Second Generation

January 16th, 2017

Joe Lewis Walker playing live at the Little Theater in Rochester, New York

A blues band doing a Beatles cover (“While My Guitar Gently Weeps”) with a Led Zeppelin beat fits right in with this upside-down world. Of course Trump defines that world and Alec Baldwin better get a whole lot better if wants to dent that machine. Joe Lewis Walker, performing in Little Theater number one, was a little muscular for my tastes. He hardly put his own stamp on the blues but he would have sounded great if we were in a roadhouse bar. Ironically if they had booked this band in a club no one would have there. As it was we were stuck in the dark, cushy seats starring at an unattractive band.

Joe Lewis had a distinctive, bright, steely guitar sound and his band included Larry Coryell’s son on second guitar. They did a gospel number called “Soldier For Jesus,” Curtis Mayfield’s “People Get Ready” and Chuck Berry’s “Round n’ Round” with a touch of “Tequila” in there. And strangely, Coryell’s “Let’s Straighten It Out” was the bluesiest song of the night. He told a story of how Jimi Hendrix picked him up as a baby when he was back stage somewhere with his father. He got a song out of that experience, “I Was In The Room With Jimi” and they finished with a “beach hit, “Too Drunk To Drive Drunk.”

Dog Breath

January 13th, 2017

Cobbs Hill Reservoir in January

We subscribe to a music streaming service but rarely seem to use it. Today we changed that dynamic. I called up some “Systema Solar,” a Columbian party band that we had read something about, then the recently remastered with extras version of Uncle Meat, the 1969 Mothers album that was on the turntable when Dave Mahoney’s stereo was stolen from the little house we lived in that year. I still have the empty album cover. It was intensely memorable because we tripping on LSD and it was no micro-dose. The band was at their peak, I gave up on them after it, and “Dog Breath, in the Year of the Plague” sounded as good as it did back then.

An Alter Boy Vignette

January 10th, 2017

Paul Dodd, Andy Finn and Rick Switzer from the Holy Trinity bulletin

The two paragraphs below accompanied the photo above in a Holy Trinity church bulletin from the early sixties.

“An alter boy’s performance is not all glamour. Parading before the congregation is only part of it. These fellows, thanks most often to diligent parents, get up at (and sometimes before) the crack of dawn and are “in uniform” before 6:45.

Most of them like to receive Holy Communion when they serve. This presents a breakfast problem which they solve very well. After Mass we find them huddled (these mornings) around the new alter-boy-sacristy gas heater enjoying their own chow. In the photo below we see, left to right, Paul Dodd, Andrew Finn and Richard Switzer fueling up.”

Some people may not know that in order to receive Holy Communion back in the day you had to fast from food for three hours before receiving, an heroic sacrifice for growing kids and reason many in my skinny family fainted during the service. The nuns in the convent next door made the hosts and they would stock the shelves of the priest’s sacristy. If we were there before the priest had crawled out of bed we would dig into the bags of hosts (unconsecrated, of course) and swallow them by the handful. As you can tell from the photo, we had a good time. Our main objective became cracking the other alter boy up during Mass. Things like pronouncing the Latin responses so badly that that we would laugh uncontrollably.

Rick Switzer, on the right, lived in Union Hill and his family had a trampoline built into the ground in their yard. Rick sat in front of me. His mom packed a lunch with a macaroon cookie in it everyday. Rick didn’t like macaroons so he would give it to me, often before lunch time even rolled around. We spent a lot of time carving our erasers into tiny bulldozers and street sweeping vehicles. We’d push them across the desk collecting the eraser filings and running them out the side of the vehicles. Andy Finn lived in an old farmhouse. They had a big barn and field big enough to play baseball in. His father owned the Texaco gas station in the center of town and his family rented a cottage on the lake down near Hedges Nine Mile Point. The old folks sat around drinking beer while Andy and I caught carp, big, sluggish fish that lingered close to the shore. He now resides in Finn Land.

To Rod

January 9th, 2017

Arpad and Peggi mixing Margaret Explosion tracks 2017

Margaret Explosion has a few months off but we’re not just twirling our thumbs, we’ve recorded tracks for a new album and we’re mixing them now with the great Arpad. We spent a couple hours with his one tonight orchestrating the entry of an ambient guitar track, a Farfisa track, the original guitar track and then the bass and drums. The outtro is orchestrated as well but I will spare you the details. The song doesn’t have a name. We improvised all the basic tracks and then assembled files that resembled songs with judicious editing. All this is 180 degrees from usual M O of live to two track mixes. In this one we pulled out the original upright bass and drum tracks and replaced both with a fretless bass, conga drum and shaker track and Peggi’s Farfisa. Bob added two additional guitar tracks and sent those to us via his Dropbox. The song has no name as yet but because we’ve been watching all the old Twilight Zones on Netflix we would like to dedicate it to Rod Serling.

Margaret Explosion – Rough mix of SlowStart

Microdosing

January 8th, 2017

Early January ice formations on Lake Ontario2

It is fitting that I can’t remember the word I stumbled over this morning as a read an article aloud to Peggi. It was a common, multi syllable word but I tried saying it without immediately knowing how to pronounce it and it came out like someone just learning English.

We took a walk through the park and spotted ski tracks but no skiers. There was grass showing through the snow. We spotted more tracks from an ATV that looked like it was joy riding through the park, spitting dirt on the snow as it tore up the trails. Not the first time we’ve seen these tracks. The whole world’s going hillbilly.

We cut through the woods and came back via Center entrance, a dead-end that is about a mile long. We were just rounding the first turn and a car rolled down its windows and the driver “Hi. Bruce Lindsey. I haven’t seen you guys in a while.” We had no idea who he was but we played along just like we do at the Memory Center where my mom is. “Yeah. Why is that?” I said.

I Don’t Want To Talk About It

January 6th, 2017

Matthew's drone over marsh on Hoffman Road in Rochester, New York

The news that the Flash, the reigning National Women’s Soccer League champions, have been sold and are leaving Rochester is totally depressing. I don’t want to talk about it.

Our nephew was in town with his family and we suggested he put his drone up above the marsh on Hoffman Road. He put it way up and grabbed some dramatic shots of our house, high resolution shots that included the city skycap in the distance.

We stopped in the Memorial Art Gallery to see the M. C. Escher show. His prints were so popular back in the day, especially the ones that inverted gravity, and they still look good today even without the smoke. Escher travelled to Spain in 1922 and 1936 and nothing had a greater impact on his work than the Alhambra in Granada where he was captivated by the interlocking Moorish designs of tile work on the floors and walls. I like this quote of his. “I know of no greater pleasure than to wander over hills and through vales, from village to village, feeling the effects of unspoiled nature and enjoying the unexpected and unlooked for…”

Way Pond

January 5th, 2017

Island in Way Pond, 1000 Acre Swamp in Rochester, New York

Democrat & Chronicle contributor, Missy Rosenberry, had an interesting article in today’s paper about visiting 100 parks on the east side of Rochester in the last calendar year, many parks that we had never heard of. She’s posted a photo of a sign from every park on her blog so it isn’t the most interesting thing to look at but she has a brief description of each. We choose 1000 Acre Swamp in Penfield, a gorgeous place even in the middle of January. We walked every trail, most on boardwalks, a total of four miles and I froze my hands taking photos. We stopped at Schutt’s Cider Mill on the way back and picked up a bag of apples for applesauce, another for eating and a gallon of cider.

Good Form

January 4th, 2017

Melting snowman in front yard

Our power went out this morning, a quick outage due to the wind. Peggi’s computer restarted on its own, mine needed to be rebooted. I was in the middle of editing songs for our new cd. Guitar tracks have been coming in fast and furiously, delivered by Dropbox. We took a walk after the blackout but stayed out of the woods because of the wind. There were some good sized branches in the street and the barricade on Zoo Road had been blown over. Peggi and I uprighted that. This snowman had a head that fell off a few days ago. It has completely melted body is in good form.

Abstracting

January 2nd, 2017

Foxy Divea licens plates at the Friendly Home in Rochester, New York

I’m guessing these plates belong to one of the caretakers at the Friendly Home and not one of the staff, residents or a visitor. You have to have a pretty good sense of humor or at least a healthy dose of self worth to work there. In a perfect world they would be paid a lot more. Peggi had altered a couple pairs of her pants and we stopped in her room to hang them up. My mom wasn’t in but two other residents were, one asleep in my mom’s chair and the other sitting on my mom’s bed. My mom has been abstracting reality for some time now but the place itself pretty darned abstract. My mom used to say, “You wouldn’t believe what goes on in here.” She hasn’t carried a purse in years but today she told us she needed a bigger one.

Dating Yourself

December 30th, 2016

The old Dentico's Italian Villa on Culver Road in Rochester, New York

585 Magazine has a feature in the new issue on solo dining that is a must read for singles. The piece is written by our friend, Martin, so we are biased but there are some good restaurant tips in there for couples as well.

I first met Martin when he was working for Midtown Records on the second floor of the mall. I loved that store because they had real urban crowd and the 45 racks were well stocked and up to the minute. Martin tells the story of when Lenny Silver brought in a truckload of Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight” 12 inches and piled them next to the register in the front of the store. He sold them all. Martin had a long ponytail at the time and he was looking to join a band but he didn’t have an instrument. He bought something he called “the plank,” a homemade bass guitar, before our first practice as the HiTechs. We opened for Grandmaster Flash at the Haunt in Ithaca. They had a song called “White Lines” at the time. “White lines, don’t do it.” They were were doing it.

I’m glad to see Martin is back in the food critic business. He used to do quite a bit of that, anonymously, back in the Refrigerator days. Maybe he’ll comment on this post. I’ve probably mixed up some of the so-called facts. I did a painting many years ago of Martin as “The Eccentric.”

Hi-Techs - Subscription
Hi-Techs – Subscription

Roman Numeral L

December 29th, 2016

Burlesque dancer at Frank's 50th birthday party

“Fifty Years of Frank” fans filled the parking behind Sticky Lips on Culver Road. It was a celebration for Frank’s fiftieth birthday and his girlfriend, Deb, made sure all his friends were there. Jack Allen’s Big Band was on the bandstand when we arrived and Frank and Deb were out on the dance floor. They set the perfect party mood. Because this was a Frank affair a dancer, above, did her thing when the big band finished while Bob Henrie and the Goners set up behind the curtain, a surprise appearance by Rochester’s best band. It was a swell party.

Eat Your Vegemite

December 28th, 2016

Mysterious circular pattern in ice on pond in Durand Eastman Lake

Peggi and I waited until the end of the season last year to look for new cross-country boots. Thought we could get something on sale. Our old boots were cracked and had a generous amount of duct tape on them but they still leaked. We learned the binding mechanism had changed and new boots would not fit our old skis so looked at skis and they were all so ugly we gave up. This year we bought boots and skis, ordinary, nice looking things, although Peggi did try on some white Space Oddity boots that looked like something Abba would have worn in the day. We’re still using our old poles. I don’t imagine they’ve made any breakthroughs in pole technology.

The ski package was our Christmas gift to each other but there was another we received, a red and yellow jar of Vegemite. Our friends, Matthew and Louise, gave it to us with instructions to spread a very thin layer onto of your toast in the morning. I looked at the jar every morning and then went ahead and poured olive oil on my toast. When we saw Louise again the first thing she asked was, “How did you like the Vegemite?”

She showed us a set of wooden plates that her family used when she was growing up. Small, rectangular plates that had two recessed areas in them, one for the bottom of your the cup and the other for a piece of bread with Vegemite spread on it. She was going to send the plates out to her brother as a house-warming gift. We promised to give it a try.

This morning Peggi spread it on some toasted Italian bread that we had left over from my family Christmas dinner. It is most unusual. We plan to report back but I am still trying to figure out what to say about it.

We’re happy little Vegemites
As bright as bright can be.
We all enjoy our Vegemite
For breakfast, lunch, and tea.
Our mummies say we’re growing stronger
Every single week,
Because we love our Vegemite
We all adore our Vegemite
It puts a rose in every cheek.

A Christmas Story

December 25th, 2016

Deer with red nose on sign at top of Hoffman Road in Rochester, New York

My father had some money in an Oppenheimer account that was involved in some sort of class-action suit so he got a check in the mail a year after his death so we took it to our bank. We signed in electronically and were called into a cubicle by a young woman with ruby red painted nails. In fact her nail shade matched exactly the stone on her ring and her lipstick. We spent about a half hour with her filling out forms that would allow us to deposit the money, about forty-five dollars, in my mom’s account. It was the day before Christmas and the calendar on her wall, one with a big white block for each day of the month, had only a magic-marker diagonal line drawn exactly in the same manner through 23 blocks. The 24th had not yet been killed.

She called a screen that had a picture of my father smiling and I asked, “You have that in you files?” She said, “No, I just called up his obituary from the funeral home.” She took the paperwork that I had up to the front office for approval and left us us in her cubicle for about ten minutes. We studied the two pictures of her son and daughter. Both were were wearing a Lancer sports uniform. There were two middle-aged guys outside her office waiting to meet with her and one of them was talking loudly about a woman he had “the hots for.” We had just come from Wegmans and we talked about how we had forgotten to buy Brussels sprouts. The bank employee finally came back with the approval and wished us a Merry Christmas.

We took a chance and decided to stop at Aman’s Farm Market for the Brussels sprouts. They had them and I filled up a big bag wile Peggi waited in the car. The guy in front of me had a cart full of craft beer. He let me go ahead of him and told the cashier, “I only let him go ahead because I can’t stand looking at those things. We roasted them for our family Christmas party and every last one went.

Without Any Words

December 23rd, 2016

Snow covered tree near Lake Eastman in Durand Eastman Park

Peggi just told me that the pop-up of the photo in my last post wasn’t working. I fixed it but I may have missed the opportunity to send you a holiday greet so I am calling your attention to it. Of course the photo above works just as well without any words.

OK, Happy Holidays

December 22nd, 2016

Paul, Peggi and Danny Wegman at the Ridge Culver Wegman's

Louise emailed me to remind me that it had been three days since I last posted here. She gave me an out by suggesting that I must be busy. Busy skiing in the park, visiting my mother and discarding the dead possum that Peggi found in the backyard. Some animal went right for the guts.

Oh yeah and we happened to be in Wegmans when “corporate” showed up. That’s how how our cashier described it. We knew something was up when we saw the employees gathered around the enterance, just kinda standing around, something that would have driven my uncle crazy when I worked for him at his Super Duper stores. He was was a sticker for staying busy in the down times.

Leaf Scarf

December 19th, 2016

Snowman with leaf scarf in Durand Eastman Park

With a couple of holiday parties under our belt and planning underway for a family gathering I have gained a clearer understand of the fuzzy line between function and disfunction. It was crystalized by a conversation I had with a married couple who were sitting at opposite ends of a long table. The woman was doing most of the talking and told us how they both came from large families. I thought my was large at seven siblings. They had eight and nine.

The woman said her family gathered somewhere different every year and they all got along but they had a few ground rules that were established because of previous problems. No one was to talk about politics, religion and another topic that I can’t remember but it was big enough to leave pretty much only the weather. And then she gestured toward the other end of the table. “His family is completely dysfunctional.”

The guy said, “That’s because I told a couple of them that they were full of shit.” And we all laughed.

Art Show

December 17th, 2016

Ski path along the western bank of Eastman Lake in Durand Eastman Park

We skied up to the lake this morning and the conditions were prefect. Just enough fresh snowfall to refresh the trails. Along the way I kept thinking, “what can we do?”

I keep hearing that now is the time to get active. See something, say something. Peggi went to a meeting at the Universalist Church downtown, something sponsored by Metro Justice, and she took notes but she was really surprised that people there, representatives of politically active groups, had no practical first steps that lay people can take now. So we’re left to stew. And the stewing is unhealthy. Our friend, Pete, stopped by for a visit this afternoon and he told us he was at his doctors and someone mentioned Trump and his blood pressure soared. I simple change of thoughts brought it back down where it belonged.

We drank coffee and talked about art and eventually wound up looking at the pile of watercolors my father did. I took a painting class with him for twenty years and so many of them were worked on in class. Constructions, corrections, emphasis and direction were all worked out in the open and now I have the privilege of revisiting that, of learning by looking, again. I’ve am almost finished photographing and cataloging them and have decided to organize a show of them somewhere. They aren’t for sale so it would have to be a not for profit space. They are beautiful as paintings and a marvel of draughtsmanship but I think they would be of real interest to anyone who who has lived here for some time.

My father loved to get out with his paints. He’d bundle up and sit down near a construction site, moving closer and closer as the crews got to know him. He was featured in the paper when the Can of Worms was being being rebuilt. Bausch & Lomb bought a bunch of the paintings he did outside their headquarters when it was being built downtown. The construction of the O’Rorke Bridge and the new Freddy Sue are thoroughly documented. The Charlotte lighthouse held a special fascination with him and he painted it many times each time quite differently. I plan to get them all online soon and I will find some place to show them.

Real Winter

December 14th, 2016

Birch tree trunks along Durand Eastman Beach in Rochester, New York

There was just enough snow for us to ski for the first time this year. The temperature was in the teens and there was a brisk wind off the lake. It was exhilarating.

Let’s hope we get a real winter this year. The kind where businesses are closed and the snow falls so fast you can’t shovel it all in one session. Enough snow to bring trees down in the woods, to knock the power out, enough so that even the mail can’t get through. The kind where you can’t leave the house for a week or so.

Disprortionate Endings

December 13th, 2016

Stephan Crump and Mary Halvorson of Secret Keeper at Bob Shop Records in Rochester, New York

Secret Keeper, Stephan Crump and Mary Halvorson’s duo is just amazing. Mary studied with and then performed with Anthony Braxton. She shares a mathematical approach to music making with hi but she is so wide open she is one of kind. She takes the guitar into unchartered territory and it is so refreshing. By chance her brand new octet album was voted “cd of the year” in the morning’s NYT. Stephan Crump is my favorite bass player. He’s been at theBop Shop withMary before and with his trio. He’s also played at Kilbourn with Vjay Iyer. With Secret Keeper on Sunday night he bowed his bass more often than plucked. And he started one song, a piece called “Planet,” scratching on the side of his bass while Mary Halverstand banged on the strings with her glass guitar slide. The song morphed into an extra-planetary walk. My favorite piece of the night was the mournful and beautiful “Disprortionate Endings.”

Tom really should do something about the small but nasty “No Public Restroom. Thank You” sign, visible in the enlargement this photo.

Blue Christmas

December 11th, 2016

Defced tress sign in the Commons

I read an article about the blue Christmas trees they’re selling in New Jersey. Someone is spray painting real trees and people are buying them.

We spotted the black, spray-painted marks on the trees in the woods near our house a few days ago. You can’t miss them. The idiot marked the trail for other idiots by marking nearly every tree even ones no wider than my wrist. We rarely see anyone on the trail but we see footprints and very occasionally bike tire tracks and we’re guessing it was someone with those balloon tires. Yesterday we found this sign and we seconded the sentiment. We’re lucky the guy used black paint. As glaring as the offense was we’ve already stopped noticing the spots.

We decided to do the the Spring Valley trail today. We’re beyond tick season so the overgrown trails in that developed part of the park don’t pose as much of an obstacle. The toughest part about it is crossing the stream that winds its way though the valley. It moves along at quite a clip so the crossing point never looks the same. It is incredibly beautiful up on the ridge. The turkeys hang out up here and there were tracks everywhere today but we didn’t see any. Peggi took some panoramas that I’m anxious to see. We ran into one of our favorite neighbors, a so-called brainiac, on the way. She has four beagles, collects stray cats and has a room full of exotic frogs. There was a Pileated woodpecker at her feeder while we talked. Her house, built in 1947, is a classic mid-century modern and and another friend of ours told us they thought it was a Don Hershey. We confirmed that it is not. She gave us shopping bag full of Brussels sprouts so I did the hike with that and on the way home we cut the tops off three of of our Kale plants.