few hundred miles and go all the way to Portland that night. M asked if he would miss anything by skipping Seattle. I said, “Well, it’s a city on the water. It’s beautiful, eclectic, West-coast laid back, diverse, and energized. The architecture is awesome. The food is outstanding. And since you like outdoor markets so much, Seattle has one of the best.”

I texted my brother about recommendations for places to stay, and – as I suspected would happen – got an invitation to stay at their place! Woo hoo! Their place is a treasure. They rent a three-bedroom home (we won’t disclose the amount, but the owner has neglected to increase the price for years) with a full yard and fruit trees and a garden only blocks from the Space Needle. It is surrounded on all side by apartment buildings, and the entrance to the house drops down a hill, so you can’t even see it from the street. As we were chatting before bed, we found out we were walking distance to Kerry Park – a famous overlook spot for the city – so M and I went for some spectacular nighttime views.

One Wall Centre

One Wall Centre

Carina

Carina

Waterfront in Stanley Park

Waterfront in Stanley Park

Gardens in Stanley Park.

Gardens in Stanley Park.

Marine Building with the MNP Tower behind it.

Marine Building with the MNP Tower behind it.

Couldn't find the name of this one - love the bronze colour.

Couldn’t find the name of this one – love the bronze colour.

When the Crazy Squirrel Lady travels, she notices the foreign squirrels. This handsome black critter caught my eye.

When the Crazy Squirrel Lady travels, she notices the foreign squirrels. This handsome black critter caught my eye.

I casually mentioned that the lock was more valuable than the bike. "Not to the kid who owns it," quipped M. And he's right.

I casually mentioned that the lock was more valuable than the bike. “Not to the kid who owns it,” quipped M. And he’s right.

Super funny art. Each figure is an image of the artist himself.

Super funny art. Each figure is an image of the artist himself.

Downtown, with the Harbour Centre Tower

Downtown, with the Harbour Centre Tower

The Lion's Gate Bridge in Stanley Park

The Lion’s Gate Bridge in Stanley Park

Steam-powered clock

Steam-powered clock

Vancouver's Chinatown

Vancouver’s Chinatown

Seattle skyline from Kerry Park

Seattle skyline from Kerry Park

My brother and his girlfriend's oasis in Seattle.

My brother’s and his girlfriend’s oasis in Seattle.

Look at this handsome fellow.

Look at this handsome fellow.

Best thing about waking up this morning was that we were still at the Waddling Dog! He was gracious enough to allow me to snap his photo as we checked out.

We were at The Butchart Gardens right when they opened, and M and I walked for a couple of hours in the drizzle. We were both so glad we added the gardens to our trip. Two good things about touring the garden today: the grey skies prevented the sunshine washout in our photos, and there were very few people around. See? I’m a Pollyanna to the core.

Her Royal Highness, Victoria

Her Royal Highness, Victoria

The Sunken Garden was our favourite, followed by the Japanese garden for me. I’m not sure if he would choose a different second best garden. The grounds are immense and March was a good choice because the trees were blossoming and the bulbs were at peak. Tulips and daffodils and hyacinths galore! As it rained and rained, M decided he would like to work there. He wanted to have the job of watering the plants.

While most of the plants were familiar to me because the climate on Vancouver Island is similar to Portland, we finally got to a section where M knew all the plants: the indoor room, filled with orchids and other exotics that I find hard to imagine growing wild, like M described it.

We returned south along Highway 17, now becoming familiar. M is constantly astonished at the laid back nature of Vancouver drivers, who are extremely polite and make room for the Jeep while we change lanes. Not like Boston drivers. Back in Victoria we took one of those little yellow water taxis I included in my post yesterday. It was inexpensive and fun. We got out at Fisherman’s Wharf and ate fresh sturgeon for lunch – yum! I was stuffed for the rest of the day. While we ate, we watched kids feeding mackerel to seals off the dock.

Victoria is a lovely city. We saw interesting  architecture, history, statues, cultures. M (from Sri Lanka) and I (from the US) both have a history of British Colonization…but much different obviously. Coming across the many references to Britain, the Queen, the crown, etc. caused a reaction in him each time we saw something new. I am getting a bit of an education on this trip, I will say. And I trust he is as well. If only you could hear the discussions we’ve been having for days on end while the Jeep carries us around the wet West.

Rain. Yes. Lots and lots and lots.

After a good look at the key points of downtown, we were ready for the next adventure. We got onto the Tsawassen Ferry without so much as a bump in the road, and by evening were on the mainland. We went through the rain and dark in search of my blogger buddy from Quillscratches. We found her! We went and had eats and drinks and chats and then I had to break it all up because I just need my sleep. M has been such an accommodating traveling companion.

Here’s my plan: I’ll drop a couple photos on you and add an IOU for a new post dedicated just to the Butchart Gardens, since I took many many photos and don’t have the time to go through them all tonight. Cheers! Thanks everyone who has been travelling along with us and commenting. It has been a lot of fun to do this trip with a group of friends. ;-)

Delicate twins. Beds of Flowers are often raised, making close-ups of tiny, ground-hugging flowers easier.

Delicate twins. Flower beds are often raised, making close-ups of tiny, ground-hugging flowers easier.

This is what we were able to see because it is March.

This is what we were able to see because it is March.

The Sunken Garden.

The Sunken Garden.

Darling little water taxis.

Darling little water taxis.

Kids feeding the sea lions. Look at the expressions on their faces!

Kids feeding the seals. Look at the expressions on their faces!

There was also an otter.

There was also an otter.

Next fish for me?

Next fish for me?

We loved the colorful floating village.

We loved the colorful floating village.

Here's another look at all the house boats at Fisherman's Wharf.

Here’s another look at all the house boats at Fisherman’s Wharf.

The most impressive architecture in town is the Parliament Building.

The most impressive architecture in town is the Parliament Building.

Parliament Building domes

Parliament Building domes

Grand entranceway

Grand entrance way

Confederation Garden Court

Confederation Garden Court

A hunter so intent on its prey that it held still while I got close for a photo.

A hunter so intent on its prey that it held still while I got close for a photo.

British history is embraced in Victoria, British Columbia's capitol city.

British history is embraced in Victoria, British Columbia’s capitol city.

The hour and a half ferry journey from Swartz to Tsawassen was more interesting than the previous ferry ride, because we wound our way through islands.

The hour and a half ferry journey from Swartz to Tsawassen was more interesting than the previous ferry ride, because we wound our way through islands.

M on the deck in the wind.

M on the deck in the wind.

One of my many guises

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