Some people are bird watchers, some people are people watchers, some are television watchers. I am a building watcher. As I go about my day, I check out the buildings around me. Residential, commercial, new, old, it doesn’t matter. I’m interested to see them, notice tiny details I never saw before, and see how they change.

I’m always amazed how quickly the buildings of downtown change. I’ve only lived here since 2001, but things have morphed even in seven years. As I live among them, these buildings become mine, even if I never set foot in them. I lived in downtown Portland from June 2002 to August 2005 and as I went about my commute, to work, to the store, to various buses that would take me elsewhere in the city, on bike, jogging, by myself and with others, I noticed what was going on around me with my buildings until I owned large segments of the city for example:

This is the corner of SW Madison & SW Broadway where picture was taken. It is the North street of the bus mall which is currently being reconstructed to have a Max train, cars, bicycles and buses. As mentioned before, I think this will be a disaster and liked the bus mall idea much better.

The building to the left in the above picture (in shadow) is the Ambassador apartments, where I imagine the nice old ladies have afternoon tea and where I dream of living when I am an old lady.

The building to the right is the Gus J. Solomon courthouse. Here I had a job interview in 2004 with the Classroom Law Project. I didn’t get the job because they “thought I should be a teacher” as they told me in my rejection letter. It was one of the most annoying rejection letters ever. Not only did I not get a job that I was interested in, they needed to discount my choice to not pursue teaching at that time. The Post Office moved here (again) in 2003 after the other downtown location in Pioneer Courthouse was unjustly closed so the judges could have parking spaces. I haven’t been to this location lately, but for the first year or two it was one dead branch. The lone counter employee would often be reading a book when I walked in, though she was happy to help me. I liked her hair, which was long and red and braided into a crown around her head.

Stepping forward one block, building on left are apartments. I used to live a block away from them. Sadly, my beautiful building, the Rosefriend Apartments, was torn down by the First Christian Church to make way for luxury condominiums. After the condo market went sour, they reduced the ceiling height of each floor to add a few more stories, and are currently building “luxury apartments”–one of my favorite oxymorons. The First Christian Church chose to tear down the Rosefriends and build a huge building so they could have more parking spaces. In doing so they eliminated affordable housing with high ceilings, huge kitchens and a building with history and character.

From my old apartment I could see people in these apartments when they wandered out on their balcony. This didn’t really happen that often. I don’t know if I didn’t spend too much time looking out the window, or if those little tiny balconies don’t lend themselves to hanging out on. In the ground floor of that building is the Oregon history museum gift shop. It will move around the corner soon. On the side of the apartments facing the Park Blocks there is a trompe l’il mural of the Lewis & Clark Expedition.

The building on the right is the Portland Center for the Performing Arts. (PCPA.) It’s that little sliver of orange brick that looks like it has a tower on top of it (it doesn’t–more on that, below.) Matt and I volunteered as ushers one year and saw a lot of good shows. We even ushered a show during an ice storm when the streets were encased in ice. There were a few people who made their way to the theater, but it was a pretty quiet production. Afterwards, we walked the two blocks home gingerly, careful not to slip on the ice.

Behind the PCPA is the tower that doesn’t match of the First Congregational Church. When the church was built, it was built in the Richardson Romanesque style a la the church in Boston’s Copley Square. That church is another building that became mine when I lived in Boston. The story goes that when it was finished the congregation didn’t like the darkness and heavy stone of the style and eventually built a soaring bell tower in a style they would have preferred. It doesn’t match at all, but the church has embraced it, calling themselves “The church tower church or whatever” Recently, I sat all the way in the back and heard Lois Lowry–herself a resident of Boston–speak there.

This part I didn’t get around to fleshing out. (says the 2013 me, who has just discovered this unpublished post)
Art museum, used to cut through the sculpture garden pathway on the way to church.
Shiny gray building on the left in the back is the Eliot tower. Named after 1UU minster, was the safeway and cut through the parking lot on the way to church.
Next door to Eliot Tower and unseen in this small picture is the Y where I was a member until sleep problems. Home of Nicole, fabulous yoga teacher.

Letters written June 21-30.

Not much to report here. I didn’t write people because I was prepping for the trip (and trying to catch up blog posts) and when I left on the trip my letter per day was to myself. I bought special stationary with the plan to glue each letter in my scrapbook. This turned out to be an awesome idea.

21 June. Sara
22 June. No one.
23 June. No one.
24 June. No one.
25 June. No one.
26 June. Me.
27 June. Me.
28 June. Me.
29 June. Me.
30 June. Me.

Budapest by night.

My hosts continued to be wonderful hosts. After lunch, we drove back to Budapest and rested for a bit before heading out to see Budapest by night.

Our first stop was the Church of St. Elizabeth of the House of Arpad. Gyorgy told me the legend of St. Elizabeth–that she was taking bread to the poor in secret and her husband asked her what she had. She opened her cloak and roses tumbled out. There is a rose garden planted at the base of her statue and the square is known as the square of roses.

Our next stop was the Dohany Street Synagogue. It is the second largest synagogue in the world. The link has a lot of interesting information about it, which I will let you read on your own if you are interested.
The front.
The Holocaust memorial.
There are many squares in Budapest and each corner of the square has a building like this. They are very grand.
On this street the buildings bent to meet the street.

I enjoy their crosswalk signs because the man walking in them is wearing a suit and hat.
We then went to the Opera House.
And posed at the sphinx statue out front.
Fancy light posts outside the Opera House.
One of my favorite parts of Budapest is the random decoration on seemingly normal buildings. I have no idea how a child and two dogs were carved above the lintel, but it is a delight to come across it on a side street.
Dedicated bike lanes!
St. Stephen’s Basilica can be spied between buildings.
We approached St. Stephen’s from the rear.
The bell tower.
The frieze.
I got a nice shot of the basically as we were walking away.
Decorated man hole cover.
Wrought iron gate on the side entrance to the Four Seasons Hotel.
Sunset view from the Chain Bridge which is closed to traffic and has a festival on it on weekends during the summer. It was the first bridge to cross the Danube and unite the hills of Buda with the flatlands of Pest. Like almost everything in Budapest, it was destroyed during World War II and rebuilt.

Tata food.

I ate well in Hungary and Romania. Very well. The food there agrees with me–the vast quantities of meat and starch, served with a soup or salad, sat well on my stomach. Remembering that last time I went, the food was my favorite part, I took pictures of nearly everything I ate, much to the amusement of my traveling companions. Now I can not only tell you how good the food was, I have actual evidence.

After having ice cream and sampling a Hungarian elephant ear we went to a very nice restaurant overlooking the lake. I got a nice broth soup to start and then this arrived. It was turkey stuffed with farmer cheese and dill. It was delicious.
Ibolya got fish, which the waiter finished at the table. He was very efficient in removing the head and spine. I was impressed.
For dinner I got this “parfait” which was suggested by the waiter. I was expecting the layered dessert in a glass a la the USA, but this was a mousse-like concoction which was very, very good.


After a very good night’s sleep, Ibolya, Barnabas and I picked up Barnabas’ friend David and we drove to Tata, which is a town where Gyorgy has his surgery. Tata is not to be confused with Tatabanya, which is a different city entirely. Although, according to Wikipidea, Tatabanya is the county seat.

Tata has three lakes (so I’m told) a castle, and the day we visited, it had the fruit and flower festival. We walked through the castle area first but we were really on the way to get on this train. Boise residents will look at the picture and think “Tour train!
Ibolya and myself posing on the tour train.
David, Barnabas and Gyorgy with the lake in the background.
And on the tour train. (We got ice cream on the way there)
The tour train took us on a loop through the town. Here is a Hungarian gate. The gates in Hungary were seriously cool, we need to adopt this art form in the US.
A church along the train route.
Typical old building.
The train went into “English Park” and I saw another of the three lakes.
He doesn’t mind having his photo taken.
The Castle and the lake.
A closer view of the castle.
Barnabas visited Portland last year for three weeks so he was pretty familar with our icons. “We have a thing that is like the elephant ear, but savory” he told me. We got one and shared it among us. It was an elephant ear, but with cheese rather than cinnamon/sugar.
Inside a building there were flower arrangements and this fetching young woman.
Me posing by the John the Baptist statue.
We saw an exhibit of bonsai trees.
And this guy who made fruit and vegetables into very cool displays.
The food looked very good. This was the second pig I saw roasting on a stick.
A bunch of traditional foods were cooked here.
Should your pickled food smile at you? I vote yes.
Barnabas was interested in getting a bow so we stopped at this booth. The bow-maker had absolutely huge hands which I tried and failed to capture.
Here is Gyorgy’s surgery. I neglected to take pictures inside. He is an orthopedic surgeon and there were signed photos of athletes and dancers who have been his patients.
Barnabas on the phone.

ps. I found this cycling tour when googling other things for this post. It sounds fabulous. You should go.

Book review of Sex, Drugs & Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Mainfesto

Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto by Chuck Klosterman

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
Chuck and I are generational twins, despite him being four years older. I will be forever grateful for Fargo Rock City, his clarion call to give Heavy Metal Music the respect it is due, and his deep(er than it should be, probably) thinking on arcane and trivial subjects thrills me to my toes. It turned out I had read this already, but I enjoyed again the reason Generation X is so whiny (thanks Luke Skywalker), why soccer is lame, and why returning phone calls to reporters behooves you if you want to control the media.

View all my reviews.

Meeting the Beres Family.

The Beres family met me at First Unitarian Church of Budapest. Ibolya Beres, (mother) and Barnabas (son) were happy to see me. The father, Gyorgy, was working and I would meet him later. When they asked me what I wanted to do I told them I would love to eat and then go to sleep. And that is what we did.

The Beres family were stellar, out of this world hosts. I’m not sure what I–a person who, outside of 4 out-of-town high school choir students in 1988, has never hosted anyone–did to deserve such luxury. I enjoyed every minute of it.

We went to Gundel where I had an absolutely fabulous meal. It consisted of cold zucchini soup–who knew it could be so good–a cold salmon and eggplant dish and dessert. I got the famous Gundel dessert which was a filled crepe. The Beres family shares my healthy appreciation for dessert in general and ice cream in particular.

With my appetite sated, we journeyed to the Beres house where met Gyorgy, as well as Barnabas’ grandmother. I found my bathroom, room and bed in quick order and I slept 12 hours.
The Beres house. Gyorgy has a doctor’s office on the first floor. There is a waiting room and two exam rooms as well as my bathroom and bedroom and a separate apartment for Barnabas’ grandmother. The family lives on the second floor.
Ibolya and Barnabas outside. I’ve got some pictures of Gyorgy coming in the next post.
My bedroom and bed. It was very comfortable and quiet.

I forgot to mention in the last post that the airline lost my luggage. They also lost Eric and Isabelle’s. I blame the quick connection between Amsterdam and Budapest, but really, why couldn’t they get all of our luggage on the same plane? So I arrived in Hungary with what was in my backpack (luckily, my toiletries) and Marcia kindly lent me a shirt and a pair of socks for Saturday.

Also! Hungarian has all sorts of cool accent marks that aren’t available on Blogger. So really, their last name is B-e[accent mark slanting to the left]-r-e-s. Barnabas’s name has a slanty to the left accent over the third a, and his father has an umlaut over the “o” in his name.

On our way….

I’m a bit vain about my packing. I do it very well. My red suitcase, which I bought at a Salvation Army store in Somerville for $3.00, holds all the clothes I need for two weeks in Europe. My backpack holds the rest.
And I’m ready to go. Aside from clothing I’ve brought along six books, 14 envelopes and 14 stationary (I’ll write myself a letter per day), an art kit, my water bottle, toiletries kit and my trusty travel pillow. Or what I hope will become my trusty travel pillow–I just bought it.
Group photo at the airport. Brittany and Derek are missing because they were flying standby and didn’t make their flight. But other than that, here were are.
And nine long hours later in Amsterdam. We flew Northwest/KLA. Our flight attendants were gruff and grumpy, but we each had our own movie screen and could choose from 30+ movies. I watched “Definitely, Maybe” and read an entire book. I slept 40 minutes. I attempted to use the travel pillow, but it was too poofy. Most of us did not sleep very much. We weren’t in Amsterdam very long, but long enough to notice that the KLA flight attendants have the coolest uniforms. They are powder blue skirt and jacket set. Very 1965. I loved them.
Sleep did happen for me on the flight from Amsterdam to Budapest. And for Eric and Christine on the shuttle from the airport.