Archive for the ‘Life Is A Spell’ Category

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.

Doubting Thomas

Friday, November 14th, 2014

Exploding milkweed seed pod in Rochester, New York

Shelley picked our walking route and the Aboretum in Durand was the destination. The walk took a bit longer than usual because she kept stopping to inspect fallen leaves or in some cases pluck a carefully chosen leaf from a low branch. She was looking for still life models for the beautiful watercolors she does of leaf clusters. They are a hot item in the Adirondack galleries.

We finally got our killing frost. We got our Aloe plant indoors in the nick of time but the annuals out front took a hit. There are snowflakes in the air. I’m always doubtful that the seasons will really change but they always do.


Sunday, November 9th, 2014

Pavement, pine needles, leaves and Myrtle along Hoffman Road

We have so many trees on our property we hardly ever have to mow. And what little lawn we have is mostly in the shade of those trees. We wait for the leaves to get about five inches deep and then we blow off the roof, the sidewalk, driveway and street and then I break out the mower. The vent on the side of the mower, where grass normally shoots out, is closed and if I walk at just the right speed I chew up the leaves leaving a fine powder in my wake. I’ve done this three times this year and really enjoy it for some odd reason. Maybe it just the sensation of wearing my Home Depot earmuffs.

Confusion Is Of The Devil

Sunday, November 2nd, 2014

Orange weeds in Maine

Very entertaining article in our paper this morning about what Americans think of the not-so-new pope. The hierarchy thinks he’s too liberal and a good chunk of the congregation thinks he’s too conservative. The archbishop of Philadelphia says the Catholic Church is “ship without a rudder.” No kidding. He says “Pope Francis has produced confusion,” adding “confusion is of the devil.”

I’m trying to imagine a black and white world without any god given confusion where everyone had the Midas Touch and there was no doubt?

LED Collars

Thursday, October 30th, 2014

My bike in front of my parent's apartment.

My mom, back home after two days in the hospital, passed the baton to my father this morning. I was up so early I met the neighbor out near the mailbox. He’s too young to have any interest in newspapers but he does have to walk the dog each morning before he leaves for work. That’s an old school activity for you. I still haven’t met this dog because every time he/she sees me he barks and the neighbors pull the dog away to discipline it.

In the pitch black of the night, at the end of our street, I met another neighbor with her two little Jack Russels. They both were wearing red, flashing LED collars. I really should get up early more often. I think I am both a morning and night person but the night wins out.

The top and bottom chambers of my dad’s heart stopped co-ordinating with one another, a condition called heartblock, and he was scheduled for a relatively simple but incredibly sophisticated fix, insertion of a chip called a pacemaker.


Monday, October 20th, 2014

Rocks on Pemaquid Point and island in Johns Bay Maine

It is possible to drive to Maine without getting on the highway but it’ll take you a little longer. We broke up the trip by stopping in New Hampshire and spending the night at Jeff’s brother’s place. His brother is an architect with clients in Concord and on the nearby lakes. Say someone wants to build 3500 square foot addition onto a 3000 square foot vacation house, he would get the call. His place, in the woods off a dirt road, is a wonder. His most recent project is a redesigned chicken coop in their backyard.

When we arrived at Alice and Julio’s on the coast of Maine we waisted no time in organizing a walk. Hopping from one rock to the next and stopping to study the infinite variety of rocks and minerals, the washed up lobster traps and buoys, the monstrous waves and swelling sea, the spectacular, ever changing views of the islands or engaging in divergent conversations on all matters we filled the the rest of the day in spectacular fashion.


Saturday, October 18th, 2014

Dead tree with cloud over marsh

Someday this dead tree, that stands so regally in the middle of the marsh, will be gone. I know this but it has nothing to do with my appreciation of it. Like Matisse or Guston or Van Gogh the tree at this late stage of its life is at the height of its powers.

The bald, parched colors of the wood contrast with the changing colors of the surrounding trees. Surely the tree drowned and yet its very predicament, this setting in a marsh is what makes it so beautiful. Of course the form of the tree, seductively designed to outwit gravity until the last minute, is its finest feature.

When we were growing up, my father dragged a dead tree home with him and he planted it in a berm in our backyard. The neighbors kidded him. It was quite beautiful.