Wincing

US mailboxes old and new
US mailboxes old and new

As the tediousness of the pandemic threatened to dull our perceptions we found a way to reinvigorate our routine. We get out of the house before the second cup of coffee, before we have read the news and opinion pages. The streets are quiet, the dog walkers aren’t blocking the park entrance and the trails in the woods are nearly empty. While the rest of America sleeps in we have been turning in earlier and waking at dawn.

The City or County has put signs up in the park reminding visitors to stay six feet apart. The signs aren’t ugly, they don’t shout, but the message is hard to read from a distance and the tagline are hard to read when you’re on top of the signs. They make a former graphic artist wince.

There was an article in the NYT this morning about how during the Great Depression the government put thousands of artists to work under the WPA . Examples of beautiful murals, posters and signs were cited. In Trump’s world funding for the arts is non starter. So who do they hire when they want get something done? The signs in the park look like they were done by an eighth grader. Who did the Cuomo’s hideous highway signs?

I’m still steaming about the Post Office”s move in 1999 to replace the distinctive logo that fit perfectly on the outdoor boxes with some sort of italicized, speedy like Fed Ex, abomination. The new logo makes the fifties’ styled boxes look like they’re falling over. The old logss are still there under the bigger parallelograms. Maybe we can steam them off.

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Fun Stuff

Downtown Indianapolis 1973
Downtown Indianapolis 1973

Can’t remember why I was in Indianapolis in 1973. I had a few friends who lived there, Kim, Laurice and Jeff, and I visited all of them at some point. Bloomington was about sixty miles to the south and we hardly ever left. I know I saw Hendrix here but that was 1969. As I remember there was a building behind me with mirrored glass and the reflection lit this whole area. I found this photo on my hard dive, one of the last ones to filed away in a folder called “Fun Stuff”. When it comes to files on my computer I am one organized son-of-a-bitch.

I created a page today for my ongoing notebook project. I’ve only posted one of the fifteen I’ve finished. The book format doesn’t work so well on the phone but I’m happy with the way it looks on the desktop. Maybe that will be my next pandemic project.

I took another photo that day in Indianapolis and I used it for the cover of Margaret Explosion’s “Off The Corner.”

"Off The Corner" by Margaret Explosion. Recorded live at the Little Theatre Café on 11.13.13. Peggi Fournier - sax, Ken Frank - bass, Jack Schaefer - bass clarinet, Bob Martin - guitar, Paul Dodd - drums.
“Off The Corner” by Margaret Explosion. Recorded live at the Little Theatre Café on 11.13.13. Peggi Fournier – sax, Ken Frank – bass, Jack Schaefer – bass clarinet, Bob Martin – guitar, Paul Dodd – drums.

Listen to “On The Corner”

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Outskirts

Are You Sure To Execute It? screen capture from 2002
Are You Sure To Execute It? screen capture from 2002

I mentioned in yesterday’s post that I’ve been cleaning house on my computer. I tend to procrastinate so I get really stubborn when I finally take on a task and don’t stop until it’s finished. I found this screen capture from 2002. I was obviously taken by the prompt that had popped up. “Are you sure to execute it?” It looks like it was activated by something I did in the CDR Updater, whatever that is.

The capture is interesting for few reasons. I see aliases to early versions of Photoshop and Quicktime on the desktop. It looks like my hard drive is named “Farm” and and my external hard drive, named “Outskirts,” hardly has anything on it. I wish I could twirl the mp3 folder down because I had just added something the day before. I think I was raiding Napster back then.

I see I was using a Kodak DC 4800 camera, something my father bought for me at the Kodak Store. Earring Records was preparing to release Pete LaBonne’s “Glob” cd. And that “WandaBobKathy” file is a photo of the three principles in a virtual company that we had just begun a long relationship with. Yeah, I am sure to execute it.

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Pandemic To Do

Bench in Duran Eastman overlooking Lake Ontario
Bench in Duran Eastman overlooking Lake Ontario

We wore masks today, the ones Peggi made. They match. And we timed our walk to avoid the forecasted rain but then realized we would have been better off to wait and walk during the rain. The park is almost getting too crowded to be safe. Many of the seldom used paths are clogged with people and their dogs. 

My pandemic job jar is full with projects, the biggest of which I am knee deep in – organizing my computer and back up discs. I thought my father was bad. I have turned out to be much worse.

Our days are all dreamlike with long walks and long conversations with friends and relatives in far off places. We learned that Eric Goulden has tested positive. So far his wife, Amy, is a negative. And at 1pm Pacific time we had a Zoom meeting with three parties. Peggi’s sister in LA, our nephew in northern California. and our nephew Miami whose new restaurant was going great guns until this. I just can’t imagine that stress.

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Better Than Six Feet Under

Six Feet Saves Lives sign on Lakeshore Boulevard
Six Feet Saves Lives sign on Lakeshore Boulevard

The warmer it gets the harder it will be to stay six feet away from others. The park is more crowded than ever for this time of year. They’ve taken down the barricades that closed the roads for the winter. Cars stream up Zoo Road from the lake and loop back down Pine Valley and the Magnolias won’t even be in full blossom for another week or so. The cars above are parralel parked before the parking lots even begin! We ran a zig zag pattern today, got right down on the beach for a few minutes and then crossed Lakeshore Boulevard and went up Horseroad Road, across the golf course and up Hoffman Road.

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Green Tuft

Green tuft of grass on a brown lawn on Wisner Road
Green tuft of grass on a brown lawn on Wisner Road

The owners of this house on Wisner planted a different kind of grass, something that goes brown in the Fall and only comes back when you think it never will, like the early days of Summer. And then every Spring there is this green tuft of ordinary grass right in the middle of it all.

One of the holes at Durand Eastman in Spring
One of the holes at Durand Eastman in Spring

We can’t walk to the library anymore because its closed. And we used to walk to Wegmans but we do Instacart pick-ups now. When its below forty we walk in the woods and usually work our way up to the lake at some point. Above forty we are weary of brushing up against ticks so the golf course at Durand, which is closed due to the virus, has become a great place to walk. They still haven’t put the tee markers in or the flags in the holes. If you spot someone a hundred yards away you just change course. Sometimes we’ll hug the perimiter and sometimes we’ll get right out in the middle.

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Super 8

I just love this title shot. YouTube picked it for me, their AI that scans your recently uploaded video for the likely best still.

In a pandemic induced sharing mood I put the rest of my Super 8 footage online (with a Margaret Explosion soundtrack) and sent a link to our former Bloomington friends, none of whom are in Bloomington anymore. We went to school there. I dropped out but hung around. This is my favorite Bloomington footage, my friends in the trailer, the kids who lived across the street and the locals on the street downtown. One of the kids playing on the hill in the beginning of the movie flashed the peace sign at me and then while downtown with Brad Fox one of the little girls there give us the peace sign. Sarcastically, of course. This was 1970 or so.

The movie, Breaking Away, depicted the tension between the college kids and the locals, called “Cutters” in the film because of all the stone quarries around town. When we were there they were referred to as “Stonies” and it was as derogatory as it sounds. For me, the real creeps were the college kids. Like the three guys in the blue windbreakers with yellow Greek letters on them who jumped out of a car and beat the shit out of me because my hair was too long.

I bought the movie camera through my father who picked it up a the Kodak store in Kodak Park on Lake Avenue. It shot film without sound in a 4 by 3 format. When I dropped the clips into iMovie the top and bottom gets cropped off so it fits the 16 by 9 format. I nave no idea what I’m missing because it still looks great.

Here is the rest of my Super 8 footage in these video clips.

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Plus Side

Round mirror on Hoffman Road before the wind storm
Round mirror on Hoffman Road before the wind storm

The lake is prettier than ever. We get there most days by one route or another. A wind storm is headed our way, forecast to be as bad as the one in March 2017 when we lost power for four days. We spent the day preparing. We bought gas for our neighbors generator so we can justify running an extension cord to our refrigerator. We moved the metal chairs, which we had just put for the season, out to safer ground. I managed to make enough room in the garage to get the car in. A first. We plan to sleep in the basement, on the spare mattress on the floor where our guests usually sleep. And we talked of a tofu recipe that we could do over a fire out back. Our life is more purposeful during the pandemic.

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Forced Exposure

Couple dancing to the On Fours in Bloomington Indiana 1973
Couple dancing to the On Fours in Bloomington Indiana 1973. Photo by Peggi Fournier

I was playing drums in the front room of our house on S. Milton Drive when three older guys rang the doorbell. I was certain they were going to complain about the noise but instead they wanted me to join their band. They had a couple of gigs that weekend and they would not take no for an answer. I guess I was taking Frank Canada’s place, the name on the business card they gave me. I played those two dates and Red, the rhythm guitar player, announced they wanted to get rid of Butch Miller, the leader. They had a young guy, who sounded exactly like Johnny Cash, to take his place.

They named the new band the “On Fours.” “You know, how we start songs, on four,” Red said. My brother, Fran, made the new calling cards in his high school shop class and enlisted my father to do the band’s logo type and graphic.

The band was was dyed-in -the-wool country, something I knew nothing about. We rehearsed once a month in Red’s trailer or the bass player’s barn and we played four sets every Friday and Saturday for the next year and a half. We played every smoke filled Elks Club, Moose Lounge, American Legion, VFW and Eagles Club in the area. One Sunday afternoon we played on the back of a hay wagon for a coon hunting convention. When Peggi and I moved to Rochester I gave the gig to Dave Mahoney. Dave told me they changed their name to “The Breakers” after the CB craze.

I grew to love the music. Peggi and I saw Merle Haggard when he came to Bloomington and we started buying Merle, George and Waylon records. When we moved to Rochester in 1974 there was only country rock, a hideous hybrid which took the rock out of rock and the country out of country. Bands like Old Salt were everywhere. Our next door neighbor, Sparky, was into country. We got to see George Jones before he passed. I’m thankful for the forced exposure.

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Impossible Tasks

Two tone pine needles on small tree near the marsh on Hoffman Road
Two tone pine needles on small tree near the marsh on Hoffman Road

When we were young my mom had us try to be quiet between noon and three, the hours Christ is said to have hung on the cross. If he could hang up there for three hours and die for our sins the very least we could do is be quiet. Needless to say, it was an impossible task. I think of that each Good Friday. The grand bargain and impossible tasks.

We never had meat on Friday during Lent. Not that that was much of a sacrifice. But we gave up stuff, like candy, and the five weeks seemed to last forever. We are starting our fifth week in near isolation. We used leave school in the middle of the day to observe the Stations of the Cross in the church next door. I liked the solemnity of it all. The graphic depictions of the crucifixion felt very real, human. It was not all glum. My father would bring home hot crossed buns on the weekend.

And then poof! The Resurrection. That never felt right. But Lent did end. And the pandemic will too.

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Downside

Durand Eastman Snack Shack re-season
Durand Eastman Snack Shack re-season

We cut across the golf course this morning on our way to the lake, taking a chance that they hadn’t opened for the season. I’m still a bit gun shy after someone yelled “Fore” and I turned in the the direction of the voice only to get beaned in the forehead. We thought we saw a sign on the Snack Shack door so we walked up close and saw that someone had rearranged the letters on the menu.

There was an old guy out on the first hole hitting chip shots into a hula hoop but none of the flags were up or tee markers. The golf course is so much prettier in the winter without the golfers. I would be happy if they never opened but I thought I read that they would be with rules about not sharing carts.

The lake was beautiful. Calm and turquoise-like. I’m hoping were on the downside of this curve.

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Double Truck

Big oak log hung up on Leo's splitter.
Big oak log hung up on Leo’s splitter.

It’s hard to tell what’s going on in this photo but I know. I rolled this huge oak log up on the spitter and drove it toward the blade but it failed to split all the way through and it got hung up. I backed up the hydraulic driver and put another log in there to drive this thing off. But then I had to roll it up on the splitter again. Leo, our former next door neighbor, put the splitter together himself, a Heathkit.

During this crisis I’ve been thinking of the Stones song from Between the Buttons, “Who wants yesterday’s papers? As much as I like the old fashioned newspaper it seem hopelessly outdated by the time it gets to our mailbox. It’s demise has been a long time coming but it seems cruel that with the biggest news story in a century the newspapers pick this time to go under. City stopped their print edition and I heard the D&C was putting employees on a week furlough.

The cumbersome delivery method of a stale product and now no advertisers. When I worked at Hart Conway in the Triangle Building downtown one of our biggest clients were the car dealers, It was down and dirty work but the ads we prepared in paste-up form were full page and sometimes double truck. I did time at Sibley’s too, in the back room on the fourth floor and we did spreads and whole supplements for the newspaper.

I got stuck on the newspaper as a delivery boy. I still find it soothing. There are no interruptions like there is on the phone. I like cutting pictures out. Im going to miss it.

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FB Live

Phil Marshall live solo performance Facebook.
Phil Marshall live solo performance Facebook.

Peggi accidentally Face-timed Phil and Ken last night while we were sitting on the couch. She was cleaning her phone with a Clorox wipe and suddenly we were connected through a group text. It was like a virtual band meeting with no agenda. Phil told us would be doing a FB live thing tonight so we tuned in. I sent it out to our tv from my desktop and we cranked it though the stereo. Phil’s solo performance was fantastic and I was really impressed with the whole presentation.

We were eating dinner while Phil played, some little white pizzas with mushrooms, and the computer was in the other room so the FB video feed just went along on its merry way when Phil finished. Duane’s video of homemade tea followed Phil, then a clip from the Daily Show of someone interviewing people at a Trump rally and then some crazy Corona virus exercise routine. Right into some dumb thing from the early sixties with guys on the beach ogling girls in two piece suits. It was a rapid descent from Phil’s brilliant performance.

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No Laughing

Modern house on Lake Road in Webster
Modern house on Lake Road in Webster

When we walked by this house a few days ago, before they swung the bridge open, the owners were out back overlooking the bay. They were talking to their neighbors in the next yard, laughing in the midst of a pandemic.

Our friend Steve, who lives down South and is still working, said he drove a car to a dealership in Savannah and passed Cracker Barrels still open for business.. He told us his former son-in-law was driving for Uber and then dropping his kids of at Steve’s.

I wear the same clothes everyday. I guess I always do that but at least I change it up when we go out. Our car is in the driveway right where we left it a week ago when we picked up our InstaCart groceries. We don’t go anywhere other than out for walks and people are wearing masks on the beach. There is yellow tape around the swing sets in the park. Our young neighbors are going stir crazy. Maybe its easier when you’re retired. I think about our friend in Brooklyn who has at least one other person in his apartment building with the virus. And what would life during a pandemic be like for our friends in the woods?

We still have the extra leaf in our table from our dinner party three weeks ago. The spare mattress is still out in the basement from when Steve Black was here. He told us he was pretty sure he had Sars while living in Singapore and it took him forever to shake it.

We have two friends who were planning to move to Spain. Something we have only dreamt about. That timing could not have been worse. But Spain will still be there when this over.

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Joining In

Black bird, blue sky. Hoffman marsh.
Black bird, blue sky. Hoffman marsh.

Peggi is slowly regaining the use of her left arm. She helped me stack wood this afternoon when I filled a row in the middle of our wood pile. Something like painting yourself into a corner but unavoidable when you burn the oldest stack first. She has been squeezing a little lime green figure until its eyes bug out, something our yoga teacher gave her, and following online advice that suggests just letting your injured hand “join in” after the cast comes off.

The weather has no idea there is a pandemic going on. It has been gorgeous. Perfect for bird watching. The Red Wing Backbirds are back in the marsh. Pregnant Robins waddle across our yard. Blue Jays are pecking at our compost pile and the woodpeckers sounds ring clearly through the bare trees.

Cardinals are my favorite bird and that’s because I put together a plastic model of one when I was a kid. I think my brother did an Oriole. And there was a flock of chickadees in the tree above our wood pile while I was working. I’m not really a birdwatcher. I only know the common ones. I just looked up chickadees to make sure I didn’t misidentify them.

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Peg’s Hots

Sea Breeze Pier from Lake Road in Webster
Sea Breeze Pier from Lake Road in Webster

We won’t be able to get this view of the Sea Breeze lighthouse again until November as the State will be opening the swing bridge on April Fools Day. The trail, just to the left of the willow trees, what’s left of the former Hojack line, is one of our favorites. There are still some railroad ties buried just below the surface and it eventually runs across a restaurant deck but eventually leads you to a small park with picnic tables across the street from the old Peg’s Hots. I wouldn’t expect anyone to remember where that place was but my friends, Tim Schapp and Joe Barrett. worked there one summer.

Peggi suggested that we may be better prepared for the quarantine than most because of the three Caminos we did. The whole thing of simplifying your world, all your possessions in your backpack, a room to eat, clean up and sleep in. Maybe so. We were planning to take a fourth walk in April, the northerly Primitivo from France to Santiago, but that is only a dream now.

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Eggplant Is Overrated

Willows along Lake Road in Webster
Willows along Lake Road in Webster. Peggi can be seen along the road to the right.

I enjoyed reading a column in the business section of today’s paper by an old timer who had learned the hard way that you don’t sell your stocks when the market goes down. After four recessions he determined that rather than trying to buy when the market turns around he should be buying each time the market goes down ten per cent from the high. Then again at 20% and 30%. I liked how he wondered aloud if this time might be different before he pulled the plug. “Nothing relieves anxiety more than taking action.”

“Eggplant is overrated. ” This was all we caught of a woman’s cell phone conversation as we passed her on way down to the Sea Breeze. It was seventy degrees and we wanted to walk into Webster one more time before they swing the bridge open on April 1. We were surprised to see people heading in to Don’s Original. One person after the other pushing the door open. I’m surprised we haven’t seen more discussion about getting this quarantine over with. We’ve been out of circulation (other than walks) for over two weeks and some people haven’t even started. Cuomo says our apex is still three weeks away.

A shiny red pickup cut right in front of us as we walked by the boat launch. The guy, wearing his baseball cap backwards, had his window down so I said “Geez. Go right ahead.” His jacked up truck was just a few feet away. He said, “Thanks” and revved the engine. I looked back and saw his “Proud Veteran” bumper sticker.

Heading back in to our neighborhood we saw a young father guiding his daughter along on a small pink bicycle. We said hi and she looked up with a big smile and said “First day without training wheels!”

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Hunker News

Cutting Peggi's wrist cast off in March 2020
Cutting Peggi’s wrist cast off in March 2020

I watched some crazy YouTube videos before trying to cut Peggi’s cast off her wrist. She didn’t really want to go to the doctor’s office and risk getting exposed. Cuomo says we won’t reach our apex in New York for three more weeks and we are just coming to the end of a 14 day near isolation streak. We had four people over for dinner on Friday two weeks ago and we toasted to this thing before hunkering down.

This one guy took his son’s cast off while they were camping somewhere in a trailer. He was wearing a Superman t-shirt and it looked like his sone was terrified of him. The video had thousands of views but he had turned comments off and was selling real estate ads in the about section. Doctors would use a Dremel and vibrate a score line down both sides. I borrowed this Makita oscillator from my neighbor and tried to score the cast with it but the wire cutters did the job.

A few weeks back I replaced the florescent lights in our garage with led bulbs and it made the perfect operating room.

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Another Wednesday Night At Home

“Off The Corner” by Margaret Explosion. Video by Stephen Black.

We miss the people who come out to hear the band. We miss the Little Theatre Café, the rotating monthly art shows, the espresso, the Scotch Ale, the lively conversations and the laughter (all captured on the live recordings we make at the Café). But most of all we miss playing with our bandmates, improvising and creating skeletons of songs from thin air. We want to thank you all for supporting the band for so many years. We hope you all stay safe and we look forward to seeing you all on the other side. 

We watched the PBS special on Miles Davis las night. I loved it. There was a period there, 1968 to 1975, where each album he released blew my mind. I couldn’t get enough of the stuff. “On the Corner” and “Get Up With It” were my favorites but every lp or live double lp from this period is phenomenal in my book. Eventually I grew to love the earlier albums.

The song above, recorded at the Little Theater in 2014, is Margaret Explosion’s tribute to Miles. The video was just recently created by Stephen Black.

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It’s Only A Song

Personal Effects’ version of Skeeter Davis classic, “End of the World.”

Our neighbor works from home, like we did for so many years, but he says his workload has been cut in half. That’s better than so many others who have been laid off. But the toilet paper factory is hiring.

If you are a glass half full kinda guy there are so many other bright spots to this virus. There is much less pollution in the world. Google and Facebook are selling more ads than ever. Amazon and Instacart are hiring. Paid sick leave should finally be a no-brainer. And child care. Think of the minimum wage health care workers who are scrambling now to find someone to watch their kids while they are out of school. Virtual offices are buzzing. Education should have already moved online. And how about some good old infrastructure. Get out there and fix the potholes while no one is on the roads. I know it is all yin and yang but I’m looking for a positive bump as we navigate these circumstances.

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