There is no such thing as leftovers in the studio. I had 20 of these small plastic panels, 12 inch square pieces, leftover from my “Arcadian Forms” and “Passion Play” series. I covered them in acrylic, flat organic shapes just two or three colors per panel and then tried to make them work as a whole – twenty tiles in one piece with the simple forms sometimes jumping from on e panel to the next, sometimes changing color and other times staying the same. I rearranged and repainted the pieces many times before accepting the fact that it was a logistical mess.
Yesterday I cut a hole in a piece of white board and moved it around on top of the pieces until I found compositions that I liked. I took the panels out to the garage and used my table saw to cut out four 6 by 6’s for Rochester Contemporary’s upcoming show.
Pat Moschiano organized a gig for four bands at Skylark. The show was dedicated to Dave Ripton and the proceeds went to his favorite charity, AA. Pat’s band, Frying Pan, went first. He was backed by Phil and Ken from Margaret Explosion and Brian from Nod (on the drum riser). Pat delivers his Kerouac-like lyrics like Mark E. Smith from The Fall or James Murphy in LCD Soundsystem while the band mines Chicago blues. We were thrilled to be able to hear the lyrics this time.
The place had filled up by the time Annie Wells took the stage, with people who had not been in the same room together in a long time. Stan Merrill showed me his scratching technique for making swinging sixties style movies. He moves his finger up and down on the lens dial as he shoots. Don Blair gave us a recording of Ripton reading four poems in the 80’s in this very same room. The place was called Mothers. Annie played three of Dave’s songs but it was hard to hear them. Still this one was the best thing I heard all night.
Margaret Explosion played next. Ken’s electric bass gave us an especially full sound. I set about half of Brian’s drums aside and played the rest. I kept getting my foot stuck under the bag of sticks that was hanging off the tom tom. We are used to playing without a sound system so Peggi’s sound is a 50/50 mix of natural sax sound in the room and the pickup to amp with some digital delay. Here the room sound was lost and her pickup collected the whole band and sent that through her effects and out her amp (which was miced) and into the PA. We could have made it all work with a sound check but none that mattered. We were there for Dave. Through tears Dave’s daughter told us the last place she went with her dad was to Margaret Explosion at the Little.
I looked through my pictures of Nod before the gig, inspecting Brian’s kit before sharing it. I did a file search for Nod and came across a photo I took years ago of the Penfield Road underpass. I was confused as to why that photo was in with all the Nod photos and then realized the graffiti on the bridge read “No Draft.”
US News & World Report ranked Rochester as number 9 on their “Best Places to Live for Quality of Life” list. Aren’t they the same organization whose list of Best Colleges was found to be suspect for some reason? I have always liked the fact that the city is under the radar. It’s small enough to get most places in fifteen minutes and big enough to not run into the same people all the time. It still holds surprises for me.
We stopped into Canaltown this morning to pick up a few bags of coffee beans and while they were bagging the coffee we walked up East Avenue toward downtown. Past the apartment building Anne and Stewart used to live in, the one Frank and MaryAnn lived in, the one Bernie lived in when he was in Personal Effects, the one we considered for Peggi’s mom when she moved up here and the one Jeff’s parents lived in at the end of their life. Peggi and I joked that we’ll be looking at that place again for ourselves. We walked by the Frank Lloyd Wright house, stopped at Wegmans and came back to Canaltown for a latte.
The two trails shown above are actually connected. Such is the nature of pano mode. We were coming from the right, back from the lake, when I stopped to take this shot. That’s the club house up on the hill. If we were in Europe there would be a café up there. We have had a string of beautiful weather days and perfect cross country skiing.
Four days after Valentines Day Ying Quartet, the Grammy winning, longtime ensemble-in-residence at the Eastman, selected a program of romantic string quartet pieces to perform at Kilbourn on Sunday. It was a perfect match with the Greta Gerwig Criterion pick we had watched the night before, “A Brief Encounter” with Celia Johnson.
This photo doesn’t come with audio but if it did your left ear would be rumbling with the sound of an Amazon container on top of a JB Hunt container on a CSX train crossing Main Street in East Rochester. A historical marker explained that this was once the center of town and there was a tunnel that took you under the tracks to the factories that still fill the landscape.
Speaking of landscapes, we saw the Wim Wenders “Anselm” movie at the Little Theatre last night. There is a 3D version of the movie. This was in only two but it felt like three. His paints are so big they almost are landscapes. We are knocked out by his work every time we see it. We love many of Wenders movies and he’s been a friend of Anselm Kiefer’s for thirty years so this was a match made in heaven for us.
Born in Germany in 1945, Kiefer is not as ready to move on as his fellow countrymen so he has been a controversial figure at home. The weight of history is in his monumental work. It is dark and it is exceptionally beautiful and the movie only whet my appetite for more.
About twenty years ago I bought three carousels of 35 mm slides at a garage sale on my parent’s street. I remember the woman who sold me the slides saying her relative had travelled all over the world. She had passed away and she was clearing out the house. A few of the slides pictured the woman above. I’m guessing she was the photographer. I put about thirty of her photos on my Found Photos page today.
We sat on a couch with my sister as we watched the Super Bowl. She laughed heartily at many the commercials and said she thought they were especially good this year. We see so few commercials we really have no reference point. The big budget ads featured a parade of celebrities, Beyoncé, J.Lo, Arnold and even Messi but that only cheapens the appeal for me. I like to think I still have a sense of humor but I didn’t find them funny. There was one I found really interesting though.
Called, “He Gets Us,” (there were a few in this series that ran last year) one ad grabbed my attention with a simple technique. A series of still photos. Or rather carefully crafted, staged and lit illustrations of hyper real people in role reversal parts. A policeman washing a Black man’s feet. The ad is payed for by the Hobby Lobby family and their hate group foundations. There are multiple layers of deceit in the one minute ad and then a tag line that reads, “Jesus didn’t teach hate. He washed feet.”
The illustrations were surely created with AI and the concept was probably generated with twisted prompts. The Times ranked the ads, Best to Worst, and included this disclaimer. “Religious, political and social advocacy spots were not included so He Gets Us was not included. USA Today ranked them all and He Gets Us came in at 44. For me, this one stood out from the pack.
I don’t watch enough football to know what the red zone is but there was an awful lot of red in last night. Enough red in both of the teams’ uniforms for me to keep getting them mixed up in the opening half. And then there is the red in Taylor’s lipstick. The 3D ‘s Super Bowl LVIII graphics, painted on the center of the field were so distracting I couldn’t follow the plays. Going in, Peggi and I sort of thought we were for Kansas City, having watched a few minutes of game earlier in the season while at our neighbors.’ But everyone else in the room, three of my brothers, both of my sisters and our brother-in-law were routing for San Francisco so we had to watch it. It turns out they had all had enough of Mahomes, Kelce and especially Taylor before the game even started.
The lead switched a few times and it was a great game by other Super Bowl standards but we watch so much European football that it was really hard to keep our focus on the game. The US game all happens in snippets, incremental movements of the ball with heroic force by armies of players, with ads between every play. The European version, by contrast, is fluid, 45 minutes without commercials, a fifteen minute break and 45 more. Last night was a five hour proposition with fantastic food and good company.
I didn’t like seeing Kelce slam his helmet on the field and scream at the coach. I worry about Taylor.
As nice as it is to walk in the woods, the park and along the lake our walks were often more interesting when we lived in the city. We would find stuff on the street and at the curb. In the late nineties we came across a kid carrying boxes of stuff out to the street. We asked him what was going on and he said, “Someone died here.” So we went through the boxes and found personal effects like a social security card, a Taylor Instruments id, a Blinded Veterans Association card and a pass that would allow George Brandt to ride City buses for free if accompanied by an aid.
We also found a lot of photos. Strange photos in an interesting way. Some of them so odd we surmised they were taken by someone who might have been blind. But then George was in quite a few of the photos. So I don’t know who to credit these photos to. I am putting some of the on my “Found Photos” page. I have quite a few of those so it will take me some time to populate this page. I like to think someone will find some of my junk when I’m gone and at least puzzle over it.
We can sometimes walk through the park and get all the way to the lake without seeing anyone but the sixty degree weather brought a lot of strangers out. We ran into two couples on the trails who both asked us how to get back to the parking lot. Our response was the same. “Which parking lot.” The roads are closed in the winter and you can park at any of about ten entrances. Oddly, neither of the couples had the patience to sort it out.
We’re celebrating Peggi’s birthday all weekend. Dined at Lucano’s last night and picking up Mexican to go from Atlas tonight. We’ll watch Atletico Madrid play Athletic Club (Bilbao) tonight in the first their two home and away semi finals for the Copa Del Rey. We determined this the fiftieth of Peggi’s birthdays that we have celebrated together.
“Command I” in PS Elements nicely altered the photo I took on Monday night of Melissa Davies and her cello. She was playing with Andrew in their duo, “Wren Cove” and she will playing there tonight with Margaret Explosion. We hope. Part of the fun is wondering who will be available for gigs. In the last year alone we’ve played gigs without the cello, without Peggi’s sax, without Ken’s bass and for the last two month’s without Phil on guitar. And the wild card is Jack on bass clarinet or guitar. He would like to be there every gig but only manages a few.
Wren Cove sounded otherworldly on Monday. Their best songs, often improvised and always in minor keys, completely sweep me away. They both loop fragments of their instrument’s sounds and play on top to create rich, gentle soundscapes. They are playing Friday night at Red, White, and Brew on State Street.
Surely Rochester has more Italian restaurants per capita than any other city. At least it always seemed that way. The Refrigerator, the website not the broadsheet, had a section called “That’s Italian.” We, the editors, mostly me, would post reviews of local Italian restaurants and readers would send in their reviews, sometimes anonymously. We took the site down years ago but I kept the content and posted it under “Features” in the nav bar.
The only Italian food we had growing up was Chef Boyardee. My father would pronounce the word Italian will a long “I” (like eye-talian.) I had Italian friends though and quickly developed a taste. Caruso’s Restaurant on Canandaigua was the first Italian restaurant I remember eating at. In high school my girlfriend’s older brother (center above) drove us to Caruso’s on Canandaigua Lake for dinner before the prom. I think the main attraction was their reputation for not asking for id but the place felt exotic to me. We ordered Chianti and lasagna.
Peggi’s birthday is Thursday and we’re planning on having dinner at Lucano’s, a long time favorite Italian restaurant. There should be a review of it in “That’s Italian.”
Thirty-eight degrees Fahrenheit is the perfect temperature for walking. We headed up to the library today. Took Titus in both directions instead of the Kings Highway up and Titus back loop. I was tempted by the “Biblical Tales” and “80’s Mobster” packages in Blind Date offerings. I thought the idea was particularly creative but figured it was in the Librarian playbook. Peggi read a bit of Thurston Moore’s book while I checked out the art section. I bought a two dollar book titled “Windows to Rochester” in their sales section, a local history book put together by the Rochester School for the Deaf for Rochester’s 1984 Sesquicentennial. I was struck by this April 28, 1896 entry:
“The steamer, “North King” made her initial trip of the season yesterday. She arrived from Kingston and cleared for Coburg and Port Hope. She will make day trips from Charlotte this season instead of night trips, as has been her custom for several years past. The growth of steam navigation on Lake Ontario has met the requirements of modern progress, and for many years there has been a daily service. The perfection of steamboat navigation service in these days is one of the greatest boons. It enables people to make quick trips to new and interesting regions with little expense and much comfort. The North King is indeed a very different vessel to its venerable ancestor, the Frontenac, (launched on Lake Ontario in 1816,) whose ghost, if it sails the lake or walks the earth, must look with bewildering astonishment at the electric motors which provide the means to illuminate the saloons and staterooms of the North King with electric lights, and at the speed with which it conveys its passengers in luxury to the most charming and quaint resorts in the queen’s dominion, where many Rochesterians spend happy days in summer time.”
A steamship with saloons and staterooms making daily luxury trips to Canada! Mayor Johnson brought this idea back in the nineties and we crossed to Toronto a couple of times on the Fast Ferry before he was laughed out of town. We are indeed going backwards.
I remember checking out Joshua Redman years ago – because I liked his father so much, all those classic records he did with Ornette. I loved that stuff. I have no right to be a snob but the son’s music just seemed too straight. Jennifer, from Teen Empowerment, asked if we’d get the word out about last night’s show because Tone was bringing him to the Hochstein. I’m so happy we went. We really loved the show.
Hochstein, a former church built on the grounds of an Underground Railroad stop, is a great looking venue but problematic for sound. You can hear how ambient the room was in my Kenny Garrett video. When we saw Tom Harrell and Esperanza Spalding here all I could think was how much better he had sounded in Kilbourn. The band last night opened with just sax, voice and piano and it sounded fantastic. With the drums and bass tacked on the sound lost its focus and delicacy. Gabrielle Cavassa, the ultra lounge style vocalist, fit beautifully with Joshua’s sax and Paul Cornish fluid piano. I did like the two snares Nazir Ebo used. One one fat and sloppy and the other tight and bright. I would like to hear the trio in a jazz club with tiny tables and expensive cocktails.
With the whole world in sync NPR posted a Tiny Desk concert with Joshua Redman the morning after this show. They opened with the same song and you can hear what the band sounds like as a trio by listening to the first few minutes of this.
My grandfather would would finish every visit with “See you in church.” I would chuckle but it made no sense. He went to Saint Boniface and we went to Saint John’s.
Steve Black has created a video for “Rosary,” my personal favorite track on our new lp. Shot in NYC and tweaked with AI from Haiper, it is almost as if Steve was sitting in with the band as we fell into this hypnotic groove. Phil Marshall’s understated, sinewy guitar in dialog with Pete LaBonne’s effortlessly magical piano, Peggi Fournier’s melody, as relaxed as Colorblind James’ “Ride Board,” Ken Franks big bass and my drums making sure the song goes nowhere and Steve Black’s hallucinatory visuals. And do I have to mention that the song captures what it feels like to say the rosary.
It had been too long since we visited Pete and Shelley. Way too long. We couldn’t even remember when the last time was. Somewhere after that first pandemic wave. Kerry and Claire bought a place in the Adirondacks a couple of years ago and they invited us for a ski so we had an agenda. We booked a place at the Mirror Lake Inn for two nights and stopped in Saranac to ski with Kerry and Claire before continuing on to Lake Placid. We took 104 through Mexico and then up 81 where we spotted a billboard that read “BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT (next line) JESUS IS ALIVE” followed by an 800 number.
We found Kerry and Claire’s place and skied on a nearby golf course. I packed two left-handed mittens for the trip but made it work. Kerry’s skis were too slick so he struggle to ski uphill while our skis were sticky. It was so beautiful it didn’t matter. Kerry and Claire have an active social life up here, open jams and the upcoming Winter Carnival that Garry Trudeau picked the theme for. This one being “Creepy Carnival.”
I made a note to send a new Refrigerator hat to Shelley. Her’s has lost its yellow. Shelley and Pete’s life style could not be more different that Kerry and Claire’s. Pete used to come out of the woods to join Margaret Explosion on piano but they are still in hunker down mode and loving it.
With temperatures in the forties there was zero traffic on the many snowmobile crossings. We saw Rustic Furniture signs in every small town. Some just advertising “Rustics” as if it was a noun. And I guess it was for Rochester’s The Rustics. We had dinner in Lake Placid at an Italian restaurant called “Café Rustica.”
Horseshoe Road, the neglected, long closed-to-traffic road through Durand Eastman Park, is as pretty in the winter as it is in summer. We skied up it today, by the clubhouse, and across Kings Highway. There is another half of the park over there, most of it undeveloped, that we rarely see. The hill leading down to the valley was too windswept to provide a soft landing so we turned around.
Fresh, twinkling snow and temperatures in the low twenties made for another perfect ski today. Three in a row. We plan to get out out early tomorrow before this all melts. They haven’t groomed the trails this year. Maybe that is a thing of the past. We don’t mind trudging. We worked our way up to lake and found a large shelf of ice and snow out where the sand bar is. It looked like it started at the mouth of the river and runs all the way to the Sea Breeze Pier.
I added to my Sun Ra library over Christmas with Rodger Coleman’s “Sun Ra Sundays” book and this morning I read an entry on “Nothing Is,” an essential Sun Ra recording. Originally released on the ESP label in 1969, it is a live recording from a 1966 performance at Saint Lawrence University in Canton, New York. Brian Williams from The Goners went there and I asked him if he was at the show. He told me it was very memorable and one of the best cultural events at SLU. The original release was edited by Sun Ra and fit on one lp. ESP recently unearthed over ninety minutes of unreleased material from the concert as a two-CD set entitled “College Tour Vol. 1: The Complete Nothing Is…”
I’m happy to report Margaret Explosion’s “Per La Prima!” lp is getting some healthy local airplay. Scott Regan always plays a track before one of our gigs on his WXXI “Open Tunings” show. Rick Simpson has played a few tracks on his “Gumbo Variations” WITR show. Cal Zone’s “Magic Records” show picked the lp as one of his Best of the Year releases. And Joe Tunis’s “Numbers,” also on WAYO, played “Disappear” this week and let the lp side play out through “Rosary” and “Daydream” while he back announced and yammered on. It was beautiful.
I took the photo above one week ago, just before the snow. The northeast corner of Main and Clinton was looking especially sad. When I was kid I thought this was the four corners of our city. It was where all the actions was, the Roasted Peanut store, Fanny Farmer, Jay’s Record Ranch and the gag gift store. Only later did my father set me straight. The real four corners is blocks away on the other side of the river and it too was once the center of downtown.
When I photographed Main and Clinton in the seventies I was thinking the same thing, about how run-down and seedy the stores looked. But at least there were people out on the streets.
Saint John’s on Humboldt Street had neither a gym or a ballfield. We had recess in the parking lot. We would get on a city bus after school, get off downtown, and work our way to the CYO, now home to Garth Fagan Dance, where they had a gymnasium and pool. There were so many people in the streets back then. I don’t like this trajectory.
I did this poster for a Halloween Ripton gig at the Bug Jar. Came across it in a search for Ripton. Must have been somewhere in the nineties. I played drums in Dave’s band for a while. Dave sat in with Margaret Explosion a few times in the early days and we plan to pay tribute to him tonight. Todd Beers will read one of Dave’s poems and we’ll burn a candle for him.
In a recent Facebook post Dave described Margaret Explosion as a “Two hour dreamscape.” I wish I was dreaming and Dave wasn’t dead.