Summer Sweet Spot

July 24th, 2014

Farm field near Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge

I knew I had hit the sweet spot of summer when I lost a horseshoe. Late July, early August, summer patterns fully established, the woods at it’s fullest with the paths overgrown, the timing was just right. My standard horseshoe opponent lives across the street. He grew up throwing shoes in the projects of Troy and I let him keep the score. I have a hard enough time concentrating on the game.

This time I was playing with Roc, an old friend, and we were talking about old times so I was especially spaced out. I couldn’t find one of my shoes and I was pretty sure it had bounced into the pachasandra so we trampled through the plants for about ten minutes looking for the horseshoe. Peggi suggested I use the metal finder that our former neighbor made, a string of magnets mounted on the underside of an upside down wooden “T.” I dragged the homemade tool through the plants for while while we made small talk and then it dawned on me that the horseshoe might not be in the pachysandra at all. I went back to the pit and found it about a half inch down, wrapped around the pole.

Death Cafe

July 22nd, 2014

Nageldinger grave site in Rural Cemetery, near Lodi, New York

Of course we’re afraid to talk about death. Most people don’t want the party to end or even acknowledge the inevitable. But having helped nudge my parents to get their affairs in order I have a clearer picture of the mess I would leave behind if I stepped in front of an SUV tomorrow.

Our friends, Roc and Barb, passing through town from Bloomington, had just done a project with “A Stroke of Instinct” author, Jill Bolte Taylor, and they let us know that if we checked the “donate my organs” box on our license, it doesn’t include your brain. I was trying to imagine what someone would do with my brain. And then they told us about an old friend whose father died and left a mysterious bank account which they traced back to a second family that the guy had on the sly.

At the very least, a will is in order. Rich Stim gave us a Nolo package a few years back but we never followed up with it. It came on a pc disc and we put our pc in the trash a few years back. The article in the local paper on Rochester’s Death Café noted that most people aren’t afraid to die, they just don’t like picturing the complications that lead up to it.


July 19th, 2014

SmallI islands in pond at Montezuma Wildlife Refuge in New York State

You can’t miss the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge when you travel east from Rochester on the New York State Thruway. You’ll spot a woods with nothing but beautiful dead trees. They’ve drowned in the carefully managed wetlands. We’ve whizzed by it countless times and never stopped to check it out until the other day.

It is a bird lovers’ paradise. We don’t know what’s what but we spotted a bald eagle before we got out of the car and we saw a couple of bright yellow Warblers. We watched herons fly across the ponds inches above the water and scoop up fish. A portion of the Erie Canal runs through here and a ranger told us they’ve been trying to keep the carp from the canal out of the wetlands because they eat up all the small stuff in the water and stir up the water so that sun can’t penetrate to the bottom, killing the vegetation. Wildflowers are everywhere but most of the park is just slightly underwater so you stay on the path and marvel at the delicate ecosystem.

There’s a few more photos from this place over here.

Wayfaring Stranger

July 18th, 2014

Young cow and girl with gun

Isn’t it funny that a restaurant would choose smooth jazz because they think it is the least offensive format out there, the one least likely to offend anyone, when it is perhaps the most offensive type of music to us. “Suzanne’s”, on the eastern shore of Seneca Lake in the heart of the Finger Lakes, has one the the best salads I have ever had, a mix of greens from Muddy Fingers Farm in nearby Burdette with goat cheese, roasted beets, candied walnuts and Bachelor Buttons on top. The dressing was light as a feather, probably spritzed on the salad. The perfume on the woman sitting behind me conflicted but that’s being picky. To get things started the chef made a small fruit cocktail with cubed watermelon, cucumber and lively goat cheese with cherry tomatoes, red onion and fresh dill. And for dessert we had a glass of port from nearby Lakewood Winery. We drove down there for our anniversary. I counted license plates from eight different states in the parking lot.

I have no idea what kind of gun this Mennonite girl has in her hands. I didn’t even know she had a gun. I was standing on the shoulder of the road, taking a picture of this cute little, newborn calf (click photo to see enlargement) and Peggi said, “That girl has a gun” so we took off.

Terry Gross did a beautiful show devoted to Charlie Haden.

Tea Party Dogs

July 17th, 2014

Three deer in the woods near our house, Rochester, New York

We watched a fox for a bit until he got suspicious of us and darted into a hole. And there is a crop of deer that just don’t have any reason to be afraid of people. But as we cut through the park we came across a large four legged animal not far from the “Dogs Must Be On A Leash” sign. His presumed owners were lagging behind. We cautiously watched the dog before proceeding and shouted up to the couple, “Is that your dog?” Well, the dog must have just taken a dump (we didn’t see that) because the guy then walked ahead and scooped something into a bag as if we caught them not picking up after their dog. We asked if they could put the dog on a leash and they said what every dog owner says, “He won’t hurt you.” I said, “We’ve been bit twice” and the woman said, “Maybe it’s because you act afraid.” I thought, “Fuck you” and said, “No, it’s because we’ve been bit twice.

This is not a “which comes first, chicken or egg” situation. The first time I was bit I innocently put the back of my hand down for a dog to sniff. The dog grabbed my hand and I couldn’t get it out without ripping my fingers to shreds.” The second time I was bit my neighbor’s new “Seniors for Seniors” dog was apparently “protecting” my neighbor while I talked to him. The dog bit me on my ass.

This may be just a coincidence but the only car parked near the “Dogs Must Be On A Leash” sign had “Don’t Tread On Me” bumper sticker on it. Is there a dog libertarian movement underfoot?

Look Out Below!

July 16th, 2014

Helicopter over backyard. Rochester, New York

It is so good to see Kevin’s blog come back but so sad, the circumstances. Tommy Ramone was a great drummer. He cut out the crap and nailed the tune. He made the Ramones sound fresh and pop. Too bad for everyone that radio wasn’t ready for them. Now that all four original members are dead you can hear the chorus of a song Tommy wrote every night at Red Wing Stadium.

In 1977, when the “Do You Wanna Dance/Baby Sitter” single was released, the Ramones played the Penny Arcade and the leading rock station here, WCMF, printed t-shirts for the bartenders at the Penny Arcade to wear that said, “Punk Rock Sucks.” Like they would know what sucks. I got this sleeve signed by the band that night. They were unbelievably good.

I learned quite a bit learned quite a bit from Tommy. The band I was in did a few Ramones songs. I can’t remember which ones. Even though I had loved The Voidoids drummer when I saw them in in New York, I was bummed when Marky replaced Tommy. Long live the Ramones.

World Cup 1950

July 16th, 2014

Our friend, Jeff, sent us this soccer note:

Do you remember Mr. De Palma? He was the senior high Spanish teacher for one or two years. Rumor had it that he was a member of the 1950 World Cup Team for Spain. I did a brief search on the web and didn’t find anything about him but I think Spain made it to the second round that year. This I do remember about the guy. He was a total dud as a teacher. He was incredibly unengaged. His teaching technique went like this; talk for 5-10 minutes, give us a work sheet and then he would read the paper for the remaining 35 minutes. I sat next to a guy, I have been trying to remember who it was and I think it was Bill Rampe? The class was so dull that I told Bill that I could climb out the window of the classroom and come back into the room and not get caught. Bill’s father owned one of those coin operated car washes in Ontario and he had a tower of quarters that he had stacked on his desk. He said “I don’t believe you would do it.” I said, ” for that stack of quarters I will,” and he said, “you’re on”.

I checked on De Palma to make sure he was doing his thing and I went to one of the windows and opened it wide and returned to my seat. De Palma was fixated on his newspaper. I waited a bit and made my move. Without a sound I slid out the window and crawled along the ground past the other classrooms. I made my way to one of the back doors, they were unlocked in those days, walked down the hallway and reentered De Palma’s classroom. I told him I had been at the guidance office. He didn’t even ask for a pass. If he played soccer with the enthusiasm with which he taught, then it is no wonder Spain didn’t advance beyond the first knock out round. And while my respect for De Palma is non-existent, I have to hand it to Rampe, he delivered on his end of the deal. If I remember correctly and I think I do, I made around 5 bucks on the escapade.

Soccer As Jazz

July 16th, 2014

Our friend, John, sent this artfully composed email in response to my “Ole” post below.

While trying to find the vid of youse guys as jazzfest aficionados, I read your Soccer as Art piece.

I can see the comparison when expressed through your artist’s eye. But not having done painting myself, I never experienced it like that. This probably applies to a majority of the readers.
A painting leaves you with a static product the can be visually enjoyed  over and over. But the game, like the jazz piece, is a snowflake never to be repeated.

But something I have done many times, and this could apply to most all readers, is that the game can be experienced as a piece of music. And jazz seems to fit particularly well.

The participants are many, like the players in a jazz ensemble, with many watchers / listeners … not just the others players seeing the opposing team’s play unfold, but the fans watching. Notice, both the soccer and the music participants are called ” players “!

When there is a break in the action, there are set pieces / plays, like a melody, to restart the play. But within a few bars / passes , the play is off in it’s own direction.

Then  there is the triangulation formation, with three players passing the ball / notes around. Sometimes, just two players are making the play with all the other participants providing the background music / movements.
Of course , there is the ever popular  “solo ” with one person making a run towards the goal. Everybody loves a good solo now and again.

Then we have the vocalizations of the players keeping each other informed as to what might be unfolding out of eyesight. This ” scat singing ” is especially musical when done in a foreign language giving the illusion of the nonsensical vocal notes  that is scatting heard in jazz.

The wild psychedelic colors of the uniforms swirling on the field provide the “light show”!

Finally, a particularly festive run to the end of a song, the goal, gets the audience on their feet applauding and hooting’ and hollerin’.
What a great piece/game that was.
One last observation.

Seems fitting that jazz is more popular in Europe, as is Soccer/futbol! Combine this with the fact that hyper speed data transmission is a given to Europeans . The multi-level, continuously evolving, higher intellect of the ethernet mirrors the same qualities attributed to soccer and jazz.

I’m still rooting for the good old USA team, but for now, the Europeans are beating us. And we love to root for the underdogs.

What If Your Car Broke Down?

July 15th, 2014

El Camino with walker

I had a dream, nothing as rich as Dr. King’s, about a new client we had taken on. We had agreed to tackle the task at hand and were trading contacts when they learned we didn’t have a cell phone. How can this be in this day and age? “What if your car broke down?” The ending is fuzzy but I had a sinking feeling when I woke up. I think we lost the clients.

I did a little running around with my dad. Most stops had to do with doctors, a check-up, blood test and new batteries for his hearing aids. We stopped for lunch at one of his favorite haunts, a Jewish delicatessen called Fox’s. My dad ordered “Balogna & the Beast” and a root beer. I had a sandwich called “My Generation” and a chocolate egg cream. This place is only open for lunch yet it always crowded. My dad bought a chocolate cookie to go for Peggi on the way out.


July 14th, 2014

Detail from Lynette K. Stephenson painting entitles "Green Gloves"

I like this Lynette K. Stephenson painting from the Rochester Biennial at the MAG. Great paint handling and a mysterious, confrontational pose. I liked Richard Hirsch’s “Paintings of Nothing” too. They look like big, heavy slabs of clay hanging on the wall but are encaustic, clay, minerals and dry pigment on foam.

I thought about art quite a bit during the World Cup. It was full of surprises for starters. We got stuck on certain teams and then had to admit their opponent was better just as you do when you’re constructing a painting. We changed allegiances in the middle of a few matches and went in exactly the opposite direction. The marvelous, master craftsman, artistry of Messi and Neymar of course. The announcer, Ian Darke‘s” colorful play by play was peppered with literary, artistic phrases. He could almost be describing a painting as it unfolds. “Lovely ball, brilliant touch.”

But mostly I am struck by the exhilerating composition of the game, the way players move into space in order to advance the ball. They draw my eye as they try to get open. They draw players to them when they have the ball and create more openings. It is very fluid at all times and the entire pitch is involved in the composition the way a painter must keep the entire canvas in mind with every stroke.

And how about this whole concept of minimal art, maximum bang from minimal means. 120 minutes in the World Cup final with only one goal! I thought about Peggi’s childhood friend and her husband who had a heart attack at a Detroit Red Wing game. His doctor told him he couldn’t watch hockey games anymore. You have to keep things in perspective. Brazil taught the world the beautiful game, rate futbol, and now it belongs to us.

Navel Gazing

July 12th, 2014

Mid July is a perfect time to kick back, way back, and wallow in the heat and humidity. It is It was so bright at the pool I couldn’t see the screen of my camera but I managed to shoot enough footage to make a no-edit movie for the Margaret Explosion song, Contemplation.

Mall Walking

July 10th, 2014

Tweety house on Summerville Street in Rochester, New York

We go to the mall (they are all the same) about once a year and only out of necessity. My socks had holes in the heel. They all go at the same time because I buy them in six packs, “Gold Toes” at Lord & Taylor. And my underwear was losing its elasticity so I tried some Calvin Klines this time.

The mall can completely sap your energy. There is a relentless common denominator to halls and then all the stores carry the same stuff. The clerk at Banana Republic told us we would save fifty percent by opening a new charge card which will be good toward savings in Old Navy and the Gap because they are all owned by the same company. The music is mostly hideous. I hope they aren’t today’s pop songs. They are probably picked by an algorithm that determines the best doodles to accompany menial tasks and ranked by mindless shopping performance stats. Might be time sell Apple. The help in the store far outnumbered the customers. One store, Anthropologie, sort of broke the mold with its wide open spaces and comfortable couches. The women’s clothing store had a 1970′s vibe and they sold a small selection of books like “Madeline” and “Reading Andy Warhol.”

Peggi had her pedometer on, the free one picked up at jazz fest. We walked 2.2 miles in there.

I Like Lichen

July 8th, 2014

Lichen on blue chair out front

OK, so I was way wrong on Brazil. They totally fell apart. Enough said. We were way overdue for a lopsided game after all the nail-biters. I’m still optimistic about Argentina.

Our friend, Shelley Valechovic, did series of paintings of lichen and I have taken note of the stuff since. I found this bit in our front yard. Must have fallen off a tree above. I placed it on a blue chair out front for its closeup.

Til Death Do Us Part

July 7th, 2014

Uncle Bob with priest at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery

I still think the world of my Uncle Bob, even though he got going on government overreach while we drove him and my Aunt to Holy Sepulchre Cemetery where my dad’s cousin was being laid to rest. He called us kids “city slickers” when we went out to visit them on their farm in Dundee but he always showed us the time of our lives by involving us in sheering sheep or whatever the day’s chore was. Today, one of the funeral home directors asked if they could help him to a seat by the graveside and he said, “Hell no, I’m a farmer. I can take care of myself.”

A “Mass of Christian Burial” was celebrated at Saint Ambrose earlier in the day. Funerals seem to be the only masses I get to anymore and I am always struck by the changes in the service. I pretty much left off with Latin and the priest with his back to the parishioners. We would just zone out and look at the statues. The altar boys are all grown men now, probably retirees. The kneelers are still there to trip over but no one uses them anymore. People turn and shake hands with the people around them, wish them peace and sing songs from hymnals like the Protestants.

My father spoke and painted a nice picture of the close-knit families in the Thurston Road/Brooks Avenue area when he and his cousins were growing up. Jerry Christopher, who might be related to me in some way, sang a version of “Ave Marie” that could make you believe in the Immaculate Conception. My father’s cousin, Mary, would have loved it all.

Mary was a legal secretary and worked at the four couriers downtown. She married her boss, a practicing Jew, and her nephew, who joked that he had never spoke in a church before, said due to the constrictions of their faiths they were not allowed to be buried next to one another.

Corporate Personhood

July 6th, 2014

50's Chevy in front of Playground Tavern, Rochester, New York

Still have not set foot in the Playground Tavern. It has been up for sale for over a year and I couldn’t even find a listing for it so I doubt if it will be going anywhere soon but I’m itching to get inside.

We celebrated the fourth down at the lake at some friends’ house. The neighbors in the Crescent Beech area have parties that night and they collect driftwood all year to burn in the giant bonfires that line the beach. This year it got a title out of control with one of the neighbors calling the fire department on someone who built a three story tiki bar to burn when the sun went down. They must spend a fortune on the Chinese fireworks. They all come from stores on the Pennsylvania side of the border. The Chinese Lanterns, silently floating in the wind, were my favorite part. I was hoping the things burnt up before landing but we spotted a purple one in the woods today when we took our walk.

My father was telling me how his family used to take the trolley down there to the beech in front of where Schaller’s is now. His dad would go in the bar that was across the street and have beer or two while he watched the ballgame and he and his sisters would swim. He told us he never saw his mom or dad go in the water.

I was going to try and connect corporate personhood to this post, the way Maureen Dowd connected the US World Cup loss as a way to advance beyond American exceptionalism, but the two words themselves don’t even go together.

Instinct Vs. Method

July 5th, 2014

White boat offshore on Crescent Beach

There is something about sun that affects the style of the game. The Northern Europeans play a technical, physical, methodical game. I know this is a huge generalization but Southern European teams play with artistic flair and the Latin American teams take that to the extreme. I would love to see Brazil win the Cup but that seems impossible with Neymar out with an injury and Silva out on a self inflicted penalty.

Everyone is drawn to Messi, viewers and especially opponents. But as they put pressure on Messi they only raise the bar for his artistic performance. And, at the same time, their magnetic attraction opens spaces for Messi to feed. I especially like the way he and DiMarie operate in that pressure cooker. With the US out we are pulling for Argentina. It was a joy to watch them take out the team that sent the US home but it was hard to watch DiMaria, “Fideo” (the noodle), leave the game with an injury.

I am happy Costa Rica took the Netherlands into the the penalty kick stage today but I’m happy the Netherlands won there, only because it will be so much fun to see Argentina take down the Orange in the semis. Brazil and Argentina in the finals would be the perfect final ticket but realistically I’m guessing it will be Argentina and Germany and we witness this class of instinct vs. method.

Chain Gang

July 3rd, 2014

Stone quarry in Penfield New York

It used to be five bucks for a load of stone. The Penfield quarry now charges ten but it is still a steal. Peggi and I shoveled a ton (literally) of crushed stone into our neighbor’s pick-up yesterday. There are about ten different size stone piles here to choose from. We filled the truck bed with the finest grade and then loaded ten buckets or so of stone that was about two inches in diameter. We’ll use the crushed stone on our road and the course stone will go down in a drywell that we plan to dig for better drainage near our mailboxes.

I shoveled a lot of stone when I was working for Mitchell Construction Company in Bloomington. I was on a three man crew that built forms and poured concrete for garage floors and sidewalks. But before we finished any concrete we had to shovel dump truck loads of stone into the forms.

The boss of our crew was named “Frenchie.” He had a party boat that he and his wife rode in on one of Indiana’s manmade lakes in the summer. They drank tomato juice and beer cocktails. The other guy on my crew was named Wayne Anderson. He turned us onto Al Green. The only reason he was hired was because the 30 person company needed to have at least one black employee in order to bid on University jobs. I remember one of the guys on the carpentry crew asking me, “What’s it like working with a nigger?” The owner of the company drove a convertable Mercedes sports car like Robert Wagner in “Hart to Hart.”

All that came back to me while I was shoveling.

Solo Mio

July 2nd, 2014

Hope Solo in goal vs. Flash in Rochester, New York

Hope Solo was back in the goal against the Flash tonight. We stalked her before the game. It was her first game since her arrest for domestic violence last weekend. She has apologized to her fans and says “adversity has always made us stronger.” Can’t argue with that.

Abby is still out for the Flash and wasn’t even in town but the Flash are playing better than ever. They were up 1-0 tonight against first place Seattle but then kind of ran out of steam in the second half before going down 2-1.

Brutal City

July 1st, 2014

Brutalist Architecture at 220 Alexander Street in Rochester, New York

Pete Monacelli did a series of drawings based on the old Security Trust building downtown. His wife worked there for many years and he found enough architectural details in the 1960′s building to churn out a brilliant batch of interpretations. And since seeing his show at Rochester Contemporary I have been paying closer attention to the buildings this city has to offer. As brutal as they are they don’t last forever. We’ve already begun tearing down buildings from the sixties.

As Good As It Gets

June 30th, 2014

Duane in the pool

July tomorrow. I can handle it. Jazz Fest was a whirlwind and then this World Cup thing. We didn’t expect Mexico to still be in the game with the Netherlands but they were up 1-0 late in the match as Duane showed up, up from the big city. Netherlands took them down in theatrical fashion and we headed down to the pool. Duane swims regularly at the Y in Brooklyn and in one of those giant outdoor recreation pools in the summer so he was still bobbing around after we had withdrawn.

We headed down to Vic & Irv’s for the usual (cheeseburger, onion rings and a vanilla milkshake in my case) and took our regular stools, stage left with a birds-eye view of the post-teenage chefs. When the food arrived Duane said, “I know this sounds corny but this is as good as it gets.” I was a little slow with any sort of response but I think he was right.

On the way out of the parking lot we passed a pickup truck with a sign on the back window that read, “God Bless Our Troops. F!ck the Politicians.” The “u” in the word fuck was an assault rifle graphic. The take-away being anarchy in the USA or a bible thumping military dictatorship? I should have asked Duane to stop so I could get a picture but again I was a little slow. I could have used the photo on my funky sign site.

Back home, the tiny nation of Costa Rica took out Greece in the penalty kick round. And then Duane left. We’ll have to catch up in New York.