Blue And White

Wall in San Pedro, España
Wall in San Pedro, España

I took three shots of this wall in the fishing village of San Pedro before getting my in-camera cropping right.

We walked out near San Sebastian’s stadium, Reale Arena, this afternoon as their La Liga Primera Division team Real Sociedad was about to kick off for a home match against Mallorca. Blue and whites stripes were everywhere on young and old. The bars were packed all over the city since the match is not broadcast locally. We stopped to eat at a sidewalk restaurant and could tell immediately when The home team finally scored in the 84th minute. Back in the hotel we heard all these people chanting in Basque just a few blocks from our room. We assumed it was a victory parade of sorts but it was a huge, twenty or thirty blocks long demonstration in support of Palestine.

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Adios Al Verano

Steps of empty swimming pool
Steps of empty swimming pool

We drained the street pool, not for the season, we need to keep water in there in the winter. We drained it so someone could paint it. Only the second time since it was put in in 1960. Our neighbors on the street usually split the pool maintenance but no one wanted to go down there and breathe the epoxy fumes. It is blindingly white now and no where near as photogenic as it was.

My “Portals & Planes” show comes down tomorrow afternoon after a one month run. We plan to stay home tonight and watch yesterday’s Madrid derby. Two of our three favorite teams face each other and we must decide between the Madrid teams. We’re going Atletico over Real Madrid.

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Unsung Heros

Craig Walsh faces projected on trees at Rochester Fringe Fest
Craig Walsh faces projected on trees at Rochester Fringe Fest

This morning’s NYT devoted most of a page to Rochester’s Fringe Fest. One of the photos in the article featured Craig Walsh’s “Monuments” project which we had just seen last night. I took this photo by steadying my camera on a street light pool near Meigs and East Avenue. The images, Warhol like movie portraits of three local unsung heroes. There is a short bio of the three here. The silent video clips are projected from the back of UHaul truck across a parking lot and onto three trees near the corner of Meigs and East Avenue. Walsh’s project is sensational. I cannot describe it any better than the Washington Post. “

“By calling these works monuments, Walsh positions the luminescent faces in the fraught, timely debate over whom we should honor in public space — and how. Physically, the works resist what we think of when we think of monuments. Made of light, the diaphanous compositions are practically immaterial and as fleeting as the autumn foliage that holds them. Captured on video, the subjects are in constant motion. Even the smallest shifts in expression, rippling over hundreds of leaves, feel weighty.”

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Down In The Hole

Paul in empty swimming pool. Photo by Peggi Fournier.
Paul in empty swimming pool. Photo by Peggi Fournier.

The swimming season came to an abrupt end this year when we emptied the pool in order to paint it. This is only the second time the street pool has been painted since it was put in in 1960. I took the opportunity to try to get the underwater light out so I could repair the short. It worked when we first moved here and it is especially nice on warm summer nights when we bring friends down.

Peggi and I sent out a bunch of emails yesterday, inviting people to the opening of my photo show at the Little Theatre on Sunday. We setup a shared email list some time ago and then recently got one of those really confusing messages from Apple asking if we wanted to merge or discard conflicting contacts lists. We clicked merge and wound up with duplicates and old discarded email addresses in one big mess. Consequently we inadvertently spammed our friends with duplicates.

So we buckled down and whittled our contacts down to only people whose names we recognize, who we wouldn’t mind hearing from, and those who are still living. The people at companies we used to do business with all were eliminated. Peggi and l laughed as I read the names before selecting “delete.” henri@snippetmaster.com! bill@visibleware.com! All the DuPont addresses. Our original email address – sunra@aol.com! “AOL hell” we used to call it. MortimerShy@rochester.rr.com and all those who left us. Sparky, our next door neighbor, never had an email address but his street address was in there. Our list has dropped from 2500 to 400 and I’m still working it.

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Espana!

Living room in World Cup mode 2023
Living room in World Cup mode 2023

Our living room is still in World Cup mode. Olga Carmona, shown hanging from our candelabra and who looks like she stepped out of a Francisco Goya painting, came out of the back to score the winning goal in both the semifinal and the final. Aitana Bonmatí ruled the midfield like the great Iniesta. Jenni Hermoso engineered the attack up front. We feel in love with the entire team and it was a fairy tale to see them go all the way.

So we’re basking in Spain’s glorious crowning. Our kitchen LEDs are still red for La Rosa. As Julie Foudy, former US star and now an expert match commentator, said, “We have never moved the ball like Spain does. Their grace on the ball is gorgeous to watch. I can’t say it any better.

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Eternal Garage Sale

Garage sale painting by anonymous artist
Garage sale painting by anonymous artist

Three nearby streets had a community garage sale today so we headed over that way on our walk. Some people had already thrown in the towel and put all their junk out at curb by the time we got there but we heard the cars were lined up earlier in the day. Peggi bought a sealed package of Kodak inkjet paper at our first stop and she picked up a pizza stone at another. A little girl was selling lemonade for fifty cents a glass on the next street so we bought two of those and chatted with her about business. 

An Amazon truck was delivering more junk to people’s homes as they manned the tables of junk in their front yards. A UPS driver was wheeling a hand truck full of boxes up to a house down the road, stuff for the next generation to put out. One of our favorite houses, a low lying bungalow set way back on its lot, had a bunch tools for sale. I picked up a crow bar for four bucks and a file for two. We bent the crow bar we inherited from Peggi’s father trying to pry an autumn olive tree out of the ground and I had a file on loan from Jared just like the one I bought. Both these items will be in a future sale when someone cleans our place out.

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Mother’s Little Helper

Mountain - laurel on Clover Street stop on Landmark Society Tour
Mountain Laurel on Clover Street stop on Landmark Society Tour

The only reason I am able to identify these blossoms is the iNaturalist app that Peggi has on her phone. This Mountain Laurel was in the garden of a house on Clover Street, just across the street from a brick Don Hershey house with rounded corners at the entrance. The Landmark Society’s tour started at Mercy High School and included a stop at Bob Martin’s former home, a mid-century marvel.

Peggi in front of Bob Martin’s former house, a stop on 2023 Rochester Landmark Society tour

Cornell’s Merlin bird identification app was made for retirees, especially those who by this age should know how to distinguish between a Yellow Warbler and a Goldfinch. At the push of a button the free app listens as it creates a waveform while spitting out pictures of the birds it hears. We stopped near the marsh on Hoffman Road and gave it a spin.

Robins, Red-Winged Blackbirds, Wrens and Cardinals all popped up in the first few seconds. Sparrows, Warbling Vireos, Morning Doves, Baltimore Orioles, Yellow Warblers, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Cedar Waxwings, Goldfinches, White Breasted Nuthatchs and even a Rose-breasted Grosbeak were audible in the first minute.

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The Blimp

Blimp over Sparky's house in 2002
Blimp over Sparky’s house in 2002

For whatever twisted reason the first Captain Beefheart song that got under my skin was “The Blimp.” And then “China Pig.” And then every song on “Trout Mask” and any song he touched. I went backward for the whole catalog and picked up every new release in real time. Well, the blimp is in town. Last time we looked, it was the Met Life blimp. It was still the Goodyear blimp when I took this shot of it over Sparky‘s house in 2002. I thought of that song today when we spotted the blimp as we came out of the hospital where we were visiting Pete. The PGA Championship is in town.

Oak Hill, the swanky country club on the east side of Rochester, last held the PGA in 2013. We went to that one. These sporting events keep getting bigger. In 1989 when the US Open was there Peggi and I (4D Advertising) did a brochure that featured all the branded swag. We took a box of sample product to Chris Maggio’s studio on Saint Paul and he photographed the lot. We designed a commemorative book called “The Crown Jewels of Oak Hill” as well. Today the merch tents are as big as a department store and you can bet no two bit local agency was responsible for any of the action.

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Hot Tub

Male toad serenading a mate in Jared's pond
Male toad serenading a mate in Jared’s pond

We’ve been sleeping with our windows open for the past week or so, falling asleep to the sound of toads singing in the creek down below. I love that sound, so primal, like a native ceremony happening in the next village. In most cases it is many toads singing at once but yesterday we witnessed a solo performance by this guy in our neighbor’s pond.

The female toads, who are usually larger than the males, answer the call. The way Jared explains it the male hops onboard, the females let a string of tiny black eggs loose in the water, the male excretes his milky sperm and in a few weeks the pond is full of tadpoles. His pond was like some kind of sex club. Toads splashing around on the floating plants in twosomes, threesomes and even foursomes. The females, having answered the siren call, seem to be trying get away, to shake the male on their back. We watched this one pair climb out of the pond and up the waterfall where they ran into a frog.

One frog and two toads mating in Jared's pondJ
One frog and two toads mating in Jared’s pond
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If You Go Out In The Woods Today

Looking up with Leo Dodd in Edmunds Woods 2015
Looking up with Leo Dodd in Edmunds Woods 2015

You won’t find Edmunds Woods on a map of Rochester. This tiny, mostly overlooked wooded area was once part of the Edmunds farm property on Westfall Road. The woods is nestled between highway cloverleaves, medical buildings and Brighton recreation fields. My father fell in love with this place while unearthing Brighton’s neglected history and he gave it the name, “Edmunds Woods.” Right now, before the trees shown in the photo above fill in, the forest floor here is full of wildflowers. It is a privilege to recall visiting the woods with him.

I imagine my father would be all over the AI chatbot technology. He was always excited about what was coming down the road and usually was ahead of tech curve. He had a Mac II before us. We set type on his computer before getting our own, machines that revolutionized our lives.

As people worry that the AI chatbot technology could flood Facebook groups with disinformation, degrade critical thinking and erode the factual foundation of modern society, Cade Metz from NYT says “Think of the chatbots as jazz musicians. They can digest huge amounts of information – like, say, every song that has ever been written – and then riff on the results. They have the ability to stitch together ideas in surprising and creative ways. But they also play wrong notes with absolute confidence.” And why shouldn’t they. Miles already told us, “There is no such thing as a wrong note.”

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Plastic Papel Picado

Museo de la Cancion Yucateca in Merida, Mexico

The Museo de la Cancion Yucateca in Merida was as magical and gentle as the Yucatan people. Peggi started making this video before we had even paid our 50 peso entry donation. The temperature was in the upper nineties but like most places in Merida the huge open doors, high ceilings and open air courtyard drew the warm air out of the building.

This courtyard was surrounded by rooms that featured different chapters in the history of Yucatan’s unique music. The papel picado (perforated paper or pecked paper) was plastic in this case and it made the prettiest sound as it flapped in the breeze. Shadows from the papel danced on the floor of the courtyard.

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Wildly Perfect

Alex and Luci’s wedding at a hacienda outside Merida
Alex and Luci’s wedding at a hacienda outside Merida

My sister-in-law told us she played with AI for suggestions on what she might say when she took the mic the night before her son’s wedding. This was day three of festivities and most of the 150 guests had arrived in town. This event was being held in an old food processing plant, now a complex that included the restaurant, a bar, an art gallery, a dance hall, a movie theater and a lounge. The AI was a bust for her and from what I could hear of her talk it could only have been generated by the groom’s proud mom.

The wedding itself took place at a hacienda outside of Merida. The guests gathered in Parque Santa Lucia and boarded two full size tour buses for the forty minute ride. The setting was gorgeous and the ceremony was wildly perfect. Our neighbor can legally marry people. I’m not sure what the term is for those that can officiate a non religious ceremony, but this one was a friend and he did a great job. Although I couldn’t help thinking about AI during his talk. We’ve known our nephew his whole life and his vows were so sweet and tender. I thought, “take that AI!” It was my favorite part of the four days.

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Air Drumming

Painting in speakeasy, Merida
Painting in speakeasy, Merida

Now that it has 43k views on YouTube, someone, I forget who, is re-releasing New Math’s “Die Trying” on an lp. This will be the fourth time. It has already been released on Reliable, CBS and Archive Records. Since I was only in the band long enough to record it and the B side, “Angela,” they asked if I could write a few sentences for the liner notes.

So it’s 95 degrees here, I’m sitting in an open air courtyard with a Negra Modelo and I came up with this. “I loved how Gary and Kevin arranged Die Trying. I can still see Kevin air drumming my parts.” I don’t think I ever really got what he heard.

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Year Of The Rabbit Hole

Conifer Lane in early February
Conifer Lane in early February

I don’t think it is my imagination. I am getting better at going down rabbit holes. Our devices facilitate the ease, of course, but I have always preferred daydreaming to, well, just about anything. I installed the Bing app on my iPad this morning to check out its AI assisted super-powers.

I had seen the headlines about LaBron James toppling Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s record earlier and that prodded a few memories loose. Brother Tracey, my homeroom (and math teacher) at Bishop Kearney was always going on about his one of his former students, how when he was teaching at Power Memorial in NYC he suspended Lew Alcinder and that cost the basketball team their only loss in four years. Tracey was a short, wiry, little guy but mean disciplinarian. I remember him throwing a fellow student out of class for wearing cologne and I’m quite sure he was one of the Brothers who dished out the spanking that took place in the coatroom by the doors to the gym. So my first Bing search was for “Brother Tracey.”

I found an obit from 2010 and learned he left the Irish Christian Brothers order and moved to Geneva where he taught at DeSales High School. He married a woman named, Beryl, and had three children. His brothers-in-law were listed as Blaine, Bruce and Armand, the legendary House of Guitars brothers.

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In The Offing

Amaryllis flower coming out of the top of our cupboard
Amaryllis flower coming out of the top of our cupboard

The Amaryllis blossom above is in a most unlikely location. I only discovered it while standing on a stool. The cool blueish-grey horizontal band is our white ceiling, the middle band is our muslin wall and the murky brown base is the dust covered top of our living room built-in cabinet. We usually tuck our Amaryllis plant behind the photo albums in the top cabinet for about a month in the winter so the bulb can go dormant but we forgot about it this year and the white stalk grew out the crack between the cabinet and wall where it found enough light to blossom.

1975 and 1999 were also Years of the Rabbit where luck, hope and good fortune are in the offing.

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Wimpy Winter

Fresh snow in the backyard
Fresh snow in the backyard

The number of times we’ve have walked through Durand Eastman Park and only today did I pay particular attention to the sign that reads “Picnic Grove.” It’s always been there, by the yellow gate on Log Cabin Road, the gate they swing open in the winter because the road is off limits to vehicles. In the summer months it swings closed keeping cars off the stretch that connects Log Cabin to Zoo Road. All good in my book. I like the park rules,”Dogs must be leashed,” “No bikes on trails.” The Picnic Grove sign is in this section.

My mom would often pack a picnic basket, sometimes with just peanut butter sandwiches, and we would come down here when my dad got off work. All the roads were open back then. You could drive on Horseshoe Road, which is now grown over. There was a zoo on Zoo Road and the road connected to Wisner to take you right out of the park. I remember my dad driving slowly to pick out a spot where my mother could spread the blanket on the ground and it was often right here in Picnic Grove.

The Spanish SuperCopa final was thrilling. We follow three teams and Real Madrid and Barcelona are two of them but there was never any doubt who we were pulling for. Barca almost pulled off a 3-0 shutout. They controlled the ball in midfield where Real Madrid used to be dominant. Busquets, the captain, Frankie De jong and the teenagers, Pedri and Gavi played magic triangles around Madrid’s midfielders as if teasing the champions and we loved it.

We zoomed with our friends, Matthew and Louise in Hawaii. They told us about a canal near them where they walk their dog, Tricky. That night we watched an episode of Hawaii Five-0 and a chase was filmed on the canal.

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New Calendar

Witch hazel in full bloom on Zoo Road in Durand Eastman
Witch hazel in full bloom on Zoo Road in Durand Eastman

We keep an eye on this witch hazel tree. It’s right at the top of the hill on Zoo Road so we pass it often. It is one of the first witch hazels to blossom and it is also the most fragrant, like butterscotch or, more accurately, those butter rum suckers they used to sell at Charlotte Beach when we were kids. These blossoms usually come in February and we read them as the first sign of spring. We already moved the first day of spring up to Saint Patty’s and now we have the first sign on New Year’s Day.

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Tipping Point

Christmas Tree with gifts 2022
Christmas Tree with gifts 2022

My brother Mark and his wife, Amy, had a rough trip up to Rochester. They shared their location and every time we checked on their progress their ETA had moved to an hour later. They brought their little dog with them and snuck her up to their room at the top of the Hyatt. We had reservations downtown at 6:30 and I moved the reservations three times before we met them there at 10. The temperature was 6 degrees.

We took a long walk on Christmas Eve and moved several fallen branches off the road before deciding to bring a large pine branch back to serve as our Christmas tree. We had my brother, his wife and their three grown children, my sister Ann and my brother Fran over for dinner. Peggi made manicotti that was out of this world and we had a grand time.

In the morning we found a gift under the tree from Mark and Amy, Ada Calhoun’s book, “Also A Poet: Frank O’Hara, My Father, and Me,” about her difficult relationship with her father, Peter Schjeldahl and his difficult relationship with the poet, Frank O’Hara. Meaty material. Peggi’s sister sent us some bowls from Bauer in LA and Duane sent up an incredible book of June Leaf’s rough and tumble multi disciplined artwork. We devoured large portions of both. We bought the New York: 1962-1964 book for ourselves. The show at the Jewish Museum was on our short list of things to do the last time we were in the city but we ran out of time. The book is jam packed with snapshots of American culture in this narrowly focused tipping point.

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Nicole!

Nicole Zabelny sitting for her portrait 1912
Nicole Zabelny sitting for her portrait 1992

Our niece, Nicole Zabelny, died thirty years ago. Her heart was enlarged. I babysat for her and her two sisters on Wednesday nights for almost three years while my sister, Ann, was working as a hostess at Waldron’s in Webster. I would leave work early and ride my bike out there, down the big hill on Browncroft or the even more dangerous one on Empire Boulevard. I’d play with the kids, feed them, struggle to get them wound down and in bed and then put a baked potato in the oven for my sister to have when she got home. I’d have a beer with my sister and Peggi would come out to take me home in the car. I loved every minute of it. Nicole was always a delight. She was very creative, talked of becoming a writer, and had big plans for her life but it was cut short. Way too short.

Just before she got sick, she asked me to paint her portrait. I said I’d bring my camera out the next Wednesday and take a photo to work from. Nicole made a big deal of the sitting, picking the white chair on the porch as the location and wearing her favorite t-shirt and then spending over an hour in the bathroom putting on make-up. She was twelve. By the time she was ready to sit down it was getting dark and there was barely enough light for the film in our old Canon FTb. I had the film developed when the roll was finished but Nicole was already gone by then. She was such a positive force. She will never be forgotten.

Sample spread of Nicole Zabelny's eBook "Counting at the Circus"
Sample spread of Nicole Zabelny’s eBook “Counting at the Circus”

Shortly before our niece, Nicole Zabelny, passed she created a children’s book in her sixth grade art class. Her book, “Counting At The Circus” is available here as a free download.

Download eBook of “Counting At The Circus“”

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Zen And The Art Of Stacking Wood

Pete and Shelley's wood pile 2008
Pete and Shelley’s wood pile 2008

Pete and Shelley set the standard by which we judge woodpiles. Off the grid in the Adirondacks, they thin their property for heat in the long winter months. Their stacks are worthy of a Chelsea art gallery installation.

Jared's wood pile 2010
Jared’s wood pile 2010

Our neighbor, Jared, a retired chemist for Eastman Kodak, puts wood up not like an artist but like a scientist. We turn to him for advice on all matters practical.

Our woodpile in 2020
Our woodpile in 2020

After two 75 year old oaks came down out back this spring Peggi and I had a record amount of wood, more than in 2020 when the picture above was taken. Instead of walking we’ve been chipping away at the pile each day for the last two weeks. We strap on our Home Depot noise cancelling headphones, cut the trunks and limbs into log length with a chainsaw, fire up the Heathkit splitter we inherited from our former neighbor, Leo and then stack the split logs. This is where it all comes together physics, geometry and risk. We have had only one pile tumble over in twenty years.

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