We were maybe an hour and a half out of the city headed toward Grand Central on a Metro North train making last minute plans to hook up with Duane when he got out of work. He had some shopping to do in the East Village so he suggested meeting down there. It occurred to me that we would be in Greg Highlen’s neighborhood so I emailed Greg (he and we are some of the only people I know without a cellphone) and he said he could meet us in Washington Square Park. I was able to text Duane back minutes before we went underground and magically all three parties found each other near the fountain under the arch in the park.
It was a gorgeous day, sunny and cool, like one of those trippy Spring afternoons in Dunn Meadow on IU’s campus. Duane and Greg had never met but hit it off and between their conversations Peggi and I talked Bloomington ’69 – ’72, the years we hung together.
When I first met Greg he was an art major living not in a dorm but in his studio in one of the Fine Arts buildings. He talked of the trailer as a creative hub and despite downsizing his art collection has hung on to a copy of Rich Stim’s “Trailer Tails.” By chance we ran into Greg in the Village in the early eighties but hadn’t seen him since. Now he’s on top of the art world, living in the same fifth floor studio apartment for the last thirty eight years.
Before we met in the park I joked that we looked exactly the same. We didn’t but we sure acted the same.
I like how the word “Lake” comes before the name of the lake in Great Lakes naming conventions. I’m guessing this is a Native American custom but then that doesn’t add up when you think about how the Finger Lakes are named.
We crossed into New York State at Niagra’s Fort Lewiston Bridge and took the northern most route, 18, the “Seaway Trail,” back to Rochester. Mostly orchards, cobblestone houses and dairy farms sometimes right on the lake, it is a beautiful drive.
Olcot, an old resort town, park on the square and funky summer cottages, is especially dreamy. We sat at a picnic table overlooking the lake and watched a screen door on a bed and breakfast blow open and then slowly blow closed over and over. Like a mantra.
The Great Lakes are also great obstacles. As the crow flies Toronto is not that far from us but driving around Lake Ontario takes a few hours. To get to Detroit we drove around the bottom of Lake Erie. To get back we took the northerly route across Canada where we went out of our way to stop at an IKEA in Hamilton.
We didn’t really need anything but would have looked at something to replace our twenty five year old futon and we wanted to find a new entry way throw rug. The one we have is so old and frayed it has become a tripping hazard.
We had never been to an IKEA and we were pretty excited as we rounded the corner and spotted the sign. The giant parking lot was empty like they had gone out off business. It was really eerie. I typed the date and word Canada in Google and learned it was Victoria Day.
The fawn in our backyard this morning was no bigger than our cat but its legs were a lot longer. I had to wake Peggi up to catch this sight before it ran away. Just as I did we spotted a fox cross our backyard. I don’t know if they bother the deer but this one just kept moving. We watched as the fawn’s mother came from behind our bedroom and proceeded to groom her offspring. The little thing was trying to nurse while it was getting licked by mom and in about five minutes they were gone. All quite extraordinary.
It had me thinking of the fertility section in Diego Rivera’s mural that we had just visited at the Detroit Institute of the Arts. When we were there it seemed completely incongruous with the manly laborers and machinery but the baby in the womb was the image that stuck with me. Even after watching this woman prance around, taking selfies while wearing a mask.
We just visited a friend, in the hospital at the end of his life, and a scene like the one we witnessed this morning certainly helps right the ship.
There has been so much written about Detroit’s hope for recovery and it seems every article covers exactly the same territory. We brought the recent National Geographic story with us and Peggi read it aloud as I drove. There are people farming on empty lots in the middle of the city. We got really caught up in it all. In Motown everyone roots for the home team. A bum who passed us on the street this morning broke the news that the Tigers had won all three games in Saint Louis. “All three,” he said, holding up three fingers.
We spent most of the day at the Detroit Institute of the Arts where they are featuring a special exhibit of Diego and Frida in Detroit. Edsel Ford, the CEO of Ford Motor Company put up the money, a quarter of a million dollars in today’s currency, to hire Rivera, an avowed Communist, to paint a mural of the story of Detroit on the walls of the museum. Rivera considered it his best work. Frida came along with him and did some of most sensational paintings here. The show is drenched with cultural and political significance.
When the city went bankrupt the Institute considered selling its assets. Who knows what would have happened to the mural. A Rodin “Thinker” sits outside the museum. They have some choice Cezanne’s, portraits, a Madame Cezanne, a landscape, a famous bathers painting the skulls. Choice Van Goghs and Rembrandts. “Detroit Walk in Portrait Studio” by Corine Vermeulen was in its last day and I’m so happy we caught this show. Her portraits perfectly capture essence of this city, the people. Here’s a link to some of the photos in the show.
Downtown Detroit looks like a war zone but there is so much optimism in the air you just know they are if not over the hump at least on top of it. We are staying in a hotel at the very beginning of Woodward Avenue, the street that runs north from the center of the city past Eminem’s “8 Mile” and all the way out to 12 Mile where we planned to hook up with Peggi’s high school buddies.
The few restaurants that are down here are packed. There was an hour and half wait at the first one we stopped at. And a restaurant named “Hudson”that we stopped at for breakfast was so crowded we ordered coffee to go. There’s a Hard Rock Cafe here and a creepy, high end, rock’ roll gear, chain store called “John Varvatos.” “Vintage guitars, Records & Audio. Tailor on Premise.” We looked at the rock’ roll coffee table books but had hard a very hard time with the clothes.
We found the Juventus vs Real Madrid game from last week on the tube in our room. I knew was a 1-1 tie but it was still thrilling. There’s a dance club across the street from our hotel so we’re lucky the heating system sounds like a white noise generator. We Watched a guy on a bicycle stop and pick up cigarette butts left in front of the club in the morning
Shephard Farley’s doing a huge mural around the corner at the Martius building, formerly the Compuserve headquarters. We headed over there to watch but he wasn’t up yet.
There is the canopy above the woods that has almost filled out and then there is the canopy of Mayapples at your knees. I got down on my kness to take this shot of the beautiful Mayapple blossom in Edmunds Woods. I’ve been there three times this Spring with my father to follow the rapid changes. Mayapples grow in colonies derived from a single root and only the ones with two shoots produce a flower.
I like the production values on this. Ken Colombo was sitting a few tables back from the band holding his phone in the air. I like the sound too and and it’s not an Apple product. This was our second song last Wednesday. The place was just starting to fill up, Jack was NYC, and the rest of the band was getting down to business.
We’ve had a rattle under our car for quite a while so I decided to take it in today. I called Lee at B&B on Saint Paul and he said to bring it in. This meant two bike rides, one back home while they looked at the car and one to the place to pick the car up. It was a beautiful day for both. The car needed front and rear sway bar links. Pothole damage.
In between the rides we planted two rows each of spinach, lettuce and beets. Our neighbor is already harvesting his lettuce. He had it in at the end of April. Our little seedlings were in our living room.
I see this bathtub virgin all the time. She is out near the road on Bouckart Street in Irondequoit. It is kind of a secret street, a straight shot form the 7-Eleven on Titus Avenue to Ridge Road, no stop signs. I keep thinking we’ll interrupt a drag race or something when we take it. We take this route to my parents and Peggi takes it to “the club” (LA Fitness). She looked especially good next to the dark lilacs.
At ninety Kurt Feuerherm is a well seasoned artist. His work is in the permanent collection of MoMA, Albright Knox and the MAG. He was my Fine Arts mentor at SUNY Empire State and he received an award from the college tonight in a ceremony at Cutler Union. They asked some former students to show a few pieces along with Kurt’s work so contributed three of my crime faces. A jazz duo performed and they served drinks and finger.
It was my first alumni event. I usually ignore the junk mail from the school. They may have even taken me off the list. I’ve never shown my degree to anyone, never even had the opportunity to put it on a job application since I mostly worked for myself. I dropped out of school after a year, picked up some credits for Creative Workshop classes, took a couple of fantastic photo classes at the UofR, got some credit for commercial art jobs and then worked with Kurt. In ten years time I cobbled together an art degree.
Kurt helped me a lot. I was doing something close to cartoons with flat color when I first met him. He got me abstracting my subject matter and working at a larger scale. He sent to the library with a list of contemporary artists who were working in a similar vein. He opened my eyes to a bigger picture. He was very helpful and I’d like to thank him.
Even Spring can bring you down. The ramps are turning yellow and the Trilliums are fading fast. Life is too short. But it is only those left behind who complain. Plants go with hope for renewal. People are gone for good.
Some people give so much they leave a hole when they’re gone. It is up to us to fill it.
Here’s a song from last week’s Margaret Explosion show. Peggi nods briefly to the old Drifter’s song. The cover is a photo of a recent Richard Serra drawing. We have three more Wednesday night performances at the Little Café and then we’re off for the summer.
I’ve never seen the owners of this house but I’m guessing they are of Italian descent. Italians like to shape, stunt and generally torture trees to get them to look like lollipops or poodles tales. This is just my lopsided observation based on living in Rochester for most of my life. Friends, people on my old paper route, the old Italian neighborhoods, you start connecting the dots. Maybe it is their old world connection with fruit trees, a desire to maximize fruit production in a lot in a small space, like a small city lot.
Philip Guston fell in love with the tall, narrow Cypress trees and round ornamental trees in the parks in Rome while he was there on a teaching stint. It is a beautiful custom. You’ll have to the click the photo above to see the tree behind that little pink bike.
We were listening to Tom Petty’s “American Girl” as we stood in line to buy Flash tickets over the weekend. The song sounded great but once we got in the stadium it turned out to be a cover band. Every song they did sounded as good as the original. So you have to wonder why. Why not just play the recording? I’d much rather hear Angel Corpus Christi’s dreamy Tom Petty covers.
We went up to Olmstead’s Highland Park tonight where the Psychedelic Furs were were playing for free at the Lilac Festival. The guys, the Butler brothers, were covering themselves. They sounded exactly like they did thirty years ago, same songs, nothing new. Kind of an odd experience.
Flickr and Tumblr dropped a vowel and their name got so much cooler. I’ve dropped two in PopWars for this post. I back up all my photos to Flickr. They give you a terabyte of space for free and I’ve been using their slideshow embed code on my home page for years but it never worked on the phone or tablet. You’d think they would be hip to all that stuff. I found this little “Flickrit” java script page that lets you link to a Flckr set and create slideshows at fixed or responsive sizes and I stuck iframe in up above. It stops at 100 photos but it even works on my first generation Touch.
Google’s new policy of ignoring sites that aren’t mobile friendly has tearing apart all sorts of stuff. I hardly get anything done anymore. I feel like I’m going backwards. If don’t have anything better to do for a few days drop a url in here and see what I’m talking about. Even my Tumblr signs page flunked. “Text too small to read.” “Links too close together.” “Mobile viewport not set.” Anything Else?
My Google custom search at the top of the site is not even mobile friendly. Everything needs reworking. I have all these web pages open now and will probably not come up for air for awhile.
Someone came up to me during the break last night. I was still seated at my drums when he asked if I was Paul. He told me I painted a picture of him and I knew right away who he was. He was one of the six basketball players that I had hanging at the Little a few months back. He is shown on the left in the detail above. People kept asking if I knew any of those guys and I just shook my head but here was the one that many had speculated was the captain of the six member team.
He told me he saw the article in the paper, the one where I said I painted these guys from a 1957 high school yearbook I found because the team looked so hapless. He said he was only a sophomore when that picture was taken. Two of the six are dead, the guys in the middle of both rows. One went on to work for the Green Bay Packers and this guy said he was the quarterback for the UofR. And the guy with one eye closed was not winking, he wasn’t injured on the court with an elbow or anything. His eye just didn’t work.
These guys all graduated over fifty years ago and I never imagined I would meet any of them. It was kind of strange. I hope I don’t run into any of the wanted guys I’ve painted.
Can’t figure out why there were so many people in the park and on the beach today. Is school out already or is it some sort of holiday? We rode our bikes along the beach and stopped at Johnson Pond to see if we could see any of the turtles that my father saw down here. He sent us a photo with twenty fairly good sized turtles sunning themselves on a log. We found ten or so on a log along the lake side of the pond. I only have a three times zoom on my camera so my shots are not as dramatic. Spring usually means rain but it has been nothing but blue sky around here for weeks.
We picked our wild ramps responsibly, cut them at their base and left the bulbs in the woods. Made a nice green salad with them and added some grapes, halved, the way they used to do it at Peggi’s mom’s place.
The back room at Tapas 177 was the perfect spot for Maureen Outlaw’s opening last night. Dawn Carmel was pouring wine samples, the kitchen kept the tapas plates full, the conversation was crisp and Maureen’s paintings looked fantastic. The familiar scenes she paints, the bend in the Genesee River, the curve in the road through Durand, look anything but ordinary with Maureen’s luscious paint handling.
When I picked my dad up for his doctor’s appointment this morning he had his knapsack with him so I kind of figured he had something in mind after the appointment. Sure enough we stopped by Edmunds Woods where I took the photo above. As you can see, the trees are all filling in and the bounty of wildflowers below is closing shop.
Here’s a song from last week’s Margaret Explosion show. We have a bunch of new songs in the slow cooker tonight so stop on out if you’re in the area.
Last night Watkins & the Rapiers pulled out all the stops as they recreated the 1958 Grammys Show at the Little Theater. With special guests including Stan Merrell (Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu “Volaré”) and Shawn the Café manager, the usual guests, Connie Deming (Peggy Lee’s “Fever”) and Richard Storms (Frank Sinatra’s “Old Black Magic”) and sensational performances by the band as they covered some rich musical territory. Shawn brought the house down with his version of Frank’s “Come Fly With Me.” I have never heard an ovation like that for any other performance here.
Watkins goes for it on a weekly basis. There is always a theme, costumes or new songs, sometimes whole new lyrics to someone else’s songs. The six piece band is made up of unlikely but full-fledged entertainers. They have a die-hard contingent of fans in the front half of the room and usually pack the house. You won’t find more ear to ear smiles at any other venue.
About seventy five of us were seated in a warm room on an eighty degree day, all chairs facing toward a big screen tv. “Called to Serve” featured Sandra Day O’Conner, John Roberts and Samuel Alito extolling the virtues of our trial by jury system. Former jurors talked about their experience. Everyone looked especially large because the video had been stretched from its 4×3 original format to 16×9. The guy sitting next to me was all decked out in Harley Davidson gear and holding onto a hardback copy of Ace Frehley’s autobiography, “No Regrets.” I spotted only a handful of African Americans in the crowd.
When the video ended we were led into the courtroom where we watched some people shuffle papers for about twenty minutes. The judge came in, apologized for the delay and briefly explained the case. Three cops, who were seated directly in front of me, were accused of using excessive force when they arrested this guy in 2007 for some sort of domestic issue. The guy, sitting alone at a big table with a box of papers, was wearing a green jump suit and currently serving a prison term on an unrelated charge. We were told that was of no concern to us.
They called sixteen names, mine included, and we were seated in the jury box. I think they were working their way toward seating only eight jurors. The judge asked each of us many questions based on the forms we had filled out. Would we be available for the next few weeks? I said I might have some conflicts but would try to move them. He asked what I did when I worked for the police department in the seventies. I told him I pulled mugshots and made flyers for about a year until the grant for my graphic arts position ran out.
A woman who said she was breaking out in hives was let go. A man who said his fourth ammendment rights were violated when he went through the metal detector downstairs was let go but I made the cut up to the break. The jury box faced a wood paneled wall with a big built-in clock. It read five to noon and I believed it until I saw smaller clock below it. It was still only ten o’clock. Despite the extensive downtime, relatively few people brought reading material and of course phones were confiscated at the door. The woman sitting next to me in the jury box was reading “Ghostbread.” I told her I loved the book and she said, “I’m reading it for the second time.”
Next came a round of personal questions from the judge. What do you do for a living, are you married, what are you hobbies? About half had no hobbies at all. One guy answered, “I enjoy not working.” That got a good laugh. Most people answered all the questions enthusiastically. I got the sense they really wanted to be on this jury for the next three or four weeks. I can’t say I was looking forward to being trapped in the Federal Building for the next month hearing this sad case.
The two defense attorneys and the prisoner approached the bench for a round of whispering and when they returned the judge told me I was excused. I rode my bike down Main Street and out Joseph Avenue, scene of the 1964 race riots and then the Urban Renewal blight. I was feeling a bit guilty about not making the good citizen grade.