There are two high tides here each day, of eight or nine feet. And as spectacular as the beach is, it is almost too dangerous for swimming. Big rock formations line the small bays. The waves are huge and loud enough to drown out the air conditioners at night. Wading is possible but I didn’t feel safe beyond my waist. The water is the same temperature as the air so it is tempting to push that. There is a plunge pool behind our bungalow with a view of the ocean and our place is completely surrounded by exotic vegetation so we spent most of the first day without any clothes on.
It seemed like a good idea at the time. Other than NYC and Buffalo, we hadn’t been anywhere since Covid hit. A travel article we read in the depths of winter made this small hotel on the rather remote Pacific coast of Costa Rica sound like paradise. So we booked for late October never imagining the equator would only be a bit warmer than upstate New York. And can it possibly be any prettier?
We were originally scheduled to fly to Newark and then Dallas but United routed us through Chicago first. I hate the idea of traveling in the wrong direction. The sun was setting by the time we reached San Jose so instead of moving toward our destination we took a shuttle to a chain hotel near the airport. We asked the desk clerk where we could change money and get sim cards for our devices and she suggested Walmart next door. We stumbled through both transactions but the young Walmart workers could not have been more helpful or sweet.
We slept so soundly we missed the early bus to Puntarenas so we arranged an Uber. Instead of going through the small town,s he drove on a toll road with all his windows down. He told us he also worked from home for Amazon España and he want to practice his English so I came up with random topics. The temperature got hotter and hotter as we approached the coast.
At Puntarenas we bought tickets for the ferry, an hour’s ride to the peninsula where our place is. We were sitting on the top deck and I began to feel a bit seasick when we hit rougher water so we moved to the lower level. There was a bus down there (with all the cars) and the destination on the front read “Santa Teresa” so Peggi asked the driver if there was room for us. He told her there wasn’t.
On land we found a bus that would take us part way, to Cobano. We felt like we were in that Buñuel Mexican bus movie where someone gets on with a live chicken. There was no air conditioning, of course, and standing room only. We were crammed in the back, standing over a women with a board in her lap, displaying jewelry she had been trying to sell somewhere. Out the windows lots of almost outdoor living going on. Rusty metal roofs and tarps, shacks in the lush tropical jungle. One lane bridges and serious switchbacks, at one point the bus slowed to crawl as we rode in first gear up the side of a mountain, then views of the Pacific Ocean from Bahia Tambor. The bus stopped anytime someone was standing along the road. With a lower vantage point Peggi saw a monkey hanging from its tail in the tropical jungle.
En Cobano nosotros tomamos otro autobus. This one was like a Sea Breeze ride but without the seat belts. The driver had the doors wide open. One lane of the road was washed out in several spots and the brakes squealed so loud we had to plug our ears. Waterfalls and amazing flora along the way. Bob Marley on the driver’s radio. We were following his route on the phone and when he got to the coast he turned the wrong way. Peggi asked him if we should get off and told us he was going to come back to that spot and then continue to our place. We hung in there.
We picked the perfect day to do our monthly co-op shop. Before going in the store we took a walk around the city, Down Averill to the river and then across the Ford Street bridge, along the newly refurbished West Side Riverwalk to the Broad Street Bridge. We expected the lid to have been removed by now but I guess that project is a ways off. The river was raging after all the rain. Water was pouring out of the races under the library. Peggi took a movie and I took a pano. There were a few out-of-towers reading the placards on the bridge. We felt like tourists ourselves.
I’ve been staring out the window now for at least five minutes, trying to figure out what the brown lump in our Hemlock is. I had just convinced myself that it was a bee hive, one of those layered paper structures, and then it moved. A squirrel in some sort of trance.
I took this photo from the road at the edge of the marsh that fills this whole valley. It didn’t always look like this. These purple flowering grasses are new, another invasive. Its all cattails on the other side of the road. The two don’t mix. Morning Glory vines crawl up both with blue flowers all summer.
According to the old-timers, back when we moved here, this property used to be garden plots for the neighbors. A creek ran through it, on its way out to the lake, but when a large plot of land was cleared for a driving range and then a sprawling subdivision south of Titus Avenue, the creek overflowed and the sandy soil shifted.
The lowest section of the road overflowed in the spring. Peggi and I would take our shoes off to wade through. Large snapping turtles crawled out of the marsh to lay their eggs near the road but coyotes got most of them before they hatched. A group of neighbors sued the town for failing to address the drainage issues and the Army Corps came in to engineer curves in the creek to slow down the flow. They raised Hoffman Road a good five feet and distributed the water over a wide area by cutting a least five culverts under the road. Over time we watched all the big trees, the ones with hawks at the top and the red winged black birds in the branches, lose their bark, turn white and tumble into the marsh.
Rochester Contemporary’s show, “Artists For Ukraine,” opened on Friday night and there were already quite a few red dots on the wall by the time we arrived. All proceeds benefit Humanitarian & Medical Aid to Ukraine. Larry Merrill donated two beautiful photos from his “Wards of Time: Photographs of Antiquities” series and we chatted with him at the opening. I wish Putin was listening.
Colleen’s gallery space included this small white wall in the back that I was originally going to leave empty. But why? How many opportunities does one get to show your work? So pulled these b&w abstracts out of a box and pinned them to the wall. They were taken in 1976 and were part of a much larger series. We had a darkroom in our basement at that time with an enlarger that our friend, Kim, gave us. They are in the same key as the rest of the show even if they don’t align with the subtitle, “Recent Work by . . .” The show is up for another week.
Our neighbor, Diana, shops at Costco and they sort of force you to buy too much. She offered us some mangos and we said yes but some other things came along with them. Pairs of cold little pancakes and some flat, chocolate crepes from France. We ate the crepes while we visited with our friends, Rich and Andrea, over Zoom. They told us they had decided who would inherit their houseboat when they passed on.
We told them we had just finished the series finale of “Better Call Saul” and Rich asked if the ending was disappointing. Peggi and I went both ways on that. Diana had already told us last night she didn’t care for the finish. But then she added she is bored with all the shows. The ending was a feel good one and I can see how that might be disappointing.
Our friend, Brad, has moved from the Bay Area back to Rochester. He’s living in a house he inherited, the one where he was living when I first met him in high school, the same one where his mother started screaming at him for singing, “I was born with a plastic spoon in my mouth,” a line from a popular song at the time
This is one of the coolest things I’ve seen at the Jazz Festival. It is between flights in the stairwell leading to the auditorium in Innovation Square, formerly Xerox Corporate Headquarters. As good as Dan Flavin.
Does it seem that every building in Rochester has a stronger identity connected to its former life than its present incarnation? Or is that observation just a reflection of my age? We skipped the Jazz Fest again last night. Kind of a luxury skipping three of the nine nights. We check the sound samples and follow our ears and there was nothing to follow on those nights. I’m keeping track of what we have seen over here.
Ravi Coltrane travels in good company. His trio included Jonathan Blake who we saw at Hochstein with Tom Harrell and Esperanza Spalding. He sets his drums up low, everything waist high and level. He plays two snares, one crisp and the other sloppy. We had a hard time finding something interesting enough to leave home for on Tuesday so we skipped our second of the nine days. I wish the promoters leaned toward inventive and away from studied. This year we have to work a harder to find things we like.
The neighborhood is humming again. Another large oak, maybe 80 years old, fell over behind our neighbor’s house. It damaged the gutter on the house next door them but left but their house intact. It tore down the lines running up the hill and the neighbors’ generators kicked on. The trees, especially the oaks were severely stressed by the Gypsy Moth infestation the last two years. They’ve moved on and changed their name.
Mi Hacienda Jalisciense in Alton (just past Sodus) is open again. Serving mostly migrant workers from the nearby fruit orchards, they have the best Mexican food in town. Mui tipico. When I was in grade school my mom and my brother and I went out to Wayne County as volunteers from Holy Trinity. I played basketball with the migrant workers’ kids. They were all black back then.
The euphemism, “urban renewal,” was used by city planners as a catch-all for grand plans, like tearing down whole neighborhoods to put a highway in to whisk white suburban workers in and out of downtown. Interstate 490 tore right through Rochester’s 3rd Ward, a thriving Black community.
The “Clarissa Uprooted” exhibit at City Art Space in the former Sibley building downtown is too much to take in in one visit. It is too much to take in period. Black people were only allowed to live in two of Rochester’s 24 Wards, the 3rd and the 7th, so where else would they put a highway? And while they were at it they tore down far more homes than they had to. The empty lots are still there.
The exhibition organizers have recreated the stage from the Pythodd Room (named after the two social clubs, the Knights of Pythias and Odd Fellows that shared the space.) Located at the corner of Clarissa and Troup Street, it was a regular stop on the Chitlin’ Circuit in the late fifties and early sixties. Alice McCloud (Coltrane), Jimmy Smith, Art Blakey all played there along with Rochester musicians, Gap and Chuck Mangione, Pee Wee Ellis and Ron Carter. and surrounded it with photos (Susan Plunkett is pictured down front) and videos the club in the day. There was band playing on the stage on opening night.
The oral histories, video interviews Teen Empowerment made with current and former residents, (Shep from Shep’s Paradise), Rochesterer’s first black policeman, lawyers and community elders are the heart and soul of this exhibit. They clearly had a good hing going here in the day but there is plenty of personal stories of police abuse, one about guy who worked two jobs, the second being as a gas station attendant at night. He was closing up the station on South Plymouth Street when the cops pulled in and accused him of breaking in. He told them he worked there but they beat the shit out of him
Duane asked if Lakeside Hots was still open. We said yes reflexively. The alternative is unthinkable. The Sea Breeze restaurant is the closest we’re going to get in the 2000s to the legendary Vic & Irv’s. We walked through the park this morning and then down Culver to the lake just to verify. Because Duane is on FB and we’re not he sometimes finds out about things in our hometown before we do.
I have been so busy the last few weeks I was unable to find time to read the pdf of “Fiery World,” Louise Wareham Leonard’s upcoming book. Peggi has read it twice. Today was the day. We sat under one of the umbrellas down at the pool and read. My iPad as portal did not take us far. The setting for her book is the nearby park, the fruticetum, the pinetum, the flowering trees and the small lakes.
The main character, grieving the loss of her sister, meets an amorphous mystic in the park. He tells her, “You think you’re mourning because your true life is behind you. But it’s before you.” His wisdom comes from literature and they trade favorite passages. She almost becomes dependent but then he sets her straight. “I do not exist to give you meaning.” ” . . . you cannot live for me.” A healthy, happy ending to a poetic whirlwind.
We had the good fortune to be following this girl in stripes for two blocks while we were in Boston.
In other news, our nephew, Alex Meyer and his partner, Luciana Giangrandi, have earned a Michelin star for their Miami restaurant, Bioa De.
Peggi bought a few Wemo devices and I can now turn the lights over our couch on and off with my watch.
Other than that, I been taking screen captures of my “Brief History of the World” eBooks. I plan to project them as a slideshow on the large wall outside Colleen Buzzard’s Studio during the month of August when I will be showing some recent work in her gallery space.
I remember my mom calling my attention to a letter to the editor that my sister’s husband had written about how Whites (I’ve noticed they capitalize this word now) in his department at Kodak were being passed over for promotions so they could reach a quota for minorities. This sticker, at the corner of Culver and Durand, near the Parkside Diner, reminded me of that sad letter. It’s fun to sip coffee at the counter in there and pretend you’re back in the 50’s but why is the tv always tuned to Fox? I’m guessing one of their patrons slapped this sticker on the trash can.
So now we learn the Binghamton mass murderer considered Rochester before choosing Buffalo. I love both those cities. I cry for the innocent victims.
“Astronomers announced on Thursday that they had pierced the well of darkness and dust at the center of our Milky Way galaxy to capture the first picture of “the gentle giant” dwelling there: a supermassive black hole, a trapdoor in space-time through which the equivalent of four million suns have been dispatched to eternity leaving behind only their gravity and violently bent space-time.” – NYT
On the same day a package arrived from David Greenberger, the artwork we bought on eBay after receiving an email that alerted us to the listing. We paid $14.99 and David threw in one from his drawing/collage series of drummers, with a postage stamp heads sitting on drummers’ bodies as they sit behind a kit. Ours featured an Indian stamp of Gandhi.
We see Larry and his dog, Ernie, every couple of weeks. Now that Spring is here he has “Cooler by the Lake” back on. We experienced the micro climate phenom last night when we went downtown to see the Garth Fagan Dance performance in Innovation Square. My watch said it was seven degrees warmer.
Last night’s program consisted of “Duos and Duets.” We looked up the distinction and found duo to be the performers and duets to be the pieces. The performance was flat out beautiful. We had seen “Griot New York,” a 1991 piece for which Wynton Marsalis wrote the music, years ago but it was especially moving now that the performers have aged. “The North Star,” from 2018, named after Frederick Douglas’s Rochester-based newspaper used a familiar tune from the Melodians based on Psalm 137 (Frederick Douglas’s favorite psalm.) “Carry us away Captivity require from us a song.”
Our good friend, Pete Monacelli, has been creating a book with one spread devoted to all 1550 Psalms, the psalm on the left and a painting on the right. He is on 140 so he just fished the one I mentioned. I have digitized two of Pete’s books and I just put “Quatrains,” the new one, online today.
I read the newspaper, I look at the news so I guess I”m a bit of a political junkie.. But I don’t usually talk politics here. It is so unsavory. I posted a picture of Junior’s girlfriend, one I took off the tv during the Republican Convention, and I posted an earlier idea for a Don Jr. t-shirt. That post got eight comments but most thought it was a bad idea.
The other day I got an email from “Mr. Donald Trump Jr.” with the subject, “Can I tell my father you stepped up?” “There’s nothing the Left won’t destroy, including the future of America and its allies. Only YOU can stop them, Paul. I know my father would appreciate the support of a TOP Patriot like YOU.”
I tweaked my t-shirt design. Thinking about a short run for the summer. Comments are turned on.
History is ongoing. Our myths will need to be explained to future generations. Someone has to record them now. And just as historians continually reinterpret the history of our ancestors they will surely struggle to understand our timeframe. I am lightening their load by compiling a visual record of our days in a series of artists books entitled “A Brief History of the World.”
Download Volume XX of “Brief History of the World”
7 of the 21 volumes in this series have been converted to eBooks and they are available here as free downloads. I just uploaded Vol. XX today and I invite you to take a look. The file will open in the book app on your desktop, tablet or mobile device.
I call it “baclava” just for fun. Boris Johnson would call it a “letter box.” Peggi told me she was going to be cavalier this morning and not wear her balaclava while we skied through the woods. And then she added, “That’s a funny word.” It conjures up muskateers with me for some reason. There was restaurant with that name downtown on Clinton in that block where they built the Chase Lincoln tower, now the “Metropolitan.”
My brother and I would stop there for breakfast on our way to Bishop Kearney. We both had paper. routes and if weren’t done delivering by the time the school bus came (conveniently) we would take the city bus downtown and transfer to the Portland Ave. bus. That transfer time gave us plenty of time to go to restaurants, the record store and even movies when the RKO/Paramount was still open.
It was warm this morning, upper twenties and full sun, so I took my hat off and stuck it in my pocket. My ears were soon got cold and I looked for my hat but it was gone. We like to out out and come back in a big loop rather that backtrack but we did. It was easy enough to find. It’s bright yellow.
We ski through the woods and then out onto the golf course and we were lucky enough to catch the groomer this morning, dragging his apparatus behind a snowmobile. We waved and thanked him. He’s a new guy and especially creative. His tracks have all sorts of interesting curves and slopes.
Overheard at Colleen Buzzard’s Studio: Someone asking a visual artist how they were holding up in the pandemic. “It’s been a little quiet but I have a beautiful house, a nice studio and plenty of time to do work” or something to that effect. I wanted to second that but stayed quiet. And then at RoCo, later that evening, we ran into a writer who told us how they couldn’t get anything done during the pandemic.
Granted this thing is not good for depressive types. Someone in the Truman Capote doc that we just watched said, “All writers are voyeurs.” So maybe it is without people to observre a writer could be lost. But that is all broad brush nonsense. Truman did really blew up though with his “Answered Prayers.”
It was really good to get out, to see new art and laugh through a mask with friends. Joan Lyons show at Colleen Buzzard’s Studio is a real treat. A wall of photos created on Nathan Lyons (who died in 2016) old photo paper, some of it as old as his 40 year old darkroom. Joan doesn’t just click the shutter, she paints with the photo chemicals and exposes the paper to items from Nathan’s darkroom. I particularly liked her Diazo Prints, “Portraits,” made in conjunction with members of their family in the early eighties.
On the first page of Pete Monacelli’s book, Origins,” he defines “origin” as “The point or place where something begins, arises or is derived. Source, inception and root.” With verse, Casin paint and ballpoint pen he shares, over 94 spreads, some his origins. It is an astonishingly beautiful book, too good to sit in a drawer in his studio. I offered to create an eBook version and it is available here as a free download.
Click the cover above for a free download version “Origins.”
I was recently helping my brother, Fran, with a computer issue. He is surely up in the Adirondacks now with his snowmobile while Peggi and I watch snow slide off our new metal roof. And I was reminded of this movie, my first and only concept film. My father bought the Super 8 camera for me from Kodak’s Camera Club. It was eighteen dollars.
The movie, sequenced and edited in camera, is only three minutes long. My brothers helped me flesh out the concept and we wrapped it up before the film ran out. Fran is featured sliding off the roof with his friends and my brothers, Tim and John, play instruments in our driveway. The movie was silent but I added an Invisible Idiot song to the soundtrack.
I’m guessing this was 1970. I had dropped out of school and moved back home for a year. Without my college deferment I was ready to go to Canada and then that ping pong ball drop lottery happened. Fran was always a daredevil. He definitely steals the show here. Peggi has always thought he looked like Iggy Pop.