Listening To The Birds

December 19th, 2014

Small barn painting by Leo Dodd

My father has a miniature watercolor station next to his chair in the living room of his apartment, the tiny “travel” paint set, a couple of brushes, some water and a small black notebook where he has been painting barns and cityscapes. These small paintings are looser and more sketch-like than the large watercolors he does in his studio in the next room. He used the one above one for his Holiday card and called it “Evening Exercise Sketch.” The back of the card had one of my favorite quotes. “Music is your own experience, your thoughts, your wisdom. If you don’t live it, it won’t come out your horn.” – Charlie Parker

Next year he can use, “Don’t play the saxophone. Let it play you.” – Charlie Parker

Grey Christmas

December 17th, 2014

Ice covered marsh near Lake Eastman

The five day forecast in these parts is all grey. I kind of like the mood. Margaret Explosion will provide a soundtrack to the weather tonight at the Little Theater Café. We promise not to play any Christmas music. Here is a song from a few weeks back.

Margaret Explosion - Transit
Margaret Explosion – Transit

Undertaker Drill Sargeant

December 16th, 2014

Be Sure Your Sin Will Find You Out

In Louise‘s comment to my last post she pointed out that there are two sides to the sign I had shown so as I passed by today I stopped for another photo. Peggi had to explain this one to me. It is way beyond Catholicism.

A few weeks back we visited a couple of nearby funeral homes to get estimates on direct burial costs. My dad wanted to prepay for himself and my mom so the money, according to state law, would go into an M&T account to cover costs at the time their deaths. Peggi and I are thinking we should be doing this as well. Costs are not locked in, of course, so we probably have a few years if we’re lucky.

My dad made a decision on the home and called back the contact at Newcomer on Empire Boulevard to ask if he could draw up a bill and send it out. The contact said it should be done in person so he set up an appointment for this morning at 9:30. My dad had his check book and a different fellow, a big burly guy in in a suit, met us at the door. I said I had an appointment with the contact. The big guy told us he would take care of us and abruptly asked, “Names?” I wasn’t even sure it was a question but I spoke our names without using any verbs or prepositions, just the two pronouns. He took us downstairs past the showrooms with the ornate caskets and golden bibles and into a conference room with a poster of two hands clasped in prayer. A large monitor hung over the table with Microsoft Windows 7′s blue start-up screen. I pulled out my iPad and read the notes aloud from our first meeting with the contact.

The big guy asked what kind of casket we wanted and I said there is no casket, it is a “direct burial with the body in a shroud.” He said they must use some special machinery to lower the body.” My dad was squirming and raising his eyebrows. The next few exchanges were more awkward and ruder still. My dad said, I think we’ll take our business elsewhere and we got up. I turned back to the guy at the glass door as we were leaving and said, “You have a funny attitude.” He said, “Have a nice day, sir” and he looked the door behind us.

I have worked for myself most of my life and I’ve run into all sorts but I can’t think of any situation where the the deal was done, the specifics were settled on, the check was all but written for two customers and two more potential customers were in the office and the guy blows up the deal.

I’m so happy that Roz Chast’s brilliant memoir, “Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?” was chosen as one of the New York Times 10 best books of the year. It addressed the absurdity of issues like these with mountains of grace and humor.

Go Flo6x8

December 14th, 2014

"Prepare To Meet Thy God" sign on Culver Road in Rochester, New York

The local American football team, “the Bills,” are on a winning streak but I can’t bring myself to watch them for some reason. My neighbor says he is “afraid to watch them” so he records the game and looks at the highlights if they win. Last weekend we watched the final Major League Soccer game of the year, a game between Los Angeles and New England. It was Donovan’s last game of his career and they won but it was a sort of sad game. We caught a Premier League game this weekend between West Ham United and Sunderland and the difference in the level of play was quite remarkable. I can see why the US’s national team coach is encouraging our player to play overseas.

We recently became aware of the Spanish activist group, “FLO6x8.” Sort of a Flamenco Flash Mob they combine incredible music, passion, performance and a deep culture while trying to affect change. Watch them disrupt the Spanish Parliament.

Tegular Tiles

December 13th, 2014

DNI. "Do Not Inventory" for you lay people.

This sign is one of the reasons I keep getting further behind with my signs to post.

When you’ve been to Home Depot and Lowe’s in the same day you know you are in the throes of a home remodeling project. We were looking for what turns out to be an slightly unusual product, ceiling tiles that didn’t call attention to themselves. The ceiling in our basement is not that high, nothing like the twelve foot ceilings in the Bevier Building downtown that is currently being rehabbed, so we don’t want to draw the eye to that feature. Plain white with a simple non-directional texture would be ideal but they are so yesterday.

The key feature of dropped ceiling panels today is “tegular.” Spell check hasn’t even caught up with it. These tiles are 2 feet by 2 feet, not 2 by 4 like the one ripped down, and they drop down because they’ve been cut with a right angle on all four sides. One half of their depth hangs below the surface of the grid. They come in all sorts of crazy styles but they look too busy to us. We would like our ceiling to disappear. They still make no-tegular but they are a special order item. And just so you both stores carry Armstrong with virtually the same line-up and price.

Siren Call

December 11th, 2014

Dave Mahoney and Norm Ladd at quarries in Bloomington, Indiana, 1971 - photo by Kim Torgerson

The car was all packed and we were getting ready to leave when Noel emailed from the Little Theater. Due to almost a foot of snow they were planning on closing the café early and canceling the band for the night. They didn’t have to do that. We were ready and already looking forward to a quiet night, a situaton where where the band can sound especially good. Margaret Explosion is somewhere between the band in John Cassavetes’s “Too Late Blues” and the band that was playing on the Titanic when it went down. These are ideal conditions for us.

Margaret Explosion is somewhere between the band in John Cassavetes’s “Too Late Blues” and the band that was playing on the Titanic when it went down.

Here is a song from last week’s CD release party.
Margaret Explosion - Siren Call
Margaret Explosion – Siren Call

No Bikes On Trails

December 10th, 2014

Big tire bikes in Durand Eastman Park, Rochester, New York

The older I get the more inconsequential I feel. And that is both sobering and liberating. At least that’s the way I felt when these big guys came up the hill on these big fat tire bikes. They look like they are intended for riding over really rough terrain like the surface of the moon or something. I’m afraid to google them.

I get this same feeling when I watch a FKA twigs video

Feat Of Feet

December 8th, 2014

Pre show at Garth Fagan Dance at Nazareth Theater in Rochester, New York

Dance troops really have their work cut out for them. I’m generalizing but they attempt to animate music. Garth Fagan has especially good taste and of course “good taste” is relative. It usually means “the same as mine.” Last night at Nazareth College we saw pieces choreographed to the music of Dollar Brand, Max Roach, Bob Marley as performed by Monty Alexander, Aphex Twin, Ingoba Drums of Burundi and Jan Garbarek with The Hilliard Ensemble. The dance has to be pretty damn good to take center stage to that soundtrack. About half of the pieces out-shined the music. And that is a pretty sensational feat.

Faced Tough Competition

December 8th, 2014

Holy Trinity basketball team, mid sixties. l. to r. Paul Dodd, Alfred Williams, Jim Schneider, Albert Williams, Jim McClellan, Russ Minor's older brother, Bernie Finch

Seems like we won a few games. We must have. Maybe St. Stanislaus. St. Boniface? Holy Trinity didn’t even have a gym. We played in the parking lot during recess while other kids smoked cigarettes in the woods. Our league games were played downtown in the Auditorium at the old CYO where the Garth Fagan dancers rehearse now. I came across this photo while I’ve been painting the six players on the 1957 Myndersian Academy basketball team. The caption above the team photo reads, “Team Faced Tough Competition.”

Leave It To Beaver

December 7th, 2014

Small tree cluster on Eastman Lake in Rochester, New York

The water level on Eastman Lake was way up, so high that the little foot bridge at the south end of the trail was floating. Along the shore we spotted the stumps of a few trees that beavers had just taken down. You can see some bite marks at the bottom of these small trees above. We assumed the fallen trees had floated to the out flow of this manmade lake and had jammed it up so we tried to find the overflow drain. We walked entirely around the lake and never found the outlet. It’s somewhere down along Lakeshore Boulevard.

I was thinking about how civilized the designers of the park were, creating these beautiful manmade lakes over a hundred years ago. And then the line from “Hearts and Minds,” a 1974 documentary about the Viet Nam war, popped into my head. I think it was a clergyman, maybe a priest, in Viet Nam talking about the invasion while it was going on. Something like, The US treats us like savages. We’ve developed our civilization over 5,000 years. They’re the ones who are the savages.


December 4th, 2014

Seabreeze docks at dusk in December, Rochester, New York

The yearly RoCo Members Show is always a good one. With one piece from each member it is democratic to a fault. There is not enough room to hang the work properly. Some pieces are too high or too low and many just don’t work with the nearby pieces. So you have to take your time and look at each piece as though you were wearing blinders. There are some real jewels.

We spotted work by fellow classmates and of course were partial to those. Bill Kaiser, John May, Maureen Church and Leo Dodd. I put my yellow dot next to Peggi Fournier’s owl. The opening was packed, as expected, and the conversation sensational. My head will be swimming tonight.

We Have Lift Off

December 4th, 2014

DisAppEar decorations on wall at the Little Theater Café

Like magic our new cd became available at CDBaby on the morning of yesterday’s release party. Scott Regan played a cut on his morning show and WRUR’s playlist showed the cover graphic from iTunes. We had our ducks in a row. Peggi and I hand painted some oversize cd covers and hung them over the grand piano. The place was packed but oddly the band was in a detached sort of mood. in the break Martin Edic suggested we “get wild” so we tried to accommodate him. If that piece sounds as good as I remember it I’ll post it here in a few days. Here’s one from the new cd.

Margaret Explosion - Fisterra
Margaret Explosion – Fisterra

Adios Red

December 4th, 2014

Elevator in Hungerford Building in Rochester, New York

We met “Red” Cassorla late in life. He was already in his nineties. Earl and Spider, the famous fireworks aficionados, would bring their father to the Margaret Explosion gigs while they were home for the Jewish holy days. Red’s family was chased out of Spain and he loved speaking Spanish with Peggi. He had a wicked sense of humor.

Services were held for “Red” yesterday and we learned he grew up on Ormond Street where his family lived behind the grocery store that his father owned. Red got his start selling newspapers on the corner of State and Main and then opened his own business distributing groceries to the city’s small, mom & pop stores. He worked seven days a week and “knew everyone in the city” before giving up the business at 89. He never really retired but continued to help his sons run their fireworks store in Nevada.

The Drum Movies

December 2nd, 2014

Mural on old water tower on East Main Street in Rochester, New York

Even after reading this review in the New Yorker I still wanted to see “Whiplash” and what better opportunity than the $5 Monday Night Movies at the Little. I loved it. A bit aggressive but intense and pretty close to what I imagine music school to be like and more importantly the exploration of the drive aspect in art making was well worth the five bucks. And Sean behind the bar at the Little, an opera major at the Eastman, confirmed the picture.

“Birdman,” tonight’s feature presentation at the Little started off but really grabbed me about five minutes in, about the time Edward Norton took the stage. And it was really a stage. The movie is theatrical production of a play and that is where it worked magic. I loved watching the actors dig deep to make the fake real. Too bad they had to get goofy near the end with Michael Keaton flying in his underwear. The soundtrack was brilliant. Mostly drums played by Antonio Sanchez. He was just in town last week with Pat Methaney’s band.

Tomorrow, for the third night in a row, we make the same trip down Culver to the Little Theater Café for the record release party of the psychedelic jazz combo, Margaret Explosion.


December 1st, 2014

Margaret Explosion self promo shot at Little Theater Café in Rochester, New York. Left to right; Bob Martin (guitar), Peggi Fournier (soprano sax),  Jack Schaefer (bass clarinet), Ken Frank (upright bass), Paul Dodd  (drums)

Here’s Jeff Spevak’s review from the Democrat & Chronicle:
“The sound of “Disappear” is immediately recognizable. Margaret Explosion is a narcotic soundtrack, sinuous improvisation on original impulses. Peggi Fournier not so much plays the soprano sax as breathes it. Paul Dodd’s drums are notable not only for the precision of his carefully selected notes, but the notes that he seems to not play. Like bassist Ken Frank, Dodd’s often in a hypnotic state. Guitarist Bob Martin is one of the wondrous curiosities of the local scene. He sits with his instrument and a vast array of effects pedals and buttons at his feet, creating sounds with the drawn-out elegance of Bill Frisell.

Disappear includes work by two like-minded, frequent guests of the band, bass clarinetist Jack Schaefer and Pete LaBonne on grand piano. It’s ethereal stuff from a prolific group that never rehearses, just plays. And posting much of it — including the clatter of plates and utensils from Little Café patrons eating — on its web site free for your downloading.”

Please join the band on Wednesday evening 7:30-9:30PM as Margaret Explosion releases our first cd in five years. 12 songs recorded live at the Little Theatre Café in living stereo and packaged in a handprinted, limited edition sleeve. $10, includes shipping, available at Here’s a song from the new cd.

Margaret Explosion - When We Were Young
Margaret Explosion – When We Were Young

Contemplating Crime

November 30th, 2014

Empty docks on the Hudson River as seen from the train

We hung out with Frank DeBlase in the back room at Record Archive while Teressa Wilcox finished her set and the Goners set up. Frank was excited about his upcoming workshop at Writers & Books, a course in crime writing, where he plans to discuss plotting and plodding. I immediately knew what he meant by plodding because it is the method I prefer. I don’t like planning or knowing what will happen before it does. Frank leaned toward the plod but seemed a little torn. He has some stories to tell.

He was telling how he went to a writers’s conference in Philly and met author, Steve Hodel, son of George Hill Hodel who was friends with Man Ray and John Huston. After the elder Hodel died, his son Steve, a former LAPD homicide detective, came to believe his father was the “Black Dahlia’s” killer.

Complete Package

November 30th, 2014

Greenhouse Cafe on East Main Street near Winton Road in Rochester, New York

“Time keeps on slippin’ into the future.” It is amazing to me how long it takes for lyrics to hit me. I get the melody, the rhythm and the sound way before I hear what a singer is saying. I have no idea what most songs are about but they can get under my skin in a second.

At Friday’s mini Record Store Day I picked up a copy of the abbreviated “Basement Tapes Raw,” a two cd set of unvarnished treasures from the trove of demos recorded in my favorite Dylan period. Here we have perhaps the greatest lyricist of all time knocking out songs with a real band, rhythmic and rootsy and raw. Garth Hudson’s organ seals the deal. The Canadian band crystallized Americana in 1967 and lyric and sound carried equal musical weight.

This weekend we caught the second set of The High Fallin’, a group made up entirely of WXXI employees, at the Greenhouse Café on East Main. With viola, keyboards, Matthew Leonard’s guitar and an excellent choice of material, the Band’s “The Weight.”

T-Day Ambundance

November 29th, 2014

Red berries and tan vine on bush

Our neighbors down the street asked to keep an eye on their house this weekend because they were driving down to DC to visit family. There really isn’t much to the job. Their cat has his own entry and a food dispenser that automatically refills itself. But before they left they gave us the most beautiful Thanksgiving Day flower arrangement to reward us for the task.

We didn’t watch the parade or any football and we didn’t get together with any family members. We didn’t even have turkey but we used the flowers as a centerpiece when we celebrated the holiday with four friends.

I’m not sure how people call themselves vegetarians but then eat fish. We know a few people like that and two of them were having dinner with us. Our menu Was comprised of what we all brought to the table and it was just fantastic.

We started with cheese, some stinky Bleu, Manchego and a New York Chedder and then followed that with a few tapa like portions of warmed, fresh figs with a vinegret and goat cheese dollop and then some calamari in Peggi’s homemade tomato sauce.

We sat down for the rest but the conversation never stopped. Baked potatoes, sliced but not all the way through so they were still in the form of a potato, poached white fish in a cream sauce, roasted Brussels sprouts and a kale salad made an arrangement as sweet as the flowers. And then the pumpkin pie, which baked while we ate, sent us over the edge. Somehow the night went on forever and I am thankful.

Kings Highway

November 26th, 2014

New Irondequoit library under construction in Rochester, New York

Everything in our town is split down the middle by the north/south extension of Goodman Street, Kings Highway. I love that name now but it used to bug me when I was going to Kearney. Even though the high school was at the start of Kings Highway I preferred to call it Goodman. We were called the Bishop Kearney Kings and I figured they named the street after that dump. I couldn’t wait to get out of there and after two years my parents finally gave in.

Kings Highway may have been a highway when kings ruled but it is not what we know as a highway today. When it crosses Titus, right where this picture was taken, the road becomes a miniature, two lane, Blue Ridge Parkway as it winds its way northward to the lake. There are very few houses, the road washes out frequently and it is surrounded by undeveloped parts of Durand Eastman Park. The view in fact is regal.

We have always had two libraries in this town but they plan to close both when this new library building, at Titus and Kings Highway, is complete. I’m holding my breath that the art section will be better than the one we have up by Wegmans.

Artist’s Assitant

November 25th, 2014

Lennon at art table in studio

My parents weren’t home so my sister brought her grandchild over here and let her loose. I was working on some paintings so she wound up down in the studio with me. I managed to carry on but at least half, no, more that half of my time was spent as assistant to her. More paper, fresh water, bigger brush. “I’m done with this one,” she would say and I’d drop what I was doing and attend to her needs. I really got a sense of what it would be like to be an artist’s assistant. They want to keep the juices flowing and stay productive and all of the mucky muck is handled by the assistant. My work was secondary. The world is demanding dinosaurs for their refrigerators.

Margaret Explosion has a very special show lined up for tomorrow. It’s a vegetarian, as in no vocals, Thanksgiving eve performance of all new material. Here’s one from last week.

Margaret Explosion - Pinball
Margaret Explosion – Pinball