I set my watch ahead before the daylight time change to ease the transition. And Peggi set the clock in our bedroom ahead before going to sleep so we wouldn’t be fooled in the morning. The next day I started to adjust the clock on our stove. This requires needle nose pliers to twist the broken knob. But I guess I never got around to setting it back in the Fall because it was already reading right. The clock in the car is tricky since the buttons all do double duty. I turned off the radio and fumbled my way through this while Peggi was driving to our Margaret Explosion gig. For a while I lost the clock completely. I guess this is one of the available options and it sounds so dreamy.
We don’t get in the car to just drive around. I remember doing this in Steve Hoy’s Barracuda but that was a lifetime ago. We would just cruise, listening to Led Zeppelin, Cream or Paul Butterfield’s “In My Own Dream” 8-tracks. If we are in the car now, we are on our way somewhere and we are usually running late. And that is usually my fault. I guess that’s selfish but part of it may have been inherited.
My father is notoriously late. I had a paper route during the time this photo was taken so I was getting up at an ungodly hour and still managing to get complaints from neighbors that I wasn’t delivering the paper to their doors early enough. While I was preparing for my route, eating whatever I could get my hands on, my father was trying to get out the door to Kodak. I remember the car pool guys out front waiting for my father to get down there. Some would honk and get pretty upset. One guy, who worked below my father at Kodak, kicked my father out of his car pool.
I had this paper route for five years and kept looking for angles to shorten the effort. I started walking the route with the heavy bag over one shoulder. And then I got a big basket on my bike and loaded that up but the bike kept falling over when I stopped to walk the paper up a driveway. So I started rolling the papers before leaving and throwing them from my bike. And eventually I was just putting the papers in the bag unrolled and rolling them while I road my bike no hands. I even got so I could do the whole route without stopping my bike. Of course this involved riding across some peoples’ lawns and gardens. I developed some pretty efficient child labor skills and my driving force was wanting to stay in bed a little longer.
As my father’s oldest son, I even find it sort of rude when invited guests show up on time. This must be selfish.
I spent the morning in the basement working on a painting that required a fair amount of attention to detail. The face I was working on emerges from a white background and I was struggling with the edges so it wouldn’t look like a mask. Every move I made felt heavy handed so I’d paint it out and sneak up on it again. Bootsy Collins’ “Can’t Stay Away”, especially the falsetto refrain, was stuck in my head. I find the only way to deal with something like this is to play the song and exorcise it so I came upstairs and cranked it.
4D Advertising did a cd cover for “The King Allstars” on After Hours Records and I’ve had this Polaroid of Bootsy in my desk drawer since whenever that was. Tom Kohn and Marty Duda brought all the King Records guys to Rochester and recorded them in PCI Studios. We did the packaging for the cassette and lp as well in those days.
Peggi and I saw Bootsy in the late seventies at the War Memorial with Parliament and Funkadelic. Anita Ward opened the show with a twenty minute version of “Ring My Bell”. Don’t get started with that song. That’ll stick in your head for a while. We saw George Clinton in the eighties at the Warehouse in Rochester and Bootsy was a special guest. He was sensational and stole the show both times. What’s Bootsy doin’?
Bob Martin, who plays guitar with Margaret Explosion, arranged for Claudia Engelhart, Bill Frisell’s live sound engineer, to talk about her craft for Bob’s business client, BSW. Frisell was in Buffalo last night so Bob got some free tickets. Ken Frank, Peggi and I met at Bob’s office and got in his VW for the trip to Buffalo. The four of us (that would be all of Margaret Explosion) were going to have dinner when we got there and the trip usually takes about an hour. It was snowing and the expressway was moving pretty slowly. We passed a few cars that had spun off the road and decided to wait until we we got to the New York State Thruway to see if it was in any better shape. It wasn’t so we turned around and came back.
It was still snowing when we woke up and we have another ten inches or so coming today. We’re supposed to play at at the Little tonight. We will have to do some shoveling and skiing first.
I was raised Catholic and like they say,”Once a Catholic, always a Catholic”. I can’t help that. And I love Spain. I love the food, the scenery, the Golden Age of Spanish art. I cheer for Spain in the Copa Del Mundo. I even like the pageantry of bullfighting.
So we watched part of PBS’s “Secret Files of the Inquisition” last night and they were profiling Jacque Fournier who left detailed records of his efforts to purify the Pyrenees. He was a bishop in the early 1300’s in what is now part of France and he was determined to eliminate the Cathars who believed the material world was evil and consequently could not accept Jesus in human form. This documentary depicted the Cathars as about as dangerous as aging hippies. Fournier was rewarded for his efforts by being anointed Pope Benedict XII and the Vatican kept his records secret for 700 years. Of course Ferdinand and Isabel (los Reyes Católicos) finished the job in Columbus’ day and Spain was left with very few Jews or Muslims.
I was falling asleep when they talked about Fournier as Pope so I googled his name this morning and found this entry in the “Catholic Encyclopedia“.
“His natural obesity, too, stimulated caricature and undeserved criticism. But history offers a vindication and testifies that, though he failed to cope successfully with the political difficulties to which he fell heir, his piety, virtue, and pacific spirit, his justice, rectitude, and firmness in ruling, his zeal for doctrinal and moral reform, and his integrity of character were above reproach.”
This is probably similar to how history will rewrite Bush’s legacy.
You know how when you wander off a trail in the woods and you find yourself wallowing in the brush, ducking under low branches with prickers grabbing your clothing and the ground gets all mushy and wet and you’re thinking it might just be better to go back but then you’d be backtracking which is usually a bummer.
After knocking off some pretty quick paintings, I have been spending a lot of time trying to bring others with a good start to a close. There is no proper amount of time that a painting should take. It could happen in a flash or it could be a long struggle. Both are equally valid. It could take a lifetime to learn how to execute a perfect stroke. And in the end it is only the process that is rewarding. The paintings themselves are markers.
I have terrible time management skills and it is really easy for me to get off the path while painting so I am really interested in procedure. My painting teacher, Fred Lipp has very few rules. In fact he boasts that he can break any rule and get away with it.
One of these rules is: “Always address the worst first”. If there is a sore spot in the piece you are working on, fix it. Now. Well, how do you know what the worst area is? Another one of his rules helps here. “If the question comes up, the answer is yes.” If you are questioning whether something is wrong, it probably is. This works 99.9 per cent of the time.
While working on this last bunch of paintings I have to keep reminding myself to stay focused on making the “worst” better. I would rather be starting some new, fresh faces but I created these problems and I’m trying to clean them up. The procedural rules help and I am grateful for them.
In “The Object Stares Back” Ithaca author, James Elkins, makes a case for why it is so difficult to see something and paint it. You don’t simply see anything. You can’t. The act is wrapped up in an activity of give and take with what you are looking at. And of course it is quite a different experience for each individual.
My painting teacher always says, “Trust your eyes”. If you sense something is wrong, it probably is. If your eyes really like something you’ve painted, trust it and follow it up. Simple advice but a powerful guide. But getting to the nut of what you are seeing can be an illusive experience with all that Elkins brings to the table.
Elkins says, “Art is among the experiences I rely on to alter who I am”. I am down with that. He says, “Paintings seem to be exempt from the world, as if their frames were parenthesis letting the text of the world flow on around them, or little fences keeping the picture from straying into the world.” He describes the many ways seeing alters the thing that is seen and transforms the seer. So this is a very fluid situation and art continues to nourish in circular ways.
There was a new guy in my painting class tonight. He is an architect by day. He asked me who these people were that I was painting and I said that they were from the CrimeStoppers page in the paper. He seemed really surprised but he smiled and said, “They have some attitude”.
The other day I read that one out every one hundred US citizens are in prison. I know at least a hundred people and I know someone who did time for printing twenties in his basement. And my brother did some time for weed but I don’t know anyone behind bars. I know my friend, Frank Paolo, visits a woman in prison.
I guess these crime faces are really pretty mainstream. I plan to to move on to some new subject manner as as soon as I can nail this “attitude” thing.
Yesterday we skied in the woods with Jeff Munson and Mary Kaye. Today it was 67 degrees so everything was melting. We took a walk on the dry roads and spotted this sign. I now have a backlog of 43 signs to post in the Refrigerator Signs section.
We went skiing with our friends and neighbors, Rick and Monica. We skied up the west side of Eastman Lake and back the east side of Durand Lake in the park. On the way back, Rick got a hankerin’ for Mexican so we got online and looked for alternatives to nearby Monte Albán. We toyed with driving out to El Rincón in Sodus or the one in Canandaigua but decided to try San José on Buffalo Road. I was a little suspicious because the pdf of their online menu said “printed in South Carolina” but we jumped in the car and headed out to Gates. Rick had a “Best of Incredible String Band” cd on. We found the place and a sign on the door. “Closed Until March 3rd For Remodeling”.
So we continued on to Chilango’s in Spencerport. It was about eight o’clock and there was a half hour wait so we drove back in the city to Monte Albán. We ordered Margaritas and Peggi and I asked for no salt. Rick wanted salt. Monica ordered horchata and the waitress told her they were all out so she settled for a root beer.
The waitress was beautiful. It was hard to do something as mundane as place an order with her. She was a marvel. She had dark hair, a shiny, wide, white belt, a really cute accent and amazing eyes. She brought the margaritas back and two had salt and only one was saltless. Fine. She asked if we were ready to order and we obviously weren’t so she said she would come back, but she didn’t. Some time went by. I thought we had ordered already and we were waiting for our food. Rick started getting agitated. We had worked up an appetite skiing. He asked a nearby waitress to go get our waitress.
She returned smiling. We placed our order. She came back and asked Rick if he had ordered number 18 or 19. Rick ordered a Negra Modelo and she said they were out. The food was ok. Peggi asked for more napkins and the waitress smiled and nodded but never came back with them. None of this mattered. She actually yawned while we were placing our order and we still tipped her.
Back home, Rick asked if we wanted to watch “La Sirène du Mississippi” (“Mississippi Mermaid”), the 1969 Francois Truffaut movie with them and we took him up on the offer. Catherine Deneuve, the star, waltzed through the movie like she was barely in it. She was a blond version of our waitress.
We stopped in on the Dave Cross family benefit at the German House last night and walked in just as Phil Marshall was ending his set. We heard he did a great version of “September Song” and told a few stories about Dave who recently died of a brain tumor. Phil played in a version of Coffee with Dave and they did a cover of a Raymond Scott tune that wound up on a European compilation. They played a gig at the Bottom Line in New York and Dave was smoking joints all the way down there. Phil said he was pissed that they were jeopardizing the performance but it came off flawlessly and Phil learned some sort of lesson from this.
Nod took the stage next and the sound was big. Chris Schepp made it bigger on magical keyboards. Peggi wanted to dance but didn’t. The only ones up close were the little kids playing on the dance floor. Nod has a new cd coming out in a few weeks. Chris was excited about the art work he did for the package. He recycled some commercial piece that he originally did for Dick Poole’s agency.
We were standing with Martin Edic during Nod and it was impossible to talk. He appeared in Peggi’s dream last night offering some advice on a dispute we were having with some neighbors in Mexico. I guess we had bought some beachfront property in Cozumel or Playa del Carmen and strangers were swimming in our pool. We were considering building a wall. Martin offered his advice and Peggi wrote him a check for $500.
After Nod, we walked down to Tap & Mallet and had a pint of McBane’s Bitter. I checked in on the paintings I have there. The place was packed. We chatted with Joe Tunis and Chris Reeg who had just finished their “Deciduous vs Conifer” gig at House of Hamez and then called it a night.
The cross country ski conditions are still in the excellent category so we headed out for our third day in a row. We headed through the woods and then crossed one of the holes on Durand Eastman’s Golf Course where we saw another skier. She darted up the hill in front of us and disappeared.
There are two types of skiers. Both types are old (say 30 and up). You won’t find any kids or teenagers on cross country skis, at least not in this neck of the woods. You can see the first type coming a mile away. They look like they are skating on skis, lifting one leg up and gliding on the other. And they have skinny legs because they are wearing black tights with gators around their ankles. Their jackets and accessories are brightly colored and they often have only ear muffs on because they have worked up such a sweat.
We belong to the second type. We basically ski in layers of street clothes. We trudge through the snow and wallow in the brush. We take goofy trails, sometimes following only deer prints. Today we saw about twenty deer. We usually stop and watch before continuing. You could probably see us coming a mile away too. Our pants would be baggy (as in LL Bean flannel-lined) and there might be some long underwear under there. And we would probably be covered in snow.
Respect Sextet played the Village Gate Atrium on Tuesday night so there was a serious conflict with my painting class. I checked their website and it said they would be be doing a clinic at their alma mater, the Eastman School of Music, at 4PM that same day.
So we found our way to Room 305 and sat in the back in desk/chairs. The word “idiomatic” was underlined on a chalk board and under it were three descriptions,” dance based”, “variation” and “improvisation”, three things that don’t immediately come to mind when you think of this prestigious school of music. The other green blackboards were permanently lined with musical staffs. The G clef was waiting.
There were about twenty five people in the room, most of them Eastman students. Josh Rutner, the group’s sax player, closed the door and the group launched into one of drummer, Ted Poor’s compositions. They started reading and just as quickly moved to playing and the band sounded great. It felt like we were inside a big, warm speaker. I gather most of them graduated in 2003 but they sound like seasoned pros, in full command of some meaty music.
Between songs they discussed making money with music, getting gigs, doing without health insurance, and life in NYC versus Rochester. Bass player, Malcolm Kirby and Ted Poor are apparently making a living with their music. Josh said, “I think I’m happy”. The Eastman students all talked of moving to New York, Boston or Europe after graduation. Trombone player, James Hirschfeld, in a Sun Ra t-shirt, said getting together to play involved an insane amount of travel. “It would be like driving from here to Fredonia to rehearse.” They emphasized the importance of their formative weekly Wednesday night gig at Java’s while they were here going to school. They released a 3 inch cd of Sun Ra’s “A Call For All Demons”. It was recorded live at Java’s in 2002 and gives you an inkling of what you missed.
I snuck out of painting class at the Memorial Art Gallery and caught a few of their songs outside the Bop Shop in Village Gate. These guys are my favorite group to have ever come out of Rochester.
It’s Spring in San Francisco and the daffodils are out. The temperature in Rochester is 11 degrees and it is supposed to go down to 2 degrees tonight. The cross country skiing conditions are perfect. We skied from our front door to Lake Ontario and back through the woods.
Our neighbor, Leo, is a sprightly 91. His typewriter died a few years back and he became very frustrated that no one would repair it. Everyone told him to get a computer so he finally bought a new Dell with his grandson’s help. He is able to email but he keeps getting confused as to what happens in his email package and what happens in his browser. He got an offer in the mail to subscribe to Consumer Reports but he had to register online. So Peggi and I helped him through that process.
Leo keeps his computer in the basement by his wood stove and he shuts it off after using it. So when we go over to help, we have to sit through his lengthy boot process. His grandson has all kinds of virus software running even though Leo has no files on his computer. Leo worries about viruses and he doesn’t even know what they are.
We turned on the printer to print the confirmation of his transaction with Consumer Reports but the only thing that came out was a letter to an old friend that he wrote a few weeks ago. The print dialog box was backed up with old jobs so we tried to delete them and squeeze our page out but there was one file in the queue that we could not delete. Peggi worked on this for about ten minutes and then the Consumer Reports page timed out so we gave up. Leo told us that last week he got so frustrated he was going to take a pick ax to his computer. He asked, “Who invented this thing?” We laughed. He went to shut down his machine and looked up at us. “That’s another thing. Why do I go to ‘Start’ to shut this thing down?”
Leo was a dentist and he still has a dentistry chair in his basement. And on the wall near his computer he has this painting from 1952 that a patient of his did in exchange for a break on a tooth extraction. Leo told us that the patient painted himself as the dentist holding his tooth. The patient’s name was Frans Schmanke and he based this painting on a Frans Hals painting. Leo said he hung the painting in his office but he had to take it down because his patients didn’t like it.
We had dinner with Peggi’s mom at Max’s on Monroe Avenue. We sat below some bad collage art. I tried not to let it spoil the dinner. We each ordered a roasted beet salad with orange slices and pistachios. Fantastic! We followed that up with an order of wild rice with dried cherries and pine nuts. I forgot all about the art.
Our NetFlix queue had two documentaries lined up in a row. We sat through Sicko a few nights ago and the Ralph Nader movie last night. I had a couple questions about Sicko. Isn’t Michael Moore big enough to stay out of his movies? And why is he so big anyway? And during the Nader movie I kept wondering why he wasn’t in the 2008 race and then he announced his candidacy this morning. We need more parties but how about somebody younger with a sense of humor? Hillary’s crack about “Change you can Xerox” rang a little differently in Xerox’s hometown but it still landed like a clunker. Xerox hasn’t been synonymous with copy since the desktop revolution.
We walked to the library and returned “Duma Key” which was two days overdue. Peggi did manage to finish the 600 pages. She told me I should read this one because it is all about painting. Some guy loses an arm and then takes up painting and discovers his paintings actually affect people’s lives. I’m busy reading “the Object Stares Back” by James Elkins. We stopped at Wegmans and picked up the ingredients for the “Hot and Sour Soup” recipe that was in the paper. Shitake mushrooms, Bella mushrooms, tofu, ginger, scallions, garlic and red pepper. Peggi also made some bread with buckwheat flour because we ran out of unbleached and we ate like kings.
I brought a pile of paintings to class last week. I think I had eight that were near done but all needed more work. I’ve been having fun starting new ones and trying to grab the essence of these crime guys as quickly as possible without getting bogged down correcting all my mistakes. Fred, my painting teacher came around and said, “I’ll talk about these when you’re ready”. I said “I’m ready now. I’m getting tired of fussing with this one”. He said, “I don’t like the word fussing. I like struggling”. I guess it is a little more noble.
So this week I’ve spent a lot of time time “struggling”. It’s the perfect word for this activity. Someone has to do it. And if the word sounded any easier it wouldn’t come close to describing how difficult painting is. Like Fred says, “It’s supposed to be difficult. If it was easy, everyone would do it.”
Peggi had a dream about Hillary last night. They were at a Kmart and Hillary was speaking to a small crowd. Peggi was feeling really sorry for her and hugged her. Hillary asked Peggi if she had voted for her. Peggi hesitated and then said, “Yes”, even though she hadn’t.
I took this shot of Hillary when she was campaigning for her first senate race.
Steve Hoy was in Rochester and Personal Effects was playing down at Scorgies. We were hanging around after the gig and we started hopping parking meters. I landed wrong and jammed my leg up my back like I was trying to shorten it or something. I had muscle spasms and saw my doctor about it. He prescribed muscle relaxers which didn’t do much. The pain continued so I saw him again. He prescribed pain killers which did quite a bit. Except I was working as a free lance graphic artist and I couldn’t work while taking them. Friends kept saying, “Go to a Chiropractor” but I gave my doctor one more shot. He told me there was not much choice but to get in bed and rest for a week.
I checked out Dr. Donald Siedel, a Chiropractor whose office was around the corner from my house on Culver. He put me on my back and had me hold out my arms and he pushed against them. I had no strength at all in some positions. He rolled me over and told me to take a deep breath. When I exhaled he popped my spine so the knobs lined up. He didn’t prescribe anything, he just manhandled me. Fifteen minutes later I was standing outside of his office wondering what the hell had happened. I felt dazed like he had zapped me with something. And my back felt great.
In follow-up appointments he taught me how to “free” myself. He gave me a little pamphlet and circled the exercises that help alleviate my problem. I do these all the time when I feel locked up. But every once in a while I go through a bad patch where the exercises don’t help. I swivel my hips like Elvis. I do the egg. I do the dog, leg openers and hip openers but I still feel stuck. I miss Dr. Siedel. I heard someone filed a bogus complaint against him and he had to leave town.
I am in pretty good health but that is subject to change at the drop of a hat. My back seems to go out of whack throughout the day even when I am just sitting at my desk. I can usually free the stuck parts with a few simple movements. I might have injured it playing sports. I did a lot of that. The first time I remember throwing it out was while doing cartwheels on our front lawn sometime during high school. From then on I could only do a cartwheel going in one direction. Sort of like when I learned how to throw a curve ball so good, I could only throw curve balls. And then I injured my back it in a car accident.
I was a freshman at Indiana University and I hooked up with a guy going to Syracuse on Thanksgiving. He had posted a listing on the IU Ride Board in the Commons and I gave him a call. There were six of us in a restored 56 Chevy. That sounds like a lot but it was perfectly comfortable in the back seat. We were getting low on gas in Pennsylvania near this town called North East. It’s on Route 90 near the New York border. You can pretty much guess what part of the state it is in. We got off the highway to look for gas and there wasn’t anything open. We drove for a bit on a small road and ran out of gas.
We walked up to a farm house and rang the bell. A woman told us we were in luck because there was a gas station at the bottom of the big hill out front. All we had to do was push the car over the crest of the hill. The owner of the car sat behind the wheel and we all pushed but were having a hard time getting this tank to the top of the hill. The owner got out and pushed from the rear and I was reaching in the window from the side to steer the car while pushing. We were giving it everything we had and got it up to the crest where it started picking up steam. The owner yelled, “Jump in and steer” so I did.
I was rolling down this hill when a car came up behind me. I was watching him in my mirror and he was coming up pretty fast while I was just rolling. I turned on my lights, pumped the brakes and he kept coming at me. I pulled off to the shoulder and the guy pulled off to the shoulder. I pulled back on the road and he followed me. I was watching all this in that tiny little mirror and the guy just plowed into me.
I wound up down by the gas pedal curled up like a ball. The back seat of the Chevy came out and landed on top of me. The horn on the other car was stuck in the loud position. I worked my way free and walked back to find a man and a woman slumped over in the front seat. Their heads had shattered the windshield and they were both very bloody. The man was groaning.
The other guys caught up to us and the owner was pissed. He was pissed at me too! We walked to a house and called an ambulance for the couple. The car was towed and we hitchhiked home separately. My back was hurting me for weeks.