Archive for the ‘Life Is A Spell’ Category

Iron Cannibal Choppers

Friday, August 17th, 2018

Woods off of Kings Highway in Rochester, New York

There was hardly anyone on the golf course when we cut through this afternoon. Maybe it was too wet. We saw the beer lady in her cart and she was just sitting under a tree studying her phone. We came across a dead skunk on one of the greens with a puncture wound in his stomach and surprisingly it didn’t stink.

At the lake we took Kings Highway up to the library. We walk on the shoulder going against traffic as cars act like its a drag strip in that isolated Stretch. The undeveloped part of the park was thick and lush, too thick to even walk through this time of year. We usually stop in the library, study the new releases, and use their bathrooms but we didn’t have any time for that today. We were headed over to Deborah Ronnen’s to check out some new prints. Our favorite was by Kiki Smith.

We passed a Harley up on the sidewalk and grey haired biker on his cell phone. It wasn’t until we were right on top of him that we were able to read his t-shirt. “Iron Cannibal Choppers.” At the end of street we spotted a big patch of orange Chanterelle mushrooms. While we were walking a I made a mental note to look up Genesee beer and BlackkKlansman when I got back. I thought someone would be talking about the Genesee neon signs in the bar scene. Either they carry the local beer in Colorado Springs or someone scored a strategic product placement. I didn’t find anything.

After our art preview we had the Sesame Tofu special at Lanai and talked to the chef, Rico, about Hawaii. Peggi complemented him on the soundtrack, most of which she first heard her mom play on weekends back in the first Polynesian wave.

The Corn Is As High As

Wednesday, August 15th, 2018

Jared and tall Indian Corn 2018

Jared’s grandkids broke his glass rain collector but he estimated we had almost two inches of rain the other night. Other parts of the county got up to nine. I expected to find some of our tomato plants laying on the ground but they were all still standing. Peggi brought home a bag of them and we plan on making gazpacho. We’ll use the cucumbers from next door. Maybe try this recipe. We were trying to estimate how tall these corn stalks are. Our best guess is fifteen feet.


Monday, August 13th, 2018

Yellow wrought iron chairs on Fairlea in Rochester, New York

These are the kind chairs that you don’t sit at. They are in the front yard of house near us. We pass by often and we have never seen anyone sitting in them. They are nice looking and perhaps that is enough.

We started getting serious about putting away some money rather late. Our band was doing a Happy Hour gig at the Bug Jar and Steve Brown, one of the three original owners, was behind the bar those nights. He worked for Merrill in the day and he encouraged us stop by his office. He made it all fun, recommending a few things but mostly coaching us to buy what we like. Of course we bought some Apple. Steve moved on and these days we check in with Joe Marchese out at MCC every couple of years. He guides us toward a comfortable 60/40 balance of equities and fixed income. After a ten year bull market we had some shuffling to do. Our key strategy though is fairly simple. We just don’t spend that much.

It seems you can’t talk about anything these days with Trump coming up. I think we said said something about tariffs and Joe said, “I understand economics but we’re dealing with a nut case.”

Welcome To The Jungle

Thursday, August 2nd, 2018

Red Wing Stadium as seen through sun glasses

We had not been to a Red Wings game in years but we see still has the naming rights to the scoreboard. We parked off Alexander Street where there was free alternate side parking and we hoofed it over to State Street. The Wings were losing 2-1 to the Scrantom/Wilkes Barre Railriders at the top of the second when we walked in.

I caught a foul ball. Well, I didn’t actually catch it. It bounced off the seats next to us and I grabbed it. I gave it to some kids sitting behind us. 7,000 people were in the stands for a day game and I felt like I was back at the Norton Street stadium with my father on a Knot Hole Day. The Wings were wearing different uniforms and playing under the name of “Rochester Plates,” some sort of promotion marking the 100th anniversary of the Garbage Plate which originated at Nick Tahou Hots just around the corner from Frontier Field. Between innings the announcer said, “There is nothing more Rochester than a Garbage Plate.”

They still play ten second samples of the Ramones, “Hey Ho, Let’s Go!,” Gary Glitter’s “Rock n’ Roll” and “Welcome to the Jungle. Fred Costello’s live organ sounded better than any of that. He did snippets of “In A Gadda Da Vida” and Mungo Jerry’s “Summertime” and then a full, jazzed-up version of Donovan’s “Sunshine Superman.” There are distractions galore, kids games between innings, conversations going on all around you, people on their cell phones and generally not watching the game.

I tried Louise’s sunglasses on when we were out at their place boating. I loved the color of the lenses and I bought my own pair at a local Rite Aid. I took this picture through the sunglasses. We went into the bathroom and they were playing the radio broadcast of the game over the speakers in there. Only there was I drawn into the nuances of America’s favorite pasttime.

For Janet

Saturday, July 28th, 2018

Ted and Janet Williams at the Bug Jar Margaret Explosion performance in 2001

“Primordial Fleamarket: Sometimes the communist household object strikes you as having been made in geological times, rather than some manufacturing era. Glorified objects . . . rarefied.” Wendy Low echoed this quote from Janet Thayer Williams when she asked, “Who can look at a whisk broom and not think of the stitching in Janet’s painting?”

Friends of the William’s family gathered on Laburnum Crescent today to remember Janet. Someone made a convincing argument that Janet was still with us. Her paintings were were on display throughout the house and once I found this one, “Wite Out” from 2006, I stayed put beneath it. I first saw it in the tunnel between the new downtown library and the old building across the street. They often display art there and this painting stopped me dead on my tracks. The typewriter keys sang and leapt off the canvas as if some fantastic story was unfolding. It wasn’t on the page. It was somewhere between the mind, the keys and the page. I told Janet how much I loved it.


Friday, June 22nd, 2018

Small house at 236 Coolidge in Rochester, New York

Everyone is buying less, driving less, eating locally and reducing their footprint. If you’re thinking of downsizing, this small house on Coolidge Road is for sale. We’ve walked by it many times but have never seen anyone coming or going. We asked a neighbor if anyone lives in there and he said someone did for many years, a relative of someone else on the street, but he said it had been empty for a while. We noticed it had just come on the market and it comes with a full sized house right next door. It caught my eye because it is about the size a the small house Dave Mahoney and I lived in in Bloomington. Someone broke in there and stole our stereo. “Burnt Weeny Sandwich” was on the turntable and we were left with just the jacket.

Peggi and I did battle with some wasps today, a fairly big project for us. They were building a paper nest inside the umbrella by the pool. Bees kept coming and going and you couldn’t get near enough to open it so we really weren’t sure what was going on under there. We brought a candle down there, something Peggi had picked up to keep bugs away. We lit that for starters and set it on the table under the umbrella. My cousin had just paid us a visit a few days ago and she gave us a small box of essential oils. Peppermint and Lemongrass were in there, oils that are supposed repel bees. We put some of that on a cotton ball and taped it to the end of a long stick which I shoved up under the umbrella. They didn’t like it and flew out but stayed close. Others kept coming and there were twenty or so around the umbrella but they were more confused than anything.

We went home for some soap and water, something we had read they really don’t like. We put it in a spray bottle and misted them and the umbrella. Once we got the umbrella up we found two paper nests and no bees. Its supposed to rain tonight so that will clean up the mess.


Thursday, June 21st, 2018

Summer Solstice Sea Breeze New York 2018

Rick and I were in the decisive third round of our horseshoe match. Duane was in town and he and Peggi were talking and watching from the yellow and blue chairs. And three “gals” (one of my cousin’s favorite words) came walking down our dead-end street. Marilyn, who had moved to the mountains years ago, Olga and Kathy walked over from Kathy’s sweet spot on the bay. We toasted the Summer Solstice by splitting a tall Genny in small glasses.

A sunset walk on the pier was in order. Jumbo Shrimp was playing on the beach at Marge’s. They were doing J Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers’ “Last Kiss”” when we got to the end and they sounded fuller than the the guitar/drums duo we had heard a few years ago. The night was still young. We had to see Ronaldo score again and then cheer Spain on as they barely bested Iran in the World Cup. All this and Jazz Fest starts rudely starts tomorrow.

More Questions

Monday, June 11th, 2018

Adam and Eve sculpture, Eve from Adam's Rib, Santo Domingo De La Calzada Cathedral

Peggi’s sister sent us a link to an article in the LA Times about “Strangers on the Earth,” a documentary on the Camino de Santiago. We’ve already seen three movies about the Camino and we were in the middle of watching “The Milky Way,” Buñuel’s 1969 masterpiece. It is surely the wildest movie about religion and the Camino (which is sometimes referred to as “The Milky Way”). I say “in the middle of watching” because the Netflix dvd locked up on us about halfway through because of scratches on the disc. Don’t you just wish everything was streamable?

While we were walking the actual Camino, from one small town church to the next, my cousin told us she felt like she missed out by not going to a Catholic school. I found myself making an argument for how she lucked out. She was never in a class in the middle of math when the teacher rounded us up to go next door to a mass in the church. She never had a nun veer off topic in the middle of an English lesson so we could hear a religious parable. And she probably had a gym in her school building and a phys-ed teacher.

In truth, Religion class, part of our daily curriculum, was sometimes as thought provoking as Buñuel’s movie. In fact, that is what I remember most from Catholic school. And it was the questioning that stuck with me, the same questions that are bantered about in “The Milky Way.” How can it be said that we have a free will when God knows exactly what we will do before we do it? All the things that can only be settled by accepting them as articles of faith, they just don’t make logical sense. The mysteries are meant to be confounding.

A friend of my parents requested a Mass for my parents today on what would have been their sixty-ninth anniversary. The priest had a beard and the altar boy role was played by a woman with grey hair and an ankle length skirt. The church, Saint Thomas More, was rather plain, lots of brick and a simple modern crucifix. I feel as though there is an effort underway to remove the mystery.

On Your Left

Tuesday, May 29th, 2018

Trail along Genesee River across from UR

We don’t walk in the woods as much as we used to. We are afraid of the ticks. We still go there, once we’ve suited up, and it is a special treat when we do. And its hard to put on any kind of milage in the woods so we walk in different directions each day. Today we parked a the CoOp and walked along the river to Elmwood Avenue where we crossed the river and came back on the other side. Its beautiful over there and not as well traveled.

The path is paved and shared by bikes. Some bikers are better than others when they shout “On your left.” About half the time it scares the shit out of me as they come up on us from behind. It is possible to approach that phrase gently but it usually comes out like an alarm.

We were walking along the lake over Memorial Day and a bike rider who was coming toward us on our right shouted, “On your left.” We just froze in our tracks thinking someone else was coming up on us from behind but it was only him. He scared us and made no sense at all.

Here’s The Church. Here’s The Steeple.

Friday, May 25th, 2018

Saint Mary's tower being repaired in downtown Rochester, New York

We took Pete and Shelley up to see the Leo Dodd painting show at Geisel Gallery. It closes on Wednesday so, sadly, this will probably be our last visit. We spent some time studying the four that are in B&L’s permanent collection. They were painted in 1994 and 1995 when the building was being constructed. Jean Geisel bought them then and they will be returned to B&L’s Goodman Street plant when the show is over.

These paintings are very interesting to me because they were executed rather quickly, like big sketches. Parts of the paintings are what you might call “unfinished” but those sections work especially well to convey the construction and action going on. Not only that, the expressively drawn, mostly white areas are the real subject and the reason he was standing out in Washington Square Park. They are alive today and what more could you hope for from a painting left behind.

Men were working on the steeple of Saint Mary’s when we stopped by. The church, just across the street from the park, played a big part in our family history and my father would have loved seeing this. Our cousin, Ray Tierney, bought one of the Saint Mary’s paintings from this show. His wife liked the painting because of the political activity it depicted (protesters with Occupy signs) and Ray like it because, as he told me, he was an alter boy at Saint Mary’s. In fact he was paid to serve mass (I never was) because Saint Mary’s had no grade school and they needed boys to serve. He took the bus downtown from Saint Boniface’s and loved getting out of school to serve at funerals.

We are really excited about the Champion’s League final on Saturday. We have been follwing Real Madrid all year but have a soft spot from Liverpool and Salem so we’ll be happy whoever wins. I just hope it will be a good match. We walked up to Wegmans and came back with some corn, vegetables and fish to grill after the game.

Kodak Moments

Sunday, May 20th, 2018

Mark, Ann with Amy, Paul, Fran, John and Tim

My sister, Amy, is the family historian. She remembers dates and places, when and where minor and significant events took place and we rely on her to keep track of things. The boxes of 35mm slides that our parents left behind are in good hands with her. She recently culled a few hundred and we sent them to a place in Utah to be scanned.

Our brother, Mark, was in town this weekend to see the Leo Dodd show at the Geisel Galley so we rounded up five of the seven Dodds, pictured above, and took a look at the photos on our tv. The family is a little spread out so there were very few pictures of the seven of us together. I like the coon hats on Fran and Tim, the smiles on our faces and the Rouault prints that my dad had on the wall behind us.

Our brother-in-law, Howie, brought olives and beer, Genesee’s Ruby Red Kolsch, a picture-perfect combo.
We played Margaret Explosion music from the past month at low volume. I had never seen many of the photos. I thought I identified a young Brad Fox in one one of them, rough housing at the pool with my brother, Fran, but my sister thinks it is someone else. She is probably right. Memory is far from factual and I prefer it that way.

We stopped by the closing party of Zanne Brunner’s art show. She took us over to a stack of her work, looking for a drawing of Peggi and me playing at the Little. She wanted to give us the drawing but someone had already bought it.

Repeat And Steal

Friday, May 18th, 2018

Peggi, suited in tick gear, clearing Garlic Mustard from hillside out back.

I can’t imagine how thick the garlic mustard would be if we didn’t pick it each year. We wait until the white flowers come up out. The plants are up around a foot by then, they are easy to spot and they haven’t gone to seed. Unlike the tooth swallow wort they are really easy to get out of the ground, roots and all. Our friends Pete and Shelley eat them but they don’t have them in anywhere near the quantity we do. Our undergrowth is stressed by the deer and the invasives are opportunistic as hell.

Isn’t the local first movement just a scaled down version of nationalism? I think we are still a long ways off from having too many breweries or coffee shops. And I like the idea Fifth Frame has for combining the two. It’s not an original idea. Coffee shops in Spain have seamlessly shifted gears from coffee to brew for centuries.

We have a friend who’s been talking about opening a coffee shop downtown. Before he does I think he should go to Spain and walk out the door of his hotel and stop at the first café he sees. Have a cup, café con leche or solo, two choices, none of the fancy flavored stuff. A few simple food items will be within eyeshot. Tortilla Espanola and fresh bread. Tostada con aceite de oliva would hit the spot. A bin of fresh oranges would be on the counter. The proprietor could toss a few in the machine and squeeze some zomo de naranja fresco for you. A copy of three or four different newspapers will be on the counter for patrons to chew over and prompt conversation.

Walk out the door and stop at the next café you see. Repeat and steal this intellectual property. Continental substitutions will be allowed when you bring the basics home.

The Way In

Tuesday, May 15th, 2018

Old man with beret in small town in Spain

We’ve been back from Spain for weeks but out walking partner, my cousin Maureen, kept going and just finished today. She arrived in Santiago, got her certificate stamped and continued on to the first alternate ending, Finistere (end of earth), and then to the hardcore final stop, Muxia, in the northwestern corner of Spain. We have kept in touch each morning as she is finishing her day’s walk and I couldn’t count the number of times we have said we wish we were on the trail with her.

We walked up to the high school today to vote on the town’s budget and it became clear to me what one of the best features of the Camino de Santiago is that each day is an entirely different walk from all the rest. A new starting point, new route and a brand new destination. It made the five mile round trip to the high school kind of ho hum.

I finally got my photos sorted, If I used a smartphone or if my camera had GPS it would have been done for me but before I put a name on the file I try try to figure out where we were. We were in and out of so many small town and so many churches. I have a picture of a crucified woman and I couldn’t remember her name so a little research was in order before labeling it “Santa Librada” and throwing the Camino Photos up on Flckr.

I discovered there is a trans-fronted rock band in Baltimore called Santa Librida. In the Middle Ages Santa Librada was the patron saint of prostitutes and over time she became the patron saint of women in labour. Apparently pregnant women visit her tomb and recite the following:

Santa Librada,

May the way out

Be as sweet

As the way in!


Monday, May 14th, 2018

Mermaid statues in garden store outside Leon Spain

In Spain for the month of April we got to experience an early Spring and because it was so cold here in April we are enjoying it all over again in May. We put lettuce, spinach and cilantro in today, all from seed. I realize we’re late with those but we’ll see what happens. We picked a batch of kale from last year’s plants. They try to start up again and only get so far. We plan to get over to Case’s on Norton pick the plants we intend to put in. We may be pushing it with those but we hear Mother’s Day is the new Memorial Day for clear of frost days.

My sister thought we were goin to Lourdes and she asked us to pick a rosary up for her. She got confused because we had told her our cousin was going Lourdes for Easter before meeting us in St. Jean Pied de Port‎. Lourdes would have been the place to buy one but we found a nice one in Pamplona at religious store connected to the Cathedral. We dropped that off tonight after yoga.

It was hot in the old Brighton School No. 1 gym. Jeffery had the doors open. Brighton High School had a lacrosse game going on and they cranked a recording of the national anthem through their P.A. system. Jeffery told us the longer you practice yoga the easier it is to block out distractions.

Derby Day

Saturday, May 5th, 2018

Durand Eastman in full bloom, Spring 2018

Brandon, from the Friendly Home, spotted us on the deck at O’Loughlin’s. He knew exactly why we were there, the anniversary of our first date, the Kentucky Derby. We must have shared that information with him during one of our visits. It has been almost a year since my mom passed but Mary Dixon is still there, along with Sandy, Nancy and June.

Last night’s art opening was a smashing success. If my father had been able to make it he would have been beaming. Everyone else was, while admiring his watercolors.

Our walking partner in Spain, my cousin, Maureen, made her triumphant entry into Santiago de Compostela this afternoon. We’ve been back well over a week and she has completed the Camino. We are so proud of her and eager to join the club.


Monday, April 30th, 2018

Horseshoes repainted for the 2018 season.

You can always tell if someone in the neighborhood is playing horseshoes. All that metal on metal makes it a noisy sport. I don’t know if it is a sport really, more like a pastime. By the end of a good summer I have a hard time telling my shoes from my opponent’s. They get pretty beat up. And then over the winter the bare metal rusts so I have to take steel wool to them each spring before giving them a new coat of Rustoleum.

This afternoon my neighbor, Rick, asked if the shoes were dry yet. I checked and they were. We always play best out of three, three games to 21,and I managed to squeak out a victory in the third game. This will be a good summer.

Baseball Cards & Holy Cards

Saturday, April 28th, 2018

Me on my bike at 68 Brookfield Road in 1960

My father gave me his old bike for my birthday and then he took this picture of me. The bike had the strangest kickstand I had ever seen. You picked the back wheel up and and swung this triangle stand down to the ground. I was big into baseball cards back then. It’s my birthday today and I spent it sorting out my holy cards. I brought back a bunch of new ones, many related to churches and saints connected to the Camino, and I wove them into my collection.

There was nothing to eat in our house so we walked up to Wegmans with our backpacks and took the long way home with about thirty five pounds of fresh food. Peggi is making a cake and we plan to have a few friends over.

My cousin, Maureen, is continuing on to Santiago without us and she emails each day with an update. She said a little Russian woman latched on to her today but she continued on when Maureen stopped. And each day we hear how beautiful the trail is and how great the food is. We’re counting the days until October when we can finish it.

Sleeping With The TV On

Thursday, April 26th, 2018

Olives at El Barril in Barrio Las Letras, Madrid

I’m missing Spain already and we’re still in the air.

The first time I saw “Far From The Madding Crowd” was in the Ridge Theater in Webster, a Saturday afternoon matinee. I fell asleep but I remember liking Julie Christie. We watched the remake on the plane and I fell asleep again. The story was so predictable and I wasn’t buying the beautiful people doing farming thing at all. Just like on the way over, the person in front of us was watching the Billie Jean King movie and I found myself more attracted to that.

The new Bladerunner was the second part of our double feature. I couldn’t give a hoot about the story but it was beautiful to watch. The grey cities, the drones and space ships, the ruins, the artfully composed shots and camera movement and then an Elvis impersonator and Frank Sinatra under glass. I fell asleep again, a few times, and never got to the end of a really long movie.

Things We Carry

Wednesday, April 25th, 2018

Recreation of Dali’s Mae West in “Duchamp Magritte Dali” show at  Palacio de Gaviria in Madrid

An accordion player in Plaza Santa Ana is working his way through “My Way” as I write this. I just finished jamming all the stuff we accumulated in Madrid, Torrons, holy cards, art books and dried fruit for the plane, into my backpack. The thing was just over ten pounds total when we left Rochester, maybe eleven with the last minute addition of a sketchbook. I’m pushing twenty now.

We’re waiting for the Real Madrid/Bayern München match to start and I’m thinking about all the things we accumulate. You become acutely aware of your belongings when you carry them on your back for twenty miles a day. You also get a real taste of the stress that is put on your feet, your knees and your back when you start carrying that ten extra pounds.

There is a satisfying purity to the minimal lifestyle. I already leaned that way but have gained a deeper appreciation of it. And I am in awe of the beauty of this country after walking halfway across it. Entering towns through Roman walls, stopping at statues and monuments, you begin to feel the impact of history. Following this ancient pilgrimage route with others you get a fuller understanding of the power of legend and faith. We will make it to Santiago after a short break.

Los Problemos De Los Pies

Tuesday, April 24th, 2018

Cathedral in LEON from the top floor of our hotel

Our friend, Jeff, texted us asking “are you wearing down or feeling stronger?” I texted back, “stronger.” I lucked out. I didn’t get any blisters but I think my feet have grown because the fronts of my toes hit the front of my shoes with every step. Peggi has blisters that she has been able to manage with Compeed and Maureen has a variety shin, feet and knee issues. You don’t complain on the Camino. Anyone who looks at you in your pilgrim gear can tell at a glance just how you’re doing. It isn’t supposed to be easy. Otherwise everyone would be doing it.

We check the headlines online and we’ve bought a few newspapers, mostly El País, but we’re finding it is pretty easy to let go of the news cycle. We see prostitutes are still dogging the president. And I haven’t been to Facebook since we left. I can’t even remember my password, but I don’t miss that format. It is surprisingly easy to live out of a knapsack.

Peggi and I have to be back in Rochester for the Wednesday’s in May Margaret Explosion gigs and the opening of Leo Dodd’s show on May 4th. So we have to push the “Pause ”button on our Camino. The band is off in October so we plan to return to Leon, walk out of town and continue on to Santiago then. Maureen, my cousin and our traveling partner, is continuing on without us. We didn’t know if we would like this Camino thing and we were prepared to bail and head back to Madrid. But I can’t wait to get back to Leon and pick up where we left off.