March 27th, 2017
We visited my mom and left before lunch. We were set on a sandwich and coffee at Mise En Place Market in the South Wedge. We headed for an open table and spotted Pete Monacelli, the unofficial mayor of the South Wedge. He was sitting with my old Empire State art teacher, Kurt Feuerherm, and they invited us to sit with them. Turns out we had walked into his regular Friday “Miss en Place Salon” meeting, a group of local artists. He had invited us to this get together many times and here we were.
There was a brief discussion about what we were currently working on and then the conversation wandered all over the map as a few other artists sat down. Kurt started talking about a methods class he had taken at Albright Knox or Cranbrook where they made their own egg tempura, something about peeling the membrane off an egg yolk. Pete said he buys his off the shelf at Rochester Art Supply. And then “the worst medium” discussion. Everyone was picking on charcoal for all the usual messy reasons, the same reasons I love it. Graphic and unforgiving! I went home and started a charcoal drawing.
March 24th, 2017
Snow starts looking really strange in fifty degree weather. My neighbor, recently back from Amman, Jordon, couldn’t wait to plow his driveway. He has a little tractor with a homemade plow head on it. He had so much fun he continued down the street widening the job the town had done. The piles he made are melting into primitive sculptural forms.
We stopped up to see my mom and found her down in the sun room playing ball with Brandon, the activities co-ordinator. I love watching how he engages the residents. With incredible ease he brings people out of their shells and gets them to play, giggle and laugh. As down home as his manner is he treats everyone with respect and dignity and it really is a joy to watch.
My mom told me I need a haircut. Not the first time. And she said she liked my hat. Later she told me I better take it off before someone sees me.
In the main room I overheard one of the other residents talking with an aide. “I like every poem ever written. Except for the ones that end with someone …” and then she extended her forefinger and dragged if across her throat and smiled.
This post is for Louise. It is her birthday today and she likes it when I write about “the home.”
March 21st, 2017
OK, I’m weighing in on the controversial “I Love New York” signs that that litter our highways. According to the Democrat & Chronicle the federal government has tried for more that three years to get the Cuomo administration to take down the signs and I agree but not for their reasons. The Federal Highway Administration points to national rules regarding advertisements on federally funded highways like the New York State Thruway. I love the “I heart NY” campaign but I am offended by this graphic implementation.
Compare the layout of a simple utilitarian 55 MPH sign to this unweildly monstrosity above. Imagine driving 55 or 65 miles per hour past this sign. Could you possibly take it in? It is a visual assault. Four logos in white boxes and all four in a horizontal dark blue box with a bold white outline. And in case the logos don’t do their job we have additional type under each. “Attractions,” “History'” “Eat & Drink'” and “Recreation.” I never would have expected New York State to have these common items. This is “The New York State Experience.” But wait, there is more to read on this sign. I see in the bottom left hand corner of the sign that there is a I Love NY app to download and over in the bottom right hand corner, just to balance out the signage, I see there is a “I Love NY” website.
The state spent 8.1 million dollars to print and erect the signs and they didn’t hire a graphic artist. This reminds me of the Post Office redesign from twenty years ago. Texting while driving is crime and throwing all this shit at you is not?
March 19th, 2017
The bass player chair with Margaret Explosion is just one of Ken Frank’s gigs so we feel really lucky to have him. In addition to having a black belt in chess Ken plays bass with Annie Wells and recently finished production on her new cd, “Lonely Hearts Club.” It sounds like a million bucks. Phil Marshall wrote the music for the song below, a track from the new cd. Annie gave us a copy last night. Peggi did the artwork and it was the first we had seen of the finished product.
Annie was out at the Firehouse Saloon to hear another of Ken’s bands, Big Ditch. This band is a real powerhouse and the Firehouse Saloon is the perfect spot to hear them, a real rock and roll setting. Very few chairs in the back, mostly an empty dark room with a stage and great sound system. And the sound woman, who has been there for a year or so, is fantastic. Big Ditch’s main attraction are the twin guitars of Mark Cuminale and Jack Schaefer, flanking stage right and left. Standing between the two is heaven. The Keelers opened the show and sounded like 1978. I loved it and took a photo of the drummer.
Annie Wells – Johnny
March 18th, 2017
It’s snowing now and Peggi has calculated ideal time to head into the woods on our skis in order to take advantage of the fresh powder. The 26 inches we got a few days ago turned crusty in the Saint Patty sun and this will give us another shot.
Our Little Theatre date was cancelled because of that storm. Having grown up here I thought they were overreacting. We went up to Regal at Culver Ridge that night to see one of the Academy Award nominated movies, “Hidden Numbers,” but that place was closed too. We saw it last night but need to go back to see “Get Out.”
March 18th, 2017
We had just left Rick Muto’s art studio on Anderson Avenue when these windows caught our eye. Faux windows, I should have said. Someone carefully executed this deceptively simple attraction, dressing up the boarded up warehouse windows in this row of buildings along the tracks in Rochester. We are not usually here in the daylight but have attended many art openings in Axom Gallery’s space on the second floor of this building. It is one of our favorite gallery spaces in the city. Rick, one of Rochester’s premier landscape painters, curates the gallery and also creates faux finishes to order.
March 14th, 2017
We’re having us a real disaster. Electric utility trucks from all over the northeast are restoring power to the 100,000 or so that lost it in the wind storm. Our power came back over the weekend and then our cable went out and with that 3-in-1 plan, that means no internet, tv, or phone. And on the heels of that we’ve received about half of the expected 18 inches of snow. I shoveled three times today.
We skied down Hoffman Road and into the woods. These deer were all clustered together and the woods was beautiful. This amount of snow disorients you and even when we found the path, we couldn’t take it because there were so many trees down.
March 12th, 2017
We had dinner on Peart Avenue overlooking the bay. Our friend, Kathy, had invited us to her house when we didn’t have power. Ours had come on by the time we left for dinner and most of Peart Avenue was still without. Kathy was lucky and so were we. The dinner was delicious, especially the olive and anchovy appetizer.
Kathy asked if we had seen the big pines that had just missed a house on Durand. We drove right by it I guess. You get used to the devastation pretty quickly. She told about this big oak that had fallen on a house further down her street. We had to walk over there this morning to check this out.
March 9th, 2017
Geri called yesterday to ask if we could stop by her place and cut up a tree, her tree, that had fallen across her neighbor’s driveway and onto her yard. I was tempted to ask her if she knew that removing that tree was actually her neighbor’s responsibility and not hers. A common misperception as I understand it. If Geri’s neighbor had notified her in writing that the tree might fall and damage her property and if Geri decided not to do anything about it then Geri would be responsible for cleaning it up. My friend, Rich Stim, might be able to provide clarification on this. In any case, I wasn’t about to refuse Geri because her husband, Bill, had given us his chainsaw before he died.
We took a walk around the neighborhood today to asses the damage from yesterday’s wind storm. We would have to hike with a chainsaw to get through our favorite path in the woods. There are so many trees down we will have to forge a new path around the obstacles. We cut through the park and circled back on the next street over to see how badly they were hit. Here the huge oaks that toppled over took down the wires and in some cases the poles. Electric, cable and phone lines laying in the road under an impassable pile of wood. I think we’re a week or so away from internet, Netflix, electric light and life as we know it.
The geeks at Titus Mower reccomend non-Ethanol gas for the chain saws, snow blowers, mowers and generators they sell so we drove out to the Fastrac on Creek and Browncroft but the signal light was out there. The gas station was closed and the manager suggested we go to their downtown location. We are trying to keep our neighbor’s generator going. Three houses, one being ours, have extension cords running away from it. The whole neighborhood sounds like a construction site.
When I refilled the generator I leaked gas on my boots and Peggi looked up how to remove gasoline from shoes. Someone suggested sprinkling baking powder on them and I fell for it.
March 9th, 2017
Our refrigerator is plugged into our neighbor’s generator. They are down south somewhere at a camp site and they called us while we were on break at the Little. I took the call on my watch but I couldn’t hear a damn thing. We had winds up near eighty miles an hour today and 100,000 people are without power. Our part of the city, up near the lake, is in a state of emergency and we’re downtown playing music.
March 7th, 2017
We were not off the grid that long, just a little over 24 hours, when my watch beeped with some Trump alert. We were out for a walk and had just passed a place the locals call the Funny Farm and I stepped into a hotspot that I wasn’t able to zero in on again. The temperature had dropped below zero the night before and our sleeping bags were not up to it but a couple cups of cowboy coffee straightened that out. There is not that much difference between that and our French Press.
It is no secret that Pete is a gourmet cook. There is a Bayou bent to his favorite recipes and an incredibly resourceful streak to his situation, their location in a mountainous food desert. For breakfast we had a homemade curry dish that started with celery and salt in oil on the wood stove. Chick peas, started from the dry position, were the main ingredient, but the cinnamon in the curry stole the show.
Once back on the grid we discovered that our calendar had changed so we decided to drive up to Lake Placid, an idyllic, small city in the high peaks of the Adirondacks. Our skis were in the car but there wasn’t enough snow to ski on. We should have brought ice skates. Mirror Lake was a giant sheet of glass, a mirror in fact. We whooped it up in the hotel with a flight of scotch at the bar before bed and smoked salmon with chopped red onion and capers for breakfast. I asked the waitress if we could walk around Mirror Lake and said, yes, just follow the red sidewalk. We did and found the sidewalk marked with he names of the 46 High Peaks and their elevations. Upper Wolf Jaw Mountain – 4,185 ft, Table Top – 4,427 ft, Nippletop Mountain – 4,620, Dix Mountain – 4,857 ft, nearby Whiteface Mountain – 4,867 ft. and and of course, Mount Marcy – 5,344 ft.
March 2nd, 2017
We were mixing songs for a new album last night at Arpad’s. He has built an acoustically near perfect room for this activity and we were holed-up there until ten o”clock or so. When we left we were unable to pull out onto Monroe Avenue because a large tree was laying across the road. It was very windy on the expressway and our street was exceptionally dark. The power was off and we were planning on leaving town in the morning for the mountains. We had our skies in the car in hopes of finding snow.
Instead we kept a wood fire going here. We have radiant heat and a nightmare scenario would have the pipes bursting and flooding the place. We brought in some seasoned wood from a stack labeled 2012. We were feeding the cat and taking in the mail for Jared and Sue so we we started a fire in their stove and stopped back there three or four times to stoke it. Our neighbors down the street are in Florida for a few weeks and we told them we would call them if we lost power. They asked us to turn on their gas heater so we tended to that. And then Rick, our next door neighbor called from down south. He told us he had a generator in his garage so we dragged that out and fired it up. We ran extension cords from his refrigerator and freezer out to the generator and we ran a line from our refrigerator to the generator. I tapped into that line to recharge my Apple watch.
When the four houses were under control we took a walk through the woods. The neighbor who is in Florida called us while we were cutting through the park to say the power was back on. One of his smart home devices had alerted him.
Margaret Explosion – Rough mix of SlowStart
March 1st, 2017
Our Lenten Roses are in bloom. Snow Drops, Winter Aconite, even our Daffodil greens are up. And flocks of geese overhead. Winter does not last forever anymore.
When I stopped up to see my mom this morning she was sitting alone at a table in the dining room. She likes it that way. There was a large black cross on her forehead. When we were all lined up in church the priest would move so fast, spouting Latin and moving to the next parishioner, that the mark on our foreheads usually looked more like a dull smudge. This one was dark and pronounced. My mom looked like she was part of a cult. And I guess she is.
We must have checked something like “formerly a Catholic” when we filled out her application because the Friendly Home is right on it when Ash Wednesday rolls around, the second one in this place for my mom. Some of the employees were sporting the mark and even some the visiting family members, like Gail. I asked her if a priest had come around and she said, “No. It was just the woman pastor.” It was so warm, near 70, I rolled my mom out to the porch and I ran into drummer, Steve Keiner, with his mom. Steve’s mom was checking my mom’s cross as we talked. My mom didn’t even know she had anything on her forehead.
February 27th, 2017
We’ve been chipping away at a new album, cd or whatever you call it these days. Funny how a lot of it can be done via email, Dropbox and Google Drive. Never mind the fact that we never rehearse, we don’t even have to be in the same place at the same time to record. We started without songs and now they are so-called songs. But we don’t plan do ever do them again. The entire premise is very casual. It could fall apart in the blink of an eye.
Margaret Explosion – Rough mix of BigBassBounce
February 26th, 2017
Margaret Explosion returns to the Little Theater Café for the month of March. But because it is not a leap year our first performance will be on Tuesday, February 28 and the we’ll slide back into our regular Wednesday night slot for the next four Wednesdays. This Tuesday date also happens to be Fat Tuesday, last chance to party down before giving up candy for Lent. Actually, the real reason for the Tuesday gig is the opportunity to perform on the same bill as Jim Mott and Liz Durand. Their month-long art show closes in the coming days and the two artists will present artist’s talks between sets.
Jim is showing 24 paintings from his 2010 Rochester Tour plus along with some of his downtown canvases and Liz has some beautiful recent prints. I’ve talked about Jim’s Itinerant Artist Series before. One of of his stops was in our home where he did the painting above. There are usually four chairs there but Jim was using one for a table for his paints as he stood in our yard painting this picture. There are two or three other paintings that he did here in this show.
Jim Mott, Liz Durand, Margaret Explosion Artist Talk/Performance. Tuesday, February 28th at the Little Theatre Café. 7-9pm. Admission is free.
February 24th, 2017
We took the long route up to Wegman’s by walking east over to Sea Breeze Drive, up to “the Ridge” and then cutting through Aman’s Farm Market. As we crossed Dawes Road I spotted this small sticker for a band called the janitors, a no-so-funny name for a band in a neighborhood so close to a high school. I’ve been stockpiling images for Funky Sign site so I snapped a picture of the sign. It probably won’t make the grade but I thought that it was interesting that someone would stand on something (or someone) to put a sticker on a street sign for a tiny street off a dead-end road. Was it a local band?
When I got back I did a little research on The Janitors. I found a website for a party band in Norfolk Virginia that proclaimed “We are proud to announce that THE JANITORS have been rated by local brides and voted The Knot’s Best of Weddings 2010 Pick.” And then there was another band with name hailing from Stockholm, Sweden. They have an EP on the “Your ears have been bad and need to be punished”label entitled “Evil Doings Of An Evil Kind.” Judging by the size of the sticker I’m going with the local and option.
February 23rd, 2017
Does every city have a Mushroom House? I don’t think so. We had an opportunity to see this up close when we walked in Powder Mills Park.
Dave, the tree surgeon who attends to a lot of trees in our area, came down with lime disease. He lost a lot of weight and doesn’t look good. Our neighbor, Sue, went out to feed the birds and and came back in the house with two ticks on her arm. With temps in the sixties the damn things are awake early and hungry for blood. She told us this news as we cut through her property on our way into the undeveloped part of the park. We already had our tick-guard hoodies on and our pants tucked were in our socks so we were partially prepared.
And now for something more urbane. “I’m Not Your Negro” is a powerful, thought provoking film. We tried to see it last week and it was sold out. We bought our tickets online for last night’s showing and found the theater sold out again. We sat in the only empty seats, a couple in the very front of the theater and the movie really packed a wallop.
February 22nd, 2017
My father was always talking about skunk cabbage, something he found in the woods near the end of winter, an optimistic sign of Spring. We had seen his pictures. The stuff is exotic and sculptural, something like Georgia O’Keeffe meets Henry Moore, and startling as it pokes its way through the snow. We walk in the woods most days and we have never seen any skunk cabbage. That is until yesterday.
We stopped to visit my mom and and continued east out to Powder Mills Park. In high school I worked at my uncle’s grocery store, right next door to Uncle John’s Pancake House, and most of the other guys went to East Rochester. We would go out to Powder Mills after work and drink beer and that’s the last time I was there. It’s a happening park. The fish hatchery is teeming with Brown Trout and Salmon. The ski hill was covered in man-made snow and the hiking trails run in all directions. We took three or four and found an area of rich, fertile soil at the bottom of a steep slope and near a marsh that was so thick with skunk cabbage that we kept stepping on them.
The weather has been so crazy warm we wondered if this might be especially early for a sighting but I looked back at my father’s iPhoto library and he usually found it in early March, some in early April but in 2006 he found some on February 19th on a slope in Ellison Park.
February 21st, 2017
Kahil El’Zabar has probably been here ten times or so and we have never missed a performance. He plays with his Ritual Trio and the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble and both those groups have had many different lineups. All of the players have been stellar.
He has been here with violinist Billy Bang and saxophonist David Murray from the World Saxophone Quartet a couple of times. On Sunday night he played with trumpet player Corey Wilkes, the guy who filled Roscoe Mitchell’s shoes in the Art Ensemble of Chicago. In fact, Kahil wrote “Great Black Music” for the Ensemble and when he introduced the song he said, “these guys can play the shit out of it. Ernest Khabeer Dawkins played baritone sax and he made it look like a toy.
Kahil has great respect for the music and communication power of his ancestors and he shares that spirit with you like you were a welcome member of the congregation. The next time he is here “I will see you in church.” My grandfather used to say that but I never saw him in church.
February 20th, 2017
Saturday night’s opening for Meleko Mokgosi’s installation of large paintings from his Pax Kaffraria series was a happening affair. His knockout paintings tell the complicated story of Colonial Africa. I’m hoping his artist’s talk at 7 p.m. on Thursday February 23 will tie the pieces together and I’m looking forward to revisiting the show without the people.
The bands for the opening were great – the young Julian Garvue trio in the Atrium and the professional funk band Shine in the auditorium.
There are always plenty of reasons to visit the MAG but this is an especially good time. Robert Rauschenberg’s silkscreen prints from his “Making History” series are on display in the Lockhart Gallery. Sandra Gibson and Luis Recoder’s installation/sculpture/mechanical performance piece, “Light Spill,” is on view in the Media Arts gallery. It is in its active state for 60 seconds every 30 minutes on the 1/2 hour. And the Brown Hound Bistro is serving the best green salad we’ve had in a long time.