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.
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.”
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.
It is surely cleaner to burn natural gas rather than wood but we have a lot of free wood around here. It falls from the sky. Our neighborhood is seventy years old and the trees that were left when the houses went up continue to mature. They grow toward the light which is often right over the house and they become lopsided. Conscientious homeowners prune them and are left with the wood, perfectly good fuel if you have a fireplace. But it takes some real effort to cut, split and stack the wood so it can age before burning.
And that is where we come in. Instead of walking we’ve spent the better part of this week out by the wood pile. Our neighbors took down a big tree that was hanging over their house. They contacted us while we were in Spain and asked if we we wanted it. Of course we said yes and when we came home we found these huge pieces, better than 30 inches in diameter and much longer that the 21 inches that fit in our hydraulic splitter. I watched a YouTube video on how to split large logs. This guy made it look easy. His method works but falls apart when you have burls and limbs going in all directions. We worked our asses off out there but have three face cords aging and a fire fire going. We are going to seed but not there yet.
We walked along the river this morning from Ford Street to Elmwood and and back on the other side. I found a plastic protractor near UR and over on the west side a piece of paper with handwritten proverbs. “Even a fool is thought wise if he holds his tongue” caught my attention.
Some friends of ours have a yearly holiday gathering. It is centered around wine. Everyone brings a bottle and sets it on a table near the front door and the place is so crowded we hardly get to talk with the hosts. But it is a great opportunity to get together with people we only see a few times each year.
Maybe ten years ago some people brought their guitars and sang a few songs, folk songs like House of the Rising Sun and the Pogues Christmas song. It felt spontaneous and festive. As the years went by more guitars come out earlier. The first few songs grabbed everyone’s attention, I especially liked a former Chesterfield Kings’ version of “Dead Flowers,” but when a boisterous Johnny Cash tune drowned out the conversation we were having in the other room I groaned and said something about originality.
A small group was playing Cat Steven’s “Wild World” when we left and I was thinking about our generation. Outside we couldn’t hear the acoustic guitars, only the voices, and Peggi told me I should keep those kind of comments to myself. She is right. I sound like an old man. I plan to work on that. Besides, “Even a fool is thought wise if he holds his tongue.”
It took some discipline to keep our backpacks around the eleven to twelve pound range. A litter of water can push you over. Add a package of figs and oranges or a hunk of cheese and and you really notice the weight. Especially after twenty miles. We had an outdoor wardrobe, if it was below thirty we wore the whole thing, and a set of clothes for street wear. I had a small sketchbook and my iPad but that was it for extras. So when I found this stone on the second day in, a stone that felt so comfortable in my hand I didn’t want to let go of it. I really had to think hard about whether I was really going to bring it home.
It wasn’t just the shape, like an organic hand warmer or a bar of soap, it was the combination of stone, the milky white and the earthy orange brown. I carried it in my hand for hours and then shoved to the bottom of my pack when we stopped. When we got home Peggi noticed this little arrow etched in the stone, an arrow like the hundreds we followed on the Camino de Santiago. I’m thinking this is a miracle.
Would you trust a car salesman who primarily types with the middle finger of his right hand? Or one who sells you a car that has less miles on it than it did when you test drove it a few days earlier. We might have been reading the wrong number on the mini monitor, the one behind the steering wheel, where the speedometer used to be. After you’ve been hit in the rear and the guy takes off, the car you love is beyond repair and its title wrongly has a lean attached it is hard to tell who to trust.
I thought by the time we were ready for a new car there would be all sorts of options. And I don’t mean ones that run on alternative fuels. That whole project has been deliberately stalled. I was thinking of shared vehicles, self driving or maybe just a better mass transit system. We have always had only one car so when our fifteen year run with the Element came to an abrupt end, we had to learn about the current options under pressure.
We did most of shopping online. Sadly there are only three types of vehicles out there and within those types they all look the same. SUVs of various sizes, pick-up trucks and your basic car/sedans that all look the same. We were happy with the Element so went out to Honda. First to complain about the discontinuation of the Element and then to look at the options in 3D. The CRV was the next best thing but then there was this report.
Despite the irreparable damage from the hit and run they offered us some money on a trade in but when we looked at the title to our Element, for the first time in fifteen years, we found there was a lien attached. The 2003 Element was our first new car purchase and we did it in cash so we were taken aback. We remember going out to John Holtz (no longer in business) with a cashier’s check and then going in a back room where we were up-sold on an extended warranty package. Since we already had a cashier’s check for the full amount of the car they said we could put the warranty coverage on our credit card and pay it off monthly so we did but the lien was never removed. And the bank that held the lien was bought by Santander, a giant Spanish bank.
We sort of feel like the kid in “Breaking Away” who was so enamored with the Italian bike team until he raced with them and they took him down. It took us a week to get to someone inside the Spanish bank was willing to help.
We were not a customer. We had no account there and the Customer Service phone line was a giant maze where you wait forever on hold with a music loop for the next person who tries to transfer you and then cuts you off. We started over so many times we learned the codes to get through the phone maze. At the first utterance of a recorded voice we pushed 1, and after the next voice another 1 and another and then four zeros to the next level’s four questions. The zeros are not even an option there but they confuse the system and get you to a real sounding person. And then they want to transfer you to the loan department, a separate company, because they find out you are not a customer. After landing over there a few times we learned to plead with the represenative to get us to their supervisor. We dealt with five supervisors and at last found one who was willing to fax a lien release letter to the car dealer, but by then it was too late in the day on Friday. With any luck we will be driving a new car to yoga on Monday night.
Steve Brown was one of the three original partners in the legendary Bug Jar. Margaret Explosion was playing a regular Friday night Happy Hour there for a few years and he was always behind the bar, off duty from his day job at a big financial firm, encouraging us to invest the little we had. I’m so thankful for that. He’s now a partner, with Tommy Burnett, in Iron Smoke Whisky, a northern New York whiskey distillery of all things. But it is also a bar with a sound system and tonight, the day before Tom Waits birthday, they hosted a Tom Waits tribute.
I like the Rain Dogs period for Tom Waits. Hated The earlier Electra years and then lost track of him. Apparently I am in the minority’s here because the night’s performers mostly drifted to the mopey loungy stuff. Irish Ben managed to bring the house down with a solo, voice only because they couldn’t get his acoustic guitar feed to work, version of a song called Martha, a song he dedicated to his wife, Helen. Teresa Wilcox went for it with “Clap Hands.” And the band sounded like a million bucks, Phil Marshall, Brian Williams, the drummer from Busted Valentines and the keyboard player from Mighty High and Dry.
Madeline McQueen did a great version of “The Heart Of Saturday Night” and someone named Rod Smith did a reved up version of “Downtown Train.” The whole cast finished with a “We Are The World” kind thing with everyone one on stage singing something like “a freeway will never come” over and over. We had a couple Paradox Brewery Beaver Bite IPAs, saw a whole bunch of old friends, and had good time.
“Una invitación para comprender español y para conversar en espanól, lengua expresiva, romántica y musical.” An invitation to understand Spanish and speak in Spanish, an expressive language, romantic and musical. That is my translation of a passage in the intro to “An Invitation to Spanish,” a 1947 book I picked up at a garage sale. As much as I enjoy listening to Peggi converse in Spanish I came back from Spain more determined than ever to learn some of the language.
I’ve been chipping away at the photos I shot and slowly reliving the experience. I just opened one from the cathedral in Santiago of sign that reads, “Culto Al Santisimo.” Cult of the saint? Worshipers of the holy? Adoration of the Holy Sacrament? That last guess is from Google translate. Maybe there is no literal translation. I do enjoy that.
In 1982 our next door neighbor had had enough. We were rehearing in our basement and it wasn’t the band noise that bothered him, it was our guitar player’s muffler. That and the coming and going at all hours. The houses on Hall Street were close together and equipment had to be unloaded at three in the morning. We found this letter taped to our back door.
I couldn’t imagine that we would ever be friends but we lived next door for twenty seven years. I wasn’t even able to tell him were were gonna move so I asked him if he wanted to go for a ride with me. When he got in the car I told him to turn around. The back of our car was loaded with furniture and boxes and took a drive tor new place. He liked it.
Sparky was born in Kentucky and Peggi and I spent a lot of time in Indiana so there was that hillbilly connection. I told him I played in a country band there and he claimed to be in a country band then. I never knew what to believe from Sparky. I knew he had a gun and he sat in the dark in his house on Halloween it nearby. He told us so. He claimed to to have shot a sewer rat out front. And we saw him hosing down noisy crickets at night. He only went to fifth grade and I spent an afternoon trying to teach him fractions. He raked his lawn in his pajamas while smoking a pipe. I started keeping track of Sparky episodes.
After we moved he regularly came to visit and we would stop by to check up on him. At the funeral services tonight we learned he stopped by people’s homes all over town. He seemed to get younger and happier each time we saw him. He bought homemade Polish sausage from a woman in Buffalo and we grilled it in the backyard. Did it really come from Buffalo? It was the best sausage I have ever had in my life.
I was happy to see some of my photos of Sparky on the board at the funeral home and a photo of my painting, “Sparky Goes To A Gig.” A country singer dressed in black with a wide brimmed hat and red scarf sang “The Streets of Laredo” and then a Johnny Cash medley. Sparky was ninety two, an age when all his friends should have been dead but the funeral home was packed. We told his daughter we would send her a link to this video that Peggi shot.
Not as rugged as the Camino de Santiago but a close second. We walked a Record Store Day circuit today on icy city sidewalks. We parked our car in Wegmans lot on East Avenue and started our loop with a cup of Rochester’s Choice at Canaltown and then headed down Winton and Highland to the Bop Shop. My brother-in-law was there with our nephew and Gary Lewis was spinning records. My brother-in-law had him sign some Playboys records. Barrence Whitfield appeared to be working there. He was looking over my shoulder as I picked up the Eric Dolphy release and asked if I had ever heard “Ezz-thetics” a Charles Russel record with Dolphy, Don Ellis and Dave Baker. Peggi took a Jazz Studies class from Baker at IU when he taught there. I came home with the record.
I saw a Sun Ra record in there but had heard from my neighbor that it was four dollars cheaper down the road at Hi-Fi Lounge, a place we had never been, so that was our next stop. We sat in the back room there listening to an electronica audiophile lp playing through one of the sound systems they sell. I told the owner, Mark, that we still have the speakers I built from parts I bought at Rochester Radio on West Main. He didn’t remember that place.
It was sunny for our walk to Record Archive so we went down Oakdale where my cousins used to live. Archive was packed. Deb was doing sound for a guitar player in the back room and she suggested we buy a beer while we shopped. I bought a few two dollar 45s – Charlie Rich, Stylistics, Elvis and The Carpenters.
We have been included in a group text of people planning tomorrow’s get-together at Jedi and Helena’s. We’re bringing appetizers and the group is getting bigger. One off topic text came with just a link. It took us to a YouTube demonstration of a phone app that keeps robocallers on the line thereby eating the time they would have spent bugging other callers. We assumed it was what she intended to send us but it was just an especially long ad that played before a favorite song of hers. When the song started our phone rang and it was a robot caller, a group that has called before. An unbelievably cheery voice starts with, “Hi, This Is Jennifer.” I slammed the phone down.
Monday was our first day back to yoga class since we walked across Spain. I have always felt like Jeffery’s class flies by. I tune into his command and apply a concentrated effort to properly hold the particular poses and the two hours disappear. This time was different. I could not surrender. I was unable to hear all he said so I would miss a movement and then hear an instruction to move in a way that was impossible because I was still back on a previous pose. I was somewhere between daydreaming and antsy. Coming back was a bit of a shock. Here we are responsible for more than the contents of our backpacks. It will take some adjustment.
We’re Abundance Food Co-Op members so we make a point of doing a big shop once a month for our 10% off. Before going in the store we walk down Averill to the river where we get on the River Path. We walk toward UR, formerly the UofR, and the path just keeps getting prettier. The campus is dreamy and I usually find myself wondering what it would be like going to school there but I snap out of that pretty quickly. There are three or four options for crossing the river but we usually cross on Elmwood Avenue and then come back toward downtown on the west side. The west side is wilder, less developed and a little lonelier but it is even prettier than the east side.
What a treat, coming back to Rochester for the peak of Fall colors.
We walked down to the lake yesterday and over to our polling place in the Point Pleasant Fire House. Our friend, Kathy, lives near there and she votes up at East High. On our way home we noticed people voting at the Church of the Transfiguration, right at our corner. Does this have something to do with voter suppression?
Groceries were in order today. We walked along the Sea Breeze Way up to Amans on Culver. We usually go in the back door there and then out the front so we can check out the local produce before heading to Wegmans. The place is no longer open air. There was only one shopper in there and a new worker who asked us if she could help us. Outside the shrubs and small trees were all 75% off, their gardens were turned under, firewood was on display and the pumpkins were marked down. Nothing waits for you when you leave town but it is all good.
Margaret Explosion plays the Little Theater Café tonight. Listen to Tonic Party by Margaret Explosion.
Kind of funny how the barista at the Starbucks in Penn Station gave us that command. The tone was closer to “I have headache” than “enjoy.”
Peggi proofread my Spain posts on the train up to Rochester. I was reading over her shoulder and it took a bit of tidying up. I have a hard time with spelling for starters. I misspelled innovator in a head. I used the word “flea” instead of “flee.” But my most common mistake is is typing a short word like “our” or “the” two times. Almost like a stutter.
Duane got forced out of his old place when Greenpoint followed Williamsburg and you needed your income to be supplemented by a trust fund to afford the housing. His current place in Kensington is coming up now. He is a trendsetter. We read about an Austrian restaurant in the New Yorker that is a block away so checked that out a few months back. Last night we ate in a hipster, Mexican place right across the street, La Loba Cantina. The owner gave a each of us a shot of tequila for dessert. We couldn’t finish our orders so we had the leftovers for breakfast.
The photo above, was printed on the editorial page of El País a few days before we left Madrid. I absolutely love it. There was no copy connected, no current show or anything. Just an important piece of art communication.
Wandering around Molinaseca we found a bar with a fútbol game on, a match with two local teams, Ponferrada vs. Pontevedra. The tables in the bar were full and the bartender, a big guy in a plaid shirt, gave us a tapa with our beer and brought a plate of meatballs out from the kitchen and passed them around to everyone in the bar. It was a 0-0 finish and the the locals seemed happy with that result. Ponferrada is the closest town. Maybe they were lucky to get a draw.
It is probably our age but when we walk all day we find walking uphill much easier than going downhill. When you put on an extra ten to fifteen pounds, the weight of our backpacks, you find the bottoms of your feet feeling bruised and the effort it takes to brace yourself against gravity on each downhill step takes a toll. Just saying, certainly not a complaint. The Camino experience is above complaining. We’ll walk by someone who is clearly in pain and they will smile and say “Buen Camino.”
Leonard Cohen learned to play classical guitar from a Spanish musician in his hometown of Montreal. “He took the guitar and he produced a sound from that guitar that I’d never heard… a six chord progression that many, many flamenco songs are based on. It was those six chords, that guitar pattern that has been the basis of all my songs.” In 2016 Cohen received the Prince of Asturias award in Oviedo and he had dinner at the place we ate at tonight in Villafranca Del Bierzo. The owner was pictured on the wall with Cohen and the owner’s son helped Peggi figure out how to buy more minutes on her prepaid Vodaphone SIM card while we we sitting under a photo of his father and Leonard.
Every time the Virgin Mary appears to someone she gets a new name. And she always looks a little different so there are many depictions. The name associated with Santiago’s Marian apparition is Nuestra Señora del Pilar, Lady of the Pillar, and she is depicted with a radiant golden crown. Santiago, or St. James the greater, one of the twelve apostles, came to the Iberian peninsula to preach the gospel and he is the patron saint of both Spain and Portugal but they revere the Virgen Del Pilar more and today, October 12th, is her feast day. It coincides with Columbus Day and is celebrated as the national holiday of Spain, the “Fiesta Nacional de España.”
So it’s a feast day and a celebration of a genocide with a military parade in Madrid that costs 800,000 euros. We walked twenty two miles to Astorga and were too spaced out to figure out how the holy day/holiday was being celebrated. The shops were all closed and groups of people were on the street in traditional garb. We bought some wine and Tejas de Almendra and took them back to our room to toast the Virgin del Pilar.