Big Day

"Licorice Nibs & Ballpoint Pen Springs" 2011 original drawing by David Greenberger. Ink and colored pencil on paper. Purchased on eBay.
“Licorice Nibs & Ballpoint Pen Springs” 2011 original drawing by David Greenberger. Ink and colored pencil on paper. Purchased on eBay.

“Astronomers announced on Thursday that they had pierced the well of darkness and dust at the center of our Milky Way galaxy to capture the first picture of “the gentle giant” dwelling there: a supermassive black hole, a trapdoor in space-time through which the equivalent of four million suns have been dispatched to eternity leaving behind only their gravity and violently bent space-time.” – NYT

On the same day a package arrived from David Greenberger, the artwork we bought on eBay after receiving an email that alerted us to the listing. We paid $14.99 and David threw in one from his drawing/collage series of drummers, with a postage stamp heads sitting on drummers’ bodies as they sit behind a kit. Ours featured an Indian stamp of Gandhi.

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Katsura Glen

New Katsura leaves along Durand Lake
New Katsura leaves along Durand Lake

I have friends and family members who are affected by the quantity of sunshine in a day. I recognize that SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) is real. A good friend of ours is moving back here from the Bay Area. As much as I am looking forward to seeing him in person I was encouraging him not to move here. He gets bummed out when it’s cloudy and he complains about it to anyone who will listen. I don’t want to hear it. I like cloudy days and I love living here.

There was a mist in the air this morning but it had temporarily stopped raining. We saw one other person. The cherry, crab apple and magnolia blossoms along Zoo Road looked magnificent against the grey. We took along Durand Lake, through Katsura Glen where the new leaves were just coming out.

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Mighty Genesee

McKeil Spirit in Genesee River
McKeil Spirit in Genesee River

Is today as nice nice as yesterday? Maybe but yesterday was my birthday so it was different.

Peggi made blueberry pancakes for breakfast and we took our time with the paper. We went down a YouTube hole for a bit and made a few phone calls. My sister has Covid so we talked on what would have normally been a workday for her. We never left the house until 2 but it was plenty of time for a six mile walk.

We started at my parents’ grave site, seventy-two years after they celebrated their first born’s arrival. I don’t think they knew how lovely this spot is when they picked it out. The green burial section on a hill overlooking Riverside, the non-denominational cemetery next door and the Genesee River was a brand new concept for Holy Sepulcher. There’s daffodils there now and a bench.

Wood pile in the woods near Genesee River
Wood pile in the woods near Genesee River

We left the car sitting near the graves and walked into the woods along the river. We found a patch of mature skunk cabbage looking just like cabbage does near the end of the summer. My father loved getting out in the very earliest days of Spring to find skunk cabbage popping through the snow in its flowering state. We found a few homeless guys camping out and this mysterious mound of sticks and eventually hooked up with the paved path that takes you down the river bank to Turning Point Park where the McKeil Spirit was unloading cement from Hamilton, Ontario. It looked as big as an apartment building or cruise ship and made the mighty Genesee look small..

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Train Ride

Margaret Explosion song recorded last week at Little Theatre Café

The type face, Glyphic Neue Neue Wide, could read as “Brian Ride.” That would work just as well. This song is from our gig last Wednesday and the train footage was in my home movie collection.

I used a still too, the shot above. I took this in 2011 on a high speed train to Sevilla. I considered using this still for the whole movie. I love it that much. The Spanish colors on the upholstery, the dark hair on the gentleman, his thin mustache, the stripes on his shirt, the olive green tie, the mustard pants! If there was some blood red in this photo we would have the entire Spanish pallette.

This is how to travel. This is how to live. This is civilization.

Margaret Explosion plays one more Wednesday, tomorrow, at the Little Theatre Café.

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Wow

Saint Josephat's on East Ridge Road
Saint Josephat’s on East Ridge Road

The imaginary keyboard on my iPad slipped from numbers to letters just as I was typing 2022. I caught a glimpse of the screen just before typing the last “2” and saw that I had typed “wow.” Try it.

The Lindas Lindas are keeping the flame going.

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Always In Mourning

Mourning Doves out our window
Mourning Doves out our window

I love watching these birds. Woodsier than pigeons they spend more time on the ground than in the air. They waddle around and are always in pairs. I thought they were Morning Doves until I looked it up. They are probably called Mourning Doves because their coo sounds like a lament.

A pair of them are building a nest in the cherry tree out front and we have a closeup view of the action. The male, the more colorful and bigger one, shown on the left in my photo, dutifully collects small sticks and leaves and brings them back to the nest, putting each piece in the mouth of his mate. She packs it under her body while she sitting on the nest and he flys off for another piece. They can live to be thirty years old.

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Mortality

Silo near Montezuma Wildlife Refuge
Silo near Montezuma Wildlife Refuge

There was a note attached to our morning papers informing us that the carrier has decided to retire ” after thirty plus years of getting up at 4AM.” He threw in “the rising gas prices and the dwindling subscriptions” as factors that convinced him “it doesn’t make any sense for me to continue.”

Spring has come again but a sense of mortality hangs in the air. Friends and neighbors, all close to my age, are dealing with serious health issues. The last of my parents’ siblings is gone and one of my cousins. We have sat in on a few Zoom memorials. And there’s the book I’m reading. Here are two passages from Etel Adnan’s “Shifting the Silence.”

“Almost all of my beliefs have deserted me. I take it as a kind of liberation, and anyway, they were never too many. Our houses are cluttered, our minds too, so a fire as devastating as it can be, can well clear the air, enlarge the space, make room for some silence. Year after year all we do is gather dust.”

“I need to simplify my thinking: to come to the roots of the olive trees I have planted on my island, sit close to them, look at every leaf. Start early in the morning. Then close my eyes and let the morning sun touch my face. Go to the Mediterranean at the street corner, go into its water, its salt, its acid colors, its heat. Oh Lord, let’s stop thinking. Let’s just be, and for many hours in a row, merge with this vegetal and metallic kind of consciousness which is so overpowering.”

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Head Spinning

Rich’s video for “Tilt-A-Wheel” plays like an extended version of the last scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s “Strangers On A Train.” It fits the song, from MX-80’s recent, as yet unreleased album, perfectly. Mixed by Steve Albini, it is the last album recorded with the legendary guitarist, Bruce Anderson.

Bruce was a god-like figure in Bloomington, Indiana in the late 60’s when I showed up. He played with Mrs. Seamon’s Sound Band (with Michael Brecker) ( the first band I saw there), the Screaming Gypsy Bandits with Mark Bingham and Caroline Peyton (who also recently passed) and went on to form the seminal band, MX-80 Sound. The bands’ line-ups and sounds kept changing but Bruce stayed the same. I’m sure I saw every local Screaming Gypsy Bandits’ performance. Peggi and I saw the first few MX-80 shows at the local library and then left town in late ’74 before our friends, Rich Stim and Dave Mahoney, joined the band.

Somewhere in the early 70’s, Steve Hoy (that’s him on the cover of MX-80 Hard Attack) and I walked over to Bruce’s apartment to get our hair cut. It was a Zen-like experience and Bruce did a great job but Steve felt he could do just as well for less so he became our barber.

Bruce was a close friend of our close friends and those that remain gathered yesterday over Zoom for a memorial. The pain from the loss was evident. Rich Stim, Angel Corpus Christi, Dale Sophiea, Steve Hoy, Kim Torgerson, Michael Gribbroek, Marc Weinstein and Howard Thompson were all there along with members of Bruce’s family. Peggi and I learned just how special Bruce was as a person and the tributes were beautiful.

I was also struck by connections between people now scattered across the country. Steve Hoy was my roommate in the dorm (Shea 2, Foster Quad) my freshman year. Dave Mahoney was my best friend in high school and came out to Bloomington after dropping out of MCC. Rich was a former Shea resident and a friend of Steve’s. He had a crush on Andrea, then Bruce’s wife, and had me take some Super 8 footage of her behind the counter at Discount Records. Peggi was friends with Rich and Dale before we hooked up. Kim Torgerson was married to Dave. I guess I introduced them. She lived in the dorm across the street from me. She took the classic MX-80 Sound photos.

Michael Gribbroek grew up in Rochester near where Peggi and I live now. He was the first person Bruce Anderson met when he moved into the nearby Wilke Quadrangle on the IU campus. Mrs. Seamon, from the Mrs. Seamon Sound Band was the head dietician at Wilkie Quad. Michael found my blog through Andrea and follows our walks through his old stomping grounds. He told a story yesterday of the moment he knew Bruce was going to drop out of art school. They were in an art history class together, writing an essay in one of those little light blue books about how the art critics treated Mondrian. Michael looked over at Bruce and he was making cartoon-like drawings of critics physically torturing Mondrian in graphic detail.

Marc Weinstein is the co-founder of the world’s largest independent record store, Amoeba. He played drums with MX after Dave passed and grew up in Buffalo. He knows all the bands we played with there in the Personal Effects days. Howard Thompson put out the first MX-80 album while working for Island in London. Howard is good friends with Kevin Patrick, the lead singer in New Math, and he came to Rochester to produce the first single, Die Trying. I played drums on that track. Peggi and I went back to Bloomington to hear MX-80 audition for Howard and his new boss at Bronze in Dale’s basement.

Head-spinning but then again, I could have this all wrong.

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Pick Up Sticks

Bathers at Durand Eastman on March 9
Bathers at Durand Eastman on March 9

Do kids play Pick Up Sticks anymore? They might be considered dangerous. And the game is probably too delicate for these times. I remember loving it. The colors of the sticks, the finesse required to slide one out but then there were all those arguments over whether you disturbed the pile or not.

Instead of walking the last couple of days we picked up sticks on our property. The windstorm left small branches of dead wood everywhere. Our yard is clear and ready for tonight’s snowstorm. When we last walked (March 9th) we spotted these two swimmers looking pretty comfortable in Lake Ontario.

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Ash Wednesday

Art by optician at OcuSight
Art by optician at OcuSight

It would have to be sunny today. We were schedualed to have our eyes checked at 10:30 and after the diilation we had to wear dark glasses for the rest of the day. I had forgotten that it was Ash Wednesday until I spotted a couple in the waiting room with smudges on their foreheads. Dr. Goodfriend asked me if I had noticed any changes in my vision and I told him I find myself taking my glasses off to read the really tiny print on labels. I’m not used to that. I haven’t taken them off since I got them in 5th grade.

He got his microscopic light out and said, “I’m gonna ask you to look to the left, one eye at a time.” He shined the light in my eye and there was a long pause before he said. “Look to the left,” as if I hadn’t heard him. I told him you said you were “gonna ask me to look to the left.” He didn’t find that funny. I tried to get back on his good side by describing how wild it was when I walked out of Waldert’s on Mount Hope Avenue with my first pair of glasses. As dramatic as the first time I took LSD. He chuckled.

Once back in the waiting room I picked out some new glasses for my new prescription. Rather the optician picked them out for me. He basically told me my current glasses, the ones I’ve been wearing for 7 or 8 years, were too wide for my face. I have a prism in both lenses and he got out a piece of paper to illustrate how the prism works. His drawing reminded me of Steve Hoy‘s sci fi influenced work and I made a point of taking it with me.

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Stop The War

Margaret Explosion poster for March 2, 2022
Margaret Explosion poster for March 2, 2022

I shared an album with Bennie , Kerry and Claire, our Flash buddies of photos I took at WNY Flash matches. Every Women’s National Soccer League star played in Rochester before the franchise was sold to North Carolina, the very same year they won the league championship. Heather O’Reilly, Sam Kerr, Carly Lloyd, Sam Mewis, Abby Wambach, Hope Solo, Lynn Williams, Abby Dahlkemper, Alana Kennedy, Jess McDonald along with international stars like Marta, Christine Sinclair and Sam Kerr. The US Olympic team was made up of primarily of former Flash players. It was a good ride.

Bennie, who plays drums in jazz bands as well as a Brazilian percussion ensemble added some of her photos to the album. I used the one of hers (above), taken in the Flash Mob percussion section in the end zone of the soccer stadium, for our gig tomorrow, Wednesday at the Little Theatre Café 6:30- 8:30.

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Truisms

Freshly groomed ski trail on Horseshoe Road
Freshly groomed ski trail on Horseshoe Road

You can see the “different strokes for different folks” patterns in this freshly groomed Horseshoe Road photo. We got out there just as the groomer whizzed by on his snowmobile. He drags a roller that leaves the ridges. The skate skiers, the ones who stand up straight and whiz by, make the X like patterns in the snow with their long graceful stokes. Most people ski like Peggi and I, it’s more of a trudge and we ski in the long narrow ruts.

It was beautiful out there this morning, fresh snow, blue sky, full sun and all that but yesterday in bitter cold and high winds was even better. We skied up to the lake and looked out the white caps, as far out as we could see, and the lake was roaring as the big waves crashed against the ice formations along the shore.

We try to do a big loop and take a different route on the way back. At a hill Peggi asked, “Which way should go?” and I said it doesn’t really matter because we will eventually wind up back the same elevation,. That old, “What goes up, must come down” thing which used to be a truism. But then I wondered if there is any such thing as a truism any more.

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Our Demographic

Trail along east side of Eastman Lake
Trail along east side of Eastman Lake

We had already skied through the woods, around the perimeter of the golf course, up Horseshoe and around the loop overlooking the lake when Peggi suggested skiing back along Eastman Lake. It was so beautiful here we stopped every 25 yards or so just to look around.

I don’t think my mother ever subscribed to Better Homes & Gardens but she was getting it near the end. Probably for the same reason we recently started getting copies of Vogue – something to do with our demographic and because we subscribe to The New Yorker, another Condé Nast publication. We had switched my parents’ mailing address to ours so we could stay on top of their bills and all these years later it s still fun to find something addressed to them.

I would rather have been watching the Darby between Barcelona’s crosstown rivals but family comes first. Instead of giving a sport where huge men, clad in armor, crash into one another a unique name Americans called it “football” and they changed the name of the world’s biggest sport to soccer. We gathered at my brother, Fran’s, place for the Super Bowl and had a good time. But I was surprised how hard it is to pay attention to the game.

While European football runs 90 minutes, two 45s with no interruptions, this sport with 60 minutes of play time took about four hours to conclude. We were thrilled to hear Wreckless Eric’s anthem playing in Expedia’s Ewan McGregor ad but with so much noise between tiny snippets of play I kept losing track of the game.

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Just About Everything

Sk path from front door under blue lights
Sk path from front door under blue lights

What are we gonna do when Roberta Smith stops reviewing art? She has no completion. When the Times reviews four or five current gallery shows on Fridays, the ones she covers all sound like must-sees. Granted her seniority must give her dibs on the best shows but she brings so much more to the work. 

Her review of Etel Adnan’s show of recent paintings got me off on a deep dive of Adnan’s poetry and prose. Adnan died in November at 96 and her 2020 book, “Shifting of Silence,” breaks the social taboo on writing and speaking about our own deaths. “Better to admit that with the passing of days we know less about just about everything.”

And covering the sound on sound video artist, Kristin Oppenheim, Smith had me so intrigued I tracked down snippets of Oppenheim’s work on YouTube. While you on YouTube check out Oppenheim’s “Sail On Sailor.” She makes up her own words.

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Moon Walk

Ice formations along beach at Durand Eastman Lake Ontario
Ice formations along beach at Durand Eastman Lake Ontario

We are between storms. The temperature was in the mid forties today, it supposed to start raining soon, the temps will drop overnight and then we’ll get some serious snow. So instead of skiing we walked up the the lake and then out onto it. Something like the surface of the moon.

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Well Into Winter

Two buck with large racks crossed our path as we cut through the woods across the street. We stopped skiing for a few minutes to just look around and witnessed a hawk swoop down to pick up a live animal and fly with it to a nearby tree. It looked like another bird in its clutches bit it was hard to tell.

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Special Delivery

Delivery bags in the snow on Hoffman Road
Delivery bags in the snow on Hoffman Road

These soft delivery bags were sitting in the snow at the end of Hoffman Road about a week ago. The big hill across the street that leads down into the woods is getting a little slick so we drove down to the end of Hoffman Road and skied out onto the golf course from there. These bags were still sitting in a snow bank. I imagine someone stole the contents and dumped the bags.

Our UPS driver is back in action. He delivered a package of frozen fish from the Pacific Northwest and I had a chance to chat with him. He was anti vax and got hit hard with Covid. He was out of work for a few months and told me he was certain he was gonna die. His 70 year old mom got it too and she died. Holding back tears he told me he’s still mourning her.

At sixteen degrees the wind out on the golf course was a bit much so we ducked into the woods and followed the trails around the course. There a few hearty souls out there. We followed the western shore of Eastman Lake up the big lake and then up Horseshoe Road where we had a good view of the whitecaps out on Lake Ontario. With a few inches of fresh snow on the ground the conditions were excellent.

The rough water builds the most interesting formations along the lake. Maybe tomorrow we’ll cross Lakeshore Boulevard and ski along the lake.

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A Child Of Creation

Page 9 from Leo Dodd's "Underground Designers' Handbook" with quotation from Paul Klee. 1968
Page 9 from Leo Dodd’s “Underground Designers’ Handbook” with quotation from Paul Klee. 1968

My father died six years ago today. I don’t make a point of remembering the the date of his death. I was reminded of the anniversary when my brother, John, emailed to thank me for passing my father’s ring along to him. It was a long time coming. When Peggi and I took my father to the hospital for the last time, they asked us to take his ring, watch and wallet. I still use the wallet. I put the ring and watch in a drawer and forgot about them.

My father wore the ring as a wedding ring but he bought it when he was almost sixty while he was working in New Mexico. I decided to have four rings made from a mold of the original ring. Our friend, Kathy, recommended the Gem Lab and they did a great job. When we picked up the four new ones we could not tell the original from the copies although the copies were actually a higher quality silver. The Gem Lab placed them in identical boxes and my sister Ann shuffled the five like a shell game and each picked one. My sister-in-law Char chose for John because he couldn’t make the drawing. John won and I gave it to him on Christmas Day.

Ironically, as a woodworker it would be dangerous for him to wear a ring. I remember getting my high school class ring stuck on a long string of shopping carts that I was pushing while working at my uncle’s supermarket. I nearly tore my finger off.

I think of my father all the time.

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Busy As A Beaver

Beaver work on Eastman Lake
Beaver work on Eastman Lake

I remember paddling into a cove where a beaver was working on a nest. Can’t remember where we were. We inadvertantly rattled the beaver and it chased our canoe for awhile. We’ve never seen beavers in Durand but we see plenty of evidence of their handiwork. Judging by the size of these wood chips they must have some serious teeth.

Our morning walk is my favorite part of the day. It clears the air and raises the bar for the day’s experience.

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Reverie

Lake Ontario on Christmas Eve 2021
Lake Ontario on Christmas Eve 2021

We followed ski tracks into the park this morning. It may not be a white Christmas but it is a white Christmas Eve. You would never know that up at the lake.

Every ten years or so I get a chance to reconnect with Greg. An art major at IU when I was there, Greg was the real deal. I lived in the dorm, Greg saved on rent by living in his art studio in the Fine Arts building. In a sense he never left the studio. His apartment in NYC, all 185 square feet of it, is a rent controlled, fifth floor walkup.

Greg called this morning and we talked for an hour or so as if no time had passed at all. Many of our mutual friends have passed but we were able to engage and laugh in the present. Greg lamented how young artists can’t afford the city anymore and he missed batting around art notions over a cup of coffee. I offered that this observation may just be shaped by our age but he wouldn’t have it. He told me he limits his reverie. By doing so, the exercise is more satisfying and it leaves more time for him to work on his art journal/journey. I’m glad he made time to touch base today.

"Reverie" by Margaret Explosion. Recorded live at the Little Theatre Café on 03.13.19. Peggi Fournier - sax, Ken Frank - bass, Phil Marshall - guitar, Paul Dodd - drums.
“Reverie” by Margaret Explosion. Recorded live at the Little Theatre Café on 03.13.19. Peggi Fournier – sax, Ken Frank – bass, Phil Marshall – guitar, Paul Dodd – drums.
Listen to “Reverie” by Margaret Explosion
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