Life and Work

Scene outside City Hall for Film Fest Opening Party, High Falls Film Fest Rochester NY
Scene outside City Hall for Film Fest Opening Party, High Falls Film Fest Rochester NY

The Rochester International High Falls Film Festival started on Wednesday night. The Little Theater was one of the locations and there was a good crowd for our Margaret Explosion gig there. Brian Williams from Lumiere and Bobby Henrie & The Goners sat in on bass or the second week in a row. He is so solid I was able to get up and adjust the recorder while we were playing and he didn’t even notice. We have complimentary passes to the movies because we did the “Quick Reference Guide” in exchange. Now all we need is time to go to the movies. Peggi taught her Dreamweaver class last night and I stayed home to paint. We popped into the opening party at City Hall and sampled Gerry Brinkman’s right on tortilla Espanola.

We also get to sponsor a movie. We picked “Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson” and tonight at 9:45 in the Dryden Theater someone will announce that “this movie is being brought to you by 4D Advertising”. That should drive new customers to our virtual doors.

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Forgive But Never Forget

Paul Dodd protesting Viet Nam war. Photo by Kim Torgerson
Paul Dodd protesting Viet Nam war. Photo by Kim Torgerson

Here’s one of the protesters in San Francisco as the Olympic torch passed through town. No, wait. That’s me protesting the Viet Nam war in Assembly Hall on the IU campus. No one would look that dorky today. I think Kim Torgerson took this shot.

We watched a very cool movie last night about letting go. Eva Mozes Kor, one of the Mengele twins who were experimented on at Auschwitz, stars in this documentary about her decision to forgive the Nazis for killing her family. She gets a lot of flack from people who can’t go that far but she holds up well. Margaret Explosion played at the Little last night and I was sort of expecting to fall asleep during this one but “Forgiving Dr. Mengele” was really well done and completely engaging.

I couldn’t help but think about another Jew’s plea as hung on the cross and of course that whole “turn the other cheek” thing. I looked up “forgive” this morning to see if it really is that simple. It is. Forgive “Stop feeling angry or resentful toward someone for an offense, flaw or mistake.”

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Happy Ending

Crucifixion in Philippines
Crucifixion in Philippines

This woman had herself crucified along with seventeen others even though the Archbishop of San Fernando in the Philippines urged devotees not to turn Holy Week into a circus. Philippine health officials warned people taking part in Easter crucifixions and self-flagellation rituals to get a tetanus shot first and sterilize the nails to avoid infections.

We traveled to Spain a few years back and spent Holy Week in Granada. Semana Santa is the biggest string of holy days/holidays of the year there. We watched processions wind through the streets with bands, women in black lace mantillas and teams of guys hidden beneath and supporting the weight of floats with the virgin in the lead and a depiction the suffering Christ in the rear. In Spain this is all a reverent but festive affair. The goose bump inducing highlight is always when the procession stops and the crowd grows silent while someone sings a saeta to the virgin.

We had dinner yesterday with Peggi’s mom and my brother, Fran. I was thinking about how we used to give up candy for Lent and then gorge ourselves on Easter and my parents asking us to remain silent between noon and 3PM on Good Friday (the hours Christ was hanging on the cross). I don’t think we were able to do this. My whole family left the Church while I was in high school and my parents are now more likely to celebrate Passover than Easter with their children and in-laws. But that Catholic stuff hangs around.

About fifteen years ago I revisited the Way of the Cross and began the process of recasting the Passion Play in present time. I collected source material with the intention of doing a series of paintings. I don’t believe anyone rose from the dead except maybe Shirley Maclaine so I was kind of bummed to see the last Pope amend the fourteen stations of the cross that I remember so vividly from my childhood. He gave the story an implausible, happy ending by adding the Resurrection as the fifteen station. When I do get around to these paintings I only plan to do fourteen of them.

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My Kid Could Paint That

Michael Kimmelman at MAG in Rochester, NY 2005
Michael Kimmelman at MAG in Rochester, NY 2005

By coincidence we saw the Shawn Penn film, “Into The Wild” and Hans Petter Moland’s “Zero Kelvin” on back to back nights. Both films have young men ( a top student, an aspiring poet) heading into the wilderness (Alaska, Greenland) for adventure. I won’t spoil it but it is rough out there.

“Into the Wild” opened with with a graduation ceremony at Emory University in Atlanta. We will be there in seven weeks for our nephew’s graduation and the lead character in this movie reminded us of our nephew’s brother who is currently hanging out in Guatemala. Peggi read the book and pictured our nephew in the part and sure enough Emile Hirsch looks just like him. I know my nephews are listening to better music than the Eddie Vedder soundtrack from this film because they plug their laptops into our stereo when they’re here. I don’t get Eddie Vedder. I didn’t like Pearl Jam and that record they made backing Neil Young was a dog.

“Zero Kelvin” had the edge on “Into The Wild” because it had a much better soundtrack. Terje Rydal’s music was the perfect choice for this dark and beautiful adventure.

Last night, on Angel Corpus Christi’s recommendation, we watched something completely different, “My Kid Could Paint That”, about a really young girl from Binghamton who painted with encouragement from her parents. A creepy art gallery owner started selling the paintings for big bucks and the story got a lot of media attention. There was nothing extra special about the paintings. Art from most kids that age is special because they have not been taught or broken. It happens fast. One day they are extraordinarily expressive and the next day the sun is smiling.

Michael Kimmelman from the New York Times is interviewed throughout and offers insights into both sides of the old argument over whether or not modern art is a hoax. The creepy art gallery owner provides the meatiest art talk when he tries to make an absurd argument about the quality of the art being proportional to the time it takes to produce it. He makes his point by explaining how long it takes him to do his tedious exercises. They show him about three inches away from his painting with some sort of a magnifying class in one eye while he works on a huge painting by starting at the top and working his way down.

People buy what they like and sometimes they like the story more than the art.

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Thank U 4 Lettin Me B Myself Again

Rick Simpson Discovers North Pole
Rick Simpson Discovers North Pole

We skied into the woods this morning under pure blue skies and ahead of the 40 degree temperatures. Peggi had rubbed glide wax on our waxless skis and they were so fast they wanted to go right out from under us. My right right arm felt sore and then I remembered arm wrestling with Monica over the weekend. I will not underestimate her one hundred pounds again. She challenged me and we wrestled to a draw. Actually I called the draw and quit. She is amazing.

Peggi and I hooked up Rick and Monica and skied up to Lake Ontario over the weekend. They invited us over for lunch. We had leftovers of mushroom barley soup from Polska Chata and artichoke, roasted red pepper, Kalamata olives hard Sicilian cheese ($2 extra) from Nino’s. Rick let us borrow a Dick Cavett set of dvds.

We watched “The Woodstock Show” last night. I remember watching that with Dave Mahoney after he talked us into leaving Woodstock early because he thought they were going to run out of food. Joni Mitchell made the Jefferson Airplane look silly with her a capella version of “The Fiddle and the Drum”. Up next was Sly and the Family Stone and Debbie Reynolds (ouch). Sly was very cool but Dick Cavett acted like Sly was incoherent. He was just being Sly for crying out loud. Dick Cavett was starting to piss me off. Janis Joplin had a real dorky band but she was still amazing. Dick fawned all over her because she read a book or two. David Bowie looked kinda geeky and nervous fiddling with his cane. Maybe it was speed. Mick Jagger took complete command of the camera and made Dick Cavett look tiny.

We still have another disc or so to go. I wish they had left the original commercials in there

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Convert or Die (Convertir o Morir)

Bullfight in Bilbao 2006, photo by Paul Dodd
Bullfight in Bilbao 2006, photo by Paul Dodd

I was raised Catholic and like they say,”Once a Catholic, always a Catholic”. I can’t help that. And I love Spain. I love the food, the scenery, the Golden Age of Spanish art. I cheer for Spain in the Copa Del Mundo. I even like the pageantry of bullfighting.

So we watched part of PBS’s “Secret Files of the Inquisition” last night and they were profiling Jacque Fournier who left detailed records of his efforts to purify the Pyrenees. He was a bishop in the early 1300’s in what is now part of France and he was determined to eliminate the Cathars who believed the material world was evil and consequently could not accept Jesus in human form. This documentary depicted the Cathars as about as dangerous as aging hippies. Fournier was rewarded for his efforts by being anointed Pope Benedict XII and the Vatican kept his records secret for 700 years. Of course Ferdinand and Isabel (los Reyes Católicos) finished the job in Columbus’ day and Spain was left with very few Jews or Muslims.

I was falling asleep when they talked about Fournier as Pope so I googled his name this morning and found this entry in the “Catholic Encyclopedia“.

“His natural obesity, too, stimulated caricature and undeserved criticism. But history offers a vindication and testifies that, though he failed to cope successfully with the political difficulties to which he fell heir, his piety, virtue, and pacific spirit, his justice, rectitude, and firmness in ruling, his zeal for doctrinal and moral reform, and his integrity of character were above reproach.”

This is probably similar to how history will rewrite Bush’s legacy.

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La Sirène du Mississippi

We went skiing with our friends and neighbors, Rick and Monica. We skied up the west side of Eastman Lake and back the east side of Durand Lake in the park. On the way back, Rick got a hankerin’ for Mexican so we got online and looked for alternatives to nearby Monte Albán. We toyed with driving out to El Rincón in Sodus or the one in Canandaigua but decided to try San José on Buffalo Road. I was a little suspicious because the pdf of their online menu said “printed in South Carolina” but we jumped in the car and headed out to Gates. Rick had a “Best of Incredible String Band” cd on. We found the place and a sign on the door. “Closed Until March 3rd For Remodeling”.

So we continued on to Chilango’s in Spencerport. It was about eight o’clock and there was a half hour wait so we drove back in the city to Monte Albán. We ordered Margaritas and Peggi and I asked for no salt. Rick wanted salt. Monica ordered horchata and the waitress told her they were all out so she settled for a root beer.

The waitress was beautiful. It was hard to do something as mundane as place an order with her. She was a marvel. She had dark hair, a shiny, wide, white belt, a really cute accent and amazing eyes. She brought the margaritas back and two had salt and only one was saltless. Fine. She asked if we were ready to order and we obviously weren’t so she said she would come back, but she didn’t. Some time went by. I thought we had ordered already and we were waiting for our food. Rick started getting agitated. We had worked up an appetite skiing. He asked a nearby waitress to go get our waitress.

She returned smiling. We placed our order. She came back and asked Rick if he had ordered number 18 or 19. Rick ordered a Negra Modelo and she said they were out. The food was ok. Peggi asked for more napkins and the waitress smiled and nodded but never came back with them. None of this mattered. She actually yawned while we were placing our order and we still tipped her.

Back home, Rick asked if we wanted to watch “La Sirène du Mississippi” (“Mississippi Mermaid”), the 1969 Francois Truffaut movie with them and we took him up on the offer. Catherine Deneuve, the star, waltzed through the movie like she was barely in it. She was a blond version of our waitress.

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We Live Like Kings

We had dinner with Peggi’s mom at Max’s on Monroe Avenue. We sat below some bad collage art. I tried not to let it spoil the dinner. We each ordered a roasted beet salad with orange slices and pistachios. Fantastic! We followed that up with an order of wild rice with dried cherries and pine nuts. I forgot all about the art.

Our NetFlix queue had two documentaries lined up in a row. We sat through Sicko a few nights ago and the Ralph Nader movie last night. I had a couple questions about Sicko. Isn’t Michael Moore big enough to stay out of his movies? And why is he so big anyway? And during the Nader movie I kept wondering why he wasn’t in the 2008 race and then he announced his candidacy this morning. We need more parties but how about somebody younger with a sense of humor? Hillary’s crack about “Change you can Xerox” rang a little differently in Xerox’s hometown but it still landed like a clunker. Xerox hasn’t been synonymous with copy since the desktop revolution.

We walked to the library and returned “Duma Key” which was two days overdue. Peggi did manage to finish the 600 pages. She told me I should read this one because it is all about painting. Some guy loses an arm and then takes up painting and discovers his paintings actually affect people’s lives. I’m busy reading “the Object Stares Back” by James Elkins. We stopped at Wegmans and picked up the ingredients for the “Hot and Sour Soup” recipe that was in the paper. Shitake mushrooms, Bella mushrooms, tofu, ginger, scallions, garlic and red pepper. Peggi also made some bread with buckwheat flour because we ran out of unbleached and we ate like kings.

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Big Wood and Brush

Gene Marshall Song Poems
Gene Marshall Song Poems

“Big wood and brush. Big wood and brush. Do you know the difference between big wood and brush?”, “Jimmy Carter Says Yes!”, “Little Love Bug”. These songs, from a cassette tape that Chris Zajkowski from the Squires of the Subterrain gave us, have been stuck in our heads for twenty years. And we don’t even have a tape player anymore. The cassette was a collection of song poems, hand labeled, “Beat Of The Traps”, and I think he got it from someone in NRBQ. The songs were lyrics by anonymous people put to music by studios that advertised in the back of magazines. A couple hundred bucks and you had a box of 45’s with your song on it.

Our friend and neighbor, Monica, had just returned from Paris and so we had her and Rick over for dinner last night. We made barley mushroom soup from the Moosewood cookbook, chicken marinated in a lime juice vinaigrette and a green salad. Rick made a no cholesterol angel food cake for dessert and we ate that while watching “Off The Charts, The Song Poem Story”.

The charming Gene Marshall, who claims to have cranked out 10,000 songs, was responsible for “Big Wood and Brush” and “Jimmy Carter Says Yes” and he stole the show. He dominates his band and bulldozes arrangements on the fly while “sight singing” lyrics that have just been put in front of him. Improvisation is one thing but watching him try to keep a straight face and get through these songs in one take was thrilling.

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Big TV

The local paper interviewed people about what they planned to do with their rebate checks and this one guy said he was going to buy a big screen TV. The question is, “Is now the time to buy one, before the Super Bowl, or will there be even better prices after the game?”

My father asked if I would go along with him and my mom to look at TVs because their picture tube is going. They have one of those wooden cabinets with doors that close. Their screen is 29 inches now so the salesman at Charlotte Appliance told us that the 32 inch sets would actually be smaller than what they are used with the new aspect ratio. So he recommended the next size up, a 40 inch set, and they had three Sony’s to choose from. We liked the 1080p resolution but we weren’t ready to buy.

Charlotte Appliance is in an old theatre so they have all these rooms on different levels. On the way out we looked at the big Lazy Boy style chairs in the furniture section and this one was so huge we just started laughing. I hopped up in it and my feet were well off the ground. All three us of could have fit in this chair. It was kind of like those Monster Trucks.

Next stop was Rowe Photographic. They had the same set for $100 less and they would match Circuit City or Best Buy but the sale prices only lasts until February 1st. My father went home and cut out some newspaper so it was the size of the new TV and he hung it on the front of their old cabinet. My mother thinks it is way to big for their living room. My father is ready for the big screen experience. It is a standstill.

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Preparation ADAS

We recently watched Julie Christi in “Away from Her” and last night we saw local boy, Philip Seymour Hoffman, in “The Savages” so we’ve got picture of what it will be like if Peggi or I lose it before we kick it. I don’t remember a soundtrack in the austere “Away From Here” but “The Savages” opened with a beautiful Peggy Lee song (I Don’t Want To Play In Your Yard) and closed with a beautiful Velvet Underground song (I’m Stickin’ With You). I guess dementia won’t be so bad if the soundtrack is good.

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I Vote For The Ugly

It has taken us three sittings to work our way through “The Good, The Bad And The Ugly” (El Bueno, el Feo y el Malo) and I’m still trying to come up with a good response to the voice over question it poses, “If you work for a living, why do you kill yourself working?”. If we are supposed to pick one of these three characters, I would vote for the Ugly (Eli Wallach). He steals every scene he is in and makes Clint Eastwood look silly.

Painting class started up again last night and there are only six people in Fred Lipp’s Advanced Painting class. I can’t figure out why more people don’t take this class. Peggi goes to her yoga class and that seems like a good alternative but what else would you be doing on a Tuesday night?

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Stumble On

I have noticed that the sloppier I get while painting, the better my painting looks. I don’t mean that the painting looks sloppy, it’s the floor around the easel. And I’m not aware that I am being sloppy until I look down. I drop paint and then step in it and walk around in it. I get paint on the handles of the brushes and then on my hands and my clothes. I wouldn’t think this is anything to aspire to. It is probably some sort of phase that I am going though. And speaking of phases, I feel as though I am stumbling along and proceeding as if that is a method. I don’t know exactly what to do next so I paint something, react to it, correct it by scraping it off or wiping it with a paper towel and then move on. My paintings look better to me and that is all that really counts.

Our friends and neighbors, Rick and Monica, invited us over for dinner last night. Monica made what she calls “comfort food”. The dish had biscuits and chicken and peas in a milky broth and it was delicious. I felt like we were back in Bloomington, Indiana having dinner at the Workingmans’ Cafe. After dinner we watched “Yo Soy Cuba”, a wild 1964 Russian made film about the Cuban Revolution. It reminded us of Sun Ra’s “Space Is The Place” with its unreal setting, exotic characters and otherworldly soundtrack.

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Rat Race

Peggi dismantled the xmas tree while I read yesterday’s paper. I will take the tree out back and cut it up into little pieces to recycle it. I painted for about two hours and then headed out to rake leaves. Won’t have to do that again until next year. Wait a minute. It is next year.

We helped our neighbor split wood for about two hours and he let us borrow a Jean Renoir’s “Boudu, Saved From Drowning” to watch. It was remade as “Down and Out in Beverly Hills” with Nick Nolte and Bette Midler. He also invited us over to use their hot tub tonight while they are out. We will definitely take him up on that offer.

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You Always Come Down

La Moustache is a killer movie based on a really simple premise. This guy shaves his mustache and no one notices or they pretend not to notice. He is not too sure. No one is too sure and the movie doesn’t let you know what is really going on. It gets really crazy and then everything works out. The lead character’s wife tells him. “Don’t worry, it’s just like when you get too high. Keep in mind that you always come down.”

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Tasha The Fourth

Leo, our next door neighbor
Leo, our next door neighbor

Our next door neighbor, Leo, was featured on the local news last night. I was sitting right here at my desk when they shot the footage yesterday. You can see our house in the background of one of the outdoor scenes.

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Peace Is Possible

I don’t really know if I believe it is possible. I’m thinking of how our cat, Ornette, slaughters chipmunks for kicks in the summer. Peace in the animal kingdom has its own kind of order and Bush has his own new world order in mind for us. But we decided to echo the Prince of Peace’s old fashioned sentiments in our card this year. We were cross country skiing when I took this picture. It’s a view of the marsh on Conifer Lane near our house. See Huntington Hills Marsh photo.

Paul and Peggi Christmas Card 2007
Paul and Peggi Christmas Card 2007

We took a walk down to the bay where the town has been building a million dollar retaining wall to protect a few funky beach houses. It was cold and icy down there. We saw a mailman with a Santa hat and a plastic Xmas ferris wheel in someone’s front yard – people trying to out geegaw their neighbors on a holiday (formerly a holy day) so devoid of meaning we all it “Xmas”. There was an article in the paper this morning about a white guy in Houston who saw a couple of black burglars in his neighbor’s house. So he grabbed his gun and blew them away. He is claiming self defense. They were found with a pillow case full of jewelry beside a sleigh and a Santa cow with a sign, “Have a Moo-ry Christmas”. Like Tommy Lee Jones said in “No Country for Old Men”, “you can’t make this stuff up”.

We watched that movie last night with Rick and Monica. They are movie freaks but they like to sit in the back of the theatre for some reason. Peggi and I usually sit in the third or forth row so it fells like we right in the movie. The movie was pretty cool but it lost steam at the end. Tommy Lee and Javier Bardem were great. Javier Bardem was great in Goya’s Ghosts too. Goya was laughable in that movie.

Tonight we are supposed to get heavy snow after midnight. 4 to 7 inches and get a load of tomorrows forecast, “Periods of snow through the day with blowing snow in the afternoon. Snow may be heavy at times. Additional accumulation 8 to 15 inches. Windy with highs in the lower 30s. East winds 20 to 30 mph…becoming northeast. Gusts up to 40 mph. Chance of snow near 100 percent. ” Sounds like a sure thing but if you can’t count on the weather coming down like they call it around here. We are hoping to ski in the woods.

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Orange County

We watched Orange County last night with Jack Black, Catherine O’Hara and Colin Hanks as family and Schuyler Fisk as the girlfriend. The tagline for the 2002 movie is, “It’s not just a place. It’s a state of mind” and sure enough this film could have taken place anywhere. It is a very entertaining slice of life. Five stars. Perfect fair for a family gathering. My wife’s mom was the only one not laughing. We took a 4 mile walk in the Will Rogers State Historic Park. It was a beautiful day for a walk but I think it’s always a beautiful day in California so that’s not saying much.

Will Rogers State Historic Park
Will Rogers State Historic Park

Will Rogers Park looks like all scrub brush but there are some beautiful trails that hug the hillsides and keep you out of the blazing sun.

Our nephew, Andrew, asked if we wanted to go the the Hammer Museum on the UCLA campus. We saw a show of Francis Alys’ work—mostly video installations of his performance art called, “The Politics of Rehearsal.” An old red VW bug tries to drive to the top of a steep, dusty hill in Tijuana only to roll back and try again while a band stops and restarts a song. A stripper continually removes her clothes and puts them back on while Alys is heard off camera discussing Mexican politics. And in a collaboration with Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Alys uses rehearsal footage from a scene in Inarritu’s film, Amores Perros, along with outtakes, alternate camera shots and the final take to again illustrate his zen-like idea of enjoying the ride and the opportunities for renewal instead of focusing on closure.

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Who Is Faust?

I first met Brad Fox in high school. His father had paint by number clown paintings all over the house. Brad’s parents were getting a divorce and they were trying to figure out what was up with their son. They had Brad take a bunch of tests and one of the questions was, “Who is Faust?” “What does that have to do with intelligence?” Brad would ask. I didn’t know who Faust was either and I never found out until I saw F.W. Murnau’s 1926 formerly silent film, Faust, with music by the Willem Breuker. This is a match made in heaven. Willem Breuker Kollektief has been to Rochester at least ten times in the past. Willem can’t travel with the band anymore because of his heath but his band sounded fantastic in the Bop Shop atrium last week.

William Breuker Kollektief at the Bob Shop in Rochester, NY performing music from Faust
William Breuker Kollektief at the Bob Shop in Rochester, NY performing music from Faust

Their next stop was the Dryden Theater at the George Eastman House where they were performing the score to Faust live. I wasn’t able to make that show so I bought the dvd of the movie from the band. The movie is incredibly rich looking for an old black and white. The set designs are stunning. The short ceilings and small doors frame the actors like a fanciful puppet show. The special effects are dreamlike and artful. This movie is timeless and holds up to anything made today. Willem Breuker’s score covers a lot of ground and is equally timeless. The band is so musically fluent, they are able to turn on a dime and keep up with the devil in the midst of the plague and a metaphysical conflict between good and evil.

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The Butterfly Knot

Margaret Explosion played a party after the screening of Brian Strine’s film, The Butterfly Knot. It was a pretty cool gig. It’s always good if the band has a good time. Bob Martin was out of town so Jack Schaefer sat in with us on bass clarinet and guitar. The party house was perfectly funky. It’s been around since the fifties and used to be called, “Valley Echo.” We made a note to rent this place for a party. Matt Pfohl, the film’s co-star sat in on drums and rocked the house.

Ken Frank on bass, Matt Pfohl  (star of Butterfly Knot) on drums and Peggi Fournier on soprano sax.
Ken Frank on bass, Matt Pfohl (star of Butterfly Knot) on drums and Peggi Fournier on soprano sax.

The movie was shot in the Thousand Islands and cuts a deep groove. The soundtrack is in flux while the contracts get ironed out but it is all seventies stuff like Gram Parsons and Emmy Lou Harris doing the Bee Gee’s “To Love Somebody.” Blind Faith and Nick Drake were in there for the screening but may have been dropped by now. John Martyn has a track and his wife, Beverley sets the mood for the pot scene. I guess the ending is in flux too because they passed out questionnaires trolling for endings.

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