Creativity

Concrete structure in Trott Lake, Durand Eastman Park, Rochester, New York
Concrete structure in Trott Lake, Durand Eastman Park, Rochester, New York

It’s been raining for three days now, on and off. I had to wear my raincoat out to get the paper. When it finally stopped we walked through the woods and across the park and then up Hoffman Road where we stopped at an estate sale. The house has been empty of people for five or six years but it was full of stuff. There were paintings all through the house by the same woman, some were really nice, and the bookshelves in the big front room were filled with reel to reel tapes of classical music. I looked at a paperback of interviews with famous people on the subject of creativity. I skimmed a section from Einstein and one with Picasso. If you copped somebody’s ideas on creativity that wouldn’t be very creative would it?

We did come home with eight dollars worth of stuff. A nice wicker basket, six small cylindrical glasses, four empty Bering cigar boxes and a package of all black construction paper that was purchased at Dans Crafts & Things for $2.39.

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Slow Sinuous Spooky

The Democrat a& Chronicle still manages to crank out a daily paper but they are struggling to stay relevant. Last week we got an email from them informing us that the paper delivery may be delayed the next day in order for them to bring us reporting on the Syracuse Final Four game.

They are trying. They gave Jeff Spevak, the music critic, video equipment for his phone and asked him to make a few videos each week for his blog on their site. Only problem is you can’t find his blog. Their search engine and site are close to pathetic. Tucked away somewhere under the “HerRochester” tab is a video he made of Margaret Explosion along with this little blurb. We play tonight and this passage pretty well sums up the drill.

“Margaret Explosion is the Big Bang Theory of bands, only in far less volatile language. It does not rehearse. It merely exists.

Currently holding down a weekly Wednesday residency though May at The Little Cafe, 240 East Ave., the four musicians show up, assemble their instruments and chat amiably with patrons of the cafe, who may have shown up to hear the band, or are merely passing through on their way to a movie. At some point at around 7:30 p.m., the four pieces of Margaret Explosion – saxophonist Peggi Fournier, drummer Paul Dodd, Bassist Ken Frank and guitarist Bob Martin – drift toward the stage after hearing some kind of signal that only they can hear, and appear to be doing a sound check. But no, without any kind of an announcement (“Ladies and gentlemen, Margaret Explosion!”) they are now playing avant-garde jazz.

The music is slow, sinuous and spooky. It is David Lynch soundtrack material. All of the shows are recorded. Songs are frequently uploaded onto the band’s web site, margaretexplosion.com. At this moment, 150 of these Margaret Explosion relaxed accidents are available as free downloads. Most with their own cover art. I am listening to “Great Wall Flower,” with guest Jack Schaefer on bass clarinet, as I type this. I feel like lighting incense and assuming the lotus position on my desk, but that would be abusing company property….” – Jeff Spevak

We are not all “slow, sinuous and spooky” though. Once a year, usually in the Spring we play something in a major key.

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Big Rack

Dead branches like deer rack
Dead branches like deer rack

It has been weeks since we saw any bucks with a rack. Most have shed by now and they’re out there on the ground. Peggi and I went off in different directions as we worked our way through the woods today. We were both generally following the path but covering different ground in an obsessive search for racks. Weathered dead branches, shiny and void of bark look like racks in the leaves and everything out here is all shades of grey or brown.

We came back in eye contact with one another a few times over the course of an hour or so but then I couldn’t find her. I whistled as loud as I could and then hurried along the trail up to where it ends but still couldn’t find her so I hurried back the same distance thinking I must have passed her by. I couldn’t even get my lips to whistle any more. Still no sign so I headed toward the lake again and we finally met on the path. At least I had two racks to show for it.

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MAG100

Georgia O'Keefe "Over Blue" pastel on paper 1918 Memorial Art Gallery
Georgia O’Keefe “Over Blue” pastel on paper 1918 Memorial Art Gallery

There is no better time to visit Rochester’s Memorial Art Gallery than right now. They are celebrating their centennial and have brought out over two hundred works from storage, many works on paper that are too fragile to stay out in the open. My favorites were a woodcut and beautiful lithograph entitled “Mothers” from Kathe Kollwitz. a cool Roy Lichtenstein offset print, an Ed Ruscha drawing named after his girlfriend “Ultra” Violet, two really nice Motherwalls and a fantastic little caricature by Tiepolo. And there is is this showstopper, an almost one hudred year old pastel from Georgia O’Keefe.

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Beautiful Decay

Old Buffalo railroad stop
Old Buffalo railroad stop

Buffalo, like Detroit, knows how to decay. There are so many beautiful old buildings in downtown Buffalo it is sort of unfair to single out this image but there is no denying the city has seen better days. The restored buildings, like the beautiful art deco Hotel Lafayette, defiantly offer hope that the city may someday return to its glory days.

We were reminded that the restaurant we ate at on Chippewa was only blocks form the Continental, a club we played monthly gig at in the early eighties. Back then hookers walked the street and the club got so down the owner, Bud, had some German Shepards living in the building. One of the last times we played there he had someone shovel the shit off the stage with a snow shovel before we setup our equipment.

I’d like to link to the Bootlickers’ “Bus To Buffalo” but I couldn’t find it online.

Here’s Hi-Techs – Screamin’ You Head.
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P.G. At 100

Philip Guston painting "To J.S." 1977
Philip Guston painting “To J.S.” 1977

The McKee Gallery in New York represented Philip Guston when he was alive, a rather brave stance at the time. Their current show celebrates the centennial of his birth.

From the press release:
As one of the great artists of the 20th Century who is as current and relevant today, it is hard to imagine that Guston would be 100 years old this year, underlining how revolutionary and prescient his art was. His figurative paintings blew open the caveats of 60s Color Field dogmas and did not embrace the irony of the Pop culture. Guston followed a solitary track: from doing a comic strip as a boy, to political realism, through Abstract Expressionism, he knew how to paint and what to paint—his form and content were matched. From autobiographical to universal subjects, Guston was a humanist, an existentialist, a free man who explored all avenues of his imagination and abilities to record the human condition.

Right on. Long live Philip Guston.

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Dialog With Nature

Frank Lloyd Wright's Martin House in Buffalo, New York
Frank Lloyd Wright’s Martin House in Buffalo, New York

Peggi has been quietly building DonHershey.com, a website devoted to the famed Rochester architect. Hershey was a student of Frank Lloyd Wright and they both had a profound reverence for nature. Hershey, we’re told would pull up to an empty lot, survey the lie of the land and start sketching the footprint of the house, determining which way to orient the rooms, the windows, the entrance in order to have the house be in close harmony with the land.

The Frank Lloyd Wright house in Rochester is occasionally open to the public but Buffalo’s Martin House is always ready for non-for-profit business so we booked an 11 AM tour on Saturday. In some cities your commute could be an hour, in Rochester you can be in another city in an hour. This place is much more than a house, it is an entire complex. There is a pavilion on site with a mini museum inside, and there is a beautiful gardener’s house on the property. Wright designed and built a stable and garage, a conservatory with an underground and above ground passageway to it. And there is an additional house on the property for the in-laws. It is undergoing renovation but all work is being done to spec and that’s what makes this tour so interesting. You really get a sense of the effort involved in creating this treasure.

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What’s The Name Of This Thing?

Robert Irwin's "Untitled" (Sphere) at Albright Knox in Buffalo, New York
Robert Irwin’s “Untitled” (Sphere) at Albright Knox in Buffalo, New York

Obviously you need to see most visual art to appreciate it. But reading Robert Irwin’s “Seeing Is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees” is almost as good as seeing the art he creates. The book is a collection of conversations with Irwin and the ideas he bats around are big. I knew next to nothing about him before I read the book.

We took the train to DIA in Beacon a while back to see the grounds and entry way Irwin designed there. The Albright Knox in Buffalo has a really good or great piece by most of the big name modern artists. It really is an astounding collection built because someone there had great taste and bought the work as it came to market. I’ve been there many times but had no idea they had three Robert Irwin pieces in their collection, a light piece having been produced and purchased just last year.

In the book Irwin talks about his efforts to move the art beyond the edge of the canvas. This disc, that’s all it is, a perfectly flat round disc with an exquisite coat of paint, is mounted so it hangs in front of a wall lit with four lights with blue gels. If that little museum rope wasn’t at my feet to keep me back I would have gone up there and held this big sphere in my arms.

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War On Easter

Grinnells in Brighton on Easter Sunday
Grinnells in Brighton on Easter Sunday

There are at least two good reasons to go to Jackson’s Bakery on Stone Road near Dewey Avenue. One is they are one of the only old world bakeries left in the the city. They make everything from scratch. And two is that the place is now run by the drummer in the Goners. My mom says she used to walk me over to this place in a baby buggy when we lived in a nearby apartment but I don’t remember it.

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Those Were The Days

Marsh in March, Rochester, New York
Marsh in March, Rochester, New York

I set aside Georgia Durante‘s “The Company She Keeps” a few months back because her autobiography had left Rochester and settled in LA but as she found you can’t shake your ties to this town. Durante is a strong woman with an epic story. She ran with the top echelon of Rochester’s Cosa Nostra, well dressed thugs, while modeling for Fortune 500 companies. I can’t understand why Hollywood hasn’t run with her story.

She was born the same year as I was so when she names streets and restaurants and clubs her story is especially vivid. Wouldn’t you love to go back and stop in Skinny’s all night diner or the Living Room on Norton, The Blue Gardenia (now the Bingo joint on Empire Boulevard), The Fountain Blue, the 414 Club with the best bands in the city or the Overlook in Webster? On the night he died Sammy G barhopped from the Club Car to Club 747, the Encore Club and then Ben’s Cafe Society where he was blown up. I could’t remember where Ceasers II was so I emailed Georgia. She responded “Lyell and Dewey in a basement. Those were the days, weren’t they? :-)”

Nicholson Baker was still living in Rochester when he placed a few ads for his “U & I” book on the back page of the Refrigerator. His new book, “The Way The World Works,” is an exquisite collection of short pieces from the last fifteen years, a lot of them are set in Rochester. We went to the same Doctor’s office on Goodman Street. These vignettes are like getting high without the drugs. Here’s one.

“One summer I worked as a waiter in a fancy restaurant that had been owned by a reputed mobster. The mobster sold the restaurant to the head chef for a lot of money. But many of the people who’d gone to the restaurant had been friends and associates of the reputed mobster – when he stopped going, they stopped going. So business dropped, and I stood wearing a ruffle-fronted shirt with a black bow tie, looking out at empty tables. Once a waitress told the chef that a patron wanted a simple chicken sandwich. The chef whose specialty was veal dishes, was affronted. “Chicky salad?” he said. Tell him to bring his dick in here. I’ll make him some nice chicky salad.”

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Mob Hit

Paul with Molly near pool on Hawley Drive
Paul with Molly near pool on Hawley Drive

I can’t remember how I came by this dog. Her name was Molly and she would decide to point at the weirdest times. She would just assume the position like someone had trained her and that always cracked me up. She had a bad habit of getting in our neighbor’s trash though. My parents wouldn’t let her in the house at first but pretty soon she was part of the family – until she dragged her rear end across the living room floor while I was talking to my father. She left a streak on the carpet and was not allowed back in the house.

I put the dog in the car one day to go somewhere. It was a black VW bug. You can see it in the swimming pool shot from a few days ago. I was coming out of Dunning Avenue, turning right on South Avenue in Webster and I spotted Brad Fox on the side walk coming up to my place. I swung the passenger door open, checked on the dog, Brad got in and I turned left right in front of a car – Sammy G Gingello‘s car. I totaled the VW, our family’s second car. The dog took of running, Brad went after it and I was left with Sammy G, waiting for the cops to come.

The mob was everywhere in this town. In high school some of my classmates’s fathers were in the mob. At my summer job in Kodak’s Hawk Eye guys would come around every day to collect money for the mob’s numbers racket. My softball team was sponsored by APO International. They organized gambling junkets on charter flights to Las Vegas. Our t-shirts were black with yellow arms and white lettering and trim. Thirty five years I was working downtown when Sammy G was blown up outside Ben’s Cafe Society. I place I worked at did ads for them that were run in After Dark Magazine. On my noon hour I rode my bike over to Stilson Street to look at the hole in the pavement.

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Disproving An Adage

Deer in woods without rack
Deer in woods without rack

We managed to stay off trail the entire way through the woods to Durand Eastman Park today. In fact Peggi was off to one side of the path and I was on the other – looking for deer sheds. I managed to disprove the adage that says you won’t find something if you go out of your way to find it. I found a rack yesterday or one side of a rack (is that a half rack?), a four pointer that and a really old Canada Dry Ginger Ale bottle, so now we have the bug.

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Hidden Valley

Dodd's swimming pool being constructed on Hawley Drive in Webster
Dodd’s swimming pool being constructed on Hawley Drive in Webster

When my family moved out of the city in the sixties Webster was still a small town surrounded by farms. Although in the village and pretty close to the four corners our subdivision, referred to as the Schantz track by the locals, was a muddy old corn field. Beyond that was still woods, the first, second and third woods and the spot we called Hidden Valley. That place was magic.

My dad decided to put a pool in the backyard and the idea was to dig it ourselves. You can see in this picture how much help we were. My dad did most of the work and he took this shot. From left: Norm Ladd, Paul Dodd, Billy Mahoney, David Hill, Frank Palozolo, Dave Mahoney (no relation), Fran Dodd, Mark Dodd, Brad Fox, Tim Dodd, John Dodd and Joe Barrett.

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The New Phone Books Are Here

Webster Park tree sculpture
Webster Park tree sculpture

This beautiful grey/brown palette won’t last so I’m making the most of it. We went off trail today, (it is so much easier to do that this time of year) ducking under branches and stepping over fallen branches and looking for sheds. Thats what our local deer authority calls them. Deer shed their racks this time of year. They become uncomfortable and deer bang their heads against trees to knock them off. Our neighbor Monica found both sides of a ten pointer yesterday and that got us going.

Funny how many people still haven’t picked up their phone books. Nobody wants those damn things anymore and they’re still sitting in the white plastic Frontier bags at the base of mailboxes a week after they were delivered. I put ours directly in the the recycling box.

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Got Guns

Paul Dodd photo of Tim Meisenzahl and John Mahoney with toy guns in front of the Dodd's house at 24 Hawley Drive in Webster, New York
Paul Dodd photo of Tim Meisenzahl and John Mahoney with toy guns in front of the Dodd’s house at 24 Hawley Drive in Webster, New York

I think this is from one of my first batches of photos. I used to babysit for these two kids. It wasn’t unusual to have kids running all over the neighbor hood with guns, hiding behind bushes and pointing these things at strangers.

We heard Bill Frisell at Water Street Music Hall tonight in a solo performance. I really liked hearing him this way. He is such a lyrical player and his delicate guitar tone is perfectly suited to a one man band. Besides he is a sly sampler and built some beautiful tracks on the fly to accompany himself with. And he takes enough risks to spin out for the hell of it.

We thought the concert tonight was a benefit for Rochester Contemporary and it was but not the art center. This was for Rochester Contemporary School of Music, a worthwhile cause but it doesn’t seem right that they can borrow the name.

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Double Cynical

Abstract sign on Lake Road near Sea Breeze
Abstract sign on Lake Road near Sea Breeze

I thought I was the only one in the world with the John Philips solo album with “Holland Tunnel” on it but there it was in a movie we watched last night. For a minute it made me wish I hadn’t sold that at our garage sale last year. The Amazon review of the soundtrack to “The Squid and the Whale” with The Cars “Drive”, Lou Reed’s “Street Hassle” and The McGarrigle’s “Heart Like A Wheel” says it will “probably be most enjoyed by the cynical” but that doesn’t make any sense at all unless it’s one of those double negative situations.

We watched the movie last night and it seemed like we had seen it already but we weren’t quite sure. Maybe we saw it at someone’s house or somewhere where we couldn’t give it our undivided attention. Regardless it was great to see it again and it was a real surprise to see the end credits for soundtrack go to our neighbor’s brother, Dean Wareham. The cast was perfect and amazing. I felt like we were watching a play in our living room.

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I’m Against It

Three willow trees on Lake Road near Sea Breeze
Three willow trees on Lake Road near Sea Breeze

The Ramones had some classics. “I’m Against It” was one. George Winter, Webster’s code enforcement officer, is quoted in this morning’s newspaper as saying “A few people called and said, ‘I’m not sure what it means, but I don’t like it.’ I think it’s something from a Bob Dylan song or something.”

He was talking about a sign that read “HOW MANY DEATHS WILL IT TAKE ‘TIL WE KNOW TOO MANY PEOPLE HAVE DIED?” The sign was put up on one of the seven empty lots where houses used to stand before the Christmas eve gunman set fire to the place. In fact he was standing up on the ridge pictured in this photo when he shot and killed the firemen who responded to the fire. We had seen the sign before and I thought about photographing it for my sign collection but it was ugly, all caps lettering, and the sign itself was already commentary. The sign is in violation of code so someone covered it with a tarp and then someone else sprayed “Censored” on the tarp. I photographed that and maybe that will work on my sign page.

The article prompted us to walk down there again. You go across a small seasonal bridge (it will swing open for fishing season in April) and you’re on a sliver of land barely wide enough to contain the road, an old railroad bed and some tiny houses. Lake Ontario is on the north and Irondequiot Bay on the south side. It’s a beautiful spot but the elements make it too rough for luxury homes. There’s an impromptu shrine to the firefighters and an historical marker from the 30s denoting the spot where the French army landed in 1687 before invading the Seneca Indian territory. Both of these displays are permissible.

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Fresh Roasted Peanuts

Main and Clinton in 1976
Main and Clinton in 1976

I miss downtown. I worked at a few ad agencies down there and loved hanging around midtown at noon. This photo from the mid seventies looks pretty bleak in black and white but it was quite lively and a lot more interesting than it is now. Can we get that Inner Loop filled in and just start over?

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Revelation

Mugs Up on the corner of Gibbs Street and Main in Rochester, New York 1976

Back in the 70’s Mugs Up was a pretty cool spot to hang around in the afternoon. You could sit at a booth right near the window and look out at the street as Eastman students scurried by with their musical instruments in tow. They tore the place down to build the Sibley Library which is today the largest academic music library in the US. I’ve never been in the music library but I miss Mugs Up.

The thing that caught my eye in this old photo is the little guy in the hat waiting for the bus. The worst bike accident I ever had was when I ran into a guy that looked a lot like this when he stepped off the curb in front of the old Music Lovers Shop about a block down the street. I was whizzing by and he stepped out right in front of me. He didn’t look and probably didn’t hear me coming. I slammed into my handle bars and then rolled over them and onto the street. I broke a few ribs and was all scraped up. He was crumpled in a ball on the street. I remember asking, “Are you alright” Are you alright?” over and over because the guy was not saying a word. I guess he was in shock. After a few minutes he got up slowly with my help and worked his way back to the curb. I asked again, “Are you alright?” and he said, “Jesus Christ.”

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Hanging Out

John Sparagana leaning on car with Ann and Jan
John Sparagana leaning on car with Ann and Jan

My dad bought me one of those square format, plastic Kodak cameras after I quit school and just before I traveled to Europe with the rest of my student loan. And I took this photo when I returned. It was my first camera and I must have been 19 or so. My sister and her boyfriend were hanging out in his car and John Sparagano, a friend of my younger brothers, was hanging out in the driveway. We all did a lot of hanging out in those days. At times the seven of us all had friends over at the same time.

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