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!
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.
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.
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?”
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.
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.
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.
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.
If I am not mistaken this is same driveway that we spotted a turquoise Metropolitan in about ten years ago..
I love the hot humid period we get in the the northeast as much as I love the bitter cold period in the dead of winter. Variety is the spice of life.
We typically get a reprieve from the leaf blower racket once summer rolls around. But this year, in the middle of summer, we are experiencing a fall of pieces of green leaves. The gypsy moth poop pellets cover the ground. Even we have taken to leaf blowing.
Ours is electric and once I turn it on I don’t turn it off until I am done. We have some neighbors who strap on the gas powered blowers and throttle them up and down every few minutes. In an ideal world this should be against a town ordinance. You can tune out a lot if it is a constant but on and off . . .
With our canopy being eaten we are getting more sun and the house is hot. We don’t have or want air conditioning so Peggi fashioned a poor man’s AC unit by filling a Guinness glass with ice and placing it in front of the fan.
The Times ran a story this morning about the small percentage of people who voted for Trump in 2016 but won’t vote for him again. One woman, a 53 year old finance executive. was quoted as saying, “I think if he wasn’t such an appalling human being, he would make a great president .” And I think her point is that he has been incredibly effectual. He has stacked the courts with conservatives for decades and he’s rolled back so may regulations we may never be able to restore them.
I probably shouldn’t follow politics. There’s so many shades of grey. We watched Trump steal every item in the Republican playbook and then knock off every candidate in that large 2016 pool. He is formable. You have to give him that. I think Biden should run with the campaign slogan that Thomas Friedman gave him. “Respect science, respect nature, respect each other.” That is a winning platform.
Haim’s “Summer Girls” borrows from “Walk on the Wild Side” and that only makes it better. But my favorite is “Want You Back” because a poster for the Hammer Museum is featured in their early morning walk through Westwood.
We got an early start this morning and hardly ran into anyone on the trails which was a good thing because Peggi forgot her mask. Down by the lake we were following a couple with two German Shepards, his and hers, one off to the left on her leash and one off to the right on his, like the dogs didn’t get along. We slowed our pace so we would not have to pass them but they stopped while the guy’s dog arched up his rear end and we watched a big pile slither out, a sight only a dog owner could love.
We moved quickly to pass them while they were on grass between the trail and the lake. I asked Peggi if she thought they would pick it up or wait for us to walk by and then just carry on. I was thinking there was a fifty/fifty chance. They left it there for someone else to step on and I turned back, looked down at the pile and up at him while I gestured with my hands open. I’m not looking for a fight.
I’ve had a few dogs that I loved. I am not anti-dog. But I have been bit three times now, the worst while we were out walking when I turned the back of my hand to let the dog sniff it. Don’t ever do that. I could not get my hand out of the dog’s mouth and wasn’t able to play drums for three months. And because I couldn’t remember if the dogs was wearing a tag I had to get a month’s worth of Rabies shots.
We cut back toward the park and took the ridge trail along the golf course. I found seventeen golf balls! I wasn’t bushwhacking or anything. I just went down for one and then spotted the next and then another. They are not all white anymore. I brushed off and made a note to shower when I got back to wash off any ticks.
As we left the trail that connects to the end of Hoffman Road we ran into my brother Tim, putting out on the green with three other guys. We talked long enough for him tell to us his friend just found out he has Lyme.
We put another row of carrots in yesterday. According to Peggi’s notes we put the first one in on March 13th. Our neighbor, whose property our garden is on was out digging up black swallow wort, the invasive plant with the root ball that makes it almost impossible to pull up by hand. He told us he had seen a family of woodchucks, at least three, and he suggested that we set our trap before they gobbled down the greens. I grabbed a small piece of cantaloupe out of our compost pile and set the Have A Heart trap. We were down at the pool when he texted that we had caught one. I called the town and they will transport him somewhere and bring the trap back.
Our neighbor told us his wife had brought home some local strawberries from Wegman’s so we planned to walk up to Aman’s Farm Market to pick some up. We waited for them to open and called to make sure they had some but our favorite cashier, the teenager who pretends to not be engaged, said, not yet. We walked over to Kathy’s place and sat out on her pergola overlooking the bay. We kept our masks on snuggly as she told us she was quarantining after attending a funeral downstate for a relative. We too are in day seven of our countdown since the thirtieth birthday party we attended for our neighbors’ daughter.
It was supposed to rain this morning, thunderstorms even, and we’re guessing that is what kept everyone inside. We walked with our rain gear but never had to use it and because there were so few people out, we walked along the beach. It felt a bit like a Mad Max movie or maybe the way the sets would look just after shooting.
It was early so the City had not had a chance to clean up from the night’s parties. Fire pits were still fuming, that damp smoky odor almost overwhelming. Driftwood doesn’t make the best firewood but generations will try. I was thinking back to the night after my senior ball and the party we had on this same beach. We were probably just as reckless.
Fireworks canisters and empty wine and beer bottles were strewn about. A soggy half pizza was draped over a log. A full gallon sized plastic container of cheese doodles was left in the sand and further down a bag of Smartfood cheddar cheese popcorn. Young green trees were snapped off at the trunk and probably thrown on the fire. Someone had started a fire under a fallen tree, a big tree. They scooped out the sand beneath and succeeded in burning a good bit of the trunk while the thirty foot tree stretched out along the beach. A two foot column of red plastic drink cups was still in a plastic bag. And a park picnic table, one those with tubular metal legs was in two big pieces, just small pieces of the charred wooden top and seats still attached.
It wasn’t until we were done playing horseshoes that Rick noticed he only had one of his hearing aides in. We’ve been standing apart, throwing both our shoes one after the other rather than taking turns and then stepping away from the pit to let the other throw. Rick’s mask is one of those that loops around his ears rather than behind his head and he would occasionally lift his mask to clear his glasses when he stepped away. So there was a lot of ground to cover.
We don’t have much of a lawn. Too many trees for that. What we have mostly is chewed up leaves. In fact the pits, this early in the season, are about six inches deep in chewed up leaves. We looked for about an hour, long enough for Peggi and Monica to join the search.
Peggi suggested the magnet stick that our former neighbor made. It was in our garage, where it was when Leo died. I walked up and down with that and at some point I found a tiny battery attached to it. We all assumed the hearing aide was nearby until Rick remembered he had replaced a battery in that spot a few weeks ago and dropped the old one.
After watching us walk back and forth in the front yard, our neighbors across the street came out with masks on and pitched in. Rick was resigning himself to having to spend his stimulus check on a new $1500 hearing aide. Someone suggested a metal detector and we texted the neighbor who has one of everything. Peggi picked that up and was fine tuning the beeping noises while I sifted the tiny pieces of leaves in one of the pits. Bingo. I found the needle in a haystack.
There is a great big lake out there behind these trees but it was so misty this morning you couldn’t see the horizon.
After talking with Bob in Chicago, Peggi’s sister in LA and Duane in Brooklyn we decided to watch the evening news on tv. Every discussion had led to the unrest In their cities. It was one of the networks, maybe NBC, and the footage looked bad but their coverage was interrupted by the president, reading from a script in the Rose Garden, calling out “thousands and thousands of heavily armed soldiers.” He said we have a “beautiful law” and then reminded us “America always wins.” He ended by telling us he was going to a “very, very special place..” A cliff-hanger ending.
The 6 o’clock news format has a way of condensing and presenting footage to maximize impact. We got out of the habit of watching it long ago. Our news dribbles in all day long from the newspapers, online sources and prompts. And we have been floating in a Covid-free dream state for so many months the half hour show was a real jolt. There is a lot of justifiable rage out there.
This morning we learned the “special place” was the boarded up church across the street from the White House where the president held up the bible. And is “thousands and thousands” more than thousands or does it just sound that way to the Trumpster?
Knowing how much Peggi and I love Peggy Lee, it wasn’t off-topic at all for Martin to send us a link to this article about a planned concert to celebrate the centenary of Lee’s birth. The show has been cancelled and that can only be a good thing. A better tribute would be to simply play her records.
I was looking forward to this rainy day. We got an early walk in but I was able to spend the rest of the day on what I’ve been calling “my project.” I put old photos and souvenir pieces of paper in notebooks for years, no paste, just small pieces of Scotch tape in the corners, and at some point, when most of my old photos were tucked away, I started cutting pictures out of the newspaper and filling pages with those.
About twenty years ago the scrapbooks morphed into some sort of artist’s book. I began pairing pictures, juxtoposing photos of paintings with news shots, that sort of thing. I kept the pictures I had cut out in a box and paired them up when I had a pile to choose from. They work well in notebook form and the twenty binders (in multiple colors) look great on the shelf but the newsprint will eventually yellow beyond readability. So far I have only scanned one. You can view “Brief History of the World – Vol. X” on Issuu or you can download a copy of the book here. It is in the universal ePub format and optimized for any device or reader.
The books are particularly idiosyncratic. I realize that. A hill of beans. And a lot of the images are dark but I find many hilarious. They were compiled during 9/11, the anthrax scare and the fake anthrax scare (can’t imagine anyone remembers that), the on-going wars in the Gulf and now the Coronavirus. The images are graphic whether they are paintings or photojournalism. And they aren’t mine. All I have done is arrange them.
For weeks now I have been preparing the notebooks for their close-up with the scanner.
If I’m not mistaken, and I usually am, this would be the weekend Sea Breeze Amusement Park opens. I haven’t been inside in years but the screams from the Jack Rabbit riders are an essential sound of summer. It was eerily quiet when we walked by.
Peggi had a dream that we had a deer in our bathtub. But it wasn’t our bathtub here, it was the one we had in the city. And then she saw a snake in the road with a toad in its mouth. Half of the toad was still visible and she was going tp tell me about it when she came in but she forgot.
We walked down to Sea Breeze this morning and came back up Culver where we checked on the many restaurants. Don’s Original is letting five masked customers in at a time. Vic & Irv’s old parking lot is under water. Bill Grey’s had yellow tape around their outdoor seating section. Marge’s was doing curbside. Curbside what? Lakeside Hots delivers. 222-HOTS. Giuseppe’s is open four days a week for take-out. Nick’s looked closed but we heard our neighbor had ordered take out. The Union, formerly the Reunion was closed. And Shamrock Jack’s had five curbside pick-up stations clearly marked. Our neighbors had take out from Pasta Villa last night. We’ve been strictly home-cooked meals for the last few months but we wanted to see how the over half lives.
My neighbor is anxious to resume our summer horseshoe ritual. He texted this morning wondering if I had given any thought to how we could safely play. I ignored the text.
Just days after posting my picture of a fox eating a squirrel outside our bedroom window we came across what we first thought were turkeys, about ten big birds in the trees over the marsh. A few of them were on the ground picking at something. They didn’t startle or take off like turkeys do, they held their ground as we approached. They turned out to be vultures feasting on a dead fox. It didn’t look like the same one.
Don’t know why “New York Is Now” popped into my head. I had to hear it and it still sound fresh. It is now. Ornette recorded the album in 1968 and he used John Coltrane’s rhythm section, Jimmy Garrison and Elvin Jones. I had forgotten that until the second song, “Toy Dance.” Ed Blackwell, Ornette’s go to guy, is my favorite drummer in the world and this didn’t sound like his distinctive parade style. It doesn’t sound like Elvin Jones either. Jones was so physical with Coltrane and on New York Is Now he sounds limber and free.
Coltrane’ s lp, “The Avant Garde,” recorded eight years earlier, features Ornette’s line-up, Don Cherry, Charlie Hayden and Ed Blackwell. Three of the five songs on this lp were written by Coleman. I plan to listen to that today.
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.
We’re finding the nearby neighborhoods are less crowded than the park in the morning. We walked down to the bay today, down the big hill at the end of Point Pleasant and out Schnackel Drive where the homes are barely above water. Schnackel continues further along the shoreline but only as a walking path. There are a handful of more homes right on the water but we ran into a dog back there a few years ago so we left it unexplored today.
Zig zagging through the neighborhoods we’ve noticed a few garden projects underway. Big pressure treated poles stuck in the ground for fencing on the south side and some sort of open air structure up top tying it all together. There must be plans online for these Victory Gardens because we’ve seen a few and they all look alike. We’re lucky to have a small plot of and in our neighbor’s backyard where there is sunshine and a short electric fence to keep the animals out. And what’s with these fantasy doors in people’s yards that are hung on a frame and apparently swing open to more yard?
We heard the woman at the end of the street found a tick stuck on her side. She had it tested and it was negative. Our friends, Pete and Shelley, in the mountains, have already found a few on them. And Jim Mott, the painter and birder, has three attached to him.
And why isn’t the government putting unemployed people to work rebuilding our infrastructure? It’s not like no-one has ever thought of this. The WPA was a win win. AmeriCorp could be fully staffed. What are we waiting for?