November 23rd, 2017

Couple in front of Louise Bourgeois drawings at MoMA

This is my kind of holiday. Gathering with friends and family to celebrate the harvest and express our thanks for such a bountiful life. I’m down with all of that.

My brother came out tonight with his Vietnmese squeeze. I haven’t gotten confirmation from Peggi yet but I could swear she played a South East Asian melody when they walked in. Our Buffalo fans were there, first time they’ve heard the band with Phil. And Phil stood up while he played. Bob established a guitar template before leaving for Chicago and Phil is in the process of shattering that. Geoff and Sara were up from NYC. Ken’s wife, Lisa, was there and it is always so much fun to see her although I get the message that we’re a little too tame for her.

Peggi is our leader and tonight she led us into an ultra lounge thing, suspending time as if there wasn’t anyone in the house. Ken sounded better than ever. The quieter I play the better he sounds. Pete was sensational on the grand piano. Even though we had five players in the mix there was all kinds of space. It was the best gig ever and I’m thankful for that.

Below The Belt World

November 21st, 2017

Durand Eastman Park in first snow of 2017

I found this picture from yesterday on my camera card. It hardly seems possible. It was fifty five degrees today. This is why we love it here.

We stopped into the Downstairs Cabaret tonight to catch students from the Eastman playing jazz in the small theater. The room sounds especially good. I ordered a Guiness and that reminded me that I was going to do something to celebrate the tenth anniversary of this blog. I knew it was coming and then I missed it. My first post, from November 2007, had something to do with the dark brown brew.

Our friend, Pete LaBonne, plans to be here tomorrow night to play piano with Margaret Explosion. He is such a dynamic player he just might bust this whole thing wide open. We could break through to a different dimension. We saw the Rodin show at the Metropolitan on Sunday. Peggi took this photo of a photo there and I made a poster for the event and I came up with a slogan. Margaret Explosion, “the thinking man’s band in a below the belt world.”

Deviating From The Norm

November 20th, 2017

Exterminating Angel poster in front of the Metropolitan Opera

The Metropolitan opera is about seven stories tall. The chandeliers are hoisted to the ceiling as the opera begins. And for The Exterminating Angel they were raised and lowered twice so the opening scene could play out two times like it does in Luis Buñuel’s movie. The theatrical production only deepened the surreal undertones. The cameras were rolling too as this Saturday afternoon production was being broadcast live in movie theaters across the country.

The lavish setting heightened the effectiveness of the minimal production. A large sculptural arch served as the abstract barrier that the guests could not penetrate. It spun slowly while the production unfolded and was dramatically lit in each scene.

The host of the bourgeois dinner party sings, “I’m delighted to see the spirit of improvisation” when it becomes clear his guests are not going to leave. And one of his guests sings “I adore anything that deviates from the norm.” The operatic voices only made the words from the film more absurd. I think Buñuel would have loved this over the top interpretation.

Golden Banana

November 19th, 2017

John Cale at performing Velvet Underground at BAM

How may times a day do you think the accordion guy on the F train plays “New York, New York?” He must be nearly out of his mind. We put a dollar in his hat and he got off the train when the song ended.

The first time we saw John Cale was at CBGB’s. I think it was late 1976. I just remember the New Math guys seemed to be impressed when I tried out for the band and told them we had just seen John Cale. New Math opened for John Cale at the Penny Arcade but I had already quit the band by then. Cale took the stage solo, playing bass guitar and wearing a hockey mask. And on election night in ’84 Personal Effects opened for John Cale. He had a TV set on stage tuned to coverage but with the sound off and he was chanting “four more years.”

He is playing three nights at the Brooklyn Acadamey of Music in celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the Velvet Underground’s first album. I bought that album when it came out based solely on the cover. It took me a few listens to warm up to it but it has always been one of my favorites.

At BAM he was in good form and he had a great band and plenty of guests. He opened with “Waiting For My Man.” The drummer channeled Maureen Tucker with no rack tom and only two cymbals. A tuba player joined him for “All Tomorrow’s Parties” and Cale played viola on “Venus in Furs.” Kurt Vile sang and played guitar on “Run Run Run” and was fantastic. And TV on the Radio’s Tunde Adebimpe did a great job with “Heroin.”

The various configurations of the band all sounded so good it was a letdown when the drummer put headphones on to play to a sequenced track. Thankfully, they only tried that on a handful of songs. I think Lou would have loved it.

Work Of Art

November 18th, 2017

Edvard Munch Self Portrait at Met Breuer

The special low airfare didn’t sound so good after spending most of our first day in Rochester but the plane to the train trip went smoothly and Duane’s vegetarian curry made everything right in Brooklyn.

We headed into Chelsea earlier than usual the next morning with no notes. We usually have a short list of galleries but this time we wandered up and down 22nd to 26th between ninth and tenth and struck gold with a stimulating mix of familiar and new names.

We stopped for coffee at the diner on 9th Avenue. The place has undergone a deep reboot. Peggi spotted an avocado open face on someone’s plate so we ordered a couple of those. A thick slice of sour dough toast was topped with fresh avocado, thin slices of radish and cilantro leaves. A work of art.

Hauser and Wirth on 22nd does everything right. They’re building a brand new facility while they carry on in a rented space next door. Prime gallery space for their stable of living and dead all stars. Geta Brătescu showing currently with Philip Guston and Eva Hesse in the deceased category. They have a choice bookstore, a cafe and – a real rarity – a bathroom.

We worked our way uptown to the Met Breuer where a cross section of Edward Munch’s life’s work filled the third floor. He painted for most of his eighty years and got better and better all the way. The self portrait above, one that looks like it could have been painted today, was completed a year before his death.

What Channel Are You Watching?

November 16th, 2017

Suffolk map on wall at Atlas Eats in Rochester, New York

The two women sitting next to us both had headphones on and they were each watching a different channel on the in-seat monitors of our Jet Blue flight. The one sitting closest to the window just about shouted, “What channel are you watching?” Everyone around turned toward her. It was a bad omen. We were delayed embarking and we had been sitting on the runway for twenty minutes when they announced there was a mechanical problem. A mechanic was summoned and he determined the parking brake was not working properly.

Our flight was cancelled and we were all left to fend for ourselves. Delta had a flight leaving for JFK in an hour but they would not honor the Jet Blue tickets. We grabbed the last two seats on a Jet Blue flight leaving at 3:15 and decided to go back home. We stopped at Atlas Eats for lunch and sat under a map of Suffolk County Long Island. JFK was just off the left side of the map. Out of reach. We would have almost been there if we had driven. I ordered the usual, Kimchee and Tofu. This dish is a killer. We got a prompt while we were eating. The Jet Blue flight was delayed. Our new boarding time was now somewhere after four.

A Night Like No Other

November 15th, 2017

Snake on the rad in the park, Rochester, New York

Tonight. Margaret Explosion plays the Little Theater Café Wednesday night 7-9pm. Hope you can stop out.

Margaret Explosion - Witness

Margaret Explosion – Witness

Zen And The Art Of Wood Splitting

November 14th, 2017

Wood pile out back

Instead of walking, our preferred mode of exercise, we have been chipping away at the pile of unspilt wood. It was a bonanza year for free wood. It started in early Spring with the wind storm that took down about every fifth tree around here. And it finished last week when the big red oak that was hung up fell in the high winds and rain.

We are the wood scavengers around here. We learned from the old guys but they have mostly moved on. And the neighbors who don’t burn call us when their tree surgeon comes. They prune limbs to log length and we scoop them up. We cut fallen trees ourselves to 16 inch pieces and we fill up the back of our Element.

We inherited a Heathkit splitter that our former next-door neighbor built. I gave up swinging a maul because it gave me tennis elbow. We wait for cold weather. High thirties and low forties is perfect working weather. We put on our long underwear, Permethrin treated jeans, wool socks and knit caps and then top that off with Home Depot noise cancelling headphones. They put you in the zone.

The oak we were working on today was about twenty inches in diameter. They are so heavy we roll the logs up onto another log and then onto the splitter. I love positioning it in just the right manner to pop off fireplace sized logs. And if there are no knots you have a wheelbarrow full in a few minutes. Stacking is where real art and homemade science ideas come together. Our wood pile is built on an incline so the corners need to be secure. Its dark now or I would take a photo of it. The one above is from four years ago. The pile is four times as large.


November 13th, 2017

Bleu Cease, Rochester Contemporary’s director, characterized my obsession, what I call my “Models from Crime Page” series, as a “long running meditation on the mugshot.” I like that and I realized how accurate this description is when Peggi and I were making this video of the video. I created a slideshow of my source material, mugshots that I scanned from the Crimestoppers page of our local paper and exported the slideshow as a movie. I put the video on a dvd and RoCo played it continuously in the round video presentation room during the show.

Wikipedia says “the term meditation refers to a broad variety of practices that includes techniques designed to promote relaxation, build internal energy or life force and develop compassion, love, patience, generosity, and forgiveness. A particularly ambitious form of meditation aims at effortlessly sustained single-pointed concentration meant to enable its practitioner to enjoy an indestructible sense of well-being while engaging in any life activity.”

Saying Goodbye

November 12th, 2017

Rochester Contemporary "Witness" show with Bug  Jar Mugshots, 3 "Models From Crime Page" and large 2017 oil painting by Paul Dodd

Today was the last day for the Witness exhibition. We stopped by yesterday for a last visit. My brother, John, was there, studying my father’s sketchbooks. Peggi and I were in the round, video-installation room making another video of the video of mugshot sources. The first attempt had a few glitches and Peggi walked in front of the camera at one point. I felt like it added scale but she wanted to do it again.

We were almost done when when we heard a lot of conversation out in the main room. A group eight people or so were talking about the paintings. One guy thought one of my portraits looked like him and he was posing in front of it. Someone else was making a video and talking into the microphone microphone. Bleu, the gallery director came oft the back room and greeted everyone. He told someone that I was the artist and I was introduced to the others.

Rahsaan. P. was the name of the guy making the movie. He said he plans to use the footage he shot of the show in a video he is making with a singer. The song is called, “The Mona Kiesha” and he said it should be available on his video channel by Thanksgiving. One of the guys with him is known as the “Tarmac Dancer.” Country singer, Terry McBride, was flying out of Rochester and he shot this video of Kyran Ashford doing his job at the airport.

The Last Eggplant

November 10th, 2017

First snowfall with Autumn Leaves

Our kale plants are still thriving in this weather but the jalapeños and eggplants have had it. We picked the last of those. With the temperatures in the twenties we determined it was safe to go back in the woods. Our favorite trails had become so overgrown with invasive plants that we avoided them this summer. We feel like tick nets in warmer weather and hope science can find a way around this menace. For now, we feel safe below 20 degrees.

We met Phil Marshall for lunch at a Thai restaurant. It was basically a band rehearsal, one where we talked philosophy rather than play instruments. I guess it was a goals clarification discussion, confirmation that we are all on the same page and all want to get there quicker. I think it went well.

Margaret Explosion - Tonic Party

Margaret Explosion – Tonic Party

Mega Fig Leaf Man

November 9th, 2017

Big leaf in woods near Lake Ontario

Pete LaBonne has a song called “Mega Fig Leaf Man” and, of course, I thought of it we when came across this. The 1994 release includes “Down Where The Bitey Things Breed” and “Trophy Bowler.” The best seven bucks you will ever spend.

We spent the afternoon at the bottom of the hill behind our house. We drove down there and strategically parked behind a tree so we wouldn’t clobber the car when we set the 18 inch sections of red oak free. I rolled the first section down switchback style and then Peggi positioned it to catch the following sections. John Gilmore sold me his chainsaw when he left the country and I gave that thing a workout today. The tree was too heavy to roll over so each cut I made touched the earth before the section came free. I’ll be heading over to Titus Mower to have it sharpened tomorrow.


November 8th, 2017

Voting booths at Point Pleasant Fire House in Rochester New York

When I was growing up the City dropped off small wooden houses, the size of large Home Depot shed, in all the neighborhoods. We walked by the one on Humboldt Road on the way to school and I couldn’t wait to get inside one of those. When I was finally old enough to vote the houses were gone and the polling stations all had those technical denies where you turned a small metal lever for each candidate and then locked in and cast all your votes with one pull of the big arm. Today, while the rest of the world is going paperless, we fill out large cardboard ballets with markers and then we slide the ballet into a scanner. Well, mine was rejected yesterday and I was pretty sure I knew why.

We had read a bit about the NYS Constitutional amendment. We like a lot of what it was proposing. Our local paper recommended a yes vote and the Times recommended a “no.” The more we read the more we were leaning toward no but just to be sure we asked our friend, Matthew, what he thought. Although originally from Australia he is the most informed person we know. His reply was short but more than we had asked for. “Flip the ballot over and vote no, yes, yes.” That stuck with me or should have but I have a bit of dyslexia. I voted “yes” on the first one and almost a no on the second but I realized I had messed up. I scribbled a big “X” on the answer and filled in the circle for “no.” One of the voting attendants came over and wrote “Spoiled” on my ballet and gave me another.

I tried to do the second one in record time but in my haste I made the same mistake! The assistant said “I’m not supposed to look at the ballet but she went ahead to see what I was doing wrong. Another assistant came over and introduced herself as the Democratic representative. “We need to be nonpartisan.” My ballet was marked “Spoiled” and I was told this would be the last time I could try. Three strikes and I’m out.

I got the third one right and even managed to write-in “Gary Pudup” for Sheriff. I would like to know the story of who was behind that last minute campaign and we may find out tonight as Gary is usually there for Margaret Explosion gigs.

Margaret Explosion - Inexplicable

Margaret Explosion – Inexplicable

Douglas Anthony Bridge

November 7th, 2017

Leo Dodd "Douglas Anthony Bridge" watercolor on display at Rochester Contemporary as part of "Witness" exhibition 2017

We lay pretty low, I think, but the last five days were a whirlwind. It started last Wednesday when Pete and Shelley came into town. Pete joined us on piano at the Little Café and of course we carried on into the night after the performance. There is so much to talk about when you come out of the woods with a bottle of homemade dandelion wine. My brother and his wife came up the day Pete and Shelley left. They operate in their own time zone so even though we gained an hour we still managed to see 3AM two nights in a row. They left Sunday afternoon and we met Alice and Julio, who were visiting from Maine, an hour later.

We visited “Witness” with all three guests. The exhibition is up for another week and my brother became an integral part of the show once we connected the dots. I met Alice when I first started taking Fred Lipp’s class at the Creative Workshop. At that time she was painting luscious abstract constructions but she has moved closer to landscapes. She is one of my favorite painters and I was so pleased to learn that she was knocked out by the new charcoal drawings in the show. Her comments carry more weight than anyone else I know.

I was lucky to be at RoCo when Howard Ressel, the chief design architect of the Douglas Anthony, was there. He was drawn to the show by the postcard image, my father’s painting of the bridge. He told me he remembered someone sketching the construction and told us how the initial design was modified to include the bigger central arch, the one that shared weight from both directions of the eight lane highway. Formerly known as the Troup–Howell Bridge the triple steel arch bridge carries Interstate 490 over the Genesee River and Exchange Boulevard and is a major commuter route connecting eastern and western suburbs to downtown Rochester.

The official name of the bridge is The Frederick Douglass – Susan B. Anthony Memorial Bridge, a mouthful. And it is commonly referred to as the Freddy-Sue Bridge but Howard Reseal refers to it as the “Douglas Anthony Bridge.” I like that. The other was irreverent to such important figures. I told Howard the “Death to the Inner Loop” chant was a lonely cry twenty years ago and today the eastern half is filled in. So I will from hereafter refer to the bridge as the Douglas Anthony Bridge. Pleas pass this along.

Is Bowling A Sport?

November 3rd, 2017

Fallen birch tree with wire, Rochester, New York

We spotted a buck out back and he saw us but it was only a glance. “Oh them.” We like to think they know us enough to realize we don’t present any danger. He was following his nose, inhaling through his nostrils as he swept the ground. We had just seen a doe come through, alone, which is not so unusual this time of year, and this guy was tracking her scent, retracing her steps exactly. He was headed across the road where the guy who lives there could be waiting with his bow.

Deer, in the number we have here, are a nuisance so I can’t get too upset about this ritual. We were talking to Steve, a neighbor, friend and outdoor enthusiast, about the bow hunting thing. I asked him if it was really a sport to wait for a deer to walk across your property and then let him have it? He felt that it was and told us he can only shoot an arrow accurately about fifty feet (or was it yards?). He pointed to a tree down the road. “Some guys can shoot twice that distance.”

I would guess it feels more like a sport when the weather is cold and the deer are actively running around, chasing the opposite sex. Steve knows we’re not hunters and wouldn’t eat deer meat but we collect sheds if we see them in the woods. He says we are “non-judgmental” and he doesn’t mind answering our silly questions. I remember a conversation with him about some gay deer sex he had witnessed. He likes to talk.

Soy Dracula

October 31st, 2017

Rochester skyline from Cobbs Hill Reservoir

We made a special stop at Wegman’s to buy Halloween candy, just in case. We used to get a handful of trick or treaters but those kids have grown up and the for the last few years we haven’t gotten any at all. When we lived in the city we had an an army of them. So tonight we had Snickers for dessert.

Matthew and Louise let us borrow their 75 Anniversary edition of Bela Lugosi’s Dracula about three months ago. It is packaged with a 1931 Spanish language version, one that was shot simultaneously with the Lugosi version and one that is reportedly “sexier.” I don’t know what took us so long to get to it but I can’t think of a better night than Halloween.

Me And My Arrow

October 30th, 2017

Steve Grieve with a buck on the back of his car

It rained all day yesterday, never let up, and it got really windy in the night. It was the first time we slept with the windows closed so we didn’t hear the big tree come down out back. It was hung up, leaning at a forty-five degree angle for the last year. A red oak, it was probably ninety feet tall with very few branches. We were worried it was going to take down the power lines on the other side of the street when it fell but we miscalculated.

It fell toward the road and the top quarter was surely blocking the road. Good thing a car wasn’t coming by at the time. When we spotted it in the morning the town had already cut the top off at our property line and hauled it away. We went to work on the rest of it, cutting it into log length sections and loading them into our car so we could drive them up to our wood pile.

The guy across the street came out. We hardly ever talk and we’ve never been introduced. He asked us if we had seen a wounded deer. I told him we saw the eleven point buck on the back of Steve Greive’s car the other day. Steve is in the town’s bow program and he shot the deer on his property at the end of the road. This guy didn’t know Steve but he said he too was bow hunting on his property and he hit a buck but it ran off. He wanted the rack and asked if it was ok to look around in the woods by our house.

Next Best Thing

October 29th, 2017

Peggi and I visited Rochester Contemporary last week so I could take some still photos of the art installation. While I was moving my tripod around the gallery Peggi took some movies with her iPhone. She edited them over the weekend and made this composite video. We added a soundtrack of our band, Margaret Explosion, two live songs that were recorded last week at the Little Theatre Café. The exhibition runs through November 10. I hope you can out and see it. If you can’t, I guess this video is the next best thing.

An Adventure

October 28th, 2017

Giant puffball mushroom in Durand Eastman Park, Rochester, New York

“I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see, and what it means. What I want and what I fear.” That quote is from Joan Didion. We watched the Netflix documentary on her last night and loved it.

“A painting is an adventure. It is not the execution of a plan.” That one is from Fred Lipp. Somebody should do a documentary of him.

Integration Now

October 26th, 2017

Lake Ontario on a warm October Day

Nikole Hannah-Jones spoke tonight at the Third Presbyterian Church. We were there. Now we must act.

Hannah-Jones is an award-winning investigative reporter who covers civil rights and racial injustice for The New York Times. She was just named a prestigious MacArthur fellow. She is a truth teller. Here first chart had a few key dates in American history. 1607 when the English landed her. 1619, twelve years later when the first African slaves were imported. 1776 when the Constitution was signed. 1954 when the Supreme Court decided Brown v. Board of Education and the Civil Rights Act of 1968, or the Fair Housing Act. Peggi remembers canvasing her neighborhood with her friend Christine Latti in Suburban Detroit in an effort to get the Open Housing Bill based. Up north we discriminated by redlining, obstructive lending practices and impediments to home ownership.

The second graphic that hit home was one that showed the narrowing of the achievement gap between white and black students. That was in 1988. Integration was working but it became branded as “forced integration.” The gap has continued to widen since then. Nikole says its funny how we never hear anyone call it ‘forced segregation.” “Separate but equal” is a crock of shit. She says the one thing that has been proven to work is the one thing we are unwilling to do. Our schools in Rochester are some the most serrated schools in the country. NYC is worse.

Someone is going to have to sacrifice if once again integrate or schools. Many more being sacrificed now. Justice is not easy.