Wood Waits For No One

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.

Cooked Fish, Baked Pie

April 23rd, 2017

Michael Hurley performing at the Bop Shop

“Undoubtedly one of this country’s greatest folk singers, Hurley has little in common with the majority of today’s folk performers. While they seem bent on demonstrating that all people are alike, such a suffocating presumption has no place in this man’s work. Michael Hurley is nothing like his potential audience. What better reason to hear what he has to say?”
– Chuck Cuminale

Chuck wrote music reviews for City newspaper, some of the finest, most succinct reviews I have ever read. Not a surprise, his lyrics for the Colorblind James Experience were pure poetry. He also booked shows for more than the Experience. Just before he died he was planning a dream double bill of Pete LaBonne and Michael Hurley at the old Grange Hall in Webster.

Chuck’s wife, his son, Paul, and former members of the Experience were at the Bop Shop tonight for the show. “Cooked fish, baked pie and Bingo on Wednesday nights.” Chuck would have loved it.

Planet B

April 23rd, 2017

Junk in Manhattan store window

It is a wonder that Central Park is not a bigger attraction in the city. It is an oasis. A cliche, I know, but a hundred yards in and you’re somewhere else. We walked through the park on our way up to the Metropolitan and stopped to watch the tiny sailboats navigate the pond. On the way back down we watched a wedding photographer take shots of the bride standing on a big rock. And a little further down we stopped by the zoo and to watch the seals play in their aquarium. All very dreamy and a welcome cleansing of the big city palette.

Times Square is a big attraction, a big hideous attraction. We walked through it on our way to Port Authority this morning and ran into the “March for Science” coming down Broadway. The crowd of protesters, more like an orderly cross section of everyday people, were able to bring the LED, chain restaurant, nightmare down to human scale. It was magical.

One More

April 21st, 2017

Marsden Hartley Log Industry painting from Maine show at Met Breuer

Steve left yesterday afternoon by train and he should be in Charleston by now. Kim left this morning and she she texted us us that she had landed safely in SF. We were planning on driving back to Rochester but we booked another night here. That gave us plenty of time to savor the Maraden Hartley show at the Met Breuer. He is one of my favorite painters, so rough and cultivated at the same time.

Black Latte

April 20th, 2017

Andy Warhol Myths series on preview dusplay at Christies in NYC

Andy Warhol was sitting on a bench off to the side of the outdoor stage. He was sitting with one of the musicians. In my dream I knew the musician but it was the first time I had seen Andy in person. I said, “How are you doin’ today?” and then felt like that was a really awkward thing to say. Warhol stood up and I noticed he had a small portable tape player in his hand, a reel to reel player with a clear plastic window. He turned the tape player on and I woke up.

We had toasted Warhol yesterday at dinner so it was understandable that I would be dreaming about him. The “Myths” portfolio that we bought for 6000 in 1979 was going to be auctioned at Christies in the afternoon. When I say “we bought,” I mean Peggi and I owned 3/10s, my brother and his wife owned 5/10s and Kim (and Dave Mahoney’s kids) owned 2/10s. We were all at the auction this afternoon when the hammmer came down.

Steve Hoy, a good friend of all three parties was also in town to celebrate. Four of us were staying in one room overlooking Central Park. Duane joined us for three days straight and we whooped it up. The ten silk teen prints numbered 135/200 are now in someone else’s hands.

Steve was heading down for coffee this morning and he asked how I liked my coffee. I said “black” because it sounded good but then I switched to “latte.” Steve said, “a black latte?”

We Five

April 19th, 2017

Artwork being moved into a gallery in Chelsea

Many of the galleries in Chelsea were between shows. It didn’t really matter, we had no real agenda. We were a group of four college friends, wandering and talking like no time had passed at all. I was set on seeing the Alice Neel show at Zwirner and that was fantastic. We never did make it to the Max Ernst show, we went up on the High Line and didn’t touch down until the Whitney where we took in the Bienial.

Dana Schultz’s controversial Emmett Till painting, “Open Cassket,” had no protesters standing in front of it and her lengthy artist’s statement, something that was surely added after it became such a hot topic, took most of the life out of the visual. I really enjoyed the anything goes, fun house approach to the show. Can’t say I went crazy for anything. Duane met us on the fifth floor and we were five.

Wood Fired

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.

Speak Easy

April 17th, 2017

Ford Flex in big puddle behind the old Vic & Irv's

We met Matthew and Louise for a drink down on the beach behind Margie’s, a speakeasy during Prohibition. It was a beautiful night but the signs of a rough winter were plentiful. Huge sand dunes hand reshaped the beach. They’re going to need a piece of heavy equipment to make it look all civilized again.

I took this photo on the way in. I wasn’t the only one taking photos. This Ford Flex was abandoned in three feet of water right where the parking lot used to be for Vic & Irv’s. Ben, who lives across the street on the beach wasn’t taking photos, he was calling 911. He told us they call 911 all the time. Boats gets stranded in front of their house and all sorts of crazy stuff happens down there. He surmised someone was “hammered.” If I’m remembering this right, Greg Prevost told me Irv died in this same puddle when he was trying to hook up a pump to drain the parking lot. This car was gone when we came out of Margie’s.

Ideal Couple

April 17th, 2017

Dina Goldstein "In The Dollhouse" at Rochester Contemporary

I always found my sister’s Barbie dolls a little creepy. Far from cuddly. like my teddy bear, they were hard and pointy and a little too grown up and serious looking.

In the Dollhouse,” by Dina Goldstein, currently on view at Rochester Contemporary, pretty much confirms my early impressions but her photo creations are thoroughly engaging as an indictment of the ideal couple. Goldstein “plays Barbie,” as my sister used to call it, with real people and she airbrushes on the obvivious doll features, the ones that allow the dolls to turn their heads 180 degrees. Goldstein says “In The Dollhouse” “offers a profound commentary on the transient nature of beauty, the difficulty of marriage and the importance of authenticity.”

Permethrin Socks

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

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.

Moving Something

April 12th, 2017

Neighbor Jared's long yellow gloves for working in his pond

There are two stalls in the men’s room near the lobby of the Friendly Home. I was in one and this conversation, between an old and a much younger voice, was happening in the other.

“Whoever thought it would come to this?”

“It does for everybody, Pop.”

“You hit a lot of walls and you work through them but this one is a mountain!”

“There are upsides. You can stay up as late as you want. You can have ice cream whenever you want.”


April 11th, 2017

Peggi's top secret pink and black crochet project

You may have noticed people all over the city working on abstract pink and black crochet projects. Although some people are so adept at crocheting they can carry on a conversation while working and you don’t even notice. I’m thinking of Gloria Monacelli but she knits rather than crochets. Martha O’Conner got Peggi involved in this project and we stopped by the SewGreen shop on West Main in the Susan B. Anthony district to pick the supplies.

Peggi was given a grid that laid out the stitches for her 2 foot by 2 foot portion of the pink and black yarn mural that will eventually go up on the side of the building as part of the Wall Therapy Project. The squares are all abstract but the motif will be very recognizable when they are all stitched together. That’s all I can say about this now other than there may still be some portions that need to done.

Level Level

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.


April 8th, 2017

Saxes on stage for Ossia concert at Kilbourn Hall in Rochester, New York

Who goes to a concert dressed in white? Hundreds of kids were lined up outside the Armory on East Main as we drove by and ninety-five per cent of them were in white. I guessed it must be some sort of religious crusade but Peggi looked it up as I drove. It turns out it was the Rochester performance of Life in Color, “The World’s Largest Paint Party.” There is a dj, of course, paint is for sale and the kids are the canvas. Any more questions?

We were on our way to Ossia’s last concert of the season, something a few blocks but a whole world away. Each performance features five or six adventurous, modern compositions and there is always a knockout in there. My favorite this time was by Tristan Murail, a piece called “Ethers.” Two maraca players were stationed just off stage to the right and left and they shook throughout the piece. Murial has not merely composed the music but also the ambience within which it is perceived. The lead was played on flutes, the whole family of flutes, and he was accompanied by a string quartet and a trombone who function as the soloist’s distorting mirror. I was transported.


April 8th, 2017

Boarded up building on Clinton Avenue in northeast Rochester, New York

I know ruin porn is a thing and all. My wife is from Detroit and we chose to live in another city that could be described as long past its prime. I don’t agree with that description, I’m just saying who’ve been enjoying this stuff for a long time. I took this shot out the car window yesterday afternoon on Clinton Avenue somewhere near Norton where the old Red Wing Stadium was located.

Black On Wood

April 6th, 2017

My 2017 6x6s drying in studio

RoCo’s 6×6 deadline is rolling around again. As with everything else I do, I always seem to get a late start. I’ve working with this rough cut lumber the last few years. The wood that I have, stuff Pete and Shelley brought me from a sawmill in the Adirondacks, isn’t wide enough to make up the six so I rip the boards and glue them together.

The last couple of years I went with a 3 to 1 ratio with with the board widths and this year after much contemplation I decided to make them each one half. I deliberately chose a light board to cope with a dark board. This arrangement called for a centered application of the color. You are allowed to submit four pieces and I wanted each to be unique so I plan to have the light portion on the bottom in two, one with black around the perimeter and the other with the black in the center square. I usually mess a few up so I made a few extras.

It has been three days now and the heavy application of Ivory Black oil paint is still wet. Artwork is due 10d 6h 32 35s according to their site.

Hidden Life Of Trees

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

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.”

Real Deal

April 1st, 2017

Three Shelley nature watercolors in Troy art show at Clement Gallery

Troy is not so far away. On the other side of the Hudson River it’s only three and a half hours. We drive there for Shelley Valachovic’s art opening, “Living with Nature,” at the Clement Art Gallery on Broadway in downtown Troy.

“Troy is comin’ back. and it’s doin’ it on its own.” According to Tom Clement. He and his brother, Ray, run the gallery/frame shop on Broadway near the Soldiers and Sailors monument. Formerly Lucy’s Lunch Counter, the brothers bought the building and moved their father’s camera/frameshop buisness to this prime location years before the Troy Renaissance. They are the nicest guys in the world and big supporters of the arts.

Last night was “Troy Night Out.” The opening was really well attended and sales were brisk. It was treat watching new people discover Shelley’s work. “She is the real deal” according to Jimmy, the owner of the Beat Shop, Troy’s premier record shop.

Shelley showed her watercolors of wildflowers and woods plants and the miniature pine needle baskets she weaves. She even had some of the originals from her her illustrated, “A Year in the Woods” book. The show through April 26.The Clements had this brief bio on their announcement:

“My interest in plants and nature probably originated unsurprisingly from my grammar school days when my family lived on the edge of a suburb, right here in the capital region, surrounded by reclaimed farmland and a whole lot of woods.     
After graduating from New York State University College at Buffalo in 1974, I spent two years studying Printmaking and Photography at the Lake Placid School of Art, which increased my passion for the mountains and outdoor life. For several years thereafter, I traveled in the Colorado Rockies, Texas, Cape Cod, Philadelphia, and New Orleans acquiring a diversity of experience that influenced my work as a printmaker.
In the mid 80’s I returned with Pete to the Adirondacks where we built our first cabin out of hemlock poles and cordwood. Fifteen years later (after the tree fell through and crushed the house) we moved to a more remote spot off the grid and built another cabin much like the first where we now live. We have a wood stove, garden, outhouse, a small solar panel, and catch rain water from the roof.
Since settling in the Adirodacks my focus quickly shifted  from a broad view of changing landscapes to a more intimate study of the woodland plants surrounding us. Changing my media to accommodate this new perspective I now draw  and paint trees, wildflowers, sticks, moss, and all sorts of forest debris in all seasons when and where I find them.

We stayed with Rich and Denise, Troy royalty, and stopped by Jimmy’s record shop on the way out of town. I picked up a double Impulse lp of Chico Hamilton’s Great Hits.