Reading Gumbo

August 19th, 2014

Zucchini pizzas as prepared by Pete LaBonne

Some people only know Pete and Shelley for their dandelion wine. It is superb and only seems to get better every year. The yield is small but the reputation is huge. It richly deserves the smiley face on the label.

We know Pete to be a fabulous chef. Gumbo, fried chive flowers, vegetable stews and zucchini pizzas (sliced zucchini dredged in flour and then beaten egg, fried on top of sliced garlic and flipped to keep the garlic on top, topped with a tomato sauce and small pieces of pepperoni, green olives and cheese.) The fresh from the garden green beans on toast for breakfast, the lobster mushrooms from the woods and stew we had for dinner were all sensational but the chicken mushrooms and beet greens we had for breakfast were out of this world.

We also came home with a suggested reading list: Flannery O’Conner’s Collected Works “Wise Blood,” “A Good Man is Zhard to Find,” “The Violent Bear It Away,” “Everything That Rises Must Converge,” “Essays and Letters.” James Tiptree Jr.’s “Her Smoke Rose Up Forever,”and “The Soul Is Not A Smithy” from David Foster Wallace collection “Oblivian” and Mark Twain’s “Joan of Arc.”

Everybody, Clap Your Hands

August 18th, 2014

Rochester Red Wings 2014

I used to like baseball a lot. I played it. I collected the cards. My favorite team was the Milwaukee Braves. This was all a long time ago. Fred Costello is still grinding the organ but everything has changed. Gone are the Knot Hole afternoon games when you could get out of school to see the game. Gone is the game itself.

The Red Wings had a good crowd tonight, eight or nine thousand, but no more than a handful were watching the game. The whole world has moved on. The management provides distractions between every inning because no one is watching the game. And that may actually be backwards. No one is watching the game because the management is bent on providing distractions. The guys that used to sell popcorn, peanuts and beer can’t even compete with the concessions stands. We watched people walk up and down the aisles with piles of food, ice cream sundaes and 25 ounce beers for the whole game. It was all rather startling to an old timer. There was a game here but nobody gave a shit.

There is no hole in the home rum fence waiting for a ball that would give the hitter a brand new car like there was on Norton Street. The outfield is an LED overload. They blast snippets of the Violent Femmes, the Ramones and Queen. If they played more than forty five seconds they would have to pay royalties. If this was a soccer game you couldn’t take your eyes off the game. Maybe that is the whole point.


August 17th, 2014

Lichen and moss on  on stump in the Adirondacks

It is possible to travel in New York State without taking the Thruway or major interstates. We took 104 west to 370 to 31 through Baldwinsville and across the bottom of Onieda Lake to Verona and on to 365 along the top of the Hinkley Reservoir onto Route 8 into the Adidondack Park where we eventually followed Route 9 along Loon Lake, Schroon Lake and our destination near Paradox Lake. This area is a dead zone which hardly matters to our hosts, who choose to live off the grid.

Here we talk, tell stories, take long walks in the woods and stay up way too late. Just five hours away (with the above route and multiple stops for photos) the plants and wildflowers, the lichen, moss and mushrooms are all different, not better, just different. It is so beautiful. We are so lucky.

End Of The Earth

August 15th, 2014

Rusty guard rail in Rochester, New York

We been sifting through Margaret Explosion songs this summer trying to cull a cd’s worth from a batch of starred live songs. There are a hundred songs in the folder, almost too many to listen to but we have been giving it a go.

Even though we’ve put songs online, for free, for years people still want to buy cds. Maybe it’s our demographic, maybe it’s just part of seeing a band, dropping some cash in the tip jar and taking something home. Peggi and I checked the dates on our products and we seem to be putting something out every five years or so, a modest pace. This one’s been on the site for a few months. Do you think anyone would buy it?

Margaret Explosion - Fisterra
Margaret Explosion – Fisterra

Go Red

August 14th, 2014

Red pick up truck near the Public Market in Rochester, New York

We felt a little guilty watching the Flash play their last match of the season on ESPN2 last night. We could easily have been downtown watching the game in person but it was a real treat to see our favorite players up close. And the Flash Mob drum section sounded especially good on tv.

The Flash lost but it was a good match with the lead changing hands a few times before it was over. All three of the Spanish Flash players were on the pitch at the same time with Adriana scoring on a cross from Wambach and Sonia Bermúdez putting a wild long shot in the upper right corner. Brittany Taylor, Zerboni Samantha Kerr were all in top form and it is always great to see Jasmine Spencer come on late in the match. I hope they’re all back next year.

A Walk In The Park

August 13th, 2014

25 ounce Budweiser can, golf balls and drug bags found near Durand Eastman Park in Rochester, New York

Admittedly, the pickins are slim out here. I filled whole scrapbooks with the stuff we found on walks in the city. I don’t expect to find junk in the woods and I’m happy not to but when we cut through the park little things, like golf balls and drug bags catch my eye.

I’ll have to check my records but it seems when we first started bringing home the Budweiser cans, that we always find in the same spot, they were 22 ounce cans. The one we brought home today is a 25 ouncer.

That’s My Mom

August 13th, 2014

Mickalene Thomas photo of her mom at George Eastman House in Rochester, New York

Near the end of Mickalene Thomas’s short film, “Happy Birthday to a Beautiful Woman,” her mom, a former fashion model, tells Mickalene, “You have made me the model of the art world.”

The piece, mostly the artist interviewing her mom (her muse), packs a wallop. It is a loving tribute, a moving story with fame, abuse, drugs, forgiveness and then an illness that takes her mom’s life. You have until October 19 to see this show at the George Eastman House. And just look at the funky furniture you get to sit in while you take it all in.

Upon The My Oh My

August 11th, 2014

Tuggy boat in Rochester, New York

This little plastic boat was out near the curb on a dead end street in that neighborhood of funky homes along the west side of the bay. Some of the houses remind me of the ones in Bloomington where Peggi and I went to school and more importantly, met. It was hard to tell if the owners of the boat were discarding it or just loose with the “pick up your toys” routine. If we weren’t on our bikes I would have been thinking about taking it home. And then down to Irondequoit Bay.

Summer Gallery Hours

August 10th, 2014

Paul Dodd "Model From Crime Page" charcoal on paper 2014

Singapore artist, Stephen Black, arranged an art show for the two of us in Brooklyn this summer. My bio was updated and a poster was created, modified and approved. we corresponded back and forth on the details. I mounted fifteen drawings under glass in frames, the same frames I had used in the recent I-Square show. Peggi and I were planing to play at the opening and we were going to stay nearby with Duane. About a month before the show Steve told us he was not able to get to the states.

I’m fine with this. It’s tough going anywhere when it is so nice out. The only bummer is that we won’t see Steve.

Closed Sunday

August 10th, 2014

Custom Pea Shelling sign near Seneca Lake in the Finger Lakes Region

Here we were on Route 414, just south of Lodi between Seneca and Cayuga Lakes, with a carload full of pea pods.

Going Clear

August 9th, 2014

Monarch Butterfly Chrysalis

According to our neighbor, Jared, his wife is suffering from postpartum depression after releasing the Monarch butterfly she had nurtured from the caterpillar stage. For years my mother-in-law gave us a subscription to National Geographic. We have a whole yellow spine shelf and I really should know the Monarch story. Maybe it just has to be real for me to learn. I thought they migrated from Mexico to Canada and back and they do as a group but individually they don’t live long long enough to make the journey. They go through three or four life cycles on the way.

Milkweeds are key to the butterflies existence. They lay their eggs on the blossom. The caterpillars eat the milkweed leaves and the crawl inside themselves to create a chrysalis which eventually turns transparent before the Monarch emerges. It is all rather mind-blowing.

State Of The City

August 7th, 2014

Art installation in Wegman's parking lot on East Ridge Road in Rochester, New York

This art installation stopped us dead in our tracks. The unlikely setting a Wegmans parking lot. The tipped over shopping carts and the yellow caution tape surrounding the bent pole were all rather alarming. Was this a crime scene being preserved? We asked one of the orange-suited “helping Hands” and he told us a guy was doing about fifty in the parking lot and he slammed into the Handicapped sign.


August 6th, 2014

Yellow Amanita Muscaria in Durand Eastman Park

With a little bit to a lot of rain everyday we have perfect mushroom growing conditions. Our walk in the woods last evening was interrupted by samples of several species. I think we finally spotted the Chanterelles that we were looking for last week. We were told they grow near the Coral mushrooms and that’s right where we found them. They are supposed to be delicious.

We spotted the one above in a clearing and took this shot with a flash. I sent it to my father and he identified it from one of his many resource books as a Yellow Amanita Muscaria. It’s poisonous but it has some serious Psychoactive properties. There is so much mushroom lore to sift through. I found this description on “Used correctly, it is pleasurable at its worst and limitlessly creative, intensely ecstatic, universally beneficial and incredibly healing at its best! You’ll probably puke all over the place, so be prepared!” And this from “the experience I was having was a simulation of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion. I understood that I had to keep pounding these nails out of an invisible cross which I was nailed to. I would be free once the task was completed.”

We buy our mushrooms at Wegmans.

De Kooning, Bacon and Gorky

August 5th, 2014

Jim Thomas studio in Rochester,New York

Every time we see Jim and Gail Thomas, at art openings or Little Theater gigs, we talk about getting together. We bought one of Jim’s pieces, a near life-size figurative charcoal drawing, at Gallery 15, which at the time (2001) was the best gallery in the city. Jim and Gail ran the place and had one memorable show after the other of local art stars’ work. We moved to a new home/studio around the same time they were building a new home/studio and we would compare notes when we met. It is easy to get Jim going when you talk art. And is there really any better topic? He taught at RIT for 31 years and knows his stuff. Jim has a keen eye and has bought some beautiful pieces of work from others.

From light sculptures to big oil paintings and pastel still life abstractions, Jim’s work is always derived from the figure. He says he is influenced by De Kooning, Bacon and Gorky. That is enough to chew on. It was such a pleasure to see their place and talk over lunch. Jim plays tuba in the New Horizons Band and has work at the R Gallery in their current group show.

Unlocking The Truth

August 4th, 2014

Our Lady of The Driveway on Titus Avenue, Rochester, New York

The next generation is secured.

Sound Sculpture

August 2nd, 2014

Nathan Lyons outside Spectrum Gallery in Rochester, New York

Summer First Fridays in Rochester, like art scenes everywhere this time of year, are low gear affairs. The warm nights are more suited to watching low riders than stretching your mind. We started with that fantastic, red lentil, sweet potato dish at Good Luck. A monster thunderstorm rolled in and out before we finished. Fela Kuti was playing on the sound system in the bathroom. If this is what the kitchen staff are running on, that would explain why the food is so good.

So attendance was down at the galleries but that is not necessarily a bad thing. We were able to engage with the artists at every stop.

Nathan Lyons steals the show over at Spectrum Gallery with his color photos. If you are able to call up his images you’ll note they are usually black and white. At first encounter you read the photos literally. Funny signs, odd situations and crazy juxtapositions of elements that define our time. All are important elements but the compositions are painterly strokes of brilliance.

Jim Thomas had a mini retrospective next door at r Gallery, everything from his light sculptures to charcoal figure studies and abstracted stones in oil pastel. The exhibition featured the work of friends and colleagues associated with RIT so Judd Williams and Bill Kaiser were featured as well. We chatted with Scott McCarney and Bo Poulin and headed over to RoCo for their annual State of the City show. Bleu appointed Peggi and me as this month’s “First Friday Fanatics.” I tried to refuse but the honor comes with a gift certificate to Victoire so we reconsidered. We really liked this show. A video performance group captures the outsider/insider take on Detroit. You can walk under a wild assortment of objects found on the streets of Manhattan by Laura Quattrocchi and then marvel at Ron Klein’s beautiful wall installation of both natural and man-made found objects. It is something you’ll have to immerse yourself in before the summer is over.

We parked over on Scio Street and on the wall to the car we heard indestinguishable music bouncing off the downtown buildings. It was either coming from the Puerto Rican Festival or the outdoor Donna the Buffalo concert. It was so abstract it sounded like one of Eno’s soundtracks or perhaps a sound sculpture for First Friday.

Johnny Harmonica

August 1st, 2014

Redwood tree trunk in Durand Eastman Park

An older man who lives about a block away was out near the road when we peddled by on our bikes. He had an armload of sticks that had fallen in the rain. (We had four inches according to Jared’s rainometer.) He asked if we needed any sticks, a question meant to be funny, but one we both considered. We collect our own sticks and keep em in barrels. We use them as kindling to get fires in our wood stove going in the winter months. He asked, “What are your names again?” as if we had been introduced but we have only waved to one another over the years.

He told us his name was John and some people call him “Johnny Harmonica” because he plays the instrument in a band. In fact they had a gig that afternoon at Saint Ann’s Home. He said he doesn’t do his own lawn anymore, hadn’t mowed it himself in five years, and the service he has charges him extra if they have to pick up sticks. Johnny said his lawn is mostly weed grass now and he doesn’t care. He’s ninety-four and says, “I used to fuss with it but it’s green and that’s all that matters now.” He said he is never sure whether he has even eaten breakfast so he checks the sink and if he finds dirty dishes in there he knows he has eaten.

We told him we played instruments too and his eyes lit up when Peggi told him she played the sax. He said he played in a big band, one with a sax and violin player, and he uses a pickup so he can be heard.


July 29th, 2014

Our garden in late July 2014

In a desperate attempt to slow summer down we have taken to watching our garden grow.

Our tomatoes are almost as tall as I am. We have two types of lettuce, both at full tilt and we cannot possibly keep up with it. We put some in our greens and beans last night. When our spinach got out of hand we started making green shakes with it so that’s next. Our swiss chard is ready as well and we’ve been picking the leeks prematurely to spice up our salads. Some sort of blight has hit our jalapeño pepper plants or maybe it is just because we planted them in the same spot as last year. Our neighbor, Jared, who grew up on a farm, supports that second theory. We’re eating purple basil as fast as we can. Pesto is next. The eggplants have the prettiest purple flowers with a yellow center and and some of the fruit is already as big as a California avocado. Our beets got a late start and are still only a few inches tall.

We’ll be here awhile.

Arrogant Artist

July 27th, 2014

Crucifixion  painting and trompe-l'oeil "cave" ceiling in Quonset Hut on Culver Road in Rochester, New York

The Irondequoit Art Trail, mostly artist’s home studios, is a spaced out affair. Irondequoit itself is pretty spaced out, stretching from Empire Boulevard at the bottom of the bay to neighborhoods that back up to the river off Saint Paul which runs all the way up to the lake and then across the lakeshore to Sea Breeze. We started out following a pdf that we downloaded and picked up a map at I-Square Gallery but one of the artists had another map with small graphic samples of each of the artists on the trail so we switched to that. They were all slightly different and it is hard to connect the dots.

Three stops stood out. Craig Wilson’s studio on Saint Paul was one. He had just set up a tent that he planned on using at the Clothesline Show. Instead of just admiring his metal sculpted fish we entertained various methods of hanging the hefty works and we considered the advantages of the grey or white mesh backgrounds. And Craig recommended a car mechanic for us before we left. Ours has just retired.

This guy named Beaty had all his paintings out in his driveway. He told us he wasn’t a very good art student so just copied paintings out of books and we could see the evidence as we sifted through stacks of Cezanne’s, Picasso’s and Van Gogh’s.

Two houses on Lake Bluff Road (it looks exactly like it sounds) showed watercolors that paled in comparison to the view out their windows but a nearby stop at a Quonset Hut on Culver had no windows at all to compete with the work of John Leonard. He told us he is a roofer and he just bought the place because his house was full and he planned to name it, “The Artist’s Cave” and added, “the tagline will be, “Not So Fine Art.” He was painting the ceiling to look like a cave and his work was everywhere, all sorts of styles in all mediums. Some of it was very good like his self portrait called, “The Arrogant Artist.”

O’Reilly Factor

July 26th, 2014

McCall Zerboni, Carly Lloyd and Heather O'Rielly at Boston Breaker/WNY Flash game in Rochester, New York

I could not figure out what was wrong with the Flash last night. Claire Regan asked me as much while we were sitting with her. I didn’t understand why Adriana wasn’t starting in the midfield. She is a real workhorse. Zerboni, who is usually dominant in the center, was off her game and Carly Llyod was not much of a factor so the middle just fell apart. Boston, the last place team in the league, scored four goals to the Flash’s two. Abby was still sidelined from the injury we saw a few months back but we have hardly missed her. Samantha and Jasmine are fun to watch as they fill in down front.

Maybe I jinxed the team by cheering for my favorite player on the US national team, Boston’s Heather O’Reilly. She had two goals and two assists. This was a must win if the Flash wanted to go to the playoffs so this will probably be my last WNY Flash post this year. In the meantime, I wish the City could find some way to promote the Flash. There are only eight NWSL teams in the country and this one is really a jewel.