Copa Del Rey

January 21st, 2018

Two cups of coffee at Parkside Diner in Rochester, New York

We were still reading the Sunday morning paper when Gareth Bale put Real Madrid ahead 2-0 with a beautiful goal. They went on to win 7-1 against the team La Coruña side which is hardly a match.

We heard some chainsaws down the street and we followed that noise just see what the neighbors were up to. We turned toward the lake looking for clear sidewalk since we were breaking in our new walking shoes. We debated stopping at the Parkside for coffee and then turned into it hat funky little neighborhood behind Nick’s Seabreeze Inn. It gets really really hilly in there, just like the Pyrenees at the start of El Camino. Well, not quite that hilly.

We did stop at the Parkside when come out and by the time we got home Barcelona was already ahead of Real Betis from Sevilla. Lionel Messi and the toothy Luis Suarez got two goals each in that contest. Again, hardly a match. Copa Del Rey next week!

17 Minute Mile

January 20th, 2018

Road guard near Eastridge High School in Rochester, New York

I remember when someone broke the four minute mile. Was that Jim Ryan? Google would know. We walked up to Wegman’s today and took a round about route. We divided the miles there by the time it took us to get there and determined that had walked a few 17 minute miles. We’re still thinking of walking El Camino in April so we calculate these sort of things. We’ve skied so much in the last month we have sort of forgotten how to walk. We didn’t really need much at Wegman’s but we needed a destination.

We sampled cheese and ran into my cousin. She’s helping take care of her brother and that has become a black hole. He blames his problems on her. Black holes take a long time to describe but it was a fun conversation. We were still in the cheese section when Cynthia Howk from the Landmark Society spotted Peggi. She couldn’t wait to tell her how much she like Peggi’s post on the Hershey house on her old neighborhood. And she pushed Peggi again to do a book on Don Hershey.

We stopped in Aman’s Farm Market on the way back and spotted an obit near the counter for the woman who was always behind the counter. We picked up some Cuba cheese and a bag of roasted peanuts which we ate on the way back. I feel like we are already on the Camino.

Close Your Eyes

January 19th, 2018

Kim's Xerox machine self portrait

I don’t know how I met Kim. Maybe it was through Mary Flower because she lived in my dorm. Kim lived in the dorm across the street. Kim’s boyfriend was still in high school in Indianapolis. He was a mythical, legendary figure until I met him the next year. He (and his sideburns) are in the open scene of my movie of Norm and Pam’s Wedding.

Other than hanging out in Kim’s dorm the first thing I remember doing with her was making Xerox copies of our faces. Kim had done this before and she led us to an office on campus where we were able to walk right up to a copy machine and put our faces down on the glass. I remember asking if she was sure it was safe for our eyes. She suggested we close them. The portraits remind me of Leonardo da Vinci drawings.

Pushing It

January 18th, 2018

Possible 6x6 submissions for 2018

I used to toss stuff off for RoCo’s 6×6 show. Not really sure why. I think the limit was ten pieces in the old days, still twenty bucks a piece and 100 per cent of the proceeds go to RoCo. Maybe those factors had something to do with my attitude. I would do quick, sketch-like paintings and one year I think I put ink jet prints of paintings in the show.

I rethought my strategy a while back and put an effort into creating something I would like to take home with me, these colored blocks of wood. Two pieces of Adirondack sawmill, rough cut pine, glued together and painted with oils. All four sold and the variations I did on them the last two years sold as well. So this I considered going even more minimal, four blocks with the same two colors but each looks different based on the the allocation of of the two colors to either the small or bigger section and then the orientation.

Would I want to take one of these home with me? I have to say he warm grey that I used does not look as chocolate-like in my photo. And I don’t like the shine that the camera picked up. My experiment, pushing it with these serious constraints and waiting to see if they are still marketable, may only be interesting to me. Is that enough?

Long Live Joywave

January 17th, 2018

Joywave

I think we first heard about Joywave from our tax preparer. The receptionist in his office was the mother of one of the band members. There are so many cool things about this band. The lead singer, Daniel Armbruster, for starters. A beautiful voice and so much fun to watch. Their website! When was the last time you had fun at a website? Back in the early web days for me.

There is the fact that they talk up Rochester every chance they get. They were cool as hell as “The Hoodies” right out of high school. Check them out restocking the shelves with their cd at a Rochester Best Buy. The coolest thing about them is they keep getting better. Most bands go in the other direction. Check out “It’s a Trip” from their new cd, “Content.” And with their incredible success they have released their own virtual currency #joycoin.

And then there is two striking similarities to a band I was in the early eighties. Joywave had their new album release party in the old revolving restaurant, the flying saucer like room that tops the old First Federal Bank. We wanted to go to that gig but tickets sold out way too fast. In 1983 we booked the Top of the Plaza for our first record release party. Joywave played the Planetarium and Personal Effects played there for three months in the mid eighties and recorded the soundtrack as our last album.

Big Snow

January 15th, 2018

Four horses in Scotsville

We met friends in Scotsville for a ski and some soup. We trudged through a corn field and then into the woods along the river. The water was high and it seems a little early for that. We came across four young horses and my fingers froze while I struggled to capture a photo.

There’s a house out back of us, down the hill and across the road. We’re not quite sure who lives there. A kid with a skateboard and at least four adults. Peggi thinks one of them is a bartender because of the hours they see. Their driveway is really steep and they don’t like to shovel so they are always struggling to get up it. Sometimes they give up and park in the road. On Friday night, when we got the big snow, one of the cars slipped off the driveway and partially down the ravine. It came to a halt against a tree and was as such an angle that I would have been afraid to swing the door open for fear that it would be just enough to roll the car.

So it sat there until tonight around dusk when first one and then another, bigger, tow truck showed up. There were five or six guys out there, smoking cigarettes and strategizing for at least an hour before they sprung into action. Peggi got out the binoculars and we watched someone climb a ladder and attach a pulley to a big tree. Someone else crawled under the car and attached a cable. We think the second tow truck also had a cable attached because he carefully positioned himself just before they began pulling. The car came up like a big fish on a line and they brushed it off and left. We left too, to see “Lady Bird.” I loved it.

Suburban Peasents

January 14th, 2018

John Gilmore and Bill Hill in madres in 1966

Our friend, John, brought three photos over for us to scan. He and another kid were pictured in each and he was pretty sure the other guy was Rex Daniels, a classmate of ours who was killed by friendly fire in Viet Nam. The other guy looked like Bill Hill to me and I confirmed it by going to the scans of our yearbook that another classmate had sent me so that I could make the name tags for an upcoming reunion.

Spellcheck didn’t like the way I spelled madres so I looked it up and found Madras fabric was generally regarded as belonging to the peasant class in its native India. In the 1930s madras clothing became a status symbol in the US because only American tourists who could afford Caribbean vacations had access to it.

Madres shirts became wildly popular when we were in high school. Madison Avenue advertising giant David Ogilvy coined the phrase “guaranteed to bleed” and used this as a selling point rather than a defect. A 1966 catalog advertisement stated: “Authentic Indian Madras is completely handwoven from yarns dyed with native vegetable colorings. Home-spun by native weavers, no two plaids are exactly the same. When washed with mild soap in warm water, they are guaranteed to bleed and blend together into distinctively muted and subdued colorings.”

I see those really slim jeans on kids now and I remember boiling stretch cotton/nylon jeans in water on the stove when my mom wasn’t home so they would get as tight as possible. Add British Walkers and you had the complete package. But John went one step beyond with his madres belt.

The Art Of Life

January 12th, 2018

Salt pile behind Town Hall in Irondequoit, New York

It was pouring rain and in the mid fifties when we set out to the library. We had our rain gear on and the shoes we plan to wear when we walk the Camino. Peggi read you should have a hundred miles on the shoes before you go. Or was it a hundred hours? We were talking up Noah Baumbach movies to our neighbors and they rented “Mistress America” at the library. They liked it and offered it to us to watch again. I liked it better the second time.

We returned the movie and couldn’t find any place to hang our rain gear so we left it balled up near the door. We put “Fire & Fury” on reserve and a book about El Camino and then and we wandered around the library. We came home with another dvd, David Lynch’s “the Art of Life,” and three books – Reckless Daughter – A portrait of Joni Mitchell” (which was recommended by a friend), the Philip Roth collection of non-fiction (I plan to go right to the piece he wrote about his friend, Philip Guston) and “The Directory of Saints” (I liked how it was organized by the topic they were the patron saint of).

En Plen Air

January 10th, 2018

Rick Muto oil on panel,  plein air painting of marsh along Sterling Creek 8" x 6,"  on view at Axom Gallery in Rochester New York

Axom Gallery, across the street from the Barrel ‘O Dolls, is one of the nicest spaces for art in the city of Rochester. We have seen so many really good shows there over the years and we have slowly gotten to know Rick and Robin Muto, the gallery owners. Rick runs his decorative and fine art business (murals, faux pieta dura and marbling) out of their space. Robin runs her interior decorating business and increasingly her retail shop out of another portion of their space and their daughter used to be the gallery director but she took a job at the MAG and Rick is now the gallery director.

Rick’s passion though is en plein air oil painting and he has a show at Axom now with twenty exquisite paintings of local nature scenes. Rick told us he usually finishes these paintings on site in one session. We spend a lot of time in the woods and I would say his sense of space and color is spot on. I particularly like the ones that look the loosest, the most expressive, like this one of the “Marsh Along Sterling Creek.”

Can you imagine going out for the day and coming back with one of these? If I could do that I would throw away my camera.

Before The War On Coal

January 9th, 2018

Check written to Fowler Coal in Bloomington Indiana

I cleaned off our answering machine today, a major accomplshment. We still have a wired line but don’t answer it much. The messages were stockpiled and the earliest were from my parents, both calling near the end of their lives for help. I recorded them on to my iPad in GarageBand and saved them as an mp3. They are heartbreaking but hard to let go of.

I am happy to see Steve Hoy saw my last post. He says he doesn’t remember writing it and that is why I save this stuff.

I found this old check in a box. I only kept a few checks, like the one I wrote to Swing-In Pizza for $3.98. Steve and I rented a whole house in Bloomington for $85 a month. It had a coal burning furnace and we had to clean the ashes out and put them in metal ash can outside. (My father always called our garage cans “ash cans” and I always thought that was odd since we never put any ashes in there.) As the winter wore on in Bloomington we got too lazy to take the ashes out so we’d pile them up on the concrete basement floor. I went down there one night to feed the fire and it wasn’t quite dark so the lights were off. I noticed the four foot high pile was glowing red hot.

A Minus Over B Plus

January 8th, 2018

Steve Hoy English paper on the 4th Dimension, written for Paul Dodd in 1969

Steve Hoy was the best man at our wedding. But before that he was my college roommate, back when they were randomly assigned without any profiling or preferences being stated.

I coasted through high school and had a great time but I was a terrible student, learning only what I needed to get by. I was determined to turn over a new leaf in college and planned on applying myself. That idea went out the window when Steve showed up. The first thing I remember him saying was, “Is it ok to put one of my stereo speakers on your desk?” He was already a junior. He had a car, a white Barracuda. We had a good time.

We rented a small, coal-heated house the next year and I eventually dropped out but before I did, Steve wrote an English paper for me. I think the assignment was to make something up and that was too much for me. Steve’s paper got me an A-/B+, one of the best grades I received. Steve, a sci-fi buff, entitled the essay “The Fourth Dimension.”

Boom

January 7th, 2018

We had an early link to this video, one that we weren’t supposed to share, but I’m happy to hear it has gone public now. We heard stories about the Cassorla brothers long before we ever met them. Most of the stories involved pranks or explosions. They built a reputation in West Irondequoit. Once we became friends they’d bring large containers of pretzels to our parties, salty stuff their father, Red, delivered to all the mom and pop stores in the city. They’d also bring stuff that blew up pretty good.

Red worked out of a warehouse over by the Public Market and didn’t retire until his late eighties when the brothers and Red all moved out west. Red was a Sephardic Jew from Spain and his sons drove him back here every year for the holy days. They’d all come to the Little to hear the band and catch up with old friends. Red’s eyes would light up when Peggi spoke Spanish to him.

And, although we never talked about it, I think there might have been a connection to the Cassorla brothers when Peggi and I hosted a wedding reception for our bass player many years ago. I was spinning records in the living room and the bass player’s brother asked me if it was ok to set off some fireworks outside. I said “Sure” and went on playing records until we heard the explosion. Neighbors for miles around called the cops. There were ten police cars out front when they rang our doorbell. They asked if I was the owner of the house and I said, yes. They said, “Come on, we’re going downtown.” I was guilty on all counts.

They put handcuffs on me and put me in the back seat. I could see our neighbors looking out their windows at me. For some reason we never went downtown. I watched the parents of the bride and groom leave our house and the party fizzle. Peggi told me later that the remaining guests carried on a lively debate as to whether the guy that actually set the fireworks off should fess up but he couldn’t do that because he had more fireworks in his car and he worked for the City so he was afraid he would los his job. One of the guests was a lawyer and I really wish I had heard that debate. It reminds me of the “The Dinner” with Laura Linney.

My story had a beautiful, surreal ending when after an hour or so in the back seat Steve Black left the party and walked up to the cop car. The cop slowly rolled the window down and Steve said, “Officer, I have a confession to make. I set the bomb off.” I remember saying, “Steve, what are you doing?” but the officer opened the door, put handcuffs on Steve and put him in the back seat with me. After another hour, they let us go but told us we had to be in court at nine the next morning. The charges were dropped when the arresting officer failed to show up.

MAGA

January 5th, 2018

Snow covered flower pot in front yard

“Is Donald Trump a conceptual artist?” What a joy it was to read this article in the art section of this morning’s paper. Yes, there is a curved line between Malevich, Dada, abstract expressionism, minimalists like Ellsworth Kelly, Carmen Herrera, Robert Smithson, Donald Judd and the current occupant. Between art and absurdity.

The US government solicited eight prototypes which were built at a cost of $3.3 million in federal funds and unveiled last October along the United States border near San Diego. The eight companies who responded are each hoping to be the winning contractor when Trump builds his great wall. I cut out the pictures of the prototypes when the Times published them in early November. The pieces reminded me of the objects in my ongoing 6×6 project.

The cheekily named MAGA organization has started a brilliant campaign to designate the prototype display area as a national monument. Each of the eight wall sections were designed to United States Customs and Border Protection specifications, built to withstand a 30-minute assault from sledgehammers to acetylene torches, and to be difficult to scale or tunnel beneath. When viewed up close the walls have the undeniable majesty of minimalist sculpture.

Yes, I signed the MAGA petition and I encourage you to do so as well.

Do No Harm

January 3rd, 2018

Frozen Lake Ontario shoreline in January

Matisse is a saint in my book, a candidate for pagan idolatry.

I ordered this cut-out book, “Expressionism in Germany and France,” while I was in the throes of preparation for “Witness” and I’m just now getting into it. I love German Expressionism, the more rough and tumble, the better, and I find it interesting those guys, coming out of WWI, were influenced by the dainty French. But this quote from Matisse is foundational!

“What I am after, above all, is expression … Expression, for me, does not reside in passion bursting from a human face or manifested by violent movement. The entire arrangement of my picture is expressive: the place occupied by the figures, the empty spaces around the, the proportions, all that has its share.

Composition is the art of arranging in a decorative manner the diverse elements at the painter’s command to express his feelings. In a picture every part will be visible and will play its appointed role, whether it be principal or secondary. Everything that is not useful in the picture is, it follows, harmful. A work of art must be harmonious in its entirety: any superfluous detail would replace some other essential detail in the mind of the spectator.”

Beavers On Crack

January 2nd, 2018

Beaver damage on Durand Lake in winter

We had not been down the west side of Durand Lake in a while so this was the first we had seen of the beaver damage there. What were they thinking trying to gnaw their way through trees this big?

Duane suggested we add the 1957 French film, “Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday,” to our Netflix queue. We have but we’ll have to watch “Advise & Consent” first and mail it back. I wish they would just make the switch to everything streamable. We streamed “The Dinner” a few nights back. I loved the story, a moral dilemma, almost like a nightmare. Laura Linney was great as the over protective mom and Richard Gere made a pretty good straight man. The guy who played his brother, Steve Coogan, surprised us because we had just seen him in “A Trip To Spain” and couldn’t stand him. Our friend, Claire, loved him in that movie. Guess that’s the sign of a good actor. I read that “The Dinner” was based on a book and it has already been made into three movies. I think some could do a killer movie with this story but it might take a few more tries. It has been compared to Polanski’s “Carnage” so we will have to track that one down.

Although we have been Amazon Prime members for some time we had never watched anything from them so we lined up a queue there. Jim Jim Jarmusch’s “Paterson” is great. Peggi and I think it is his best movie. He wrote the story as well. It’s understated, slow, beautiful, and a real fantasy. Adam Driver is fantastic.

Driver is great in Scorsese’s “Silence” too but unfortunately he is not the lead. I loved the look of this movie. I loved the whole Catholic thing and the way the Japanese fought it. Whoever it is that’s writing Roger Ebert’s site put it this way, “Silence is a monumental work, and a punishing one. It puts you through hell with no promise of enlightenment, only a set of questions and propositions, sensations and experiences.”

Super Bad

January 1st, 2018

Looking across Eastman Lake out to Lake Ontario Winter

You know it is going to be a good party, and by extension a good year, when someone clears off the coffee table in the living room so people can take turns dancing on it. James Brown got the party started and his “Super Bad” drove it over the top. The band, with Bootsy Collins on bass and his brother Catfish on guitar, is just incredible. They wind it so tight, keeping you in crazy suspense until they reach the bridge, and then the sax solo, where James asks Robert McCollough to “Blow me some Trane” goes over the top. Prince ruled for a few songs, Grace Jones’ “I’m Not Perfect” was a knock out. I couldn’t find our seven inch of “Love To Love You” so I played part of the album version. And with the 45s all in a big pile we finished the night with the Stooges, “1969.”

There were more people skiing and snowshoeing in the park today than we have ever seen. Could be a combination of perfect conditions and a national holiday but I’d like to think more people are throwing off the digital shackles and getting out there.

Me Too

December 31st, 2017

Bauer Pottery coffee cups from Teri in California

Peggi’s sister sent us four coffee cups from the Bauer Pottery Company in LA. They look like California and have livened up our mornings.

Duane sent us up a copy of “Leon of Juda,” Robert Frank’s newest book of photos, published by Steidl. I mention the publisher because the book is beautiful. The photos are as well but that goes without saying. I’ve looked at the book (it is without text) everyday since it arrived and it still seems mysterious and fresh.

And a paperback also arrived from Louise in time for the holidays, one based on a 1972 BBC series, “Ways of Seeing” by John Berger. Parts of it are so thought provoking I will never forget what I read.

Berger starts Chapter 3 with a passage from Genesis. Catholics weren’t so big on the bible when I went to school so I was familiar with the story but still not ready to read it.

“And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof and did eat; and she gave also unto her husband with her, and he did eat.
And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig-leaves together and made themselves aprons …. And the Lord God called unto the man and said unto him, ‘Where are thou?’ And he said, ‘I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself ….
Unto the woman God said, ‘I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband and he shall rule over thee.'”

With these words he makes the case that all of European culture was ripe for the #MeToo movement. With rare exceptions, paintings of female nudes exist for the delight of men. “You painted a naked woman because you enjoyed looking at her, you put a mirror in her hand and you called the painting Vanity, thus morally condemning the woman whose nakednsss you had depicted for your own pleasure. The real function of the mirror was otherwise. It was to make the woman connive in treating herself as, first and foremost, a sight.”

And he notes, “other non-European traditions – in Indian art, Persian art, African art, Pre-Columbian art – nakedness is never supine in this way. And if, in these traditions, the theme of a work is sexual attraction, it is likely to show active sexual love as between two people, the woman as active as the man, the actions of each absorbing the other”

He finishes the chapter with a challenge. “Choose from this book an image of a traditional nude. Transform the woman into a man. Either in your mind’s eye or by drawing on the reproduction. Then notice the violence which that transformation does. Not to the image, but to the assumptions of a likely viewer.”

Out Of It

December 29th, 2017

Frozen Eastman Lake in December

We stood on this point on the edge of Eastman Lake trying to decide if the ice was frozen solid enough for us to ski across. We discussed what it would be like to fall in the water in 15 degree weather and then decided to stay on the path that runs along the shore.

The B section of our local paper keeps getting smaller even though it comes stock from USA Today. Just a few months ago it was reduced to six pages, one spread and an insert. Then it was knocked down to just the spread with entertainment gossip on the back page. And then that last page went all ads. I cut out Mesfin Fekadu’s “Top Ten Albums of 2017” from that section just to see what I’m missing. I hate feeling like the world is passing me by.

I had never heard of SZA but her “Ctrl” album was at number one. It’s easy going with a tasteful headphone ready mix. Lots of space and odd instrumentation. Very listenable, like something you’d hear in the Apple Store. Kendrick Lamar’s, “DAMN,” is Hollywood enough to include U2 but the tracks barely get off the ground. Daniel Caesar’s, “Freudian,” at number three, is way laid back R&B, almost detached make-out music.

Funny Mesfin Fekadu put Jay-Z’s, “4:44” at number 4. It really drew me in with its catchy lyrics, rhythms and samples. I’d put this one at number one. Taylor Swift sounds like she is completely lost on “reputation.” The generic big production swallows up her simple charm. I put Sam Smith’s, “The Thrill of It All,” on while we ate dinner and that was just about right. Soft, gospel tinged dinner music.

Number seven, St. Vincent’s, “MASSEDUCTION” isn’t as exotic as Bjork. I thought I was gonna like her but “Sugarboy” sounds like Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love” on the wrong speed. Miguel’s, War & Leisure is old school R&B and various songs didn’t so much remind me of Smokey, the Chi-Lites, Funkadelic and Prince but made me want to hear them instead. “H.E.R.,” by Gabi Wilson under her stage name H.E.R., is more late night, make out chill stuff. And the number ten pick is Haim, “Something to Tell You,“ Three sisters who play pop songs like a lame eighties band.

I’m glad I liked Jay Z. I don’t feel so out of it.

Buy, Sell

December 28th, 2017

Dead end sign on Wisner Road in Winter

We waited for double-digit degrees before strapping on our skis and we shoveled the driveway to warm up. My ski boots are plastic on the bottom so it makes it exciting just trying to stand up while shoveling. We went through the woods again and were out in the middle of the golf course when our financial guy called. He was home for the holidays but our question couldn’t wait. We were looking for losses to declare before the end of the year, losses in the the best market ever. We needed to offset the financial gains we made with the sale of some art. We were plenty warm until he called.

I love winter. I’m not crazy about how my skin dries out but everything else about it is cool. I like staying in, working on projects, reading by the fire and watching movies at night. But most of all I like getting outside to walk, split wood, shovel or – best of all – ski. And this has been a stellar year for that. Fresh snow just when you need it and temps well below freezing.

I’ve dialed back so far this winter I keep forgetting to check in here. After ten years practice I’m not contemplating a dead end but I could see it happening. What’s to report, or record or review? Well, we’re keeping warm.

Cold And White

December 25th, 2017

Nighttime ski tracks in front of the house of blue lights

We had about eighteen people over last night, all family members but not all of the family. Our niece’s daughter told us she was going to stay up til three in the morning to see Santa. She is about a year younger than I was when my teacher, a nun at St. John’s, asked the class to raise their hand if they still believe in Santa Claus. It wasn’t all that mean. I certainly had my doubts and I get to tell this story every year.

Peggi’s sister sent a photo up of her two sons on the beach in Miami where they have gathered for the holidays. Hardly looked like Christmas down there. That’s the best part about the day for me now and this is a good one. Cold and white. We skied out the door, through the woods and up to the lake. The sky was intensely blue and the wind was blowing so there were fresh drifts up on the ridge. When we got back my brother was in the driveway with his wife. We took a long walk with them. We like to think we’re in training to walk the Camino in April.