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 walked up to Aman’s this morning and noticed their Fresh Corn sign was not out front. In fact I saw it was out behind the building. I can’t believe corn season is over already. Here’s hoping they’ll get a late harvest.
Shelley emailed us about passing along her book to an editor at ADK’s magazine. That reminded us that we were going to put large versions of her artwork online and then link to them from the drawings in her book. So Peggi and I spent the afternoon posting the enlargements as links from her book. We realized “A Year in the Woods” is a perfect pandemic companion. Check it out if you get a chance.
We met our friends, Matthew and Louise, in middle ground, neutral territory, somewhere between their home and ours. B. Forman Park sits right on the lake on property that was owned by Samuel Cuyler, property that was used as a terminus on the Underground Railroad. From here, escaped slaves would board a ship bound for Canada.
We had never been here before but the name was familiar to us. B. Formans was one step from McCurdy’s. Both department stores were downtown along with Sibley’s, Edward’s and The National. Before the malls ruined everything and Amazon ruined them. The park was named after Benjamin Forman, a Rochester merchant and civic leader, who operated the B. Formans’ department store.
We drove out on Lake Road, easily one of the most picturesque rides in our area. The farms were all gearing up for apple harvest and crates were stacked everywhere. We wondered aloud whether the farms would have enough labor and whether they could be kept safe.
There has been so much going on in Rochester that we spent most of our time together batting around the local news, the mass shooting, the Danial Prude homicide, how much longer before the mayor resigns and what about the interim police chief and the cover-up. We stopped at a farm stand on the way back and bought blueberries, pears, plums and Honey-crisp apples.
Interesting that people listen to loud EDM in their cars so early in the morning. We were headed up to the town hall to put our taxes in the contactless dropbox they have out back, a walk we used to do all the time when we were patronizing the library. Plastic Recipe 21 Premium Vodka bottles are still strewn along Titus.
We spotted an old cot by the road with a thin, rolled up mattress. It reminded me of the one my brother Fran slept on when we were growing up. The five boys were in one room. Mark and me in a double bed, John and Tim in bunk beds and Fran on the cot.
We’ve had a mattress rolled up in our basement for years. It is our guest mattress since our house has only one bedroom. We always ask friends who’ve slept over how they liked it and they have never complained. We recently slept down there ourselves when they were warning of high winds and found it really uncomfortable. We upped our game and ordered an inflatable mattress from REI. We’re going to test that later today.
Although La Liga is already a week into their new fanless season the three teams we care most about have not yet played. Both Real Madrid and Barcelona play this weekend and then Atlético. I watched a pre-recorded Atlético match from last season this morning, a 1-1 draw where they were seriously outplayed by Real Sociedad.
Things that were all green just a few weeks ago are taking on beautiful colors.
I worry that the forced isolation brought on by the pandemic is making us, not just Peggi and me but a lot of us, less “sociable” (adjective: Willing to talk and engage in activities with other people; friendly). Although loneliness is a real problem it is not so bad inside your own head. Confronting strangers is more awkward than ever. Are they wearing a mask? Are they taking this thing seriously? We are more judgmental than ever.
We took the path through Tamarack Swamp this morning and when we got to the boardwalk we were following a woman with two dogs, both off leash. We slowed our pace and watched her put the dogs on a leash when she got to Lakeshore Boulevard. She had earbuds in and was was talking to someone on her phone while taking up most of the path. Peggi masked up and said, “I’m going to pass her.” As she ran by, one of the dogs growled and lurched at her, would have bit her if the leash was six inches longer. She pulled the dogs close and I walked by. We decided to ditch her and walk along the beach but she came up behind us and let her dogs off leash again. Peggi looked at the woman and said, “Really?” There is a leash law.
The woman grinned and said, “Sorry you’re so angry.” We skipped the beach and waited for traffic to slow before crossing Lakeshore Boulevard. A car was coming especially fast so we stepped back and then they hit the brakes and waved us across. People aren’t so bad.
On the ridge trail we spotted a runner coming up the hill toward us. We masked up and stepped into the woods to let him pass while he slowed to a walking pace. When he reached us he said, “Don’t worry about me. I’ve already had it.”
Our house came with a big fireplace, a wide opening surrounded by a wall of long, thin Roman bricks from floor to cathedral ceiling. We narrowed the opening by constructing a divider wall out of fire brick and put a wood burning insert in one side. We store firewood in the other. I bought some extra bricks because I like them so much. I used some of them out back to make a base for our chiminea. I modeled the base after Carl Andre’s piece at MoMA and did the same with this one out front. Peggi came up with the layout here. The metal rack came from our old fireplace. It looks like something the baby Jesus would lie in in a nativity set.
We found the little yellow basket on one of our walks and we’ve been using it, upside down, as a table for the a distanced second party, usually Rick when we play horseshoes. We ordered two metal outdoor side tables from Walmart and expect delivery of those tomorrow. Peggi and I had the first fire here and then we had Jeff and Mary Kaye over for a rip roaring fire. This will read like a nightmare to our friends out west. There was a beautiful warm night just a few days ago and we spent that under Kathy’s candlelit pergola overlooking the bay. That may be the last of those so if want to have a social life it will involve burning things.
Our weather app showed rain all day. We walked anyway with rain gear, the hooded things that scrunch up into the zippered pocket when when we’re not using them. There was hardly anyone else out. The woods was dreamy, the soft rain, the degree of separation that the hood provides. I forgot where I was for minute, a sensation I love, similar to the feeling you get when you are on a brand new trail, going somewhere you have never been before.
The three walks we took across Spain had us in this suspended state. I want more.
Our neighbors on both sides feed the birds. And even feed the woodpeckers. We have three kinds of woodpeckers around here. The Pileated are the most dramatic. They sound like monkeys and look a lot like the Woody Woodpecker character. Then there is a medium sized one with red on it. And the smaller ones in various shades of grey, one of which was hammering away at the soffit of our house for a few weeks. We kept shooing it away but but it had free reign while we were out so we wound up with a hole big enough for me to put my fist in.
Our neighbor suggested Great Stuff, the plastic foam filler that comes out of a can. We found it at Lowes and arranged a curb side pick-up. I went up on the roof, laid down on my stomach and squirted the stuff up the hole while Peggi guided me from below. I have this hideous formation of goop hanging down from that spot and plan to go back up there tomorrow to cut it off. I’m thinking of painting the filler brown.
I’m loving these last few days of summer. In spite of Covid it has been one of the best. For the weather, for kicking back, for taking the time to smell the roses. Maybe all that was because of and not in spite of Covid. And I’m looking forward to cooler temperatures and the energy and motivation that goes along with that.
We don’t plan our daily walks unless we need something at Aman’s or Home Depot or Rubino’s. And we don’t like to go out and back on the same route so we make somewhat of a circle out of it and wander for four or five miles. We spotted this giant puffball in the woods at the end of our street and then headed down to the bay via Liberty Avenue, a road we don’t often take. It was surprisingly quiet for a holiday and there were a lot of flags flying like Labor Day has something to do with patriotism. We followed Seneca Road to where it ends in front of both the Mohawk Yacht Club and N.Y.C. (Newport Yacht Club). It was quiet on the bay too.
On the way back we saw a grey Corvette with the top down. The side of the car had the letters TRUMP on them and a Donald Trump dummy was sitting in the passenger seat. We guessed there might have been a Boaters for Trump rally going on down at the lake.
If it wasn’t for this pandemic we’d be downtown tonight keeping Rochester in the national news and demanding justice for Daniel Prude.
It figures that Rubino’s would be packed on the day before Labor Day weekend. We walked up there this morning, a 6 or 7 mile round trip, with our N95 masks, hoping to beat the crowds. We needed olive oil and we’re stuck on Zoe’s, the Spanish first cold press gallon tins that they carry. We were also looking for some aged parmesan, Castelvetrano olives and a few packages of figs. And bananas because I left the bunch we had picked out at Aman’s on the counter when left. Rubino’s doesn’t stock bananas.
We took a route that zig zags off Titus and comes out near Bishop Kearney High School. Workers were repairing the roof and teachers were carrying boxes into their classrooms. Peggi related to the dread they must be feeling, a dread that is magnified wildly this year.
Bishop Kearney has not physically changed since I was here in the dark ages. The Irish Christian Brothers no longer run it. They used to live on the top floor but their order went bankrupt under the weight of countless sexual abuse charges. The classes were separated by sexes and we only co-mingled at lunch. The boys were on the right side of the building and the girls were on the left. The gymnasium and auditorium were in the middle along with a small closet-like room were where they whipped you if misbehaved. My only good memory of the two years I spent here is playing soccer.
On the way back we found a spot to relieve ourselves. We used to do that at Starbuck’s but we stopped going in there. There is a little tree covered nook off to the left of the school on the field where we used to play soccer that fit the bill perfectly. The tp traces showed we weren’t the first.
I was beginning too think AD Espanã was packing it in due to Covid. July/August was one issue and I was jones’n for the September offering and kept checking the Apple bookstore for the new issue. Two days before the calendar flipped they released it. $3.99 a pop. The perfect compliment to dreams of Spain.
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.
We stopped down at the pool before heading out on our walk this morning. Peggi checks the chemistry while I brush the yellow, pool boy style, if I see any. Helena called us from across the street. She appeared to still be in her pajamas and she asked if we could bring some wood to the gathering tonight in their backyard. It struck us all as hilarious considering these two giant white oaks were taken down in her yard just a few days ago. They kept plenty of the wood and even split about half but it is not properly seasoned yet so we delivered a small load for the fire pit.
Peggi made the first batch of sauce this year with a t-shirt full of tomatoes that we brought back from the garden. I thinned our carrots again and we threw them in along with a big batch of basil and some jalapeños. .
We have an insane amount of wood. The covered row of split wood in the photo above is the first of twelve. That first row is sporting a “Wood Hood,” a cover designed and produced by my brother, John. There’s three rows of unspilt oak in front of those. Some came from our friend Kathy, some from Wisner Road and the rest from Jeddy’s tree down the street. And a few hours ago we were offered more wood from our neighbor, Phil. He hired Jeddy’s tree surgeon, Woodchuck, to raise his canopy. We’ll wait for cold weather before splitting the pile.
It seemed everybody burned wood when we first moved here. I wish I could say they all wanted to switch to cleaner energy but the fact is they all got too old. They switched their wood burning fireplaces to gas and in one case took the wood stove out. And Leo, whose Heathkit hydraulic splitter we inherited, died.
We learned all we know from Leo. How to roll the big logs up a plank and into our car. How to split the awkward ones. How to stack. We like the whole ritual and we’re looking forward to sitting by the fire this winter. Which reminds me. I’ve got to get up and clean the chimney before the season starts.
We follow politics but probably shouldn’t. It can’t be that good for our health. We watched the debates last time around and saw the Trump train coming. I had the sinking feeling last night that he may be able to pull it off again. As much as I can’t stand the guy I am in awe of his ability to command our attention, to attract just enough votes in the swing states to stay in our face.
Imagine how whacked politics will be in another generation. Don Jr. and his girlfriend are but a glimpse. Four years ago I took a photo of Tiffany while she addressed the convention. We thought that one was surreal. They have ratcheted up the propaganda, the theatrics, the lies, the hysteria. Are they using augmented reality already? I was blown away.
My father, who still had a “Kerry/Edwards” sticker on the bottom of his watercolor board when he passed, would be so happy that Biden was chosen as the Democratic nominee. Biden was always his favorite, his type of guy, his type of politician.
I joked that we’d be at my brother’s Covid Corn Roast in our Hazmat suits but that wasn’t necessary. He’s a mason and he had scaffolding set up as tables in his backyard so we could all sit the recommended distance apart. My brother and his wife came up from New Jersey so all seven of the siblings were there.
We surely would have talked politics if our parents were there but we didn’t. I’m really not sure where everyone stands. My sister-in-law loved “The Apprentice” and I really don’t know how she feels about this reality show. I’ve heard some family members badmouth Cuomo, Obama and even Nancy Pelosi. One sister-in-law told us she would be afraid of a Covid vaccine because she doesn’t trust the government. I assume it would have been safe to kick the Trumpster around but we didn’t.
Quite a few of our family members work in or for schools and the plans for a safe return are worrisome. They all were dreading the experiment.
We brought home sweet onions and corn from Schriener’s Farm Stand near my brother’s place. I guess I went to grade school with the guy that owns the place and they recognized me as a Dodd even with my mask. We cooked the corn tonight and recapped
It’s becoming apparent that this summer may not last forever. The Mayapples are turning brown and the deer are feasting on acorns. We still have our fans on. It’s been warm and we don’t have AC. I prefer it that way and am thankful for the tree canopy that surrounds us. If we were still working out of our attic in the city I’d be singing a different tune.
It’s not fair to be in a dream state while the pandemic carries on and California burns but that’s where we find ourselves. The days float by. We divide our coffee consumption into two sessions, one before our walk and one after. We wander on our walk and then spend an hour or so in the garden. Our red pepper plants need some stakes and string as they are laden with fruit. We already lost a branch with peppers. Before stopping down to the pool we try to get some “work” done. For the last four days we’ve been hanging with our friends and neighbors, Jeddy and Helena, as the four of us played woodsmen with a tree they had taken down. Every other day there is a horseshoe game in our front yard. Best out of three and the loser brings a beer to the next match. We’re standing still but the days sail by.
Our street is not just tree lined. There are trees between and all around most of our neighbor’s homes. Woodchuck Tree Service has done a lot of work in the neighborhood this summer. One neighbor watches them work and then they think of something that needs addressing. And while they are doing that job another neighbor hires them.
These big oaks were at least eighty feet tall and they look small in this setting. They grew too close together and rotted at the bottom. So before they fell on a house our neighbors decided to take them down. A full day’s entertainment. The crew is Haitian and their bucket was being worked on so this one guy did the climbing. Peggi and I helped the neighbors stack the log length pieces along their driveway and we plan to take a few car loads down here tomorrow.