Beginning Of A Novel

Fallen willow along Hoffman Road
Fallen willow along Hoffman Road

I sort of remember when this willow tree split apart. The back half fell across the creek and died but the front half continued to thrive. New branches have sprouted from the top side of the trunk. I’m so glad the laissez-faire owners have left it alone.

We intended to take a walking route that would finish at our garden but got talking and turned the wrong way. Peggi was telling me about her dream. We were at the Jazz Festival and she was holding front row seats at Kilbourn Hall for me. I was late for some reason (which sounds about right) and then the whole first row of seats began falling backward. People were screaming and that might have been when Peggi woke up.

We spotted a photographer up ahead of us on Log Cabin Road. I wondered if it might be Aaron Winters because of the way he was walking, lumbering under the weight of his camera equipment and long lenses. It turned out to be Fred SanFilipo who coincidentally often sits in the front row at Jazz Fest where he is one of the official photographers. He recognized us from Jazz Fest and then introduced himself to us.

I had met him many years ago back when he had an ad agency with someone named Younger. I was in their studio when the two partners were having an unforgettable blow-out. Today he seems much happier. He told us about a beautiful nearby bush he had discovered, one that attracts humming birds. Peggi told him about her Jazz Fest dream and he said it sounds like the beginning of a novel.

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Attica Blues at 50

The newspaper box under our mailbox still says “Times Union.” We were subscribers of the afternoon paper back in the day, right up til their last issue, and then we switched to the D&C. The picture on the front page of today’s D&C showed five Times Union reporters, the late Jack Garner among them, celebrating their Pulitzer Prize in 1972. They won it for reporting that it was police gunshots that killed the hostages in nearby Attica Prison and not the prisoners’ homemade knives, as we had originally been told.

Check out President Nixon on the phone with Governor Rockefeller patting each other on the back for the debacle.

Dick Cooper, one of those five TU reporters has a great piece in the paper that re-tells the real story.

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Dub Mix

Bench overlooking Trott Lake in Durand Eastman Park
Bench overlooking Trott Lake in Durand Eastman Park

I came awake around one and lay there listening to our fan, the one that sits on the laundry basket near the screened window in our bedroom. We don’t have air conditioning and would rather not have it. We can handle the few weeks of hot we get up here. And I love waking up to the birds.

I was only half awake so I struggled to determine whether I was hearing music in addition to the fan or hallucinating musical patterns in the fan noise. I convinced myself that it was just the fan and tried to get back to sleep. Then the music got louder, a lot louder.

I got up and walked around the house to figure out where it was coming from. I was certain a car was parked out front between Dan and Diana’s house and ours with its lights out and one of those giant sound systems in their trunk. The music was getting louder but I couldn’t see anyone. Peggi was up by now and we opened the front door and gradually walked toward the street.

Was there a party on the next street over? We could hear people laughing and shouting over the music. Everything was auto-tuned and in Spanish with a dancehall beat. Reggaeton? And it was echoing through the woods. A dub mix. We figured it must have been a big party on the beach and we went back to bed.

The next day we saw Diana heading out to work and we asked if she heard anything. She said no, “But then I take Melatonin.” And they have air conditioning. When we saw Rick, our next door neighbor, we asked if he had heard anything. They keep their windows closed, the air on and he takes his hearing aids out at night. Down at the pool our neighbor, Phil, asked us if we heard the music. He said he called the cops, the party pooper.

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Pre-Season Special

Chevy Kingswood Estate parked outside if Park View Lanes in Rochester, New York
Chevy Kingswood Estate parked outside if Park View Lanes in Rochester, New York

I see Park View Bowl has a pre-season special going before their bowling leagues start. This place, six lanes and a bar, run by the brother of a former pro bowler, is Out Of Time. We walked down to the lake this morning and out the Sea Breeze pier. The lake was perfectly calm. We watched a Poseidon Barge dredge the channel for a while. Peggi took a short video. Rob Benton’s tour bus was parked out in front of Marge’s, where the signs read “Don’t Even Think of Parking Here.” This place was a speakeasy during Prohibition and they had the best jukebox in town in the late seventies when Ron was still around. We looked up Mr. Benton when we got home and watched a hideous cover of “Hotel California.” Don’t do it. In the sixties Marge’s would sell beer to anyone. I remember friends pulling up to the place, running up the steps and returning with a six pack. We were sixteen.

The new La Liga season has begun. Some fans, maybe 20% of the capacity are allowed back. The broadcasts have moved from BeIN to ESPN. The extra cable tv package we pay for doesn’t include the games. We had to purchase a subscription through the ESPN app, another app. We watched the first matches for Barca, Atletico and Real Madrid,our three favorite teams. They all won! Our only complaint is the Spanish language commentators are no where’s near as good as they were on BEIN.

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Summer Of Soul

Sly Stone performing in "Summer of Soul" at the Little Theatre
Sly Stone performing in “Summer of Soul” at the Little Theatre

I thought Apple’s “1971: The Year That Music Changed Everything” was pretty sensational (spoken like a true fanboy). The overtones were not as preachy as they were in “Summer of Soul.” But I understand the desperate need for that. I went to Woodstock to see Sly and the Family Stone and the series of concerts featured in Summer of Soul from that same year was every bit as good as Woodstock. It is about time. “1971,” with solid research and clear evidence, made the case that the year was transformative on so many levels.

Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Goin’ On” and Sly’s “There’s A Riot Goin’ On” alone make the case for ‘71. I get bothered by all the nostalgic wallowing that goes on with people my age. Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign capitalized on that. The techno music playing at the Co-Op this afternoon made it so much fun to shop. But these two documentaries are art history classes. Requirements. Plant food for the culture going forward.

We saw ‘Summer of Soul” at the Little Theatre on opening night, our first post-pandemic theater experience. We expected the theater to be mobbed but were two of maybe twenty. I don’t know whether to worry more about our generation, the movie theater business model or our tastes.

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Wrecking Ball

Sunset with bare trees, aftermath of the gypsy moths
Sunset with bare trees, aftermath of the gypsy moths

We didn’t get our papers this morning so I called our delivery guy and he told me “no one got a paper, the presses broke down.” It made for an interesting morning. We read a few articles online and then got on with the day. No news is good news.

My sister and her husband hosted a holiday weekend cookout and six of the seven siblings were there. Their backyard was a lovely setting for our first get-together since the pandemic began. We were caught up in couple of hours and moved on to meatier topics after dinner. I was thinking of how my mom relished the after conversations and the opinions from family members that often surprised her. She would even follow-up with her take the next time we saw her.

One of my brothers lamented the fact that his daughter got so rattled by the pandemic that she wouldn’t see him and he blamed the media for scaring everyone to death. Some family members countered with stories of friends who were stricken. The conversation took a political turn and my brother had to go. As many times as we’ve talked to him about all the hot topics we never realized he was a Trump fan.

The last time I saw my friend, Dave, before he died he had just spent time with his family and he was blown away by the discovery that they were Republicans. He said “Our parents didn’t hold these values. “ I probably said something about evolution and people turning against parents as the natural order but I don ‘t recall. I remember my father expressing the same sentiment in painting class when talking about the family he married into. “They’re all Republicans, except Ann and Bob (one set of my aunts and uncles).

Another brother suggested there was no truth anymore and and my sister added that we used to all watch the same news shows. Someone mentioned our cousin’s Facebook feed that reads like a litany of right wing talking points. I mentioned an article I read in the New Yorker written by someone who worked for the Murdochs. He was paid a bonus for each “this’ll get em goin” topic he found in the recesses of social media platforms.

I suggested the profit motive for the platforms had a lot to do with the divisiveness and I tried to connect the dots with the Netflix documentary, “The Great Hack,”that laid out how easy it was for Cambridge Analytica to harness facebook’s data points and then target the “persuadables” in the swing states with ads designed to “get ’em goin” thereby tipping the scales in the 2016 election. They described it as a piece of cake. But by the time I got the gist out there were four separate conversations going on at the table.

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Win By Two

Paul and Rick playing horseshoes in the front yard - photo by Peggi Fournier
Paul and Rick playing horseshoes in the front yard – photo by Peggi Fournier

We had a spectator tonight, sitting in one of the yellow chairs, and she made a movie of the last couple minutes of our third round. It was twenty to twenty and Rick and I had already won one each. Rick was kind of nervous because he had the Spevaks coming over at 5:30 and that was jus a few minutes away. I took advantage of his nervousness and pushed him to play the rest of the third round instead of postponing it. You never know how long a match will take.

I picked up a point on this toss and Rick said “Damn it.” In previous matches I distinctly remember Rick saying, “You have to win by two” and I expected him to blurt that out but he didn’t. I took the victory.

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Political Correctness

Mexican lawn statue off Culver Road
Mexican lawn statue off Culver Road

As much as I would like to be collecting stray golf balls that were left in the woods near the trails that skirt the golf course we are currently staying out of the woods. There are too many ticks on the invasive black swallow wort, burberry and autumn olive trees that line the paths through the park. I can’t wait for the Lyme vaccine. Our two friends who participated in a long term study at UR tell us the same vaccine they routinely give dogs has been found to be just as effective in humans. Of course there’s anti-vaxers who wouldn’t even vaccinate their dog.

So we stick to the roads, our favorites are closed in the park, and we often wander in the neighborhoods off the northern end of Culver Road. We pass a few houses with white and black jockeys, some vestige of a bygone era. Most are white these days and some look like they used to be black so I’m thinking this was a politically correct move. I don’t know what to think about the Mexican with the oil can.

There is a house on Peart Avenue that has a sign inside the widow on their porch that reads, “NOTICE: This place is politically incorrect. WE SAY Merry Christmas, One Nation Under God, We Salute Our Flag & Give Thanks To Our Troops. If this offends you LEAVE!”

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Lilac Time

Japanese Lilac in triangle at the corner of Kings Highway and Lakeshore Boulevard
Japanese Lilac in triangle at the corner of Kings Highway and Lakeshore Boulevard

A tree surgeon told us our area and Oakridge Drive were the most hit the worst in Monroe County. We needed more coffee beans from Canaltown so drove by way of Oakridge. The street borders the park on the opposite side of ours and the gypsy moth invasion is bad there but not as bad as it is here. The trees are always green on the other side of the park.

On the way over there I spotted some flowering trees in the middle of the island at the intersection of Kings Highway and Lakeshore Boulevard. We walked over there this morning before the rain and the trees were incredibly fragrant. Peggi identified them as Japanese Lilacs with her iNaturalist app. We missed the Lilac (and fried dough) Festival in May but I have a feeling this was better.

“Communion is not the reward of saints, but the bread of sinners” – Pope Francis

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Circle Game

Dave Mahoney and Norm Ladd at quarry. Photo by Kim Torgerson.
Dave Mahoney and Norm Ladd at quarry. Photo by Kim Torgerson.

Dave died fifteen years ago. And now Norm. We were so full of life. It doesn’t seem possible. But then again it does.

Norm was in my sister’s class, two years behind me, but we were friends in high school. Our moms were friends before we met. When I went away to school in Indiana Norm’s mom called me to say Norm had run away. “He’s coming out to stay with you,” she said. Sure enough Norm stayed in my dorm room for a week or so and then returned home.

I met Pam in Indiana and she came to visit me in Rochester over the summer. We went swimming and I remember introducing Pam to Norm. They became an item that day. A long run. Norm joined the army during the Viet Nam war but never saw combat. He worked in a shop and made hash pipes out of plumbing parts. I remember them being hot as hell, almost too hot to hang on to. Pam’s father owned the Colonial Motel in Indianapolis. I remember him backing a trailer into number 10 Monon Drive in Bloomington. I lived there with Pam and Dave and a few other friends while Norm was away.

Norm and Pam were married at at Norm’s parents’ house in Webster. The Bloomington crew was all there. Pam got pregnant and they moved to a big house. I stayed there rent free as a babysitter and learned how to change diapers. Chinaboise rehearsed in Norm’s basement.

Norm’s sudden death provided the opportunity to talk to Kim. She took the photo up top. We will reach out to Pam. It’s a Circle Game.


Sea Breeze

Beach at Sea Breeze, New York
Beach at Sea Breeze, New York

The town projected their Sea Breeze improvement project would be done by December. The new playground is open but some earth moving equipment was still running around. A slab has been poured for the picnic pavilion but that is still left to your imagination. A permeable concrete ramp near the new parking lot runs right down into the water and would be ideal for launching a canoe or kayak.

There is a vending machine that takes money for the boat launch and there are some brand new floating docks stretched out on the bay side. The entire area is a few more feet above sea level so it shouldn’t flood for. a few more years. The walkway is open again and we followed it right up to the seasonal swing bridge, which won’t be operational again until November. A mama duck paddled by with her seven tiny babies. And we were happy to see they have not tried to improve the sandy beach near the pier on the lake side.

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Litho In USA

"Litho In USA 09" collage 18" x 24" 2021 Paul Dodd
"Litho In USA 10" collage 18" x 24" 2021 Paul Dodd
"Litho In USA 08" collage 18" x 24" 2021 Paul Dodd
"Litho In USA 06" collage 18" x 24" 2021 Paul Dodd

Back in the early eighties our band played a lot of dates with Paper Faces from Buffalo. They managed to put the art in art rock better than anyone we knew. They would sometimes hang pieces of billboards on the wall behind them, old cigarette and car ads. Dave Mahoney‘s father worked for the billboard company in Rochester so I stopped by to see him. I used the back of the billboard paper to do large acrylic paintings. The paper was thick and big, sheets 54 by 60” inches. You can still see the folds in the paintings.

I’ve had a short stack of the billboard sheets out in the garage for years and recently took a look at them. I made a series of collages with pieces cut from the large block lettering and fields of color. I’m calling the series “Litho in USA.”

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Documenting The Documentation

Studio with Litho Collages on wall
Studio with Litho collages on wall

I’m itching to get back my Adam & Eve paintings. They’re based on a couple from Fairhaven that I had the opportunity to observe a few years back. The drawings need massaging before I begin painting. That gallon of gesso in lower right hand corner will take care of the adjustments. Before I dive though in I want to photograph the twenty collages shown drying on the walls. I popped this photo in a second but properly photographing the twenty, individually with the white in each looking white and the colors when used on multiple pieces looking looking the same, is not so easy. I spent the whole weekend on this, longer than it took to do the collages.

I’m using two Lowel Toto lights pointed at my painting easel. Getting them to light a flat surface evenly is a project. I have my Sony RX100 on a tripod with the timer set and I’ve photographed the twenty pieces three times now. I called Duane in NYC after the first two rounds failed and he took me into Manual Mode, set to 1/80 of a second with the F-stop at 8.0 and the ISO set to 800. We did a custom white balance and I stored that. The photos are much better but somehow the blues, like in the third and fifth one above, are different. The dark blues, like in the first and and sixth above, are different. Could it be that the camera is influenced by it’s surroundings just as our eyes are?

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Sleepy Town

Black brick house on Atkinson Street in Corn Hill
Black brick house on Atkinson Street in Corn Hill

It’s a good thing Rochester Art Supply opens so early. I dropped Peggi off at the courthouse for grand jury duty and did a little masked shopping. I parked in front of this beautiful black brick home in Corn Hill and walked over to West Main.

When I say “over to West Main,” I mean over the damn highway they dropped into the old Erie Canal bed when the urban renewal architects butchered the city by severing the neighborhoods from one another. It is kind of nice walking bridge. Perfect for skateboarding, it swoops up from Troup Street and plops you right in front of the restored Bevier Hall, home Mechanics Institute, my grandfather’s alma mater.

I worry now that there are so many apartment buildings downtown, newly built and renovated factory space, that this phase of urban renewal while only make the city sleepier.

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Going Green

Parcel 5 Green Space downtown Rochester
Parcel 5 Green Space downtown Rochester

These guys in day-glow suits had Parcel 5 perfectly graded this morning. The grass seed will probably be next. I was one of the contrarians who wanted something other than empty space in the middle of downtown but I’m good with the park idea as long it is more interesting than lawn. I was holding out for the return of city center and all that used to go with it. Stores, offices, newsstands, coffee shops, bars, restaurants and a place to hang out while skipping school. Stuff that is never coming back.

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Brooklyn Strong

Jared's fish being fed by Peggi
Jared’s fish being fed by Peggi

I mention this every year but it is a good excuse to link to this photo of Peggi with a Mint Julep at the Kentucky Derby in 1973, our first date, the year Secretariat won. We’re going with Brooklyn Strong in today’s derby despite the 40/1 odds.

Our neighbors left us in charge of feeding their fish while they’re out of town. These guys all survived the winter but the water temperature was only 50 degrees this morning so they were a little sluggish.

Peggi’s is doing grand jury duty for a few weeks and it has been an education for the both of us. The process seems lopsided to first timers. The prosecutors present their case and walk the jurors to their indictment 99.9% of the time.

So what went wrong for Letitia James’ in Rochester’s Daniel Prude case? Nearly a mirror image of the George Floyd murder and it comes back “no billed.” I don’t know much about the Rochester Beacon other than they just hired Frank De Blase as their music critic but I thought this editorial was pretty thought provoking.

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No Body Camera

"No Body Camera" sign on door of police social club
“No Body Camera” sign on door of police social club

I remember when my uncle got a mirror window for the office that overlooked his grocery store. Looking up at it from the store aisles you would only see a reflection but if you were in the office you could survey the whole store. I’m sure it helped prevent shoplifting but it was an intrusion for us stock boys, never knowing if he was up there looking down at us.

When we lived in the city we had the same mailman for twenty years. He was a Neil Young fan and he’d let us check the new releases he bought. Since we worked out of the house he would use our bathroom. The ladies at Elite Bakery on Humboldt would give him free cookies and Leo’s, next door to them at the time, gave him their gooey brownies with chocolate frosting. Sometimes he would share those with us.

We always had him pegged as a Viet Nam vet but he kept his personal life private. He was stuffing something. He would run when he got off work which seemed insane considering he already walked twenty miles a day. He drove a sports car and we would occasionally see him about town.

At some point the Post Office, in an attempt to keep up with UPS, began streamlining. The mail carriers were each given a scanner and they had to continually check in by scanning the drop boxes when they picked up a load. They couldn’t just do their route in a hurry and go home. Their delivery truck had its own bar code and whenever they scanned a location they would have to scan their truck so some bean counter could put the data altogether. If the higher-ups felt he could handle more customers his route would get bigger. We heard about every one of these intrusions and hoped he wouldn’t go postal on us.

No worker likes being watched every minute but the police have abused that privilege. There is an unmarked cop hang-out/clubhouse over by the bay with a “No Body Camera” sign on the door. I get it but I’m not gonna be flying any blue striped American flag.

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Bagpipes in the woods
Bagpipes in the woods

“Do golf carts have horns?” I wondered aloud as we got to the end of the trail near Horseshoe Road. It turned out to be a bagpiper player filling his air sack. The golf course just opened a few days ago and already I’ve found 13 balls near the trails that skirt the course.

A group of plein air artists were setting up along the lake and it was warm enough for a few people to stroll the beach in bathing suits. We stayed up on the sidewalk. A motorized bike came up behind us with with the Grateful Dead’s “Friend of the Devil” playing. We stepped aside and watched a smiling, rather round man with a grey beard drift by. His tires were fat and only about a foot tall.

The Snowy Magnolias on Zoo Road were especially fragrant and already dropping their flower petals, living up to their name.

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Local Beer

"Local Beer" 3 6x6 submissions to Rochester Contemporary show 2021
“Local Beer” 3 6×6 submissions to Rochester Contemporary show 2021

Since we walk everyday we like to vary the route as much as possible. We have our favorite paths in the woods and our favorite streets, of course, and lately we try to include a good stretch of beach walking. Lake Ontario is a foot below normal for this time of year so there is plenty of sand. We go out for somewhere near five miles and avoid taking the same way back to our house. It is like a meditation. And it is exciting to have a destination. Home Depot, Starbucks, the library, Rubino’s, Amen’s or the post office.

Things catch your eye. Birds, trees, boats, houses, funky lawn ornaments and lately a lot of discarded masks. I found these squashed beer cans and I’m submitting them to this year’s Rochester Contemporary 6×6 show.

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