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.
Pete and Shelley’s home in the Adirondacks is five hours and a world away. When the pavement ends their road continues with stone. It is just about at that point where the cell phone reception ends. And by the time we reach their property the electric and water lines have stopped. This is is off-the-grid and therapeutic.
Our first trip since the pandemic began took us out 104 and then northeast toward the mountains. In Speculator we fell in line behind a large RV that was towing a a brand new Jeep. The car immediately in front of us had plates from the Sunshine state. We stopped only to pee near the side of the road.
Shelley had given us a short list of items that had become hard to come by up there. Arm & Hammer unscented laundry detergent, a loaf of good bread and beeswax candles. We threw in some tomatoes and peppers from the garden, they are growing both but their season is behind ours, and a small bag of weed that our neighbor gave us to give to them.
We stayed up late talking and it seems all conversations lead to politics. One of the property owners on their road is flying a giant, “Fuck Biden, Trump Won” banner and that sort of sets the table. For discussion. We saw variations of the Fuck Biden flag on the way up, ones that spelled out the f-word in long gun silhouettes, and of course the tired Confederate flags. Everyone has a congressman or woman and we were in Elis Stefanik’s district where the Covid restrictions are scarce. Even in the woods it impossible to put politics aside.
The Brighton Cemetery, on Hoyt Place overlooking the Eastern Expressway and former Erie Canal bed, is no longer in Brighton. The surrounding property owners voted to be annexed by the City of Rochester so they could hook up to the city’s sewer system and through some sort of loophole the city was not required to keep up the cemetery. It fell into serious disrepair. Richard Miller has devoted his retirement years to restoring the gravestones and maintaining the property. His volunteer work earned him the Leo Dodd Historic Brighton Preservation Award, an award given each year in my father’s name.
Pittsford Wegman’s provided a box lunch for the Historic Brighton group and the town historian tried to separate the folklore from the historical facts on the history of the familiar local names. After the presentation we spotted the recipient in the parking lot. I noticed he had saved the plastic knife, fork and spoon in his shirt pocket. I asked him if he could be sure the grave stones that he repaired and uprighted were above the right bodies. He thought for a few moments and told us the cemetery wasn’t as badly vandalized as others because nobody knows where it is. Even though thousands of cars whiz by the Winton Road, a stone’s throw away, every hour of the day.
The cemetery was founded in 1821 so we are commemorating its 200th anniversary this year. I remember walking around the cemetery with my father as he pointed out names connected to Brighton’s brick industry. Preserving that story was one of my father’s retirement projects. My father would be so proud have Richard Miller win this award.
Folklore has it that one in every dozen Pimientos de Padrón, a popular Spanish tapa, may be hot. Most often the whole batch is mild but one time in Madrid, I can remember exactly where the cafe was, every single one of them was too hot to eat. We left them on the plate.
Fruition Seeds offered Pimientos de Padrón this year so we grew our own. We picked our first batch to have while we watched the Spanish men’s soccer team eliminate the host nation in the olympic semi-final. Eight or nine of them were hot as hell. Water doesn’t help but yogurt sort of neutralized the fire.
We put a new row of arugula in and it was up in three days. And another row of cilantro, our third. Our tomatoes are starting to roll in and the second planting of romaine is begging to be thinned. Peggi has been making little pizzas with our cilantro pesto and today we brought back a big bag of basil for traditional pesto which we plan to make with the garlic Jeff gave us from their garden.
Just watching the contractors work on our roof was exhausting. They jumped out of the truck at eight each morning and didn’t stop until five. We had a few things to do to stay ahead of them and then there was the nightly check on what they had done. We were thrilled with their work and they told us we were good people to work for.
A loud thump shook the house as we were reading the morning paper. As I suspected, one of the roofers working on our house had slipped on the metal sheeting and fell. Luckily he didn’t slide off the house. Our pitch is not that steep. It was the guy with red hair. It wasn’t red last week, he colored it over the weekend. When I asked him if he was the one that fell he didn’t answer. I have only heard him speak Spanish so I pantomimed a slip and pointed to him. He smiled.
They are hoping to be done with our roof this week. The dumpster was hauled away this morning while we were out for our walk. We knew it been moved because we found scrap pieces of our roofing in the road as we came down our street. It was completely full with old asphalt shingles, shards of metal and Red Bull and Monster cans.
The priest reminded both Peggi and me of John Cassavetes, somewhere else in his own head but right there commanding your attention. When he sprayed hand sanitizer on his hands before passing out communion I lost my appetite for the body of Christ. We were sitting with a row of my cousins, all from the same generation as the cousin whose funeral mass we were celebrating. And there was a speaker mounted on the column right in front of us but I could hardly understand what he was saying. I caught something about the “mystery of faith” and that concept stuck with me.
Our neighbor, Helena, recommended the Oriental Rug Mart in Eastview Mall as a place to get our rugs cleaned. The owner, Reza, came by himself to pick them up. We asked if he had been vaccinated when he stepped out of his van and he told us he was but he had just finished a two week quarantine because he gotten Covid anyway. He described it as something like the bout of bronchitis he had last year. We wore masks and he carried our rugs off.