We Are On The Edge

Dandelions and Forsythia in bloom on walk to Wegmans.
Dandelions and Forsythia in bloom on walk to Wegmans.

We went a graduation party yesterday in my parents’ old neighborhood and drove by their house before settling in at the party. This is the time of year I would usually help them hang their canvas awnings, something I called the “Awning Ritual.” The awnings are still up in the garage and their house looks empty of life.

We arrived at the party when the band pulled up. I asked the drummer what kind of music they played and he said, “Americana.” They set up in the backyard and sounded really good. But it is curious to me that in 2019 so many bands play the same batch of old songs, a mixture of the Band, Hank Williams, Jimmy Dale Gilmore, Statler Brothers, etc. It’s as if they are trying to enshrine some heritage instead of developing something new. Maybe all this devotion will lead somewhere. I loved all that stuff in the day but comfort food makes me nervous.

During Jeff Spevak’s book release party at the Record Archive, while the Americana band was playing, I wandered around the store. I had read a review of the Art Ensemble’s new record that morning and looked around for the Jazz section. In the “A’s” I found a row of Louis Armstrong cds about a foot and half deep. And then tucked behind that one. the Art Ensemble cd, “We Are On The Edge, A 50th Anniversary Celebration.” I love the record and marvel at their forever forward movement.

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Walking Club

View from eastern side of Genesee River in Rochester, New York
View from eastern side of Genesee River in Rochester, New York

I’m so happy Kathy suggested walking the eastern bank of the Genesee yesterday. It was a perfect day and the perfect time of year to take in views of the river since the tress are just beginning to fill in. We parked the car in Herrema’s on Pattonwood and walked directly to the river. The path has a variety of surfaces and is obviously tended to but not fussed over. No signage and plenty of places to get dangerously close to the steep banks.

We walked up to the Zoo and turned around at the pond in Seneca Park. The river banks here are remarkably free from development There are dreamy views of backyards on Van Voorhis in the Flats and a giant Budda overlooking a pond near Sagamore Drive. Salmon are swimming upstream to lay their eggs and we crossed a small tributary running into the river where fish, two and three feet long, were trapped in tangled cables. I wish someone would address that situation.

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Black Label

Mike Caramana, Paul Dodd and Dick posing in Domas home in Greece, New York. Photo by Burr Lewis for Democrat & Chronicle
Mike Caramana, Paul Dodd and Dick posing in a Domas home in Gatese, New York. Photo by Burr Lewis for Democrat & Chronicle.

At Wednesday’s Debbie Kendrick gig I was chatting with Frank and his friend Jim about some plumbing that Jim was doing on his mother-in-law’s house. Frank said something that indicated he didn’t think I was very handy. I was a bit taken aback but mostly I was thinking how it was that I project that image. I’ve known Frank since high school.

It was the summer before my junior year when I worked for Virgila and Sons. We framed houses, the rough carpentry as opposed to finished carpentry. Plywood had not taken over. The walls, floors and roofs were constructed with three quarter inch, tongue and groove boards. We’d stop for coffee in the morning and have sweet rolls toasted on the grill. On Fridays we’d drink beer at quitting time. They asked me what kind of beer I liked and I said, “Carling,” probably because I like the Mabel, Black Label commercials. They laughed and called it, “nigger piss.”

After I dropped out of college, around the time I met Peggi, I worked for Mitchell Construction in Bloomington. I wanted to do carpentry but they needed someone on the concrete crew. The company wanted to do work for the University but all thirty of their workers were white. They had to hire a black person to get a contract. Wayne had just got out prison for accidentally sandwiching someone between the car he was driving and another. Involuntary manslaughter. Three of us spread stone around and poured and finished concrete sidewalks, garage floors and basements. After the first week one of the carpenters asked me what it was like to work with a nigger.

When we moved back to Rochester I got a job for another, small family run construction crew, Caramana Construction, a father and two sons. We built a hundred or so Domas tract homes in Gates and Spencerport. There were three models with slight variations, a center entrance Colonial, a split-level and the cheapest, a raised ranch.

Mike, one of the sons, took on some the homes himself while his father worked on another home with a few other guys. The three of us, above, would put up a house like this in three days! And then we’d come back and plop in the windows. A photographer for the D&C happened to be there this time and we wound up in the paper. Proof for Frank.

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Learn A New Lick

Armand Schaubroeck For State Senate poster at House of Guitars in Rochester, New York
Armand Schaubroeck For State Senate poster at House of Guitars in Rochester, New York

I stopped in to see Jack at the Twelve Corners bagel shop. The cashier told me to go on back. Jack was listening to to some Arabic music and franticly tending a steady stream of dough as it spilled out of a vat and onto the moving track that shapes the bagels.

Upstairs at the House of Guitars in the far back corner of the building there used to be a mound of drum hardware. The peak was ten feet high and the pile spilled toward you like an art installation. Most of it was used, stands that were taken in on trade, but if you were lucky you might find just the part you were looking for. We walked over this afternoon and found Ethan Porter in Dick’s old space, working on guitars. And that pile is growing again but its over to the left.

I was looking for the shortest snare stand I could find because I wanted to put a rack tom on it and have the tops of my snare and tom be level. I found a used top and a bottom and put them together but it still wasn’t short enough. I took it down to Jared’s and we shortened it with a grinder, drilled a new hole with his drill press and put it all together.

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It’s Impossible

Masonic building on Main Street in Aurora, New York
Masonic building on Main Street in Aurora, New York

We peeked in the windows of this old Masonic Lodge building when we were down in Aurora. They were apparently still using the place for meetings. The space was sort of an open plan like a small church. It’s one of the few buildings in The town that hasn’t been restored by the Inn owners. Standing outside the front door you could see right through the building to the lake.

In these dreamy small towns, that are at least a century past their prime, I always find myself entertaining an old fantasy, really just momentarily picturing what it might be like living in a rehabbed building in the center of town. But before it even comes into focus I dismiss it. I know it’s impossible. 

At Pete Monacelli’s opening, where a series of works were titled “Searching For Home.” he told me why he left his hometown of Albion. The scenario where he opened a space where teens could hang out only to find the principal of the school and the local cops did everything they could to shut him down pretty well sums it up.


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Fire And Ice

Winter Aconite in full bloom for the past week 2019
Winter Aconite in full bloom for the past week, 2019

My father first identified this flower for us. We were stunned to see it bursting through the snow. I started keeping track of the date each year when we first see it and last year it was February 22nd. I posted a picture of the Winter Aconite then and in that post I see I mentioned “the amount of plastic that scientists found in tiny fish at the bottom of the ocean.” This morning I read about a big fish, a whale in the Philippines, with eighty-eight pounds of plastic in its stomach.

We could all have a much lighter footprint.

I have neglected the website, theRefrigerator.net, long enough and am in the process of taking it down, reducing my digital footprint. I’m keeping a few things and this morning I finished moving my favorite piece, Shelley Valachovic’s artist journal entitled “A Year In The Woods,” to a safe location.

Shelley and Pete's handmade home in the woods.
A Year In The Woods – Illustrated and written by Shelley Valchovic.

This is a blueprint for a lighter footprint and so much more. Shelley’s watercolor illustrations of the local plants, fruit, leaves and mushrooms that surround them in their Adirondack home are gorgeous. We bought the original of the image below at a show of Shelley’s work in Troy. Shelley’s text, the beautiful journal entries, charts the Adirondack seasonal offerings. Here is a passage from mid March.

Ball Galls on Goldenrod (Solidago spp.)
Ball Galls on Goldenrod (Solidago spp.)

“The chipmunks came out today all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, two of them running like madmen between the shed, the lodge, the fireplace, and back to the shed again. They must have calendars in their underground winter hideouts, for they are right on schedule. Or perhaps they can sense the thaw, feel the softening of the ground, or maybe their ceilings have started to leak.”

I’m guessing that Shelley and her partner, Pete, are syruping down today. In her March entry, she notes that water freezes at a higher temperature than sugar, separating the goods before you boil it down. See “A Year In The Woods.

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Seneca Country

View of Irondequoit Bay from the back of the Bay Side Pub
View of Irondequoit Bay from the back of the Bay Side Pub

In another two weeks the outlet bridge will swing open and you won’t be able to walk into Webster again until November. We walked over the bridge and on to the spit of land separating Lake Ontario and Irondequoit Bay. Summer homes used to line both sides of this peninsula but most of the ones on the north side have washed away. There is a nice foot path that parallels the road where the former Hojack tracks were. It comes to an end by a historical marker on the spot where Denonville’s French army landed in 1687 when they invaded Seneca country.

One year ago we circumnavigated the Bay on foot. We were preparing for the big walk across Spain. Excitement was in the air. Anything was possible. And nothing has changed.

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Sparky Dot Com

"Sparky Goes To A Gig" - Sparky painting by Paul Dodd. House Paint on Wood 43"w x 72"h 1992
“Sparky Goes To A Gig” – Sparky painting by Paul Dodd currently hanging on the wall at Murphy’s Law on Empire Boulevard in Rochester, NY. House Paint on Wood 43″w x 72″h 1992

In August of 2000 Steve Orr of the Democrat & Chronicle wrote a review that started with, “My favorite part of theRefrigerator might be the step-by-step pictorial on how to burn a pistachio. ‘These nuts, my favorite food in the world, flame like little flares when set afire.’ Or maybe it’s the painting entitled ‘Sparky Shows Me His Colostomy Gag.'” 

Last year Maureen told us she spotted some Sparky paintings hanging in a bar on Empire Boulevard. I had wondered what happened to the series of paintings I did back in the early nineties. Cheryl Laurro displayed them in the widow of Godiva’s on Monroe Avenue and the owner of Oxford Pub, across the street, bought them. I hadn’t seen them since.

We were meeting friends at Proietti’s in Webster last night so we left a little early and stopped by Murphy’s Law at the bottom (or is it the top) of Irondequoit Bay. We found three paintings on the walls in the main room, “Sparky Shoots A Sewer Rat,” Sparky Cooks The Kielbasa In His Own Special Sauce,” and “Sparky Goes To A Gig” above. I was surprised how big they were.

Sparky had been on my mind lately. He passed away in November and I recently moved the mini website devoted to Sparky, to a new responsive html location.

It took me quite a while to warm up to Sparky, our next door neighbor for twenty seven years, but once we became friendly I amassed quite few photos and paintings of him along with a collection of “Sparky capsules,” a short sentence foundation for a painting. Sparky knew he was a character and he cultivated his persona with fantastic stories. See “Sparky Dot Com.”

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Love/Hate

Snow covered treetop in Durand Eastman
Snow covered treetop in Durand Eastman

Our neighbors have someone staying at their house while they are down south and I saw him out brushing his car off this morning. He said “I’m sick of this stuff.” We were headed out skiing and loving this stuff.

We had about six inches overnight and it was about fourteen degrees so the snow was light and fluffy, fluffy enough for us to risk skiing down the steep hill behind our neighbor’s house and into the woods. Out on the golf course we got on one of the groomed trails. We saw another neighbor out there skiing with his wife. He said this was the best day all winter. The sun was out and it was so beautiful we did a lot of just stopping and standing around.

Tomorrow we start the official countdown to Saint Patty’s, the unofficial first day of Spring.

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Babysitting Tonight

Peggi with backpack under 250 year old old tree on Culver Road
Peggi with backpack under 250 year old old tree on Culver Road

There is no way this tree, in front of the Church of the Transfiguration on Culver Road, is coming down in the windstorm that is currently howling outside. It has been here since before the Declaration of Independence was signed. The sidewalk which was already moved is being shoved aside again. We’ve walked by this tree three days in a row now, on trips up to Wegman’s, the bank and then the library.

We had the 1959 movie, “Jazz on a Summer’s Day,” in our Netflix queue for months and there is still a “Very Long Wait.” They must only have a few copies. I found it listed in the collection at our library so we headed over there. We’re always looking for a walking destination. I remember really liking the opening number by Jimmy Giuffre, Bob Brookmeyer and Jim Hall. And the Monk performance in the movie we just watched was so good I need more. Once we got home with the dvd I found the full movie on YouTube.

The temperature was up in the fifties earlier but it is dropping fast. An inversion that may cause gusts over 70 miles an hour. We’re planning on going out to hear Kahil with the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble at the Bop Shop tonight but if a tree drops on the power line we’ll be babysitting our neighbor’s generator. PopWars will go dark.

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Sell The Statues

Cross on tree in the woods, Rochester, New York
Cross on tree in the woods, Rochester, New York

Another perfect day for cross country or “Alpine Skiing” as Ann our yoga buddy from Jeffery’s summer classes at the yacht club. We ran into Ann on the course and she tried to give me a hug. I leaned over on my skis and almost fell over. She is the high school ski instructor and she was happy to be skiing on her own while the kids are off for President’s Week. We skied out the ridge to the lake and back along the western edge of Durand Lake. I spotted this cross on a tree on our way up out of the woods.

I was talking to my cousin over the weekend and he asked about our Camino trip. While explaining the centuries old significance of the destination, we found ourselves deep in a religious conversation. In no time at all he was talking about he recent Democrat & Chronicle exposé on the priests at McQuaid, the same priests that kicked him out of McQuaid for disturbing the other students. As if that wasn’t a worthwhile pursuit for a high schooler. Yet these guys sexually abused their own students, covered for one another and acted all pious.

My cousin recommended “The Keepers” to us, the Netflix series on the murder of Sister Catherine Cesnik, a popular nun at Baltimore’s Archbishop Keough High School. He said he thought it was more powerful than “Spotlight.” Even though we had just started “The Ted Bundy Tapes” (I fell asleep in Episode 1) we watched the first two installments of “The Keepers” last night. It is devastating and hard to watch. In this case the evil starts in the school and is covered up by the whole city.

This week Pope Francis meets with the church hierarchy in a last ditch effort to turn his ship around. Unless they seriously clean house, assist in the prosecution of rapists in their midst, open their doors to people of all sexual persuasions, allow women to be priests and roll back the bone headed, 12th Century edict on celibacy they might as well start selling their statues.

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Red Envelope

Chinese New Year at Nhung's
Chinese New Year at Nhung’s

We celebrated Chinese New Year last night with my brother’s lady friend and her family. We rang in the the Year of the Pig sitting around a long table with bowls stacked with fresh ingredients plates of rice paper wrappers and two hot plates as centerpieces.

My brother tended the hot plate nearest us and I marveled at how adept he was with chopsticks. He carefully demonstrated how to roll a proper spring roll, how to start with the ingredients close to the edge and roll it snug, tucking the ends in midway. “It’s just like rolling a joint,” he said. Of course, I continually made the same mistake I did with that exercise. I kept trying to put too much in the container.

After dinner red envelopes with gold embossing were spread out on the table. We each took one while our host explained that only three had a two dollar bill inside, a sign of good luck in the new year. I was one of the lucky ones but the others each had a five inside.

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Crystallization

Ice covered Witch Hazel in Durand Eastman
Ice covered Witch Hazel in Durand Eastman

We walked up to Wegmans with our Yak Tracks on. The temperature is right at freezing and the rain we had overnight froze on every surface. In the produce aisle we ran into Steve Greive and he showed us photos he took of ice covered trees in the marsh near his house. This particular Witch Hazel (above), which blooms in the dead of winter, smells like a rich butterscotch but the scent is trapped inside the ice.

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Scat Singing

Peggi skiing home in the woods near Durand Eastman
Peggi skiing home in the woods near Durand Eastman

In case anyone hasn’t noticed, the cross country ski conditions are excellent. We skied around our neighbor’s pond and down into the woods across the street. There is so much snow you can hardly get up enough speed to hurt yourself. There is too much snow for the deer. Judging from piles of scat, they have spent the last few days on our ski trails. Out on the golf course we came across the groomer. He had rolled his snowmobile and the 1,000 pound sled that he drags to groom the trails was buried in the snow.

We took the ridge trail out to the lake and found it nearly frozen out about a hundred yards. Peggi suggested we walk to Marge’s on the ice.

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Iconic Tree

The iconic oak tree is missing from the marsh on Hoffman Road in Rochester, New York
The iconic oak tree is missing from the marsh on Hoffman Road in Rochester, New York

I have photographed this marsh on Hoffman Road many times. It wasn’t always as wet as it is today. Old-timers say there used to be garden plots down here. Development on high ground has repercussions. The giant oak that stood out in the middle, the one I photographed with an eagle perched on it, is gone. It fell over.

When you check a new release out of the library you know you’re going to be back there in a couple weeks. When you bring a newly released dvd home you know you’ll be back in a few days. And each time you visit you come back with something else so this goes on and on. It is a bit of a trick to work a variation into your route each visit.

We walked to the end of Hoffman and across the small foot bridge over the creek. There is an old horse trail that starts there and works its way up to Kings Highway. It is way overgrown and only passable in the winter when there is not too much snow. And there are number of fallen trees laying across the path. Its an obstacle course but it made for an exciting trip. We came home with a restored version George Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead.”

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1969

Candles at New Years party 2019
Candles at New Years party 2019

We managed to round up some friends for an impromptu New Year’s bash. There was plenty of food and some people brought even more. We carried on past two and have nearly a case of champaign left over. Guests seemed to come in two waves so there was plenty of parking on our dead end street.

I was shuffling a folder of about a thousand songs, ones that I had marked as a favorite over the years, and fast forwarding through clunkers with my watch. I had moved our HomePod out to the kitchen and that added clarity to the stereo sound. Everything was cool for a few hours and then the stereo feed quit on me. My computer wouldn’t let me reselect both the HomePod and the stereo. I switched to vinyl and quickly piled 45s on lps, starting records at the wrong speed or missing the space between songs on lps. I sort of crashed then and never played the Stooges 1969, something I had played at every other NYE party. And this would have been the 50th anniversary.

At about two o’clock one of our guests couldn’t find his jacket in our closet. Someone else had worn it home and the keys to his house were in the pocket. We made a few frantic calls and texted likely suspects but weren’t able to reach anyone. A perfect time to be on the road, we drove to a relative’s and picked up a spare key. The jacket returned in the morning and it looked exactly like the one that was left here.

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MMXIX

Lake Ontario at Durand Eastman Beach on New Year's Eve 2018
Lake Ontario at Durand Eastman Beach on New Year’s Eve 2018

The lake looks so beautiful this afternoon. It is ready to turn over and bring on the the new year. We are ready to receive its gifts.

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Negative Image Making

Spray paint art on sidewalk at Wegman's in Rochester, New York
Spray paint art on sidewalk at Wegman’s in Rochester, New York

I’ve stepped over this black paint, on the curb near the entrance to Wegmans, so many times and I’ve never been able to figure out what it was that someone spray painted.

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Avoiding That

Birds and Worms club on the shore of Irondequoit Bay where Fish and Game Club is today.
Birds and Worms club on the shore of Irondequoit Bay where Fish and Game Club is today.

We headed out this morning for the outlet bridge but turned toward the bay near the Point Pleasant Fire Department. At the bottom of the hill on Pleasant Avenue is a gated community called Bay Point and Schnackel Drive, a funky neighborhood of small homes, about half of them seasonal, at water’s edge. Many of the homes down here can only be reached on foot or by water. When Schnacknel ended we continued on a path until we spotted a “Beware of Dog” sign. Country music was playing on some outdoor speakers and an older guy came over to see what we were up to. My father had sent Peggi this old picture of the the Birds and Worms Club and we asked him if he remembered where that was. He pointed to the Newport Yacht Club. He said he bought his house in 1965 and then he got off on a tax rant. We told him we had heard there was a store down here and he told us it was called “Alice’s.” He said “she sold penny candy and beer and she died in the store.”

My sister, Amy, had a holiday party last night and we spent some time talking to our niece about her vegan diet. We were standing around a table full of cookies and I felt guilty each time I ate one. Our brother-in-law, Cal Zone told us he was doing a show on WAYO today but I got the time wrong and tuned in too late. Peggi got the lowdown down on our nephew. He’s home from Pittsburgh for a few days and playing there with his band on New Year’s Eve. The band’s called “Swither” and Eli writes the lyrics and sings. “Everybody’s wondering what I’m doing next. Well, I’ve been getting real good at avoiding that.”

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Rehab

Peggi looking out window on 21st floor of Metropolitan in Rochester, New York
Peggi looking out window on 21st floor of Metropolitan in Rochester, New York

On somewhat of a lark we took a tour of the Metropolitan Building in downtown Rochester. Formerly Lincoln Rochester, Lincoln First and Chase Lincoln, it was bank and it still looks like one. Our friend, Time Schapp worked here and you could see Lake Ontario from from hi office window. The place has been converted into high-end apartments, ones that one with high speed internet, cable tv, parking, trash pick-up, physical fitness room and an on-site restaurant. All for somewhere around 3000 a month.

The apartments we looked at were all on the twenty first floor. The view at sunset was spectacular. The apartments were open space plans and nicely appointed. It was kind of fun imagining how we would use the space, where the drums would go and the tree stump that Pete and Shelley gave us. I think the deal breaker here is lack of access to the outdoors. You can’t even open the windows up here.

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