My doctor wanted me to get a Covid test before she did my colonoscopy. The closest testing facility to my house is Wilson (named after the founder of Xerox) on Carter Street. The test was a saliva test and the nurse coached me to think of favorite foods. I took the little tube (and the tiny plastic funnel) out to car and filled the tube to the red line in ten minutes. I never got to the part where I would need to think of olives or tortilla or pulpo.
The test came back “Not Detected,” which sounds a little fuzzy. I did the prep yesterday and was still able to play horseshoes with Rick. I drank the two containers of Gatoraid mixture and we watched Barcelona barely manage a draw with Granada. I still had not budged. It was a little worrisome but the time the sun came up I was clean as a whistle.
Peggi drove me out to the maze of doctors’ offices on Jefferson Road. The nurse told me I could keep my socks on and she handed me a heated blanket. She marveled at my veins and set up the IV for the anesthetic. I was kicking myself for not bringing the newspaper in because I laid there for about forty-five minutes. There was a lot of hubbub out by the front desk and then I saw my doctor walk by slowly. She looked a little long in the tooth so convinced myself that it was another patient and not my doctor. When she came back down the hall she was in a wheelchair and someone was pushing her. I figured the patient had some sort of episode and that was why everyone was rattled.
The nurse came back in my room and explained that they had had some sort of equipment failure and they were not going to be able to do my colonoscopy. But they said I could go back over to Wilson and a doctor there could perform the procedure. Or I could reschedule and do the prep all over again. They took the IV out. I got dressed and we drove over to Wilson, a decidedly more urban environment but more comfortable.
I asked the receptionist there if she knew why I was transferred and she told me my doctor wasn’t feeling well. So now I await the diagnosis on the three polyps that were removed and my next colonoscopy.
Tuesday mornings we often run into the Cornell Cooperative Extension volunteers in the park The park is severely understaffed and these people, the nicest and most knowledgable people you will ever meet, are donating their time. So we limit ourselves to one question.
Last week they were pulling invasive Tree of Heaven plants. One of them held up a root ball that looked like six foot long white carrot. This morning they were just getting out of the vehicles down by the lake and we asked them about the white flowering plant that seems to be everywhere. They told us it is called Snakeroot, it is native to this area and it is not technically invasive. But they agreed it is acting like one this year. One of the old-timers said, “we like to call it ‘a brut.'”
It is called Snakeroot because the roots were commonly used to treat snakebites but the plant is poisonous to the touch. It is everywhere around here and Peggi has a few afternoons pulling the plants on our property. Legend has it that Abraham Lincoln’s mother died from drinking milk from a cow that had eaten the plant.
I sort of remember when this willow tree split apart. The back half fell across the creek and died but the front half continued to thrive. New branches have sprouted from the top side of the trunk. I’m so glad the laissez-faire owners have left it alone.
We intended to take a walking route that would finish at our garden but got talking and turned the wrong way. Peggi was telling me about her dream. We were at the Jazz Festival and she was holding front row seats at Kilbourn Hall for me. I was late for some reason (which sounds about right) and then the whole first row of seats began falling backward. People were screaming and that might have been when Peggi woke up.
We spotted a photographer up ahead of us on Log Cabin Road. I wondered if it might be Aaron Winters because of the way he was walking, lumbering under the weight of his camera equipment and long lenses. It turned out to be Fred SanFilipo who coincidentally often sits in the front row at Jazz Fest where he is one of the official photographers. He recognized us from Jazz Fest and then introduced himself to us.
I had met him many years ago back when he had an ad agency with someone named Younger. I was in their studio when the two partners were having an unforgettable blow-out. Today he seems much happier. He told us about a beautiful nearby bush he had discovered, one that attracts humming birds. Peggi told him about her Jazz Fest dream and he said it sounds like the beginning of a novel.
Margaret Explosion played a weekly happy hour gig at the Bug Jar for a few years in the late nineties and I occasionally brought my camera. I took a series of mugshots there one night. Almost everyone who was there that evening agreed to sit for one. I printed them out large and had a show there with them in 1998. I recently searched my computer for “BugJar” jpegs and created this movie with them relying heavily on the Ken Burns tool in iMovie to animate the stills.
The song is one we recorded a few years later in 2003 called “Floating at the Bug Jar.” We recorded it in the basement of our home in the city. Peggi Fournier plays sax. Jack Schaefer plays guitar. Greg Slack plays bass. Pete LaBonne plays Yamaha electronic piano and Farfisa organ and I played percussion.
At least five of our friends, pictured here from that period, have moved on. RIP Bug Jar Bob (the creative force and one of the three original owners), Bill Jones, Chuck Cuminale, Ted Williams, Janet Williams, Michael Barone and Shalonda Simpson.
“I’m not afraid of dying’ and I don’t really care,” or whatever those words to the Laura Nyro song that Blood Sweat & Tears took over the top are, was blasting from this guys’ sound system as he rolled by us. Obnoxious and hysterical at the same time. We passed this guy many times in the park, along the lake and even saw him coming down Culver Road from East Ridge one time. He gets around and thinks nothing of cranking his tunes, the Baby Boomer hits, for all nearby.
As hard as it is to believe, the new owners of the Playground Tavern, located across the street from School 33’s playground, are changing the name to “Jackie-Ray’s Tavern.” I always thought that was a killer name for a bar.
Our band was in the middle of a month of Wednesday night gigs when the pandemic hit. We have not been back since and the only gig we have had since was in the theater in front of a blank movie screen with masked people sitting in in pairs separated by police yellow tape. The gig was so nerve-wracking for me I unplugged the recorder before writing the nights’ music to disc. I’m hoping tomorrow nights return to the café will be a return to form for Margaret Explosion.
Peggi and have been warming up for the gig by listening to a minute of so of songs recorded at the café in the last few years and then playing duo versions of the themes. “Sonata,” originally performed with Jack Schaefer on bass clarinet, “World’s Fair” and even the dark brooding “Witness.”
The newspaper box under our mailbox still says “Times Union.” We were subscribers of the afternoon paper back in the day, right up til their last issue, and then we switched to the D&C. The picture on the front page of today’s D&C showed five Times Union reporters, the late Jack Garner among them, celebrating their Pulitzer Prize in 1972. They won it for reporting that it was police gunshots that killed the hostages in nearby Attica Prison and not the prisoners’ homemade knives, as we had originally been told.
Check out President Nixon on the phone with Governor Rockefeller patting each other on the back for the debacle.
How did the terrorist attacks on our country (and others) drive us further apart from one another? What kind of bungling leadership would feed this division? We were told they attacked us because they resented our freedom. We were told the the people who commandeered airplanes directly into tall buildings were cowards. None of this added up.
“You’re either with us or against us,” “Love it or Leave It.” After 9/11 the Pentagon paid $6.8 million to the NFL and other professional sports teams to put on patriotic displays. That felt genuine. It feels as though someone is engineering our demise.
Michelle Goldberg, writing in the NYT on 9/11 says “. . . this epoch of aggressive jingoism, ethnic profiling, escalating paranoia, torture, secret prisons, broken soldiers, dead civilians and dashed imperial dreams has left freedom in retreat both globally and here at home.”
Peggi agreed to walk up to Aman’s Farm Market with me if I didn’t get any beer. We were going for fresh corn and fruit but we also needed garlic and onions and milk and cheddar cheese so the weight added up. And this was the longest we had walked since I sprained my ankle. Since we only get up here two or three times a month I put a 4-pack of 3 Heads Ha Ha! Nelson in the bottom of my backpack.
I wasn’t able to walk with Peggi today so I took a photo of her as she walked by on the street below. I sprained my ankle watching a soccer match, the Brazil Argentina World Cup qualifier. The PA at Urgent Care thought I must have overstretched it while sitting with my legs under me down in front of the tv where I can see who’s who on the pitch. And then as I descended our basement stairs, trying not to put too much weight on my sprain, I stubbed the big toe on my good leg. There was a crack and it hurts worse than my good leg.
The artificial intelligence on our tv apps recommended two stellar movies based on what we they think we like. “The Wicker Man” from the golden year of 1973 was sensational. Extolling the virtues of paganism over Christianity I felt like was inside a Bruegel painting. When that was over we started “Trilogy of Terror” with Karen Black from 1975. I can’t wait to get back to that one.
I didn’t know Stewart Davis when he was practicing law. I only met him when he hooked up with Anne Havens, our favorite local artist. He was a gentleman and I never would have took him as an artist. Apparently what he saw in Anne’s art was a vehicle for a whole lot of rich expression. He was eternally young and where most artists strive to paint as directly as they did as a child Stewart had no art baggage to shake. He painted in the garage of their home and he blossomed in retirement. His art was pure. We bought one of his abstracts from a RoCo Members Show and it is one of our favorites.
His self portrait (above) is from “Stewart Davis – A Memorial Exhibition,” on view now at Rochester Contemporary. We were marveling at the uninhibited, primitive work while Bill Keyser was studying the show. He described the work as being “sophisticated.” That is quite a range.
In the lab space at RoCo Anne Havens is showing drawings she made of Stewart when he was in Sarasota undergoing cancer treatment. This show is stunningly beautiful, a loving tribute to a great man.
Rochester’s Arena Group has a show at RoCo as well and I can’t say I saw the whole show. I like to look at the walls and then move in on what calls me. And when I’ve had an internal conversation with that piece I move to what attracts me. I love Peter Sucy’s 3D prints. He prints his file, a few times, swaps out the ink color and arranges the pieces. And then he chose the perfect frame!
Evelyne Albanese has two beautiful watercolors in this show, both based on musicians. I had to look up Melody Gardot.
I knew this was a Barbara Fox from across the room.
On the forth floor of the Anderson Arts building Studio 402 has a show of new work by Gail and Jim Thomas. Gail has been been painting flowers for the last year, luscious pastel drawings, while Jim has been playing with space and form by revisiting the fallen oak in Genesee Valley Park, The Tree of Life. This was a fantastic show with both artists going in new directions. It has only reinforced my idea that the pandemic has been good for artists.
Pimientos de Padron are a favorite tapa of ours when we are in Spain. We were planning to do another Camino walk, el Primitivo, when the pandemic hit. Spain closed its doors for good reason, opened them for a spell and now recommends against travel. So we sit on this side of the Atlantic.
Fruition Seeds in Naples, just south of us, offered Pimientos de Padron seeds this year so we grew our own. We were surprised how big the plants got. Bigger than our bell pepper and jalapeño plants. And bountiful.! They grew so fast the first few batches were already too big. We were aware that servings in Spain often had one or two in the batch that had some heat and they surprise you because the rest are so deliciously seductive.
So instead of letting then grow large and well before they turn red we we’ve been picking them young, when some are only an inch long. They go great with a La Liga match and bring us one step closer to Spain.
You don’t really have to own a mid-century modern house, you could just put these stylish numbers from moderndwellnumbers on your house. They go a long ways. This photo doesn’t show it but the numbers are about a half inch off the house because the screws come with spacers. They send you a paper template that you can tape on your house. The holes are are marked for drilling and the kerning is thought out. We went with it but in retrospect I wished we had spaced the numbers out a little more.
Each year we watch this guy pull up at our neighbors house in late August to wash their windows. Inside and out. And each year we think, “That would be nice.” It takes us most of a day to wash the windows and this year, after the gypsy moth invasion and the new roof, our windows are especially dirty. So we tagged along with them and had our windows professionally cleaned. It took him about three hours and they have never been cleaner. So clean that a robin flew into our front window about an hour after he left. It was temporarily knocked out but we watched right itself, walk around a bit and take off.
My brother’s lady friend was one of the original Vietnamese boat people. She and her family left just after we lost the war in her country in 1975. As we prepare for a new wave of refugees I can only say that, based on what is right in front of me, refugees make our country better in every way.
Peggi and I were invited to a Tea Ceremony, a traditional Vietnamese event based on a marriage custom where the groom goes to the bride’s family’s home and officially ask for their daughter’s hand. In this case, where the bride’s name is O’Conner, the ceremony was held at my brother’s partner’s home. Her son can be seen in red in the center of this photo.
The groom’s friends, the big guys in white, made a grand entrance in five GMC Sierra Denali pickup trucks. My brother’s was one of them. He is a mason, the best in the county, I have no idea what the other guys do but their trucks were all in spotless condition. Incense offerings where made to the ancestors before a Buddhist altar and the groom presented the bride with some studded earrings. When she opened the little box she found the price tag was still on them. I offered to cut it off with my pocket knife and I put the tag in my pocket. We examined it at home and discovered the earrings were $2,000 dollars at Macy’s.
The bride and groom presented us with small red plastic glasses of tea and the ceremony was followed by a brunch with homemade Vietnamese food. We sat across from my brother and saw that he was eating tofu and eggplant. Last I knew the only vegetable he would eat was corn. I said something about it and he said, “I don’t ask what it is. I just eat it.”
Well before the 60 Minutes piece on the tour boat operater who took a group of scuba divers out to a coral reef off Cozumel and came back to shore while one of the divers was still down, Peggi and I spent a week in Cartagena.
When my parents moved my mom threatened to throw my shoebox of baseball cards away if I didn’t pick them up. I took them home and pawed through them one last time. My collection ranged from ’58 to ’63 and by that time I was flush with paper route money and simultaneously losing interest in baseball. I had doubles and triples of the 1963 Topps baseball cards, all in mint condition.
I noticed an ad for a sports memorabilia fair at Peddler’s Village and we took my shoebox over there. One of the vendors was my high school math teacher, Mr. Setek. He told me he would come by our house, go through the collection and make me an offer.
He carefully examined the cards, the same ones I used to throw around, and he was particularly impressed by the the full set of 1963 cards, especially the three Pete Rose rookie cards. He made us an offer of $1100 dollars. We were floored and accepted. On the way out he told us he planned to put the Pete Rose cards in a safety deposit box and then use them to help pay for his sons’ college tuition.
Peggi and I decided to take a tropical vacation with the money. An ad in the NYT showed package prices for three destinations. Cartagena was the cheapest, for good reason. We stayed in the Hilton and watched rifle armed guard walk circles around our hotel at night. It was our first taste of Cumbia!
We arranged for a motor boat to take us snorkeling on a coral reef. I remember a young German couple, a few others and a single woman on the boat with us. No one spoke the same language and the guy driving the boat spoke one of the native Columbian dialects.
We traveled along an inland waterway and then out to an island. We took a few steps offshore, put our masks on, our heads in the water and the sensation was like LSD. A lunch was included. Another boat came out to the island to deliver the food. The operators of that boat started partying with our boat operator. While we snorkeled they were playing load music and doing lines of cocaine.
After lunch we got back in the boat. The operator had turned surly. He drove as fast as he could on the way back. The single woman kept pleading with him to slow down. You can see the reds marks on my ass from bouncing on the hard seats as we tore through the jungle.
Back at the hotel Peggi laughed at the lines on my rear end. I loved that suit because it was all cotton. I hate jumping in a pool and having my suit fill up like a ballon. I found it interesting that the colors alone, black and white, let more or less light through for my sunburn. And the photo is histerical.
I came awake around one and lay there listening to our fan, the one that sits on the laundry basket near the screened window in our bedroom. We don’t have air conditioning and would rather not have it. We can handle the few weeks of hot we get up here. And I love waking up to the birds.
I was only half awake so I struggled to determine whether I was hearing music in addition to the fan or hallucinating musical patterns in the fan noise. I convinced myself that it was just the fan and tried to get back to sleep. Then the music got louder, a lot louder.
I got up and walked around the house to figure out where it was coming from. I was certain a car was parked out front between Dan and Diana’s house and ours with its lights out and one of those giant sound systems in their trunk. The music was getting louder but I couldn’t see anyone. Peggi was up by now and we opened the front door and gradually walked toward the street.
Was there a party on the next street over? We could hear people laughing and shouting over the music. Everything was auto-tuned and in Spanish with a dancehall beat. Reggaeton? And it was echoing through the woods. A dub mix. We figured it must have been a big party on the beach and we went back to bed.
The next day we saw Diana heading out to work and we asked if she heard anything. She said no, “But then I take Melatonin.” And they have air conditioning. When we saw Rick, our next door neighbor, we asked if he had heard anything. They keep their windows closed, the air on and he takes his hearing aids out at night. Down at the pool our neighbor, Phil, asked us if we heard the music. He said he called the cops, the party pooper.
I have a few things I would to do before I die, projects that have been kicking around for a long time. I imagine I am far from alone on this. And when someone l know dies suddenly, my thoughts run to their unfinished business.
Fred Lipp and my father died just months apart in late 2016. Both discovered they had cancer and both went quickly. I took a painting class with them for twenty years before it crash landed. Fred was a great teacher and even a good teacher’s work is never done. You live with and by the advice. You practice it and you pass it on. It is unfinished by design. This teacher was also an artist, as good an artist as he was a teacher, and his art will also live forever. It is unfinished business.
It took Fred’s family a long time to reallocate his worldly goods. His studio, a retrofitted barn behind his home in Union Hill, was packed with his work. His daughter recently invited Peggi and me to come out and look at the leftovers. We spent the afternoon telling stories about Fred. He loved to laugh and his spirit was there with us.
I spotted a box of Bocour Magna Acrylic Resin artist paint, a brand I had never seen before. The tubes were still pliable so I brought them home. White metal section frames that Fred showed charcoal drawings in over the years were stacked against the wall. I took some of them as well.
I applied some of the paint to paper and found it had a really strong oder. The colors were rich though, purer and denser than any paint I had ever used. “Loaded” as they say. I tried cleaning my brushes with water but it wouldn’t touch it. Neither would walnut oil or turpentine. What was this acrylic resin stuff?
Online I learned Bocour was the first artist’s acrylic paint, used by Barnett Newman, Morris Louis, and Roy Lichtenstein. I took one of the tubes down to my neighbor’s. A former chemist at Kodak, he suggested thinning the paint with acetone. The smell of the paint stayed in my nose for hours and I wasn’t crazy about using the solvents to thin or clean up. But I was determined to do something in remembrance of Fred with his materials. I made big paint chips from the sixteen colors, each 1/3 of an 8 1/2 x 11 sheet, and went to Rochester Art Supply see if I could find modern equivalents to Fred’s colors.
Mike, the owner, told me he remembered Leonard Bocour “coming in the store with a woman on each arm.” Mike pointed to the shelf where they kept the line of Bocour products. Golden Acrylics, today’s water based artist paint, has been having a hard time getting pigments from various parts of the world during the pandemic so I wasn’t able to get replacements.
I became enamored with the paint chips. How the color bled off three sides and stopped short of the bottom and how they fit the unfinished business concept. With a plastic trowel I covered sixteen large sheets of paper, paper that will fit nicely in the 20″ x 26″ white metal section frames that I brought home from Fred’s.
Pete Monacelli is not afraid of these paints and he offered to buy them from me. Fat chance. I will give them to him the next time I see him. No piece is done until it is photographed and this took the better part of a week. Using 4 Lowel Toto lights that Duane gave me, I struggled to evenly light the work. Duane found photo bulbs online to replace my Home Depot bulbs and he helped me get the white balance. Over the phone from Brooklyn he found the ideal settings which I will record here for the record. Shutter speed at 1/125, Aperture at F8, ISO at 640 and a custom white balance (1). Once photographed Peggi, also a student of Fred’s, helped me color correct these online versions. See all sixteen panels here.
I see Park View Bowl has a pre-season special going before their bowling leagues start. This place, six lanes and a bar, run by the brother of a former pro bowler, is Out Of Time. We walked down to the lake this morning and out the Sea Breeze pier. The lake was perfectly calm. We watched a Poseidon Barge dredge the channel for a while. Peggi took a short video. Rob Benton’s tour bus was parked out in front of Marge’s, where the signs read “Don’t Even Think of Parking Here.” This place was a speakeasy during Prohibition and they had the best jukebox in town in the late seventies when Ron was still around. We looked up Mr. Benton when we got home and watched a hideous cover of “Hotel California.” Don’t do it. In the sixties Marge’s would sell beer to anyone. I remember friends pulling up to the place, running up the steps and returning with a six pack. We were sixteen.
The new La Liga season has begun. Some fans, maybe 20% of the capacity are allowed back. The broadcasts have moved from BeIN to ESPN. The extra cable tv package we pay for doesn’t include the games. We had to purchase a subscription through the ESPN app, another app. We watched the first matches for Barca, Atletico and Real Madrid,our three favorite teams. They all won! Our only complaint is the Spanish language commentators are no where’s near as good as they were on BEIN.
Three women were sitting in one of the picnic shelters as we walked down Log Cabin Road this morning. Most of the shelters were already occupied and some of the grills were already smoking at 10 AM. On the table in front of the women was a short stack of Pepsi cans in those long 18 packs so they must have been expecting a crowd. As we passed by I heard one of them say, “That’s exactly how she got pregnant.” I think everybody knows how that happens.
Walking along the beach we came to a spot where the inlet from one of the smaller lakes was too deep to cross. We watched a young couple come toward us in bare feet and wade across. The woman’s arms were built and covered with tattoos. Rather than take our shoes off we turned around. We were now following the young couple. Walking behind them I could see her shorts were so short they failed to cover the bottom part of her buttocks. I hope that was ok to notice.
Our weather changed overnight and the humidity lifted. The sky today was pure blue and the sailboats looked especially white out on the lake. Walking up to Aman’s yesterday it was so hot we stood in the walk-in beer cooler for ten minutes when we got there. We came out with a six pack of Buffalo’s Hayburner.
Chuck was my brother’s best friend in high school. We shared friends back then so he was one of mine. Always curious and always with an opinion, he was like a magnet. Baptized James he was also colorblind. He was Colorblind James, with and without a band.
His longtime band members including Phil Marshall (who doubled as his brother-in-law), Ken Frank and Chuck’s son, Mark will be performing his songs for two nights in October at the downtown honky tonk, Abilene. They asked me to design a poster for the event, one with some of Chuck’s funky spirit.
I hardly have any fonts on my computer anymore. So many of the ones I was using back when we were churning out graphics are incompatible. I found what I was looking for on a cd we had filed away and I completed the mission without stomping on his grave.
I was thinking about Chuck while I worked. I remember him coming by with a mock up of the first album on Earring. He and his wife, Janet, had created a classic. We mostly helped by getting out of the way. Chuck was working a circus theme on the second lp and he came to us to realize it. I was left with distinct feeling that he could have done a distinctly better, personal touch, version himself and I told him as much. Professional execution does not make it better. That’s why they invented punk rock.