Garden Party

Backyard garden along Maplewood Avenue backs up to Genesee River gorge.
Backyard garden along Maplewood Avenue backs up to Genesee River gorge.

Today is the feast day of Santiago, the patron saint of Spain. We’re celebrating with a hearty Spanish dish, something we plan to eat in front of the tube while watching Spain play Australia at the Tokyo Olympics. We’ll have some Spanish wine and and desert (something we rarely do.) Peggi borrowed our neighbor’s spring-form pan and made a Tarta de Santiago.

We haven’t watered our garden in weeks. We’ve had plenty of rain just when the trees need it as they try to kick out another set of leaves after the moth defoliation. We picked a big bag of greens, kale, romaine lettuce, basil, zucchini and jalapeños for Matthew and Louise. Our neighbor, Michael Burritt, the percussion teacher at the Eastman School of Music, was playing his mallets while we picked and weeded. I have no idea if he’s practicing or working out a composition but the melodies, as beautiful as they are, never seem to resolve the way a pop or jazz tune would. We were meeting M&L in Sodus at El Rincon and just as we crossed the bay bridge we realized we had forgotten the big bag of vegetables.

The Maplewood Neighborhood Association sponsored a Garden Walk yesterday. Other than practicing in Larry Luxury’s basement back in the eighties I had not spent much time in this part of the city. The homes are stately, huge and well preserved. We started our garden walk by parking our car at Aquinas High School and walking up Dewey to the palatial Seneca Parkway.

Going west Seneca Parkway dead-ends at the railroad, which made for a well-timed bathroom stop. We crossed the street and park-like median and continued east on the opposite side of the street. There were thirty some homes on the tour and each backyard was a world unto itself. Not only gardens but swimming pools, patios, outdoor living rooms, fully appointed outdoor kitchens and cocktail bar-like settings. People live large in this part of the city. A couple who who had lived in their home for fifty years told us some of the neighbors have moved from one house to the other on the the same street.

At some point I had Rick Nelson’s “Garden Party” going through my head.

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Bounce House

Bounce house down the street
Bounce house down the street

We were planning on getting together with Bob Martin this afternoon. He was back in Rochester for a few days, we had dinner reservations for tonight and we were going to spend the afternoon setting up our in-home recording outfit, a Scarlett 2i4 and Logic. Bob called this morning to say he and his wife both had either a cold or Covid. They are fully vaccinated but he had been making the rounds. Because they had symptoms they could not get a test so they self-quarantined in their their car on the way back to Chicago.

Our neighbors asked everyone on the street if they would allow parking in their driveways this Saturday. Their oldest is graduating from high school, the same Catholic school my father and Spaz went to. They set this bounce house up this afternoon along with a big tent.

"Fe La" by Margaret Explosion. Recorded live at the Little Theatre Café on 11.20.19. Peggi Fournier - sax, Ken Frank - bass, Phil Marshall - guitar, Bob Martin - guitar, Paul Dodd - drums.
“Fe La” by Margaret Explosion. Recorded live at the Little Theatre Café on 11.20.19. Peggi Fournier – sax, Ken Frank – bass, Phil Marshall – guitar, Bob Martin – guitar, Paul Dodd – drums.
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Keeping Up With Miguel

Trott Lake, Durand Eastman
Trott Lake, Durand Eastman

We had 3 inches of rain in one day last week, a week in which it rained everyday, and two inches a few days ago. The garden and our trees, which were nearly defoliated by the gypsy moths, are loving it. My brother, who golfs every chance he can get, not so much. It is raining as I type this. But the last few days were lovely.

We crossed paths with Miguel at the entrance to the park and he was without his dog. He told us he takes one walk with the dog and then another by himself in order to get his miles in. We asked how far he walks and he told us he tries to get six miles in. He said he had just walked to Saint Paul Boulevard. We told him we were impressed and he said I have to do it, my partner is ten years younger than I am.

Not to be outdone by Miguel we walked through the park, along the beach and Lakeshore Boulevard to Saint Paul today. Peggi clocked it at 4.4 miles. Instead of coming back the same way we walked north to Rock Beach Road and strolled by the dreamy cottage-like homes that line both sides of the streets that deadens at the lake, the former White City.

We had nine miles under our belts by the time we got back home.

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Dumpster

Dumpster in our driveway
Dumpster in our driveway

There was a period, a few years back, when I photographed every dumpster I saw. One of them was in our next door neighbor’s yard just after he died. He was one of the old timers, the original owner of a Don Hershey classic that was built in the late forties. You can see just a bit of his former garage door in the photo above. The dumpster is in our driveway. We’re getting a new roof, a metal one, just like our friends, Pete and Shelley.

The workers left their magnet on wheels here when they left for the day so Peggi and I took turns pushing it around the yard. Mostly`we found nails, roofing nails.

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National Cash Shortage

Street preachers, downtown Rochester, New York
Street preachers, downtown Rochester, New York

The cash register lines at Home Depot all had a sign that read “National Cash Shortage. Please use exact change for your purchase if possible.” It struck me as odd because I take every opportunity not to use cash. I use Apple Pay whenever possible and if others are doing this too you’d think there would piles of extra cash around. Then again, I try not to carry coins in my pockets. I have an old ashtray next to the bed with a pile of coins in it. Maybe that’s where all the cash is. And why doesn’t Home Depot accept Apple Pay?

These sidewalk preachers were really putting on a show. Dressed like shepherds in a manger scene they were videoing the proceedings while preaching to a handful of other guys in robes. And then there was me, on my way to Rochester Art Supply. The sign in front of the speaker showed the classic head of Christ, the 1940 portrait by Warner Sallman, but with red horns and the head proclaimed, “This Is The Devil. Jesus Is A Negro.” I kind of suspected that. I couldn’t figure out where they were coming from, going on about President Wilson and the Gold Standard. I took a photo and moved on.

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Lymantria Dispar

Classic car sun the park
Classic car in the park

The oak leaves are a little thin along Log Cabin Road but the they are indeed coming out again, just like they did in the spring. We hear it’s hard on the trees to do spring all over again and they may not be able to do it again next year but for now it feels like a miracle. We are still seeing caterpillars and stomping on each and every one but most are tucked away in their pupa stage. Moths are emerging and the giant oak in front of the Church of the Transformation has female moths laying their eggs on the underside of its 250 year old branches. I’m afraid we are in for another round next year.

Notice I never referred to the invasive pests as “Gypsy Moths.” We don’t use the common name anymore and for good reason. Until they come up with innocuous common name for the fuckers we shall call them Lymantria dispar.

We watched a blurry YouTube copy of Todd Haynes’ “Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story” last night. The movie is officially out of circulation because of a copyright infringement lawsuit by Richard Carpenter and I can see his point. It made me uncomfortable and not in a good way. Thankfully the movie went right into a BBC special on the Carpenters. Richard, Karen’s brother and musical director reminded me of Ozzie Nelson, as square as they come, but he brought a lot to their story. And the footage of Karen is sensational. Ultimately, extremely sad but the melancholy in her voice was always what got to me.

I played the two 45s we have tonight. Superstar and Rainy Days and Mondays. I’ll wait til December to get our Carpenter’s Christmas lp out. Long live Karen!

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Getting Out Of The Way

Oil slick on Wisner Road
Oil slick on Wisner Road

It is probably just luck that I have won the last four horseshoe matches but I would like to attribute it to something I’ve done. And it is something that has worked for me before but I had forgotten how to tap into it.

The crazy thing, like so many other things in life, is that I don’t really do anything at all. I just let it go. I throw the shoe toward the stake with just enough of a grip to keep the shoe in my hand and just enough effort to get it there. I step forward with my left foot while swinging my arm backward and then step forward with my right foot letting my arm and the shoe follow. That step is what propels the shoe toward the stake, my arm with the weight of the shoe just goes along and if I can get out of the way and gently let go of the shoe it does one graceful back flip before sliding into the stake with its arms wide open.

It occurred to me that this is how Hobie Billingsley, my teacher in the diving class I took at IU, taught me to do a back flip from the high platform. Billingsley was also the mens’ Olympic diving coach (the gold medal winner, Mark Spitz, was was in my class) and he taught us to trust him by instructing us to stand backward at the edge of the platform, 10 meters (32 feet) above the pool, keep our bodies stiff and simply let go. You naturally do a perfect 360 and cut smoothly through the water feet first.

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Survival Of The Fittest

Cicada near the pool
Cicada near the pool

We won’t put our homemade gypsy moth traps out this year. We learned that effort is pointless. In fact some speculate that the artificial pheromone may actually attract more moths to your property. We squashed a few caterpillars yesterday but didn’t see any today. Their pupas are in every nearby nook and cranny and quite a few have already emerged as moths. We found four females, the white ones, already attached to our trees with egg sacs below them. This is a 3 to 4 year cycle and we plan to address it with chemicals next year.

We secured a quote from the company that treated the guys’ trees on the next street over. Everyone is envious of their foliage, but we had a question about the quote. We are planning to entertain a treatment recommended by another company and they said they would stop out today. By chance the arborist from the first company pulled into our driveway right behind the truck from the other company. Peggi handled one and I the other. He asked me. “What’s he doing here?”

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Summer Of Soul

Sly Stone performing in "Summer of Soul" at the Little Theatre
Sly Stone performing in “Summer of Soul” at the Little Theatre

I thought Apple’s “1971: The Year That Music Changed Everything” was pretty sensational (spoken like a true fanboy). The overtones were not as preachy as they were in “Summer of Soul.” But I understand the desperate need for that. I went to Woodstock to see Sly and the Family Stone and the series of concerts featured in Summer of Soul from that same year was every bit as good as Woodstock. It is about time. “1971,” with solid research and clear evidence, made the case that the year was transformative on so many levels.

Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Goin’ On” and Sly’s “There’s A Riot Goin’ On” alone make the case for ‘71. I get bothered by all the nostalgic wallowing that goes on with people my age. Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign capitalized on that. The techno music playing at the Co-Op this afternoon made it so much fun to shop. But these two documentaries are art history classes. Requirements. Plant food for the culture going forward.

We saw ‘Summer of Soul” at the Little Theatre on opening night, our first post-pandemic theater experience. We expected the theater to be mobbed but were two of maybe twenty. I don’t know whether to worry more about our generation, the movie theater business model or our tastes.

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Wrecking Ball

Sunset with bare trees, aftermath of the gypsy moths
Sunset with bare trees, aftermath of the gypsy moths

We didn’t get our papers this morning so I called our delivery guy and he told me “no one got a paper, the presses broke down.” It made for an interesting morning. We read a few articles online and then got on with the day. No news is good news.

My sister and her husband hosted a holiday weekend cookout and six of the seven siblings were there. Their backyard was a lovely setting for our first get-together since the pandemic began. We were caught up in couple of hours and moved on to meatier topics after dinner. I was thinking of how my mom relished the after conversations and the opinions from family members that often surprised her. She would even follow-up with her take the next time we saw her.

One of my brothers lamented the fact that his daughter got so rattled by the pandemic that she wouldn’t see him and he blamed the media for scaring everyone to death. Some family members countered with stories of friends who were stricken. The conversation took a political turn and my brother had to go. As many times as we’ve talked to him about all the hot topics we never realized he was a Trump fan.

The last time I saw my friend, Dave, before he died he had just spent time with his family and he was blown away by the discovery that they were Republicans. He said “Our parents didn’t hold these values. “ I probably said something about evolution and people turning against parents as the natural order but I don ‘t recall. I remember my father expressing the same sentiment in painting class when talking about the family he married into. “They’re all Republicans, except Ann and Bob (one set of my aunts and uncles).

Another brother suggested there was no truth anymore and and my sister added that we used to all watch the same news shows. Someone mentioned our cousin’s Facebook feed that reads like a litany of right wing talking points. I mentioned an article I read in the New Yorker written by someone who worked for the Murdochs. He was paid a bonus for each “this’ll get em goin” topic he found in the recesses of social media platforms.

I suggested the profit motive for the platforms had a lot to do with the divisiveness and I tried to connect the dots with the Netflix documentary, “The Great Hack,”that laid out how easy it was for Cambridge Analytica to harness facebook’s data points and then target the “persuadables” in the swing states with ads designed to “get ’em goin” thereby tipping the scales in the 2016 election. They described it as a piece of cake. But by the time I got the gist out there were four separate conversations going on at the table.

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Win By Two

Paul and Rick playing horseshoes in the front yard - photo by Peggi Fournier
Paul and Rick playing horseshoes in the front yard – photo by Peggi Fournier

We had a spectator tonight, sitting in one of the yellow chairs, and she made a movie of the last couple minutes of our third round. It was twenty to twenty and Rick and I had already won one each. Rick was kind of nervous because he had the Spevaks coming over at 5:30 and that was jus a few minutes away. I took advantage of his nervousness and pushed him to play the rest of the third round instead of postponing it. You never know how long a match will take.

I picked up a point on this toss and Rick said “Damn it.” In previous matches I distinctly remember Rick saying, “You have to win by two” and I expected him to blurt that out but he didn’t. I took the victory.

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Pi At Breast Height

Bird standing in the road amidst Gypsy Moth poop and pieces of leaves
Bird standing in the road amidst Gypsy Moth poop and pieces of leaves

Everybody wants what the gay guys, on the next street over, have. They still have leaves on their trees. With a little detective work we learned they had their trees injected with pellets in April, just before the leaves came out. You can see the tips of the casings for the pellets, filled with an Acephate formula and inserted every four inches around their trees. The tree will eventually close up the small holes

This bird, in the middle of the road in front of our house looks stunned. He’s standing in caterpillar poop and pieces of leaves, what’s left of the leaves from our trees. The gypsy moth caterpillars, bloated from feasting on our oak leaves, are curling up in their pupa stage. The worst is over. In a few weeks the air will be full of brown male moths in search of the white female moths who don’t fly but lay egg sacs that will hatch in the spring with up to thousand new caterpillars.

Ken from High Falls Tree service came out this morning and determined the DBH, diameter at breast height, of our trees. He uses a two sided tape that calculates the diameter as he measures the circumference. The inch markings on the back side of his tape are simply 3.14 times as long as an actual inch. This is why we spent so much on Pi in geometry class.

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Life Line

Roll of string from a garage sale
Roll of string from a garage sale

We have had this roll of string since the late seventies. It has to be the best item we have ever bought at a garage sale. It was quite a bit wider then, almost as wide as the base so you see how many usages we have found. I remember being attracted to it because I had watched my grandfather wrap so many pieces of meat behind his butcher counter.

We took it down to the garden this morning in order to tie our tomato plants up again. They are all about three feet tall. We started our walk at the garden and continued on from there so I carried the string the whole way, stopping to take this portrait on a sidewalk. Peggi said she hopes we last as long as the string.

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Path To Salvation

Sacred Heart painting on wooden door by Paul Dodd 1979. From the estate of John Boreck
Sacred Heart painting on wooden door by Paul Dodd 1979. From the estate of John Borek and Jackie Levine

Kathy used to go to a lot of estate sales. She has one of everything now so she only looks at the sales online. She spotted one of my old paintings in the upcoming John Borek and Jackie Levine estate sale. I think he bought it at a Pyramid Art Gallery show and it must have been sometime around 1980 because it looks a lot like the Sparky paintings. I’m guessing the bottom half reads “ . . Shall Be Saved.”

An option piece in the NYT this morning said “the most consistent threat to our democracy has always been the drive of some leaders to restrict its blessings to a select few.” That’s why this voter suppression thing pisses me off so much. They are playing with fire and the house is dry kindling. The US bishops are doing the same thing. Drafting rules that would restrict Biden, a devout Catholic, from receiving communion because of his defense of a woman’s right to chose. Pope Francis chided them by reminding them that “Communion is not a reward for saints. It is bread for sinners” but they insist on burning the house down.

Other than taking his vow of poverty seriously, all Father Jim Callan had to do to get excommunicated was let women say mass, bless same sex marriages and welcome anyone to break bread (receive communion) in church. That’s like crossing the street.

I escaped Catholicism but have a romantic soft spot for the customs, most of all the iconography. In addition to serving mass as an altar boy we played mass at home. We wore sheets as vestments and made our own hosts by rolling out slices of white bread with the side of a big glass and then cutting out hosts with the rim of a small glass.

As an altar boy I ate the Holy Eucharist by the handful, right from the clear plastic bag they came in. We were told the nuns in the convent next door made them. Hard core Catholics believe the hosts, once consecrated, were transformed into the literal body of Christ. They are big on miracles. The wonders of life are not enough. They, like every other religion, are always concocting lines in the sand, holding out paths to eternal salvation.

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Political Correctness

Mexican lawn statue off Culver Road
Mexican lawn statue off Culver Road

As much as I would like to be collecting stray golf balls that were left in the woods near the trails that skirt the golf course we are currently staying out of the woods. There are too many ticks on the invasive black swallow wort, burberry and autumn olive trees that line the paths through the park. I can’t wait for the Lyme vaccine. Our two friends who participated in a long term study at UR tell us the same vaccine they routinely give dogs has been found to be just as effective in humans. Of course there’s anti-vaxers who wouldn’t even vaccinate their dog.

So we stick to the roads, our favorites are closed in the park, and we often wander in the neighborhoods off the northern end of Culver Road. We pass a few houses with white and black jockeys, some vestige of a bygone era. Most are white these days and some look like they used to be black so I’m thinking this was a politically correct move. I don’t know what to think about the Mexican with the oil can.

There is a house on Peart Avenue that has a sign inside the widow on their porch that reads, “NOTICE: This place is politically incorrect. WE SAY Merry Christmas, One Nation Under God, We Salute Our Flag & Give Thanks To Our Troops. If this offends you LEAVE!”

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Colony Collapse

Neighbor picking gypsy moth caterpillars off of her tree
Neighbor picking gypsy moth caterpillars off of her tree

Peggi and I have been busy concocting scenarios where the invasive species (Garlic Mustard, Black Swallow Wort, Angelica, deer, the white Mute Swans and especially the gypsy moth caterpillars turned on one another instead of picking on our natives species. And in the end the last of them would be poisoned by ingesting the previous.

I awoke from a nightmare where I was battling a new one, something that had covered the ground on our property. I was pouring buckets of liquid on top of it in the dark of night. I was losing the battle and it was really hard for me to shake the experience and convince myself that it was safe to go back to sleep.

Just one block away our neighbor, the one with the three-legged dog, was picking the gypsy moth caterpillars off her maple tree with tweezers. Tweezers! The catepillers typically go for the oaks but when they’re bare they will eat almost anything. We have bands of Glad Wrap around our oaks with a strip of vaseline in the middle and the caterpillars gather below that line by the thousands. I’ve been sweeping them into a bucket of soapy water and letting them die in there. An hour later there will be a thousand more below the line.

A block away from the scene above our oaks are bare. If we believed in the power of prayer we would be praying for the colony collapse.

Oak tress in June after gypsy moths stripped them of their leaves
Oak tress in June after gypsy moths stripped them of their leaves
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Lilac Time

Japanese Lilac in triangle at the corner of Kings Highway and Lakeshore Boulevard
Japanese Lilac in triangle at the corner of Kings Highway and Lakeshore Boulevard

A tree surgeon told us our area and Oakridge Drive were the most hit the worst in Monroe County. We needed more coffee beans from Canaltown so drove by way of Oakridge. The street borders the park on the opposite side of ours and the gypsy moth invasion is bad there but not as bad as it is here. The trees are always green on the other side of the park.

On the way over there I spotted some flowering trees in the middle of the island at the intersection of Kings Highway and Lakeshore Boulevard. We walked over there this morning before the rain and the trees were incredibly fragrant. Peggi identified them as Japanese Lilacs with her iNaturalist app. We missed the Lilac (and fried dough) Festival in May but I have a feeling this was better.

“Communion is not the reward of saints, but the bread of sinners” – Pope Francis

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Ambulance Blues

Blue boat in bay by Newport Yacht Club
Blue boat in bay by Newport Yacht Club

Seneca Road, Point Pleasant, Titus Avenue and Norton all wind their way down to the bay before coming to an end. They are all great walk destinations. Seneca is one of our favorites. We were just down there last week looking in on the progress of the expensive new home someone is building on the bay.

We just missed the woman who stole an ambulance in Utica, drove west on the NYS Thruway, got off in Rochester and headed north on 590. And like she knew exactly what she was doing she turned right at the Seneca Road traffic circle, barreled down the steep hill and drove through the gate on the boat launch right into the bay.

WHAM has some pretty cool video footage.

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Shorthand

Propane.tank near barn on Lake Road
Propane.tanks near barn on Lake Road

My brother, Fran, let the the family use one of his spare bedrooms as a temporary storage space for our parents’ stuff when they passed. Years later there are quite a few items without a home including a stack of watercolors. Our cousin asked us if she could have one of my father’s paintings so Peggi and I visited the vault to pick one out.

We arranged to meet on a Sunday, the only day my brother takes off, but he called to say he would be working. We let ourselves in and found a beautiful, framed barn painting for my cousin ( a farm girl ) and a Charlotte lighthouse painting for her sister. My brother’s neighbor died recently and a crew was taking down their white horse fence when we arrived. I’m hoping that doesn’t mean subdivision. We took a nice walk along Lake Road and discovered our former tax preparer owns one of those funky cottages near Nine Mile Point. We took a dip in my brother’s pool before hitting the road.

When Peggi was doing her grand jury duty she told me nothing got underway until the stenographer walked in with her tiny typewriter (they were all women) and settled into her place at the front of the room. My cousin’s daughter is one year into a program be a court stenographer. To get your certificate you need to be able to accurately type two hundred some words per minute. Her stenographer’s typewriter is connected to her computer and she demonstrated her skills by typing our conversation in stenographer’s language and then translating it back to English on her monitor. She told us she can make up he own shortcuts for commonly used phrases. It seems like they are on to something. With their own language, their own shortcuts, less keys on their keyboards, they accurately record everything that goes on.

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Defoliation

Sea gull along beach at Nine Mile Point
Sea gull along beach at Nine Mile Point

We got off the expressway at Ridge Road in order to pick up more vaseline and Saran wrap, our Gypsy moth weapons, at Walgreen’s. Each day we suit up in our tick repellant clothes and wrap a few more trees. Twice around with the plastic wrap and then a stripe of vaseline. Our priority has been the hundred year old oaks which can only withstand a couple years of caterpillar defoliation. Our neighbor recommended we consult an arborist at Davey Tree. He told us our area was the worst in Monroe County.

Aman’s had their “Fresh Strawberrys” sign out on Ridge Road and so we pulled in. We had just walked up here the day before and they said they were not expecting strawberries until the week’s end. We drove home with three quarts of the darkest red berries we had ever seen. In the driveway we realized we forgot to stop at Walgreen’s.

I had a friend who on orders dropped napalm indiscriminately on villages in Viet Nam. They could have just let loose gypsy moths.

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