See The Questioning

October 22nd, 2014

Trees changing color off Hoffman Road in Rochester, New York

I met Alice in Fred Lipp’s Advanced Painting class where she would often be working on abstracted versions of Maine landscapes. She’s living in one of those landscapes now and when we visited our conversation often turned to art and Fred’s class. She told us that one of the things she misses is overhearing Fred’s advice to another painter, someone working in a different medium and manner on a different subject and overhearing advice that would applicable to her at that moment.

I had this experience last night as Fred was talking to father. He comparing the beautiful little watercolors in his sketchbook to the sheet my father was working on, one that got away from him. The sketches, which Fred was calling finished paintings, captured fleeting moments with expression and confidence. The big sheet had been carefully planned and worked up with he sketch as a reference and my father said he felt as though he was just coloring it in. This is one of Fred’s favorite topics and was my father setting him up for another “painting should be an adventure not the execution of a plan” raps. Its a topic that bears repeated revisiting. This time I heard Fred say that you want to see the questioning in the final piece. I love that concept and intend utilize it in my own work.

We sent this song (one recorded live at the Little Theater) over to Saxon Recording on East Main where Dave Anderson applied his digital/analog mastering tools to the file. The cover graphic is a photo of a Robert Irwin piece in the Albright Knox collection. Stop out tonight and hear the questioning.
Margaret Explosion - Fission Hole
Margaret Explosion – Fission Hole

Bilingual Dreaming

October 21st, 2014

View of Maine coast from Alice and Julio's

Someone had looked at the weather and warned us we had better get going unless we wanted to get caught in the rain. It was our second day in Maine and of course we were headed out for another walk, this time in the opposite direction of yesterday’s adventure, out to Pemaquid Point and its storied lighthouse. Years ago my father took a watercolor class near here and they sat on the rocks at the end of the point while looking back at the lighthouse. He has the painting on the wall in his art room. The weather remained sunny. The day was filled with magic.

We found a spot where the tide had rolled large round rocks back and forth thousands of times wearing tracks in the large stone surface and rounding the bowling balls of the gods. The lanes ran downhill out into the sea and diminished into the sun. We got lost in the nonstop sound of the waves so much so that I considered infinity. Is this what afterlife looks like? Have we already moved on?

Back at Alice and Julio’s we decided not to go anywhere for dinner. Jeff prepared a knock vegetable pasta dish from on-hand ingredients. We never left the table. The night went on forever. We were lost in the rhythms of Julio’s animated Castilian pronunciation. I had a view of three of Alice’s paintings, some of my favorites. Peggi asked Julio, who has split his life two if he dreamed in Spanish or English and Julio said “both, depending on where he is in the dream.”


October 20th, 2014

Rocks on Pemaquid Point and island in Johns Bay Maine

It is possible to drive to Maine without getting on the highway but it’ll take you a little longer. We broke up the trip by stopping in New Hampshire and spending the night at Jeff’s brother’s place. His brother is an architect with clients in Concord and on the nearby lakes. Say someone wants to build 3500 square foot addition onto a 3000 square foot vacation house, he would get the call. His place, in the woods off a dirt road, is a wonder. His most recent project is a redesigned chicken coop in their backyard.

When we arrived at Alice and Julio’s on the coast of Maine we waisted no time in organizing a walk. Hopping from one rock to the next and stopping to study the infinite variety of rocks and minerals, the washed up lobster traps and buoys, the monstrous waves and swelling sea, the spectacular, ever changing views of the islands or engaging in divergent conversations on all matters we filled the the rest of the day in spectacular fashion.

Glacial Erratics

October 19th, 2014

Buildings near Saxon Recording in Rochester, New York

What do they call those big rocks, really big rocks, that stick out of the ground in the Adirondacks and White Mountains of New Hampshire and the Green Mountains in Vermont and even in Maine? Maybe they are everywhere. There is a name for them that I have heard my father use and maybe Bob Mahoney, a geologist. We spotted a few near the side of the road. We needed internet access to find out.

As luck would have it, Alice and Julio used the term in conversation our first day in Maine.

Spacing Out

October 19th, 2014

View from car on the road to Maine

“Do you have any idea why I pulled you over,” he asked as I rolled the window down. I went with, “I have no idea why you pulled me over.” He said I clocked you at forty-seven in a 30 MPH zone. The speed limit was 55 last I looked and I apparently missed the sign that dropped it to 30. It was a speed trap and he had me.

Thing is I wasn’t driving fast to get somewhere in a hurry or anything. I just spaced out. No excuse, I know. So when are these Google cars going to hit the market. I would be perfectly content to leave the driving to the robot.


October 18th, 2014

Dead tree with cloud over marsh

Someday this dead tree, that stands so regally in the middle of the marsh, will be gone. I know this but it has nothing to do with my appreciation of it. Like Matisse or Guston or Van Gogh the tree at this late stage of its life is at the height of its powers.

The bald, parched colors of the wood contrast with the changing colors of the surrounding trees. Surely the tree drowned and yet it’s very predicament, this setting in a marsh that makes it so beautiful. Of course the form of the tree, seductively designed to outwit gravity until the last minute, is its finest feature.

When we were growing up my father dragged a dead tree home with him and he planted it in a berm in our backyard. The neighbors kidded him. It was quite beautiful.

Word Up

October 17th, 2014

Pete Monacelli art work at Mercer Gallery in Rochester, New York

Word: A speech sound or series of speech sounds that symbolize and communicates a meaning usually without being divisible into smaller units capable of independent use.

Pete Monacelli’s artwork is all over town. He is included in a group show at the Little Theater and his “Searching for Home” series absolutely sings on the walls of Warren Phillip’s new space. At MCC’s Mercer Gallery the stable of artists from the Southwedge’s Wildroot Gallery were reunited in a show that opened last night. Pete’s acrylic, abstract paintings on seven foot hollow core doors, all hinged together in a circle are the energy center of the presentation.

We slowly walked around the piece studying the black and white abstracts. They reminded me of the much smaller drawings Pete showed a few years ago at Joe Bean based on the lyrics of Richie Havens’ “Follow,” intriguing combinations of tight line and loose brush with delicate ink washes.

We waited our turn to get inside the doors where Pete, armed with Anne Sexton’s poem, “Words,” had “transfigured” words of his own choosing. Each door’s word is titled in hand cut letters in font that Pete designed. The drawings, on paper from an old scrapbook and mounted on the doors, communicate meaning.

Free Stuff

October 16th, 2014

Free Library on near Sea Breeze Drive and Seneca Road in Rochester, New York

When we passed by the Little Free Library next to the playground at Seneca and Sea Breeze Drive the door was swung open and three junior high aged girls were browsing the contents. I had had photographed those contents a few weeks ago. It was an odd mixture of Ann Rice, Dante’s Inferno and a small New Testament caught my eye. These little, big birdhouse-like structures are popping up all over town. I think there may even be one in front of our old city house. It’s a take one, leave one arrangement and it crossed my mind that fervent religious types might be swapping bible fare for the juicier stuff. I checked the organization’s website and found tis frequently asked question.

“What if someone places inappropriate books in my Library? Does someone monitor the Library to approve its contents?”
And their reasonable response:
“Everyone who uses the Library has the right of helping make sure the types of books in it are appropriate to neighbors of all ages and backgrounds. You are as capable as anyone else to remove a book…but we encourage you to be open-minded about it. For example, if the Library becomes a place for promoting controversial causes, it might lose a good number of customers. Censorship is not the answer, but a balanced collection can be. Don’t ban books, but instead of 5 or 10 copies of something, 1 copy might do. Instead of a messy collection of handouts and brochures promoting almost anything, try limiting pamphlets to recruitment for tutoring or reading programs.

Early R&R

October 15th, 2014

The Empty Hearts at Sticky Lips in Rochester, New York

Nothing gets in the way of painting class so I didn’t even check the start time for the Empty Hearts gig at Sticky Lips. We just got in the car after class and headed out to the club/BarBQ joint. I expected the place to be packed for the free, warm-up gig for the bands’ upcoming tour in support of their debut album. The band had been rehearsing in Andy Babiuk’s practice space for the last week in Rochester.

More people were leaving than arriving when we showed up and the place was jammed but kinda quiet so we made a beeline for the bar. We ordered two Southern Tier 2XIPA’s and headed toward the stage just in time to grab this shot of the roadies packing up the gear. And this isn’t any ordinairy gear, this is all vintage gear or state of the art gear as would be the case with Andy’s pedigree. Guys were taking cell phone pictures of the the teardrop bass and Gibson SG that Elliot Easton apparently never touched. He played his Les Paul all night through the Marshall stack above. Someone pointed out that Andy’s bass amp, an Ampeg, was sporting a Vox grill cloth.

I stopped in the bathroom before leaving and ran into Wally Palmer, the lead singer. I had not seen him in person since New Math played a gig with the Romantics in 1978. Olga said the show was great and it took her back to the Scorgies days. In fact there were more Ramones shirts here than you could shake a stick at. Olga’s brother, Victor, the former Chesterfield Kings road manager, drove up from Philly. He told us Clem Burke has his own drum roadie. There was pretty good vibe in the room. I wish we had seen the show. When we talked to Andy we acted as though we had. I know it was a good one.

Here’s their video.

Baloney And Onions

October 14th, 2014

Leo's Fried Baloney and Onion Sanwich at Vic & Irv's in Rochester, New York

How does Duane, in Brooklyn, know about these things before us? Maybe it’s because he does look at his fb page. We live about a mile away from Vic and Irv’s and had no idea they were closing their doors and moving up Culver Road to Fioravanti’s old place. Of course, about the only time we eat there is when Duane is in town.

Once informed of the move we had to get down there so we arranged to dine with parents last night. The signs, posted all over the store, say they will be open until October 25th at 9PM and then reopen in the new place on November 1. They will still have a view of the lake from the new location and workers were inside getting it ready as we drove by. The manager at Vic & Irv’s gave us the scoop.

Vic sold the property and the name to someone before he died. They rent the space to the people who own the business but they are going into foreclose on the property. So the current owners are moving the location uptown bait and changing the name to “Vic’s Place.” If I sound obsessive about all these details, I am. I used to ride my bike down here some fifty years ago, the place is celebrating their 80th year and I’ve sweated the death of the partners, the ownership changes, the switch to Styrofoam plates from cardboard, the giant jar of pickles, the best onion rings in town and Vic’s secret hot sauce.

Time marches on. My mom ordered a Veggie Burger, something that was unheard in Vic’s early days. I had the same thing I’ve always ordered. Cheeseburger, onion rings and a vanilla shake. My dad went the classic. “Baloney and Onions.”

I snapped some photos of the photos on the wall before we left.
Vic & Irv’s 30s, 40s, 40s, 40s, 50s, 80s.

Stewart Davis’s Socks

October 13th, 2014

"Stewart Davis Socks" by Anne Havens

Anne Havens, one of my favorite artists, is taking a break, not from life by any means, just from the struggle that accompanies any worthwhile art. At least that is what she says. But you cannot stop the wheels and her case the industrial sized gears from turning. We had brunch with her and her artist husband, Stewart Davis. (No, not Stuart Davis but it does sound the same.) Their home is filled with art, even one of Peggi’s pieces from a 6×6 show, but their studio is in the garage. Stewart has been busy with no boundary abstracts and figurative pieces. Anne is gearing up. I found this lovely pile of Stewart’s old socks that Anne had painted and stacked. I said I loved it and she said, “I need more socks.”

Young & Gifted

October 13th, 2014

Dave Liebman Group at Lovin Cup in Rochester, New York

We’d seen heard Dave Liebman at the Jazz Fest in 2003 and 2008. He is always a musical delight. On Saturday at the Lovin’ Cup he had the same bass player as the other shows but this time he was playing with an additional horn player (alto sax player, clarinet and flute), Matt Vashlishan, a former Eastman student. He wrote some especially beautiful tunes for the band and the horns were great together. Dave continues to teach and he keeps his ears open. His piano player and drummer are young and gifted. Their two sets, finishing with Coltrane’s “India,” covered some rich terrain.

Liebman played with Miles on some of my favorite lps, “On The Corner” and “”Get Up With It,” so I would follow him anywhere.

Angels And Demons At Play

October 11th, 2014

El Destructo Sun Ra painting at Record Archive in Rochester. New York

The Ramp Gallery at Record Archive is an awkward space for art but no more more so than the sloping Guggenheim in NYC. The intense yellow walls could take the life out of most paintings. The store itself is an awkward space for anything visual. Everything in there screams or gets lost. El Destructo easily overcame the challenge with a sensational display of recent paintings, many of them versions of paintings he has sold in the past like the three Bride paintings in this show. The Sun Ra painting above already had a sold sticker on it when we got there.

We had already been to another record store last night. We had stopped in the Bop Shop to pick up tickets to Dave Leibman’s show at the Lovin’ Cup and I couldn’t help but notice the difference in the vibe. You want hang out out at the Archive, and shop, and listen to music. You want to browse and get distracted and laugh. The new lounge area in the back is like something out of a dream. You could picture Bobby Darin coming out from behind a curtain and taking the stage. And the wall of forty-five boxes is especially inviting.

Marshall Allen, who played with Sun Ra for almost fifty years, has released an incredible collection of Sun Ra music. The two cd set has a few extras for those that have it all and the songs have been remastered but Allen did a great job of selecting the tunes. A far better round-up than Evidence’s “Greatest Hits” collection. This in more like “Mind Blowing Hits” but the songs are as comfortable as hanging out at the Archive.

Ending Segregation

October 10th, 2014

Leo Dodd Lighthouse painting in show at Creative Workshop in the Memorial Art Gallery

My father worked from his sketches of the Charlotte lighthouse to create this watercolor in class last week. Amazing to watch him work so quickly in an additive medium that is so unforgiving of missteps. There are, certainly, missteps whenever you stretch or do something new. He is not beyond putting the whole sheet in the bathtub and washing it out. And he has a short, stubby brush that he uses to scrub out small sections. I watched him the other night as he took some figures and a sign right out of an Adirondack scene. The color came up and ran all over the piece as he soaked it up with a sponge. It is nearly impossible to reclaim a white. Opaque white is a sickly looking substance. You protect whites and they are often the strongest element in the end. It is a dangerous but seductive process.

One week later this lighthouse painting is in a show in the gallery at the Creative Workshop and I was taking this photo of it, trying to dodge the reflections from the glass, when someone behind me exclaimed, “I love that painting.” I proudly said, “My dad did it,” and he said, “I teach the watercolor class.” All very cool but you have to wonder why most classes are segregated by medium. Fred Lipp’s “Advanced Painting” class is the exception. I recently switched from charcoal to watercolor and then oil and needed to be be reminded that the intent is exactly the same. The change in form is described by change in color rather than graphic black and white.

Pots & Pans

October 8th, 2014

Dock on Genesee River near Turning Point Park

One of my mother’s hobbies was arranging the furniture in our house. She has a great eye and good taste and the rearrangements were often startling in their inventiveness. Sometimes they only lasted a few days. Noel, the cafe manager at the Little Theater, sent us an email last night Informing us that Margaret Explosion would be playing at the other end of the room. Apparently they’ve moved the grand piano and the whole space has been reoriented. Tonight I plan to set my drums up close enough to the dishwasher’s room to be able to incorporate the the pots and pans in my kit.

Here’s a song from last week’s show. The cover graphic is by the German Expressionist, Ernst Barlach.
Margaret Explosion - Ode To Joy
Margaret Explosion – Ode To Joy

Make It Funke

October 7th, 2014

Love It Or Leave Flag Decal 1969

Rich Funke’s website starts with this headline. “Good Morning sports fans, thanks for coming out:” My father put it this way. “It’s gotta be tough competing against a sportscaster.” Rich Funke lawn signs are everywhere. Nevermind that Ted O’Brien has admirably represented us in the NY State Senate and has boldly stood up for the environment. Funke says. “I’m not a politician.” That’s great. So how is he going to get anything done?

Mr. Funke came to our door but we were not home to experience him in person. When he stopped at our neighbor’s place Jared was up on his roof, relaxing in the sun. He had a bird’s eye view of the Funke hairpiece. My friend, Frank, has some politically astute reasons to just say, “No thanks.”

Because They’re Cousins

October 6th, 2014

My grandmother Tierney's birthday party in 1950 with me in my father's arms

We arrived a little late for our family reunion in the park pavilion. I don’t think they can really call it a “reunion” if it happens every year but it is not my call. We’re always a little late and so are most of the people in our family but this year everyone had eaten and the charcoal fires had already died down. We had thawed out some hot dogs, ones left over from another family picnic, but we forgot them. My brother-in-law offered us two left-over Hebrew Dogs, those skinny dark red links, not the fat juicy things that made this town, and we made do.

I sat next to our Niagara Falls cousins who had brought along this picture of the family. Their mom wasn’t married yet so she was pictured without my uncle. The first of seven, I was the only kid in my family at the time (upper right in my dad’s arms). My cousin, Greg, who is my age, is in his mother’s arms at the other end of the photo (see enlargement). By the time I had identified everyone in the photo and confirmed with my cousins, the meal was breaking up.

I was talking to Greg’s brother and a call from Greg came in on his phone. Greg is living in Arizona now and I hadn’t talked to him in ten years. He used to live in a house behind us on Brookfield Road and we played all the time. We double-dated and even went out with the same girl at one point, my dentist’s receptionist. He went to McQuaid and his parents threw him a graduation party where he took me aside to tell me, “Don’t tell anyone but I didn’t graduate.” He worked at Gray Metal across the street from Maracle industrial Finishing where I worked and we’d go out at night. He and his first wife bought a house near our’s in the city. He had two Great Dane’s and I went down in his basement one time and watched him scoop up the piles of dog shit with a snow shovel. He got into even larger animals and went to school to be a farrier. He shoed the Rochester Police Department horses when I was working for the City. My cousin was ready to let the call go to voicemail but I said, “I’ll talk to Greg” and he passed me his phone.

Greg was harboring some sort grudge that we were able to get past in the first few minutes and we had our own little ten-year reunion.

Before We Gave Up Our Innocence

October 4th, 2014

Sagamore Drive Estate sale painting

I like this 1951 winter scene. The 1951 painting was for sale at an estate sale on Sagamore Drive. We managed to look but not buy a thing. Rocco was there from Small World Books. He had scooped up a pile of books of course but when we ran into him in the garage, he was paying $20 for a really short, heavy old wooden rowboat.

Overnight Warren Phillips has one of the best gallery spaces in Rochester. He moved from his longtime frame shop on East Avenue over to the first floor, corner spot at Main and Goodman in the Hungerford Building and Pete Monacelli has the first show in the long front room. The white walls, lights and a beautiful old wood floor there make Pete’s “Searching For Home’ abstracts absolutely sing. Warren keeps regular hours too so you have plenty of time to stop in.

Nice Tubs

October 3rd, 2014

Coast Guard station at Charlotte in Rochester New York

In my parents’ day the circus use to pull into town on the train and stop right bend the Armory on East Main. Two nights ago, when we passed the place on the way to the Little they were padding old metal heads down on the front steps. Judas Priest was in the house. Last night it was the rapper, Nas and tonight my nephews will be there for Bassnectar.

Duane posted a 1978 photo today on fb that he took of my old drum set, a long exposure penlight portrait. I wish I still had that Slingerland set. I sold it to buy a louder set while I was in New Math. David Accorso, who was touring with Julio Iglesias at the time, came down to my basement and he picked up the rack mount tom and tapped it with his fingers. He smiled and said, “Ooo, these are some nice tubs,” and he handed me the cash. The small set was many ply and heavy. I bought a bigger, black Pearl set. The bass drum delaminated in no time. Maybe that was because I would stand on it during our set.

Come Live With Me

October 2nd, 2014

We used to see movies all the time with our friends Kevin and Jeanne. Horror movies, anything, but then they moved to Nashville. When they visited last we loaded up our Netflix queue with their recent favs. Our list is now unrecognizable but “Valley of the Dolls” has been kicking around in there for a while. We watched it a few nights ago but I still have Dione Warwick’s theme song floating around in my head. I mentioned this to Peggi and she said she was unable to get Tony Scotti’s “Come Live With Me” dislodged.

Tony played Sharon Tate’s love interest, Tony Polar, in the 1967 film and delivered this over-the-top, beyond-the-grave version of the song. And then, near the end of the movie as I was somewhere between awake and a dream state, he reprises the the song in a duet with Patty Duke while he is in a wheelchair. I was imagining this bad movie as an updated, overblown opera. If you’re with me, check out Judy Garland’s screen tests for the movie. She got the part but was fired during filming for coming to work drunk and Susan Hayward replaced her.