Archive for the ‘Life Is A Spell’ Category

Life Goes On

Thursday, July 14th, 2016

FlowerLilly pads and flower on Durand Lake in Rochester, New York

The arboretum and park in general is beautiful in all seasons but it is especially nice now with the mid-summer, pea soup like water and flowering Lilly pads. And that is why it was so incongruous to see the local SWAT team try to seal the perimeter of Durand Eastman Park.

We had gathered at Parkside Bowl, a party of ten, in 90 degree weather, just as the commotion began. I was using the same black Galaxy 300 ball as the last time. Louise did not have a rock’n roll shirt on and her sister in-law and niece were here. Even without air-conditioning the eight lane joint felt as comfortable as an old shoe. Within minutes the police had blocked off the Sweet Fern entrance to the park. There was something called an “active shooter” alert on the beach near where Kings Highway meets the lake and rumors were flying.

Someone had stolen a yellow Hummer during a burglary in another part of the city. A yellow Hummer! Can you think of a more conspicuous car? And they drove it to the beach where the cops surrounded it. Shots rang out. The six suspects, four men and two women, got away. Helicopters hovered overhead. The suspects managed to steal another car, a red Mercedes with “GOLF-1″ license plates that was parked out front of the golf course with the keys in it.

We continued bowling. I fed the juke box and Jeff flattened the pins. At eight we headed down the street to Louise’s backyard. The road was still blocked off and cop cars swirled around the neighborhood. We played ping pong in the garage and listened to old blues records on Matthew’s turntable. I put new RAM in Jeff’s MacBook. We drank beer that Tim, the preacher, brought and we all left when Mary Kaye announced she had to work at six in the morning.

We came home and found an ominous robo-call message on our landline. “Active shooter alert, suspects at large, last seen in your area, stay inside. Don’t go near the windows.” Our house is all windows. It was 90 degrees out. We went down to the pool for a midnight dip. All the neighbors had their lights on. We saw Rick out walking his dog. Life goes on.

Starting Over

Wednesday, July 13th, 2016

1950 Ford at Wegmans in Rochester, New York

We parked our bikes next to the pick-up lane at Wegmans and this car pulled up next to us. The first thing that struck me was that it looks like it still has the primer coat on it, a really cool look. I couldn’t peg it to a particular year or even a make. A two door sedan, it looked a little sportier than any of those boxy, fifties, American cars. Dare I say it even looked a little foreign. So we complimented the owner and then asked what type of car it was. Turns out it is a 1950 Ford, the same year we were born.

Bright Spot

Tuesday, July 12th, 2016

Big mushroom across the street on Hoffman Road

Yesterday we watched three Pileated Woodpeckers working on the same Sassafras tree. They are the big birds around here, the ones that look like Woody Woodpecker if anyone remembers him. I used to love the post show drawing demonstrations by Woody’s creator, Walter Lantz. And I spotted this big mushroom from our bedroom window so we had to check it out up close.

One bright spot remains at my mom’s care center. Peggi can still get her to laugh when she rolls her “r’s while extending the word, “burrrrrrr”. The air conditioning is all over the map in the dining room, her room and the halls. And if we sit outside for a bit, the return is usually met with a call for a sweater, even in 90 degree weather. So when my mom says she’s cold Peggi does her thing and my mom laughs whole-heartedly.

Black Sheep Revenge

Tuesday, July 5th, 2016

Rochester Gas & Electric substation on South Clinton Avenue in Rochester, New York

Jealousy, guilt, ambition and way over-the-top family dysfunction made it hard to get through season one of “Bloodline,” the Netflix series. And when Danny, the most colorful and only sympathetic character, got knocked off near the end of the season I was ready to give up on it. I felt like we had been dragged through the mud. But our friends, Matthew and Louise, raved about Season 2 so we dove back in. We’re only halfway through and without giving anything away, they found a way to get Danny back in there and the other characters have really taken shape. Its a beautiful, dysfunctional mess.


Friday, July 1st, 2016

Cotton cluster in woods from Cottonwood trees

“Fish are jumpin’ and the cotton is high.” The cottonwood trees have been dropping their goods for a few weeks now and the cotton is starting to gather in clusters in the woods. I brought his cluster home and I’m trying to figure out what to do with it.

The Flash are tied for second with the Chicago Red Stars and the two teams meet tonight at 7 downtown. Jazz Fest can wait.

I Believe In Miracles

Tuesday, June 21st, 2016

Figure graffiti on wall in Madrid

It was very hard to watch Spain lose their EuroCup match this afternoon. The only thing that made it palatable was the amazing energy the young Croatian team played with. Spain’s skillful, studied, possession game was no match for youthful enthusiasm and it felt good to be reminded of the wondrousness of this most magical resource. Back on our side of the pond we are bracing ourselves for the US/Argentina Copa América semi-final.

First day of summer here was hot. We spent most of the afternoon down at the pool and I jumped in again in the evening for good measure. Our road is being repaved so no mail and we’re hoofing it over to the next street where we parked our car. The woods was hot too. We came across a few deer who couldn’t be bothered to get up. And there was some sort of crow scuffle going on above us. We stopped to listen because the screaming was so intense. There were at least three crows harassing another bird, one with a wholly different call for help. Not sure what that was all about.

The trees are all dropping seeds and buds and cotton-like stuff. The small lakes and ponds in the park are covered with pea soup. We watched a snapping turtle, maybe a foot and half in diameter, slowly swim by in front of us. He stuck his head out to check us out. We scared a baby raccoon up a tree and spooked a groundhog on the way back. We did our duty.

Round Ball

Sunday, June 19th, 2016

Woman violinist, street performer in Madrid

Thankfully, the pace of football matches has slowed. The Euro Cup today has only two games and they are scheduled at the same time, something that theoretically prevents teams from playing for a result that would give them an easier go in the elimination round. We are scheduling our day around the France vs. Switzerland game at 3pm.

Back in the Copa America we felt like we had to watch the Argentina vs Venezuela match last night to see what the US will be up against when they meet Messi’s team in the quarterfinals on Tuesday. And it is always a thrill to watch Messi, a natural wonder. It would be a miracle or a fluke if the US could advance with Argentina and Chile ahead but we will be screaming for them.

We took a break from the telly to watch a live soccer math between the first place Portland Thorns and WNY Flash. Despite the fact that Meghan Klingenberg went down in warm-ups, Christine Sinclair and Tobin Heath proved to be too much for the Flash. The Flash were not moving the ball from the back to the front as they had been. Even Hinkle was booting it out of our end in hopes of a happy landing. With Zerboni back in the center I would think they could feed her and Mewis and poke it through. It was a disappointing result that I hope they learned something from.

Wreckless Eric played here on Thursday. Before his set we sat with him at a table in Abilene’s courtyard and I deliberately did not talk football even though England had beaten Wales in a dramatic comeback in stoppage time earlier in the day, while Eric was driving from his gig in Detroit. Amy Rigby came up by train for the gig and the hope was she would join him on stage. But no, she was just a fan snapping cell phone photos during the gig. Eric has some tremendous new songs, a slow menacing, blues song about murder and a sweet ballad that he threw in his encore after his wall of feedback. He told us he liked the Detroit crowd because they yelled stuff at him while he was playing. And he particularly liked how two guys up front had an argument between themselves while he was playing.

Stop Shaking My Tree

Thursday, June 16th, 2016

Toad in the woods

Sam was playing music for the members of the Friendly Home when we stopped by. He was playing guitar in the sun room and about half of my mom’s group was asleep in their chairs. Sam threw a ball to the ones that were awake and had them roll it on the floor. The ball had numbers on it and whatever number came up Sam would play a song from that decade. He had the sheet music for hundreds of songs in his iPad. His version of “Leaving on a Jet Plane” was so sleepy I almost fell asleep. But then he’d pull out an old chestnut like Irving Berlin’s “If You Don’t Want My Peaches, You’d Better Stop Shaking My Tree” and I’d be singing along.

I took my first walk in the woods today in over a month. Just how did that Wales player in this morning’s Euro Cup match get back on the pitch in six weeks after a broken leg? I went down the hill I tore my calf muscle on and couldn’t get over how much lusher everything was. The Jack in the Pulpits were still standing erect. An old rotted oak had fallen right across the path. We spooked a couple of Pileated woodpeckers that may have been mating and we walked by a deer that was so comfortable it couldn’t be bothered to get up. And then we came across this friendly toad and watched him for a bit.

Wax Museum

Wednesday, June 15th, 2016

Old barbershop tiles on wall of café in Madrid

The tail end of our vacation in Spain was spent in the mountains of Mallorca in the Balearic Islands. We rented a house there from a friend of our nephew’s girlfriend. The place came with a pool and if that wasn’t enough, Mediterranean beaches were thirty minutes away in every direction. I did a lot a swimming, even got a dip in while I was waiting for the water to boil for coffee. For the last few days I had water trapped in my left ear, trapped behind wax.

I tried everything. Q-tips, rubbing alcohol, vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, a hair dryer. I tried creating a vacuum with my finger to plunge it out but no luck. Back home I made an appointment to see my doctor. He had me hold an ear gutter under my ear and he squirted warm water from a big stainless steel tube into the ear. He explained that he was trying to get the water behind the wax to force it out. After four liters he gave up and referred me to an ear, nose and throat specialist. They scheduled an appointment for the 28th. I couldn’t believe it. I had not been able to hear out my ear for a week and now I had to wait another two.

I said I was desperate and they got me in with a cancelation. The specialist used no water at all. He had some sort of vacuum that sucked out the wax. He started with my good ear and showed me the clump. The left ear was problematic. All the products I had used made the wax gooey and it was completely sealed. He kept warning me, “This is going to be loud.” And it was. Louder than a rock concert but it worked. It was the most satisfying doctor visit I have ever experienced.

International Thump

Thursday, June 9th, 2016

Photo in show at Fundacion Telefonico Espana in Madrid Spain

We are going to have see if we can get the “Vicious” radio station that our rental car was tuned to when we picked it up at the Majorca airport. We never changed the channel the whole week and although I think of it as club music, it suited the windy mountain roads with hairpin turns, the autopistas and dead end, dirt beach roads perfectly. Thump, thump, thump. One song meshes with the next.

In sync with the thump we tracked down one of Mallorca’s top ten beaches, a place that was described as quiet and beautiful with a restaurant. We parked in the town of Deiea and walked about an hour on a footpath that included all sorts of scenic vistas and diversions. Donkeys, persimmon trees, olive groves, religious shrines and eventually a cove of turquoise water. We headed straight to the outdoor patio and ordered Pimientos Del Padrón, Tortilla Española, Pulpo a la Gallega, Escalivada (eggplant) con Pimientos y cuatro cervezas.

Another day, another beach. This one with a fish shack/bar that was cranking “Vicious” nonstop the whole time we were there. We sat in the shade and watched people dance in the sun. And I must say, I am enjoying the secondhand smoke everywhere we go. They still sell Ducados in the cigarette machines but we haven’t smelled the black tabac anywhere. Those folks may have all left us.

Stopping Time

Tuesday, June 7th, 2016

Cove on the island of Mallorca in Spain

We met our friends, Jeff and Mary Kaye, in Mallorca. They flew from Toronto, through Frankfort, and arrived with a bottle of Duty Free champagne. We quickly stopped following Donald Trump stories and and even checking email. The last email of any import was from our neighbors back in Rochester. They informed us that our spinach had grown huge and was already bolting so they ate it for us.

Here we hiked and explored swimming spots for the last few days and watched an endless stream of ciclistas working their way up the mountain where we had rented a house. Jeff got the bug and we found a Ride Mallorca shop where we dropped him off so he could rent a bike. Mary Kaye, Peggi and I walked to this small cove where we swam and studied the multicolored rocks.

Couple On A Beach

Saturday, June 4th, 2016

Josep de Togores. Couple à la plage (Couple on the Beach), 1922. Painting. Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía Collection, Madrid

Maybe we’ll go to an island for a few days. Madrid offers one hour flights to the Balearic Islands. We could beat the high season, just barely. We’ll have to make this happen.

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.