Pandemic Companion

Japanese Honeysuckle on Hoffman Road.
Japanese Honeysuckle on Hoffman Road.

We walked up to Aman’s this morning and noticed their Fresh Corn sign was not out front. In fact I saw it was out behind the building. I can’t believe corn season is over already. Here’s hoping they’ll get a late harvest.

Shelley emailed us about passing along her book to an editor at ADK’s magazine. That reminded us that we were going to put large versions of her artwork online and then link to them from the drawings in her book. So Peggi and I spent the afternoon posting the enlargements as links from her book. We realized “A Year in the Woods” is a perfect pandemic companion. Check it out if you get a chance.

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Anthropology 101

IBM typewriters by curb on Wisner Road
IBM typewriters by curb on Wisner Road

Interesting that people listen to loud EDM in their cars so early in the morning. We were headed up to the town hall to put our taxes in the contactless dropbox they have out back, a walk we used to do all the time when we were patronizing the library. Plastic Recipe 21 Premium Vodka bottles are still strewn along Titus.

We spotted an old cot by the road with a thin, rolled up mattress. It reminded me of the one my brother Fran slept on when we were growing up. The five boys were in one room. Mark and me in a double bed, John and Tim in bunk beds and Fran on the cot.

We’ve had a mattress rolled up in our basement for years. It is our guest mattress since our house has only one bedroom. We always ask friends who’ve slept over how they liked it and they have never complained. We recently slept down there ourselves when they were warning of high winds and found it really uncomfortable. We upped our game and ordered an inflatable mattress from REI. We’re going to test that later today.

Although La Liga is already a week into their new fanless season the three teams we care most about have not yet played. Both Real Madrid and Barcelona play this weekend and then Atlético. I watched a pre-recorded Atlético match from last season this morning, a 1-1 draw where they were seriously outplayed by Real Sociedad.

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Sorry You’re So Angry

Tree at end of Hoffman Road in September
Tree at end of Hoffman Road in September

Things that were all green just a few weeks ago are taking on beautiful colors.

I worry that the forced isolation brought on by the pandemic is making us, not just Peggi and me but a lot of us, less “sociable” (adjective: Willing to talk and engage in activities with other people; friendly). Although loneliness is a real problem it is not so bad inside your own head. Confronting strangers is more awkward than ever. Are they wearing a mask? Are they taking this thing seriously? We are more judgmental than ever.

We took the path through Tamarack Swamp this morning and when we got to the boardwalk we were following a woman with two dogs, both off leash. We slowed our pace and watched her put the dogs on a leash when she got to Lakeshore Boulevard. She had earbuds in and was was talking to someone on her phone while taking up most of the path. Peggi masked up and said, “I’m going to pass her.” As she ran by, one of the dogs growled and lurched at her, would have bit her if the leash was six inches longer. She pulled the dogs close and I walked by. We decided to ditch her and walk along the beach but she came up behind us and let her dogs off leash again. Peggi looked at the woman and said, “Really?” There is a leash law.

The woman grinned and said, “Sorry you’re so angry.” We skipped the beach and waited for traffic to slow before crossing Lakeshore Boulevard. A car was coming especially fast so we stepped back and then they hit the brakes and waved us across. People aren’t so bad.

On the ridge trail we spotted a runner coming up the hill toward us. We masked up and stepped into the woods to let him pass while he slowed to a walking pace. When he reached us he said, “Don’t worry about me. I’ve already had it.”

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I Want More

Three ground hogs on the golf course at Durand Eastman
Three ground hogs on the golf course at Durand Eastman

Our weather app showed rain all day. We walked anyway with rain gear, the hooded things that scrunch up into the zippered pocket when when we’re not using them. There was hardly anyone else out. The woods was dreamy, the soft rain, the degree of separation that the hood provides. I forgot where I was for minute, a sensation I love, similar to the feeling you get when you are on a brand new trail, going somewhere you have never been before.

The three walks we took across Spain had us in this suspended state. I want more.

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Great Stuff

Latino lawn figure in Sea Breeze, NY
Latino lawn figure in Sea Breeze, NY

Our neighbors on both sides feed the birds. And even feed the woodpeckers. We have three kinds of woodpeckers around here. The Pileated are the most dramatic. They sound like monkeys and look a lot like the Woody Woodpecker character. Then there is a medium sized one with red on it. And the smaller ones in various shades of grey, one of which was hammering away at the soffit of our house for a few weeks. We kept shooing it away but but it had free reign while we were out so we wound up with a hole big enough for me to put my fist in.

Our neighbor suggested Great Stuff, the plastic foam filler that comes out of a can. We found it at Lowes and arranged a curb side pick-up. I went up on the roof, laid down on my stomach and squirted the stuff up the hole while Peggi guided me from below. I have this hideous formation of goop hanging down from that spot and plan to go back up there tomorrow to cut it off. I’m thinking of painting the filler brown.

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Liberty Avenue

Giant Puffball in the woods after the rain. My size 12 shoe is in the photo to indicate scale.
Giant Puffball in the woods after the rain. My size 12 shoe is in the photo to indicate scale.

We don’t plan our daily walks unless we need something at Aman’s or Home Depot or Rubino’s. And we don’t like to go out and back on the same route so we make somewhat of a circle out of it and wander for four or five miles. We spotted this giant puffball in the woods at the end of our street and then headed down to the bay via Liberty Avenue, a road we don’t often take. It was surprisingly quiet for a holiday and there were a lot of flags flying like Labor Day has something to do with patriotism. We followed Seneca Road to where it ends in front of both the Mohawk Yacht Club and N.Y.C. (Newport Yacht Club). It was quiet on the bay too.

On the way back we saw a grey Corvette with the top down. The side of the car had the letters TRUMP on them and a Donald Trump dummy was sitting in the passenger seat. We guessed there might have been a Boaters for Trump rally going on down at the lake.

If it wasn’t for this pandemic we’d be downtown tonight keeping Rochester in the national news and demanding justice for Daniel Prude.

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AD España

Spread from September issue of AD España
Spread from September issue of AD España

I was beginning too think AD Espanã was packing it in due to Covid. July/August was one issue and I was jones’n for the September offering and kept checking the Apple bookstore for the new issue. Two days before the calendar flipped they released it. $3.99 a pop. The perfect compliment to dreams of Spain.

Spread from September issue of AD España
Spread from September issue of AD España
Spread from September issue of AD España
Spread from September issue of AD España
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Good Year For The Roses

Beets, basil, tomatoes, carrots and arugula from garden on my t-shirt
Beets, basil, tomatoes, carrots and arugula from garden on my t-shirt

Our garden is giving back. The hours we spent down there this year were more enjoyable than most. The pandemic forced us to gear down and enjoy the ride.

We went all in for Fruition Seeds this year and started everything from seed, their seed, the organic stuff. And we learned so much from Petra and her videos. A PopWars shoutout to her!

It’s Been a Good Year for the Roses.

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Mask Up

Carrots, tomatoes and basil from garden on my t-shirt
Carrots, tomatoes and basil from garden on my t-shirt

Today’s walking route finished down at the garden (in our neighbor’s backyard). I forgot to bring a bag so I used my t-shirt to carry our pickings home. Peggi had two nice looking beets in her hands. She took a photo of me as a six foot gauge, something to calculate the height of our tomato plants by. We don’t get full sun down here, maybe four hours, so the plants keep reaching. They are no less laden with fruit though.

We’re getting pretty good at avoiding people on our walks and we’re able get our masks up in a hurry when we do run into them. We walked to Aman’s Farm Market the other day and ran into the owner. We asked how he was doing during all this and he told us he was doing great. The market is close to open-air in this weather and it feels safe in there so we were glad to hear it. But he did lose some good, long-time customers, ones that wouldn’t wear a mask inside. One guy told him it was all a conspiracy and the owner said goodbye to him.

Paul as gauge of height of tomato plant. Photo by Peggi Fournier.
Paul as gauge of height of tomato plant. Photo by Peggi Fournier.
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Eastern Cicada Killer Wasp

Chicken Mushroom on the ridge trail through Durand Eastman
Chicken Mushroom on the ridge trail through Durand Eastman

I had to tear myself away from the live feed from Sturgis, South Dakota. The camera is positioned over Sturgis Liquor across the street from the “Knuckle Saloon.” There’s a flashing sign out front reading “Jack Daniels Apparel Sold Here” and a van, parked under the sign, advertises “Skrewball Peanut Butter Whiskey.” It’s no wonder the people on the street walk so funny.

We watched an HP Lovecraft documentary last night. I’m not recommending it but it did color our encounter this afternoon with an Eastern Cicada Killer Wasp. Peggi identified the creature with her iNaturalist app and we were relieved to learn the “Killer Wasp” part is not where the emphasis should be. The huge, black and white striped wasp is not particularly dangerous to humans. It is the “Cicada Killer” part of the name that tells the Lovecraftian story. What we were looking at, a creature darting around on our driveway, was the wasp trying to kill the Cicada.

NYT featured an article about how readers were coping with the pandemic blues. A Milwaukee reader said, “I’ve been painting rocks and leaving them on paths at parks for a happy little surprise for someone.” Here in Rochester we too have come across those damn things and I can’t tell you how annoying they are out in nature. More annoying than those stone piles that people make on beaches.

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Garden Of Eden

Olive oil, basil, basil in a plastic bag tent and carrots from the garden
Olive oil, tomatoes, basil, basil in a plastic bag tent and carrots from the garden

We spent some time down in the garden today. Some weeding, some planting (a new row of cilantro), some watering. I tied up the new growth on our tomato plants. Some of them would be eight foot tall if they hadn’t run out of stake. And of course we picked stuff (beets, basil, cilantro, arugula and kale). 

It was especially nice down there because Michael Burritt, the percussion teacher at the Eastman School of Music, had his windows open and he was playing one of his melodious mallet instruments. He has a signature brand of vibes. Either that or xylophone. I always get those mixed up. And he has a particularly loud air conditioner which is usually on in the summer but it wasn’t today. So it was a treat to hear him play.

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This Is Why

Warren Philips in his gallery with Antonio Tapies print on the wall.
Warren Philips in his gallery with Antonio Tapies print on the wall.

Driving down Culver, a route we used to take almost daily pre-pandemic, I had a creepy feeling come over me. I didn’t miss the short ride to downtown, not at all. I wondered aloud if we were disengaging with the world. A gold, early seventies, Chevy pick-up was waiting at the Norton Street intersection with Culver Road. I couldn’t wait to get a better look at it and when we did I was delighted to see a young couple in the front seat, he driving and she beaming, while sitting right next to him in the middle of the passenger seat. This is why we go out in the world. This is why we must put this pandemic behind us.

We made an appointment to to see Warren Philips’ new show at his gallery in the Hungerford building. We expected to find Warren framing in his shop but he sat down and held court while we browsed. The wall behind him features an Antonio Tapies etching flanked by two Manolo Millares prints. Further down the same wall was a Lucio Muñoz serigraph. These are all giants of the Spanish abstract movement. All were featured in the Museo de Arte Abstracto Español in Cuenca when we were there last year.

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All Net

Green swirl in Durand Lake
Green swirl in Durand Lake

Early August is peak green in upstate NewYork. The woods are at their fullest, the trails are overgrown, the cattails are at their tallest. The Black Swallow Wort is going to seed. The garlic mustard and May apples are starting to die back. We’re peaking.

Our canopy of oaks, though, is thinner than usual. The leaves are spindly, half eaten by the caterpillar/gypsy moth plague, so there is more sun on our lot. We took notice of the stray Autumn Olive trees that we have, an invasive species that has popped up on all four sides of our house.

Our neighbor called our attention to one that was hanging over the road. He said he was afraid one of the thorns on its branches would reach in his truck window and scratch him. He offered to prune our bush, an offer that struck us as rude but one that was, true to form, only blunt.

Instead of pruning the tree we decided to take it out, it and twenty or so others. Some were fifteen feet high. All were gangly. Weed trees. And the thorns were “crown of thorns” size. We cut the tees down with a saw and then dug the root balls out, a task that took us the better part of three days.

In our down time we’ve been watching the high school senior across the street shoot baskets in her driveway. It was exactly a year ago today when I surprised her with a new net. She has gotten really good. So good that she now has a coach who who stops by and feeds her shots. When she shoots it is all net.

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Dollar A Minute

Statues with rosaries on Culver Road near former Saint Salome's Church.
Statues with rosaries on Culver Road near former Saint Salome’s Church.

A bunch of us on our dead end street split the cost of the swimming pool that sits on an empty lot. The arrangement predates our arrival by decades. The pool was put in in 1960. One of the neighbors has been mowing the lawn there for years but his tractor has bitten the dust. I’ve mowed it by hand before but it takes forever and it is boring. I’ve only mowed our lawn once this year and I’m hoping I won’t have to mow it again. We are surrounded by trees. I use the mower in the fall to chew up the leaves.

The presidency of the pool corp rotates and Peggi and I are stuck with it for two years. It was up to us to find someone to mow the lawn. Jeddy and Helena live across from the pool and they have a guy that mows their lawn. We’ve heard them talk about the guy. Not unreliable but, “He said he would come today . . .” And he doesn’t just come like clockwork during a drought. He waits for there to be a need. He’s our guy.

I called him this afternoon. He said he would come tomorrow, mow the lawn and then tell us how much it will be. He said he charges one dollar a minute. I asked, “How fast does your tractor go?”

We brought back our fort three tomatoes from the garden and had them with some basil and Manchego theses. And then we vacuumed the screen on our porch. The tree debris, catkins, cotton wood seed and the gypsy moths, have finally subsided. We are deep into summer now.

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Freedom

Yellow Lilly iIn Jared's Pond
Yellow Lilly iIn Jared’s Pond

Our tomato plants are now taller than I am. And more importantly they are taller than our stakes. Peggi reminded me that other years we strapped extensions onto the existing stakes so that may be tomorrow’s project. We have more plants than ever this year, two different kinds, all started from Fruition seed. We don’t get full sun, maybe four hours a day, so they are probably reaching for as much light as they can get.

Peggi got stung by a ground bee on walk yesterday. Her second bee experience in her long life. Last time it got infected and compounded the hurt so her doctor started her on antibiotics. In line at Wegmans to pick up the subscription she noticed the woman next to her, speaking loudly, was not wearing a mask. Peggi asked the pharmacist how the woman got in without wearing a mask and pharmacist said they can’t force people to wear masks.

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Feel Lighter

"Philosophy of Andy Warhol" with Campbell's soup can drawing and autograph.
“Philosophy of Andy Warhol” with Campbell’s soup can drawing and autograph.

Before climbing the walls in the depths of the Covid crisis the British writer, Sophie Atkinson, reread “The Philosophy of Andy Warhol” and in a recent NYTs piece she recommended it as a roadmap to navigating the countless days at home. She was reminded of an obvious truth: “I don’t need to go outdoors or online to have fun. Life has started to feel a little lighter. ” I made a note to reread the book.

And yesterday I read Brigid Berlin’s obit. She was the “B” in the subtitle of “The Philosophy of Andy Warhol” – “(From A to B and Back Again).” She too was an artist and she recorded most of the conversation transcribed in the book. From her obit -“Her most radical act, late in life, was to become a near replica of her mother, with a similar apartment, identical pug dogs and conservative political views.”

Because we ordered an early copy through Interview Magazine, our book is autographed with an original Campbell’s soup can drawing.

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Spice Of Life

Airstream trailer in driveway on the walk up to Aman's Farm Market
Airstream trailer in driveway on the walk up to Aman’s Farm Market

If I am not mistaken this is same driveway that we spotted a turquoise Metropolitan in about ten years ago..

I love the hot humid period we get in the the northeast as much as I love the bitter cold period in the dead of winter. Variety is the spice of life.

We typically get a reprieve from the leaf blower racket once summer rolls around. But this year, in the middle of summer, we are experiencing a fall of pieces of green leaves. The gypsy moth poop pellets cover the ground. Even we have taken to leaf blowing.

Ours is electric and once I turn it on I don’t turn it off until I am done. We have some neighbors who strap on the gas powered blowers and throttle them up and down every few minutes. In an ideal world this should be against a town ordinance. You can tune out a lot if it is a constant but on and off . . .

With our canopy being eaten we are getting more sun and the house is hot. We don’t have or want air conditioning so Peggi fashioned a poor man’s AC unit by filling a Guinness glass with ice and placing it in front of the fan.

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Beginning Of A Great Adventure

Baby robin on our deck
Baby robin on our deck

Peggi went out on the deck to water our lemon grass plants and found this little guy, standing there, unafraid. And didn’t fly away while she watered the plants. We didn’t recognize the bird as a baby robin but continued watching from inside and saw its orange breasted mom land nearby and drop a worm into its mouth.

I was thinking of Lou Reed’s song where he kicks around the idea of having childen.

“I’d keep the tyke away from school and tutor him myself
keep him from the poison of the crowd
But then again pristine isolation might not be the best idea
it’s not good trying to immortalize yourself”

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Taste Of The Tropics

Durand Beach early this morning just after the rain.
Durand Beach early this morning just after the rain.

It was pouring when we woke up and the first thing I thought of was the groundhog in the Have-A-Heart trap that I put right next to the downspout of our gutter. We caught him on Friday down in the garden in our neighbor’s backyard. I called the town and they will pick him up on Monday morning and relocate him. He had not drowned but he didn’t look too happy. I fed him scraps from our compost pile. Cilantro stems (Peggi had just made a batch of cilantro pesto), banana skins, some cantaloupe rind and an orange peel. His first taste of the tropics for sure.

It was supposed to be raining at 7 and that’s all it took for everyone to stay home. Not even the dog walkers were out and by the time we got to the lake it had turned into another beautiful day in paradise.

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What I’m Doing With My Summer Vacation

Performance of Stravinsky's "The Rite of Spring" at Téåtre des Champs-Elysees in Paris in 1913
Performance of Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring” at Téåtre des Champs-Elysees in Paris in 1913

I’m scanning the fourth column of my “Brief History of the World,” preparing to digitize a copy and make it available as an ePub download. It is an ambitious project. Assembling the twenty spiral bound notebooks, 3-hole punching the white 110 pound card stock and pasting cut out pictures from the newspaper was easy. I did that over a twenty year period. Scanning each image and reassembling the books in a page layout program is time consuming. The image above is from “Brief History of the World Vol XVI.” It is available as a free download here.

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