Archive for the ‘Life Is A Spell’ Category


Friday, February 20th, 2015

Ski path through Commons

I moved my painting upstairs to our big south-facing window in order to capture the last few moments of sunlight. Then, as the sun went down, I moved toward the sink to wash my brushes, instinctively trying each light switch I passed. That impulse is almost hard-wired. I was thinking about our friends, Pete and Shelley, living up in the woods with a permanent power outage.

The phone was out too, not because there was any problem with the phone lines, our phones all depend on electricity. And there probably wasn’t any problem with our cable internet connectIon, just that the modem requires electricity. Of course, if we had a cell phone we’d call Rochester Gas & Electric. Ah, but I did purchase a twenty dollar, one gig data plan for my iPad so I went to RG&E’s site and clicked on the “outage” tab. I entered our customer id and and submitted my report. The response read, “There are no power outages reported in your area.”

It was only 5 degrees out. We’re also taking care of our neighbor’s house and I was beginning to panic. We built a fire and I submitted my report again. This time the response read, “We are aware of an electricity outage in your area affecting 917 customer(s). The estimated restoration time is Thursday, February 19 at 7:00 PM.”

You have to wonder about a message like this. The power goes out unexpectantly due to an accident or something and yet they can give you a time for when it will be back up and running? But we put our faith in the power company and went to a movie, the documentary shot in Canadaigua, outside Rochester, where the national Veteran’s Suicide Hotline has received a million calls from current and former soldiers considering or threatening suicide. The neighborhood was all lit up on our return.

Italian Assorted

Wednesday, February 18th, 2015

Original Rubino's on East Ridge Road in Rochester, New York

I have had a craving for Rubino’s for a while now so I emailed my father and suggested we bring some sandwiches over there for lunch. Two “Italian Assorted” and a meatball sub for my mom. No peppers or olives on my father’s Italian assorted. He still pronounces the first “I” in Italian as a long vowel.

My sister had found a tin of Charlie Chips somewhere, something I hadn’t seen in thirty years or so, and my father put those on the table. Peggi looked at the ingredients. Cottonseed oil doesn’t sound too heathy but there was zero cholesterol. We had a tough choice between almond and fig cookies at Rubino’s but we settled on almond. The coffee is bottomless down the hall from their apartment. My dad had two Cokes. This might become a regulat gig.

New Brain Cells

Wednesday, February 11th, 2015

Ryan Lamfers "Degradation" at R Gallery in Rochester, New York

“Through rain, sleet and snow the mail must go through.” Well, forget about that.

We had an envelope in our box for two days and no one picked it up. We’ve been collecting our neighbor’s mail while they are away and their box was empty as well. So I called the Post Office. “Monique (our regular carrier) was on vacation and the substitute got lost.” That was the excuse for the first day. On the second day (Monday) we had some snow, not too much, just enough to freshen up the ski paths through the woods. But I guess it was enough delay the substitute carrier and at five thirty or so they all the delivery people were called off the roads.

So the New Yorker was a couple days late.

The apartment building where my father lives has a subscription to the Wall Street Journal and my father picks it up at the end of the day. He cut out a few articles for us, one on books about the Spanish Civil War, one on the abstract expressionist, Franz Kline, and one on cultivating new brain cells.

Frederick Gage of the Salk Institute says our brains regenerate new cells while taking long walks. Because we are still evolving, thank god, “our bodies associate the exertion with moving from an existing territory, which had perhaps become depleted of food or too dangerous, to a new, unexplored territory whose details must be learned. In anticipation, the brain releases new cells and growth factors, which create a more plastic state and make possible new neural connections.”

According To My Junk

Thursday, January 29th, 2015

Found photo of people, found in our house

We hear they hauled away two dumpsters of stuff from our house before we bought it. The former owner lived alone, he had no relatives here and he had a heart attack in our bedroom. I wish they had just left the stuff here. I kind of like going through junk.

The house was empty when we moved in except for a giant candle, maybe a foot tall and six inches in diameter with a huge wick. We left it burning on our porch one night and reduced it to a small puddle of wax. There was a deer rack mounted over the back door of the garage and we kept that up. There was a pool cue rack on the wall of the basement which we threw out. And beneath a built-in seat in our living room we found a big, cardboard box of photos.

There were five different Kodak, photo business cards of his were in the box so we arranged them chronologically. He looked a lot like they in the photo above but we’re pretty sure that is his father and mother. We were able to piece together his hobbies (going to auto races and shooting telephoto shots of women’s rear ends) and the places he visited (amusement parks with his two kids during his visitation stints). He probably had free film processing so he shot thousands of of bad photos, not even interestingly bad. We filled a garbage bag with them but I did manage to fill a small scrapbook with a strange assortment. Some day maybe someone will piece my life together with my junk.

Zen & X-Country

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015

Freshly groomed cross-country ski trails in Durand Eastman Park in Rochester, New York

Donations to the Rochester X-Country Ski Foundation are in order this year. The groomed trails in the parks are the best option for skiing due to the lack of a substantial snowfall that would cushion the trials in the woods. And all that time out in the open covering a vast expanse of open land (golf course) has made us better skiers. When we first started it was clearly a trudge. I would say we skied no faster than we would move through the snow on foot. Then came a slow glide and it was much less effort than walking and we covered more ground. Now we have taken to studying the motion of skiers who ski like you would skate. We mimic them for a few strokes and then stop to marvel at the scenery.

Galaxie 300

Tuesday, January 27th, 2015

Bowling balls at Park View Bowl on Culver Road in Rochester, New York

I’ve read that Rochester used to have more bowling lanes per capita than any other city in the world. Park View Bowl in Sea Breeze might have capitalized on that boom, somewhere in the fifties or sixties, when they busted a hole in the side of their concrete-block building and added a seventh and eighth lane. That’s where they put our crew on Monday night, a perfect spot as we surely would have disrupted the regular’s groove.

Louise wore her Hendrix t-shirt and she and Peggi were the only women in the place other than the owner’s sister who was behind the bar while her brother bowled. But they did have room for us tonight so we each picked out a ball. Louise chose a “Smart Ball.” It was so light it couldn’t fully return on the ramp that brings your ball back. My solid black ball weighed a ton and was labeled “Ebonite.” Peggi chose a blue sparkly ball called “Galaxie 300.” We laughed about that one because Louise’s bother played in a band called “Galaxie 500.” Matthew’s ball was nicknamed “The Hammer.”

One dollar bought three tunes on the juke box. Mine went for the Righteous Brothers, Temptations and Stones. I bought the second pitcher and the owners’s sister started to pour Yuengling. I asked if she could make this one Labatt’s Blue and she gave me a Marlene Dietrich worthy look of exasperation. Earlier, when I asked for size eleven shoes, she said, “I can’t reach those.” Her brother, Kevin, is a sweetie. He tallied up our scores at the end of both games because we none of us could keep score.

Louise tell this story better.

Welcome To The World

Monday, January 19th, 2015

Saint Ann statue at Saint Ann's Home in Rochester, New York

We parked our car in Saint Ann’s lot across the street from Rochester General in order to save the parking fees. An added bonus was the short walk on a 40 plus degree day. All it takes is one of these days to screw up a winter groove. The rink in front of the town hall looked as sad as can be. We had been on a pretty good X-country ski run until this happened.

Our niece had a baby girl. Penelope. I’m thinking “Peña” as a nickname but me niece didn’t seem to like that one. Penelope is really quite a wonder, not even a day old on her literal “birthday.”

On our way back the lights were on statue of Saint Ann. Saint Ann is Mary’s mother so that would be the future virgin mother standing in front of her. Presumably Mary’s birth was not an immaculate conception. I know my niece’s wasn’t.

Satan In A Bind

Friday, January 16th, 2015

Funky signs near Clifton Springs in Rochester, New York

We drove out to Clifton Springs with my parents to attend a birthday party for my. She turned ninety. She was my godmother and one of my earliest memories is being at her wedding. She was a nurse at Saint Mary’s on Genesee Street where I was born and she met her husband while attending to a farm injury that he sustained.

We got off he NYS thruway at Manchester and we took the first left on a road that would take us right into Clifton Spring. Right there, near the intersection I hit the mother-load of content for my Funky Signs site.

The Next Call

Thursday, January 15th, 2015

Tree on Lake Ontario, January 2015

“This is the return call you requested regarding the back brace commercial you saw on tv.” ‘Your computer is reporting suspicious errors. Press 1 to talk to a Microsoft representative now.”

We registered our home phone number with the “Do Not Call Registry” but got these two calls this week. I went to the government’s site and found this alert on their front page. “Scammers have been making phone calls claiming to represent the National Do Not Call Registry.” I’m trying to decide whether to go skiing or wait for the next call.


Tuesday, January 13th, 2015

Path to Horseshoe Road near Lake Ontario in Rochester, New York

Twelve degrees is the perfect temperature for cross country skiing. Crisp, light snow with lots of plenty of glide. Not so cold you that want to turn back but cold enough to make the experience exhilarating. I remember being twelve. I thought I was on top of the world. It was my lucky number for a while because I won a box of Snickers at the Saint John the Evangelist fair by placing my bet on that number. A whole box of Snickers!

Science Fiction

Friday, January 9th, 2015

Bench on small lake in Durand Eastman Park

I’ve been meaning to check out the Bad Plus’s version of Ornette Coleman’s “Science Fiction” lp. That album knocked me out when I first heard it and it still does. The two songs with exotic vocals were a great entry point into Ornette’s world. I felt like I had waited all my life for the song, “All My Life.”

But I never cared for science fiction, the genre, or at least I didn’t think I did until Andrei Tarkovsky’s “Solaris.” It took us four sittings to get through it but that was only due to us being knocked out four separate times, so knocked by its beauty that one of us fell asleep.

The movie is not only visually stunning and otherworldly, the soundtrack moves freely from electronic to Bach and at times is totally silent while the main character sleeps.

To top it all off the director uses paintings by Pieter Bruegel to maximum effect. Check out this amazing piece of the movie.

I’m Free

Tuesday, January 6th, 2015

My computer in Apple Store at Eastview Mall

I know desktop machines are outdated. I know I am outdated but I still like the big monitor on my iMac. So I took it in to the Apple Store to have them run diagnostics on my machine. It passed. So why do my external hard drives, even the Apple DVD/CD USB SuperDrive get disconnected when my computer goes to sleep? It has been a minor problem since I bought the computer six months ago and I probably would have lived with it if there wasn’t this other issue. My monitor, which is really the whole machine, has lost its ability to hold its position. It just falls to the most downward facing slot. A gravity-related hardware issue.

It’s all covered by the warranty so I left it in the store. They are replacing the motherboard but they told me this may not fix the problem. They said they’d call in five days or so, the longest I’ve been without a computer in years. I’m thinking of that Who song from Tommy, “I’m Free.” I know the Stones did a song with the same name but I’m thinking of the Who song. And I’m happy Amy checked in. Wondering which song she and Eric would chose for the occasion.

If Not Exists

Monday, January 5th, 2015

Amaryllis blossoming in living room on New Year's Day 2014

Following directions this morning for backing up a database through phpMyAdmin we were instructed to uncheck “Add IF NOT EXISTS” in the SQL Options. That always gets me going. “If not exists.”

Somehow the conversation at our dinner party on Saturday turned to speculation as to where missing socks went. Statically stuck inside other clothes was the best answer. I tried to end the topic by announcing that I always buy the same socks, black, Gold Toed in six packs at Lord & Taylor. I never notice a missing sock because all of my socks look the same.

I don’t blame them for not liking my smart aleck answer but the point is it is harder to get a good group conversation going with eight people. Too many people to stay engaged, not enough space to find an opening, not enough opportunity to elicit responses or to take wild turns into deeper subjects. Too many passengers to expect to hang on as the conversation diverges or even disappears.

So in a splinter conversation I told Louise I really liked her Disappear post. She apologized for the diversions in the post but that is exactly why I liked it so much.

I feel as I have really stumbled on something that has been right in front of me forever and it is endlessly fascinating. It is therapeutic even. “Letting go.” And this is why I liked Louise’s diversions, invisible in her parents home and Jesus in the temple.

You can’t try too hard to meditate. When we’re playing the magic happens when I have no idea what I’m playing, not that it is complicated by any stretch, but my contribution is out of my control. It is just happening and I have essentially disappeared.

Some Margaret Explosion songs, these days a five way conversation, just slip away as we’re playing. They just turn into a daydream that slowly evaporates, while we’re playing. Some, even on playback, just seem to disappear while you’re listening so the concept became a cd title and eventually a song but the concept is still the thing.

My father uses the word to discuss his condition someday, an eloquent way of putting it. I am practicing.

Love, Peace, and Soul

Thursday, January 1st, 2015

Martin answers the door at his Art Deco apartment in Rochester, New York

Like Boy Scouts we were prepared for anything last night. Peggi even ran down “Auld Lang Syne” before we left the house and we finished the evening with a rousing version. Bob brought his laser lights and pointed them toward the band. The circus movies he grabbed from YouTube played on the wall behind us so I kept my eyes closed the whole night. We went an hour and a half before taking a break only because the line at the bar was so long we would have never got a drink.

We were thinking we would invite some friends back to our our house to ring in the New Year but Martin sent us a message just before we left that said he was having a party in his Art Deco apartment on East Avenue. Good thing I brought my iPad because he was having a hard time getting the sound from Pandora on TV out to his speakers. Maria Friske organized a Soul Train revue and I found some James Brown, Marvin Gaye and Kraftwerk that did the trick.

Sempre Culver

Tuesday, December 30th, 2014

Christmas decorations on Culver Road

I used to always have a destination in mind before getting on my bike. Something like getting to work or to the store or band practice. These days I just like going for a ride. Same with walking. We walk in circles everyday. We always return to exactly where we started. Today we had a destination. We walked up to Wegmans and back with a short stop at the library.

Ever notice how the houses on Culver sit at an angle to the street? That is the front of the house is not parallel with the road. Each house is the same distance from the road but turned at an angle so the people in each house can look out their side windows and not be looking right into their neighbor’s place. You notice these things when you walk. And some houses have been here much longer than others. Some have hitching posts out near the road so you could tie up your horse in the pre-automotive days. Some houses have first floor windows that go right down to the floor, a dramatic feature for the turn of the last century.

Culver Road, a north/south artery, was named after Oliver Culver, from one of the oldest pioneer families in the Empire State. His father served in the Revolutionary War. I never get tired of traveling on Culver.

Nothing stays the same and who would expect it to. But someday I will have to update the notes I took on these photos.

Walking, Talking

Sunday, December 28th, 2014

Tamarack marsh near New Years Eve 2014

It was a double header for me today. First a walk with Peggi up on the ridges over Spring Valley where we ran into deer enthusiast and neighbor, Steve Greive, dressed in camouflage but armed only with his camera. He told us he had only seen a couple of fawns, no bucks, and he said that he had seen a young buck mounting another buck near his house, “some gay action.” At the end of our loop we found evidence of the return of Budweiser man again, a half dozen 22 ounce cans in the usual spot. He apparently was on the wagon for awhile.

Round two started down at the lake where I met my sister. We headed over the swamp on the new bridge and up the path through the woods to the Parkside Diner where we sipped hot chocolate and announced early resolutions to make the new year a good one.

Light Of The World

Thursday, December 25th, 2014

Duane with Maureen's painting light

Having just come back from a walk to the lake I am happy to report that I am in the Christmas spirit. Perfect timing. The water level on Lake Eastman had just dropped about a foot. You could see the high water mark on the trees that are still standing in water along the shore. We’re guessing the high winds and rough water on Lake Ontario finally budged the plugged outlets. The beavers have taken down some pretty big trees and the trees have surely worked their way down Lake Eastman toward the big lake where there is a log jam. Nature has an impressive way of taking care of business.

The wind has apparently taken our Time Warner connection out so we are without internet, cable tv or a phone line. Glad I’m not a kid looking for a connection for my new Xbox on Christmas Day.

We had a lovely dinner last night with parts of my big family. We changed the menu at the last minute and ordered greens & beans and lasagna from Proietti’s in Webster, a giant tin of the stuff with extra jars of sauce and cheese to pour on top as we warmed it up. I made a green salad modeled after the ones we used to have with Peggi’s mom out at the Bistro in the Highlands, grapes split in half with a slightly sweet vinegrette and then garnished with toasted pecans. Peggi made applesauce and we had her Christmas cookies for desert. The conversation flowed like wine and I slept like a baby.

Duane usually joins us for Xmas Eve dinner but he is already back in New York and Maureen is trying to figure out the accurate color, painting lights that Duane gave her.

Listening To The Birds

Friday, December 19th, 2014

Small barn painting by Leo Dodd

My father has a miniature watercolor station next to his chair in the living room of his apartment, the tiny “travel” paint set, a couple of brushes, some water and a small black notebook where he has been painting barns and cityscapes. These small paintings (the one above is shown almost actual size) are looser and more sketch-like than the large watercolors he does in his studio in the next room. He used the one above for his Holiday card and called it “Evening Exercise Sketch.” The back of the card had one of my favorite quotes. “Music is your own experience, your thoughts, your wisdom. If you don’t live it, it won’t come out your horn.” – Charlie Parker

Next year he can use, “Don’t play the saxophone. Let it play you.” – Charlie Parker

Adios Red

Thursday, December 4th, 2014

Elevator in Hungerford Building in Rochester, New York

We met “Red” Cassorla late in life. He was already in his nineties. Earl and Spider, the famous fireworks aficionados, would bring their father to the Margaret Explosion gigs while they were home for the Jewish holy days. Red’s family was chased out of Spain and he loved speaking Spanish with Peggi. He had a wicked sense of humor.

Services were held for “Red” yesterday and we learned he grew up on Ormond Street where his family lived behind the grocery store that his father owned. Red got his start selling newspapers on the corner of State and Main and then opened his own business distributing groceries to the city’s small, mom & pop stores. He worked seven days a week and “knew everyone in the city” before giving up the business at 89. He never really retired but continued to help his sons run their fireworks store in Nevada.

Contemplating Crime

Sunday, November 30th, 2014

Empty docks on the Hudson River as seen from the train

We hung out with Frank DeBlase in the back room at Record Archive while Teressa Wilcox finished her set and the Goners set up. Frank was excited about his upcoming workshop at Writers & Books, a course in crime writing, where he plans to discuss plotting and plodding. I immediately knew what he meant by plodding because it is the method I prefer. I don’t like planning or knowing what will happen before it does. Frank leaned toward the plod but seemed a little torn. He has some stories to tell.

He was telling how he went to a writers’s conference in Philly and met author, Steve Hodel, son of George Hill Hodel who was friends with Man Ray and John Huston. After the elder Hodel died, his son Steve, a former LAPD homicide detective, came to believe his father was the “Black Dahlia’s” killer.