Twenty years ago I began work on the mural at Mex Restaurant. Casey Walpert (and his brother) bought the building on Alexander Street, the former Chez Jean Pierre, and currently Linai. Casey was gutting the place and he asked me if I wanted to do a mural there. Peggi helped, of course, and my father painted the Marigolds that the flower lady was selling. She was sitting under the pay phone near the entrance to Mex. Karrie Laughton, who owns Lux on South Avenue, took some photos when the project was finished.
I documented the mural as it progressed. I am glad I took the photo (above) because at some point I chickened out and painted the gang members out. The late Bill Jones stopped by while I was working on it and he shot a short video of me painting Frida Kahlo’s nose. Here’s some more photos.
I used to stop in at the Fairport pizzeria where my nephew worked, just to say hi and see how he was doing, and I was always struck by his tats, the gothic letter “D” and especially the Roc logo on his index finger. The logo, appropriated all over town these days in proud gesture, is a really healthy sign. I’ve always hated it when people bad mouth the city or the weather and I always think, “If you don’t like , why don’t you just leave,” The older I get, the more I just vocalize that thought.
Not too long ago, maybe 2000, I had a page on the Refrigerator website called “Rochester Beat” and I used a tiny version of the City logo between the words Rochester and Beat. To my surprise, the city had employees reading the Refrigerator on company time and I got an email asking to give them a call.
Dear Refrigerator, Subject: Use of City Logo on your website Hi, that’s our city logo on your website. Please give me a call so we can talk about it. Thanks. Ted Capuano, Assistant to the Director, Bureau of Communications, City of Rochester, New York
I blew it off and then got another email.
Dear Refrigerator, Subject: Re: Registered Rochester City mark on website. Hi, This is the second time I’ve emailed you about the use of the City’s mark on refrigerator.net. Please take down the City mark from your website. If you’d like to discuss this, please feel free to contact me. Thanks. Ted
I did not want to discuss it. I took it down and put up a close-up photo of the City logo on our green trash container.
Carlie Fishgold from Rochester’s “Post” magazine had an interesting piece about the two competing designers who both claim to have come up with the logo. She finished with this line, “That the people commandeer the symbol speaks to the authenticity of Rochester’s persona . . . as the nation’s first boom town, reinvention is the spirit of our people.”
In the summer of 1969, as I was preparing to go to Woodstock, Peggi and her sister were in Sydney, Australia for the summer. Actually, I didn’t prepare for Woodstock at all. I gave Dave Mahoney 25 bucks so he could buy tickets from a local radio station but no one ever collected tickets when we got there. And I simply got in Joe Barrett’s family’s Corvair with what I had on my back. No sleeping bags or change of clothes, just a few tabs of LSD in my pocket.
Peggi and her sister were bored. Their father had been transferred there from Detroit and they didn’t know anyone. They concocted a scheme to get on Australia’s version of the Dating Game. The tv show was called “Blind Date” and was hosted by Graham Webb. It ran from 1967 to 1970 on the 0-10 Network, now known as Network Ten. Peggi’s older sister sat in the audience and gave Peggi hand signals to ensure that she picked the cutest guy of the three. By some strange, small country coincidence the guy she picked had been an Australian exchange student at Peggi’s high school the year before. And his brother-in-law was working behind the scenes for the tv network. The guy was back in the states for their high school reunion and he brought three old photos, taken by his parents of the show as it was being broadcast.
Not sure if “Busted Valentines” was the name of the band or the performance but we saw Frank DeBlase’s self described “Noir beatnik spoken word jazz” group perform on Valentines Day inside the jam packed Tango Café. Like the best pulp Frank dragged us in and out of strip clubs. With Brian Williams playing the double bass and holding down the musical fort they dug deepest on the slower, minor key numbers. The cat on the organ added the drama.
When we stopped by the Friendly Home we found my mom in the front row of the performance room. A couple of ballroom dancing professionals were using Saint John Fisher students to demonstrate dance steps and the students in turn were dancing with the residents even while most of them stayed in their chairs. They did the box step, the waltz, the tango, the Macarena, the Cha Cha and swing with the mother of all dance tunes for this set, Glenn Miller’s “In The Mood.” For my money though you just can’t beat the rumba.
We tried to watch the Grammys but my sister called in the middle of the show so we missed a good bit of it. I think I liked Taylor Swift better as soft country and the “Hollywood Vampires” with Alice Cooper, Joe Perry and Johnny Depp were just ridiculous. We loved the Lady Gaga’s Bowie tribute and Kendrick Lamar sounded good but I kept wondering what his music would sound like without him rapping all over it.
Looking back, Tim, on the right in this photo, seems to have gone pretty fast although for him it was torturously slow. I was playing racquetball with him twice a week until six months before his passing and he was still beating me. He was on the varsity tennis team in high school. He was one of the fist people I met when I moved to Webster in the fifth grade. He had a swimming party every year near the end of school. I guess I should have known he was gay. We’d stay overnight and run around in the nude when his parents went to sleep.
He was visiting Peggi and me in Bloomington when he talked us into moving here (back to Rochester for me) in 1975. There was an apartment opening up in the old house he lived in on Dartmouth Street. I think Tom Burke had just moved out. Tim was always a blast and threw the best parties. Everybody loved him. His gay friend’s called him “Otto.” He had a sandwich named after him at Iggy’s. Our classmate and good friend, Charlie Coco, died before Tim. I remember telling Tim between racquetball sets that Charlie had died. Another classmate and Tim’s good friend, Danny Skipioni, died in San Francisco where he had gone looking for a cure. Our friend, Iolo, the dj at Danceteria who played HiTechs and helped produce the first Personal Effects record, was the first to go when no one knew what the disease was. A doctor told him to fly to Florida and sit in the sun to help heal his skin lesions. I think Bobby Moore had already passed. What a grizzly time the early eighties were.
I just saw Jeff, on the left above, last night at the Margaret Explosion gig.
I still think the world of my Uncle Bob, even though he got going on government overreach while we drove him and my Aunt to Holy Sepulchre Cemetery where my dad’s cousin was being laid to rest. He called us kids “city slickers” when we went out to visit them on their farm in Dundee but he always showed us the time of our lives by involving us in sheering sheep or whatever the day’s chore was. Today, one of the funeral home directors asked if they could help him to a seat by the graveside and he said, “Hell no, I’m a farmer. I can take care of myself.”
A “Mass of Christian Burial” was celebrated at Saint Ambrose earlier in the day. Funerals seem to be the only masses I get to anymore and I am always struck by the changes in the service. I pretty much left off with Latin and the priest with his back to the parishioners. We would just zone out and look at the statues. The altar boys are all grown men now, probably retirees. The kneelers are still there to trip over but no one uses them anymore. People turn and shake hands with the people around them, wish them peace and sing songs from hymnals like the Protestants.
My father spoke and painted a nice picture of the close-knit families in the Thurston Road/Brooks Avenue area when he and his cousins were growing up. Jerry Christopher, who might be related to me in some way, sang a version of “Ave Marie” that could make you believe in the Immaculate Conception. My father’s cousin, Mary, would have loved it all.
Mary was a legal secretary and worked at the four couriers downtown. She married her boss, a practicing Jew, and her nephew, who joked that he had never spoke in a church before, said due to the constrictions of their faiths they were not allowed to be buried next to one another.
My parents were here for dinner the other night and we got to talking soccer at the table. Spain had just been roundly beaten by the Netherlands and it was all we could think about. I called up a few replays of the scoring on my iPad and my dad asked, “What ever happened to Ralph Wager?” I played with Ralph in the summer soccer leagues in Webster and Charlotte and was hired as the soccer coach at RL Thomas in my senior year. He coached all my brothers as well and we all thought he was great. He was arrested two years ago on a first-degree child sex offense.
When my dad asked it hit me that I never would have gone to Indiana if it wasn’t for Ralph. And Peggi wouldn’t be sitting next to me. Ralph had played for IU and recommended the school as one of the best in the country for soccer. I was all-county in high school, had a few school records for goals when I left and was the first freshman to start for Indiana. The team was mostly foreigners at that time. I loved it but dropped out the next year. My father has been mining the Fulton History site, a giant database of scanned newspapers from New York State, and sent me this article on the Section Five championship game shown above.
WEBSTER HERALD November 15, 1967
Soccer Team Trips On Champ Route
by Jim Rickey
Championship escaped the Webster varsity soccer team as they were tripped 1-0 by newly crowned Section 5 champion Gates-Chill, Saturday, at Roberts-Wesleyan. Before a crowd exceeding 2500, the Rldgemen valiantly attempted to upset a rugged Gates squad which had defeated division champion Pittsford four days previously to advance to the Sections finals. The scrappy Webster outfit outplayed the cross-city rivals throughout the first half, but could not manage a tally. Superb passing and ball control were displayed by both teams when finally, with three minutes remaining in the fourth and final quarter, Harry Bruestle booted the ball into the Webster nets. The Rldgemen fiercely bombarded the opposition’s goal in the remaining minutes, but could not score to tie the contest. Coach Ralph Wager is proud of his well coached troops. All year he has repeated team work, team play and that is what these boys were — a real team.
While the bands that regularly play the Little Theater Café wait for the schedule for the rest of 2014 the new owner of the building that houses the café has announced that the café will stay open for the time being. This is good news. And the name Glenn Kellogg, an urban planner and the man behind the project, has chosen for his new grocery store (no it is not a Wholey’s) is also good news, the name of Rochester’s first supermarket, “Hart’s.”
I asked my parents what they remembered about Hart’s and I was surprised to hear it was all good to. I expected some sort of rivalry between Hart’s and Tierney’s, my grandfather’s store. My dug up this chart he had constructed years ago that plots the history of grocery stores in Rochester. My grandfather opened his first store with two of his brothers back in 1906 on Hudson Avenue so both the Hart’s and the Tierneys were here long before Wegmans.
When I was a freshman Norm Ladd’s mam called me and said Norm, a friend of mine from high school who was a couple years younger, had run away from home and he was hitchhiking out to see me. He lived in my dorm for while.
I used to hitchhike all the time. Back forth to work at my uncle’s store during high school, over to Brad and Dave’s house and then back and forth to Bloomington. I got picked up by one of the famous Wyeth family members. He was wearing leather gloves and driving a small sports car but it overheated around Buffalo and he through a fit. A few times I got picked up by a guys that wanted to “pick me up” but most of the time it worked out. Once I was picked up by a salesman who gave me some potato chips that his company had just introduced. He was raving about how much less shelf space the chips took up because they came in cans instead of bags. He had boxes of them in the back seat and we ate them as we drove toward Indianapolis. They tasted pretty good and he gave me a can to take back to the dorm.
Today in the business section I read about Procter & Gamble selling off their food brands, Jif, Folger’, Crisco and Pringles. The article said their advertising division was located in Cincinatti and they test marketed the chips in Evansville Indiana in 1968. That salesman would have picked me up halfway between those two locations that year. I didn’t imagine all this.