You Hit My Car

Twigs drawing on pavement with snow
Twigs drawing on pavement with snow

“You are damn right I hit your car.” Actually I didn’t but I said I did. It was Peggi who whacked the back of the guy’s car with her hand after he drove through a red light. We were crossing at the sidewalk. The walk light was on. As if any of that matters. He never saw us and nearly took us out turning right, right in front of us. You think your life is so important and then you realize it could end so quickly. And this guy rolls down his window and yells, “You hit my car.”

We were walking up to the post office on Waring. The commemorative stamp selection had been depleted with Christmas so we came home with a sheet of Hot Wheels stamps and one dedicated to a Muslim holiday.


Way Past “Time To Educate”

Laurie Simmons's "Clothes Make The Man" at Mary Boone Gallery in Chelsea
Laurie Simmons’s “Clothes Make The Man” at Mary Boone Gallery in Chelsea

Rochester is one of seven cities in the US that can claim half of their children are living below the poverty line. This is something that is hard to believe for those of us lucky enough to be on the other side. And according to the Democrat & Chronicle, Rochester compounds the poverty with extreme racial and economic segregation. New York State is the most segregated state in the country. What is a kid born into these circumstances gonna do?

The Urban Suburban program is growing but they’re simply syphoning off the best, those that could be role models for the rest. And one sixth of city students go to charter schools, the ones without disabilities or language problems. Last year at Kodak Park School fewer than ten percent of the students were proficient in math and and English.

The newspaper, in a series called “Time to Educate,” is looking for solutions but right now they are in probing mode. They are asking for suggestions as to what they should be investigating. This a problem that belongs to all of us and it will bring us all down if we don’t do something about it.


A Minus Over B Plus

Steve Hoy English paper on the 4th Dimension, written for Paul Dodd in 1969

Steve Hoy was the best man at our wedding. But before that he was my college roommate, back when they were randomly assigned without any profiling or preferences being stated.

I coasted through high school and had a great time but I was a terrible student, learning only what I needed to get by. I was determined to turn over a new leaf in college and planned on applying myself. That idea went out the window when Steve showed up. The first thing I remember him saying was, “Is it ok to put one of my stereo speakers on your desk?” He was already a junior. He had a car, a white Barracuda. We had a good time.

We rented a small, coal-heated house the next year and I eventually dropped out but before I did, Steve wrote an English paper for me. I think the assignment was to make something up and that was too much for me. Steve’s paper got me an A-/B+, one of the best grades I received. Steve, a sci-fi buff, entitled the essay “The Fourth Dimension.”


Integration Now

Lake Ontario on a warm October Day

Nikole Hannah-Jones spoke tonight at the Third Presbyterian Church. We were there. Now we must act.

Hannah-Jones is an award-winning investigative reporter who covers civil rights and racial injustice for The New York Times. She was just named a prestigious MacArthur fellow. She is a truth teller. Here first chart had a few key dates in American history. 1607 when the English landed her. 1619, twelve years later when the first African slaves were imported. 1776 when the Constitution was signed. 1954 when the Supreme Court decided Brown v. Board of Education and the Civil Rights Act of 1968, or the Fair Housing Act. Peggi remembers canvasing her neighborhood with her friend Christine Latti in Suburban Detroit in an effort to get the Open Housing Bill based. Up north we discriminated by redlining, obstructive lending practices and impediments to home ownership.

The second graphic that hit home was one that showed the narrowing of the achievement gap between white and black students. That was in 1988. Integration was working but it became branded as “forced integration.” The gap has continued to widen since then. Nikole says its funny how we never hear anyone call it ‘forced segregation.” “Separate but equal” is a crock of shit. She says the one thing that has been proven to work is the one thing we are unwilling to do. Our schools in Rochester are some the most serrated schools in the country. NYC is worse.

Someone is going to have to sacrifice if once again integrate or schools. Many more being sacrificed now. Justice is not easy.

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Unity, Pride, Strength

Teamster truck and fans at Durand Eastman Beach on 4th of July

It was a perfect day for cruising along the lakeshore. Full sun but not too hot. The sand beach, which is still mostly underwater, was packed with bathers but most people arranged themselves on the lawn where the old railroad tracks were. Giant boom boxes were cranking competing salsa tunes and barbecue equipment was everywhere, even those stainless steel consoles that run on propane. One group was grilling a whole pig on a spigget rotating above a double wide oil drum cooker. The whole trick was riding our bikes slow enough to take this all in.

On top of it all, a super patriotic trucker drove slowly through the parking lot with a sound system mounted on the outside of its cab. The playlist included AC DC’s “You Shook Me All Night Long.”

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Go Cut Down A Tree

Little Free Library Culver Road in Rochester, New York

We walked up to Wegman’s this afternoon and while we were cutting through the cemetery our neighbor, Steve Greive, yelled out his truck window at us, “You’ll be there soon enough.” I had no idea what he had yelled. Peggi translated. On Culver we walked by one torn-out book page after the other. Some high school kid had dropped pages every few steps for ten blocks. I picked up one of them and it was Sarah Palin’s book, “Going Rogue.” I couldn’t believe it. I had photographed that book in the Little Free Library in front of a house Culver Road just a few weeks ago. Sure enough the trail of pages stopped at the library. I thought it would be fun to transcribe one of the paragraphs from the page I picked up but it is too mundane.

We ran into Jan, another neighbor, in Wegman’s and we told her we saw her husband and Dave Pitt, the tree surgeon, down on Hoffman Road this morning. She told us Dave had run out of firewood and he was borrowing some. This made no sense at all and we all laughed.

Speaking of funny. I have not laughed so hard for so long in quite some time as I did to Dana Carvey’s stand-up Netflix show, “Straight White Male, 60.” The Church Lady was never this funny.

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Tiffany Trump speaking at the Republican National Convention

Too busy watching tv to check in here. Remaking America every night. I fell asleep last night just before Ted Cruz brought the house down. My favorite speaker so far has been Tiffany.

Somewhere in the seventies the Dictators played a gig in the back room of WCMF. Their Manifest Destiny lp had just come out and they rocked the place like they were downtown in the War Memorial. Sleeping With The TV On was my favorite song on the record.

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Make It Funke

Love It Or Leave Flag Decal 1969

Rich Funke’s website starts with this headline. “Good Morning sports fans, thanks for coming out:” My father put it this way. “It’s gotta be tough competing against a sportscaster.” Rich Funke lawn signs are everywhere. Nevermind that Ted O’Brien has admirably represented us in the NY State Senate and has boldly stood up for the environment. Funke says. “I’m not a politician.” That’s great. So how is he going to get anything done?

Mr. Funke came to our door but we were not home to experience him in person. When he stopped at our neighbor’s place Jared was up on his roof, relaxing in the sun. He had a bird’s eye view of the Funke hairpiece. My friend, Frank, has some politically astute reasons to just say, “No thanks.”

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Blunt World

Drug trash near entrance to the Durand Eastman Park
Drug trash near entrance to the Durand Eastman Park

Who picks up for the low-lifes? Public works employees, conscientious neighbors, walkers? Somebody is keeping us from drowning in rubbish.

Check out what this one kid dumped down at the end of Hoffman Road, right near an informal entrance to Durand Eastman Park. 2-for-99 cent Garcia y Vega Grape cigar packages, a fat free Gummy Bears bag, Hershey chocolate and Reese’s peanut butter cup packaging, a receipt from the 7-Eleven on Culver and some small drug bags. Think for a few minutes about what this character might look like.


Generic God

Orange cone and dumpster at I-Square

A friend of ours is running for NYS assembly in the the town of Greece, the same town that W. came to when he wanted to sell the country on privatizing social security and the same suburb of Rochester where two women had their day in Supreme Court on Monday. I wish him luck.

As someone who came up in Catholic schools where the nuns would stop everything in the middle of a lesson and take us over to the church for some reason or start talking about religion in the middle of math class I understand that I (or my parents) asked for the intrusion. But when addressing the town on a legislative matter why should someone be made to feel uncomfortable or be put in a position of sucking up to some cult?

The town claims to be trying to recruit members of various faiths to offer prayers, “non-sectarian prayers” of course. Just what boundaries surround “non-sectarian prayers?” This calls for active, performance-art resistance, wacky, outrageous prayers to all sorts of imaginary devils, witches and gods.

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Pep Talk

Frozen Charlotte pier in Rochester, New York

It was tempting to go beyond this point on the Charlotte Pier but we chickened out and turned back but not before we spotted a Snowy Owl. Winter is not for the faint of heart.

“Five hundred years after Copernicus, it sure still looks as if the sun is going around the earth.” I snagged that line for Adam Gopnik’s piece on the New Yorker site. I like taking the counterintuitive route, bundling up and stepping outdoors in inclement weather. It’s some kind of kick.



Towne Motel on Mount Hope Avenue near the University of Rochester

I’m just passing through so I could pretend that I don’t notice but that is not so easy. There is an awful lot of science bashing going on here. It’s kinda like the OJ trial where the TV shows that grew up around the murders discovered they could keep the story alive by pretending that there were two sides to the story. Panels of experts were equally divided regardless of how unbalanced the evidence loads were.

It’s not just climate change deniers. Tennessee, South Dakota and Louisiana have passed legislation that allows the teaching of creationism as an alternative to evolution in their public schools. Evangelicals have mounted similar efforts this year in Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas, Texas and Alabama. “Teach the controversy.” As John Adams said, “Facts are stubborn things.” There is no controversy.

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Yellow paint on trees near ponds in Durand Eastman Park.

I like graffiti but it certainly has it limits and that’s why they call it graffiti. Some idiot has marked a well traveled path around the ponds and through the park with these yellow markings. The yellow looks like Rust-oleum’s “Sunburst Yellow” and the little rectangles are sort of intriguing. Small touches of color take on monumental proportions in the grey/brown landscape. But this group marked the trail over and over again on straight-aways where there could be no confusion as to which way to go. All this so a bunch of idiots can follow each other through the park in some sort of race on paths that others take every day? Grrrr.

I know County Executive Maggie Brooks has her hands full reigning in the free spending, cigar smoking, strip club going public works employees but I bet somebody knows who did this. We could make a citizen’s arrest.


As It Seems

Bikes on trails in Durand Eastman Park

“No Bikes or Motorized Vehicles allowed on County Park trails”. I think that’s how the sign reads. Maybe that doesn’t apply to the gentle paths that circle the the two ponds in Durand Eastman Park (above). Nothing is as it seems anymore. That’s not right. Everything is as it seems, not as it is labeled. “Dogs Must Be Kept On Leash”, “No Texting While Driving”, “Fair & Balanced”. I better stop. They didn’t specifically say, “No Bulldozers allowed on County Park Paths” so I guess that lets Bulldozer Man off the hook.

Jeff Munson and Mike Allen were at the Margaret Explosion gig last night and we talking about another classmate who might be trapped in his blog. Conversation turned to Kevin Williams, the local meteorologist/global warming denier, and his wacky letter to the editor in the morning paper. Meanwhile, we might have just had the warmest November on record. I know, “Does not a trend make”.

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I’m blogging from the convention and thinking of high school, not just because I heard that Jeff Munson was going to be at the Margaret Explosion gig tonight. He wasn’t. It was one of our best nights. They come out of nowhere.

I wish my friend, Charlie Coco was still alive. His minghia radar would have been going absolutely bonkers with Rudy Giuliani doing his Rupert Pupkin (“King of Comedy”)thing. And then Charlie would have outdone Rudy.

Sarah Palin reminded me of someone Dave Mahoney used to go out with in high school. She was kinda like Goldie Hawn.

Drill, Baby, Drill!


Sacred Flag

Used Flag Deposit

It seemed everybody was making a big deal about the New Yorker cartoon with the Qbamas burning the flag. They could just have easily been disposing of the sacred flag in the proper manner. When Jeff Munson and I were leaving the VFW (beersRcheap) last night we spotted this odd deposit box for flags. We had never seen one before. It looks like someone has defaced a US Mailbox and then written this note on the side reminding people to not put their brand new flags in here.

How did they get away with both of these things? And thirdly, according to “The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning”. I will have to add this photo to the “signs” section of the Refrigerator.

When I was in the country band, “The On-Fours’, we played the Elks Clubs, Moose Lodges, Eagle’s Clubs, American Legions and VFWs in all those southern Indiana towns. The VFWs were the darkest and the smokiest and there was the least amout of dancing in there. I did drum duty in this band for a couple of years. Dave Mahoney took my place when we moved to Rochester.

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Demand Destruction

What a relief. We may be turning the corner and it never felt so good. Economic theory holds that prices can only rise so high before customers are no longer willing to pay for a product, a phenomenon called “demand destruction”.

So the phenomenon has a name and now it needs momentum. Oil is only the beginning. We need demand destruction across the board before we consume ourselves.


Big Footprint

Everybody’s is talking about leaving a smaller footprint these days. Almost everybody, that is. Comparing ourselves to our neighbors is one of the ways that we gauge how big our own footprints are. And I’m quite certain that we are subject of someone’s blog entry on the relative size of our footprints.

I’m thinking about the people on our street with the biggest trash pile each week, the ones with at least three cars in their driveway at all times. Their pick-up truck is made by Cadillac. When someone pulls in their driveway, they honk. Their tv takes up a whole wall. They hire workers to take care of their kids and a guy who we call “the slave” does all of their outdoor projects. They use their leaf blower nonstop. They have added on to their house in all directions, decks off the back, jacuzzi, patios and now the world’s plastic biggest swing set/fort in the front yard.

I don’t know if they left a battery operated toy up in the fort or if the thing is powered but if you walk by after dark you are liable to hear a little voice asking, “Can you come out and play with me? Can you come out and play with me? Can you come out and play with me?”


Just Another Unjust War

Nicholson Baker attended Rochester’s School Without Walls and then the Eastman School of music. His first novel, “The Mezzanine” took place entirely on the up escalator at Midtown Plaza. He used to advertise in The Refrigerator when it was in print. His new book uses writing from the period leading up the US decision to drop the big one in WWII. I read a sensational review of “Human Smoke: The Beginnings of World War II, the End of Civilization” in the New York Times Book Review and then Ron Netsky’s interview with Baker in this weeks “City” paper. Compelling reading. I am now compelled to pick up the book. Have to finish Visual Quickpro Guide to PHP 6 and MySQL5 first.

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