Showtime

Music Man, Professor Jim Porter, in Penn Station
Music Man, Professor Jim Porter, in Penn Station

We were kinda late for our train or I would have stopped to talk to this guy in Penn Station. He looks like a one man band with his stage gear on and his equipment case advertising a Funky Percussion Machine, Country, Irish, Polka, Zydeco and something called Bachata. I wanted to go where he was going but our train was boarding in the other direction.

Maybe it was the cup of coffee we had up at Starbucks but I had a hard time getting with the program in our yoga class tonight. Jeffery usually starts by going around the room asking people what they want to work on. I always say “anything.” Someone suggested shoulders so we got on our backs and stayed there the whole class, opening our spines, breathing deeply in three stages, stretching our shoulders and putting tennis balls under our piriformis (butts).

That was another problem. We walked up to Target this afternoon and ate rather hurriedly before class . Jeffery talked about being in the moment, how the class was just for this group at this time but my food was still settling. I must have stared at the ceiling lights o long because when we closed our eyes I kept seeing a small dancing bear, like one of those little Grateful Dead figures, moving from right to left.

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Good Packin’

Snow person in wind tunnel at RIT
Snow person in wind tunnel at RIT

I have my own system for labeling our firewood. My neighbor uses spray paint. I fold up a piece of white cardboard to 2″x2″ square, label it with the year, wrap it in clear packing tape and nail it into the end of one of the logs in the pile. This year we are burning wood we put up in 2015. While our neighbors were watching the Bills beat Miami we moved two face cords into our porch .

We will fill the space where those logs were with newly split wood. At the moment the log length sections of the big oak that came down on Hoffman are in a heap near our wood pile. They are so big Peggi and I were unable to roll them up on the splitter. So when the weather breaks I will have to swing my ax into them and follow that up with the sledge hammer to split the sections into something manageable for our Heathkit splitter. When those are split we’ll stack them where the the 2015 wood was and I’ll label it 2019. As they say, the wood warms you many times over.

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Look Out

Bill Keyser Show at Universty Gallery RIT. "Sweep" and "White Intrusion" 2013
Bill Keyser Show at Universty Gallery RIT. “Sweep” and “White Intrusion” 2013

Bill Keyser has a few degrees, a mechanical engineering degree from Carnegie Mellon, an MFA in furniture design from RIT where he taught until 1997. That year he woke from a dream with a feeling that there was something very important he needed to do. He transitioned from furniture to sculpture and fine art while picking up another degree, an MFA in painting in sculpture. I met him in Fred Lipp’s painting class at the Creative Workshop. After all that school he told me Fred was the best teacher he ever had. 

His show, “Painting and Sculpture 2009 – 2019,” at RIT’s University Gallery is an eyeful. The two paintings shown above are my favorites but the large gallery has sculptures and paintings interspersed with one another all competing for your attention in riotous colors. 

Bill’s paintings are sculptural. They efficiently (masterly) animate their own physical space and incorporate the environment they sit in just as his sculptures do. The ideas in his paintings on found metal panels spring from the shape of the panel itself. The cut out corner becomes a beam in “Beam” and the angle in “Look Out” leads to another plane. I was particularly attracted to to his sculpture entitled “Pueblo.” In two milk paint colors  it is as elegant as a Chillida. The show runs to December 20th so you have plenty of time. 

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Cheap Seats

Bleachers on beach in Portugal
Bleachers on beach in Portugal

We saw the Elton John movie on Netflix and then Pedro Almodovar’s new one at the theater and now I’m getting them both mixed up. They both had similarly dysfunctional upbringings and both were clearly gifted. We put the subtitles on for “Rocketman” and I was amazed at how good Bernie Taupin’s lyrics were. As good as Elton John’s amazing melodies. I woke up singing Tiny Dancer.

Almodovar’s “Pain and Glory’ is his best yet. Having just been in Spain it was visually sensational but that is just scraping the surface. The movie was deep. Aging, mortality, futility, all that stuff. Check it out.

I put a photo in the annual RoCo Member’s Show. I came home with so many good ones from the Iberian Peninsula. I had Joan down at Frametastic cut a piece of glass for me. Visiting her is always a treat. She and her husband built the business but he is long gone. Joan, at 87, is the only employee. She had Jazz 90.1 on when I walked in and she was cutting nine holes in one piece of matt board. Each opening was a different size. She showed me the boxes of glass that she starts with, sheets that are 32″ by 40.” “i used to be able to handle a bigger sheet but not anymore.” She only takes cash.

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Inside Out

Happy Red Oak leaf in snow
Happy Red Oak leaf in snow

Does this leaf look happy? As light as leaves are they are weighted more heavily on the stem end. And when the snow comes before the leaves have all fallen we get this delightful show.

Only a few days remain to see “Inside Out,” the Current Scene show at 248 East Avenue, right next door to Little Theatre. This is a cosmopolitan show for a small city artfully curated by Colleen Buzzard. We’ve seen the show a few times and enjoyed it most when the only other person in the space was the gallery attendee, probably one of the participating artists. The front room is playful with work from both Ann and Sue Havens. And the back room beckons with a soundtrack composite, the video installation visible through a crack in the door, of oak balls being cracked open, underground sounds coming from a manhole cover, tape being unspooled as someone tapes himself to a wall and Alan Topolski’s found Super 8 footage with his model airplane soundtrack. Alan pulls out all the stops out with his piece and it deserves its spot above the mantle. His painting, a scene lifted from his video, disappears into the wall, frame and all!

And then there are the shadows which intentionally steal the show from the objects that cast them – Martha O’Connor’s slowly turning floating fabric and a row of four sided cardboard vessels, hand painted in black and white with turquoise interiors and no bottom and arranged on a narrow glass shelf. There is a lot to experience in this small group show.

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Evidence

Suspended tree along Lakeshore Boulevard
Suspended tree along Lakeshore Boulevard

This tree was not as close to the lake last year. And its roots were underground.

At one time the Memorial Art Gallery had a biennial show of a half a dozen local artists’ work. They handed the show off to Rochester Contemporary, a good move, and two years ago RoCo had their first Rochester biennial, a three pronged affair with two artists at three different sites. My father and I were chosen to show our work at RoCo. The exhibit was entitled “Witness.”

This time around the biennial, entitled “Current Seen,” is spread all across town in nearly twenty venues. We were in Spain when the shows opened and we’ve been scrambling to get up to speed since our return. On Friday night we met a group at Joy Gallery on West Main where the graffiti show celebrating 30 years of work by the collective known as FUA is on display. Our group walked further west to 540 where Siena Pullinzi is showing her prints of women’s bodies, a show called “Not Your Object,” and then down King Street to the Douglas Auditorium where Mara Ahmed is showing her beautiful collage/paintings, photographic imagery of family members in painted fields that illustrate the displacement imposed on people in India at the end of British colonialism. Thankfully our city is so much broader than the East side.

There is a guide book (5 dollars) for Current Seen, one designed by Tate Shaw at Visual Studies that is packed with insightful articles about the shows and some solid history of our fair city. In the opening Bleu Cease asks, “Can the visual arts connect people across a divided city?” I think it can.

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Carousal Of Time

Checkered garage door along Portugal Coast
Checkered garage door along Portugal Coast

We are still working our way through the photos we brought back from our Iberian Peninsula trip. Walking through so many towns, taking in streets you have never been down, affords an abundance of opportunities for seeing. And then, with some composition, preparing to take the image home so we can savor the experience a little longer.

With temperatures expected to fall below freezing tonight and white stuff falling from the sky but not sticking we tore up our garden. We brought back the rest of our lettuce, peppers and a few pale tomatoes and we pulled the plants up by the roots. The seasons crashing into one another. “We’re captive on a carousal of time.”

After at least five years on the market there is a “Sold” sign on the front of the Playground Tavern. And a small hand written sign on the side door that reads, “Closed for Remodeling.” They have taken the sign down so I’m guessing the new owners are going to change the name. The bar sits on the corner of Webster and Bay across the street from the grade school and it’s ball field. They are never going to find a better name than the “Playground Tavern.”. 

Playground Tavern BY MARGARET EXPLOSION
Video for “Playground Tavern,” a song from Margaret Explosion CD “Skyhigh.”
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Nightclub

Aaron Winters photo of Margaret Explosion 2019
Aaron Winters photo of Margaret Explosion 2019

We waited for the rain to stop and took the shortcut to the Point Pleasant fire house, our polling place. We cast our ballots and then used the bathroom in the back. They have the coolest little bar in the back of the building, a firemen’s social club. I think they rent it out and each year I contemplate organizing a gig there for Margaret Explosion.

As great as the Little Theater Café is we really need to get out more. We’ll be there each Wednesday in November.

"Nightclub" by Margaret Explosion. Recorded live at the Little Theatre Café on 09,25,19. Peggi Fournier - sax, Ken Frank - bass, Phil Marshall - guitar, Paul Dodd - drums.
“Nightclub” by Margaret Explosion. Recorded live at the Little Theatre Café on 09,25,19. Peggi Fournier – sax, Ken Frank – bass, Phil Marshall – guitar, Paul Dodd – drums.

Here’s a song recorded at our last gig in September.

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Only A Vehicle

Owen Butler image at Warren Philips Gallery
Owen Butler image at Warren Philips Gallery

We had to start early on First Friday in order to make the rounds. The season is in full swing. I loved the way Owen Butler hung his large graphic digital prints in Warren Philips’ space. Steve Piper told us Owen was his favorite teacher ever when he took a photo journalism class from him forty years ago at RIT. I really liked the charcoal drawings at RoCo but it was odd to see all the homeless people smiling. Colleen Buzzard has curated a great little show in the temporary space created when Warren Philips moved his frame shop to the Hungerford Building. And we had fun with Roberley Bell’s household items partially encased in organic shapes at Colleen’s studio gallery.

El Camino, the so called Breaking Bad movie, would have been a snooze of an episode if it was part of the long running show. Jessie was only a vehicle for Walter White. I don’t care enough about him to even root for him. And putting Brian Cranston in the movie for a few minutes only threw salt in the wounds. And for all the money they made and then spent you would think they would have introduced some new scene stealing characters the way the show continually did. The best thing about the movie was Jim White’s song in the closing credits.

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So This Is Our Hometown

Wall at Lumiere Photo on College Avenue in Rochester, New York.
Wall at Lumiere Photo on College Avenue in Rochester, New York.

We’ve been reacquainting ourselves wit our environment by taking long walks in different directions. Along the lake where we see the beach has returned. Next time we’ll walk on the new sand. Through the woods to Kathy’s house where we checked up on her backyard project. Along the river from downtown to the UR and across the river to the coffee shop on Brooks Avenue where they had Jefferson Starshit on sound system while the only employee wore earbuds with his own music. And then back down the river on the west side a beautiful stretch. Today we wandered through our woodsy neighbor looking for downed trees fro last night’s wind storm. Not much but big branches and one dead end with no power and generators running.

We are still sort on Spanish time so we decided to stop in Parkside Diner for an early dinner. The newspaper rated their fish fry highly and we felt for it. We could have sold the fried dough casing at a carnival. The fish itself was ok but the cold slaw was as bland as you could imagine and the mash potatoes were the reconstituted kind. Peggi asked our server a question and instead of answering the server asked if she go take some one else’s order. The worst part though was the tv with Fox News on. Dana somebody was interviewing a guy with a cowboy hat who playing an upcoming Patriot’s Bash while streamer ran across the bottom of the screen with “Sticker Shock” teasers for Elizabeth Warren’s Medicare For All and something about Ocassio Cortez. I’m not sure if it was the tv or the food that gave me the indigestion.

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Getting Over It

Dos Café con leche y uno pincho de Tortilla.
Dos café con leche y uno pincho de Tortilla.

I’m already missing breakfast in Spain but our first day back was so beautiful I think I’ll get over it. We made it back in time for Fall’s peak and still have not had a frost so we raided the garden and brought back tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, kale and some bok choy.

Our dentist had called while we were gone and we thought it must be the bill owed but when I returned the call the receptionist told me they had found my jack knife down in the seat.

We emptied our back packs and strapped them on again to walk up to Wegmans. In the process we saw most of our neighbors. We were happy to hear Jared’s cancer treatment is not getting the best of him. Jerry at the other end had a bad cold but he had a lot of wood for us, stuff a tree surgeon took down in his backyard while we were gone. The stray cat Rick and Monica took in had kittens so we stopped in to look. We learned both of them had tick bites while we were gone and Rick’s tested positive for Lyme. Phil and Nancy saw us coming back with our backpacks full and asked if we were walking home from Spain.

Rick and I played a couple of rounds of horseshoes before dark. Netflix had delivered Buñuel’s “The Phantom of Liberty” so we’ll take that for a spin tonight.

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Agujero Negro

Sara Ramo “Agujero Negro” at Alcalá 31 in Madrid
Sara Ramo “Agujero Negro” at Alcalá 31 in Madrid

It was a nice night when we arrived in New York, pretty much the same temperature as Madrid but it felt different. There was a crazy man shouting at an invisible adversary as we waited for the subway. On the F we sat across from a Russian couple. We were reminded why we thought Portuguese sounded like Russian.

Duane had the table set when arrived in Brooklyn, some French wine and a hearty vegetable bean stew. Rochester’s Wegman’s had just opened their first store in New York and the press was making a big deal about that. 

The day had gone on forever. Spain went off daylight savings during our last night so we added an hour there and gained five more crossing the Atlantic. We were telling Duane about Antonio Saura’s painting of his sister-in-common law, Geraldine Chaplin, when Peggi started nodding off.

We looked at Duane’s Robert Frank books in the morning. Found pictures of Delphine Seyrig and Alice Neel in Pull My Daisy. Still connecting the dots. Duane made some killer cereal from dried fruit, brown rice, almond milk and a mixture of exotic seeds.

Fall’s foliage was at peak as we rode north along the Hudson. Always a dreamy trip and opportunity to reflect.

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Civilization

Trees in Retiro Park, Madrid.
Trees in Retiro Park, Madrid.

20 Euros for a month’s cellular usage seems like a good deal. We swapped the AT&T chips in Peggi’s phone and my iPad for a Vodafone chip when we landed in Lisbon and we used them through Portugal and Spain with a few gigabytes to spare. Why does the same service cost so much in the States?

We stuck our credit card in two ATM machines while we were in Europe. Some of the funkier places only take cash so we need a few Euros. Everywhere else I used my watch to pay for everything from coffee, bus fair to hotel rooms. I held it up to vending machines. Apple Pay is excepted everywhere. Why is this not the case in the states?

I weigh 69 kilograms in Europe. Weights and measurements here  are in metrics like the rest of the world. Would it be too hard for the US to get with the program?

High speed trains are clean, affordable and they run on time. They have good food and good coffee in the bar car. There are copies of the days paper there to share just like in every other café. This place is so civilized! Trump talked about fixing the crumbling US infrastructure. He’s full of shit. It was nice to be away from him for a while.

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Reaction

Museo de Arte Abstracto Español en Cuenca, España.
Museo de Arte Abstracto Español en Cuenca, España with cliffs visible through the windows of the former hanging house.

We told Margarita at Antonio Machón that we would report back after visiting the Museo de Arte Abstracto in Cuenca, a museum that features many of the artists she represents. It was her suggestion to take the train there and our report was glowing but Peggi had to do all the talking. We told Margarita that we had also seen some dramatic Antonio Saura work at the Reina Sofia where they had reconstructed a show from Spain’s Transition. That got her going.

She told us every step the Reina Sofia takes is political. Political with the bottom line in view. It was her opinion that the Transition is overrated. It was not a dramatic shift but one that built slowly while Franco was still in power. She says the Spanish people were not so repressed under Franco. Almodovar was dressing like a women, Saura was painting wicked portraits of Franco while he was alive. In fact, she argues, Franco’s death and the Transition made artists lazy.

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Mind Full

Pieter Brueghel the Younger’s painting Wedding Dance in the Open Air at Palacio de Gaviria
Pieter Brueghel the Younger’s painting Wedding Dance in the Open Air at Palacio de Gaviria

We worked our way over to the Palacio de Gaviria this morning where four generations of the Brueghel/ Bruegel family were having a show. It goes without saying that Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1525-1569) is the master but there was so much life depicted here by the whole family that one can’t be picky. Funny to think the Bourgeoisie bought these paintings because they recognized the joy depicted by real people, the common folk.

The family was able to visualize and depict the four elements, a perfect companion to Joe Henderson’s lp, the virtues and parables as well as the Tower of Babel and the temptation of Saint Anthony.

An additional café con leche at Café Gijon, the legendary literary salon, fortified us for the next stop, “El Sueno de la Razón,” paintings by painters influenced by Goya’s Las Pinturas Negras at Fernán Gómez. It was two hundred years ago that Goya painted the walls of his apartment with his so called black paintings. Everybody from Anselm Kiefler, Robert Longo, Antonio Saura and incredible animations from William Kentridge were included but none landed like Goya’s punch. An acknowledgement and fitting tribute to the master.

Our minds are full.

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Colgados De Un Sueno

Museo de Arte Abstracto Español
Museo de Arte Abstracto Español

Margarita at Antonio Machón Gallery suggested we take a day trip to Cuenca, where the ancient hanging houses are, to see a show of Antiono Tapies’ work. The high speed Ave train to Valencia, whose first stop is Cuenca, was almost completo but we scored the last seats. I wound up sitting in Coche 7 and Peggi was in Coche 8. We were there in no time and inside the Museo de Arte Abstracto Español when they opened their doors at 11.

We have been going to museums for many years, starting long before they got so popular, and I have never seen a museum as beautiful as this one. The setting and art enhance one another and both are astonishing. They made an award winning movie about it.

The museum opened in 1966 when the wealthy artist, Fernando Zóbel, bought the fifteenth century building which just so happens to hang over the gorge of the Huécar. He bought the work of Spain’s best young abstract artists, his friends, in real time and built an astonishing collection. Tápies, Chillida, Muñoz, Millares, Sempere, Torner, Saura and Guerrero. 

As a bonus, their rotating gallery featureS exquisite prints from Picasso’s Vollard Suite.

We left the Museo just as they were closing for the afternoon meal. The staff recommended the perfect restaurant for us. We sat outside and had the bast green salad of our whole trip. Baby spinach sprigs, walnuts, mushrooms, goat cheese, a sliver of caramelized ham, cherry tomatoes, and a thick dark vinaigrette.

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Franco Exhumado!

Carlos Saura photo of two women drummers.
Carlos Saura photo of two women drummers

One day after watching Antonio Mercero‘s movie of Franco being sent to his tomb in a telephone booth we watched Franco’s remains get exhumed from Valle de los Caidos on the tv in our hotel in Madrid.

It was a perfect day in Madrid. Blue skies and in the sixties. A perfect day for art shows. We started in the Fundacion Telefonica where we saw an exhibition on the history of online gaming, a much bigger world than imagined. And a virtual reality show devoted to artists. Our favorite room was the one devoted to Paul Delvaux’s painting, “L’appel.” We were inside the paintings, moving around the nude figures and getting ever closer the more we stared. The future is looking pretty good.

We took a break for our mid-day meal and walked to an exhibition of two architects’ work, one Spanish and one Italian, their 1950’s Mediterranean homes, our next domicile.

Yes, this is how we spend our time in Madrid. Una exposición tras otra. A lot of walking, looking and next to nothing for admission.

Our final stop was in the Círculo de Bellas Artes Building where we took in the Carlos Saura photo show. After Buñuel and Almodovar, Saura is the third most revered Spanish film director. Until today we only knew the work of his brother, Antonio. I posted one of his pieces a few days ago. Carlos may be more famous. He lived with Geraldine Chaplin for many years and worked with Buñuel. All roads lead to Buñuel!

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El Pueblo Español Tiene Un Camino Que Conduce A Una Estrella

What’s left of a poster on the the streets of Madrid.
What’s left of a poster on the the streets of Madrid.

The quote in my title is the name given to a sculpture by Alberto that stands in front of the Reina Sophia in Madrid. We had plenty of time to study it as we stood in line to get in.

Just yesterday we were introduced to Sara Ramo and today we saw another of her shows at Madrid’s contemporary art museum. This one a video installation, a dreamy short play that was staged behind her beautifully composed tapestry-like curtain. The curtain never rises fully so many of the characters are only seen from the waist down. There are overtones of violence against women but of course the women win the day with their resourceful feminine earthiness. And just as the show yesterday was weighted equally with playful pieces, a room here was lined with cabinets which had all sorts of surprises behind their doors.

A second show here called “The Poetics of Democracy” featured a hilarious video send up of Franco by Antonio Mercero from 1972. All of the work in this show was done by leading Spanish artists (Tàpies, Saura) during what is know as the Spanish Transition. Franco was a far worse monster than Trump and he evoked an equally strong reaction. If only Americans had it in them to react we would have a creative outburst.

The third act at Reina Sofia was Dephine Seyrig‘s “Defiant Muses.” Seyrig starred in Bunuel’s Milky Way and Discreet Charm, Robert Frank’s Pull My Daisy, The Doll House with Jane Fonda and Stollen Kisses by Francois Truffaut but she was an outspoken feminist and directed her own films.

This was a meaty show and it set the stage perfectly for a long walk in Retiro Park.

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Otras Formas De Vida

Sara Ramo tapestry at Alcala 31 in Madrid
Sara Ramo tapestry at Alcala 31 in Madrid

We have a well worn path in Las Letras section of Madrid and we always stay somewhere close to it. We have our favorite restaurants, cafés, book stores and holy card shops inside the triangle and it is surrounded by museums and art galleries. Cervantes’ home is in Las Letras and poetry from him, Calderon de la Barca and Lope de Vega is written on the sidewalks. There is a statue of Lorca in Plaza Santa Anna. Each visit we venture further out of this historic old section.

After a few cups of coffee we walked up and down Calle del Doctor Fourquet where all the new galleries are. It was a lot of fun but like some visits to Chelsea you sometimes leave hungry.

We had an afternoon meal at a restaurant that is over three hundred years old. Goya worked here while waiting to be accepted at the Real Academia de Bellas Artes and of course Hemingway hung out in the place.

Sara Ramo, a Brazilian artist, who has a show at Alcala 31, does these beautiful tapestries. She showed twenty here and each was a knockout.

Antonio Saura mixed media at Antonio Machon Gallery in Madrid
Antonio Saura mixed media at Antonio Machon Gallery in Madrid

António Machón Gallery would be uptown if it was in NYC. We have gotten to know the galley owner there and bought print from her last year. We stopped in and visited this afternoon and she pulled out some stunning pieces from her white flat files. Tàpies, Chilida, António Saura and Jose Guererro. We are no longer hungry.

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No Subtitles

Blue door and green walk along Camino Portuguese
Blue door and green walk along Camino Portuguese

We waited until the last minute to make train reservations for the ride to Madrid. Three trains leaving at a reasonable hour were all booked so we set the alarm for 5 AM and took the high speed down here. We had an early dinner at our favorite restaurant and wandered over to the Bellas Artes building to look for a list of art shows.

We were in the midst of a Luis Buñuel binge when we left the states so an item in one of the pamphlets we picked up called out to us. Ángel Exterminador was playing at La Fundacion Academia de Cine at 5 o’clock, one day only. It was thirteen minutes to five and the theater was exactly thirteen minutes away from where we were. Too may confluences. We arrived to two minutes early. We have a better than average walking pace these days. It was a huge screen and the theater was packed. We sat in the second row. With no English subtitles to distract our gaze it played like a visual masterpiece on top of its conceptual brilliance.

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