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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.