I follow the Bills on Siri. “Hey Siri, how are the Bills doing?” It’s much easier than watching the games. Buffalo is in their third playoff game today, this one with the Kansas City Chiefs, and if all goes well they’ll be in the Super Bowl. You can tell when its game day around here. It’s just in the air and noticeable in our football loving neighbors’ pattern.
I like European football. I realize that makes me a snob. I don’t like having to watch a commercial between every play. I like 45 minutes of non stop action and then a bathroom break. People who complain about the paucity of goals in soccer just don’t see the beauty in the game. And American football players are too big for the most part.
We watched Real Madrid win last night. They are in second place to their crosstown rivals but they look better to us with their masterly passing control. Their coach, Zinedine Zidane, is out with Covid. We recorded a couple of matches today. We’ll watch Atletico play later tonight and Barcelona tomorrow. Atletico’s last match had a first for us. Their opponent, Eibar, had their goalie take a penalty shot against Atletico’s goalie. He scored on the sensational ter Stegan but Atletico went on to win. In Barca’s last match we watched the great Messi lose it. He swatted an Athletic Bilbao defender out of frustration. He will be forced to sit on the bench tonight.
January 23, deep into winter, and we finally got enough snow to ski on. It was nineteen degrees with no wind when we were out and the sun kept surprising us. Perfect conditions. You can see the so-called “lake-effect” in the distance. It brought us an additional inch before got back home.
Not everyone goes to Florida in the winter especially when a pandemic is in full swing. If you are from here or have chosen to live here you must come to terms with the winter. Granted it is a limited palette but when that’s what you’ve been given you realize how much variety there is within it. And dashes of ordinary colors seem like a miracle.
It is cold but beautiful up on the North Coast. A huge grey cloud has lifted. I imagine they opened the windows in the White House on this Inauguration Day and let this fresh air in. We are all inhaling deeply.
I am sick of doom-scrolling. I don’t ever want to hear that “I’m proud to be an American because at least I know I’m free” song again. The orange guy took a lot out of me. It’s embarrassing. I want to move forward.
I thought two cans of olive oil would last longer than they did. We needed a walking destination anyway so we headed up to Rubino’s, an Italian market that has the good sense to carry some Spanish olive oil. I put two 3 liter cans of Zoe oil and a half gallon of Pittsford Dairy milk in my backpack. Peggi carried the figs, olives and Parmigiano-Reggiano. For kicks I checked the price of Zoe’s at Amazon before we left – 45 bucks for a can that costs 29 at Rubino’s. We saved thirty dollars and got a seven mile walk in. I have a reader who likes the perambulatory details so I will share them here.
We turn right, right, left and then right from our house and come out at the Church of the Transfiguration on Culver, a road that runs from Pinnacle Hill in the city all the way to the lake. We go south here on the left side of the street because there’s no sidewalk on the west side and we turn right on Titus. My watch always dings at this intersection because it is exactly a mile from our house. There is a large overgrown lot on Titus that has been for sale for years. It makes a great bathroom stop in all seasons. We turned left somewhere after that, not sure what the name of the street is. After some zig-zagging in that neighborhood we cross Bouckhart Avenue where the virgin is and continue until the street ends. It ends for cars, that is, because there is a secret sidewalk here that takes you the one block over to Kings Highway. We go by Bishop Kearney, where Joe Barrett and I went to school for a couple years, and the big medical complex where the workers smoke cigarettes out on the sidewalk because they can’t smoke on the grounds. At Ridge Road we considered walking through the drive-thru lane at Starbucks but decided against it. I ordered two cappuccinos when we got to Rubino’s and they made them while we shopped.
We hadn’t driven our car in weeks. We were meeting friends in Auburn at the new Prison City Brewery and we were determined to not take the Thruway so we drove out 104 and then let Siri take over. There are a lot of Trump signs still up. It’s a little disturbing just days before the inauguration but not as disturbing as this house was.
I’m sure every city in the country is finding out they have insurrectionists in their midst. I was particularly struck by Dominic Pezzola (disturbed guy in center) or “Spaz” as his Aquinas high school friends call him. A former Marine, he boasts of being a Proud Boy now and he gained national prominence when he used a Capitol Police shield to smash a Capitol window. He posted a video of himself smoking a cigar inside and saying “Victory smoke in the Capitol. I knew we could take this fucker over.” People who spoke to him say he planned to kill Nancy Pelosi and Mike Pence. My father graduated from Aquinas. In a statement, the school said it was genuinely saddened that Pezzola apparently had strayed from the Christian values taught at the school.
Prison City has some fantastic beers. We had a couple Mass Riots outside by a propane heater and tried to forget about all hate out there.
“We must learn to live together as brothers or persist together as fools.” – Martin Luther King
I brought a piece of firewood, a log length of oak that we split and dried out to the garage and put it in the vice grips. I was trying create my own small sculpture, something to compliment the four pieces of driftwood that I had mounted on small pedestals. I chipped away at it, an hour a day, for the last week and came up with something I like.
As I was finishing up Peggi came out to the garage with a cup of Yogi Eygptian Licorice tea. The tea bags have a fortune attached and mine read, “Spread the light; be the lighthouse.”
How about the good things that have come from this horrible pandemic. The extra time outdoors for starters and all the virtual encounters. But then we watched Martin Scorsese’s “Pretend It’s A City” and could only long for those big city experiences.
A few months back I did a month’s worth of Instagram posts entitled “Missing Spain.” We had had planned to walk another Camino, this one the Primitivo. And of course there would be all the extra time in Madrid. But we have found ways to mitigate this longing.
I put “Spain” in my Apple News preferences. I track the temperature in Madrid and Barcelona on my watch. We’re following three La Liga teams and we watch the matches in Spanish with the extra exuberant commentators. Spain just had their worst snowstorm in fifty years. Atletico’s match with Athletic Club (Bilbao) was cancelled. Real Madrid was forced to play Osasuna (Pamplona) on a snow covered pitch.
We stream Rosalia playlists before dinner. The screensaver on our tv is a photo album from Spain. And tomorrow we plan to brave the Members Show at RoCo where my “Abstracting Spain” photo show is on an endless loop.
One of my biggest worries is that this pandemic will end before I have finished all the projects I’ve lined up around the house. I recently checked off one though, sorting my holy card collection. I already had them in glassine envelopes, alphabetically with seperate categories for Virgin and Child, Black Virgin and Child, Virgen Del Pilar, Virgen Dolorosa, Vergen Del Rocio ( all big in Spain) and Christ Crucified. But I still hadn’t filed away the ones I brought back from our last trip.
We have gotten pretty good at sniffing out estampas (holy cards) in “Artículos Religiosos” shops in big cities but they are a dwindling phenomena. Sometimes we’ll strike gold in a priests’ supply store but the best experiences are in small towns where the cards are kept in wooden drawers and the shopkeeper shares details about the saints.
I hung on to some cards from childhood. They were given to us on special occasions and stuffed in our missiles as bookmarks. I bought some at Trant’s Catholic Supply Store on Clinton Avenue South. Most of them were printed in Italy. Every town in Spain has a patron saint and holy cards are pinned to the wall behind the counter in coffee shops and bars. You can still find them in the vestibule of churches, old women sell them out front but everything is changing. Gift shops sell cards on rotating spindles. They’re sealed in plastic, often with a medal attached and they’re expensive. I like the paper cards. You used to be able to buy four or five of them for a Euro. The very best ones were made by C. Mariana in Barcelona.
I found a Mary Magdalene card in Madrid on our last trip, my first one, and I got intrigued with her legend. A prostitute, possessed by seven demons, rumored to have been Jesus’s wife, she was there at the the crucifixion and then the resurrection. She is typically pictured with a skull. I did search on eBay and found an “antigua estampa religiosa” listing for Mary Magdalene for a couple Euros. I went for it and it arrived today from Granada in an envelope with two beautiful stamps.
Now is not the time to be complaining about Biden so I will keep this short. When he got on tv just after the Capitol was stormed to tell us “This is not who we are,” I groaned. This is who we are, at least half of us, so please, can we address this? He is going to have to talk about their grievances.
We met our friend Kathy and walked along the bay down to the lake and then up Culver into the Sea Breeze neighborhood. Then down into the valley on Trelawne, a dead end street where the last few houses have a glimpse of the lake and a neighbor still working the Trump campaign with signs out front and in his window. There are plenty of Black Lives Matter signs (there can never be enough of those) and the “In This House We Believe In Science. . .” banners but they have a much longer shelf life. At this point the Trump signs are nothing short of aggressive.
With all of the wandering we’ve done, walking in and out of neighborhoods, we can’t help but notice that those Gadsden, “Dont Tread On Me” flags and Blue Lives Matter adaptations of the American flag are often right next door to people with Black Lives Matter, Biden/Harris or We Believe banners. You can sense the tension. The neighbors talk at each other through their lawn signs.
There was a cute little blue house on Breezeway with a For Sale sign out front with a young hipster couple peeking in the windows. Kathy asked, “Are you buying or selling?” and they quickly responded “Buying.” We looked it up when we got home and saw it was listed as “Sale Pending.” $99,000. Things are looking up.
My sister, Ann, came by last night and we had dinner around a fire out front. She is still working in retail so she fills us in on what it is like in the world, the world as experienced by people who either work out in it or choose to go shopping in a pandemic. We have retreated from both. My sister raved about the breakfast sandwiches at the new Bodega across the street from where she works on Park Avenue.
It was cold, it’s winter, something like 25 when we ate and by the time we called it quits it was 21 degrees. Our fire pit kicks ass. The sky was incredibly clear. I don’t remember ever seeing as many stars in the sky since we moved here. And the sunrise this morning gorgeous.
We had peeked at the weather forecast and settled on today to pay our taxes. The round trip to the dropbox at the town hall is just over five miles. We started by walking toward the lake, across the golf course and up the hill by the clubhouse to Kings Highway where we turned south. There were hardly any cars on the road which was especially nice. It’s windy with no sidewalks and plenty of curves where we hug the guardrails and hold our breath.
We looked longingly at the library. We watched a women walk in. They are open with a capacity of 25 and they’re also doing curbside but I like to browse. We came back along Titus in the full sun. We have not had any significant snow. Winter can’t continue like this. This is Rochester.
Well into January and we’re still walking the beach in the morning. Not complaining but Peggi and I both felt like we had a political hangover from yesterday. We started by checking in on the Georgia results and then the certification of the damned electoral college votes and you know the rest. This experiment with a reality tv star as president could only have ended this way.
I can’t say that I miss working. I should say I still work, I just don’t do it for money anymore. It took a long time for us to retire. Some clients were hard to shake. I’ve been cleaning up our work room, putting the cds we used to write as back-ups into boxes that I will shove to the furthest reaches of the basement. And I thought I would round up a few of the logos we did. This took the better part of a day as I came across eps files I couldn’t open, cds that wouldn’t mount and files I just couldn’t find.
I especially liked creating logos. We would present a first round of ideas as sketches, a second round of revisions, re-workings, color choices and then a third round as a b&w, 2 color and four color vector file. People usually got something they liked.
You can charge pretty good for logos and sometimes come up with a winner in a flash. Or you could work all day and still not have anything worth showing. But I found if I walk away, take my mind off the project, hop in the shower or something – bang, there it would be. Sometimes I would get a good one right away, one that I was sold on, even though I wasn’t the client. So I might create a bunch of other clumsy alternatives just so the choice would be clear.
In 1987 Peggi and I started our own commercial art business called 4D Advertising. We did work for big and small companies as well as individuals. “Whatever comes along,” as we used to say. Our work evolved as the graphic arts field did, from paste-up to web design. This is one of many 4D logos we had over the years.
This Rochester company did a lot of industrial fabrication. I’m still hoping you can see “W” unfolding from the three “A”s.
Back in the nineties, before the internet, the Refrigerator was a local zine. Twenty eight print editions were produced before the website was launched. I spotted this lettering in Spain on a sign that read “SEBO.” I constructed the other characters. Thought about making a wood type version with Virgin Woodtype.
Magna Carta is a progressive rock label with artists such as Terry Bozio and Tony Levin.
I can’t remember what this organization did but it was connected to DuPont. Clean, corporate, generic.
Print Bid Online was a short-lived company that helped customers secure competitive printing quotes.
Joe Squared, in Baltimore, Maryland, makes square pizzas! I also came up with the slogan.
Clear Eye was a distributer of wholesale natural foods. It was such a kick to see tractor trailers with this logo on it.
Cylinder Sound, a state of the art studio located behind the Bug Jar, became the home of JoyWave.
Owner Tom Kohn asked me to base the Bop Shop logo on an old record cover. The “Bop Shop” type face came from a sheet of press type. I used the same font and the same sheet of press type, for the Freetime logo.
Alliance Barter grew out of the Rochester Trade Exchange. Companies who joined were paid in trade dollars which they could spend at any of the other members’ businesses. Of course the Exchange took a cut. We bought some Oriental Rugs and kitchen appliances with the money.
We did a lot of work for Customericity and DuPont. As I remember, this organization was one that many different companies would join for some altruistic reason.
Rochester Contemporary asked if I would talk about the piece I submitted in the annual members show. I was given a ten minute limit and I quit when I found myself saying something for the third time. They typically do these talks in person with the artist standing in front of their work, But this year RoCo plans to assemble a video of the artists who talked and share that online. I will be interested to hear what I had to say. I’m am not sure I offered anything at all.
I entered a large photo print last year. It sold and won the Light Impressions award. So I upped the photo presentation this year by bringing my old iMac downtown, tricked out with black duct tape framing the monitor. It plays a slideshow, called Abstracting Spain, in a big loop. It won the Axom Gallery Award. The 143 photos were all taken in Spain over a ten year period and to me there is a clear pattern. My favorite shots don’t document a monument or people. The best ones are constructions, like modern art paintings. They reference the two dimensional, horizontal grid of a landscape, 4×3 or 3×2 with my later cameras. They are compositions, sometimes before they even announce their subject. And to drive this point home I included my photos of a few paintings in Spanish galleries.
I use a pocket camera, a Sony RX100, and I rarely zoom. I walk up to what I want to photograph, sort of plumb the horizontals and verticals, and compose in camera. I do this instinctively and then wonder if it was done obsessively.
I didn’t prepare any notes for the talk and I didn’t mention the one thing I intended to say – that I pictured people sort of holding their breath as they scooted through the show during the pandemic so I cut the time each photo stayed on the screen down from 20 to 10 seconds. I thought I would just look at the pictures in my piece and talk about them but I don’t remember doing that.
The photo above was taken yesterday. A flattened box in the middle of Hoffman Road with a window cut out of it and surrounded by blue painter’s tape. What is there to say about that?
What a gift! This is the way the lake looked this morning on New Year’s Day. We managed to cross the outlet from Durand Lake, something we were unable to do just yesterday when the lake was rough and the water flowing out of Durand had cut a wide swath out of the beach.
We watched a Real Madrid match and finished installment number 7 of the Queen’s Gambit. We were in bed before midnight. Don’t remember ever missing the midnight hour before. I did miss hearing the records I usually play at our New Years party. Stooges “1969,” Hot Chocolate “Don’t Turn It Off,” Prince “When Doves Cry,” James Brown “Payback,” Donna Summer, “I Feel Love’” and Elton John’s “Bennie and the Jets.”
Our neighbor across the street has Covid, probably from a Christmas Day contact and our next door neighbors were with them recently so they are isolating. There is a plus side to staying holed up. We are vaccine hungry but certainly not essential so we’re being patient.
I love this photo because it features Peggi. She was the star and wrote most of the songs. I wish I knew who took the photo. They deserve credit. It may’ve been Gary Brandt or his friend Al. And even more credit should go to Duane Sherwood for the dramatic lighting.
Frank De Blase at City News wrote a piece on Personal Effects that went online this morning. “In the ’80s, it seemed that the bigger the show and the bigger the venue, the bigger the band sounded. It manifested itself through the keyboards and lone sax. The rhythm section swung mightily and dreamy along with the ethereal guitar. It was as if they were playing to the walls and threatening the roof.”
We used to go to a yoga class at the yacht club right at the mouth of the river in Charlotte. It was a dramatic setting for the Saturday morning class. In the summer we were out on the deck and in the winter we were upstairs in the ballroom. The members’ sailboats are all docked in a sheltered cove and it is right there, where the waterway runs off the river that I found all these pieces of driftwood bobbing in the water.
They were sculpted by nature and are beautiful just as is, so the challenge is how to present them. I tried this experiment this afternoon, cut the base from a piece of rough cut white pine, drilled a hole in the center of it, pounded a nail through the hole from the bottom, drilled the same sized hole in the base of the driftwood and stuck it together.
If we weren’t in the middle of a pandemic and if I didn’t worry I may have been exposed, I would have gone down to my neighbors. They have a drill press in their garage and Jared loves a project. He would have devised a way to secure the organic driftwood while drilling a perfectly aligned, plumb hole. I rolled the piece up in a towel and clamped it to my workbench while I tried to hold the hand drill steady.
I decided the base needs to played down, maybe a half inch shorter in both directions, and it should probably be black.
I took this one apart, drilled out a different, bigger piece of driftwood and put it on this base and then painted the base black. It takes about four days for the oil paint to dry and turn matt rather than shiny. I will evaluate it then and consider mounting some other pieces.
“Art to an artist is a question: Is a series of questions his response?” Eduardo Chillida
Our Christmas tree was a live one and in order to keep it that way we had to get it out of the house and into the ground. We don’t really have a spot for more trees so we planted it near two tall white birch trees. There were three there when we moved in and one has already fallen so we’re thinking the other two will be gone before this three foot Blue Spruce grows up.
We dug the hole last week on a relatively warm day but we needed some peat moss to mix with dirt around the tree, something that would be too heavy to carry back from Aman’s so we drove up there and stopped at Starbucks on the way. We thought it odd that there was no one in the drive-thru but then realized they apparently had a covid outbreak and have temporarily closed their doors.
Christmas rolls in, slowly, for weeks, but when it’s over, it’s over. My brother and his family usually stay at the downtown Hyatt when they’re up here for the holiday but this year, in the middle of pandemic, they rented a place on the lake out near County Line Road where they hosted a family gathering outside around a fire. They told us that one of their neighbors was flying a Confederate flag along with a Blue Lives Matter flag. They were aghast although my sister-in-law didn’t know what the blue striped American flag was. Probably not too many of them in Montclair, New Jersey.
One of my other brothers said he agreed with the whole Blue Lives Matter thing and I said what I thought about that. Pathetic that they can’t even give Blacks that much, that their lives matter. It was a lively discussion, one my brother characterized as an argument.
Funny how people in the same family can have such wildly divergent perceptions. We have a niece whose posts attack Bill and Melinda Gates, who are some kind of saints as far as I can tell, and memes of “Normal People” (picture a generic small grouping of people without masks) versus “Conspiracy Theorists” ( small grouping with masks on). I used to hop on Facebook to promote the band gigs and I was always running into my cousin’s rants about the government taking away our guns. Or another relative badmouthing Greta Thunberg.
We saw the American flags out at the road on way out to my brother’s rental. People used to hang flags on their house or on a pole in the yard but now they put them out by the road, an in-your-face display of patriotism.
I’m hoping the gathering was not a super spreader event. Our friend, Steve, called us on Christmas to tell us his daughter, her husband and Steve’s two grandkids had tested positive. Steve was with them two days before and he sounded hoarse.
Dick Storms calls this “Backyard Brutalism.” There is quite a bit of it in the Sea Breeze neighborhood and that’s what makes it so much fun to wander around in. There is plenty of it in the city but I don’t live there anymore. We moved up near the lake fifteen years ago. Nature trumps this stuff in most cases but I am still attracted to it.