A Breath Of Fresh Air

Birch trees along Lake Ontario in January
Birch trees along Lake Ontario in January

It is cold but beautiful up on the North Coast. A huge grey cloud has lifted. I imagine they opened the windows in the White House on this Inauguration Day and let this fresh air in. We are all inhaling deeply.

I am sick of doom-scrolling. I don’t ever want to hear that “I’m proud to be an American because at least I know I’m free” song again. The orange guy took a lot out of me. It’s embarrassing. I want to move forward.

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Virtual.es

Door near beach in Sanlúcar de Barrameda, España
Door near beach in Sanlúcar de Barrameda, España

How about the good things that have come from this horrible pandemic. The extra time outdoors for starters and all the virtual encounters. But then we watched Martin Scorsese’s “Pretend It’s A City” and could only long for those big city experiences.

A few months back I did a month’s worth of Instagram posts entitled “Missing Spain.” We had had planned to walk another Camino, this one the Primitivo. And of course there would be all the extra time in Madrid. But we have found ways to mitigate this longing.

I put “Spain” in my Apple News preferences. I track the temperature in Madrid and Barcelona on my watch. We’re following three La Liga teams and we watch the matches in Spanish with the extra exuberant commentators. Spain just had their worst snowstorm in fifty years. Atletico’s match with Athletic Club (Bilbao) was cancelled. Real Madrid was forced to play Osasuna (Pamplona) on a snow covered pitch.

We stream Rosalia playlists before dinner. The screensaver on our tv is a photo album from Spain. And tomorrow we plan to brave the Members Show at RoCo where my “Abstracting Spain” photo show is on an endless loop.

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Must See TV

View of Veterans Bridge from Seneca Park Bridge
View of Veterans Bridge from Seneca Park Bridge

The Veteran’s Bridge, finished in 1931, looks majestic in any season. I remember driving across it, from left to right, with my father in the passenger seat. I had asked to use the car after school so I drove him to work at Kodak. At that time there was a big traffic circle at Saint Paul just before the bridge. The circle had two lanes of traffic spinning around it and you had to work your way out to get off. I remember going around a few times before escaping while my father watched in horror.

This weekend only! Hauser Wirth is offering a free screening of “Philip Guston: A Life Lived” (1981) directed by Michael Blackwood. This is Guston himself, talking, thinking, painting, knocking you out. This is must see tv.

If you’re stuck for a unique gift, you may still be able to get an original painting by Eric Goulden delivered in time for the holidays. We bought an F chord.

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Biden Was Born In Africa

Stand-up paddleboard on Lake Ontario in December
Stand-up paddleboard on Lake Ontario in December

It was warm enough for horseshoes yesterday and paddle boarding today. We watched this guy bounce around in the waves while we walked the beach. We ran into our neighbors on the way back and asked if they were going to Florida this year. “We’re waiting to see if the restaurants are open” was the politically tinged response. And then, “Hope they don’t make you wear a mask on the beach.”

Our friends were telling us their daughter won’t get the vacine because she believes it will make her sterile. Our friends joked that that might not be such a bad outcome. I heard this same story from my dentist. I was sitting in the chair, mouth wide open, the hygienist on one side of me and the dentist on the other. “It’s a messenger RNA,” he said, “not a live virus. I wouldn’t take it!” This really rattled me. And then he tells the hygienist he heard Cuomo might try to make the vaccine mandatory (I wish he would). I interrupted that conversation by asking the dentist if he could explain what he was about to do before the Novocaine made it hard for me to talk.

Really, a microchip in each dose of the vaccine? The amount of mistrust and misinformation floating around is making me much more anxious than the virus. It is exhausting me.

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Goodbye

Johnson Pond in green
Johnson Pond in green

My father loved this place, Johnson Pond, across from the entrance to public beach at Durand. It has its own ecosystem. His photo of a few dozen turtles perched on a floating log here was the panorama photo in the D&C. Joe Biden was his guy and he would be so happy.

I am happy to say goodbye to the days we’ve spent trying to figure why so many people like the orange one. The morning hours spent going to his Twitter page to hear it from the horse’s mouth. All those NYT opinion pieces that never quite summed up the rage. The attention we paid to his ghastly look. His family. The time we spent translating the huge banner the guy at the end of Hoffman has hanging off his deck – “Trump 2020 No More Bullshit.” The army of sycophants. The ugliness.

Goodbye.

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For The Fore Fathers

Trump sign on Peart Avenue with constitution message
Trump sign on Peart Avenue with constitution message

I scheduled a dentist appointment for the first available slot. 8AM. But there were already three others in the small waiting room when I got there. I brought one of my N95s along, ones we bought at Home Depot before this whole thing started. I was trying to figure out why I was getting air in the sides when I realized I had it on upside down. They did a temperature check and gave my some mouth wash. The dentist had a portable Air Wash station next to the dental chair. I took off my mask and felt free.

Its almost like there is more at stake in this election than the selection of our next president.

The house on Peart Avenue that has the Raw Honey stand has always looked a little too funky to be buying produce from. Now they’ve put these signs in front of their stand just to scare away more customers. The first one is a little odd in that the team looks like they’ve put one over on us. And I have no idea what to make of the homemade one. “History will repeat itself in the time that it takes it’s people to forget what happened. Don’t forget what our Fore Fathers fought so hard for! Don’t forget the U. S. Constitution! Don’t forget we are the freest Country in the World Because of the U.S. Constition!!!”

“Only when it is dark enough can we see the stars.” – MLK

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Arc Is Long

Paul playing soccer at IU in the old football stadium vs. St. Louis 1968. Photo by Leo Dodd.
Paul playing soccer at IU in the old football stadium vs. St. Louis 1968. Photo by Leo Dodd.

We had a zoom chat with my brother and sister-in-law over the weekend. It was going to be a dinner zoom but we eat early and they eat late so we watched them eat. We got into politics pretty quickly and all pretty much agree so the conversation moved along to the finer points.

I yammered on about the electoral college and how it minimizes the importance of voting for the type of government we want and need. NYT just identified 20 counties scattered in six swing states that could determine the presidency. That’s like Cambridge Analytica identifying the handful of “persuadables” and targeting them to sway the election. Everybody else might as well stay home.

There was some discussion of whether Obama had done all he could or whether what he did, or maybe by just being who he is, stirred up this racist backlash. I don’t blame Obama and maybe because of my new found focus on age, I suggested it wasn’t that long ago, double my lifetime plus thirty years that someone like me could own another person to do my chores. The arc is long unfortunately.

In 1968, the year my father took the photo above, the in-your-face racist, George Wallace running as a third party candidate, won the electoral college votes from five states and took almost 14% of the popular vote. While in Bloomington to watch the soccer match, my father and brother stopped up to my dorm room. I had a McCarthy poster on the wall and The Pill Is A No No poster of Pope Paul VI. My father got a big laugh out of the pope poster. He missed Trump’s reign but he always liked Biden and he would be so happy to see him win on Tuesday.

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Myths

Andy Warhol "Myths" series of silkscreens at Memorial Art Gallery in Rochester, New York
Andy Warhol “Myths” series of silkscreens at Memorial Art Gallery in Rochester, New York

“Andy Warhol Portfolios: A Life in Pop” at the Memorial Art Gallery in Rochester features a broad range of the artist’s screen-printed imagery from 1964 to 1985. As I mentioned a few posts back, my brother, Mark, our friend Kim and Peggi and I pooled our money (Peggi and I took a loan out for $1800) and we bought 125/200 of the ten prints above. We bought them through the Ronald Feldman Gallery in 1980 before Warhol had made them. They became too expensive to insure so we sold them last year at Christies. They steal the show at the MAG.

Our good friend, Louise, has a piece in the premier edition of SUNY Oswego’s new literary art journal “Subnivian.” I have read “The German Crowd” a few times now and am struck by how it draws me in and sweeps me away, like a myth.

myth a traditional story, especially one concerning the early history of a people or explaining some natural or social phenomenon, and typically involving supernatural beings or events.

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Counting The Acorns

East side of Durand Lake in October
East side of Durand Lake in October

It is so good to know there are still trails in Durand that we have not explored. We spotted one the other day and took it this morning. A rather steep path took us to a hilltop where we were imediatly challenged by a deer. I took it that way anyway. “What are you doing up here?”

I found a couple of those little pink flags, the ones mountain bikers use to mark a trail even though biking is not allowed on the trails. We stopped to admire a stand of white birch trees and found six or seven more deer sleeping in the brushwood. We had read that due to the lack of rain the deer won’t have enough to eat this winter. So protect your shrubs. The conditions are right for a good vintage of wine but the acorn count will be down.

Acorn Girl, written by Chuck Cuminale aka Colorblind James, performed by Pete LaBonne, recorded by Arpad Sekaris
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RAR

Woman posing her two dogs on picnic table in Lake Ontario
Woman posing her two dogs on picnic table in Lake Ontario

Although we would much rather vote in person at the Sea Breeze fire department hall we opted for early contactless voting and dropped our ballets off at the town hall this morning. It’s an easy walk, just over two miles there, and it seemed to fly by this morning. We passed a couple on Titus, coming toward us, and both were wearing American flag masks. We took that to mean they had both just voted for Trump but we could be way off.

It was the first day of early voting and the line started at the corner of Titus and Kings Highway. It snaked down Titus around the library building and then came back to the an entrance off the parking lot. An easy hour wait for the privilege. We spotted someone carrying a big box and we made a beeline for him. We’re trusting he took them somewhere to be counted.

The Little Theatre is offering “White Riot,” for at home streaming. We watched it last night expecting it to be more about the Clash than it was. Racism was the focus and particularly the Rock Against Racism (RAR) guerrilla group. We really didn’t how vicious the National Front movement was or how much air they took up in England at the time. The Clash urgently addressed this of course and they helped crush the NF but it didn’t ring as loudly on this side of the pond.

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Wendy

Street swimming pool on last day of the season, October 15, 2020
Street swimming pool on last day of the season, October 15, 2020

Our garlic is in the ground, sewn for next year. Today was circled on the calendar as the date to plant and July 15th as the time to harvest. We’ll trim the scapes in the Spring of course. This our first time planting garlic so we asked around. Petra at Fruition recommends painting earlier, our neighbors painted theirs in December last year, old timers swear by October 15.

We had walked up Aman’s to pick up some more corn this morning. They’re getting it from a farm in Penfield and the ears we roasted on the grill last night were the best we have had all year. We close the street pool tomorrow so Peggi and I took our last swim after that. The temperature was in the seventies by then.

I had some crazy pandemic dreams last night. I found my in a maze of used junk shops, something like the old Peddler’s Village, and everywhere I turned were close range people without masks. I didn’t have one either. That may have been a reasult having visited my dentist in Webster, for a cleaning that I had put off for a few months, and having my uncovered mouth wide open. I was afraid to use the bathroom there and had to go so bad when I got out the only place I could think of was the playground at the top of street I used to live on. They had reoriented the baseball diamond but I found a cluster of trees in what used to be right field. Doug Click, a left-handed hitter, used to hit balls into the yard behind those trees. Wendy O. Williams, later of the Plasmatics, who was in our class, used lay out back in a bikini.

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Why Is That?

Sky above the pool on October 11, 2020
Sky above the pool on October 11, 2020

We invited a few friends over last night, thinking we would sit around our front yard fire pit but it was too warm for a fire. It was way last minute and most of the friends had other plans. Kathy was free and we started on the deck but it rained as soon as we sat down so we moved to our open air porch. Kathy brought a couple of beers and one was a Genny Cream Ale Dry Hopped. I have been anxious to try one but I didn’t want to go for the full 12 or 18 pack that they have up at Aman’s. I traded Kathy a Big Ditch IPA for the can of dry hopped and liked it quite a bit.

Kathy told us she had found it realy difficult to complete projects during the pandemic. I feel exactly the same way but I am at such a loss as to why I was afraid to say anything. I was afraid to admit it and I wanted to hear her take. She described the days flying by and leaving her feeling like there was so much more she wanted to do but didn’t or couldn’t. Pre-pandemic, with so much more going on, she was able to get things done. Why is that?

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Swinging NY

Beach combing at Durand Eastman Beach
Beach combing at Durand Eastman Beach

In our upside down world each day will get warmer for the next week. We celebrated the equinox last night with our neighbors, Jared and Sue. They walked up the hill from their house, we didn’t wear masks and we sat around a fire in our front yard. The conversation was free ranging but we spent quite a bit of time talking about the electoral college. I had launched into my rant against it when we were last talking to Duane and he sent the recent New Yorker article up to us. I was reading it aloud to Peggi when Jared and Sue arrived so that was our springboard.

Maybe it’s because we watched that Netflix doc on Cambridge Analytica or just because we got stuck with W. and Trump but it is painful to witness another Presidential election play out in a handful of swing states. I want in on the action and I gotta believe my neighbors would like to feel like their votes count for something. And why would any young person bother to jump though all these hoops to vote when New York State is a done deal. Why wouldn’t they just tune out all this noise while our democracy dies?

Walking home from school at Saint John’s there was a Kennedy campaign office on Humboldt Street where we picked up free buttons and bumper stickers. My parents had us go door to door with a Kennedy newspaper supplement. Just before Election Day the City dropped off those little outhouse like structures where people voted. I remember there was one at the corner of the street where Stromberg Carlson was and Radio Social is now. Was New York a swing state back then? It may have been. The whole country should be in play!

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Cultural Factor

Train set in front yard of home on Brandon Road, Rochester, New York
Train set in front yard of home on Brandon Road, Rochester, New York

We get a good view of our neighbor’s backyard at the end of our street. Our street borders their yard on two sides. We stopped to chat with their son and his Russian bride and learned she had walked the Camino Portuguese. She is tall and skinny and wears small t-shirts with Russian logos and what looks like gym shorts, the short ones from our high school days. I’m not sure she understood all we were saying but we did compare notes on the adventure. She told us she was hoping to do the Camino Francés with our neighbor’s son.

I hesitate to even mention the walk across Spain that we were planning for this year. So many are missing so much more. But I do wonder if we will ever be able to travel overseas again. We have kept up our walking just in case. We are prepared for the rugged, northernmost Camino to Santiago, the Camino Primitivo. My backpack is ready to go. Our photos from Spain continue to shuffle on our tv each evening.

Spain was hit hard in the first wave. Their national lockdown was largely successful but but when the 17 regional governments reopened some, dependent on tourism, relaxed too quickly. Peggi and I always knew Spain would be hit hard. They are so outgoing. In today’s article about the resurgence the director-general of public health for the Spanish Government said, “We have this cultural factor related to our rich social life. People are close. They like to get to know each other.”

Every year La Tienda, the online Spanish specialty shop, features Pimientos de Padrón when they are in season. We ordered two bins this year and had some last night. We ran into a few hot ones and that slowed us down so we finished them this afternoon, poolside, at room temperature.

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Optimism

Hawks circling the marsh on Hoffman Road
Hawks circling the marsh on Hoffman Road

I was playing horseshoes out front with Rick when I got the news prompt on my watch that Biden had picked Kamala as his running mate. I ran in to tell Peggi, came back out and found my neighbor walking by with her tiny dog, Bigz, and her nephew and his wife. I told them Biden had picked Kamala and quickly remembered our neighbor, a former prison supply saleswoman who has an African-American husband, was not all that crazy about the former prosecutor. Her nephew, a black man in late twenties, asked, “Who’s Kamala?”

On our walk this morning we ran into a neighbor on Hoffman who told us how happy he was, thinking Trump will be gone in November and 2021 will so much better. Hadn’t heard such optimism in quite a while. We stopped at our garden on the way home and found Jared tearing his strawberry plants out. He too was excited, convinced Kamala would rattle the orange guy.

At dinner I tried to imagine how we will look back on the dream state that is this year. A dream state that is overdue to crash once reasonable people get fed up quarantining for so long while the bikers party.

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Time Of Pestilence

Anne Havens book cover for her"“Prayers in a Time of Pestilence.”
Anne Havens’ book cover for her “Prayers in a Time of Pestilence.”

At Trump’s campaign speech in Ohio the other day he accused Biden of trying to “hurt” the Bible and “hurt” God. “He’s against God. He’s against guns. He’s against energy, our kind of energy.” 

He can say stuff that makes no sense and it works for him. He uses this theatrical magic to great effect. While a pandemic of biblical proportions is sweeping the globe you certainly don’t want to piss off god by “hurting” her or her book.

Two new pieces of art entered our home on the same day. Pete Monacelli gave us a Casin/collage/pen and ink piece entitled “Untitled Miniature #14”. It consists of a reconstructed reproduction of Titian’s “The Fall of Man,” a painting from the Prado. 

Anne Havens, who coincidentally was born on the same day in the same year as Pete, mailed us a copy of her recent book, “Prayers in a Time of Pestilence.” In the accompanying notes she describes the art as “telephone doodles.” Of course they are rich, sub-conscience expressions of this dark and scary time. Anne reminds us that Shakespeare wrote King Lear and Newton discovered gravity while guaranteed from the plague. And she sprinkles her spreads with G. K. Chesterton, Chaucer, Thomas Aquinas and Shelly – “If winter comes,, can spring be far behind?” 

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He Speaks For Himself

Corky doll at garage sale during the pandemic
Corky doll at garage sale during the pandemic

We walked by this garage sale this morning. We looked at the wares from across the street and decided it wasn’t worth risking our lives for. I moved close enough to get a picture the disturbing doll, Corky.

I had a disturbing Covid dream last night, the kind where I must have forgotten that the pandemic was still going on and then found myself surrounded by people in a busy marketplace without a mask. The dream followed the cocktail hour party we threw for our neighbors last night. I put 5 -6 pm on the last minute invite but the three couples stayed until 8:30. We sat around our patio. Four people were out on the lawn and we filled a bucket with beer, four different IPAs. I brought my turntable out and played Pharaoh Sanders, Joe Henderson, Sun Ra and Alice Coltrane.. I could see how the distancing thing can fall apart with beer.

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Four woodchucks on golf course.
Four woodchucks on golf course.

You would never know the world is out of balance by looking out at the golfers. I don’t think we’ve seen one with a mask. A favorite trail of ours comes up from the lake and parallels Horseshoe Road. It continues along the ridge trail until it meets the golf course. There is a green to our right and a tee to our left and this is where we observe the golfers for a brief few minutes. The encounter was especially nice this morning because there were no golfers. We got a later start than usual and we’re guessing a league had just finished. The only ones we saw on the course were maintenance workers and the four woodchucks above.

The out of balance reference is not only to the virus but the gypsy moth infestation, the invasive black swallow-wort and the divisive political situation. Its been dry as hell here all summer and today it rained like hell. Our neighbor called to say he had a technique he wanted to demonstrate for us, another way of battling the gypsy moths. In yesterdays post I talked about how we were putting a small dent in the male population by constructing clear plastic whore houses (we have six) with pheromones inside and a pool of a water to drown in. We went out the Garden Factory to buy more bait and the cashier was wearing a mask that covered her mouth but not her nose.

Our neighbor showed us how he had tied his garden hose to a long pole in order to blast the white female gypsy moths (they don’t fly) off the underside of branches. They each lay a few thousand eggs for next year’s caterpillars.

Our movie selection, Spaceship Earth, about the Biosphere experiment, interweaved perfectly with this whole balance theme. I was blown away by productive the people involved were. And by the fact that were still friends after those two years.

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Death Penalty Is Back

It is revenge time. The gypsy moth caterpillars, that have been particularly bad this year, are in their next stage. It almost happened overnight. It doesn’t rain caterpillar pellets of shit anymore. Pieces of green leaves no longer cover our driveway. Instead the air is full of sex hungry, male moths.

The female moths have hunkered down in some sort of nest and the males are out looking for them. They use their sense of smell as a tracking device and we and many of our neighbors are playing a dirty trick on them. We bought artificial female gypsy moth “pheromones ” at a garden store. One of the tiny strips is stuck to the underside of this Jasmati rice container. The moths find their way into the container through the holes I cut in the sides and once inside they flap around until their wings hit the water and they drown.

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Pandemic/Correction

 Mushroom on trail through Durand Eastman Park
Mushroom on trail through Durand Eastman Park

The Swollen Monkeys song, “On Vacation,” has stayed with us for almost forty years now. And it, like so many other things, has taken on new relevance during the pandemic. the Monkeys were label mates of our at Cachalot Records. They played at our record release party at Danceteria. Ralph Carney, the sax player. went on to play with Tom Waits, the B-52’s, Marc Ribot, Jim White, Jonathan Richman and our buddy, David Greenberger.

Last time I played horseshoes with my neighbor he asked, “Who cut your hair?” I said “I did.” And that was all there was to that conversation. A guy thing. I used the clippers we bought at Sears and pretty much buzzed the whole thing. The front, top portion was done with sizers and there’s an inch or so there.

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