The Song Of Roland

Pyrenees in northeastern corner of Spain
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.


Dramatic Intersection

Intersection of the Erie Canal and the Genesee River

Rivers don’t cross one another at right angles. But a river and a man-made canal can and they do just south of downtown Rochester. You are looking west from one of the beautiful, arched, concrete bridges in Frederick Law Olmstead’s Genesee Valley Park. The canal runs across the state, and the river, coming from the left in this photo, flows north to Lake Ontario. This is a really dramatic intersection.

We have shifted gears and are now wearing only the gear we will be bringing on our walking trip. I feel like we are already on the walking trip but it doesn’t start for another thirty days. So, no more layers of cotton clothing. We have been outfitted in man-made high-tech gear. Our friend, Olga, who has a keen fashion sense, works part time at REI so we texted her for her hours and then stopped in the store on Tuesday night to take her recommendations.

I came home with a SmartWool base-layer top, some Royal Robins pants, a 100% Polyester Pantagonia Fleece lightweight jacket and my favorite item, a cool Kuhl rain jacket. Oh, and then we bought hats to keep the rain and sun away. They are too goofy looking to link to.

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Dix Street

Old Glen Haven Railroad bed

Thirty-eight degrees is just right for walking. Our twelve and a half mile walk today took four hours to complete but that included a number of stops. Starbucks was the first and then a stroll down Dix street, thinking of Otto and the book Angel has of his work before stopping in Dunkin Donuts to use the bathroom. And then down the access road that runs along 590 near the Norton Street exit and into the woods in the county park that follows the old subway bed, the same line that ran from Garson Avenue along Shaftsbury and down to the bay where the old amusement park was.

It’s a beautiful trail with all sorts of turns and small bridges and there’s remnants of old houses along the way, just the foundations and slabs and the hint of a fireplace. There are occasional markers. We followed the blue to the green and we came out on bay right across from the entrance to the Fish and Game club. We called our neighbor, a member, from the entrance and I was picturing him inviting us in for a beer but he was at home. We stopped at a gas station on Culver to use their bathroom and then Wegmans to pick up some salad for the family gathering we’re planning for tomorrow where we will prepare of my dad’s next show.

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Early Bird Special

HillsideI in Gannett Hill Park

Frank Gannett grew Rochester’s Democrat & Chronicle into USA Today and the whole Gannett chain. He also owned property on this hillside near what is now Gannett Hill Park at the bottom of Canandaigua Lake, just north of village of Naples. We hiked the orange trail there this afternoon in a loop that just under four miles, enough to get us out of cellular range. We went down there for the color and just get out of town for a bit.

They are usually way ahead of us. The big lake moderates our weather and stretches out the Fall but they were nowhere near peak. I made salsa before we left and we ate that with chips after our walk. We continued south through the Italy Valley and then up through Middlesex. We stopped at a Mexican place in Canandaigua and were home before the sun went down.

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Plastic Arts

Hazelnut on picnic table in Elison Park, Rochester, New York

With this string of gorgeous days the outdoor palette is changing ever so slightly. Oranges and browns are creeping in. Nuts are falling from the sky. I heard an acorn fall on our neighbor’s trailer as I drifted off last night. The horseshoe pits are dusty. Although it was forecast we haven’t had rain in a week or so. It’s good that we can’t count on a particular kind of weather. You never know. And that’s why we live here.

Plastic has been around so much longer than plastic, way before Dustin Hoffman’s line in The Graduate. “Capable of being molded or modeled. Capable of adapting to varying conditions.” There is a time-lapse video out there of someone working on a painting. He reworks a section and it looks exactly like it did before he reworked it. I have not seen the video, I have only heard about it. I don’t want to see it.

Paint is malleable. I’ve been reworking sections of a painting for the last week. Does it look any better? Am I going around in circles? Painting always gets the best of you. That’s the way it should be.

That’s my Uncle Bob heading to the bathroom in the blowup of the photo above.

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Park Nuts

Walnut Man in Durand Eastman Park, Rochester, New York

On a good day we don’t see anyone in the park. Actually, that is not entirely true. On really nice days we always run into other people. Most days, though, we hardly see anyone in the park. I used to find that surprising but not anymore. People have stuff to do.

We were coming back up from the lake on Pine Valley Road when we watched this guy pull over, hop out of his car and walk directly over to a tree near the side of the road. He didn’t even look back at us as we walked by so I asked, “What’s going on with that tree?” He said, “I didn’t know there was a walnut tree here. I’ve been picking walnuts from the tress over there for years but I never new there was one here.” He had a few of them in his hands already. They are about the size of a tennis ball before you get the outer green layer off. And inside that there is the wooden shell and inside that the fruit.

He told us he takes them home and soaks them in a bucket, about a hundred at a time. “If they rise to the surface I throw them out because they are rotten but that only happens to two or three.” He said he cracks them open with a rubber mallet and eats them while he’s watching tv. As he was talked he got a small shovel out of the back of his car and he cracked a few nuts open and gave us taste. They were great, nice and moist. Then he showed us a long handled pruning sheer that he uses to cut them from higher branches. I asked if the park people ever bothered him while he was picking and he said, “No, but I’m not picking nuts today, I metal detecting.”

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Big Bird

Eagle in dead tree  in marsh off Hoffman Road, Rochester, New York

As we leave our street we get a good view of a few of the neighbors backyards. One is mostly unused, but professionally maintained, lawn. Periodically dosed with chemicals and surrounded with the yard-worker version of yellow police crime tape. A small evergreen tree, the size you would buy as a live, tabletop Christmas tree, sits in the middle of the lawn. Still in the red plastic pot from a few years back it is partially brown.

The house next door is like Noah’s Ark. They have one of everything back there. An extra car, a boat, a camper, a small patio with chairs and fire pit, a dog pen, a small vegitable garden and an old treasure chest. It wasn’t surprising that they picked up the small pink tent that we saw out by the curb further down the street last week. It caught our eye too but we assumed a little girl had outgrown it and another would find it, not these middle aged scavengers.

The other day there was a hawk on their garage and we didn’t scare it off. It was so close to us I wondered whether the bird was right and then I put it together that we had interrupted it. Instead of taking more photos of it I looked down at the ground and sure enough there was a dead squirrel about ten feet from us.

We continued down Hoffman Road and stopped at the marsh like we always do. There was a really big bird sitting on top of the tallest dead tree and I assumed it was another hawk with its prey. As we moved closer we started to think it might be an eagle. Steve Greive came around the bend in his Jaguar and he honked at us. That scared it off. I had to come home and compare my photo with a google “eagle” search to be convinced.

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Blue Christmas

Defced tress sign in the Commons

I read an article about the blue Christmas trees they’re selling in New Jersey. Someone is spray painting real trees and people are buying them.

We spotted the black, spray-painted marks on the trees in the woods near our house a few days ago. You can’t miss them. The idiot marked the trail for other idiots by marking nearly every tree even ones no wider than my wrist. We rarely see anyone on the trail but we see footprints and very occasionally bike tire tracks and we’re guessing it was someone with those balloon tires. Yesterday we found this sign and we seconded the sentiment. We’re lucky the guy used black paint. As glaring as the offense was we’ve already stopped noticing the spots.

We decided to do the the Spring Valley trail today. We’re beyond tick season so the overgrown trails in that developed part of the park don’t pose as much of an obstacle. The toughest part about it is crossing the stream that winds its way though the valley. It moves along at quite a clip so the crossing point never looks the same. It is incredibly beautiful up on the ridge. The turkeys hang out up here and there were tracks everywhere today but we didn’t see any. Peggi took some panoramas that I’m anxious to see. We ran into one of our favorite neighbors, a so-called brainiac, on the way. She has four beagles, collects stray cats and has a room full of exotic frogs. There was a Pileated woodpecker at her feeder while we talked. Her house, built in 1947, is a classic mid-century modern and and another friend of ours told us they thought it was a Don Hershey. We confirmed that it is not. She gave us shopping bag full of Brussels sprouts so I did the hike with that and on the way home we cut the tops off three of of our Kale plants.

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Seductive Curves

Peggi working on the slate sidewalk

I like puzzles but don’t go out of my way to tackle them. I get addicted and can’t stop. This one sort of fell into our lap. My brother, the best stone mason in the city, poured a new concrete driveway for us. Of course there was a lot more work than the pouring. He was over here every day few a couple of weeks preparing the surface and forms. He even offered his artist eye to give the driveway some seductive curves. The concrete was poured on a Saturday and he returned one more time to seal it. We threw a game of horseshoes when he finished and he beat me one out of three.

There is a slate sidewalk from our old driveway to the threshold of our front door and the new driveway, which gently slopes from the garage to the street, is now two inches higher than our sidewalk. So 200 pound piece by 200 pound piece Peggi and I have been raising the level of the sidewalk. We’ve been working on this for over a week now and we can’t wait to get to work each day. We find ourselves looking out the window at our project at night. The pieces of slate or Pennsylvania Bluestone or whatever you call this stuff are all different sizes and some of the old ones were broken so putting it all pack together with shovels, sand, fill, levels, a grinder and diamond blade circular saw that our neighbor Jared let us borrow, and a 2 by 6 to grade the surface has been a real puzzle. It feels great to be outdoors the whole day and I find manual labor to be immensely satisfying. I wonder why that is.

Listen to “Girls With Balloons” from Margaret Explosion Disappear CD
Margaret Explosion - Girls With Balloons
Margaret Explosion – Girls With Balloons
Margaret Explosion plays Wednesday evenings in October and November at the Little Theatre Café.

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Spectacular Show

Hemlock Lake in Fall 20016

Just twenty miles south of Rochester on Route 15A you can stop the car and walk to the last two undeveloped Finger Lakes. Canadice Lake is to the west and Hemlock is to the east. Both can be reached by newly developed trails that drop about 1700 feet in elevation and take you right to the shores of the lakes. The lakes look exactly the way they would have to Native Americans 500 years ago. We left at noon and did both hikes, a total of six miles or so, and were home in plenty of time for dinner.

I remember when Genesee Beer touted the virtues of Hemlock Lake water in its beer. Of course the two lakes are our water supply and development on the lakes is prohibited. The trails start on land owned by the Nature Conservancy and finish in the Hemlock-Canadice State Forest passing through beautiful meadows and virgin forest before their descent. The Canadice trail is about eight years old and the Hemlock trail, named Rob’s trail after a past president of the Conservancy, was just opened this summer. The trees are putting on a spectacular show for you now.

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Real Slow And Real Low

Stick bug on 8x11.5 inch paper

The stick bug, pictured above against an 8 1/2 x 11 piece of paper to show scale, dropped on my head as I was reading the morning paper on our deck. I thought it was a leaf or something and brushed it off. It fell on the paper, I brushed it on the floor and then it climbed up our window. How could something this big hang on to a sheet of glass? I looked them up and they are mostly found in tropical climates, similar to Rochester’s this summer.

The Flash are in the playoffs and I am very happy about that. They beat Boston last night and secured a spot in the finals. We couldn’t watch the match live because we had to go to the premier of “Danny Says,” a funny movie about an unlikely tastemaker, talent scout and influential magazine editor. Someone who broke John Lennon’s claim to be bigger than Jesus and helped break the Doors, the Stooges and the Ramones.

Every summer I rake the stones on our lawn back into the driveway where they were until I shoveled them onto the lawn with the snow in the winter. And each summer I ask my brother if he might have time to pour a concrete driveway. He always says he can but then he gets too busy with his stone work and another year goes by. Today he stopped by in his black, ’69 Vet. I could hear him coming, real slow down the street but with a real low purr. He took some measurements and drew a few curves on a piece of paper. It might happen.

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Make America Groan Again

Model-T near Auburn, New York

Part of the fun of walking in the city is finding cool stuff out at the street, things people are discarding for some reason. We don’t get much of that in Irondequoit. No junk metal guys riding around in pick-up trucks, no funky old chairs out by the curb, no boxes of strange photos.

When we walk on the street around here I’m always on the look out for non organic trash. I cleaned up for Budweiser Man for years. Today I found a couple of golf balls when we crossed the course. I know where to look. I have a bowl of tiny plastic drug bags that I’ve found on Hoffman Road in the past few months. I found one today stamped with a little teddy bear. And of course there are the accompanying Swisher Sweet, Honey Berry and Acid Cigarillo packages. Another curiosity from todays’s haul was an empty airline sized, plastic bottle of Banana Liquor.

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Rainbow over Kodak corporate headquarters in Rochester New York as seen from Rhinos soccer stadium.

We celebrated Independence Day with a walk in the park. The park was crowded but most people were clustered around the picnic areas. Music was playing, motorcycles were revving their engines, the park smelled like grilled meat. We decided to drive somewhere for a picnic of our own but first we walked up to Lake Ontario. we took the path down the west side of Durand Lake. The water lilies were in full bloom. Hundreds of them were out there floating along with the turtles and frogs. I took a bunch of pictures. Three women on horseback came up the trail. I photographed them. It was the first time we had ever seen horses on this trail. I took a bunch of photos. Coming back, along Log Cabin Road, we saw a coupe up ahead. She had a red top on and he had a blue shirt on, They both were wearing white shorts. I took a photo and Peggi asked them if they planned their outfits for the day. They said they did. We were both wearing black.

At some point I realized I had no card in my camera. The day has been set free.

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Brickyard Trail

Leo Dodd with Rochester Brick & Tile brick in driveway

This is a followup to yesterday’s post on Brighton’s new Brickyard Trail. This picture shows the only Brighton Brick & Tile brick my father ever found. Actually another Brighton resident, Casey Walpert, found it when he was rehabing the Skylark Lounge on Union Street downtown and he gave it to my father. We talked to a number of people after yestererday’s presentation who expressed how much they liked my father. Mario Daniele from Mario’s was the first one so say something to me. And then there were a couple of guys who had never met Leo but wanted to know more.

Richard Carstensen invited us to walk the trail with him. He is a naturalist, living and working in Alaska but back home in Brighton to help settle his recently deceased father’s affairs. He grew up near the Brickyard Trail and revisited it while he was back here. He didn’t just revisit it, he studied it in depth and prepared this amazing presentation. He told us he kept coming across my father’s work while he was doing his research and he wished they had been able to meet. Here’s his presentation about the former clay fields.

David Kramer was working on a piece on the park in conjunction with the ribbon cutting and asked a few questions about Leo. His story works a ghost tale into the mix.

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Pockets Of Beauty

Motorcycle on Lake Road in Webster, New York

The priest who celebrated the mass for my brother’s father-in-law today had a heavy Guatemalan accent. But it only made me want to listen to what he was saying. Sometimes he said things twice, clearly working on the pronunciation of his new language. There was only one alter boy, they worked in pairs in my day, and after the priest had his big host and wine he walked toward the alter boy to offer him the sacrament. The alter boy refused and my mind went wild with what his reasons were. After the service we had lunch in the Knights of Columbus hall on Barrett Drive. The road was named after Joe Barrett‘s father, the Village of Webster’s Attorney and one time mayor, Gerald R. Barrett. With Xerox and unchecked growth to increase the tax base Webster has plugged every empty lot and former farm field with chain stores and track housing. I can’t even tell where I am anymore when we drive out there.

Funny thing is when we got back from the funeral there was a message from a friend who wanted to know if we could meet her on the other side of the swing bridge, the one they swing open on April first, at Gosnell Big Woods off Vosburg Road back in Webster. This park a gem and includes an open meadow for migrating birds and old growth forest. Our Moves app says we walked for sixty minutes in the woods. There are still pockets of beauty where “Life is Worth Living.”

We would be at the Steve Reich concert tonight if we didn’t have a gig. The song below is from last week’s performance and it’s in a major key for a change.

Margaret Explosion - Sun Spot
Margaret Explosion – Sun Spot

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Pine tree stand in Durand Eastman Park, Winter 2016

Yesterday’s 18 inches was too much for the groomers. Peggi and I cut our own trail in Durand and that is no easy task. It is more like snowshoeing without the snowshoes. There was a lot of stopping and looking around in awe. When we got back to our computers there was an email from the Cross Country Ski Foundation explaining the process when the snow comes this fast. Their snowmobile driver has to take two or three passes without the groomer attached before he can even try hauling the groomer over his tracks.

We are are hardy woods skiers and we used to poo-poo the wide open, windblown, groomed trails on the golf course but that was then. The groomed paths provide a whole different experience. It is a different type of skiing, faster and more skate like. Also, the packed down surface stays slick when the temperature gets above freezing. I’m really gonna miss winter when it completely disappears.

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Jet plane andiron over pines in Durand Eastman Park

We got pretty excited about the Zoolander 2 opening on this weekend. My brother and sister-in-law were visiting colleges with their daughter and they were staying here. We thought it would be perfect for the whole family but we couldn’t get them excited about it. We settled for the Republican debate and had a good tim with it.


Reclaim Your Body

Rochester Yacht Club in below zero tempuratures

The temperature never climbed above zero today so only four people showed up for Jeffery’s yoga class but oddly, the Hangover Biscuits at Kneads & Wants were already sold out by the time we got there. The cross country ski conditions were excellent but Peggi and I were the the only ones in the park. There wasn’t another soul out there. It was absolutely beautiful today. If you click on the photo above you see the sun was even out.


Ice Sculpture Garden

Man with camera on Lake Ontario, Rochester, New York

You have to keep a close eye on Lake Ontario. It looks different every time you check in on it. The upcoming warm weather is going to wreck the sculpture garden at Durand so you better stop down soon.

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N Ice

Snow covered path around Eastman Lake in Rochester, New York

OK, so this will be an abbreviated winter. In short spurts it feels like any other winter. The cross country ski conditions the last three days have been near perfect. We skied from our front door to the lake and came back along the western shore of Eastman Lake. That path, a favorite with birders, is so close to the water, parts of it are often under water, especially when the beavers have been active. And it gets so much sun the snow often melts. The day after a fresh snow though is always nice and today was especially nice.

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