Archive for the ‘Life Is A Spell’ Category

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.

I Love Mini City

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

Mini City on Holt Road in Webster, New York

I was out at my dentist in Webster and the hygienist took X-rays. She spotted a suspicious spot above a crown and said it appeared to have changed since the last X-ray but she wasn’t able to show me the two shots on the same screen. They use Kodak Dental Imaging Software and she said both the dentist and her had tried to figure that out to no avail.

I said, “There must be a way to do that.” She said she “was afraid she would mess things up if she just started clicking around.” This is exactly the wrong attitude to have with software. It has been designed to have you click around until figure out how to do what you want to do. That’s why they call it software.

While I was out there I had to stop in front of Mini City to take a shot. Of course the owner came out and asked if he could help me. This happens to me all the time and I can’t help but wonder if all photographers are plagued with people wanting to help them or if it is just me or maybe the things I like to take photos of. I told him I liked his sign and I just added the shot to my “Funky Signs” site.

Sleepers, Awake!

Monday, April 7th, 2014

Dormant frog in our neighbor's pond, April 2014

The small lakes in Durand Eastman Park are still covered by ice. They don’t get as much sun as my neighbor’s pond where the ice cover melted last week. All of his bright orange goldfish are accounted for, in fact they seem to have gotten bigger over the winter. Maybe they are just bloated from inactivity. They are floating near the bottom, motionless, near the center where it is nearly a foot and half deep.

Around the periphery of the pond are at least ten frogs, all in the same position, pointed toward land in about six inches of water. They look like they have moss growing on them but my neighbor thinks it is algae that has gathered around their still bodies. I’m thinking about that Incredible String Band song.

Chain Letter

Monday, March 31st, 2014

Creek running out of Spring Valley

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released this report. I’m passing it on.

The ice caps are melting, sea ice in the Arctic is collapsing, water supplies are coming under stress, heat waves and heavy rains are intensifying, coral reefs are dying, and fish and many other creatures are migrating toward the poles or in some cases going extinct.

The oceans are rising at a pace that threatens coastal communities and are becoming more acidic as they absorb some of the carbon dioxide given off by cars and power plants, which is killing some creatures or stunting their growth.

Organic matter frozen in Arctic soils since before civilization began is now melting, allowing it to decay into greenhouse gases that will cause further warming, the scientists said. And the worst is yet to come.

There must be something we can do about this.

I Love My Cat

Sunday, March 30th, 2014

Peggi footprints in our driveway

I realize we are probably the only ones who think this recent snowfall is pretty. Most people have had enough. It’s so late in the year for this stuff you can’t really take it seriously so I just enjoy it. It will probably be sixty degrees next week.

My cat has not developed in her seventeen years. She is still in the moment, she still enjoys the same toys, a crumpled up piece of paper, an old collar that she drags around the house, an empty box to scratch and sit in. She hasn’t gotten any smarter either. She is already plenty smart, smart enough to know she has a good thing going and she does the same thing every day as if it is the first time. She has taught me plenty and she lowers my blood pressure when I pet her.

Decisive Moment

Thursday, March 27th, 2014

Real deer and fake mixing on Hoffman Road

I’ve been waiting for years to get this shot. We laugh at the fake deer whenever we walk down Hoffman Road and we see real deer all the time in the woods and some day we said, we will see them both together.

Don’t Worry

Monday, March 24th, 2014

Shawn Dunwoody got out there a week after Winter Storm Vulcan to do his Rochester version of Pharrell Williams’”Happy.” With an iPod, boom box and video camera, he yelled “I’m recording a “Happy” video for Rochester, if anyone wants to be a part of it.”

In the D&C he said. “Most people just walked by me like I didn’t exist. Then finally a young man on his lunch break said, ‘Sure.’ Then I started getting a few more.” Four days later he’s got 40,000 hits. Go Shawn.

We Are Being Played

Saturday, March 22nd, 2014

Pete and Shelley in Stoney Creek

Jaffe tunes the 9 foot grand piano at the Little Theater and we were chatting with him last night. He told us he’s been playing keyboards in a band with Frank who lives on the same street as Bob Martin and my parents. Jaffe told us this isn’t a coincidence. “We are being played.”

This afternoon I was on 590 coming back from my parents’ place and I was listening to a really cool accordion song on WRUR’s Italian radio show. I was wondering if Jaffe plays accordion and thinking he probably does. I look to the right and who’s in the car next to me? Jaffe with a big smile.

Our friends Pete and Shelley are probably maple syruping up in the Adrironacks. There was an article in the paper about the maple syrup process and it made me think of them. Next thing you know Pete’s “Arouse The Thunder” came up in iTunes.

Listen to: Pete LaBonne - Arouse The Thunder
Pete LaBonne – Arouse The Thunder

Lyrics and chord changes can be found in the sixth entry down on this page.

Walking On Water

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

Ducks on frozen shore of Lake Ontario

I love this landscape and the weather we have been having. We’ve been heading to the beach everyday to ski and marvel at the forever changing landscape. There was no open water a few days ago. It was all floating ice chunks as far as you could see, but an offshore breeze has taken it all out to sea. We do not have a rocky coast. These ice mounds are exactly that, all ice, and you can walk on the lake up to the edge. Yesterday we strained to make out what the white and sometimes dark things were that were floating near the horizon. Drama and mystery is a powerful lure.

Margaret Explosion returns to the Little Theater Café for the next thirteen Wednesdays.

Margaret Explosion - Dreamland
Margaret Explosion – Dreamland

Margaret Explosion – “Dreamland”

Hardy Types

Monday, March 3rd, 2014

Lake Ontario in Rochester, New York

Skiing along Durand Eastman beach was so much fun we did it two days in a row. The beach is quite a bit larger now because it’s frozen for a ways out and the ice cliffs that have formed at the edge are quite dramatic. They will all be gone in a few weeks.

Only the hardy types were out today, a crystal clear, blue sky day with temperatures in single digits. There are far fewer people out on days like this but they are much friendlier. They want to say say hi and exclaim how beautiful it is. If it was this pretty all the time we wouldn’t appreciate what we have. The so called bad weather puts things into perspective.

Finding My Religion

Thursday, February 20th, 2014

Statue of Christ taken down from the cross and ready for burial

Spain is a Catholic country. Has been since Fernando and Isabela, Los Reyes Católicos, took the country back from the Moors in 1492. Streets, towns and whole cities are named after saints. In the old sections there are churches on every block. Some of them were Moorish temples before the Moors were given the boot and some were even Byzantine churches before the Moors took over so they are very old and always a treat for the eyes.

The country, cities and towns each have a patron saint and they do it up on the respective feast days. In most churches you’ll find a statue of the Virgin Mary (who is revered more than the Christ himself) and a statue of Christ in some sort of Passion-related torment. These two statues stand apart from the many others because they are the ones that are trotted out and lugged through the streets on floats during Holy Week, the last week of Lent and week immediately before Easter.

These arcane customs and the idolization of the saints were always my favorite parts of church when I was growing up. I collected holy cards like baseball cards and pick up a short stack each time we visit Spain. I still love this stuff and am happy to get reacquainted with the religion I left behind so long ago.

Spanish Drugs

Monday, February 17th, 2014

Table on patio at Boabdil in Arcos de la Frontera

I’m quite certain not even the locals of Arcos de la Frontera can believe how beautiful their place is. The old section is a narrow white village that runs up a mountain and offers spectacular views from both sides. We spent the better part of a day trying to walk around their mountain but were forced to take a bus when the road got too dangerous. We spotted an intriguing sign for a place called Boabdil and followed it down a path on the side of the mountain.

A sign out front claimed the place was about three thousand years old. There was no one around and the tiles on the walls looked like they had been done by a madman. We entered cautiously and a man came out from the back room. “Pasa, Pasa,” he said, encouraging us to enter a cave that went straight into the hillside from his bar. We looked inside and came out quickly. He seemed friendly but we both felt paranoid like we were being set up.

We ordered a beer and I noticed he poured them from cans. I looked at his Cruzcampo tap and detected it had not been used in years. We sat out front at the only table in the place and both felt like we were being drugged. But the music got better and then sounded great. Peggi asked who it was and jotted down the flamenco artist’s name. A local stopped by and ordered a beer. He was all smiles. The drugs were good.


Saturday, February 15th, 2014

View of and from Arcos de la Frontera

We came to Spain without a solid agenda. We thought it might be nice to go to the south where it is quite a bit warmer and off season as well. We talked of crossing the border into Portugal but every time we checked the weather in Tavira it was raining and we talked of renting a car but we never got around to that. So we took an autobús out into the country and up into the hills where we have pretty much sat and walked in circles, enjoying the ambiance immensely. Roosters are crowing outside and the view from the top of Arcos de la Frontera is not bad at all.


Thursday, February 13th, 2014

Dos cafe con lache in Jerez de la Frontera

After quite a few trips to España we finally came around to ordering coffee without using the word “café,” the way the locals do. You walk into a cafe where the doors are usually open to the street, you say Buenos Días or at least Hola upon entering to the barkeep and the nearby patrons. To skip this stage is very rude. This was pointed out to us in a good natured way many years ago and it seems so right.

Today, we said, “Hola. Dos con leches por favor” and it did the trick. You typically stand at the bar and the coffee is made to order as you watch. While the coffee is being pressed, the server will set a saucer with a small spoon and sugar packet on it onto the the bar in front of you. He or she will pour the coffee into the cup, or glass in the funkier places, and then they will steam the milk and add it to coffee. We like this routine so much we do it at at least two times each day in Spain.

Raining Orange

Tuesday, February 11th, 2014

Municipal workers sweep up fallen oranges on the streets of Sevilla

It was raining when we stopped in Sevilla. The locals were acting like this was a big deal because it had been raining for a few days. It was ten degrees where we came from so we couldn’t take them seriously. The streets are lined with orange trees down here and the rain dropped the ripe fruit everywhere. The municipal workers had their hands full cleaning them up.

At the cafe where we had coffee we watched the woman behind the counter throw oranges into the Zumex machine like she was playing basketball. We couldn’t resist and ordered dos zumos de naranja.


Saturday, February 8th, 2014

Marino's on Lope de Vega in Madrid! Spain

With only a couple of hours of sleep we walked in a daze around the old section of Madrid stopping for cafe con leche a few times before checking into a hotel. Instead of crashing, we went for it and headed back out. We found the quintessential Spanish cafe slash bar slash restaurant. I love how the Europeans seamlessly meld these three essential environments. We were in the literary section of Madrid near Plaza Santa Ana with its statutes of Calderón de la Barca and Federico García Lorca, near Cervantes’ home on Calle Lope de Vega.

People were eating in a back room with long tables and tiled walls but we sat in the bar and ordered Pimientos de Padrón, cerveza, vino tinto, aceitunas marinated in onions, manchego y pan. We believe we have found civilization.

4×3 Or 3×2

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

View of Lake Ontario over frozen Eastman Lake

I’ve carried my Nikon 7000 in my left front pocket for four years now. I can barely get the lens cover open now. Lint takes a toll. I bought a smaller Sony pocket camera, an RX100, and by default it is set up to shoot photos in the traditional 3×2 aspect ratio. My first digital camera, a Kodak DC210 used that format, same as the old 35mm film cameras, and I thought I missed that but I am having a hard time adjusting. I’m thinking the 2×3 format might be the way they designed the sensor and therefore it might be the optimum ratio. Does one fit mobile platforms better? I don’t really care about that. I’m just on the fence as to which ratio works best for me. I’ve been using the 4×3 for so long I kind of frame shots that way before I shoot. I’m gonna have to think about this for a while.

The blow up above is 4×3 and the this link is 3×2.


Monday, February 3rd, 2014

Super Bowl as seen from my parent's living room

We really wanted to see Rochester’s Renee Fleming sing the national anthem but we missed it. We were still in Wegman’s buying avocados to make guacamole for the big game, the only game we’d see all year. I remember watching the first Super Bowl in my parent’s family room. It was just as lopsided as last night’s game. There was a marching band at halftime and I don’t remember the family gathered around, clicking away on their mobil devices. OK, football caught on. Too bad it wasn’t the international version.

I grabbed the remote when the halftime show started and started to crank the volume but my thumb slipped and I hit a small button that killed the sound and miniaturized the screen behind a menu of choices that made no sense. Loud protest ensued and I couldn’t get out that mode so I passed the clicker to my nephew who I figured had the fastest digital skills. He could’t figure it out either so my brother, Tim, the biggest sports fan in the room, took charge and he rescued the Bruno Mars performance.

There was a lot of talk about how Bruno is a manufactured artist who distills James Brown and Michael Jackson but the kids hardly knew who those two were. With over a billion youtube hits this guy is obviously fun to watch and this ain’t the sixties. For me the entire event was overshadowed by the death of another Rochesterian, the great Philip Seymour Hoffman, at XLVI.

Into The Public Domain

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

Found garage sale photo, scan of 35mm slide, Goats

Many years ago I bought a few boxes of slides at a garage sale. The person attending the sale said the woman who used to live in the house had traveled all over the world so I gambled on the lot. I used one of the photos on the cover of the Invisible Idiot cd and I think the goat photo above is one. They’re in the public domain now like my Flickr photos and this Ornette recording. I put a slideshow together of these found photos and they are serving as a short winter vacation.

Invisible Idiot - Son Of Telly Savalis
Invisible Idiot – Son Of Telly Savalis