It’s a good thing Rochester Art Supply opens so early. I dropped Peggi off at the courthouse for grand jury duty and did a little masked shopping. I parked in front of this beautiful black brick home in Corn Hill and walked over to West Main.
When I say “over to West Main,” I mean over the damn highway they dropped into the old Erie Canal bed when the urban renewal architects butchered the city by severing the neighborhoods from one another. It is kind of nice walking bridge. Perfect for skateboarding, it swoops up from Troup Street and plops you right in front of the restored Bevier Hall, home Mechanics Institute, my grandfather’s alma mater.
I worry now that there are so many apartment buildings downtown, newly built and renovated factory space, that this phase of urban renewal while only make the city sleepier.
These guys in day-glow suits had Parcel 5 perfectly graded this morning. The grass seed will probably be next. I was one of the contrarians who wanted something other than empty space in the middle of downtown but I’m good with the park idea as long it is more interesting than lawn. I was holding out for the return of city center and all that used to go with it. Stores, offices, newsstands, coffee shops, bars, restaurants and a place to hang out while skipping school. Stuff that is never coming back.
I mention this every year but it is a good excuse to link to this photo of Peggi with a Mint Julep at the Kentucky Derby in 1973, our first date, the year Secretariat won. We’re going with Brooklyn Strong in today’s derby despite the 40/1 odds.
Our neighbors left us in charge of feeding their fish while they’re out of town. These guys all survived the winter but the water temperature was only 50 degrees this morning so they were a little sluggish.
Peggi’s is doing grand jury duty for a few weeks and it has been an education for the both of us. The process seems lopsided to first timers. The prosecutors present their case and walk the jurors to their indictment 99.9% of the time.
So what went wrong for Letitia James’ in Rochester’s Daniel Prude case? Nearly a mirror image of the George Floyd murder and it comes back “no billed.” I don’t know much about the Rochester Beacon other than they just hired Frank De Blase as their music critic but I thought this editorial was pretty thought provoking.
Imagine how this 1822 octagonal lighthouse feels today. It’s not just that the Port of Rochester is no longer bustling but the land around it has been “reclaimed.” That’s the term the historical society uses in the signage on the property. Piers were built and rebuilt on either side of the mouth of the mighty Genesee and over time the land on the other side of the river filled in, stranding the lighthouse. It still manages to overlook the river rather proudly. My father gave it some respect in a series of watercolors.
Nathaniel Rochester School has to be the ugliest building in Rochester’s historic Corn Hill District. But it would appear the kids who go to school here have already risen above that. They are hosting a Poetry Slam tonight at 5PM.
After dropping Peggi off for Grand Jury duty I parked near the Wilmot, a building my grandfather owned at one time, and strolled around the “Ruffled Shirt Ward.” Ralph Avery, one of my father’s favorite watercolorists, painted many of his street scenes here. And just like so many of his paintings it started raining.
Yesterday was like a dream. A walk around Charlotte, a latte from Starbucks, a game of horseshoes, patio sit with friends and a Real Madrid soccer match in the evening. And I have two more books for the coffee table, “Heaven Help Us” with beautiful reproductions of holy cards and Sun Ra’s “The Immeasurable Equation.” Here is an excerpt from the latter:
Music akin to thought . . . . . . . . Imagination . . . ! With wings unhampered, Unafraid . . . . . . . Soaring like a bird Through the threads and fringes of today Straight to the heart of tomorrow. Music rushing forth like a fiery wall Loosening the chains that bind. Ennobling the mind With all the many greater dimensions of a living tomorrow.
April 28th used to be the feast day of Saint Paul of the Cross, the Italian mystic who believed God was most easily found in the Passion of Christ. I was named Paul because I was born on this day. Coincidentally, I have always been drawn to the Stations of the Cross. A close family friend, Father Bill Shannon, returned from a European trip with a relic of Saint Paul that he gave me when I was ten or so. I began work on this series during Lent this year and finished in time for my birthday, St. Paul’s birthday.
In 1969 Pope Paul VI moved the feast day of St. Paul to October 19th. Grrr. My birthday remains where it was. And then Pope John Paul II attempted to put a happy ending on the Stations of the Cross by adding a 15th station dedicated to the resurrection. I’m not buying it (or the miracle). I created fourteen Stations, each 14″ by 17″, acrylic paint on plastic panels.
– click images for enlargement
I. Jesus is condemned to death II. Jesus accepts his cross III. Jesus falls for the first time IV. Jesus meets his Mother V. Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry the Cross VI. Veronica wipes the face of Jesus VII. Jesus falls for the second time VIII. Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem IX. Jesus falls for the third time X. Jesus is stripped of his garments XI. Jesus is nailed to the cross XII. Jesus dies on the cross XIII. Jesus is taken down from the cross XIV. Jesus is laid in the tomb
I remember when my uncle got a mirror window for the office that overlooked his grocery store. Looking up at it from the store aisles you would only see a reflection but if you were in the office you could survey the whole store. I’m sure it helped prevent shoplifting but it was an intrusion for us stock boys, never knowing if he was up there looking down at us.
When we lived in the city we had the same mailman for twenty years. He was a Neil Young fan and he’d let us check the new releases he bought. Since we worked out of the house he would use our bathroom. The ladies at Elite Bakery on Humboldt would give him free cookies and Leo’s, next door to them at the time, gave him their gooey brownies with chocolate frosting. Sometimes he would share those with us.
We always had him pegged as a Viet Nam vet but he kept his personal life private. He was stuffing something. He would run when he got off work which seemed insane considering he already walked twenty miles a day. He drove a sports car and we would occasionally see him about town.
At some point the Post Office, in an attempt to keep up with UPS, began streamlining. The mail carriers were each given a scanner and they had to continually check in by scanning the drop boxes when they picked up a load. They couldn’t just do their route in a hurry and go home. Their delivery truck had its own bar code and whenever they scanned a location they would have to scan their truck so some bean counter could put the data altogether. If the higher-ups felt he could handle more customers his route would get bigger. We heard about every one of these intrusions and hoped he wouldn’t go postal on us.
No worker likes being watched every minute but the police have abused that privilege. There is an unmarked cop hang-out/clubhouse over by the bay with a “No Body Camera” sign on the door. I get it but I’m not gonna be flying any blue striped American flag.
My family moved out to Webster when I was in fifth grade We lived in a new development, on the edge of the village, in a former corn field. Main Street, at the intersection of North and South Avenues was like the town in a old western. The Webster Hotel, Bowman’s Variety, a gas station and Warren’s Hardware sat at the four corners. Warren would close shop and direct traffic in the middle of the four corners when the firehouse siren sounded, part of a volunteer force. Our school, Holy Trinity, was within walking distance. Andy Finn’s father owned the Texaco station in town. Bobby Gray’s (another schoolmate) father started Bill Gray’s.
I made friends with an older kid, a baseball nut like me, named Marty. He was a Christian Scientist. He told me he had never been to a doctor and his mom had given birth to him and his brother in their house. A religion based on a conspiracy theory. When his family moved he gave me his delivery route. Flush with paper route money I would ride down to Bowman’s, on a good day I could go the whole way with no hands, and buy baseball cards and candy. I tried to limit myself to five, 5 cent candy bars. Whether it was all that candy and the bubble gum in each pack of cards or just bad genes I’ve had a lot of cavities.
After dropping out of college I moved back home and went to a new dentist in town, near where the old post office was on North Avenue. I went out with his receptionist for a while. The dentist’s son went into practice himself and I still see him today. I think he’s great but he told me he is vaccine hesitant. Doesn’t trust the messenger RNA. He determined that I needed a root canal and sent me to an Endodontics specialist. That doctor was unable to save my tooth. When I asked, “Isn’t there anything you can do” he told me “Heroics and dentistry don’t mix.” I now have an appointment to have the tooth extracted by an oral surgeon. Maybe I shouldn’t have said no to some of the regular X-rays that were offered by my hygienist. I’ve had so many I am x-ray hesitent.
I stayed in Webster for one year before moving back to Bloomington and hooking up with Peggi. I worked at the place in the picture above, Maracle Industrial Finishing on Commercial Street in the village. They finished gun stocks for Crossman Arms and they repainted Xerox copy machines which at that time were as big as a washer and dryer together. Maracle was busted in 2013 for discharging untreated process wastewater directly to the sewer. On my way back from the dentist I drove down Commercial Street for old times sake and spotted this big Q in the widow along with a picture of Cuomo.
I always remind Peggi that it snowed on my late April birthday, the year I got a new baseball bat. Rochester has it in her. It was beautiful this morning, the moisture of multicolored blossoms and green in snow and then we got to Log Cabin Road where the row of cherry trees, all in full bloom, were weighted down by the wet snow. Some of their biggest branches were split down the middle under the weight. We spent the next half hour shaking the branches and watching them spring upward.
We spent too much time talking about health issues while zoom visiting with our friends on the west coast. I am probably to blame for the deep dive because I’ve been asking friends about dental implants. I cracked the root of a tooth, part of a bridge and that started a chain reaction. One tooth needs a root canal and I’m in the early stage of a bone graft for an implant.
Our friend, Duane, in his early NYC commercial days, shot a video of an implant procedure. And Rich, ever so helpful, sent me a link to a video he made about getting a root canal.
I watched the Colonel walk by this morning without her white dog. I wasn’t even sure it was her at first. She was walking so briskly. But with purple hair it had to be her. We spotted her again walking with a neighbor and without her dog. We learned her dog had lung cancer and had to be put down.
We entered the beach this morning just after the outlet from Durand Lake. It appeared someone was coming out of the water on the other side. We had a hunch that it might have been Jim Mott, a friend who is known to swim near year ’round. We walked toward him and Peggi thought she saw smoke coming from his mouth. Jim doesn’t smoke. We turned around. We talked to him later and learned he was down this way looking at warblers as they migrate through and he had taken a dip.
We had our annual pool meeting this afternoon. There has been a pool on our street since 1960 and Peggi and I are presidents (janitors) this year. One pair of neighbors is vaccine hesitant so we met outdoors. I made a fire and the wind kept changing directions so it was like musical chairs.
We feel in love with Bill Traylor after seeing a show of his work at the American Folk Museum in New York. Kino is currently streaming a new documentary about him called “Chasing Ghosts.” The movie is good but there is too much back story, too many talking heads. You need to keep the remote in your hand so you can pause and study the work. It is sensational and it speaks for itself.
Bill Traylor was a master of placement of object on ground or substrate or laundry shirt cardboard or whatever he found to paint on. Perfectly placed to articulate and accentuate the gesture. His paintings are all essentially flat but animated to leap off the page. Bill Traylor can knock you out with a drawing of a bird. Direct like punk rock but right on like a master. He does not miss a beat.
We spotted our neighbors, Jan and Jack, with a rake in the Fruticetum section of the park. Peggi jokingly asked if they didn’t have enough to do at their own place and they told us it was “Clean Up The Park” day. I said we clean up up the park everyday, a gross exaggeration but we do make a point of picking up bottles and cans and dropping them in one of the few trash cans. And today we made a special effort, going to of our way to pick up a 25 ounce Natty Daddy can, an 8% alcohol Anheuser Busch product, and something call Bud Light Seltzer, a fermented cane sugar drink with 5% alcohol. Also spotted a couple of dog bags full of you know what and carried them to a trash can.
Our dinner theme tight was “Springtime in Spain'” a special take-out menu from Atlas Eats. Ensalada de Cítricos, pan de aceite, shrimp a la plancha, tortilla española, romesco vegetables and Tarta de Almendras.
Give it up for the magnolias in the Slavin Collection on Zoo Road. The Snowy white variety is first, followed by the pink and then the dark red and yellow varieties. They look good on rainy days and stunning against a blue sky. The petals even look good on the ground.
We walked our neighbor’s dog, the Notorious Mr. BigZ, this morning. He’s usually in the front yard when we come back from our walks and we’ve gotten in the habit of stopping by to play with him. He wears a collar that conducts a charge when he gets close to the invisible fence. The fence may be invisible, the wire is buried, but little white flags mark his perimeter. And it’s the flags that he’s afraid of so even without his collar on we had to pick him up and escort him over the boundary.
He’s a pug of some sort and we were uncertain whether he would be able to keep up. But by the time we got around the corner he was pulling us along and we clocked 5.4 miles. We took him up to the magnolias and down to the beach where he checked out every single object in the the sand.
He’s built low to the ground. Compact in the front, like maybe an ancestor ran straight into a wall, and he’s tightly packaged in the rear. His short tail coils against his body. I noticed that his back legs seem to want move faster than his front ones. Walking behind him I got the feeling that his backside was trying to pass his front on his right. He knew right where his home was.
I love rainy days. Maybe because it meant a day off when I was working construction. I love the sound of the rain on the roof. I am more productive on rainy days.
It doesn’t keep us in either. With good rain gear we never miss our daily walk. If we had stayed in today we would have missed this display up on Zoo Road. The snowy Magnolias were in full bloom yesterday and their petals cover the ground today.
We had our friends, Jedi and Helena, down for the second time this week. We were vacinated at the same time and are now filling that void. Helena made paella, Peggi made cornbread and a Tarta de Santiago and we watched El Classico, the twice yearly meeting of arch-rivals Real Madrid and Barcelona. They are two of our favorite teams so we switched back forth as the match went on. Barcelona, true to form, dominated the game with 67% possession but Real Madrid was up 2-0 at the half. With a few slip ups we went all out for Barcelona in the second half, screaming at the players to shoot. With our help they almost pulled off a tie.
We watched the first half in English and switched to Spanish at the half. The game appeared much faster and even more exciting.
We slept with our windows open last night to take in the trilling coming from the pond next door. We ran into our neighbors out at the mailbox today and told them how much we enjoyed the sound. Jared told us there were about twenty five pairs of toads getting it down there. We had to for ourselves.
The males are usually smaller than the females and they are the ones that make all the noise. That’s how they attract the females. It works like a charm. The pond looks like a whore house with extra males calling and waiting their turn.
“Do golf carts have horns?” I wondered aloud as we got to the end of the trail near Horseshoe Road. It turned out to be a bagpiper player filling his air sack. The golf course just opened a few days ago and already I’ve found 13 balls near the trails that skirt the course.
A group of plein air artists were setting up along the lake and it was warm enough for a few people to stroll the beach in bathing suits. We stayed up on the sidewalk. A motorized bike came up behind us with with the Grateful Dead’s “Friend of the Devil” playing. We stepped aside and watched a smiling, rather round man with a grey beard drift by. His tires were fat and only about a foot tall.
The Snowy Magnolias on Zoo Road were especially fragrant and already dropping their flower petals, living up to their name.
Since we walk everyday we like to vary the route as much as possible. We have our favorite paths in the woods and our favorite streets, of course, and lately we try to include a good stretch of beach walking. Lake Ontario is a foot below normal for this time of year so there is plenty of sand. We go out for somewhere near five miles and avoid taking the same way back to our house. It is like a meditation. And it is exciting to have a destination. Home Depot, Starbucks, the library, Rubino’s, Amen’s or the post office.
Things catch your eye. Birds, trees, boats, houses, funky lawn ornaments and lately a lot of discarded masks. I found these squashed beer cans and I’m submitting them to this year’s Rochester Contemporary 6×6 show.
We are so lucky Peter Schjeldahl is still writing art criticism for The New Yorker. He enriches our lives with each column. I keep thinking eachwill be his last.
And how can it be that Roberta Smith, one of the sole art critic champions of Philip Guston’s late sixties work (at the time), can still be at the top of her game, writing for the New York Times. Alice Neel has been one of my favorite painters since I first laid eyes on her work. Neel is the subject of a retrospective and Ms. Smith knocks it out of the park with her review of the show.
“It is said that the future is female, and one can only hope. But it is important to remember that the past, through continuous excavation, is becoming more female all the time. The latest evidence is the gloriously relentless retrospective of Alice Neel (1900-1984), the radical realist painter of all things human.”
We saw a Alice Neel show in Chelsea at Zwirner in 2012 and a few paintings at the Met Breuer in 2016. And twenty years ago, at the last Neel retrospective at the Whitney, we ran into Chuck Close where he and the guy pushing his wheelchair were hogging our view of a Neel painting. I was getting upset at how long they were taking and then backed off when I realized it was Close.
The Eastman has a Maplethorpe portrait of Alice which they’ve pulled out a few times over the years. That is about as close as we can get to her in this town.
I reworked most of my small pencil sketches and then created these black and white versions of the fourteen Stations of the Cross. And I altered a few of these after taking this photo. I cut one of the plastic panels, I’ve had in the basement for so long, down to 14 x 17 and gave it a coat of Gesso. I plan to scale these drawings up and paint the panel in three colors, black, cream and a blood red.