Thursday, March 30, 2017

The Oregon Historical Society

Exploring Portland

When we finally decided to move to Oregon permanently, we called our little condo on the Columbia River a pied a terre.  PDX is only an hour's drive away and we envisioned flying out of there on a regular basis.  At least that was the initial plan.  But as our one year anniversary approaches, I realize we have canceled three (three!) trips abroad--mainly because there's so much to do and see right here.
 As I walked through the Oregon Historical Society's museum last Saturday, it dawned on me how enamored I was of this beautiful state.  Much like the pioneers who traveled here via the Oregon Trail, this Kansan found her way here, too.

The diversity is amazing.  Oregon has mountains, fertile valleys, deep canyons, the ocean and deserts.  Granted, California did, too, but the exploding population, high prices and the lingering drought drove me out.  Oregon is affordable.  Quiet.  Green.  Liberal.  I have adopted it as my own.

This is a very well-thought out museum.  The exhibits follow a time-line from the Native Americans who lived here long before the Europeans first set foot on its soil, to the fur trading industry, the Lewis and Clark Expedition, the Oregon Trail and westward migration, the Indian Wars, and finally statehood.  There are interesting videos throughout, giving you an opportunity to stop and rest.

But I confess, what interested me the most was the exhibit on current day politics.  Oregon is a very progressive, liberal state.  It was the first state to make assisted-suicide legal; and after witnessing the long, painful death of my father, I am wholeheartedly in favor of this very humane law.

It was also the very first state to expand Medicaid coverage to all Oregon citizens below poverty level and to all citizens denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions.  This was in 1989, long before Obamacare.  It made me sigh with relief.  No matter what happens in Washington D.C., Oregon will take care of its people!
The museum had a very fun interactive display, using a juke box for the visitor to punch.  There were ten controversial topics which the state legislature tackled and subsequently voted on.  It was clear to me that the People come first in this state.

Love this Quotation!

Portraits of Lewis and Clark

Besides the permanent exhibits, there are special traveling ones and I had the luck to be there on the first day that "High Hopes--The Journey of John F. Kennedy" opened.  No photographs were allowed, so I couldn't take a picture of Jackie's tweed suit or JFK's rocking chair.  But by the time I finished I confess I was silently weeping a bit.  In office only three years before he was assassinated, he had showed great leadership in his averting a Cuban missile crisis.  He wanted to ease relationships with Russia, he wanted to end racial segregation and he proposed that the federal government provide health care to the poor and to the elderly.  These proposals eventually became the law of the land, but not under his administration.  He was gunned down way too soon; way too young.

Much of the exhibit was devoted to Kennedy and his relationship with fellow democrats in Oregon.  He had many friends here.

I left this museum with a sense of pride--that I was now a resident and citizen of this great state.  Nope.  Won't be flying on an airbus to Europe or South America any time soon.  I'll be staying right here.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

A Tour of Portland's Theaters

I love walking along city streets and bumping into impromptu events.  Such was the case last Saturday when I found myself once again in Portland.  On route to Pioneer Place for some shopping, I saw the above sign.  I checked the time on my cell phone:  11:24 am.  Hmm.  There was a tour starting in five minutes.  What the heck.  It was free!!

Turned out to be so delightful, it was the highlight of my weekend.
For one thing, I was the only one in the lobby.  The three volunteers, sitting at a table and talking, seemed genuinely surprised someone actually showed up.  An older gentleman jumped up.  "I'll do it," he said.

"Are you sure?" I asked.  "It looks like I'm the only one here."

But the old guy was full of vim and vigor.  For the next hour and a half, I followed him up and down stairs, down long halls, on to (and behind) the empty stages, high up to the balcony seats and then across the street to the beautiful old Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall.  He was full of facts about the architecture and financing and the performing arts in Portland.  But it was his stories I liked best--those gossipy little snippets that you only hear on private tours.  I found myself laughing alot and thoroughly enjoying myself.
There are three theaters within the modern Antoinette Hatfield Hall:  1) The plush and elegant Newmark Theatre, which seats 800.  2) The more intimate Winningstad Theatre, which seats only 300, and 3) The tiny Brunish theatre.

There is a bar and bistro in the main lobby as well as refreshment kiosks throughout the hall.  Going to a performance in any of them would be a wonderful experience and one I intend to do often.  After all, I only live an hour's drive away.  My guide told me that in the summer (usually on Wednesdays) there are free concerts out on the street.  Oh, yeah.   
After touring the three theaters he took me across the street to the old renovated Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, which is home to the Portland Symphony Orchestra.  It's was built in 1927 as a movie theater venue, and indeed the old "Portland" marquee sign still graces its entrance.  The interior is Italian Renaissance with crystal chandeliers and mirrored and marbled walls.  
It dawns on me as I write this post that when I do return and go to a performance, the halls will be filled with people.  Would I even notice the cherry paneling?  The domed skylight?  The bar counter with its dancing LED lights?  I know one thing for sure.  I would never ever have noticed the two fingers on the Greek statue that had to be reglued after being hit by bullets!

  To see such beautiful interiors, empty and silent, is a rare privilege.  

So glad I stumbled upon this tour!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Before I Die

Art in Public Places

Some people might disagree with my designation of this kiosk as "art".  But in my mind, it is.  It's an interactive art installation designed to get people to reflect on life and death.  A container of colorful chalk is attached and every single line on all four sides were filled in.  Some of the completed sentences are faded.  Some have been freshly written in.  I expect not a day goes by that someone in Hood River, Oregon, stops here.  Ponders.  And writes.

Today, it was me.  And my travel buddy.

He filled in a fresh sentence:  "Before I die I want to climb Aconcagua."  I traced over one, refreshing it with orange chalk.  "Before I die I want to visit every continent."

This is a community-wide Bucket List and it was fun reading them all.  Most were wishes to travel some place.  Some were more general and life-sweeping like having a baby or getting married.  And some were more tongue in cheek.
This kiosk is the result of the efforts of nurses and social workers of the Providence Hospice.  Many such installations are now popping up all over the world.  I think they are quite wonderful.  It certainly got me thinking.  I turn 62 next week and my own Bucket List has nearly 40 untraveled destinations on it.  Doing the actuarial math, I realize there's no way I can cross them all off, but really, it doesn't matter.  They are fun to make.  Fun to reflect on.  Such lists get my partner and I talking and dreaming and researching.

This is life.

This is art.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Fields of Satin Flowers

Wildflowers of the Pacific Northwest

You know that Spring has truly sprung when these cheerful, colorful flowers begin to bloom on the bluffs above the Columbia River.  The Olsynium douglassi is the first of the wildflowers; others will follow and it is my goal to photograph them all.  I told my travel buddy that I was traveling no where this Spring.  Staying put in the Gorge. I want to witness the unfolding of nature at its best and that includes wildflowers. In my search for magical moments, they are right up there with rainbows, waterfalls and the Great Blue Heron.

Although I have watched them pop up one by one on top of the Mosier Plateau all week, the fields of these satin flowers (aka Douglas Grass Widow and purple-eyed grass) cover the open meadows of the Rowena Crest.  Last Sunday, I joined dozens of other flower aficionados in hiking the still wet, muddy trail out to the bluff's edge.  Many of us had cameras in tow and were shooting away.  It was a clear, sunny day.  The ghostly outline of Mt. Hood could be seen in the distance.  The purple satin flowers danced in the breeze.

It made my heart soar.

Spring is finally here.

Stay tuned for more wildflower posts
as Spring unfolds.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Lunch at the Baldwin Saloon

Favorite Pit Stops

Granted, this plain red building in downtown The Dalles, Oregon, doesn't look like much from the outside, but the minute you walk through that front door, you are immediately struck by how darn charming this place is.  Oh . . . and the food is really good!
 Every single wall is filled with gorgeous (and I mean Gorgeous!) landscapes of mountains and waterfalls.  Some of them I recognize:  The Cascades and the Columbia River Gorge.  Others are from Yosemite and possibly the Rocky Mountains.  It doesn't really matter.  Seen as a whole, I can't help but think of my sister's comment last week when she was visiting from Kansas City.  We took her up to the Rowena Crest lookout and she gasped at the panoramic view.   "Man, I love the West," she said.

Me, too.
 We stop here often for lunch whenever we are in town for errands.  I like to order from the specials.  Last week, they had falafels on the menu so that was a no-brainer.  They were stuffed into extra thick pita bread and smothered with a creamy tahini sauce and thinly sliced cucumbers.  Yum!  My travel buddy had two fish tacos.

This is the place we came to last summer when forced out of Mosier because of the train derailment.  They have a full bar and an excellent wine list, which we took full advantage of that day.  The place has a warm and cozy feel to it with its hardwood floors and red brick walls.  I tell you, it never ceases to satisfy!

The Baldwin Saloon is actually one of the oldest buildings in The Dalles.  I love that the place still exists and that it has come full circle.  It began as a saloon in 1876 but changed hands many times.  It served as a steamboat office, grain warehouse and even a storage place for coffins.  Now, thank goodness, it is once again a bar and restaurant.

And . . . a repository of art.

Friday, March 17, 2017

A Carnegie in The Dalles

Collecting Carnegie Libraries
The Dalles, Oregon

A classical-style brick building.  Beautiful paintings.  A charming historic neighborhood.  A cat curled up in a wing chair.  Hand-crafted jewelry.  Watercolors and woven scarves.  Now I remember why I collect Carnegie Libraries. It's been awhile.  I sought them out while living in California, but this solid gem of a building in the heart of The Dalles is my first one in Oregon.

Of the 1,679 public library buildings funded by Andrew Carnegie between 1883 and 1929, 31 of them were in Oregon.  Only 11 of them are still libraries.  And, alas, several have been torn down.  In my travels, I have visited many that are now art galleries--such is the case with this one.

Built in 1910, it served the community as a library until 1966, when a larger, more modern one was built down the street.  In 1967 the Dalles Art Club received permission from the city council to use the vacant building as a venue to show and sell their art and to also hold art classes.  It has been going strong ever since.
Although, yes, I know Andrew Carnegie was a ruthless robber barren, I can't help but have great admiration for what he did later in life.  Once he sold his company to J. P. Morgan, philanthropy became an obsession.  Not only did he build concert halls and libraries, but he devoted his remaining years to world peace.  That this self-proclaimed pacifist should make millions from manufacturing steel that ultimately enabled the military industrial complex to grow is one of history's most ironic twists.  The realization that he was sending millions of men to their death sent him down a spiral of depression, fear and regret.  He drove himself hard to prevent World War I, and when he failed, he literally collapsed, fell silent and died a broken and tormented man.  The very moving biopic Andrew Carnegie Rags to Riches Power to Peace is an excellent account of his remarkable life.

He believed in education, valued community and understood the benefits of exposure to fine arts.  In his article, "The Gospel of Wealth" he urged the rich to give away their wealth after accumulating it.  Remarkable!  I think it should be required reading for every single one of the men and women in You Know Who's Cabinet of Millionaires.  Sigh.
I begin once again traveling the country in search of Carnegie Libraries.  To seek inspiration.  To enjoy.  To remember that goodness and generosity exists.  And will someday prevail.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Portland Art Museum Reverie

I don't mind rain at all when I have an art museum to duck into for a couple of hours.  Such was the case last Saturday when I was waiting for my travel buddy to finish a ten-mile hike with his Mazamas group.  I had been wanting to come here for months now; it was the perfect opportunity.
I found myself rushing through the galleries much too fast and I was not enjoying myself.  I couldn't even tell you what I was seeing.  Argh!  I had too little time.  There was too much to see.  My legs ached and my heart began to race.  What in the world was going on?

  I forced myself to sit down and study the Museum Map.  I had to stop this lunacy.  Pick only one or two galleries.  Slow down.  Study the art.  Read the descriptions.  Learn something, for crying out loud.

You are not on a ten-mile hike!
I chose three areas.  Three very very different areas, and because of it, I have been thinking about the art all week--what art means.  I started with the special exhibit:  Constructing Identity--the Petrucci Family Foundation's Collection of African-American Art.  It was beautifully curated, organized into themes:  Spirit, Gender, Abstraction, Community, Faces and Land.  There was an honesty here that made me reflect.  We can't really know what it means to be African-American or for that matter, Latino, Gay, Female(!) or Elderly unless we are one.  However, we can (and must) Stop, Look and Listen and I mean really listen in order to understand.  Art exhibits, such as this one, are bridges to empathy.  And dialogue.

I read:  In this exhibition and throughout history of African-American art, we illustrate mastery of what we've been mandated to learn--namely, European style of art-making, as a required sign of "visual intelligence."

And so I found myself walking quickly through the American art gallery to reach the European art.  The Portland Art Museum has a well-rounded collection with samples from the Baroque, Italian Renaissance, Flemish landscapes and interiors, French Rococo and Impressionism.  I lingered before each painting, admiring the technical mastery of these artists.  These were the painters that we all study in our art history classes.  Clearly, I would never hear, "Really?  But I could paint that!" in front of  a Pittoni or Van Dyck.

But I felt nothing.

Something was missing.

And in the Modern and Contemporary Art Galleries, I realized what that was:  Imagination.

As I walked through these rooms, I found myself actually smiling.  Okay, Portland is keeping itself Weird.  Where does this art spring from?  What secret recess of our brains comes up with these ideas?

When I met my travel buddy two hours later, I was gushing with enthusiasm.  Next time I would cover the decorative arts and Native American galleries.  Hopefully, there would be another profound special exhibit like the African-American one.  To summarize:  Art is about identity.  Art reveals the time and place and state of mind of its creator.  And in doing so, causes the viewer to step inside and share a world that is different, sometimes strange, but always worthy of our attention.

Do not ignore me, world.  I am here.  I am alive.  I deserve to be seen and to be heard.