Archive for the ‘Life Is A Spell’ Category

End Of The Line

Wednesday, September 28th, 2016

Rochester Subway movie at the Little Theater in Rochester, New York

At one time Rochester was the smallest city in the country with a subway system. Most of the lines were above ground so it was more of a streetcar system but it sure looked cool in the movie we saw at the Little Theater tonight. It was screened in Theater 1 and we almost didn’t get in. It was sold our so we put our names on a wait list and then spotted the director, Fred Armstrong, who told us about a couple of seats up in the balcony, the best seats in the house. This movie is twenty years old and was narrated by Walter Dixon. All the old-timers featured in the movie are dead and it made me realize how lucky we are that this history was preserved in film.

My father would talk about the subway all the time. How he’d take it to the end of the line with his family and his dad would go in to a bar there while he went swimming with his sisters. They had a great panel discussion after the movie with the directors, a city councilman and a state transportation engineer and a couple of guys from the The New York Museum of Transportation. They would have you believe the streetcar is still viable and could be in our future.

Chicken Goes To College

Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

Rochester skyline from Cobbs Hill

I had never heard of “Cornell Chicken” but our neighbors had. Rick and I were playing horseshoes and he told me the Cornell Cooperative Extension on St. Paul Boulevard was doing their annual chicken barbecue. He asked if we wanted him to pick up a couple of dinners. We didn’t have any dinner plans so I gave him twenty bucks and he took off. He called about ten minutes later to say he was a night early.

By the following night he had already told the neighbors down the street about the Cornell Chicken so he picked up six servings of chicken, boiled potatoes and corn and we ate on their new porch. You may know that Rick and Monica traded houses with the young couple who lives across the street from us. We listened to Duane’s “Crucial Roots Chapter 2 Dub and Circulate” and the dinner conversation swung from corporal punishment in Catholic schools to recreational drugs. Close calls and busts but mostly funny. War stories for a certain set. One of the group is from Jamaica and another via Puerto Rico but the stories are all the same because we are all about the same age.

As far as I can tell Cornell Chicken is salty and fairly dry but it has a nice barbecue flavor.

We stopped up to see my mom today and decided to do our day’s exercise up at Cobb’s Hill. We walked around the reservoir a few times interrupting a women’s exercise group in the main building each time we circled. And we stopped to watch a couple of City employees unlock the gate and go inside the reservoir with a long handled net. They came out with a pair of white, high-top running shoes. Someone had thrown them in our drinking water.

White Comet

Friday, September 16th, 2016

65 Mercury Comet at Vic's Place in Rochester, New York

I knew we would meet the owner of this 1965 Mercury Comet inside Vic’s Place. In fact, we sat right next him at the counter and struck up a conversation right away. I started by asking him if his hood had blown off. He said, “No, everyone asks to see the engine so I just leave the hood home.” He told us there is a vintage car show every night of the week around Rochester. In fact he rattled them off and recommended the one at the Shriner’s place on Bay Road tonight. You can get a good fish fry there too.

We were out riding bikes this morning, in and out of all the little neighborhoods that back up to the lake in Sea Breeze. We’ve been keeping our eye out for a house for Brandon at the Friendly Home. We saw an old campaign sign that read, “America Against Obama 2012” and a few new ones for Trump. “Repeal the Safe Act” signs often accompany the Trump signs. There was also one that read, “Veterans and Military Families for Hillary” and then one that read, “2016 We’re Doomed.”

We stopped at Vic’s Place for lunch. I know Duane will be jealous if he reads this. We usually save our visits until he comes to town. It’s a pretty heavy lunch. Peggi had a grilled cheese and fries and I went with a white hot and onion rings. A guy came in with a t-shirt that read “Shoot Them All and Let God Sort Them Out.” I had not seen one of those since the Viet Nam days and this guy was too young for that. Most of the people who eat here are pretty unhealthy looking. I watched a guy come in with a crooked walk. He sat nearby and ordered, “3 Texas.” Three! I couldn’t imagine. Around here the choice is “Porker” (what I had) or “Texas.”

We continued down to the lake and stopped amidst a sea of twenty something Pokeman zombies. We were watching the boats come into the public dock when a woman called for help. She was trying to pull a man from the water. I went over and helped her get him out. She told me he wanted to feel the water but then slipped in. I asked how he liked the water and the woman said “he can’t hear, see or speak.” As we rode away I was wondering how she knew he wanted to feel the water.


Wednesday, September 14th, 2016

Canoe in Braddock Bay near of Rochester, New York

It was supposed to rain today and it didn’t. Just the way it has been going. We are still in a drought. Not that it has affected our garden. There is plenty of water from the hose and we’re only a mile or so from a Great Lake. Our plants have been loving all this sun and we have more produce than ever. We’re overeating to keep up with it all.

This summer’s record heat has driven us to the water. We rode bikes out Edgemere Drive where this photo was taken and down to the bay where Seneca Road dead ends at the Newport Yacht Club. We’ve been to Sea Breeze, Summerville and Charlotte more times than ever.

Today we rode through the park, along Lakeshore and then up Oakridge to Titus where we stopped at the library. I checked out “Kill ‘Em and Leave,” the new James Brown biography. I’m hoping its as good as “Buck Em,” the Buck Owens autobiography. Matthew let me borrow that one and I zipped through it. Who knew the star of Hee Haw had near perfect pitch and a photographic memory. His band used to play 14 hour sets. No break at all. And he juggled women.

The water in our pool has dropped to 75 degrees. In yesterday’s 85 degrees it felt great but the temperature dropped today. I’m hoping this dream doesn’t end too soon.

Riding First Class On The Titanic

Sunday, September 11th, 2016

Nathan Lyons outside Spectrum Gallery in Rochester, New York

I took this photo of Nathan Lyons a few years ago. He had some work in group show at Lumiere Gallery. I’ve been a fan of his for a long time. He used to teach a summer workshop at Visual Studies and I toyed with taking that for years. I heard him talk at his most recent book release and I was kicking myself for never taking his workshop. He brought so much more to the table than what meets the eye with his work. He used his photos to tell bigger stories than the image by constructing diptychs and series and uniting whole collections in books that read like great American novels. Somehow I thought this kindred spirt would be around forever.

Tall Tales

Wednesday, September 7th, 2016

John and Fran Dodd with heavy equipment on Labor Day

My brother, Fran, is a mason. He is the best around so he works all the time, most holidays but not Labor Day. He had a good bit of our family at his place for a picnic, Francis style. His back porch is covered in leftover culture stone. A stone barbecue takes centerstage in his backyard. It’s topped with big pieces of slate. A large worktable constructed with metal scaffolding and thick wooden planks sits off to the side.

Fran wears Home Depot work gloves as he mans the grill. He soaks the corn, husks on, in a giant plastic tub, something you’d see at a work site. He gets his car from a farm down the road. It has been picked only hours ago. It is so moist and sweet it would a crime to put anything on it. He told us when he works late he just calls the farm stand and asks them to put a few ears in their mailbox so he could pick it up on his way home. Fran makes better ribs than any of the Barbecue joints.

My sister, Amy, made raspberry tarts like the ones my mom used to make. While we had those with ice cream my siblings shared stories of disjointed but moving conversations they’ve had with the residents at our mom’s place, the newest members of our extended family. Each tale more delightful than the next.

The Ledge

Thursday, September 1st, 2016

Plywood window on yellow concrete block wall, East Ridge Road in Rochester, NY

Claire, our soccer buddy, texted Peggi today about Heather O’Reilly‘s retirement from the women’s national team. She told Peggi to let her know if she needed help talking me off the ledge when I heard the news. Let me just say, “I’m ok.” I kind of suspected this was coming when she was moved to an alternate position at this summer’s Rio Olympics. She is still my favorite US player. I loved watching her watch the ball and continually position herself in the open space while signaling for the ball. Wearing number 9 she would switch sides and run up and down the flanks on both defense and offense, leapfrogging the front line to cross from the corner. She was always in the right place and never let up. Best team player bar none.

We washed the windows on the outside of house today and when we got around back I noticed this big old plastic thermometer. It was mounted near the window so we could see it inside and it looked so old fashioned. I hadn’t noticed it in years but I do remember using it when we first moved in. Our thermostats inside display the outside temperature and our computers, tablets and phones. My watch even has the temperature on it. I got a screwdriver out and took it down, the one on the back of the house too. Now I have to find a place to recycle the mercury.

Andressa & Poliana

Monday, August 29th, 2016

Old Corsair at Durand Eastman Beach

Last night’s Flash match with the Houston Dash was a fitting end to to the season’s home games. They have four more on the road and are in second place so the hope is they’ll get in the playoffs an we may have one of the championship games here. Last night’s score was two two. The match went back and forth and was played at a fairly fast clip with constant turnovers. Lynn Williams should have had the first goal. She went one on one with the goalie and delivered a shot directly into her arms. She redeemed herself with beautiful assists to both Flash goals. Peggi and I had fallen in love with the Brazilian team during the Olympics so it was a treat for us to watch two of their players (Andressa and Poliana) playing their club team match with Houston. I love how the Brizillians use only the first names of the players on the backs of their jerseys.

We spent the afternoon down at Durand Eastman Beach swimming and watching the party boat people anchored just off shore. A couple of snorkelers floated by and people standing up on boards with long paddles. A group of Asian kids were playing soccer in the sand next to us and all was right with th world.

Secret Life Of Fish

Thursday, August 25th, 2016

Fallen tree sculpture with sun in woods near our house

The pachysandra on the hillside between our house and our neighbors really took a hit in this summer’s heat. It was brown and shriveled up before we got a good look at it. So we dug up some healthy pachysandra that had grown over our sidewalk out front and transplanted it on the hillside. We poked holes in the hill with a stick and stuffed the plants down the hole on by one.

While we were working away we could hear our neighbor, Jared, on the other side of the hill working on his goldfish pond. He had friend in town and the two of them took the plants out and reworked the banks of the pond so the water is a couple of inches deeper. They lined the edges with this linoleum-like product called “Rock-on-a-Roll” and then they returned the big rocks that surround the pond. The final touch was putting the plants back in the water and we overheard Jared telling his friend, “this way they have something to hide under and a place to go to dick around.” I don’t usually think of fish dicking around but I like the imagery.

We hadn’t seen a movie in the theaters a while so we found one tonight. “Indignation,” directed by James Schamus and based on a late Philip Roth novel, is fantastic.

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 and 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 that read “Hello Spring.” When our our lattes came up I asked the purple-haired barista who was in charge of the graphics and I nodded to the sign. He sad she’s 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 under only the moonlight. 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.