Archive for the ‘Life Is A Spell’ Category

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.

Lemon Mousse

Tuesday, April 4th, 2017

Dark sand turquoise water Lake Ontario in Rochester, New York

It was so warm and sunny we dismissed the high wind warnings that were forecast in our morning paper and went out for a walk. The lake looked especially dramatic and it was probably because of the dark clouds to the west. We had just crossed Lakeshore Boulevard on our way home when it started pouring.

I stopped up to see my mom and found her at a table in the far corner of the dining room. She likes her privacy. She was working on a cup of coffee and smiled when she saw me. She said, “I was wondering if I was going to see you two today.” I was alone. Peggi was home doing my mom’s taxes in preparation for a meeting with our tax guy.

My mom’s menu calls for “Aspiration Precaution” so her liquids are nectar thick, including her coffee. It looked like she had eaten about half of her dessert already, I heard one of the aides call it “Lemon Mousse,” and she hadn’t touched her soup or whatever it was under the lid on her plate. She is as thin as a rail but she looked very pretty and I told her so. She thanked me and asked where Martha (her deceased sister) was. I told her I didn’t know. She said I should comb my hair and I told her I didn’t have a comb. She asked what was under the lid. It looked like something had been plopped on her plate with an ice cream scoop. I looked at the little printout on her tray and it said “Pureed San BBQ Chicken.” After not eating for weeks my mom seems to have regained some of her appetite.

We went down to her room after lunch and she said “This isn’t my room.” I said, “Yes it is” and I pointed to the pictures on her window sill. She studied the pictures for a bit and then asked me to put a third one on the long bed table. She wanted it in the middle and then had me move the big one to the end of the row of three pictures. She was always rearranging things in our home and she still has that bug.

I handed her the picture of my father and her on their wedding day and I told her how beautiful she looked. I pointed to my dad and said, “You found a good husband.” My mom looked at the photo for a bit and said, “Yes, I did.” “But then I lost him.”

Pitted Prunes

Wednesday, March 29th, 2017

Stash belonging to former occupant of our house.

When we plugged our tv back in after the power outage there was popping sound and the outlet went dead. I thought I had popped a circuit but the breaker was not tripped. A number of other outlets were also out so we hired a master electrician named Kenny. He fixed that problem fairly quickly but we noticed something strange. The power stayed on in the kitchen when we shut off its breaker. It was being “back-fed” as they say. One of the lines to the stove was also feeding the outlets. Kenny called us over and had us open a compartment under the oven. We had never noticed it. There was an old broiler pan inside and a cardboard carton of Pitted Prunes.

Kenny was afraid to touch it and he asked me to get it out. I grabbed a long stick and pulled it toward the front of the stove. Kenny suggested we take it outside before opening it so we all went out front. The first thing we saw were the E_Z Wider papers and we all laughed. It was the previous owner’s stash. He was a Kodak guy so the weed stored in film canisters and there were matches from the Convention Center and the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel along with a lighter. There was a used screen for a pipe and a plastic straw for the white stuff.

Deer Hunter

Tuesday, March 28th, 2017

Deer parts in Durand Eastman Park

I can’t let winter end without posting this shot from last week. The parts were right out in the open in the park. Probably the work of a coyote. It may seem like a fairyland out there but nature can be brutal. We took a hike through Spring Valley, the undeveloped part of the park and there were so many trees down from the eighty mile an hour winds we couldn’t follow our regular path. We surprised a large gathering of turkeys while bushwhacking and almost didn’t make it out because the creek was so swollen our usual stepping stones were underwater.

Got this email from Wayne Kusy and I’m trying to place him. “I recently started going through my old album collect to see what I could sell on eBay, and I found your old Personal Effects poster. I expect to find the album soon. I am Wayne from Heavy Mental. I am glad to see you are all still playing, and still in Rochester!” I did a google search and I trying to decide if he is the Wayne Kusy from the “Toothpick Museum” or this one. Maybe one in the same.

Every Poem Ever Written

Friday, March 24th, 2017

Irondequoit Bay Bridge in Winter

Snow starts looking really strange in fifty degree weather. My neighbor, recently back from Amman, Jordon, couldn’t wait to plow his driveway. He has a little tractor with a homemade plow head on it. He had so much fun he continued down the street widening the job the town had done. The piles he made are melting into primitive sculptural forms.

We stopped up to see my mom and found her down in the sun room playing ball with Brandon, the activities co-ordinator. I love watching how he engages the residents. With incredible ease he brings people out of their shells and gets them to play, giggle and laugh. As down home as his manner is he treats everyone with respect and dignity and it really is a joy to watch.

My mom told me I need a haircut. Not the first time. And she said she liked my hat. Later she told me I better take it off before someone sees me.

In the main room I overheard one of the other residents talking with an aide. “I like every poem ever written. Except for the ones that end with someone …” and then she extended her forefinger and dragged if across her throat and smiled.

This post is for Louise. It is her birthday today and she likes it when I write about “the home.”

Looky Loo’s

Sunday, March 12th, 2017

Wind blown oak tree on Pearl Avenue house in Rochester, New York

We had dinner on Peart Avenue overlooking the bay. Our friend, Kathy, had invited us to her house when we didn’t have power. Ours had come on by the time we left for dinner and most of Peart Avenue was still without. Kathy was lucky and so were we. The dinner was delicious, especially the olive and anchovy appetizer.

Kathy asked if we had seen the big pines that had just missed a house on Durand. We drove right by it I guess. You get used to the devastation pretty quickly. She told about this big oak that had fallen on a house further down her street. We had to walk over there this morning to check this out.

Pick Up Sticks

Thursday, March 9th, 2017

Baking powder on boats to absorb gasoline

Geri called yesterday to ask if we could stop by her place and cut up a tree, her tree, that had fallen across her neighbor’s driveway and onto her yard. I was tempted to ask her if she knew that removing that tree was actually her neighbor’s responsibility and not hers. A common misperception as I understand it. If Geri’s neighbor had notified her in writing that the tree might fall and damage her property and if Geri decided not to do anything about it then Geri would be responsible for cleaning it up. My friend, Rich Stim, might be able to provide clarification on this. In any case, I wasn’t about to refuse Geri because her husband, Bill, had given us his chainsaw before he died.

We took a walk around the neighborhood today to asses the damage from yesterday’s wind storm. We would have to hike with a chainsaw to get through our favorite path in the woods. There are so many trees down we will have to forge a new path around the obstacles. We cut through the park and circled back on the next street over to see how badly they were hit. Here the huge oaks that toppled over took down the wires and in some cases the poles. Electric, cable and phone lines laying in the road under an impassable pile of wood. I think we’re a week or so away from internet, Netflix, electric light and life as we know it.

The geeks at Titus Mower reccomend non-Ethanol gas for the chain saws, snow blowers, mowers and generators they sell so we drove out to the Fastrac on Creek and Browncroft but the signal light was out there. The gas station was closed and the manager suggested we go to their downtown location. We are trying to keep our neighbor’s generator going. Three houses, one being ours, have extension cords running away from it. The whole neighborhood sounds like a construction site.

When I refilled the generator I leaked gas on my boots and Peggi looked up how to remove gasoline from shoes. Someone suggested sprinkling baking powder on them and I fell for it.

Model Train World

Thursday, March 2nd, 2017

View of train from Harbor Hotel room in Watkins Glen, NY

We were mixing songs for a new album last night at Arpad’s. He has built an acoustically near perfect room for this activity and we were holed-up there until ten o”clock or so. When we left we were unable to pull out onto Monroe Avenue because a large tree was laying across the road. It was very windy on the expressway and our street was exceptionally dark. The power was off and we were planning on leaving town in the morning for the mountains. We had our skies in the car in hopes of finding snow.

Instead we kept a wood fire going here. We have radiant heat and a nightmare scenario would have the pipes bursting and flooding the place. We brought in some seasoned wood from a stack labeled 2012. We were feeding the cat and taking in the mail for Jared and Sue so we we started a fire in their stove and stopped back there three or four times to stoke it. Our neighbors down the street are in Florida for a few weeks and we told them we would call them if we lost power. They asked us to turn on their gas heater so we tended to that. And then Rick, our next door neighbor called from down south. He told us he had a generator in his garage so we dragged that out and fired it up. We ran extension cords from his refrigerator and freezer out to the generator and we ran a line from our refrigerator to the generator. I tapped into that line to recharge my Apple watch.

When the four houses were under control we took a walk through the woods. The neighbor who is in Florida called us while we were cutting through the park to say the power was back on. One of his smart home devices had alerted him.

Margaret Explosion – Rough mix of SlowStart

Indian Poker

Wednesday, March 1st, 2017

Parkside Diner with blue sky in Rochester, New York

Our Lenten Roses are in bloom. Snow Drops, Winter Aconite, even our Daffodil greens are up. And flocks of geese overhead. Winter does not last forever anymore.

When I stopped up to see my mom this morning she was sitting alone at a table in the dining room. She likes it that way. There was a large black cross on her forehead. When we were all lined up in church the priest would move so fast, spouting Latin and moving to the next parishioner, that the mark on our foreheads usually looked more like a dull smudge. This one was dark and pronounced. My mom looked like she was part of a cult. And I guess she is.

We must have checked something like “formerly a Catholic” when we filled out her application because the Friendly Home is right on it when Ash Wednesday rolls around, the second one in this place for my mom. Some of the employees were sporting the mark and even some the visiting family members, like Gail. I asked her if a priest had come around and she said, “No. It was just the woman pastor.” It was so warm, near 70, I rolled my mom out to the porch and I ran into drummer, Steve Keiner, with his mom. Steve’s mom was checking my mom’s cross as we talked. My mom didn’t even know she had anything on her forehead.

Woods Geeks

Thursday, February 23rd, 2017

Mushroom House in Rochester, New York

Does every city have a Mushroom House? I don’t think so. We had an opportunity to see this up close when we walked in Powder Mills Park.

Dave, the tree surgeon who attends to a lot of trees in our area, came down with lime disease. He lost a lot of weight and doesn’t look good. Our neighbor, Sue, went out to feed the birds and and came back in the house with two ticks on her arm. With temps in the sixties the damn things are awake early and hungry for blood. She told us this news as we cut through her property on our way into the undeveloped part of the park. We already had our tick-guard hoodies on and our pants tucked were in our socks so we were partially prepared.

And now for something more urbane. “I’m Not Your Negro” is a powerful, thought provoking film. We tried to see it last week and it was sold out. We bought our tickets online for last night’s showing and found the theater sold out again. We sat in the only empty seats, a couple in the very front of the theater and the movie really packed a wallop.

Speak Easy

Saturday, February 18th, 2017

Cheshire Cocktail Lounge on South Avenue in Rochester, New York

I was talking to Martin about a reoccurring dream I had and he told me he had the same dream and it was was one of his favorites. Well, he didn’t have exactly the same dream but it was the same concept. In the dream we discover a really cool section of the city, somewhere we never knew existed, and it was exhilarating. It was almost like we fell asleep to look for this elusive place. It is a very comfortable destination.

We picked up Louise last night and met Matthew downtown when he got off work. They suggested Swillburger Playhouse for dinner, a place we had never been. We hadn’t been there since it became Swillburger but we did play there in the eighties when it was called the Community Playhouse. After dinner they took us to Cheshire Cocktail Lounge, another place we had never been. I hadn’t had a cocktail since Peggi’s mom died but when in Rome. . . This place is something like a speakeasy. There is no signage and you gain access by going up a staircase inside Solera Wine Bar. My grandfather was a bootlegger and he owned a bar on the west side when booze became legal. He would have loved this place.


Wednesday, February 15th, 2017

Two of Andy Warhol Myths hanging in office.

This story can only be told now. I was afraid to tell it earlier. Afraid that someone might rip us off if they knew what we had.

My brother was going to school at Hunter College in Manhattan and one of the people in his class worked at the Ronald Feldman Gallery. Feldman represented Andy Warhol and they were selling editions of his upcoming prints, a series of ten silkscreens called “Myths,” at a reduced rate. Reduced because Warhol had not done them yet. They were just an idea.

The cost was 6,000 dollars, a lot of money in 1979. Peggi and I took out a loan for 1800 so we owned three tenths. My brother bought half for 3000 and our friends, Kim and Dave in San Francisco, bought the remaining two tenths. We all informally agreed not to own specific prints but respective shares of each and we agreed not to sell individual prints but keep the series of ten intact. Our ten prints were each numbered 135 of 200.

What would “Myths” look like? We couldn’t imagine. Turns out they were all iconic characters from Warhol’s youth. Greta Garbo as Mata Hari, Dracula, Uncle Sam, the Wicked Witch, Mammy, Howdy Doody, Dracula, Mickey Mouse, Santa Claus and an Andy Warhol self portrait as The Shadow. They are each 38 inches by 38 inches on Lenox Museum Board, some with eight colors, rich solid colors and all but one with a pull of glue dusted with diamond dust, each signed in pencil.

We put two on our wall and kept the other eight in a box behind the piano in our house in the city. My uncle worked for Allstate and he arranged to insure them with a rider. But when he retired we were never quite sure if they were really covered. My brother eventually moved out of his Manhattan apartment and he hung five in his house in New Jersey. We never did figure out how to get any out to California.

The prints, like all of Warhol’s work, have continued to increase in value. You would think pop art would have bottomed out by now. I certainly hope it does someday. I would like to see it crushed by something more expressive. But our decision had nothing to do with market timing. My brother got a new estimate from Ronald Feldman and tried to get to the bottom of his insurance policy. His agent wouldn’t even return his call. It was time to sell.

We worked with Roz Goldman in Rochester, the former president of the Appraisers Association of America. She arranged to bring them to auction at Christie’s and we drove our prints down to New York. The last time a complete (but slightly damaged) set of Myths came to auction was in 2014. Our auction is April 15 and we plan to be in the house.

Mansion Of The Saints

Thursday, February 9th, 2017

Train yard in New Jersey

My brother is a snowmobile nut. I guess anyone who snowmobiles is a nut, bombing around the woods in in the middle of the night on a high-powered sled. He was up in the Adirondacks last week and he reported perfect conditions. We asked for the report because we were thinking about heading up there to find some snow for cross-country skiing. Our skis were already in the car when we changed our mind and decided to head down to New York for a few days. I’ll explain why we changed our plans in a future post. On the way down to the city we got news of the funeral celebration for my uncle so our trip was cut short. We stayed in Montclair with another brother and took the train into the city on Tuesday morning where we hooked up with Duane outside Penn Station. We walked a few blocks in the rain and then climbed the stairs to the High Line which we walked all the way down to 18th Street in Chelsea. I took a few notes in the galleries and I’ll report on that in a future post.

We drove back to Rochester on Wednesday but stopped in Penn Yan for my uncle’s service. He was active in the Dundee parish of Saint Andrews until they closed it and he was instrumental in moving the steeple bell up to Pen Yan where it now sits in Saint Michael’s Church tower. The priest told us how my uncle pointed to the rope for the bell and told him, “That rope used to be in my barn.” My uncle grew up in Dundee and had a two hundred acre farm there overlooking Seneca Lake. His farm was our absolute favorite destination when we were kids. He called us all “city slickers” even if we came dressed in our cowboy outfits. He sold the place to the Mennonites and the rest is history. After the Mass I was waiting in line to use the bathroom in the back of the church. The priest walked by and I asked him if I could ring he bell for my uncle. It sounded heavenly.