Archive for the ‘Life Is A Spell’ Category

Shopping Local

Wednesday, August 24th, 2016

Ken smoking in the backyard and his bass in basement with Arpad's ribbon microphone

I called B&B Automotive this morning to see if they could get our car in for its yearly NYS inspection. They told me to bring it on over but I would have to leave it with them. I put our bikes in the car and Peggi and I rode back from their shop on St. Paul. We took the back roads and stopped at a lemonade stand. There were five or six kids gathered around and one was holding an 8 1/2 x 11 piece of paper with the word “lemonade” written on it. I asked how much it was and she said 50 cents and she said we would get to pet the rabbit if we bought a glass.

There were no parents around and that is always a good thing when you want to engage little kids in a genuine conversation. Parents insist on answering for their kids or just making them feel uptight. I asked the girl with he pitcher who made the lemonade and she said she did. I envisioned some sort of mix from a packet. There was a hint of salt in there with the sugar. I asked how business was and she said she had only sold one “to him” and she pointed to one of the other kids. She said they don’t get too much traffic on their street. One of the other girls said she was selling her “American Girl” doll for two dollars. She had a sign too but I didn’t see the doll. A brown rabbit was in a cage on the front lawn with a blanket on the top of the cage to keep out the sun. It was ninety degrees the rabbit looked listless. One of the girls opened the cage and we petted it. I asked what the rabbit’s name was she said, “Cinnamon.”

We stopped at Starbucks on the way home and had an iced latte. There was a hand-drawn chalkboard sign in the back of the shop the read “Hello Spring.” when our our lattes came up I asked the purple-haired barista who was in charge of the graphics a,d I nodded to the sign. He sad sh’e only here in the morning and she’s real busy. He said, “It’ll be Fall before you know it” and I said, “Or Spring.”

We were only home for twenty minutes or so when the phone rang. Our car was ready so I rode back to the garage. I went down the street with the lemonade stand and it was gone.

Over The Rainbow

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2016

Swimming pool at night

I’m hoping this summer still has a few nights left warm enough to call for a midnight swim. The water temperature in the street pool is holding at 82 and it feels even warmer on a seventy degree night. We’ve had months of those this year and we’re spoiled. The neighborhood gets so quiet, the big dipper hangs overhead and the lights in the surrounding houses slowly dim while we sit in the pool and talk. The water is velvety soft, the traffic noise distant, the crickets just beyond the fence, the sound of the world in its place.

We have heard this guy before. He strums chords with ease, confidently and rhythmically right on. He does cheat sheet versions of the Great American Songbook, one classic after the next. We heard him last week at the Friendly Home entertaining the troops and this afternoon he was playing for my mom’s unit. He is a pro, showing up minutes before a gig and kicking it from the get go. He runs one song into the next, though, and that bugs me. He would sound so much better if he took just a short breather between tunes and let the chestnut settle in. He finished with beautiful version of “Over The Rainbow” and we gave him a hearty round of applause.

We were there for a picnic. Family were invited and for the first time we were welcome to eat with the residents. Of course the administrators were there too and they introduced themselves as if we had never met. The social worker even made an appearance. One of the members was trying to drink from the pepper shaker when we sat down and my mom was so tired I was was afraid we would not even make contact but she came around. I could not help but notice how much more interesting the residents were than the respective family members.


Monday, August 22nd, 2016

Fisherman on pier at Sea Breeze in Rochester, New York

Our decision to ride bikes to Sea Breeze had nothing to do with the Pokemon stop there. Didn’t even think of it until we saw all the zombies milling about there. We watched two guys on SUPs paddle through the channel and this couple in their vintage speedboat cruise by. We walked out to the end of the pier and then over to Don’s for a chocolate almond frozen custard. We were celebrating Brazil’s gold medal victory over Germany in men’s soccer.

Manhattan Clam Chowder

Saturday, August 13th, 2016

Purple and pink flowers at the Friendly Home in Rochester, New York

My mom had just gotten back from the beauty parlor when we arrived at the the Friendly Home. We told her her hair looked good and she asked what color it was. Peggi came up with a round about answer that included the word “grey.” My mom made a face and we told her we were going grey too. She said,”I want to go home with you.” I told her, that would be nice” and then held her hand and tried to change the subject. I said, “I like your ring. Is that your wedding ring?” she said someone gave it to her. I didn’t catch the name but it wasn’t my father. I asked if it was a long time ago and she said no.

We wheeled her down to the sun room and played catch with an inflated baseball. The ball was slighter bigger than a basketball. My mom is good at catch, she always was, and she is competitive too, mostly with herself. She would say, “I should have caught that when it was really my bad throw. We got her to stand up a few times because her seat was sore and then it was time for lunch so we wheeled down the hall into the dining room. Virginia, her regular table-mate had already begun eating her soup. She had a small pile of semi-chewed clams on the table. She pulled one out of her mouth and asked, “What is this?” I said, “That’s a clam” and she said, “Oh.” She added it to the pile.

We said hi to the other table-mates. Sandy never says hi back but Mary, at the end of the table, said hello. The staff served clam chowder to my mom along with a chocolate shake, probably an Ensure product. My mom pointed to the soup and said, “I don’t like that” but she tried a few spoonfuls anyway and when she seemed engrossed in her lunch we slipped away.

American Outlaws

Friday, August 5th, 2016

American Outlaws putting up their flag at the Brickwood Pub in Rochester New York

We got the jump on the Olympics by watching the US Women’s National Team beat New Zealand 2-0. We met our fellow Flash season ticket holders, Kerry and Claire, at Brickyard Pub on Monroe Avenue where the local chapter of the American Outlaws were holed up and yelling at the tv sets. Yesterday we watched pieces of two men’s matches and all of the Nigeria vs Japan game, a roller coaster ride of a match. They started the early rounds before tonight’s opening ceremonies so the players can rest between matches and settle the gold before the closing bell.

Our neighbor was walking his dog on the pool property down the street. He was waving his flashlight around, looking out for skunks and raccoons, and he shined the light right on Peggi and I who were huddled in the the corner of the pool like we are most warm nights before bed. We were certain he saw us so I said “Hi Rick.” He said, “You scared the shit out of me.”

Sing Me Back Home

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2016

Tomato paste cans at I-Square in Rochester, New York

At age 6 Olga’s mom lost her parents and brother in the famine-genocide the Soviets imposed on Ukraine. During the Nazi occupation of Ukraine she was deported to Germany to work in slave labor camps to build equipment for the war. The ball bearing factory she worked in was an Allied Forces bombing target. She emigrated to the US on a sponsorship from St. Mary’s Ukrainian Orthodox Church, the church we attended her funeral in today.

We were here for her husband’s funeral so we knew the ceremony would be exceptionally beautiful. We stood, holding a tall candle, surrounded by saints with gold leaf halos, while the four person choir sang the gentlest chants imaginable. In Ukrainian with short passages of English, enough for me to hear “journey to heaven,” I felt as if we were drifting down the Genesee River from the Veteran’s Bridge to open waters of Lake Ontario. The priest chanted and shook incense at the pictures of the saints. We stood with the burning candles for close to an hour with only two short kneeling breaks and most people made the sign of the cross as we stood. I noticed the last two gestures of the Ukrainian sign of the cross are done in the opposite direction of the Catholic sign of the cross.

The choir and priest sang at the cemetery and they sang before our lunch at I-Square, chanting over the light jazz coming from the sound system in the ceiling. Olga said her mom would have loved it.

The Eagle Has Flown

Thursday, July 28th, 2016

Pricker weeds going to seed

Our 2003 Honda had yet another airbag recall. In fact the letter we got told us not even to drive the car until we take care of the problem. We headed out to Dick Ide first thing this morning with a thermos full of coffee and the morning papers and we weren’t even out of our driveway when our neighbor told us there was an eagle in the dead tree in the marsh near his house. He suggested we ride down there and take a look but by the time we got there the eagle was gone. I took this photo of the weeds going to seed near the edge of the marsh.

We spent four of the last few days recording tracks, in various configurations, for an upcoming Margaret Explosion record. The days flew by. Arpad did the recording. He’s using a program called Reaper and the tracks sound great. We’ve recorded all the instruments at once, improvising and hoping for a good take of a song constructed on the spot, for so long we decided to try laying down something like improvised basics and then building up the tracks with overdubs.

When we were out at the Honda dealership we heard “Bennie and the Jets.” That’s a live track, right? Thing still sounds amazing.

Life Goes On

Thursday, July 14th, 2016

FlowerLilly pads and flower on Durand Lake in Rochester, New York

The arboretum and park in general is beautiful in all seasons but it is especially nice now with the mid-summer, pea soup like water and flowering Lilly pads. And that is why it was so incongruous to see the local SWAT team try to seal the perimeter of Durand Eastman Park.

We had gathered at Parkside Bowl, a party of ten, in 90 degree weather, just as the commotion began. I was using the same black Galaxy 300 ball as the last time. Louise did not have a rock’n roll shirt on and her sister in-law and niece were here. Even without air-conditioning the eight lane joint felt as comfortable as an old shoe. Within minutes the police had blocked off the Sweet Fern entrance to the park. There was something called an “active shooter” alert on the beach near where Kings Highway meets the lake and rumors were flying.

Someone had stolen a yellow Hummer during a burglary in another part of the city. A yellow Hummer! Can you think of a more conspicuous car? And they drove it to the beach where the cops surrounded it. Shots rang out. The six suspects, four men and two women, got away. Helicopters hovered overhead. The suspects managed to steal another car, a red Mercedes with “GOLF-1″ license plates that was parked out front of the golf course with the keys in it.

We continued bowling. I fed the juke box and Jeff flattened the pins. At eight we headed down the street to Louise’s backyard. The road was still blocked off and cop cars swirled around the neighborhood. We played ping pong in the garage and listened to old blues records on Matthew’s turntable. I put new RAM in Jeff’s MacBook. We drank beer that Tim, the preacher, brought and we all left when Mary Kaye announced she had to work at six in the morning.

We came home and found an ominous robo-call message on our landline. “Active shooter alert, suspects at large, last seen in your area, stay inside. Don’t go near the windows.” Our house is all windows. It was 90 degrees out. We went down to the pool for a midnight dip. All the neighbors had their lights on. We saw Rick out walking his dog. Life goes on.

Starting Over

Wednesday, July 13th, 2016

1950 Ford at Wegmans in Rochester, New York

We parked our bikes next to the pick-up lane at Wegmans and this car pulled up next to us. The first thing that struck me was that it looks like it still has the primer coat on it, a really cool look. I couldn’t peg it to a particular year or even a make. A two door sedan, it looked a little sportier than any of those boxy, fifties, American cars. Dare I say it even looked a little foreign. So we complimented the owner and then asked what type of car it was. Turns out it is a 1950 Ford, the same year we were born.

Bright Spot

Tuesday, July 12th, 2016

Big mushroom across the street on Hoffman Road

Yesterday we watched three Pileated Woodpeckers working on the same Sassafras tree. They are the big birds around here, the ones that look like Woody Woodpecker if anyone remembers him. I used to love the post show drawing demonstrations by Woody’s creator, Walter Lantz. And I spotted this big mushroom from our bedroom window so we had to check it out up close.

One bright spot remains at my mom’s care center. Peggi can still get her to laugh when she rolls her “r’s while extending the word, “burrrrrrr”. The air conditioning is all over the map in the dining room, her room and the halls. And if we sit outside for a bit, the return is usually met with a call for a sweater, even in 90 degree weather. So when my mom says she’s cold Peggi does her thing and my mom laughs whole-heartedly.

Black Sheep Revenge

Tuesday, July 5th, 2016

Rochester Gas & Electric substation on South Clinton Avenue in Rochester, New York

Jealousy, guilt, ambition and way over-the-top family dysfunction made it hard to get through season one of “Bloodline,” the Netflix series. And when Danny, the most colorful and only sympathetic character, got knocked off near the end of the season I was ready to give up on it. I felt like we had been dragged through the mud. But our friends, Matthew and Louise, raved about Season 2 so we dove back in. We’re only halfway through and without giving anything away, they found a way to get Danny back in there and the other characters have really taken shape. Its a beautiful, dysfunctional mess.


Friday, July 1st, 2016

Cotton cluster in woods from Cottonwood trees

“Fish are jumpin’ and the cotton is high.” The cottonwood trees have been dropping their goods for a few weeks now and the cotton is starting to gather in clusters in the woods. I brought his cluster home and I’m trying to figure out what to do with it.

The Flash are tied for second with the Chicago Red Stars and the two teams meet tonight at 7 downtown. Jazz Fest can wait.

I Believe In Miracles

Tuesday, June 21st, 2016

Figure graffiti on wall in Madrid

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.

Round Ball

Sunday, June 19th, 2016

Woman violinist, street performer in Madrid

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 had to watch the Argentina vs 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.

Stop Shaking My Tree

Thursday, June 16th, 2016

Toad in the woods

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 Pileated 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.

Wax Museum

Wednesday, June 15th, 2016

Old barbershop tiles on wall of café in Madrid

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.

International Thump

Thursday, June 9th, 2016

Photo in show at Fundacion Telefonico Espana in Madrid Spain

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.

Stopping Time

Tuesday, June 7th, 2016

Cove on the island of Mallorca in Spain

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.

Couple On A Beach

Saturday, June 4th, 2016

Josep de Togores. Couple à la plage (Couple on the Beach), 1922. Painting. Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía Collection, Madrid

Maybe we’ll go to an island for a few days. Madrid offers one hour flights to the Balearic Islands. We could beat the high season, just barely. We’ll have to make this happen.

Not Really

Monday, May 23rd, 2016

White and yellow wildflowers in Durand Eastman Park

When I hobbled into the the Friendly Home this morning Brandon was reading the newspaper aloud in the newly remodeled sun room, an article about Ithaca using sheep to mow their Cemetery grounds. He had about ten people seated in a circle around him, all in wheelchairs. “What time did the sun come up this morning?” The other Mary guessed 5:30 and was off by only nine minutes. He read each person’s horoscope but when he asked my mom if she wanted to hear hers she said, “Not really.”

When the important news was digested he turned on a Pandora oldies station on his phone and connected it to a portable speaker. It was basketball time. He stood in the middle off the circle and bounced the ball back and forth with each of the residents to songs like “Chattanooga Choo Choo.”