It was very hard to watch Spain lose their EuroCup match this afternoon. The only thing that made it palatable was the amazing energy the young Croatian team played with. Spain’s skillful, studied, possession game was no match for youthful enthusiasm and it felt good to be reminded of the wondrousness of this most magical resource. Back on our side of the pond we are bracing ourselves for the US/Argentina Copa América semi-final.
First day of summer here was hot. We spent most of the afternoon down at the pool and I jumped in again in the evening for good measure. Our road is being repaved so no mail and we’re hoofing it over to the next street where we parked our car. The woods was hot too. We came across a few deer who couldn’t be bothered to get up. And there was some sort of crow scuffle going on above us. We stopped to listen because the screaming was so intense. There were at least three crows harassing another bird, one with a wholly different call for help. Not sure what that was all about.
The trees are all dropping seeds and buds and cotton-like stuff. The small lakes and ponds in the park are covered with pea soup. We watched a snapping turtle, maybe a foot and half in diameter, slowly swim by in front of us. He stuck his head out to check us out. We scared a baby raccoon up a tree and spooked a groundhog on the way back. We did our duty.
Thankfully, the pace of football matches has slowed. The Euro Cup today has only two games and they are scheduled at the same time, something that theoretically prevents teams from playing for a result that would give them an easier go in the elimination round. We are scheduling our day around the France vs. Switzerland game at 3pm.
Back in the Copa America we felt like we to had to watch the Argentina Venezuela match last night to see what the US will be up against when they meet Messi’s team in the quarterfinals on Tuesday. And it is always a thrill to watch Messi, a natural wonder. It would be a miracle or a fluke if the US could advance with Argentina and Chile ahead but we will be screaming for them.
We took a break from the telly to watch a live soccer math between the first place Portland Thorns and WNY Flash. Despite the fact that Meghan Klingenberg went down in warm-ups Christine Sinclair and Tobin Heath proved to be too much for the Flash. The Flash were not moving the ball from the back to the front as they had been. Even Hinkle was booting it out of our end in hopes of a happy landing. With Zerboni back in the center I would think they could feed her and Mewis and poke it through. It was a disappointing result that I hope they learned something from.
Wreckless Eric played here on Thursday. Before his set we sat with him at a table in Abilene’s courtyard and I deliberately did not talk football even though England had beaten Wales in a dramatic comeback in stoppage time earlier in the day, while Eric was driving from his gig in Detroit. Amy Rigby came up by train for the gig and the hope was she would join him on stage. But no, she was just a fan snapping cell phone photos during the gig. Eric has some tremendous new songs, a slow menacing, blues song about murder and a sweet ballad that he threw in his encore after his wall of feedback. He told us he liked the Detroit crowd because they yelled stuff at him while he was playing. And he particularly liked how two guys up front had an argument between themselves while he was playing.
Sam was playing music for the members of the Friendly Home when we stopped by. He was playing guitar in the sun room and about half of my mom’s group was asleep in their chairs. Sam threw a ball to the ones that were awake and had them roll it on the floor. The ball had numbers on it and whatever number came up Sam would play a song from that decade. He had the sheet music for hundreds of songs in his iPad. His version of “Leaving on a Jet Plane” was so sleepy I almost fell asleep. But then he’d pull out an old chestnut like Irving Berlin’s “If You Don’t Want My Peaches, You’d Better Stop Shaking My Tree” and I’d be singing along.
I took my first walk in the woods today in over a month. Just how did that Wales player in this morning’s Euro Cup match get back on the pitch in six weeks after a broken leg? I went down the hill I tore my calf muscle on and couldn’t get over how much lusher everything was. The Jack in the Pulpits were still standing erect. An old rotted oak had fallen right across the path. We spooked a couple of Piliated woodpeckers that may have been mating and we walked by a deer that was so comfortable it couldn’t be bothered to get up. And then we came across this friendly toad and watched him for a bit.
The tail end of our vacation in Spain was spent in the mountains of Mallorca in the Balearic Islands. We rented a house there from a friend of our nephew’s girlfriend. The place came with a pool and if that wasn’t enough, Mediterranean beaches were thirty minutes away in every direction. I did a lot a swimming, even got a dip in while I was waiting for the water to boil for coffee. For the last few days I had water trapped in my left ear, trapped behind wax.
I tried everything. Q-tips, rubbing alcohol, vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, a hair dryer. I tried creating a vacuum with my finger to plunge it out but no luck. Back home I made an appointment to see my doctor. He had me hold an ear gutter under my ear and he squirted warm water from a big stainless steel tube into the ear. He explained that he was trying to get the water behind the wax to force it out. After four liters he gave up and referred me to an ear, nose and throat specialist. They scheduled an appointment for the 28th. I couldn’t believe it. I had not been able to hear out my ear for a week and now I had to wait another two.
I said I was desperate and they got me in with a cancelation. The specialist used no water at all. He had some sort of vacuum that sucked out the wax. He started with my good ear and showed me the clump. The left ear was problematic. All the products I had used made the wax gooey and it was completely sealed. He kept warning me, “This is going to be loud.” And it was. Louder than a rock concert but it worked. It was the most satisfying doctor visit I have ever experienced.
I hate everything about airports, the security, the expensive water, the waiting and mostly, the people. No one is at their best in this situation but these places seem to attract creeps. This guy was sitting behind me and I snuck a few photos of the back of his head.
Spain had possession in the seventy percent range for most of yesterday’s Euro Cup match with the Czech Republic and yet they couldn’t get through the final third to the net until the final minutes. Most of the match was played in that zone, lateral passes that were beautifully executed, back and forth until Iniesta poked one through. Some players are smarter than others. They are always in the right place even when they don’t have the ball and they always know where everyone else is when they do get the ball. Iniesta is brilliant at this and a joy to watch.
My father was scheduled to do a repeat of his presentation on Edmunds Woods on Saturday afternoon. The Brighton town historian filled in for him and she talked over my father’s slideshow. It was a small crowd that gathered in the park shelter next to the woods but it was a giant reminder of my father’s former presence. He had mapped the wildflowers, the trees and the wildlife of the this tiny bit of remaining old growth woods. He began calling it “Edmunds Woods” after the family that worked the near farm and we hear the town is planning to officially designate it so.
We watched three Euro Cup soccer games yesterday, an activity just my speed with only one working leg. We watched Switzerland and Wales win and then the upset, Russia over England. And then we headed out to the stadium to watch the WNY Flash play Alex Morgan’s team, the Orlando Pride. Morgan hardly got the ball and when she did she was shut down by the Flash’s Hinkle/Eddy/Erceg/Dahlkemper superb back line.
I was really worried when I saw that D’Angelo, our first string goalie (as well as Canada’s national team goalie), was injured but the Flash scored early and held on for the 90 to move into first place in the NWSL. It is so much fun to watch this team get better and better as we get to know them. The US Women have the best team in the world and our city has the best team in the league. It was even fun watching Orlando, the newest team in the league. They have Spencer, Edmonds, Edwards and even Morgan, who all previously played for the Flash.
I hadn’t had an IPA in a while so I ordered one when sat down in the Uptown Brasserie at JFK but they were out of the Goose Island so I went with a Stella Artois, something that tasted exactly like the Spanish beers we had been drinking for the last few weeks. We sat near the window and had an ocean view. They were playing jazz on the sound system, Chet Baker, Duke Ellington and piano standards. We found an oasis on our way back to Rochester.
Back home we were stunned by how green everything was. Not just green but lush and overgrown. Pink Rhododendrons in full bloom. And it’s now impossible to see our neighbors through the backyard trees. If I could walk like a normal person I would be out in the woods with my tick-guard on.
We are going to have see if we can get the “Vicious” radio station that our rental car was tuned to when we picked it up at the Majorca airport. We never changed the channel the whole week and although I think of it as club music, it suited the windy mountain roads with hairpin turns, the autopistas and dead end, dirt beach roads perfectly. Thump, thump, thump. One song meshes with the next.
In sync with the thump we tracked down one of Mallorca’s top ten beaches, a place that was described as quiet and beautiful with a restaurant. We parked in the town of Deiea and walked about an hour on a footpath that included all sorts of scenic vistas and diversions. Donkeys, persimmon trees, olive groves, religious shrines and eventually a cove of turquoise water. We headed straight to the outdoor patio and ordered Pimientos Del Padrón, Tortilla Española, Pulpo a la Gallega, Escalivada (eggplant) con Pimientos y cuatro cervezas.
Another day, another beach. This one with a fish shack/bar that was cranking “Vicious” nonstop the whole time we were there. We sat in the shade and watched people dance in the sun. And I must say, I am enjoying the secondhand smoke everywhere we go. They still sell Ducados in the cigarette machines but we haven’t smelled the black tabac anywhere. Those folks may have all left us.
We met our friends, Jeff and Mary Kaye, in Mallorca. They flew from Toronto, through Frankfort, and arrived with a bottle of Duty Free champagne. We quickly stopped following Donald Trump stories and and even checking email. The last email of any import was from our neighbors back in Rochester. They informed us that our spinach had grown huge and was already bolting so they ate it for us.
Here we hiked and explored swimming spots for the last few days and watched an endless stream of ciclistas working their way up the mountain where we had rented a house. Jeff got the bug and we found a Ride Mallorca shop where we dropped him off so he could rent a bike. Mary Kaye, Peggi and I walked to this small cove where we swam and studied the multicolored rocks.
Last night we had a drink in a bar/restaurant where Cervantes sat and wrote. The place has half a millennia of history. This morning we walked around the convent where they recently discovered Cervantes’ remains. There is so much to see in Madrid, we like to just get out there and wander. It helps that the Spanish government continues to fund first class art shows. We picked up a Fundación Cultura guide on our first day here and we tracked down shows with that.
A Vivian Meyer show opens tomorrow but we won’t be here. Yesterday we saw the same Joaquín Torres García show we had seen at MoMA a year ago. Today we walked to the Museo Del Romanticismo where the great Czech photographer, Viroslav Tichy, has a show that opens on June 3. We were two days early for that so I’ll have to satisfy myself with with Google image searches.
We found a funky, relaxed part of the city near the Museo, maybe due to the nearby colleges, and we asked the museum workers for a recommendation for dinner. We got with the program from the onset here and have been enjoying our main meal at midday. We sat on a park bench in Plaza de España in front of the central statue of Cervantes with Sancho Panza and Don Quijote and Peggi pointed out that we were right across from the sight of Goya’s “3rd of May,” the masterpiece we had seen a few days before.
Last night while wandering around, a most enjoyable activity and one that local couples, especially ones in our age bracket, appear to be doing in large numbers, we spotted some religious stores on Calle de la Paz. We made a note to check them out in the morning in hopes of adding a few gems to my holy card collection. This one place, “Santarrufina,” looked especially promising. The ornate sign above the door read “Compañia Española de Artículous Religiosos” and the year “1887” was written in an oval at both ends.
This morning we learned the store catered directly to churches with life sized crucifixes and chalices and priestly garments and incense burners and whole sets of the fourteen stations of the cross to choose from. We asked if they carried holy cards and they said no. A shop across the street from them had statues of Pope Francis and the Virgin in its windows and plenty of holy cards on a spinning rack inside but they were smaller than the standard size and more garishly printed with a goofy raised gold seal in the bottom corner. They had hundreds of saints but some of them were suspect. I bought a few of those, “Yemanya” and “Santísima Muerte.” Most of their goods were related to Catholicism but they also carried crystals. There was a giant one in the corner. And they had a section devoted to Buddha, a rack of essential oils and candles shaped like penises.
Catholicism is on the wane in Spain.
We bought fruit last night for the room and we started with that this morning, bananas, a mystery fruit (cross between a peach and an apricot?) and some dried figs and prunes. We were able to get up a little earlier and we were on the streets at eleven. We stopped for coffee on Geronimo in the Plaza de Canalejas across from the brand new Four Seasons hotel (the building they are gutting after leaving the centuries old facade standing). Cafe Del Príncipe had a desayuno especial that included a small glass of fresh squeezed orange juice and Tortilla Española with pan and coffee. We bought a postcard for my mom and walked into Peurta del Sol by the Apple Store to Vodaphone where we got SIM cards for the phone and iPad. The guard in the store suggested we go to the basement of Corte Inglés to mail the postcard so we did that and then stumbled on the “Uno de 50″ section in the store. Peggi took some photos for my sister, Ann, who sells this funky Spanish line of handmade jewelry at Parkleigh in Rochester.
We walked by a Fundación art exhibition co-sponsored by MoMA but it was closed Monday. Peggi read about a nice place to eat up there and we happened to walk by it so had their Menu del Día. “Red de Pescado,” catch of the day with shrimp with the heads on. I had a Country Salad and Peggi had Gazpacho.
We walked over to Calle de Alcalá 13 where a Fundación show with Goya in it was but they were closed too. So we decided to go back there tomorrow. We put six point three miles on our Moves app and I did it all on crutches. I have a new found comradery with other handicapped people on the street. We check out each other’s gear.
It doesn’t get dark here until ten. We could set the clocks this way in the US. We walked through the Plaza Mayor and over to the Mercado de San Miguel where we had some olives, some cheese and dry Vermouth from a tap. We split the Vermouth, it was served over ice and cost one and one half Euros. We walked around some more, found a street with some religious shops on it, Calle de la Paz. We plan to go over there tomorrow to look for holy cards. We stopped in Plaza de Angel at the place that has live jazz and we had drink at an outdoor table. We have finally adjusted to the time zone change.
El Prado is magnificent. But it is too big. There are too many paintings here. It is a struggle to preserve your visual energy for the great stuff and not wear yourself out on the mediocre. Not even every Goya is great but most are.
We tracked down our favorites, the sculptural Rogier van der Weyden’s “Descent from the Cross”, Durer’s “Adam And Eve”, Quinten Massys’ “Christ Presented to the People” and Raphael’s “Portrait of a Cardinal.” All these were primers for Zurbaran, Velázquez, El Greco and finally Goya’s “3rd of May,” his giant portrait of the royal family (shown above) and his incredible “Pinturas Negras.” The best Goyas are by no means stuck in time. They are so full of life, they make you laugh. They remain contemporary because no one else can paint like him.
Our map app delivers surprising results in Madrid. When we plot routes between places the times via “auto” are longer than those via “walk.” Madrid, in the old part, is that kind of city.
The streets of Madrid were empty last night. The bars were full. Atlético was playing Real in the European club championship. We sided with Atlético but the match could not be settled in overtime and went to Real Madrid with penalty kicks. Ronaldo struck the decisive blow and the streets erupted.
We flew through cotton candy-like clouds before landing in Madrid at 8 AM. The guy in front of us on the plane was reading “The Promise of a Pencil.” I made a note to look that up. We had forgotten that Peggi requested a wheelchair at the airport gate and then we heard a man say my name the way a Spaniard would say my name. I was wheeled to a small bus that cruised around the back of the airport and dropped us off on the street where we waited for a bus (5 E) that took us to Cibeles in the center of the old city.
From there we walked to our hotel near Plaza Santa Ana and they let us in early. We slept for a few hours and headed back out for some café con leche and Tortilla Española. They served the coffee in small glasses, almost too hot hang onto. We had seen signs for an art show, one of those Fundación government sponsored things, when we got off the bus so we hobbled back down to Cibeles. On the any we found another, free, government sponsored, art show by Bernardi Roig, an artist from Palma de Mallorca. The show near Cibeles was a real slice of Spanish culture by José Suarez, a Spanish photographer who went into exile during the Spanish Civil War.
We kept looking up at the Círculo de Bellas Artes building and wondering why no one was up there. When we got up there it was actually more crowded than we had ever seen it and we quickly realized why it didn’t look crowded from the street. They had installed a stainless steel railing around the entire perimeter so you could not possibly get out to the edge. Although only six stories up you can see right out beyond the city, to the mountains and into the country and hillsides where Madrileños celebrated the feast of San Isidro, the scene Goya painted so vividly. And you get a great view of the black domed Metropolis building that is featured in the Grand Vía production credits of Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul.
I guess there is some sort of logical progression in the artists I drift toward over the years. Andy Warhol, Alex Katz, Alice Neel, Rodin, Kirchner, Robert Irwin, John Baldessari, Matisse and Philip Guston (from the moment I laid eyes on him.)
I liked Chuck Close for a while and ran into him at one of his shows in Chelsea. I took his photo and still intend to paint a portrait of him.
A few posts back I mentioned a Baldesarri project. I came across the full entry while soaking my leg last night and have reprinted it here.
From “More Than You Wanted To Know About John Baldessari”
A written piece called, “The Backs of All the Trucks Passed While Driving from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara, Calif., Sunday Jan 20″
“I was intrigued by how much the backs of trucks resembled paintings I had done – basically a rectangle broken up into an infinite variety of possibilities, that is, variety with a standard shape in dialog with the edge. My painting investigation was merging with my work in photography.”
I consider myself one of the luckiest people in the world, to be in a band with Peggi Fournier. Over and over again, she pulls beautiful melodies from the thin air, marvelous stuff that you could hang your hat on. To my ears she is a rare breed.
The song below is from last week. I only brought two drums to the gig as my right foot is out of commission for a month or so. A young couple there, both of them nurses, told us they saw Margaret Explosion on their first date and they came back tonight because they both had off.
Chuck Cuminale, aka Colorblind James, was born the 23rd, the day before Bob Dylan’s birthday, and he was a lifelong fan which is not to say he loved everything Bob did. Far from it. I went to high school with Chuck. He always took music seriously and loved to share his opinion. I haven’t had a good argument with a friend about music since he died.
He wrote the following when he was working for City Newspaper. “The Margaret Explosion is not screaming for your attention. At its weekly Friday night happy hour gig at the Bug Jar, the band sets up in the darkest corner of the club. It makes no announcements or introductions. The musicians don’t take flashy solos, or make grandiose musical statements. What they do, from their dark corner, is provide the crowd with a cool, knowing, improvised soundtrack for its early evening activities. They cast a bohemian glow over the room, and, like magic, people look more interesting, conversations become more engaging, and Rochester seems like a better, hipper place to be.”
Margaret Explosion plays one more Wednesday at the Little Theatre and then we’re off for the summer.
I used Angel Corpus Christi‘s photo (without permission) for the cover of this one.
Margaret Explosion – Tether