Archive for the ‘Life Is A Spell’ Category

Call Before You Dig

Thursday, August 28th, 2014

Jared graphic on road in Rochester, New York

A long time ago I worked as a commercial artist for Hart Conway in the Triangle Building downtown on East Avenue. My boss smoked pot every morning and she was the most organized person I have ever met. We had some cash cow clients like RTS, the local bus service, and a bunch of car dealers who placed daily ad spreads in the paper and we had this organization that coordinated efforts to get local utilities approval before a backhoe digs in to a construction site and hits a water main or worse, an underground cable. The mascots for this campaign were two furry little animals that we had to draw in different poses for each ad, the two color pieces were always green and brown and the slogan was always the same, “Call Before You Dig.”

There are nine houses on our street and we pitch in on road repairs. One neighbor, though, can’t help but contribute more than others. Jared is our leader and a joy to work with. We’re preparing to put a drainage ditch in near our mailboxes because the mail lady (Jared thinks “she is as cute as a button”) drives in exactly the same spot every day and she has worn a ditch that fills up with water and freezes in the winter making getting the papers or mail a life threatening experience. He artfully outlined the drain (I’m not sure what the extension shown in the enlargement is all about) and then two of the utilities have signed off on it.

MyCare vs. MyChart

Sunday, August 24th, 2014

View from forth floor of Rochester General Hospital, formerly Northside Hospital

The guy in the hospital bed next to my father is on the phone, talking to his wife. He has had some sort of cardiac event that he suspects was caused either by the salty air in Massachusetts, where he had been on business, or possibly the salty paella he had, a Spanish dish whose title he mangled by trying to pronounce the to “l”s like we would in English. The cardiologist here recommended a test for him that he suspected was only ordered because they make “90,000 dollars with the machine.” He had been doing some reach online.

My dad is being released in hour or so having slept like a baby last night. My mom was in Emergency with a UTI at this same hospital last week at he same time as my youngest brother was in surgery upstairs, having a sliver, that had been lodged in his finger for over a month, surgically removed.

My mom’s primary care doctor is in the General system and my dad’s primary care doctor is in the Strong system. Both my parents have specialists outside their “system.” Sharing records to provide prompt professional care would seem a no-brainier today but the systems don’t talk to one another. I got my dad’s hospital urologist going on this bureaucratic topic and he went off. He told me his own primary care doctor is in the other system. He finished the tirade by apologizing for his rant. I apologize for mine.

Upon The My Oh My

Monday, August 11th, 2014

Tuggy boat in Rochester, New York

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


Tuesday, July 29th, 2014

Our garden in late July 2014

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

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

We’ll be here awhile.

Summer Sweet Spot

Thursday, July 24th, 2014

Farm field near Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge

I knew I had hit the sweet spot of summer when I lost a horseshoe. Late July, early August, summer patterns fully established, the woods at it’s lushest with the paths overgrown, the timing was just right. My regular horseshoe opponent lives across the street. He grew up throwing shoes in the projects of Troy and I let him keep the score. I have a hard enough time concentrating on the game.

This time I was playing with Roc, an old friend, and we were talking about old times so I was especially spaced out. I couldn’t find one of my shoes and I was pretty sure it had bounced into the pachasandra so we trampled through the plants for about ten minutes looking for the horseshoe. Peggi suggested I use the metal finder that our former neighbor made, a string of magnets mounted on the underside of an upside down wooden “T.” I dragged the homemade tool through the plants for while while we made small talk and then it dawned on me that the horseshoe might not be in the pachysandra at all. I went back to the pit and found it about a half inch down, wrapped around the pole.

World Cup 1950

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014

Our friend, Jeff, sent us this soccer note:

Do you remember Mr. De Palma? He was the senior high Spanish teacher for one or two years. Rumor had it that he was a member of the 1950 World Cup Team for Spain. I did a brief search on the web and didn’t find anything about him but I think Spain made it to the second round that year. This I do remember about the guy. He was a total dud as a teacher. He was incredibly unengaged. His teaching technique went like this; talk for 5-10 minutes, give us a work sheet and then he would read the paper for the remaining 35 minutes. I sat next to a guy, I have been trying to remember who it was and I think it was Bill Rampe? The class was so dull that I told Bill that I could climb out the window of the classroom and come back into the room and not get caught. Bill’s father owned one of those coin operated car washes in Ontario and he had a tower of quarters that he had stacked on his desk. He said “I don’t believe you would do it.” I said, ” for that stack of quarters I will,” and he said, “you’re on”.

I checked on De Palma to make sure he was doing his thing and I went to one of the windows and opened it wide and returned to my seat. De Palma was fixated on his newspaper. I waited a bit and made my move. Without a sound I slid out the window and crawled along the ground past the other classrooms. I made my way to one of the back doors, they were unlocked in those days, walked down the hallway and reentered De Palma’s classroom. I told him I had been at the guidance office. He didn’t even ask for a pass. If he played soccer with the enthusiasm with which he taught, then it is no wonder Spain didn’t advance beyond the first knock out round. And while my respect for De Palma is non-existent, I have to hand it to Rampe, he delivered on his end of the deal. If I remember correctly and I think I do, I made around 5 bucks on the escapade.

Mall Walking

Thursday, July 10th, 2014

Tweety house on Summerville Street in Rochester, New York

We go to the mall (they are all the same) about once a year and only out of necessity. My socks had holes in the heel. They all go at the same time because I buy them in six packs, “Gold Toes” at Lord & Taylor. And my underwear was losing its elasticity so I tried some Calvin Klines this time.

The mall can completely sap your energy. There is a relentless common denominator to halls and then all the stores carry the same stuff. The clerk at Banana Republic told us we would save fifty percent by opening a new charge card which will be good toward savings in Old Navy and the Gap because they are all owned by the same company. The music is mostly hideous. I hope they aren’t today’s pop songs. They are probably picked by an algorithm that determines the best doodles to accompany menial tasks and ranked by mindless shopping performance stats. Might be time sell Apple. The help in the store far outnumbered the customers. One store, Anthropologie, sort of broke the mold with its wide open spaces and comfortable couches. The women’s clothing store had a 1970′s vibe and they sold a small selection of books like “Madeline” and “Reading Andy Warhol.”

Peggi had her pedometer on, the free one picked up at jazz fest. We walked 2.2 miles in there.

I Like Lichen

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014

Lichen on blue chair out front

OK, so I was way wrong on Brazil. They totally fell apart. Enough said. We were way overdue for a lopsided game after all the nail-biters. I’m still optimistic about Argentina.

Our friend, Shelley Valechovic, did series of paintings of lichen and I have taken note of the stuff since. I found this bit in our front yard. Must have fallen off a tree above. I placed it on a blue chair out front for its closeup.

As Good As It Gets

Monday, June 30th, 2014

Duane in the pool

July tomorrow. I can handle it. Jazz Fest was a whirlwind and then this World Cup thing. We didn’t expect Mexico to still be in the game with the Netherlands but they were up 1-0 late in the match as Duane showed up, up from the big city. Netherlands took them down in theatrical fashion and we headed down to the pool. Duane swims regularly at the Y in Brooklyn and in one of those giant outdoor recreation pools in the summer so he was still bobbing around after we had withdrawn.

We headed down to Vic & Irv’s for the usual (cheeseburger, onion rings and a vanilla milkshake in my case) and took our regular stools, stage left with a birds-eye view of the post-teenage chefs. When the food arrived Duane said, “I know this sounds corny but this is as good as it gets.” I was a little slow with any sort of response but I think he was right.

On the way out of the parking lot we passed a pickup truck with a sign on the back window that read, “God Bless Our Troops. F!ck the Politicians.” The “u” in the word fuck was an assault rifle graphic. The take-away being anarchy in the USA or a bible thumping military dictatorship? I should have asked Duane to stop so I could get a picture but again I was a little slow. I could have used the photo on my funky sign site.

Back home, the tiny nation of Costa Rica took out Greece in the penalty kick round. And then Duane left. We’ll have to catch up in New York.

A Hole In Three

Monday, June 23rd, 2014

Artist painting the back of Vic & Irvs in Rochester New York

We played 17 holes of miniature golf today with my sister, two nephews and a niece. We skipped the twelfth hole because we were holding up play with such big group. My nephew, who got to play for free because he is only five, got “a hole in three.” Oh, and we took a dip in the pool on our street. And then it was time to get in line for Jazz Fest. I know, it sounds like a retiree’s itinerary.

I’m keeping track of the Jazz Fest over here.

Perfect Day

Monday, June 9th, 2014

Bike rider near Cobbs Hill in Rochester, New york

Requires no words. Already supplied by Lou. I want to spend it with you.

And The Livin’ Is Easy

Friday, June 6th, 2014

Fishing scene at Sea Breeze, New York

Summer is so short around here you really have to get a jump on the season. One sure fire way to get in the groove is to peddle down to Sea Breeze as we did a few days ago. Just keep in mind the ride down is a breeze and the uphill trip back takes some manpower.

The kids screaming on the amusement park rides is an integral part of the summer soundtrack. The boaters drifting through the channel between the bay and the lake have their own subculture going and the pier is a great place to play the voyeur. The choice between Bill Grey’s, Don’s Original and Vic & Irv’s is easy but then Don’s has some great chocolate almond custard for dessert. Although there used to be about fifty bars and speakeasies on the bay Marge’s is the only one left. If you go in here the day will be swallowed up. We mostly just stand around and look at the people.

Big Heart Benefit

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014

Magnolia Warbler on our patio in Rochester, New York

I’m happy to report that this Magnolia Warbler shook off its collision with our window and flew away shortly after I took this picture. I hope there was no lasting damage.

I was knocked out once by three fraternity guys. I was a freshman at Indiana sitting on a stone wall near the street waiting for my friends to come home. I had sort of long hair at the time and a car drove by and someone yelled “faggot.” I flipped them the bird. They circled the block, stopped the car and three guys in blue windbreakers with yellow Greek letters on the front came at me. I got a few punches in but these guys were swinging like they wanted to kill me. I came to with my face planted in the sidewalk. My nose was broken and my jaw was dislocated. And my glasses were completely smashed.

I was in the charcoal section of Rochester Art Supply this afternoon when Sally Wood Winslow walked by with her RAS bucket. She and a few other employees fill the buckets with Amazon orders for virtual customers. Peggi was in the next aisle picking out a tube of watercolor and I heard her talking to someone. Turned out to be Jim Mott buying small canvases for paintings he’s doing of the migrating Warblers.

Joe Monacelli Snell works there as well and we said hi. We were just at his mom’s funeral on Tuesday. Pete and Gloria Monacelli have organized a benefit (six kids, no mom.) Six bands play and there’s lot’s of art for sale with all proceeds going to the family. This Sunday at Hochstein School of Music 6-10PM. Margaret Explosion starts at 8.

Picture Perfect

Friday, May 9th, 2014

Downtown with skateboarder outside Rochester Tap Room


Monday, May 5th, 2014

Big tree down on Corwin Road and Winton

Corwin Road starts in the city at Winton Road right where this photo was taken. Corwin was cut in two pieces when they built the expressway. Our guitar player and my parents live on what is now the other side, Town of Brighton, Penfield schools and Rochester address. A tiny piece of trivia, an excuse to show how big this tree was and a metaphor for my parent’s departure. They closed on their house today at 4PM so I will definitely not be helping to put their awnings up this Spring.


Tuesday, April 29th, 2014

Bubble Hockey game at Rochester Tap Room

We usually take an automobile trip on my birthday and yesterday we started by looking at a google map of the southern tier. I didn’t want to drive too far so I picked Bliss, New York but we never made it there. We saw a big green blotch on the map, a state forest and thought we could stop and take a walk there. We stay off the Expressways so we drove west along the lake, across the river, and out English Road to Route 19. We had to stop the car when a lift bridge went up over the Erie Canal and then again at a train crossing.

We had lunch at the Bergen Family Diner. The specials were Meatloaf, Stuffed Peppers, Greek Lasagna, Portobello Parmesan, Liver & Onions, Crabmeat Quiche, Beef Tips with Noddles, and BBQ Pork Riblets. We went with a club sandwich and a cup of coffee. They were playing “Today’s Soft Rock.” By the time we got down near the town of Warsaw we couldn’t remember the name of the state forest. We stopped at a grocery store that was either going in or out of business and the lady behind the counter said she had been there sixty years and she didn’t know of any state forest. Kind of hard when you don’t know the name of the place you’re looking for but further up the road we managed to get directions at a Cornell Cooperative Extension.

Carlton Hill State Forest was beautiful, just beginning to blossom. We came back along the Genesee River Valley and stopped at Casey’s place on the river, the newly christened “Rochester Tap Room.” Peggi and I both had a Three Heads Kind IPA and we each won a game of bubble hockey.

Matter Of Fact I Do Own The Road

Sunday, April 27th, 2014

Driving north on Hudson Avenue in Rochester. New York

This was an especially bad year for potholes with the wild temperature fluctuations. The ground would freeze and heave and then settle down with a thaw. Water would get in and then it would freeze and the pavement cracked and the snowplow scraped off the high spots and salt got in and melted the ice until the temp dropped again and it expanded.

No one told us that we own our road when we moved in here. We found out when the first Pothole Day was scheduled. The twelve houses on this street jointly own the road, not the town. This could be problematic if we all don’t get along but fortunately we do. Today was Pothole Day and it took a couple of hours to patch a series of holes that one of our neighbors had already cleaned out with a leaf blower.

I Paint What’s Inside Me

Saturday, April 26th, 2014

Junk pickers in front of my parent's old house.

We opened the garage door of my parents old place at 8 this morning and there was already a handful of hungry garage sale hounds trying to get in. We brought all sorts of furniture out onto the driveway and then it would rain and we’d move it back in and when the rain let up we’d move it back out again. And all the while people came and left with their arms full.

A woman with a buzz cut came up to me with a vase that had been marked two dollars and asked if I would take five cents. I said, “We’ll, that’s one fortieth of what we were asking but sure.” The offer was so bold, I liked it. She turned out be a special person who was shopping with an aid. She said, “I hear you’re into art.” I said, “I’m way into art” and she said “I paint abstracts. I paint what’s in inside me.” I tried to give her encouragement but she didn’t really need any. I had placed a partially used, ten gallon bucket of drywall compound in the “Free Stuff” pile and a woman asked how much we wanted for it. I said free and she heard “three” so she gave my brother-in-law three bucks. My brother-in-law is good. He was even able to sell one of my father’s bricks.

My high school girlfriend stopped by and showed me a picture her grandson painted. It was great to see her. My parent’s next door neighbor kept stopping in, I mean like ten times, and she paid for all her purchases in quarters but each time she would negotiate the sale and then go back to her house for the coins. My father took us all down to Nick’s for dinner and Nick stopped by the table to tell us a few stories. Hadn’t heard the one about his brother-in-law winning thirteen million in the NYS lottery. Animated weatherman, Scott Hetsko, was dining with his family at the next table and The Chinchillas drummer was in the house.

La Violencia

Friday, April 18th, 2014

Bare fallen tree in Eastman Lake, Rochester, New York

I sold my baseball cards way early, before the nostalgia craze, collector frenzy and Ebay. My mom said “take this shoebox or I’ll throw them out.” I sold the whole box to my high school math teacher, Mr. Setek, and he told me the three pristine condition, 1963 Pete Rose cards were going to help put his kids through college. Peggi and i went to Cartagena, Columbia for week’s vacation, at the time the cheapest Caribbean destination. There was some sort of travel advisory in effect and our hotel was patrolled by armed guards and dogs.

“One Hundred Years of Solitude”
Gabriel García Márquez, whose obit was on the front page of Good Friday’s paper, worked as a newspaper journalist in Cartagena in the 50′s during La Violencia. “It was a bohemian life: finish at the paper at 1 in the morning, then write a poem or a short story until about 3, then go out to have a beer,” he said. “When you went home at dawn, ladies who were going to Mass would cross to the other side of the street for fear that you were either drunk or intending to mug or rape them.”

And out of that came the most beautiful book I have ever read, “One Hundred Years of Solitude.” It was on a short list of books I was asked to read for an Empire State class.

“The men on the expedition felt overwhelmed by their most ancient memories in that paradise of dampness and silence, going back to before original sin, as their boots sank into pools of steaming oil and their machetes destroyed bloody lilies and golden salamanders. For a week, almost without speaking, they went ahead like sleepwalkers through a universe of grief, lighted only by the tenuous reflection of luminous insects, and their lungs were overwhelmed by a suffocating smell of blood.”

Define Saint

Thursday, April 17th, 2014

Saints assignment found on the street in front of our house in Rochester New York

There was pretty cool picture in the paper this morning of the penitents in the “Procesion del Silencio” in Spain. My brother, who is in town for a few days, converted to Judaism. No mean feat. I reminded him of how we used to try to remain silent between the hours of noon and 3PM on Good Friday (tomorrow), the hours when Jesus hung on the cross. Of course that was impossible but we did manage to give up candy for Lent. This Catholic stuff is hard to shake.

I found this piece of paper (above) in front of our old house in the city. I hung on to it. Since we lived in St. John’s parish, the same parish I grew up in, I assume it came from there and it seems to me that this whole notion of saints is still worthwhile. I have my own definition and it includes some deeply flawed but miraculous individuals. I started a list in the right hand column of this page.