We had 3 inches of rain in one day last week, a week in which it rained everyday, and two inches a few days ago. The garden and our trees, which were nearly defoliated by the gypsy moths, are loving it. My brother, who golfs every chance he can get, not so much. It is raining as I type this. But the last few days were lovely.
We crossed paths with Miguel at the entrance to the park and he was without his dog. He told us he takes one walk with the dog and then another by himself in order to get his miles in. We asked how far he walks and he told us he tries to get six miles in. He said he had just walked to Saint Paul Boulevard. We told him we were impressed and he said I have to do it, my partner is ten years younger than I am.
Not to be outdone by Miguel we walked through the park, along the beach and Lakeshore Boulevard to Saint Paul today. Peggi clocked it at 4.4 miles. Instead of coming back the same way we walked north to Rock Beach Road and strolled by the dreamy cottage-like homes that line both sides of the streets that deadens at the lake, the former White City.
We had nine miles under our belts by the time we got back home.
Kathy used to go to a lot of estate sales. She has one of everything now so she only looks at the sales online. She spotted one of my old paintings in the upcoming John Borek and Jackie Levine estate sale. I think he bought it at a Pyramid Art Gallery show and it must have been sometime around 1980 because it looks a lot like the Sparky paintings. I’m guessing the bottom half reads “ . . Shall Be Saved.”
An option piece in the NYT this morning said “the most consistent threat to our democracy has always been the drive of some leaders to restrict its blessings to a select few.” That’s why this voter suppression thing pisses me off so much. They are playing with fire and the house is dry kindling. The US bishops are doing the same thing. Drafting rules that would restrict Biden, a devout Catholic, from receiving communion because of his defense of a woman’s right to chose. Pope Francis chided them by reminding them that “Communion is not a reward for saints. It is bread for sinners” but they insist on burning the house down.
Other than taking his vow of poverty seriously, all Father Jim Callan had to do to get excommunicated was let women say mass, bless same sex marriages and welcome anyone to break bread (receive communion) in church. That’s like crossing the street.
I escaped Catholicism but have a romantic soft spot for the customs, most of all the iconography. In addition to serving mass as an altar boy we played mass at home. We wore sheets as vestments and made our own hosts by rolling out slices of white bread with the side of a big glass and then cutting out hosts with the rim of a small glass.
As an altar boy I ate the Holy Eucharist by the handful, right from the clear plastic bag they came in. We were told the nuns in the convent next door made them. Hard core Catholics believe the hosts, once consecrated, were transformed into the literal body of Christ. They are big on miracles. The wonders of life are not enough. They, like every other religion, are always concocting lines in the sand, holding out paths to eternal salvation.
My brother, Fran, let the the family use one of his spare bedrooms as a temporary storage space for our parents’ stuff when they passed. Years later there are quite a few items without a home including a stack of watercolors. Our cousin asked us if she could have one of my father’s paintings so Peggi and I visited the vault to pick one out.
We arranged to meet on a Sunday, the only day my brother takes off, but he called to say he would be working. We let ourselves in and found a beautiful, framed barn painting for my cousin ( a farm girl ) and a Charlotte lighthouse painting for her sister. My brother’s neighbor died recently and a crew was taking down their white horse fence when we arrived. I’m hoping that doesn’t mean subdivision. We took a nice walk along Lake Road and discovered our former tax preparer owns one of those funky cottages near Nine Mile Point. We took a dip in my brother’s pool before hitting the road.
When Peggi was doing her grand jury duty she told me nothing got underway until the stenographer walked in with her tiny typewriter (they were all women) and settled into her place at the front of the room. My cousin’s daughter is one year into a program be a court stenographer. To get your certificate you need to be able to accurately type two hundred some words per minute. Her stenographer’s typewriter is connected to her computer and she demonstrated her skills by typing our conversation in stenographer’s language and then translating it back to English on her monitor. She told us she can make up he own shortcuts for commonly used phrases. It seems like they are on to something. With their own language, their own shortcuts, less keys on their keyboards, they accurately record everything that goes on.
We got off the expressway at Ridge Road in order to pick up more vaseline and Saran wrap, our Gypsy moth weapons, at Walgreen’s. Each day we suit up in our tick repellant clothes and wrap a few more trees. Twice around with the plastic wrap and then a stripe of vaseline. Our priority has been the hundred year old oaks which can only withstand a couple years of caterpillar defoliation. Our neighbor recommended we consult an arborist at Davey Tree. He told us our area was the worst in Monroe County.
Aman’s had their “Fresh Strawberrys” sign out on Ridge Road and so we pulled in. We had just walked up here the day before and they said they were not expecting strawberries until the week’s end. We drove home with three quarts of the darkest red berries we had ever seen. In the driveway we realized we forgot to stop at Walgreen’s.
I had a friend who on orders dropped napalm indiscriminately on villages in Viet Nam. They could have just let loose gypsy moths.
I’m trying to figure out where the last five days went. I usually find time to check in here and I feel better once I have. I will attempt an accounting.
We miss the pandemic, not Covid but the down time. Hunkering down.
On Friday we went to the opening of a drawing show at Colleen Buzzard’s Studio. We had our masks on when we entered but someone told us everyone was everyone was vaccinated so we slipped them off. Six artists were represented but Pete Monacelli’s work stole the show. Saturday I did a Zoom talk for RoCo. I was asked to discuss my favorite pieces from the current 6×6 show, something I have only seen online. Rick and I barely finished the third of our best of three horseshoe game before I signed on.
Our garden is going great guns. Our early plantings survived the cold patch last week and our peppers are loving this 80 degree stuff. We’ve been bringing back mixed greens for salad every night for three weeks now.
Mostly we’ve been talking to neighbors about various strategies for combatting the gypsy moth invasion. This is year two. There are over a 1,000 caterpillars on our house as I write. Each is about an inch long. They are only wearing themselves out. Their brothers and sisters are are eating the leaves on our oak trees. A band of Saran Wrap, about five feet up the tree, with a stripe of Vasoline through the middle seems to stop the traffic both up and down the trees. Are we only trapping the caterpillars up there so they can get fat on our leaves. No one seems to know. We are waiting for an overpopulation boom to provoke a fungus which will collapse their colony.
We walked along the river yesterday and missed all the action down at Durand where the City of Rochester Police, Monroe County Sheriffs, Irondequoit Police and New York State Troopers all have some sort of jurisdiction. They found the remains of a body while holiday picnickers were grilling along the lakeshore.
We met workers from a roofing company for a quote this morning and then Peggi had to make an emergency chlorine run. It is in such limited supply that they won’t hold it for you when they get a shipment and it’s on a first come basis. We got a late start on our walk.
We stopped at the pool and added some chorine and looked in on the the fawn that has been sleeping in the pachysandra by the fence, right where it was born.
Some contractors from hell were working on a house the next street over. They had right wing talk radio cranked and a van that had backed into the driveway had a placard in each window. One read “Ivermectin Defeats Covid” and the other “Re-Open NY, All Businesses Are Essential.” A worker’s car had bumper stickers on it that read “Freedom Isn’t Free” and “Christian Nation” printed on an American flag.
Down at the lake a man on a bike stopped us and asked if either of us remembered a day camp named “Three Lakes.” He said he rode a bus out here from his city grade school and they would cross the train tracks, go through the tunnel near the beach house and swim in the lake. Bob Begy came by on a bicycle and asked if the band was back playing at the Little. On our way home we ran into Kathy Krupp on Zoo Road and we chatted about the murder and gypsy moths.
Back on our street Jedi was out in the front yard sprinkling cayenne pepper and some stinky anti deer product around his shrubs. We headed down to the garden where we transplanted about forty pepper plants. No time for horseshoes today.
We did a few parking lot pickups at Rubino’s during the pandemic and then started entering the store at off hours. The sloppy mask technique of some customers made it feel relatively dangerous. We were out of oil again so a walk up there was in order.
At lunchtime the store was packed. It felt festive even, like a holiday, and yet it didn’t feel dangerous at all. Most customers still had masks on as did all the staff and you have to think at least half of them are fully vaccinated. So we’re getting there, the new normal. We buy Zoe Cold Press in 3 liter cans, two at a time. And each time I reach for a can I brace myself for a price increase but it has been $29.95 for three or four years now. I put both cans in my backpack.
The first voice we heard when we popped our heads out of the car was Petra’s. So familiar from all those instructional videos and so life affirming. We drove down to Naples with Jeff and Mary Kaye. They were looking for seed potatoes but they came back with so much more. We were looking for nothing but we came back with more Arugula seeds and some red pepper plants which we have already stuck in the ground.
We’ve planted lettuce, spinach, kale, tomatoes, Swiss chard, collard greens, arugula, Pak Choy, carrots, beets, cilantro, cauliflower, jalapeños, Padrón peppers, garlic and mesclun. All from seed, and all from Fruition. It was pleasure to meet her in person.
Nathaniel Rochester School has to be the ugliest building in Rochester’s historic Corn Hill District. But it would appear the kids who go to school here have already risen above that. They are hosting a Poetry Slam tonight at 5PM.
After dropping Peggi off for Grand Jury duty I parked near the Wilmot, a building my grandfather owned at one time, and strolled around the “Ruffled Shirt Ward.” Ralph Avery, one of my father’s favorite watercolorists, painted many of his street scenes here. And just like so many of his paintings it started raining.
Yesterday was like a dream. A walk around Charlotte, a latte from Starbucks, a game of horseshoes, patio sit with friends and a Real Madrid soccer match in the evening. And I have two more books for the coffee table, “Heaven Help Us” with beautiful reproductions of holy cards and Sun Ra’s “The Immeasurable Equation.” Here is an excerpt from the latter:
Music akin to thought . . . . . . . . Imagination . . . ! With wings unhampered, Unafraid . . . . . . . Soaring like a bird Through the threads and fringes of today Straight to the heart of tomorrow. Music rushing forth like a fiery wall Loosening the chains that bind. Ennobling the mind With all the many greater dimensions of a living tomorrow.
My family moved out to Webster when I was in fifth grade We lived in a new development, on the edge of the village, in a former corn field. Main Street, at the intersection of North and South Avenues was like the town in a old western. The Webster Hotel, Bowman’s Variety, a gas station and Warren’s Hardware sat at the four corners. Warren would close shop and direct traffic in the middle of the four corners when the firehouse siren sounded, part of a volunteer force. Our school, Holy Trinity, was within walking distance. Andy Finn’s father owned the Texaco station in town. Bobby Gray’s (another schoolmate) father started Bill Gray’s.
I made friends with an older kid, a baseball nut like me, named Marty. He was a Christian Scientist. He told me he had never been to a doctor and his mom had given birth to him and his brother in their house. A religion based on a conspiracy theory. When his family moved he gave me his delivery route. Flush with paper route money I would ride down to Bowman’s, on a good day I could go the whole way with no hands, and buy baseball cards and candy. I tried to limit myself to five, 5 cent candy bars. Whether it was all that candy and the bubble gum in each pack of cards or just bad genes I’ve had a lot of cavities.
After dropping out of college I moved back home and went to a new dentist in town, near where the old post office was on North Avenue. I went out with his receptionist for a while. The dentist’s son went into practice himself and I still see him today. I think he’s great but he told me he is vaccine hesitant. Doesn’t trust the messenger RNA. He determined that I needed a root canal and sent me to an Endodontics specialist. That doctor was unable to save my tooth. When I asked, “Isn’t there anything you can do” he told me “Heroics and dentistry don’t mix.” I now have an appointment to have the tooth extracted by an oral surgeon. Maybe I shouldn’t have said no to some of the regular X-rays that were offered by my hygienist. I’ve had so many I am x-ray hesitent.
I stayed in Webster for one year before moving back to Bloomington and hooking up with Peggi. I worked at the place in the picture above, Maracle Industrial Finishing on Commercial Street in the village. They finished gun stocks for Crossman Arms and they repainted Xerox copy machines which at that time were as big as a washer and dryer together. Maracle was busted in 2013 for discharging untreated process wastewater directly to the sewer. On my way back from the dentist I drove down Commercial Street for old times sake and spotted this big Q in the widow along with a picture of Cuomo.
I always remind Peggi that it snowed on my late April birthday, the year I got a new baseball bat. Rochester has it in her. It was beautiful this morning, the moisture of multicolored blossoms and green in snow and then we got to Log Cabin Road where the row of cherry trees, all in full bloom, were weighted down by the wet snow. Some of their biggest branches were split down the middle under the weight. We spent the next half hour shaking the branches and watching them spring upward.
We spent too much time talking about health issues while zoom visiting with our friends on the west coast. I am probably to blame for the deep dive because I’ve been asking friends about dental implants. I cracked the root of a tooth, part of a bridge and that started a chain reaction. One tooth needs a root canal and I’m in the early stage of a bone graft for an implant.
Our friend, Duane, in his early NYC commercial days, shot a video of an implant procedure. And Rich, ever so helpful, sent me a link to a video he made about getting a root canal.
Give it up for the magnolias in the Slavin Collection on Zoo Road. The Snowy white variety is first, followed by the pink and then the dark red and yellow varieties. They look good on rainy days and stunning against a blue sky. The petals even look good on the ground.
We walked our neighbor’s dog, the Notorious Mr. BigZ, this morning. He’s usually in the front yard when we come back from our walks and we’ve gotten in the habit of stopping by to play with him. He wears a collar that conducts a charge when he gets close to the invisible fence. The fence may be invisible, the wire is buried, but little white flags mark his perimeter. And it’s the flags that he’s afraid of so even without his collar on we had to pick him up and escort him over the boundary.
He’s a pug of some sort and we were uncertain whether he would be able to keep up. But by the time we got around the corner he was pulling us along and we clocked 5.4 miles. We took him up to the magnolias and down to the beach where he checked out every single object in the the sand.
He’s built low to the ground. Compact in the front, like maybe an ancestor ran straight into a wall, and he’s tightly packaged in the rear. His short tail coils against his body. I noticed that his back legs seem to want move faster than his front ones. Walking behind him I got the feeling that his backside was trying to pass his front on his right. He knew right where his home was.
We took a chance and cut up Horseshoe Road from the lake. We had a hunch that enough snow had melted (or evaporated) to allow us to walk across the golf course. In other seasons we take the trails in the woods that surround the rough. Today we followed the creek that runs down the middle of the fairways and and to my surprise we spotted a number of golf balls in it. I figured the water had to be warmer than the air (21 degrees) so I straddled the creek, rolled up my sleeves and stuck my arms in to pull six out of the mud. My wrists and hands were frozen. I left a few balls there for the next guy. I couldn’t even turn the key when we got back home.
Some friends of ours subscribe to the Criterion Channel and love it. It sounds so tempting. We have Netflix and a cable package that includes La Liga. Friends on the west coast have raved about “Painting With John” on HBO. And a friend on the east coast thinks we would like the dark comedy, Barry, on HBO and the mini-series “Olive Kitteridge” with Frances McDormand. So we added HBO to our arsenal. We’ve already binged our way through “Painting with John” and loved it. This really is the perfect pandemic show. It’s like zooming with a good friend and listening to his favorite stories, ones you know he has told a few times and some you have heard before. The music, his music, is great and I love his paintings!
We can see the sidewalks again. We wore our regular walking shoes, not the ones with the Stable-Icers strapped to the bottoms, and we used something other than our X-country ski muscles.
I had a hunch the winter aconites would be poking their yellow flower buds out of the snow so we took a peek at the hill out back. They are! Robins, also a symbol of pleasure, joy, contentment, satisfaction, clarity, rejuvenation, bright future and happiness, were excitedly pecking at red berries that somehow hung to the trees all winter waiting for them to return.
Horseshoe Road has two ends. I guess most roads do but in this case you wind up pretty much where you started. We ski parts of it most days as we work our way from our house to the lake and back. We try to alter the route each time and we’re still finding new routes.
Today we took our skis off and crossed Kings Highway to see if the groomer had possibly cut some trails on the other side. He had and we spent a couple hours over there only seeing one other skier. We stopped on the way back to watch the kids sledding down the big hill. Tiny little girls on round saucers squealing with delight as they slid in circles down the hill and boys running toward the crest of the hill and plopping themselves headfirst on their plastic sleds. They were having more fun than we were.
Can you imagine rolling over and sleeping in the snow? We found evidence of deer sleeping in our yard last night, spots where the snow had been melted to the ground. We were out early this morning, skiing up to the lake and back before our second cup of coffee. It was above freezing but the ski conditions were excellent. And the sky was a wonder. Peggi made a movie. Imagine these white and dark clouds moving left to right (or from the west to the east) at a pretty good clip, our typical weather pattern.
We are practicing for post-pandemic days by entertaining guests around our front yard fire pit. We had Kathy over last night. She showed us pictures of bald eagles in the trees near her home overlooking the bay. Pete and Gloria stopped by tonight. They have already received round one of the vaccine so we felt sort of safe. I showed them my driftwood sculptures. And Pete, whose company, Monacelli Construction, did work at least half of the city, recapped the personal connections he had to the people and places in my grandfather’s world.
My brother and his wife rented a place in Savannah, Georgia for a few weeks. They were working remotely from their home in Montclair NJ and decided they could do it just as easily in a warmer climate. Peggi’s parents moved to Savannah when they retired and I remember how charming the old city is. The photo above reminds me of Savannah but is in fact in downtown Rochester, in the Corn Hill Area.
My father left a lot of unfinished business when he passed. He had been collecting information about his father-in law, my grandfather, Raymond J. Tierney, a butcher who owned a grocery store on North Street for many years before moving it to South Avenue and eventually Clinton Avenue South. Ray also dabbled in real estate by buying and renovating this house in Corn Hill. It was at one time a single family home, built for a lawyer named Byron McAlpine. My grandfather converted it into apartments and named the building “The Wilmot.”
A journalist named Kitty Galbraith interviewed my grandfather and wrote an article about the history of the Wilmot. I recently put that article on the “Tierney Market” page. And I’ve posted two audio files of interviews that WBBF’s Nick Nixon did with with my grandfather, one on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of his store and one on the Wilmot building. The page is getting long but you can see and hear the articles and interviews there.
I brought a piece of firewood, a log length of oak that we split and dried out to the garage and put it in the vice grips. I was trying create my own small sculpture, something to compliment the four pieces of driftwood that I had mounted on small pedestals. I chipped away at it, an hour a day, for the last week and came up with something I like.
As I was finishing up Peggi came out to the garage with a cup of Yogi Eygptian Licorice tea. The tea bags have a fortune attached and mine read, “Spread the light; be the lighthouse.”
My sister, Ann, came by last night and we had dinner around a fire out front. She is still working in retail so she fills us in on what it is like in the world, the world as experienced by people who either work out in it or choose to go shopping in a pandemic. We have retreated from both. My sister raved about the breakfast sandwiches at the new Bodega across the street from where she works on Park Avenue.
It was cold, it’s winter, something like 25 when we ate and by the time we called it quits it was 21 degrees. Our fire pit kicks ass. The sky was incredibly clear. I don’t remember ever seeing as many stars in the sky since we moved here. And the sunrise this morning gorgeous.
We had peeked at the weather forecast and settled on today to pay our taxes. The round trip to the dropbox at the town hall is just over five miles. We started by walking toward the lake, across the golf course and up the hill by the clubhouse to Kings Highway where we turned south. There were hardly any cars on the road which was especially nice. It’s windy with no sidewalks and plenty of curves where we hug the guardrails and hold our breath.
We looked longingly at the library. We watched a women walk in. They are open with a capacity of 25 and they’re also doing curbside but I like to browse. We came back along Titus in the full sun. We have not had any significant snow. Winter can’t continue like this. This is Rochester.