Maybe it was the dearth of live music or the hope in the air that this dark cloud may pass. Ethnic Heritage Ensemble had a full house at the Bop Shop on Saturday. Kahil El Zabar has been here so many times, with his Ritual Trio, the Ensemble, with David Murray and with Billy Bang, and all have been memorable performances. This one was a joy.
Peggi and I have been playing together for the past week in preparation for a Margaret Explosion gig on Wednesday. We were playing along with some the songs we have online and our stereo cut out. It took me two hours to find the short. I needed another sound source to determine whether it was a cord so I dug an old cassette deck out. There was a live tape in there, Margaret Explosion at the Bug Jar on Halloween 1998. It sounded like just a trio, Peggi, me and Greg Slack on bass. I fixed the short by unplugging everything and plugging it back in again.
I call it “baclava” just for fun. Boris Johnson would call it a “letter box.” Peggi told me she was going to be cavalier this morning and not wear her balaclava while we skied through the woods. And then she added, “That’s a funny word.” It conjures up muskateers with me for some reason. There was restaurant with that name downtown on Clinton in that block where they built the Chase Lincoln tower, now the “Metropolitan.”
My brother and I would stop there for breakfast on our way to Bishop Kearney. We both had paper. routes and if weren’t done delivering by the time the school bus came (conveniently) we would take the city bus downtown and transfer to the Portland Ave. bus. That transfer time gave us plenty of time to go to restaurants, the record store and even movies when the RKO/Paramount was still open.
It was warm this morning, upper twenties and full sun, so I took my hat off and stuck it in my pocket. My ears were soon got cold and I looked for my hat but it was gone. We like to out out and come back in a big loop rather that backtrack but we did. It was easy enough to find. It’s bright yellow.
We ski through the woods and then out onto the golf course and we were lucky enough to catch the groomer this morning, dragging his apparatus behind a snowmobile. We waved and thanked him. He’s a new guy and especially creative. His tracks have all sorts of interesting curves and slopes.
I was talking to my brother today about his experience with switching internet providers. I was doing more listening than talking as he told me how little the person on the other end of the line knew, someone in a call center somewhere reading from a script. The cable company told him they would mail him a new modem and all he had to do was plug it in. “To what?” he kept asking. He has never had cable tv and as far as he knows there is no cable running to his house. I tried a line I’ve been using lately, paraphrasing our friend Kevin in Nashville, “The whole world is falling apart.” I think Kevin’s actual quote was, “Half the world is going nuts.”
The New York Times year end Week in Review had a big article on how global warming was playing out in various parts of the world. We are in danger of flooding up here while California burns and the arctic melts. Large parts of Spain are experiencing desertificaction so the almond farms are planting crops to replenish the soil. On a micro level I can tell you that we went out skiing yesterday after our first significant snowfall and our skis stuck to the warm ground.
We dropped our car off this morning at B&B on Saint Paul Boulevard for an inspection and an oil change. We hadn’t been in there in a year and they asked if we had an oil change somewhere else. I said we haven’t been anywhere and Brian told us they recommend an oil change even if you haven’t driven the miles. We took a five mile walk through Seneca Park while we waited. The Frederick Law Olmstead park, overlooking the Genesee River is so pretty in the winter. I really don’t believe the world is falling apart. I am an eternal optimist.
Our nephew and his girlfriend are having a baby, the first in that generation on that side of the family. My sister, Ann, is our go-to contact for baby gift suggestions. She couldn’t wait to have children, she dotes on her grandkids and she works at Parkleigh (I thought it was i before e). She suggested a “Jellycat” stuffed animal which comes with a little book that brings the animal to life. Peggi looked at them online and picked out the Bashful Lamb. I agreed it was the cutest but it was only available on back order, sold out at the Jellycat site and the few left on Amazon looked like fakes.
Plan B, and probably the best plan, was for Peggi to crochet a baby blanket. Peggi has done this before but the last one was for our grand niece who is now living the life on her own in Brooklyn. We called Gloria, who we have hardly ever seen without a crochet or knitting needle in her hand, and she suggested we go to Michael’s to buy the yarn. No more “Ye Olde Yarn Shoppes.” You can get to Webster, where the closest store is, pretty quickly but once you get there the shopping experience is grisly. I decided to go with her and I’m glad I did. I had been tasked with submitting a self portrait to an upcoming show at Studio 402 and I found one on the shelves at Michael’s.
“Before Yesterday We Could Fly: An Afrofuturist Period Room” opened last week, the same day we were at the Metropolitan. We were turned away at the door as the opening was for members only so I took this photo from outside the room. We moved along to Jules Tavernier and the Elem Pomo, a show about an Indigenous community in Northern California in 1800s. The Met has it all.
I played horseshoes with Rick the day we came back from New York. Rick played golf with Steve Grieve the day before and after we played Steve found out he had Covid. Rick says he hung out with Steve in his house as well. so we didn’t play for a few days. Rick was tested and it came back negative so we played horseshoes yesterday.
I took my warmup shots, throwing all four shoes down to one stake and then all four back to the other. Rick was doing something on his phone. When we were ready to play we could only find three of the four shoes. I felt around the sandy soil in the pit and started combing through the pachysandra behind the stake. I usually make a metal note if a shot is so bad that bounces in there and I didn’t remember one doing so.
I don’t like wading through the pachysandra because I worry about ticks. Rick is currently doing a month of antibiotics because he came down with Lyme. I got a hoe out and tried to push the plants aside to find the shoe. We looked for about a half hour and Rick went next door and brought back a set of shoes that he had bought on eBay a long time ago. They were lighter and they really threw my toss off. Extra flips and too much distance. And I kept thinking about the missing shoe.
About halfway through the first match with the new shoes I threw one that landed in the pit with a clank. I turned to Rick and asked, “What was that?” Rick finished his throw and we dashed to the other stake. The missing show was about five inches down.
We were unable to cross the outflow from Eastman Lake this morning. Of course we could have taken our shoes off and waded across but we turned around and walked back along the beach. Someone had left a big round metal fire pit fixture on the beach with ashes and charred beer cans from the night before. We passed twice and considered taking it home both times but it was way too heavy.
We watched a virtual funeral mass yesterday for Joe O’Keefe, my mom’s cousin. He was a real sweetheart. At my mom’s funeral he told me a rather significant story about their common grandmother, a Kelly, who left Dublin on a ship bound for New York as a caretaker of an elderly man. She was supposed to return but she fell in love with a man named Walsh. They married as soon as they landed but only on the condition that Walsh drop his affiliation with the Church of England and get right with Catholicism.
He told me they used to hold these teen dances all over the city and kids would usually go without dates. He said he always made sure he danced with my mom and said he was determined to find a Mercy girl like my mom. And he did, my mom’s lifelong friend, Virginia, who he married.
Tomorrow we drive to Niagara Falls for the funeral of my aunt and Joe’s cousin, Ann Oliver, the last of that generation of Tierneys. She died during the pandemic and the family delayed the Mass and remembrance until now. She was my favorite aunt on that side. I painted a picture of her for “The City” show at Pyramid in 1990 where I depicted one member from each of my relatives’ families working somewhere in Rochester.
We have not played horseshoes in a week. First Rick thought he might have Covid so we were awaiting test results. That turned out to be a cold, a common condition that almost disappeared during the pandemic. And then Peggi’s sister came to visit from LA along with her man friend. We had dinner here the first night, an evening warm enough to sit on the the deck while I roasted corn. The corn was cold by the time we ate but the seared tuna that Peggi made was fantastic. It occurred to me that I need to up my game with the salad, both the dressing and the green stuff. Salad should rightfully be the best part of any meal. Peggi made Tarta de Santiago for dessert and we finished the evening playing 45s, some from the collection of the Fournier sisters. Bobby Darin’s “Nature Boy” was the hit of the night.
The next day we took a walk along the canal, starting in Pittsford where our guests were staying. We walked from there to Fairport, thinking there would be a place to eat. The walk was a lot farther than we thought and I was thinking about a pint of cold beer but unlike Pittsford, Fairport is a blue collar town and the restaurants don’t open til 4. We met at Rocco’s for dinner that night and ordered traditional Italian fair. Peggi and I recommended the salad and we all ordered it but it bombed. Despite the fancy name, “Tres Colores,” the radicchio and lettuce mix were downing in a bitter sherry vinaigrette. You notice these kind of things when you recommend a place to guests. It is still one of our favorite restaurants.
We asked our guests what they would like to do the next day and were delighted to hear they wanted to to see the apple orchards so we worked our way around the bay and drove along the lake to Pultneyville where we stopped at B. Forman Park. Fully loaded apple trucks were everywhere along the way and I was surprised at how large an industry it really is when you go looking for it. The cobblestone houses are a sensational and we stopped in front of one just to gawk. We took Middle Road back and stopped at Lagoner Farms in Williamson where we sat at a picnic table in the sun while enjoying their cider and a cheese plate.
We finished our visit with a meal and conversation outdoors at Redd. Everything is right with the world there.
Tuesday mornings we often run into the Cornell Cooperative Extension volunteers in the park The park is severely understaffed and these people, the nicest and most knowledgable people you will ever meet, are donating their time. So we limit ourselves to one question.
Last week they were pulling invasive Tree of Heaven plants. One of them held up a root ball that looked like six foot long white carrot. This morning they were just getting out of the vehicles down by the lake and we asked them about the white flowering plant that seems to be everywhere. They told us it is called Snakeroot, it is native to this area and it is not technically invasive. But they agreed it is acting like one this year. One of the old-timers said, “we like to call it ‘a brut.'”
It is called Snakeroot because the roots were commonly used to treat snakebites but the plant is poisonous to the touch. It is everywhere around here and Peggi has a few afternoons pulling the plants on our property. Legend has it that Abraham Lincoln’s mother died from drinking milk from a cow that had eaten the plant.
You don’t really have to own a mid-century modern house, you could just put these stylish numbers from moderndwellnumbers on your house. They go a long ways. This photo doesn’t show it but the numbers are about a half inch off the house because the screws come with spacers. They send you a paper template that you can tape on your house. The holes are are marked for drilling and the kerning is thought out. We went with it but in retrospect I wished we had spaced the numbers out a little more.
Each year we watch this guy pull up at our neighbors house in late August to wash their windows. Inside and out. And each year we think, “That would be nice.” It takes us most of a day to wash the windows and this year, after the gypsy moth invasion and the new roof, our windows are especially dirty. So we tagged along with them and had our windows professionally cleaned. It took him about three hours and they have never been cleaner. So clean that a robin flew into our front window about an hour after he left. It was temporarily knocked out but we watched right itself, walk around a bit and take off.
Well before the 60 Minutes piece on the tour boat operater who took a group of scuba divers out to a coral reef off Cozumel and came back to shore while one of the divers was still down, Peggi and I spent a week in Cartagena.
When my parents moved my mom threatened to throw my shoebox of baseball cards away if I didn’t pick them up. I took them home and pawed through them one last time. My collection ranged from ’58 to ’63 and by that time I was flush with paper route money and simultaneously losing interest in baseball. I had doubles and triples of the 1963 Topps baseball cards, all in mint condition.
I noticed an ad for a sports memorabilia fair at Peddler’s Village and we took my shoebox over there. One of the vendors was my high school math teacher, Mr. Setek. He told me he would come by our house, go through the collection and make me an offer.
He carefully examined the cards, the same ones I used to throw around, and he was particularly impressed by the the full set of 1963 cards, especially the three Pete Rose rookie cards. He made us an offer of $1100 dollars. We were floored and accepted. On the way out he told us he planned to put the Pete Rose cards in a safety deposit box and then use them to help pay for his sons’ college tuition.
Peggi and I decided to take a tropical vacation with the money. An ad in the NYT showed package prices for three destinations. Cartagena was the cheapest, for good reason. We stayed in the Hilton and watched rifle armed guard walk circles around our hotel at night. It was our first taste of Cumbia!
We arranged for a motor boat to take us snorkeling on a coral reef. I remember a young German couple, a few others and a single woman on the boat with us. No one spoke the same language and the guy driving the boat spoke one of the native Columbian dialects.
We traveled along an inland waterway and then out to an island. We took a few steps offshore, put our masks on, our heads in the water and the sensation was like LSD. A lunch was included. Another boat came out to the island to deliver the food. The operators of that boat started partying with our boat operator. While we snorkeled they were playing load music and doing lines of cocaine.
After lunch we got back in the boat. The operator had turned surly. He drove as fast as he could on the way back. The single woman kept pleading with him to slow down. You can see the reds marks on my ass from bouncing on the hard seats as we tore through the jungle.
Back at the hotel Peggi laughed at the lines on my rear end. I loved that suit because it was all cotton. I hate jumping in a pool and having my suit fill up like a ballon. I found it interesting that the colors alone, black and white, let more or less light through for my sunburn. And the photo is histerical.
Three women were sitting in one of the picnic shelters as we walked down Log Cabin Road this morning. Most of the shelters were already occupied and some of the grills were already smoking at 10 AM. On the table in front of the women was a short stack of Pepsi cans in those long 18 packs so they must have been expecting a crowd. As we passed by I heard one of them say, “That’s exactly how she got pregnant.” I think everybody knows how that happens.
Walking along the beach we came to a spot where the inlet from one of the smaller lakes was too deep to cross. We watched a young couple come toward us in bare feet and wade across. The woman’s arms were built and covered with tattoos. Rather than take our shoes off we turned around. We were now following the young couple. Walking behind them I could see her shorts were so short they failed to cover the bottom part of her buttocks. I hope that was ok to notice.
Our weather changed overnight and the humidity lifted. The sky today was pure blue and the sailboats looked especially white out on the lake. Walking up to Aman’s yesterday it was so hot we stood in the walk-in beer cooler for ten minutes when we got there. We came out with a six pack of Buffalo’s Hayburner.
The priest reminded both Peggi and me of John Cassavetes, somewhere else in his own head but right there commanding your attention. When he sprayed hand sanitizer on his hands before passing out communion I lost my appetite for the body of Christ. We were sitting with a row of my cousins, all from the same generation as the cousin whose funeral mass we were celebrating. And there was a speaker mounted on the column right in front of us but I could hardly understand what he was saying. I caught something about the “mystery of faith” and that concept stuck with me.
Our neighbor, Helena, recommended the Oriental Rug Mart in Eastview Mall as a place to get our rugs cleaned. The owner, Reza, came by himself to pick them up. We asked if he had been vaccinated when he stepped out of his van and he told us he was but he had just finished a two week quarantine because he gotten Covid anyway. He described it as something like the bout of bronchitis he had last year. We wore masks and he carried our rugs off.
We have an urge to get down to the lake everyday. The three main ingredients are always the same, the sky, water and sand, but it is always a different experience. We might not make it today. It is my cousin’s 75th birthday. It is also his funeral as he died over the winter of cancer. He was a debating champ at Aquinas. I was really impressed by that. I couldn’t imagine getting up in front of the class and making a cohesive argument. I remember him telling me he didn’t have to agree with the position he was assigned but he had to make a good argument for it.
According to his sister the Newcomer funeral home made a mistake with the newspaper obit. They listed the wrong location for the Mass that was to be said in his honor. I was looking forward to getting back inside Saint John the Evangelist on Humboldt Street, the parish I grew up in, but the services will be held at Saint Ambrose.
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.