Work Horse

April 5th, 2018

Work horse outside of Roncesvalles Soain

We had never walked with my cousin so it was a real roll of the dice as to whether we could walk together for ten hours a day over all sorts of terrain in every weather condition imaginable. We left Roncesvalles at 8 o’clock this morning and reached a small town called Larrasoaña at six tonight. A twenty mile journey. We can walk together. It is a match. A good one.

We stopped before noon for Tortilla and fresh squeezed orange juice. It was a small cafè with two guitars in a corner and some bongos which I played for a bit. I had some Manchego in my pack, soft and seeping from the day before. We had that a few hours later along with some figs. And we finally set down here and ordered a beer, Estella Galicia, aceitunas, ensalada con atun, some thinly sliced jamon and some delicios Sopa de Ajo.

My cousin is a farm girl. She grew up outside of Dundee. She knows horses and owns a race horse now. She says this horse is a work horse. This horse has it made. We’re the work horses.

We will sleep like babies.

The Song Of Roland

April 4th, 2018

Pyrenees in northeastern corner of Spain

We headed out before sunrise this morning having never met the proprietors of the hotel we were staying at in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port. We made those arrangements back in Rochester and we planned to see how far we got before booking a room for tonight. We made it to Ronceveles, an eight and half hour walk over the Pyrenees and we’re settled down in an old monastery that has been artfully converted to a hotel.

We were sitting on a bus going in the opposite direction on this same route yesterday. It was a series of hair-pin turns.
The driver gave us a talk before departure, first in Spanish and then in English. English that he apologized for but he was great. He told us the bus would stop and start a lot and there would be some bumps so if we felt sick he said we should use a plastic bag and he demonstrated with one. Then he gestured toward the door to his left and said. “I stop the bus. You go out. Throw up.”

It wasn’t so bad. Today the route was mostly off road along streams, up the side of mountains and though valleys on enchanted pathways. The woods were gorgeous, water seeping out of the ground, trees covered in moss and lychin. Wildflowers, cherry tree blossoms, pastures with long horned sheep and breathtaking views.

In one day we met two people who are doing the Camino for a second time. We’ve just gotten started and I too would like to do it again.

Niño De Atocha

April 3rd, 2018

Pamplona overlook at the edge of town

Holy cards, the traditional European, beautifully printed, paper ones are getting harder and harder to come by. I’ve had some since childhood and I’ve added to my collection with every trip to Spain but I only bought one in Madrid this time. It was a small plastic coated one dedicated to the Niño de Atocha, another representation of the Christ child but one the street and train station in Madrid was named after. When we got back to our hotel I looked the image up and found it is distinctly characterized by the basket, staff and drinking gourd he carries and the cape cape he wears that is affixed with a scallop shell, the symbol of the pilgrimage to Saint James.

I gave the card to my cousin, Maureen, when we met up with her today in Saint Jean Pied Del Port. The remains of St. James are said to be in Santiago de Compostello, the city in northwestern Spain that is named after him. Our hiking clothes are laid out and the alarm is set. We start our walk to there tomorrow.

Iruña

April 2nd, 2018

Locals talking over drinks in Pamplona bar

Pamplona is in the Navarre region of Spain, just above the Rioja region, but it is also in Basque country. It’s Basque name is Iruña. We took the train here from Madrid and plan to take a bus up to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port (literally “Saint John [at the] Foot of [the] Pass) tomorrow to begin our walk.

Rick Steve’s would call Pamplona a “workaday” city. We live in a workaday City and happen to like them so we love it here. We walked around the old section, circled the bull ring, had tapas in two different places and came back to our hotel room with two cans of San Miguel cerveza. We cold settle down in Iruña.

Bocetos

April 1st, 2018

Gran Via, Madrid, Easter Sunday

An article we found here in the online version of the Times quoted Homer’s references to what became the Christian idea of personal resurrection. “You must endure, and not be brokenhearted. Once a man has died, and the dust has soaked up his blood, there is no resurrection.”

The resurrection as an article of faith is rather preposterous but as a miracle, why not celebrate it. We joined a big crowd in Madrid’s Plaza Mayor where a drum brigade from Cofrada de Cristo A La Cruz y de la Veronica were dressed in white ropes with purple sashes and touches of gold. Their drums were outfitted in the same Easter colors. The sound bounced off the walls of the plaza and carried us away.

The Picasso exhibit at Ciculo de Belles Artes, “Picasso y el Museo,” was astonishing. Nearly a hundred prints and a movie of Picasso drawing, all based on his hero’s of Spanish art, Velazquez, El Greco and Goya. The work dated from the thirties to the seventies and you are knocked out by his command. He is shown having so much fun riffing on the masters as only he could. It’s a miracle really.

Bad Friday

March 30th, 2018

Broken statue in yard near Sea Breeze, New York

Dunkin Donuts (both word spelled wrong in their mark) doesn’t jack up the prices on their goods just because they have you hostage behind the airport security perimeter. And they accept Apple Pay which is almost like not really paying for something. I ordered two medium cappuccinos and while I was waiting for my order the girls behind the counter were saying today was not a Good Friday but a bad Friday. I asked why it was a bad Friday and they said “all the little things that are going wrong today.” Nothing like a crucifixion or anything.

I feel asleep reading the Chesterton paperback on Saint Francis, something I found at my brother’s house in the books my father left behind, and he was equating Francis’s purposeful application of the Christian life to Giotto’s paintings. And this morning, before we left for the airport, I was looking at my Philip Guston book and his painting to his mentors caught my eye (again.)

I look for coincidences on Good Friday. I free associated my way through an interpretation of the Passion Play a long time ago. The Stations were my favorite thing about the years I spent in a Catholic Church.

As anyone who reads this knows, I was named PAUL because I was born on the feast day of Saint Paul of the Cross, who dedicated his life to the teaching of lessons learned from Christ’s death on the cross. Peggi and I are starting a pilgrimage, we’re calling it a walk, on Good Friday. All coincidence. But I did bring the tiny relic, from either Saint Paul’s body or his cross, that Father Shannon, a family friend, brought back from Italy when I was young.

Splitting Minutia

March 29th, 2018

Paul and Peggi walking with back packs in mirror on Hoffman Road Rochester, New York

I suppose I could do without pencils and paper for a month but I don’t want to so I’ll be packing one pound’s worth of those items. Without them I’d be below my self-imposed ten pound limit and I thought long and hard about it. There have been so many tiny details to fuss over, the right clothing for a wide range of possible weather conditions, adapters and chargers for our devices, essential bank cards, boarding passes and and passports, that it has left us exhausted. It is going to be such a relief to get on the plane.

I remember my painting teacher, Fred Lipp, telling me how he worked on these large but incredibly subtle paintings for years and at some point, realizing that he was “splitting minutia,” he quit painting altogether. Of course he returned but his story emphasized the pitfalls trying to get everything in order.

We took our last walk in the US today although we are probably in for some moving sidewalk action tomorrow.

Keenly Observed, Artfully Shown

March 28th, 2018

Leo Dodd watercolor "Town Dock Cape Cod" in upcoming Gieisel Gallery Show in May 2018

I feel connected to school kids more than ever now that, like them, I walk around with a back pack. I plan to live out of my pack for the next month and the process of outfitting it with the things I feel I must have, while staying under a self imposed weight, has been all consuming. It will be a huge relief to walk away with those ten pounds and separate myself from the rest.

The biggest item on my checklist of things to do before we leave was the preparation for a show of my father’s work at the Geisel Gallery on May 1st, a show that opens days after we return. The director of that gallery, Jean Geisel, bought four paintings directly from father. He was standing out front, painting en plein air, while Bausch & Lomb was constructing their downtown headquarters when she met him. When my father passed, leaving a tall stack of watercolors, I approached galleries and she jumped at the chance to show his work. Rick Muto at Axom Gallery offered to show Leo’s paintings as well and I was preparing for that when Rochester Contemporary made their offer. RoCo featured Leo’s work in their 2017 Rochester Biennial. That show concentrated on his downtown Rochester paintings.

The Geisel show is an overview and features paintings like the one above from Cape Cod. Thirty one paintings are framed and wrapped, ready for delivery. We worked out a layout, printed the wall tags and wrote an artist statement. Spending time with Leo’s paintings has been an incredible gift. I’m left marveling at his ability to keenly observe and artfully demonstrate the subjects that caught his interest. The opening is on First Friday, May 4th from 6-8pm at the Geisel Gallery. Mark your calendars.

Chaos

March 26th, 2018

Wind surfer in channel at Sea Breeze in Rochester, New York

We walked along the beach this morning with our back packs fully loaded. That would be just over and just under ten pounds each. We went up Oakridge Drive for a bit and then cut back into the park. We saw someone out on the golf course hitting balls. He was wearing headphones and he was surrounded by patches of snow. They looked like shiny white sand traps against the bright blue sky. Peggi found our first golf ball of the year, a brand new “Chaos” ball by Wilson. It seems like a strange brand name for such an orderly game.

We usually cut our own hair but occasionally we go to someone or they come here. We had arranged to have our friends’ daughter trim our hair tonight, before we leave for the Camino, and at the last minute she told us she wasn’t going to able to because her son had a bad cold. That was fine with us because we didn’t have to miss yoga.

Jeffery puts a lot of work into his classes. There is a natural flow to the class and the two hours fly by. He tells stories, in pieces between the durations of the poses and he effortlessly leaves the story to have us reposition before continuing. A woman in our class lived next door to Louise Slaughter and she and Jeffery went to Louise’s memorial service at the Eastman. The Clintons were there along with Nancy Pelosi and John Lewis. Jeffery was really moved by the service and eulogies. Apparently it was a real celebration of a life lived to the fullest.

Margaret Explosion plays one more Wednesday in March at the Little Theatre Café, 7-9pm. Here’s “Jack In The Box,” the first song from last week’s show, with Pete LaBonne on piano.

Margaret Explosion - Jack In The Box
Margaret Explosion – Jack In The Box

AI For Dogs

March 24th, 2018

Three tall radio towers near Erie Canal in Rochester, New York

Our neighbor down the street already had an invisible fence. And her two dogs patrolled the perimeter beating down a path in the snow while barking their heads off at anyone who walked by. The older of the two dogs died and she recently had the Invisible Fence people there. You can’t see their fence, of course, but they lined it with little blue flags and they put a 2 foot by three foot “Invisible Dog Fence” sign in the yard. We were guessing they tweaked the fence somehow, maybe gave it a firmware update or new software.

We saw the Invisible Fence truck in her driveway a few more times and we speculated that she might be having an affair with the driver. And then we saw him out in the yard with a little dog, a new second dog. We guessed that Invisible Fence might also offer things like dog training and, well, other services.

The new dog quickly learned how to bark, in unison with the other dog, at anyone who passes. Maybe because the mailman gives them treats and they expect it from everyone else. But they bark at the mailman too. The fence gives the dogs a jolt when they test the limits of their space. You would think the Invisible Fence company could also give them a jolt if they bark like idiots.

Six By Six By Minimal

March 21st, 2018

Raw Adirondack Pine pieces glued together for Rochester Contemporary's Annual 6x6 Exhibition

RoCo is accepting entries for their annual 6×6 exhibition and they included PopWars on their promo list. “We are reaching out to you because here at RoCo we think your readers at PopWars would enjoy learning about it. The deadline is quickly approaching and we would love if you could help us promote such an important and unique event. Would you be willing to write something about 6x6x2018 and invite your readers to participate?” It is not exactly what I do here but of course I will pitch in.

I’ve been gluing two pieces of rough cut Adirondack pine together for four years now and I’m hoping there is still some life in the concept. The boards, that Pete and Shelley bought from a sawmill for me, were only around five inches wide so making a six by six piece required ripping, gluing and clamping. Instead of ripping to three inches so the two pieces would be symmetrical I found these pleasing proportions and painted the two pieces a different color to accentuate that.

The first ones were each two colors, right out of the tube. The second year I only used one color on each leaving the other part of it as raw wood. The third year I cut the two pieces of wood the same size, glued them together and painted either a center panel or the surrounding of a non-painted center panel.

Each of them sold so I’m pushing it a bit further this year. Each of my four blocks uses the same two colors. If they sell I will try submitting the raw wood panels above as is next year. In today’s political climate I’ve been thinking of them as my wall prototypes.

We Did It

March 20th, 2018

Pray sign in Webster on Bay Road

You could pray for anything. Right? My mother, somewhat of an activist, would say, “I wish they would stop praying and do something.” We walked by this sign on Bay Road in Webster this afternoon and I thought of her.

Each day for the last month Peggi has plotted a loop for us to walk. If we are out somewhere in the car we’ll start from there but most often we start at our house. And we like to head out in one direction and come back via a different route. We have been inching our way up over ten miles a day and hit twelve the last few. We’ve gone down every road on this side of the bay. The roads reach the bay and then either dead end or come back up again. There is no road that runs continuously around the bay and we have been dreaming about walking around the bay but it just didn’t seem possible.

Today, Peggi suggested that we do it. Goggle plotted us straight down Culver to Empire, across the top of the bay and up the hill into Penfield to Bay Road. We stopped at Flaherty’s Three Flags Inn and split a pint of “Space Kitty,” a local IPA. A little further down the road we saw a sign sign that said, “Welcome to Webster Where Life Is Worth Living.” The sign was in the exact spot where the sidewalk ran out. Bay Road is is two lanes in either direction and it is decidedly not pedestrian friendly. We walked against traffic on the shoulder and kept jumping up in the snow to get out of the way.

Things settled down once we hit Lake Road and the walk across the spit of land between the lake and bay was beautiful at sunset. We stopped again at Shamrock Jack’s and had a pint of Ithaca’s “Flower Power” to celebrate our successful fourteen mile circumference. FC Salzburg vs Borussia Dortmund was on the screen behind the bar and the score was 0-0.

Eavesdropping

March 19th, 2018

Joe Daley Trio performing live at the Bop Shop

Joe Daley introduced his trio last night and then revealed their game plan. “What we do is we converse with one another for about an hour or so and you get to listen in.” The set began with an extended vibes intro by Warren Smith. He played vibes on Van Morrison’s “Astral Weeks” and hundreds of other records. Joe Daley joined on keyboard and Scott Robinson joined the conversation in with a deep, soulful baritone sax part. Warren Smith moved to Timpani. He is on the road with two kettledrums and they sounded so good. He is in his eighties now and he told me he fell in love with the instrument in school and he used to sneak into the band room to play them. I told him I loved the way they sounded in Sun Ra’s band and he told me he played with Sun Ra for a few dates in New York.

The prettiest piece they played featured Joe Daley on drone flute, an wooden instrument with three shafts, the outside two just playing one note each while the melody (in A minor) is played on the middle one. Scott Robinson played another wooden flute and Warren Smith played the drum kit with his hands. Joe said they always finish with a memorial piece and the one he played last night was dedicated to his late wife, Naomi. They were married for forty five years and she passed away just as they retired two years ago. It was mournful, sad and beautiful.

365 More Days To St. Patrick’s Day

March 17th, 2018

Hojak Bridge over Lake Road in Webster,New York

Our Saint Patty’s tradition is no more than ten years old so we could easily find change it. We usually walk down Wisner, through the woods and up into the neighborhood on the westside of Culver. We are not even a mile from Shamrock Jack’s but by the time we got there today, just after noon, the restaurant was full. We gave our name to the hostess and she said it would ten dollars. Five apiece to to get in the joint and wait for a table!

They had a bigger tent than ever out back and one set up in the front. We ordered a pint and eventually a sandwich while we watched limos and buses, one a school bus with an Irish flag on the side, drop off more people dressed in green. Peggi had just taken her last bite when the bus boy came up to our table and asked if he could take her plate. He eyed mine and and I asked if they were out of plates back there. He laughed and said they were.

We had only started our walk so we continued down Culver to the lake and over the bridge into Webster. We stopped there for a bit to watch three wind surfers getting airborne. We walked up to Gosnell Park off Vosburg Road and sat down a bench in the meadow. On the return trip we stopped in the Bay Side Pub to use their bathroom and refill with a pint. This is where we’ll be next year.

Down In The Flats

March 15th, 2018

Sign from down in the Flats near the Genesee River

I took a quick look at the route Peggi had plotted for today. She had Google Maps open on her iMac and the route was plotted in Satellite view. I could see the bay to the left of our starting point and the lakeshore was stretched out across the top of her screen. The river was also visible on the right hand side and our route went right along it for a stretch. I was struck by how much geography there was on the map and then by the notion that we could possibly cover that much ground on foot.

Our street was still somewhat icy so we started with our Yaktrax on but took them off at the cemetery. Those roads are some of the cleanest in the county due to the roster of public service workers with nothing to do. We turned right on Titus and walked to the House of Guitars where we turned north on Cooper just as Irondequoit High was letting out. Cooper meets Saint Paul and from there we began our descent to the river level, a place called “The Flats.” Irondequoit people talk about this place in almost mythical tones and I can see why.

There are wide open spaces between the houses, old barns and fields, undoubtably fertile fields judging by the standing water. It feels like you are out in the country but we just walked here. It was like a dream. We continued north along Saint Joseph which changes names to Van Voorhis and takes you up out of The Flats.

We checked the mileage and we were somewhere near six miles, about ready to begin the return leg. Since we don’t like retracing our steps we headed north on Saint Paul to the lake and walked along the lakeshore, up Zoo Road in the Park and on home.

Greater Knowledge

March 14th, 2018

Paul and Peggi sitting on Veterans Memorial Bridge

Our walk yesterday was interrupted with a visit to the Seneca Park Zoo. That should be a yearly stop for everyone just to keep the lid on our humanity. There is a major expansion going on with red and white concrete trucks rumbling by the the lions’ den. When the new buildings are ready they will tear down the original 1930’s yellow brick building, the one with the sign near the old entrance that reads, “Rochester Zoological Building – To the citizens of Rochester this building is dedicated. May the observation of the denizens of the wild afford pleasure and lead to a greater knowledge of the natural sciences.”

We spent time outdoors with the grey wolves, the lions and sea lions. We watched the tiger pace back and forth and were mesmerized by the elephants trunks. The rhino looks absolutely pre-historic. We were introduced to the exotic Pied Tamarin and Red Rumped Agouti. I felt like a kid again. My family used to come to this park to swim in the public pool but I can’t even remember where that was now. Peggi made some movies of the lemurs. They played a central role in her song, one we performed as Personal Effects, and she is planning to make a video to that song.

We left the zoo on foot and walked across the walking bridge to Maplewood Park, another Frederick Law Olmsted Park on the west side of the river. Instead of retracing our steps from there we tried walking across the Veterans’ Memorial Bridge at rush hour, a near death experience on the narrow sidewalk with three lanes of cars speeding toward you. I used the timer on my camera to record this shot of us on the other side.

Personal Effects - Love Never Thinks
Personal Effects – Love Never Thinks

Plus Sign

March 13th, 2018

Rusty boat on Summerville Dock in Rochester, New York

Peggi took this photo of a dry-docked boat in Summerville when we were wandering around by the river. We saw one very similar to this in Sausalito when we visited our friends.

Snowflakes are in the air this morning and St. Patty’s, the unofficial first day of Spring, is just around the corner. This is ideal walking weather and the first order of business each day is determining la ruta. We can only walk so far north in this part of the country, something like a mile, but the other three directions are unlimited. The trick is to plot a loop with as little overlap as possible. And the route must be somewhere near ten miles.

We pinpoint our location in Google Maps, add a destination and then use the “plus sign” feature to extend our walk to the appropriate length loop. We were on the high side of ten the last few days and need to keep pushing to prepare for the minimum twenty mile first day’s walk over the Pyrenees into España. I am only hoping the walk across Spain will be as much fun as exploring our nearby neighborhoods has been.

Church And State

March 10th, 2018

Charlotte lighthouse in winter

I’m hoping we’ll pick up an additional tenth of a mile just walking around the house tonight because I really want to see that 13 mile tally on our Moves app.

We got a late start because we had a funeral to go to for our sister in law’s father. It was a patriotically themed event as well it should have been. The man served in all three branches of the military! Flag pins were attached to the red, white and blue programs. A trumpet player played taps while we took our seats and then guns went off outside the Baptist Church in Greece. The hymn was “America the Beautiful,” all four verses. Free Masons, wearing white beanies in the front row, presented white roses to the remains. State Senator Joseph Robach gave the remembrance. And a piano player, a seasoned lounge player, played Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah and a great version of Frank’s “My Way.”

We changed clothes and headed out through the park and along the lake all the way to the river. We thought we might be able to work our way along the river to Silk O’Loughlin’s, which had just opened for the season, but we couldn’t get around the gates of a shipyard. I took this photo in front of Shumway’s Marina and we turned around. With the temperature right around freezing we walked on a variety of surfaces. Some crusty, icy snow, some black ice, some mud, some soft sand along the lake and a few good sized puddles on the sidewalk.

No Draft

March 9th, 2018

No Draft bridge and Peggi on Penfield Road in Rochester New York

Has this “No Draft” graffiti really been on this railroad overpass since the Viet Nam War? Abolishing the draft seemed like such a noble movement back then. Seems like “Call of Duty” buffs voluntarily fight our wars now and the rest of us just tune the whole thing out.

We buy our coffee at Canaltown, Rochester’s oldest coffee roaster. We left our car in their parking lot yesterday and walked over to Phil Marshall’s house to deliver a cd of live songs from our first two months playing together. He wasn’t home so we slid it in the mail slot in his front door. Phil texted that he had a new guitar and a very scaled down pedal board he was looking forward to using at last night’s gig. But he came down with a cold and we had to go to the ME rolodex. Steve Piper joined us on guitar and it was all new again.

We walked up to the library today to pick the copy of “Fire & Fury” that Peggi had reserved. We had an early dinner at Lakeside Hots in the former Vic’s Place overlooking the lake. It is run by former Vic & Irv’s employees and it is every bit as good as it ever was. Peggi left from there to drive along the lake to our tax guy’s place. She’s filing for my mom too, the last piece of business we have to do for her. I walked home and crossed paths with a mailman. I asked him how many miles he walks in a day. It was complicated because he said he does five different routes each week but he came up with a average of eight. I told him eight was pretty impressive and I explained that I was walking to get ready for a hike across Spain.

Margaret Explosion plays Wednesdays in March at the Little Theatre Café. Here’s “Pedal Pusher” with Phil Marshall on guitar.

Margaret Explosion - Pedal Pusher
Margaret Explosion – Pedal Pusher

Getting Real

March 8th, 2018

Drum set in the snow in Rochester New York

The Emirates Group sponsors both teams. Qatar Sports Investments owns Paris Saint-Germain and they spent a fortune on players like Neymar. Real Madrid is owned by their club supporters, hundreds of people called socios and they too spent a fortune on players like Ronaldo. The word Real, Spanish for Royal, was bestowed on the club by King Alfonso XIII and our friend Matthew advised us that if we’re going to cheer for a Madrid team it ought to be Atlético because Real still has cultural ties to the fascists. But we can’t help ourselves, we’ve been rooting for Real in the Champions League and we were ecstatic watching them defeat PSG, both at home and in Madrid. We wouldn’t root for Real against Barcelona, of course. They are on another plane.

Ronaldo is an over-the-top star. Like Trump, you can’t take your eyes off him as he sucks all the air out of the room. Madrid has Sergio Ramos, the captain of the ship. They have Marcello, a back who is an ever threat to score. They have Bale, on the bench with his man-bun. They have the smart, agile Croatian, Luka Modrić, in midfield. And they have Zinedine Zidane in the ever so sharp coach’s suit. They are a real team and a joy to watch.