Archive for the ‘Life Is A Spell’ Category

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 one 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.

Free Stuff

Thursday, October 16th, 2014

Free Library on near Sea Breeze Drive and Seneca Road in Rochester, New York

When we passed by the Little Free Library next to the playground at Seneca and Sea Breeze Drive the door was swung open and three junior high aged girls were browsing the contents. I had had photographed those contents a few weeks ago. It was an odd mixture of Ann Rice, Dante’s Inferno and a small New Testament caught my eye. These little, big birdhouse-like structures are popping up all over town. I think there may even be one in front of our old city house. It’s a take one, leave one arrangement and it crossed my mind that fervent religious types might be swapping bible fare for the juicier stuff. I checked the organization’s website and found tis frequently asked question.

“What if someone places inappropriate books in my Library? Does someone monitor the Library to approve its contents?”
And their reasonable response:
“Everyone who uses the Library has the right of helping make sure the types of books in it are appropriate to neighbors of all ages and backgrounds. You are as capable as anyone else to remove a book…but we encourage you to be open-minded about it. For example, if the Library becomes a place for promoting controversial causes, it might lose a good number of customers. Censorship is not the answer, but a balanced collection can be. Don’t ban books, but instead of 5 or 10 copies of something, 1 copy might do. Instead of a messy collection of handouts and brochures promoting almost anything, try limiting pamphlets to recruitment for tutoring or reading programs.

To Invigorate

Monday, September 29th, 2014

Fawn on Hoffman Road near marsh

I road my bike over to my parents’ apartment this morning while Peggi was at yoga. My mom was just getting in from her exercise class and my dad looked like he had just woken up. There was a big crowd near the new addition to their place. Today was the grand opening of the fitness center. I asked my parents if they wanted to check it out and we took the tour. My dad signed up to learn more about the resistance machines and my mom signed up for swimming.

The pool room was surrounded by glass and so warm it felt like we were on a tropical island. I asked the attendant what the temperature was in there and he said, “The water is 87 and the air in there is 88. We keep the air one degree warmer than the water so it doesn’t fog up in there.”

Back home we pealed the solar cover off the street pool. We’re “on duty” this week and we decided to take a dip before running the robot. The water temperature there was 64 and the air is 76 so there is no danger of fog. The swim was invigorating.

Una Nación. Un Equipo.

Friday, September 19th, 2014

Rochester soccer stadium pre-game USA vs. Mexico

The Fringe Fest started here last night but we were over at the soccer stadium where the US Women’s team met Mexico in their last pre World Cup qualifying game. We got there early to watch the warmups up close. There was a large contingent of “Followers,” people who follow the US team from international city to city with drums and banners and chants. Their theme song, which they belted out throughout the game was Little Peggy March’s “I Will Follow Him.” I hope she’s collecting some royalties for this gem.

The players on this team are getting a little too familiar. Like Spain’s national men’s team they may be at the end of their run. But in women’s soccer the US is still dominant regardlesss of an internal changing of the guard. Still I panicked when I didn’t see Heather O’Reilly. I could handle seeing Abby Wambach and Alex Morgan on the bench but not Heather.

Luckily the new coach came to her senses and brought in Abby, Alex and Heather at the start of the second half. Heather has more hustle than anyone else on the pitch. She consistently puts herself in position to receive the ball on both sides of the field and when she gets it she delivers it to the center. Her cross to Morgan for their fourth gaol last night was picture perfect.


Friday, September 5th, 2014

Six deer inloods near Durand Eastman Park, Rochester New York

What do six deer in the woods near our house have to do with the tragic breaking news of a private plane going down in Jamaica? Developer, Larry Glazer, and his wife were on board. By some reports he was the biggest real estate developer in New York Sate and pioneered Rochester’s downtown re-development. He owns the formerly iconic Midtown Tower, Xerox corporate headquarters building. Bausch & Lomb headquarters along with large swath of downtown Rochester’s booming loft space.

Were headed downtown for First Friday tonight. The nearby woods and the downtown scene are all part of our local quality of life package. Forget about how Rochester lost it’s industrial mojo. Larry was bringing it back and I hope someone is on board to carry on as a tribute to his optimism.

Skin I’m In

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014

Cicada emerging from it's shell in the woods

At first I thought this was a new branch, popping out the side of a tree. I’ve rotated the photo above. Cicadas spend most of their life underground living off roots. They crawl out of the ground when they’re mature and emerge from their shells as adults. The Cicadas song is loud enough to cause permanent hearing loss in humans should it sing in your ear. I love the sound and I love coming across the exoskeletons but this is the first time we’ve witnessed the molting.

Margaret Explosion returns to the Little Theater Café tonight 7:30 – 9:30.

Burning Man

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

Our porch at night

We worked our asses off on Labor Day. I found an email at around eight informing us that a large branch had fallen on the fence between two neighbor’s yards. We were welcome to wood if we helped clean-up. I hesitated for a half hour or so on this one. We burn wood to supplement our heat in the winter but we have a huge pile now. It only seemed neighborly to show up.

The branch was over two foot in diameter and it had fallen on a hillside. I cut it into sixteen inch lengths and we hauled it up the hillside in arms, heart attack style. We loaded up the back of our Element and dumped the wood near the our pile in order to split. We finished the job around three and spent the rest of the afternoon soaking in the pool.

Bobby Henrie and the Goners were playing on the beach at Marges so we headed down there after dinner. They cordoned off the area between the bar and the lake and it looked like the backyard in “Easy Money.” It was packed.

We spotted Frank DeBlase out in the lake in kayak so we hopped the ropes and hung out with him and Alanya from Record Archive at a nearby party. We had a great earshot of the band, two George Jones songs in the set, and a giant bonfire to watch watch as sunset came. Alanya’s husband had built a Burning Man figure out of driftwood and he was having a hard time getting it going. We got out of there when he asked how you throw gasoline on a fire that was already burning.

Call Before You Dig

Thursday, August 28th, 2014

Jared graphic on road in Rochester, New York

A long time ago I worked as a commercial artist for Hart Conway in the Triangle Building downtown on East Avenue. My boss smoked pot every morning and she was the most organized person I have ever met. We had some cash cow clients like RTS, the local bus service, and a bunch of car dealers who placed daily ad spreads in the paper and we had this organization that coordinated efforts to get local utilities approval before a backhoe digs in to a construction site and hits a water main or worse, an underground cable. The mascots for this campaign were two furry little animals that we had to draw in different poses for each ad, the two color pieces were always green and brown and the slogan was always the same, “Call Before You Dig.”

There are nine houses on our street and we pitch in on road repairs. One neighbor, though, can’t help but contribute more than others. Jared is our leader and a joy to work with. We’re preparing to put a drainage ditch in near our mailboxes because the mail lady (Jared thinks “she is as cute as a button”) drives in exactly the same spot every day and she has worn a ditch that fills up with water and freezes in the winter making getting the papers or mail a life threatening experience. He artfully outlined the drain (I’m not sure what the extension shown in the enlargement is all about) and then two of the utilities have signed off on it.

MyCare vs. MyChart

Sunday, August 24th, 2014

View from forth floor of Rochester General Hospital, formerly Northside Hospital

The guy in the hospital bed next to my father is on the phone, talking to his wife. He has had some sort of cardiac event that he suspects was caused either by the salty air in Massachusetts, where he had been on business, or possibly the salty paella he had, a Spanish dish whose title he mangled by trying to pronounce the to “l”s like we would in English. The cardiologist here recommended a test for him that he suspected was only ordered because they make “90,000 dollars with the machine.” He had been doing some reach online.

My dad is being released in hour or so having slept like a baby last night. My mom was in Emergency with a UTI at this same hospital last week at he same time as my youngest brother was in surgery upstairs, having a sliver, that had been lodged in his finger for over a month, surgically removed.

My mom’s primary care doctor is in the General system and my dad’s primary care doctor is in the Strong system. Both my parents have specialists outside their “system.” Sharing records to provide prompt professional care would seem a no-brainier today but the systems don’t talk to one another. I got my dad’s hospital urologist going on this bureaucratic topic and he went off. He told me his own primary care doctor is in the other system. He finished the tirade by apologizing for his rant. I apologize for mine.

Upon The My Oh My

Monday, August 11th, 2014

Tuggy boat in Rochester, New York

This little plastic boat was out near the curb on a dead end street in that neighborhood of funky homes along the west side of the bay. Some of the houses remind me of the ones in Bloomington where Peggi and I went to school and more importantly, met. It was hard to tell if the owners of the boat were discarding it or just loose with the “pick up your toys” routine. If we weren’t on our bikes I would have been thinking about taking it home. And then down to Irondequoit Bay.


Tuesday, July 29th, 2014

Our garden in late July 2014

In a desperate attempt to slow summer down we have taken to watching our garden grow.

Our tomatoes are almost as tall as I am. We have two types of lettuce, both at full tilt and we cannot possibly keep up with it. We put some in our greens and beans last night. When our spinach got out of hand we started making green shakes with it so that’s next. Our swiss chard is ready as well and we’ve been picking the leeks prematurely to spice up our salads. Some sort of blight has hit our jalapeño pepper plants or maybe it is just because we planted them in the same spot as last year. Our neighbor, Jared, who grew up on a farm, supports that second theory. We’re eating purple basil as fast as we can. Pesto is next. The eggplants have the prettiest purple flowers with a yellow center and and some of the fruit is already as big as a California avocado. Our beets got a late start and are still only a few inches tall.

We’ll be here awhile.

Summer Sweet Spot

Thursday, July 24th, 2014

Farm field near Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge

I knew I had hit the sweet spot of summer when I lost a horseshoe. Late July, early August, summer patterns fully established, the woods at it’s lushest with the paths overgrown, the timing was just right. My regular horseshoe opponent lives across the street. He grew up throwing shoes in the projects of Troy and I let him keep the score. I have a hard enough time concentrating on the game.

This time I was playing with Roc, an old friend, and we were talking about old times so I was especially spaced out. I couldn’t find one of my shoes and I was pretty sure it had bounced into the pachasandra so we trampled through the plants for about ten minutes looking for the horseshoe. Peggi suggested I use the metal finder that our former neighbor made, a string of magnets mounted on the underside of an upside down wooden “T.” I dragged the homemade tool through the plants for while while we made small talk and then it dawned on me that the horseshoe might not be in the pachysandra at all. I went back to the pit and found it about a half inch down, wrapped around the pole.