Archive for the ‘Life Is A Spell’ Category

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.”


Wednesday, May 18th, 2016

Two clouds over Rochester, NY

I remember this sensation. I used to do this all the time back in the very early fifties. And then I pulled myself up on a chair or something and I never went back to crawling. My knees are pretty good but they’re getting sore. I might have to pick up some knee pads at Home Depot unless I can manage to walk again.

“Stare. It is the way to educate your eye, and more. Stare; pry; listen; eavesdrop. Die knowing something. You are not here long.” – Walker Evans


Tuesday, May 17th, 2016

Magnolia collection sign with Magnolias in full bloom in Durand Eastman Park

When we started our business we called the phone company to ask for a business line and we asked if they had any easy to remember numbers. They gave us 288-0880 and I always felt like it was lucky. I liked the way the numbers lined up on a push button phone. And I liked the way 4 and “D,” the fourth letter of the alphabet, seemed numerically connected to 288.

When a new Pizza Hut opened nearby they printed our number on refrigerator magnets. We got free shitty pizza for a bit. And we would get calls for JAy-Ve Tackle all the time just because the people who shop there can’t distinguish between 6s and 8s. Most of the calls we get these days are cold calls from India.

When we were growing up, about ten blocks east of where the 4D Advertising office was we had a 288 number as well. That was when people referred to those exchanges with words or two letter abbreviations. 288 was Butler 8 and the Butler was abbreviated as BU. People could tell what part of the city you were from by your exchange. I think our number back then was BU 8-3041.

4D has closed shop so I called the phone company today to pull the plug on that number. They said it would be disconnected at midnight tonight. I just called it thinking I wouLd leave one last message on our answering machine but it was already dead.


Sunday, May 15th, 2016

Candy Kitchen on Main Street in Webster sometime in the mid 1960s

My family moved to Webster when I was ten and I got a paper route pretty soon after that and had plenty of disposable income, most of which I spent on candy bars and baseball cards. That could very well be my bike, laying on its side behind the car in this photo of the Candy kitchen. The D&C knows it’s dwindling demographic and caters to it with these “Whatever Happened To” series.

There was a line at the counter when Holy Trinity let out. Joe Barrett’s father, the town lawyer, and Wilbur Finn, the owner of the Texaco station met here for lunch regularly. It was a genuine soda fountain with a jukebox, home made ice cream and vanilla Cokes.

Reversals Will Delight You

Friday, May 6th, 2016

Metal detector guy on Charlotte Beach in April

My mom was down in the sun room when we stopped by this morning. Brandon was sitting with about ten of the residents and he was preparing to read the newspaper to them, something he does every Friday. We stuck around and I am so glad we did. It was extraordinarily beautiful.

Brandon is so good with them. Everyone loves Brandon. He started by asking if anyone knew what the date was. One of the woman offered a guess but she was off by a few months. He asked the group what time the sun came up today. My mom said “early” and we laughed. The other Mary guessed 5:30 and she was surprisingly close. Surprising because we had no idea the sun came up that early. Brandon tries to involve everyone and he asked a woman what temperature Lake Ontario was. She answered, “6:30.” He said, “Guess again” and she guessed “8 o”clock.” Brandon said, “You’re guessing times. I’m looking for a temperature.” She guessed another time.

Brandon touched on all the important issues of the day. He read the caption on a Kentucky Derby photo. He read Dagwood and Pickles and then moved on to the horoscopes. He knows most of the residents’ birthdays and read a few signs. “Virgo: What you once struggled with is now so effortlessly accomplished, you hardly remember you’re doing it. Details you got hung up on don’t matter to you anymore – all signs you’re on to bigger and better things.” My mom is a Leo. “Don’t let things get boring. Reversals will delight you, especially those pertaining to familial roles. You’ll find charm in the way children act like adults and adults play like children.”

Next week is National Nurses Week and the Friendly Home made a video of the residents paying tribute to their nurses. There is a shot of my mom in it and the marketing department asked us to sign a release form. We are getting to know most of these people in the piece so we got a real kick out of it.

Au Go Go

Thursday, April 28th, 2016

Garry Winogrand photo in Outsiders show at AGO in Toronto

Today’s destination was AGO, the newly designed Frank Geary-faced, Art Gallery of Ontario. We were excited to see the “Outsiders” show of photography from 1950 to 1980. The show was perfectly arranged by photographer, the best first so we could soak it in before we were saturated. Diane Arbus is great but Garry Winogrand rules! The photo above had me laughing out loud. He goes wide angle and includes enough information for a novel.

We had Manchego cheese, olives, fresh sour dough bread, Haddock Ceviche and Pimentos de Padrón at a Spanish restaurant called Bar Isabel and we walked a mile or so back to our hotel topping yesterday’s 7.2 mile total by on tenth of a mile. The restaurant would have been perfect if it was named “Isabela.”

One Under

Wednesday, April 27th, 2016

Marsh off Conifer Drive in Rochester, New York

When I first met Mary she was sitting in a wheelchair outside my mom’s room and she asked us a perfectly coherent question. One of three “Mary’s” on the floor, she asked us if we had seen her husband. She said she was supposed to meet him here and she couldn’t find him. We were not able to help her. Mary sits at my mom’s table for meals and carries on a running commentary. Today she told us, “They do cheese rather well here.” One of the aides said, “I see Mary’s family is here,” referring to my mom. Mary said, “They are? I don’t see them.” We said, “There are two Marys here.” And she informed us that she was the real Mary.

We found two golf balls without even trying. They were both sitting there on the trail when we crossed the course. One was fluorescent green/yellow and the other was a Nike 1. We took turns tossing them toward the hole, a par three. We were just outside the green. Peggi decided to use her foot for the second shot so I followed suit. I scored a one under.

Leo’s Haunt

Saturday, April 16th, 2016

Edmunds Woods wildflowers and ramps on April 15thh

We did the second shift on Record Store Day. Wouldn’t miss Saturday morning yoga class or Kneads & Wants. Last week’s “Hangover Biscuit” was the best yet, spinach, egg, cheese and caramelized onion. This week we went for the expresso creme filled croissants. And then we were ready for the great House of Guitars. We picked up a Coltrane ten inch and a Dylan ep with four songs from his new standards album. Headed over to the Record Archive and talked to Frank DeBlase about Margaret Explosion’s role in his new spoken word project. Way too nice a day to be in a record store so came home and took a walk. We found some ramps on top of the hill in Spring Valley and made an appetizer out of them.

I was looking for ramps because we found them yesterday in Edmunds Woods. My father took us there many times. It was one of his favorite haunts. The woods is surrounded by development and mostly deer free so there is plenty of undergrowth and wildflowers in the early Spring before the leaves fill in. We were visiting my mom earlier and she pointed out someone who she thought looked like my father. He didn’t but that got us thinking of him so we visited the woods.

The cut leafed toothwort was in full bloom and the trout lily were ready to pop. The squirrel corn was all still just green but the wild leeks or ramps were already in their prime. In the next few weeks this woods will be showcasing Spring Beauty, Red and White Trillium, May Apples, Blood Root, Blue Cohosh, Jack in the Pulpits, Black Snake Root and Flat-Topped White Aster. I wouldn’t miss it. Here’s my father’s map to the highlights.


Sunday, April 10th, 2016

Mary Dodd with Paul and stuffed animal 1950. Aunt Helen and her mom are seen on the porch in the background.

My mom and I have been good friends for a long time. She is living at the Friendly Home these days. Sounds like a Quaker place but it is not. The management there randomly teamed a resident and an employee with one of the 64 teams in the March Madness basketball tournament. My mom was coincidentally teamed with a good friend of my sister’s, someone who works at the the FH in the business department. And they were both attached to Villanova, the school my father graduated from. Their names were printed on these little college pennants in a display on a table in the coffee room.

We watched Villanova hang in there as they removed the losing teams after each game. Even Syracuse disappeared and Villanova went right to the top. My mom was presented a $25 gift certificate, redeemable at the gift shop in the FH. We took her down there to do some shopping. My mom has always had excellent taste. She picked out a coral sweater, one with rather sort sleeves and no buttons, and a light pink, silk scarf with little white polka dots. The FH credited her account with the remaining two dollars and we dropped the new garments off at the station where they sew name tags on the clothing so gets reunited with the right person after being laundered.


Saturday, April 2nd, 2016

Lake Ontario shoreline at Durand Eastman Beach

You would think it would be enough to walk to the lake and look at it. You would think that would be enough for the day. The sensation can be overwhelming. It is about a mile away from our house as the crow flies but our Moves app had us at about three and a half miles round trip. We took the path through the woods and then followed the winding shoreline of Eastman Lake.

Nighttime had us down at the lake as well. We caught two sets by Rich Thompson’s Quartet at the new Pythod Room on Lake Avenue in the old beer bar next door to Mr. Dominic’s. They did a beautiful version of Miles Davis’s “Eighty One.” That was enough for me.

First Day Of Spring

Monday, March 21st, 2016

Big white cloud over Hoffman Road in Rochester, New York

Foreigner’s “I’ve Been Waiting For A Girl Like You” was stuck in my head for a few days after I heard it the gas station. And then last night my sister called up that Meatloaf song from “Bat Out Of Hell” so that was lodged for a while. A trip to the bank was in order! Our ESL branch at Culver Ridge plays old school R&B and their format is broad enough to mix the Stones “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg’ (OK, the Stones’ version of the Temps’ tune) in with Cameo’s “Word Up” and The Stylistics’ “I’m Stone In Love With You.” Today, we were sitting in the lounge area, having a cup of coffee and waiting to meet with the branch manager, Cortez. The Commodores “Brick House” was playing and we watched two women dance their way to the teller.

Rainy Day

Wednesday, March 16th, 2016

Winter Aconite in the backyard 2016

Somehow I forgot that it can rain. And, of course, it is likely to do so in Spring. We broke away from desktop machines just in time for the sky to turn really dark. We donned our rain gear and headed out for a walk. Thunder in the distance and then some lightning but a decent amount of time between, we kept walking. Bang! Flash and noise near simultaneous. We scooted back up the hill in pouring rain. Spring has sprung.

I wish were able to be inside one of the theater at the Little s tonight instead of playing in the café. They’re showing “Five Easy Pieces.”

I put some new life into this chestnut by doing new art work for it this morning.
Margaret Explosion - Alice
Margaret Explosion – Alice


Thursday, March 10th, 2016

Looking north from the Headlands in San Francisco

We wore our tick gear for the first time yesterday assuming the little creatures would be out enjoying our record high temps. We tuck our pant legs in our socks to complete the geeky woods look. Don’t want any part of that Kathleen Hanna disease. Unless I’m missing something, they don’t seem to have any bugs in California. Peggi’s sister leaves her back door open during the day although she did see a rat running around. There no screens on the windows or doors. There must be something out there

We had my parents mailing address changed to our house so we’re getting my mom’s Women’s Day magazine now. I brought it up to her yesterday. I don’t know why I say “up.” Her room is on the ground floor. She wanted to go home with us but that is not going to happen.

Sonja Livingston is all over town this week. We heard her on the radio talking to Even Dawson about fertility and her love of language, especially the rhythm of words when we speak. And then we saw her at Margaret Explosion’s show last night.

Im still thinking about the Headlands on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge. It is such a magical spot.

My Head Is My Only House Unless It Rains


Saturday, March 5th, 2016

Weeds in marsh in late Winter 2016

There were nine women in our yoga class this morning. Other than the teacher I was the only guy. And then we went to the women-run bakery where all the clientele were women. Just saying.

The Cornus Mas trees look like Forsythia from a distance but more like bright yellow popcorn up close. It’s too early for the Forsythia to be in bloom. Daffodils are out the ground and might go yellow next week if we get to that 60 degree mark.

If I have an opportunity to shoot mugshots of a group of friends again I would do it with a 3D, the ones that swivel around your head. And then I would do the portraits in miniature on a 3D printer. Duane sent us a picture of self-portrait, bobble-head like prototype that a business associate of his did. I can’t get the concept out of my head.


Tuesday, March 1st, 2016

Patio of house at the top of Belair Road in Los Angeles

This photo looks a bit like a Maxfield Parish painting, idyllic and perfectly lit. When we were in LA we walked to the top of Bel Air Road. Anyone can do this. Walking on public roads is still free although you do risk your life. There are no sidewalks in this part of the country. You can’t see Stone Canyon Reservoir from the road but there was an open house here and from the patio in the back yard you have a fantastic view. The house is a fixer-upper at six point three million.

Back on the east coast the Winter Acconite is out. The beautiful yellow flowers are in full bloom before tonight’s snowfall. The geese are overhead, squeaking their way north. Equally idyllic on the idylometer.

We sat with my mom for a bit this afternoon. She gave us her take on her suite mates. Most of them drive her crazy. An aide, assisting a blind woman across from my mom, was encouraging the woman to drink her lemonade. “Drink it up. It has your Metamucil in it. The longer it sits, the thicker it gets. Ba da boom, bad da ba!”

Four of the five musician/artists included in the April, Little Theatre art show met there tonight to talk out the details. That took about five minutes after which we got down to what artists and musicians do best. We shot the shit over beer.

Girl Don’t They Warn Ya

Saturday, February 27th, 2016

T.J.'s houseboat in Sausilito, California

I haven’t done any of the tutorials yet so I’m still discovering the surprises built into my Apple Watch. I synced some photos with it last night. The watch is a vertical format so it crops them and they look all new on my wrist. I’ve hit the Siri button on the watch many times but it has only been by mistake so I never had a request for it. Today I said “play the stooges” and right on cue “I Wanna Be Your Dog” came out of Peggi’s phone.

“It Never Rains in California” is not by the Mamas and Papas. I was always fooled by that. Well it does rain. My sister-in-law discovered she has leaks in her living room after the recent downpours in LA. But there is a severe shortage and I am a slow learner. I like to daydream in the shower. Ive even left the water running while I brushed my teeth. We live near the shores of one of the world’s largest bodies of fresh water. We have friends who live on the lake and they complain the level is too high. In SF we discussed strategy, options and proceedures before taking a shower. I choose to wait three days, accumulating extra minutes before jumping in.

Every neighborhood has a go-to guy, someone like Sparky who lived next door to us in the city or Jared who lives next door to us in Irondequoit, someone who virtually owns the street. Rich and Andrea have a guy named T.J. who lives in one of the funkiest houseboats on the docks. He also owns another dock as a workshop and a place for all his stuff, the kind stuff you see in this photo, an ever-changing performance art space and floating installation.

The Program

Sunday, February 21st, 2016

M.K. Wagner painting in the hall at the Friendly Home in Rochester, New York

We seem to always catch my mom when she is eating. They get her up early for breakfast and of course she has a full lunch, an afternoon snack and then a hearty dinner. After that it’s time for bed. All part of “the program” as my mom calls it. My mom doesn’t like the program and asks us if she is almost finished with this program.

She usually sits at the same table but they mix it up. Each table has at least one aide, sometimes feeding residents on both sides. They say they try not to have too many “feeds” at one table. My mom doesn’t eat as much as she used to but she needs no assistance and works her way through the meal in an orderly fashion. Some residents are given each item on the menu separately. I assume they would go right for the dessert if it was all put down at once. And we watched the woman sitting next to my mom try to steal her cookie.

Some people have all their food ground up. Their plates have the same items on them as the rest but each item on the menu is shaped like a scoop of ice cream.

The woman sitting next to us yesterday never woke up while she was at the table. The staff tried to shake her a few times but just let her sleep. Near the end of the meal my mom asked us if the woman was dead.

Unto Dust You Shall Return

Thursday, February 11th, 2016

Old train under bridge on Lake Avenue in Rochester, New York

We used to play this card game called “Indian Poker,” a politically incorrect name no matter what kind of Indian it was named after. You would pick a card and not look at it but stick it to your forehead so all the other players could see it. I think you then bet on whether you thought you had he highest card or something. It was kind of hard to keep a straight face while watching someone go of broke with a two or a three on their forehead.

When we stopped up to see my mom yesterday she had a dark sign of the cross on her forehead. Even though her home is non-denominational they have a record of your religion and I was surprised to see about half of the residents with smudge marks on their heads. My mom’s was the darkest. I said, “I see you got your ashes for Ash Wednesday.” She said, “What?” like she had already forgotten about it, so I just let it go.

“So the only thing to do was to drive up and watch the city from Observatory Crest

Coyotes Snag Stella

Tuesday, February 9th, 2016

Stella in basket on Hall Street in 1998

They had to pull open the dividers in the big meeting room tonight at the library in order to accommodate the overflow crowd for a presentation called “The Eastern Coyote” by Scott Smith of the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation. Channel 8 was there with a video camera. Channel 10 showed up about halfway through the presentation. Peggi estimated a couple hundred people in the room.

We have 2 to 3 coyotes per square mile here, two times more than they have in the Adirondacks. There are 25,000 in New York State with the highest density in the Mohawk Valley. Of course Scott talked about coydogs, a cross between a coyote and you know. They have apparently been bred out in the colder northern climates but they are quite prevalent in the Carolinas.

I always thought wolf, coyotes and foxes would coexist as similar species but wolf eat coyotes and coyotes eat foxes and foxes eat rats, rabbits, chipmunks and so on down the line. Coyotes mate for life but fool around. Seventy per cent of their diet is deer but they don’t kill most of them, they are good at finding dead or injured deer.

An email had recently circulated among our neighbors, one that started with a women who spotted a deer head near her house when she was walking her dog. A deer hunter was the first to reply and he thought it could have been left by coyotes because they don’t like the head. Other neighbors chimed in with their recent coyote sightings.

Scott’s slides show all different colors of coyotes. I spotted what I thought was a red fox this morning. It was slinking through the trees in the woods across from our house. Stella, our eighteen year old, all white cat, was out while I grabbed the paper. I’m thinking the coyote got her. At least, I’d prefer to think that’s what happened to her. We had to have the vet put her down this afternoon because she had stopped eating.

Extreme Patience

Sunday, February 7th, 2016

Pavement on Hoffman Road in winter

You don’t have join the Rochester Yacht Club to enjoy the incredible setting they have down there on the mouth of the Genesee. You can just show up for Jeffery’s Saturday morning yoga class. The views from the club are seriously distracting in all all seasons. The one and a half hour class just flies by. It helps that Jeffery wings it and sometimes spins out on stream of conscious tangents.

We were on our backs for a good bit of Saturday’s class doing twists and little bridges and he got going on addiction and how we cross the dominant leg over the other and then announcing “humans are an addictive species.” That launched him into a story about living in a hotel for a year, after his house fire, watching cable tv and a show about hoarders.

Back to anatomical awareness of the fascia muscle that runs from our feet all the way up our backs to our eye sockets. I was trying to imagine that while starring at the textured ceiling. I was picking out faces and generally getting lost in it. And then there is that small green gob of something, probably food, stuck to the ceiling. Oil has seeped from the gob, spreading in a four inch radius.

Chris Zajkowski and Heather arrived at Abilene the same time as us but we had to turn back. Our earplugs were still in the car. Little dig we know, we didn’t need them tonight to protect what little we have left. The Phil Marshall Band was not loud. They were just right. They gingerly felt their way through songs from Phil’s new album. It was beautiful. After the show we told Phil how much we loved his cd and the night’s performance. He told us he owes it all to Chris, his co-producer. He told us, “I was gonna make a pop album.”

Here’s Chris and Heather from ten years ago.