Archive for the ‘Life Is A Spell’ Category

Harnessing Summer

Monday, August 14th, 2017

Turquoise house on Wisner in Rochester, New York

Every morning I look at the dead branches on the cherry tree out back. I don’t know why cherry are like that but branches are always losing their leaves and the next thing you know the woodpeckers are working on it. Today I got our pole saw out and took care of it. Cleaned up a bunch of other small trees as well and then went for a big one.

I cut the wedge on the downhill side of the tree so the center of my wedge cut was pointed in the direction I wanted it to fall. And I looked up one last time before I made my cut from the other side. I saw Peggi motioning but I was wearing my Home Depot noise cancelling headphones and couldn’t make out what she was saying. The tree was only about eight inches in diameter, a maple with hardly any branches until the top, but it was probably sixty feet tall. If it went the wrong way it would hit the house.

This is where we turned to Jared, our next door neighbor. He advised us to throw a rope around the tree and take the other end of the rope down the hill where someone could stand behind a big oak pulling the tree toward them while I made the cut. Jared’s friend, John, volunteered for that. We dropped it just where we wanted it. I cut the tree into 16 inch logs and came up the hill just in time to hear Rick calling me for a game of horseshoes. I won the first and third game to take the match.

We planned to go down to the pool before bed for a midnight swim.

Totally Unfair

Saturday, August 12th, 2017

Two farmers painted on silos near Torch Lake in Michigan

Our hosts on Torch Lake were kind enough to stop the car so I could take this picture on our way out of town. I had spotted it the day before and I couldn’t get the image out of my head.

We were visiting Peggi’s sister and she had recently retired so Peggi was pushing her on what she did with her days. Peggi wanted to know, “What is a typical day like?” I find that a totally unfair question. I certainly wouldn’t want to have to account for my time.

So what did we do on our first day back? We were still reading the paper on the deck when our neighbor stopped by to ask for help. He was trying to play an iPod through a small PA system and he couldn’t get the volume up anywhere near the volume of the mic channel. I told him I would stop by when I finished the paper.

He had a brand new cord, Sony stereo mini to stereo RCAs, running from the iPod to the back of the board. He played something for me and then plugged the mic in. It was loud as hell. I looked at the back of the board and saw that that the iPod was coming in the “Record Out.” An easy fix but surprising he got any volume out of it at all with that patch.

Meanwhile Peggi heard back from our nephew, an IT guy at a New Jersey bank and our one man geek squad. The neighbors on the other side of us had asked us if we could recommend a way to learn how to fly their new drone without cracking it up. They were even considering buying a really cheap drone to practice with.

Our nephew had taken birds eye drone movies of our neighborhood when he was up here and we had shared them with the neighbors. We passed their question on to him and he advised them to download an app for their phone and put it in “Beginners” mode. He said that was easier than trying to fly a cheap drone. Peggi went down to the neighbors house to to download the app and she plans to return when they are ready to launch.

With those issues under control we rode our bikes up to Wegman’s. Came out with two quarts of homegrown peaches, some wild caught scallops and a bin of plastic mixed greens. We needed an “LR44″ battery for our grilling thermometer but couldn’t find one at Wegman’s so we went up to Walgreens. The clerk there told me LR44 is the same as Energizer 357/303 so I bought one of those. You would think the brands would want to sell to their competitors and put that information on the package. Our last stop was Aman’s Market where we picked up half a dozen ears of corn and some homegrown Escarole.

By he time we got home it was almost time for dinner.

God’s Permission

Thursday, August 10th, 2017

Helicopter on Torch Lake

There is a lot of money in Traverse City. I couldn’t even have told you what state Traverse City was in before this trip. It sounds like a dusty old town in a cowboy movie. Torch Lake, somewhere near the size of the largest Finger Lake, is lined with big “cottages.” Half a million dollar places, the average cost, that are mostly used only in summer. The lake frontage average cost is $5000 a foot. I can’t help but think of this chart as I watch the boats go by.

I’m not complaining. The setting, though, does heighten the surreal nature of the news, epitomized for me in this statement from the president’s evangelical advisor. (As if those last three words weren’t surreal enough.)

“When it comes to how we should deal with evildoers, the Bible, in the book of Romans, is very clear: God has endowed rulers full power to use whatever means necessary — including war — to stop evil. In the case of North Korea, God has given Trump authority to take out Kim Jong Un.”

Gentleman Jack

Tuesday, August 8th, 2017

Full moon over Torch Lake

I should have bought that Tigers hat at the airport. I was swimming off the end of the dock when Jack suggested we ride down to the Dockside and get a little something to eat. So there I was in the back of his party boat in the blazing sun. All the docks were full there so we cruised down the Clam River a ways and Jack filled up the gas tank at a place called the Clam Shack. I looked at some Bell’s Two Hearted IPA in the cooler but I didn’t have my wallet so I let it go.

It’s beautiful here at Torch Lake in northern Michigan. Not Upper Michigan but at the top of the mitt. Eminem has a place here and Michael Moore had a place before his divorce.

There was a slip open when we came back up the river and Jack told me to grab the starboard side rope and hop out. I swung one of the rope around a post on the dock so the front end was under control but the wind took the back end out into the channel. Another boat was right behind us and the guy behind the wheel started hollering at us. If I had acted quickly enough I could have secured the front end and then pulled the back end in but that is only hindsight. Peggi and her sister were on the boat but could only watch as we sideswiped another boat. Jack handled it all like a gentleman but I felt responsible.


Thursday, July 27th, 2017

Lions at entrance to subdivision Williamstown, Massachusetts

I recently advised my friend, John, to call Apple for advice on migrating from his old eMac to a new iMac. That recommendation was mostly for time-saving, selfish reasons but John has spent hours with his new friends at Apple and recently thanked us for the recommendation. He stopped by the other night to borrow an old operating system so he can reformat his old machine before putting it out to pasture and he wanted to bring a few things to our attention, things he had learned from hours spent in his “library.”

He had book-marked pages in the recent “Genius” issue of National Geographic and he read those passages aloud to us. “The aha moment, the flash of clarity that arises at unexpected times—in a dream, in the shower, on a walk—often emerges after a period of contemplation.” His experience in stewing over a problem has found this to be true. And, although I didn’t say anything, I have found the same. I’d spend hours knocking out logo designs under a deadline and then hop in the shower to have the winning entry reveal itself. So, us common folk can at least recognize the concept. There’s also an “Age and Achievement” graph in the issue that charts peak output of a dozen geniuses and makes it pretty clear that in most cases that point is around thirty or forty. But what about Philip Guston?

Next passage, read aloud, voice of John: “This may help explain the astounding performances of jazz pianist Keith Jarrett. Jarrett, who improvises concerts that last for as long as two hours. When he sits down in front of audiences, he purposefully pushes notes out of his mind, moving his hands to keys he had no intention of playing. ‘I’m bypassing the brain completely,’ he tells me. ‘I am being pulled by a force that I can only be thankful for.’ Jarrett specifically remembers one concert in Munich, where he felt as if he had disappeared into the high notes of the keyboard. His creative artistry, nurtured by decades of listening, learning, and practicing melodies, emerges when he is least in control. ‘It’s a vast space in which I trust there will be music,’ he says.”

Esperanza Spalding, a professor at Harvard University, where she teaches composition and performance, plans to record her next album in a 72 hour live stream. She tells students that in order to speak honestly in your own voice, you have to control the urge to plan everything out. “Only play in response to what you just played — and if you lose your focus, then only play in response to that. This helps them focus on a conversational flow, maintaining contact with the energy of the moment rather than wandering through some calculated narrative. They get in touch with what they already have going on. Which is a lot.”

“I foresee that creating before a live audience will add excitement and extra inspiration energy. Knowing someone is watching and listening to what you’re making seems to conjure up a sort of ‘can’t fail’ energy. The necessity to keep going because it’s live draws up another depth of creative facility that can’t be reached when you know you can try again tomorrow. Having such limited time to write and record 10 songs will also force us to rely on improvisation and first instinct. Not allowing us time to judge, second guess, question, or alter the initial hits of inspiration that drive the creation of each song.”

Moby Dick

Sunday, July 16th, 2017

Figurines on counter at Captain Jim's in Rochester, New York

I’m happy to report our old neighborhood is really coming up. Not that there is anywhere to go. Beechwood is mostly single family, four-square homes built in the early part of the last century. When we moved there in ’78 it even had its own post office on Culver near Main. We identified the triangle between Main, Merchants and Winton as affordable and stable and looked at only a handful of houses there before making an offer on Hall Street. Our realtor, my uncle, suggested we go in at $20,000, two thousand below the asking price, and they accepted it.

We stopped in Captain Jim’s on Friday and picked up a fish fry to go. That place is exactly the same. Jim’s mom still lurks in the dining room. I took this photo there. This Moby Dick-like drama was playing out on the counter while we waited for our order. Coincidentally, our neighbor on Hall Street looks just like one of these guys.

It only took forty years or so but there’s now many more restaurants, bars, a barbecue joint and a micro brewery. Of course, there were plenty of places to get a fish fry back then. This has always been Rochester. Club Soda, at the corner of Hall Street and Main, was called My Brother’s Place back then and they had a pretty good one. Carroll’s Irish bar had one. Fleckenstein’s Meat Market turned into a Greek fish store and people lined up for their fish fry and that was when Captain Jim’s opened.

He put the others right out of business. He runs a tight ship. His coleslaw is top notch and the secret with the fish is – you gotta eat it when it’s hot and after the first few bites you’re best off picking the fish out of the breading.

Bob Spelled Backward

Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

Orange flowers with yellow centers at Bob and Liz's mid-century modern place in Rochester, New York

I have been to Chicago a few times. Our soccer team at IU played Northwestern and one of the other forwards, a little guy, a foreign student like most of the team, took us all to a Turkish restaurant in the city. His name was Attila. We had a tiny cup of Turkish coffee.

And then Dave Mahoney and I hitchhiked up there from Bloomington. Can’t remember why we went up there but I remember staying at the Y downtown and getting chased by some guy after we got out of the shower. And I went up there with Steve Hoy in ’69 to hear the Stones. Peggi was at that show too but we weren’t together. Terry Reid and Chuck Berry opened.

Peggi and I went there together in 2001 to see the Van Gogh/Gaugin show at the Art Institute. It was weeks after 9/11 and there were rumors that the Sears Tower was next. We took the train and walked everywhere once we got there. It seemed very friendly.

Bob Martin left town today behind the wheel of a big U-Haul. He’s headed for Chicago where he bought a house. There is a magnet out there. His grandson. We stopped over to return a hard drive and say goodbye again. We will miss him in so many ways.

We played music together for thirty-five years. That’s how we met. That conversation will end. Bob is an expert on all things technical. Software, hardware, recording. We turned to him all the time for advice. He is a good friend. It is all kinda sad but I guess that is why they invented Facebook. Except I’m not gonna join in those political rants even if I agree with Bob. But I will miss Liz Valentine’s eloquent letters to the editor in our local paper.


Friday, June 9th, 2017

Carmen Herrera Series at Deborah Ronnen's

We came out of the lecture at R1 Studio on Wednesday night and I couldn’t get the car started. The key wouldn’t turn. I had parked in a funny position. It really wasn’t a parking space at all and my wheels were turned almost as much as they would go. Had I kicked in Honda’s Anti-Theft system? We were planning on heading downtown to catch the Occasional Saints at the Little.

I googled “key won’t turn 2003 Honda Element” and learned Hondas were the most stolen car about fifteen years ago so they came up with the “Immobilizer” if the car sensed something suspicious. Someone suggested turning the wheel while trying the key. I did that and the steering wheel locked with a clunk. I couldn’t budge it. Someone else suggested waiting an hour and then trying. We sat in the car with our devices and tried again. I called my sister. She was already in her pajamas but rescued us.

We towed it to Honda in the morning and they put a new ignition. Some 700 dollars later we have one key to get in the car and another for the ignition.

Thoroughly Therapudic

Friday, May 19th, 2017

Garage door lit near Deborah Ronnen's R1 Studios in Rochester, New York

Margaret Explosion had a gig the day my dad died. I had been up most of that night and barely had the strength to play two sets but I remember it being good night, musically. And I remember being almost overcome with emotion during one particularly melancholy song. My mom died on Wednesday and we had a gig that night as well. It was thoroughly theropedic.

There was someone at table near the band who appeared to be studying us. He was wearing a Dan Eaton Band t-shirt and I guessed he was Adam Wilcox, the six string bass player and food reviewer. I said hi to him during the break and he said “It’s so cool that you guys don’t give a fuck.” I said, “Actually we do.” We work pretty hard at making an improvisation sound like a song. I understand it doesn’t always come off that way. He continued, “You know what I mean. You don’t pander to people.” If you make a choice to pander to others you first have to pander to yourself. And why would someone want to do that?


Sunday, May 14th, 2017

Old Edgemere Drive homes high water, Rochester New York

We’ve been looking for a day without rain to ride bikes along the lake. It’s at a record high and we were thinking about our friends on Edgemere Drive. We stopped in The Char Broil and had a cup of soup and cup of coffee. I had the Pasta Fagipoli and it was outstanding. We sat at the counter and I looked at the waitress’s rear end. The tv was on, tuned to Spectrum News with the sound off. It was kind of surreal watching footage of partly submerged Edgemere Drive homes while sitting in a restaurant on Edgemere Drive.

We had a nice visit with my mom tonight. I never wished her Happy Mother’s Day. She had a lot of other things on her mind. Although she was up and out in the main room when we saw her on Friday I think she may now be in bed for the duration. I asked her, “Are you ready to get out of this place?” and she said “yes,” without missing a beat.

Margaret Explosion - Mother's Day Glow

Margaret Explosion – Mother’s Day Glow

Susan B’s Bun

Wednesday, May 10th, 2017

Susan B. Anthony crochet wall hanging on East Main Street in Rochester, New York

We tuned into 91.5 on the way home from our Little Theatre gig. They were rebroadcasting the “Live at Hochstein” performance. Mona Seghatoleslami (her name is so much to pronounce) was introducing the Arvo Part composition, “Fratres,” Peggi’s favorite piece from today’s noon-time concert. Peggi was in the house and thought could hear herself applauding at the end of the work. It was a beautiful ride home.

After the noon concert Peggi stopped by Sew Green on West Main Street to see the wall hanging that she helped create. She took the photo above. Volunteers were given pink, white and black yarn and a crochet pattern for a 2 foot by 2 foot section of this mural. Peggi’s square had the lower back end of Susan B’s bun.

Artist Olek’s mural is one in a series of 50 planned installations across America celebrating important women throughout U.S. history

Maybe The Router Died

Saturday, May 6th, 2017

Flowers behind Jared and Sue's place

The day sort of slipped away. You can really get bogged down updating a website, or we can anyway. So many issues to deal with as time passes. Compatibility and basic functionality as well as updates.

And we tried helping our neighbors with their Buffalo router. It keeps quitting on them. They reboot all devices coming and going and the problem is solved but that routine is getting old. I kept thinking of the Pete LaBonne song, the one with the title (above) in the first verse .

By the time we squeezed a walk we were out of time for dinner. We grabbed something at Vic’s Place on the way downtown. We had arranged to meet Pete and Gloria at Warren’s Hungerford Gallery, our first stop on First Friday. Warren will be making frames for an upcoming Leo Dodd show of watercolors and I was officially placing my order. We were telling Gloriahow we ran out of time for dinner and she gave us her go-to quick meal. She sautés peppers with little olive oil and puts them on bread with with raisons and sliced almonds. “Pete loves it.”

Pete LaBonne - My Clock Stops

Pete LaBonne – My Clock Stops

Buying Things

Tuesday, May 2nd, 2017

Back Angus cows on Route 18 near Lake Ontario

There was something funny about that Sunoco station we stopped at on our way home from Niagara Falls. We were right in the upper left hand corner of the state, about to turn right on Route 18 and we got off 190 to get some gas. There were only two pumps and cars were parked in front of both of them. We almost left and then one car drove away. Peggi went inside to see if they had a bathroom while I pumped the gas. I noticed she came out real fast and then went in the pizzeria next door. She was in there the longest time and I was ready to take a leak out back except there was a cottage right there on the lake.

Another woman came out of the pizzaria and then finally Peggi. She told me there was a sign on the bathroom door that read “out of order” but she used it. As I opened the door two suspicious looking guys came out. There were only suspicious looking because they looked at me strangely. Was there an additional plastic credit card holder in the slot on the pump? When I look back I think there was. A clumsy black framework of some sort.

We got a call yesterday from the bank about three large charges put on our card in Detroit. Pier One, Williams Sonoma and the Hyatt for six thousand dollars. This is maybe the fourth time our card has been compromised and it is a pain in the ass to set up a new one everywhere. There has to be a better way to buy things.

Mary, Mary

Tuesday, April 25th, 2017

Marsden Hartley painting of Virgin of Guadalupe at Met Breuer

A resident at the next table was singing wordless music, classical themes. Ray, sitting at a table across the room, was yelling, “Hello.” “Hello.” An aide asked, “What do want Ray?” Ray replied, “I don’t know.”

Peggi was showing pictures from our New York trip to my mom. They paused on this Marsden Hartley painting of the Virgin of Guadalupe. My mom studied it for a bit and then said, “You know what I would like?” Peggi asked, “What would you like?” And my mom said “I would love some spaghetti.”


Wood Waits For No One

Monday, April 24th, 2017

Blue water tower against a blue sky in Irondequoit

I had my camera in “Picture” mode, a setting which allows you to adjust the white balance. I had been photographing artwork under my studio lights. This shot was a happy accident! Blue on blue, made bluer with the incandescent setting in the great outdoors.

We had the big plank in the back of our car. It doesn’t quite fit so it was sticking out the back end of our Element. The back seats were up and Peggi had spread out our plastic tarp. We were in wood mode. Our neighbors had a big oak trimmed while we were in New York and they told us there might be some by the road when we returned. Turned out another neighbor grabbed it while we were gone. No problem. There is wood everywhere after the storm.

The day before we left we brought home three car loads of oak from Tami’s place. Tami works at the Friendly Home and she had a big oak come down in her yard. There was a lot more than three loads there but it was too big for Peggi and me to get in the car. Tami said she would have it split while we were gone. She wasn’t home when we returned and the wood was gone. Strike 2. We went up to the Starbucks drive-through with the plank hanging out the back end and ordered a couple Tascaras.

On the way home we spotted a pile of wood near the curb on Culver and a woman was wheeling more. Maple this time. She was using her kid’s red Radio Flyer wagon. We stopped the car and filled it to the brim.

Wood Fired

Tuesday, April 18th, 2017

Short tree stump on Culver Road in Rochester, New York

The tree service guys passed through our neighborhood after the windstorm and pretty much touched base with their faithful customers. That’s all they had time for, clearing driveways or removing fallen trees from rooftops. The real cleanup and pruning had to wait until now, the second round.

We must have had two hundred trees fall in a half mile radius from our house, mostly huge pines and oaks. The oak that fell behind our neighbor’s house was big enough to supply them with firewood for ten years except they don’t burn wood. We were driving by their place yesterday and the tree surgeons were up in a cherry picker. The neighbors offered us some of the wood and we told them we’d take it but we’d have to get to it later. We were on our way over to Tami’s house. She is one of the aides at the Friendly Home and she had an oak fall in her yard too. We have wood coming out of our ears.

Permethrin Socks

Monday, April 17th, 2017

Tick gear slide at Monroe Community College lecture

Everybody around here knows Steve Greive. An all around tradesman/handyman, he’s done work for most of the neighbors. He’s a member of the Fish & Game club and a self described “Rack-a-holic.” If he wasn’t getting a knee replaced he would have been combing the woods for deer racks this Spring.

Since a few of our neighbors have Lyme Disease, Steve forwarded an email to all of us about a talk on the subject at Monroe Community College. Peggi and I were the only neighbors who went and I’m glad we did. Since we walk in the woods most days we take the threat seriously. After the presentation by Erinna Chen, author of an upcoming book called “Lyme Light, shown above collecting ticks for research,” we may be looking for alternative walks.

Free Rochester

Friday, April 14th, 2017

Old Lincoln First Building, revolving restaurant and Sibley's at night from PenthouseI at One East Avenue

I don’t know if The Penthouse (at One East Avenue) is open tonight but we were up there last Friday. It was First Friday and we walked down here from RoCo. There was snow on the ground and I think we woke the doorman. We spotted a poster for Herb Smith appearing in The Penthouse but the band was just going on break when we got off the elevator on the thirteen floor. Word was Herb was leaving to make a guest appearance with the cast of Wicked at the Auditorium Theater.

We ordered two Southern Tier IPAs and took in the vibe. This used to be Security Trust Bank. We had a safe deposit box here. It was taken over by another bank and then another and it felt the room had been liberated from corporate America. Floor to ceiling windows and spectacular view of downtown. We headed out to the terrace where I took this photo.

Downtown has changed so much in my lifetime. That’s the old Lincoln First building where Tim Schapp used to work. I remember when they tore down the Cavalier Restaurant to build that thing, now The Metropolitan. And the revolving restaurant. Was that the First Federal Building, “Home of the Hard Working Dollar.” My brother worked in the revolving restaurant after it stopped revolving. I think it was called the “Ice Factory.” And of course Sibley’s to the right. I bought my first pot from a guy who worked in the toy department there. This would be a perfect spot for a Margaret Explosion gig.

Level Level

Monday, April 10th, 2017

JeffI in field with tape measure  for big oak tree

Jeff had been talking about this for a few weeks. He wanted to measure a big oak tree at the edge of a farmer’s field behind his house and he enlisted our help. We resisted watching YouTube videos on the subject. I gather there is one that suggests you climb the tree, start your stopwatch as you jump, carefully avoid limbs on the way down and stop the watch when you hit the ground. There would be some gravity based calculations that come into play at that point.

We have our own sources. We talked to our neighbor, Jared, about how he would go about measuring a tree. He suggested we use his six foot level and his telescope so we borrowed those. It seemed like his objective was to form a triangle at a distance from the tree and then sight the uppermost limb and determine the angle. From that we could calculate the height. “Simple Pythagorean theory stuff.” But what would we measure the angle with? The tiny transparent protractor I had when I was a kid seemed like it would leave a lot of room for error.

We brought a tape measure out there and we stepped 200 feet back from the tree. We found some old boards nearby and we stuck them in the mud so they formed supports for our level level. We pivoted the end nearest the tree in the air and the measured the distance from the end of the level to the top of the board. We never used the telescope or came up with the angle but we had measurements for two sides of the right angle and from those we planned to extrapolate to the 200 foot length. The equation would give us the height of the tree.

I didn’t get the best grades in high school but I did get 100% on the Geometry Regents. Back at Jeff’s we did the equations on paper while Jeff made soup. Peggi did the calculations, even the square roots, with her phone. The numbers were in the millions “of inches.” The tree is 98 feet tall.

Hidden Life Of Trees

Wednesday, April 5th, 2017

White Lady legend depicted by Mother Nature in Durand Eastman Park, Rochester, New York

In high school we used to go down to Durand for the submarine races. We’d find a spot along the lake, turn off the car, and neck. That’s when I first heard of the White Lady legend. I didn’t pay much attention to it but gathered she was apparently getting revenge for some guy who who had gone too far. Frank LaLoggia, someone I went to high school with, made a movie based on the legend. Frank had a movie theater in his basement, I watched Little Big Man down there, and he cast a mutual friend, Brad Fox, in a key role in his White Lady movie.

We walked over to Kings Highway the other day to see where Mother Nature had depicted the White Lady in our recent windstorm. I have to say she did much better job than the depiction of Christ in front of Hickey Freeman. Guess its time to read “The Hidden Life of Trees,” the book both Martin and Duane have recommended to us.