Atlético is due to meet Chelsea in an upcoming Champions League contest and six of their players have tested positive. On top of that, Spain is restricting entry to citizens from the UK so they are planning to host the match in Budapest. Atlético, who sits rather comfortably atop La Liga, meets Granada on Saturday in their next league contest. The “colchoneros” (mattress makers) have a fairly deep bench so we are not that worried about this one but they will need their best lineup to meet Chelsea.
Luis Suárez was out earlier in the season having tested positive after partying with his national team, Uruguay. The team managed without him. He returned in top form and is leading the league, just behind Messi, in goals scored. But now starters, and some of our favorite Atlético players, the Frenchman, Lemar, the Belgian Carrasco, the Mexican Herrera, and the Portuguese sensation, João Félix are all out with what is rumored to be the British strain of COVID-19.
João spent some time on the bench while recovering from an injury and we kept yelling at him to pull his mask up but it didn’t do any good. Luckily we have two other favorite teams, Real Madrid and Barcelona, the second and third place teams in the the 20 team league. We record the games in Spanish and watch them at dinner time, sitting on the floor in front of the tv in order to see the players clearly. La Liga matches, cross country skiing (we’ve skied twenty days in a row) and the vaccine are going to get us through this pandemic.
I thought two cans of olive oil would last longer than they did. We needed a walking destination anyway so we headed up to Rubino’s, an Italian market that has the good sense to carry some Spanish olive oil. I put two 3 liter cans of Zoe oil and a half gallon of Pittsford Dairy milk in my backpack. Peggi carried the figs, olives and Parmigiano-Reggiano. For kicks I checked the price of Zoe’s at Amazon before we left – 45 bucks for a can that costs 29 at Rubino’s. We saved thirty dollars and got a seven mile walk in. I have a reader who likes the perambulatory details so I will share them here.
We turn right, right, left and then right from our house and come out at the Church of the Transfiguration on Culver, a road that runs from Pinnacle Hill in the city all the way to the lake. We go south here on the left side of the street because there’s no sidewalk on the west side and we turn right on Titus. My watch always dings at this intersection because it is exactly a mile from our house. There is a large overgrown lot on Titus that has been for sale for years. It makes a great bathroom stop in all seasons. We turned left somewhere after that, not sure what the name of the street is. After some zig-zagging in that neighborhood we cross Bouckhart Avenue where the virgin is and continue until the street ends. It ends for cars, that is, because there is a secret sidewalk here that takes you the one block over to Kings Highway. We go by Bishop Kearney, where Joe Barrett and I went to school for a couple years, and the big medical complex where the workers smoke cigarettes out on the sidewalk because they can’t smoke on the grounds. At Ridge Road we considered walking through the drive-thru lane at Starbucks but decided against it. I ordered two cappuccinos when we got to Rubino’s and they made them while we shopped.
We were waiting for a day like Tuesday, theoretically too cold for ticks (although our friend, Jim Mott, told us he found two on him after a walk in the woods on a 20 degree day), sunny with no snow, to take one of our favorite hikes. This section of the undeveloped part of the park is completely overgrown with evidence of old horse trails that we follow in a big loop from our house. There really is no park management overseeing these trails so huge trees fall over on the paths and stay there for years.
Back in 2009, when we used to take this trail all the time, we discovered someone had brought a crew in to cut up the fallen trees and widen the path. We assumed it was the park management but the job was so destructive we called to complain. Larry Staub, the Parks Commissioner, came to to see it for himself and the police arrested a guy we nicknamed “Bulldozer Man.” Not to get too close to schadenfreude here but Bulldozer guy, who owned a construction company, was run over by a bulldozer being driven by one of his employees just last year.
The fallen trees in hills here look like art installations and there is never anyone up here. You do have to forde a creek that runs along Spring Valley and the first hill is a serious climb, something that is impossible with snow on the ground. The paths are completely overground with invasive plants in the summer. You would need a machete to get through the black swallow wort and mustard green. Those tick harboring plants have all died back now so our visit was sensational.
You could visit Lake Ontario everyday. We come pretty close to doing so, and it will always look different. Sometimes brutally rough but alway beautiful. For us it is a pagan pilgrimage site. Our meditative walks reach a culmination there. We can’t go any further north on foot. We can only stop and admire the display. The lake level, wind, waves and ice all rearrange the shoreline. Shells, stone and pieces of worn glass get washed in and gather like a carefully arranged art installation. The open sky is nothing but dramatic and the lake plays with the colors in the sky. The horizon is always a dreamy but unattainable attraction.
While the president was on his steroid binge he issued a statement that his hospitalization and process of recovery was a “miracle from God coming down.”
If God really did come down he would force the president to watch “David Attenborough: A Life On Our Planet.” Then, while under the influence, in his weakened state, the president would erratically switched gears and became an environmental leader, pushing us to take the simple, sustainable steps that will allow our earth to recover.
Attenborough, at 93, with sixty plus years as a naturalist, chronicles the destruction he has witnessed in his own lifetime and instead of hanging his head in shame he is an optimist. Not so much for mankind, but a true believer in nature’s ability to adapt, correct and move forward.This magical film on Netflix is his witness statement.
We’ve noticed bike tracks on some of the trails through the park and we’ve occasionally seen guys on bikes, those fat tire things. They don’t pay any attention to the “No Biking on Trails” signs. We noticed a new sign yesterday planted right in the middle of a trail that goes straight up a hill. In addition to being obnoxious the bikes tear up the trails and lead to erosion. I spotted this pink flag on trail today, probably alerting other bikers to the path. I brought it home with me along with six golf balls and three Sweet Gum seed pods that looked like a brown version of the Corona virus.
There was a period, five or six years ago, when I was bringing home Budweiser cans from a spot near the marsh on Hoffman Road. I put all those photos in a slideshow below.
I love these Snowy Magnolias, so aptly named. They’re much prettier than the clunky, tulip-like Magnolias.
Is it because of the pandemic that this is the best spring ever or in spite of it? The wisteria which typically herald the new season are still yellow after almost four weeks. The daffodils still standing. The cherry blossoms are still on the trees. We’ve not had a wind storm or heavy rain or heatwave to crash the party. This year it is a slow orgasm.
I suspect the pandemic has shaped my perception. I’m not an essential worker or a high school senior. I didn’t lose my job. I am healthy. It’s just that the world moves more slowly now. Why is the newspaper so big. Oh, it must be Sunday.
My appreciation and respect for the natural order, the plant and animal world, has only grown deeper. The virus is throwing our bad behavior in our face. And the pause has provided a glimpse of a possible correction. Maybe we haven’t completely fucked up the earth. Maybe its not too late.
The warmer it gets the harder it will be to stay six feet away from others. The park is more crowded than ever for this time of year. They’ve taken down the barricades that closed the roads for the winter. Cars stream up Zoo Road from the lake and loop back down Pine Valley and the Magnolias won’t even be in full blossom for another week or so. The cars above are parralel parked before the parking lots even begin! We ran a zig zag pattern today, got right down on the beach for a few minutes and then crossed Lakeshore Boulevard and went up Horseroad Road, across the golf course and up Hoffman Road.
In the Fall our neighbor, Jared, had a Hickory tree come down on the hillside behind his house. It fell across the road and took the power lines down. Peggi and I cut the wood to log lengths and hauled it up to our yard in preparation for splitting. This winter one of our trees came down and took the lines down again. The telephone pole between our properties, the one that carries the primary (high voltage) line, was yanked in both directions.
Sometime after one of these incidents we noticed a black patch of bark on one of our trees. About twenty five feet up in an oak that is well over a hundred feet tall we guessed that it had been hit by lightning. The spot, about eighteen inches in diameter, appeared charred and was shinny when wet. When we looked at it from our bedroom it appeared to be reflecting a light source, maybe from the neighbors down the road who leave a light on by their driveway around the clock. In the last week or so the light points became more intense like lasers. Our house guest, Steve Black, became sort of obsessed by it and alerted us to especially active periods.
When he called our attention to it yesterday there was a small flame shooting from the tree. Outside we saw smoke and for the first time realized one of the power lines had burned a deep gouge in the tree. We called the power company and they called the fire department. Three trucks answered the call but they didn’t want to touch the wire. When the power company got there they lassoed the wire and pulled it away from the contact point. They tied the rope to another one of our trees. Rather than move the pole backing place they decided to take the tree down.
This morning we woke to a guy way up in the tree. It took him about four hours to lower the branches and ten the crew dropped the 30 foot long tree trunk and left it for us.
Good Friday sort of sails by these days. I remember sitting on the front porch of our house on Brookfield with my sister and brother as we tried to stay silent between noon and 3 PM, the hours Christ hung on the cross. We were not able to do it.
Our place came with a dog pen on the side of the house, a square, fenced in area that the dog could access from the doggie door, which was cut into the bottom of a door in our garage. The fence keeps the deer out and all sorts of stuff grows in there. We call it our forever wild area.
We bought some new fencing recently. It’s six feet tall and black clad instead of five feet and green so you sort of look right through it. We fanned out from the corners of the house and made the area considerably bigger. The project took a good week. The next owner will have a bigger dog area.
After all that work we drove to Wegmans and really filled the cart because we wouldn’t have to carry it all home this time. We are headed to Joyce’s birthday party tomorrow and Helena and Jedi’s for Easter so we stopped in the fresh flower section and bought two bunches of roses, colors specific to each party.
I went off to the produce department while Peggi watched the flower lady wrap the roses. When I returned with an armful of fruit they were talking about Woodstock, the ‘69 version. The flower lady had been there and Peggi told her that I had too. She told us her sister-in-law used to live with Gene Cornish and she managed the Young Rascals, the Rustix and The Brass Buttons. And her brother was roadie for The Invictas back in the day.
We headed out before sunrise this morning having never met the proprietors of the hotel we were staying at in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port. We made those arrangements back in Rochester and we planned to see how far we got before booking a room for tonight. We made it to Ronceveles, an eight and half hour walk over the Pyrenees and we’re settled down in an old monastery that has been artfully converted to a hotel.
We were sitting on a bus going in the opposite direction on this same route yesterday. It was a series of hair-pin turns.
The driver gave us a talk before departure, first in Spanish and then in English. English that he apologized for but he was great. He told us the bus would stop and start a lot and there would be some bumps so if we felt sick he said we should use a plastic bag and he demonstrated with one. Then he gestured toward the door to his left and said. “I stop the bus. You go out. Throw up.”
It wasn’t so bad. Today the route was mostly off road along streams, up the side of mountains and though valleys on enchanted pathways. The woods were gorgeous, water seeping out of the ground, trees covered in moss and lychin. Wildflowers, cherry tree blossoms, pastures with long horned sheep and breathtaking views.
In one day we met two people who are doing the Camino for a second time. We’ve just gotten started and I too would like to do it again.
Rivers don’t cross one another at right angles. But a river and a man-made canal can and they do just south of downtown Rochester. You are looking west from one of the beautiful, arched, concrete bridges in Frederick Law Olmstead’s Genesee Valley Park. The canal runs across the state, and the river, coming from the left in this photo, flows north to Lake Ontario. This is a really dramatic intersection.
We have shifted gears and are now wearing only the gear we will be bringing on our walking trip. I feel like we are already on the walking trip but it doesn’t start for another thirty days. So, no more layers of cotton clothing. We have been outfitted in man-made high-tech gear. Our friend, Olga, who has a keen fashion sense, works part time at REI so we texted her for her hours and then stopped in the store on Tuesday night to take her recommendations.
Thirty-eight degrees is just right for walking. Our twelve and a half mile walk today took four hours to complete but that included a number of stops. Starbucks was the first and then a stroll down Dix street, thinking of Otto and the book Angel has of his work before stopping in Dunkin Donuts to use the bathroom. And then down the access road that runs along 590 near the Norton Street exit and into the woods in the county park that follows the old subway bed, the same line that ran from Garson Avenue along Shaftsbury and down to the bay where the old amusement park was.
It’s a beautiful trail with all sorts of turns and small bridges and there’s remnants of old houses along the way, just the foundations and slabs and the hint of a fireplace. There are occasional markers. We followed the blue to the green and we came out on bay right across from the entrance to the Fish and Game club. We called our neighbor, a member, from the entrance and I was picturing him inviting us in for a beer but he was at home. We stopped at a gas station on Culver to use their bathroom and then Wegmans to pick up some salad for the family gathering we’re planning for tomorrow where we will prepare of my dad’s next show.
Frank Gannett grew Rochester’s Democrat & Chronicle into USA Today and the whole Gannett chain. He also owned property on this hillside near what is now Gannett Hill Park at the bottom of Canandaigua Lake, just north of village of Naples. We hiked the orange trail there this afternoon in a loop that just under four miles, enough to get us out of cellular range. We went down there for the color and just get out of town for a bit.
They are usually way ahead of us. The big lake moderates our weather and stretches out the Fall but they were nowhere near peak. I made salsa before we left and we ate that with chips after our walk. We continued south through the Italy Valley and then up through Middlesex. We stopped at a Mexican place in Canandaigua and were home before the sun went down.
With this string of gorgeous days the outdoor palette is changing ever so slightly. Oranges and browns are creeping in. Nuts are falling from the sky. I heard an acorn fall on our neighbor’s trailer as I drifted off last night. The horseshoe pits are dusty. Although it was forecast we haven’t had rain in a week or so. It’s good that we can’t count on a particular kind of weather. You never know. And that’s why we live here.
Plastic has been around so much longer than plastic, way before Dustin Hoffman’s line in The Graduate. “Capable of being molded or modeled. Capable of adapting to varying conditions.” There is a time-lapse video out there of someone working on a painting. He reworks a section and it looks exactly like it did before he reworked it. I have not seen the video, I have only heard about it. I don’t want to see it.
Paint is malleable. I’ve been reworking sections of a painting for the last week. Does it look any better? Am I going around in circles? Painting always gets the best of you. That’s the way it should be.
That’s my Uncle Bob heading to the bathroom in the blowup of the photo above.
On a good day we don’t see anyone in the park. Actually, that is not entirely true. On really nice days we always run into other people. Most days, though, we hardly see anyone in the park. I used to find that surprising but not anymore. People have stuff to do.
We were coming back up from the lake on Pine Valley Road when we watched this guy pull over, hop out of his car and walk directly over to a tree near the side of the road. He didn’t even look back at us as we walked by so I asked, “What’s going on with that tree?” He said, “I didn’t know there was a walnut tree here. I’ve been picking walnuts from the tress over there for years but I never new there was one here.” He had a few of them in his hands already. They are about the size of a tennis ball before you get the outer green layer off. And inside that there is the wooden shell and inside that the fruit.
He told us he takes them home and soaks them in a bucket, about a hundred at a time. “If they rise to the surface I throw them out because they are rotten but that only happens to two or three.” He said he cracks them open with a rubber mallet and eats them while he’s watching tv. As he was talked he got a small shovel out of the back of his car and he cracked a few nuts open and gave us taste. They were great, nice and moist. Then he showed us a long handled pruning sheer that he uses to cut them from higher branches. I asked if the park people ever bothered him while he was picking and he said, “No, but I’m not picking nuts today, I metal detecting.”
As we leave our street we get a good view of a few of the neighbors backyards. One is mostly unused but with a professionally maintained lawn. Periodically dosed with chemicals and surrounded with the yard-worker version of yellow police crime tape. A small evergreen tree, the size you would buy as a live, tabletop Christmas tree, sits in the middle of their lawn. Still in the red plastic pot from a few years back it is now partially brown.
The house next door is like Noah’s Ark. They have one of everything in their back yard. An extra car, a boat, a camper, a small patio with chairs and fire pit, a dog pen, a small vegitable garden and an old treasure chest. It wasn’t surprising that they picked up the small pink tent that we saw out by the curb further down the street last week. It caught our eye too but we assumed a little girl had outgrown it and another would find it, not these middle aged scavengers.
The other day there was a hawk on their garage and we didn’t scare it off. It was so close to us I wondered whether the bird was right (rabid?) and then I put it together that we had interrupted it. Instead of taking more photos of it I looked down at the ground and sure enough there was a dead squirrel about ten feet from us.
We continued down Hoffman Road and stopped at the marsh like we always do. There was a really big bird sitting on top of the tallest dead tree and I assumed it was another hawk with its prey. As we moved closer we started to think it might be an eagle. Steve Greive came around the bend in his Jaguar and he honked at us. That scared it off. I had to come home and compare my photo with a google “eagle” search to be convinced.
I read an article about the blue Christmas trees they’re selling in New Jersey. Someone is spray painting real trees and people are buying them.
We spotted the black, spray-painted marks on the trees in the woods near our house a few days ago. You can’t miss them. The idiot marked the trail for other idiots by marking nearly every tree even ones no wider than my wrist. We rarely see anyone on the trail but we see footprints and very occasionally bike tire tracks and we’re guessing it was someone with those balloon tires. Yesterday we found this sign and we seconded the sentiment. We’re lucky the guy used black paint. As glaring as the offense was we’ve already stopped noticing the spots.
We decided to do the the Spring Valley trail today. We’re beyond tick season so the overgrown trails in that developed part of the park don’t pose as much of an obstacle. The toughest part about it is crossing the stream that winds its way though the valley. It moves along at quite a clip so the crossing point never looks the same. It is incredibly beautiful up on the ridge. The turkeys hang out up here and there were tracks everywhere today but we didn’t see any. Peggi took some panoramas that I’m anxious to see. We ran into one of our favorite neighbors, a so-called brainiac, on the way. She has four beagles, collects stray cats and has a room full of exotic frogs. There was a Pileated woodpecker at her feeder while we talked. Her house, built in 1947, is a classic mid-century modern and and another friend of ours told us they thought it was a Don Hershey. We confirmed that it is not. She gave us shopping bag full of Brussels sprouts so I did the hike with that and on the way home we cut the tops off three of of our Kale plants.
I like puzzles but don’t go out of my way to tackle them. I get addicted and can’t stop. This one sort of fell into our lap. My brother, the best stone mason in the city, poured a new concrete driveway for us. Of course there was a lot more work than the pouring. He was over here every day few a couple of weeks preparing the surface and forms. He even offered his artist eye to give the driveway some seductive curves. The concrete was poured on a Saturday and he returned one more time to seal it. We threw a game of horseshoes when he finished and he beat me one out of three.
There is a slate sidewalk from our old driveway to the threshold of our front door and the new driveway, which gently slopes from the garage to the street, is now two inches higher than our sidewalk. So 200 pound piece by 200 pound piece Peggi and I have been raising the level of the sidewalk. We’ve been working on this for over a week now and we can’t wait to get to work each day. We find ourselves looking out the window at our project at night. The pieces of slate or Pennsylvania Bluestone or whatever you call this stuff are all different sizes and some of the old ones were broken so putting it all pack together with shovels, sand, fill, levels, a grinder and diamond blade circular saw that our neighbor Jared let us borrow, and a 2 by 6 to grade the surface has been a real puzzle. It feels great to be outdoors the whole day and I find manual labor to be immensely satisfying. I wonder why that is.
Listen to “Girls With Balloons” from Margaret Explosion Disappear CD
Margaret Explosion plays Wednesday evenings in October and November at the Little Theatre Café.
Just twenty miles south of Rochester on Route 15A you can stop the car and walk to the last two undeveloped Finger Lakes. Canadice Lake is to the west and Hemlock is to the east. Both can be reached by newly developed trails that drop about 1700 feet in elevation and take you right to the shores of the lakes. The lakes look exactly the way they would have to Native Americans 500 years ago. We left at noon and did both hikes, a total of six miles or so, and were home in plenty of time for dinner.
I remember when Genesee Beer touted the virtues of Hemlock Lake water in its beer. Of course the two lakes are our water supply and development on the lakes is prohibited. The trails start on land owned by the Nature Conservancy and finish in the Hemlock-Canadice State Forest passing through beautiful meadows and virgin forest before their descent. The Canadice trail is about eight years old and the Hemlock trail, named Rob’s trail after a past president of the Conservancy, was just opened this summer. The trees are putting on a spectacular show for you now.