Monday, May 23, 2022

The Charcoal Grain Elevator


When I was a teenager I liked drawing in charcoal. Yesterday I picked up a charcoal pencil for the first time since then, and I drew the great grain elevator at Gallagher Pier.

I was at the outer harbor with my brother Tony and as we were talking, sitting at a picnic table, that is when I drew the grain elevator.

It felt really good to draw with charcoal again!

Like ink, there is no erasing. Different from ink, however, you do not sweat it. When I am drawing in ink I really do take time, at least at first, to plan every line. With the charcoal, I think it was because I had a small piece of paper -- I was using my Long and Narrow sketchbook -- there was not a lot of room for detail. So I just went with it. I absolutely did not sweat it. I was surprised I ended up liking my drawing. I thought I was just horsing around.

Something is fitting about drawing an industrial building with charcoal. It just calls out for it, you know?

Now I have to get a charcoal pad. 

Haha ... I never can remember the name of this particular grain elevator, as many millions of times as I have sketched it. I just Googled it, and what came up? My own ink drawing of it. One of them, anyway.

It is the Cargill Pool Grain Elevator, at least that is the name I went with.

The ink sketch is very different from the charcoal sketch. That particular ink drawing is the most delicate drawing I have ever done. It is a line drawing. I left it that way because I liked it.

I also like it in charcoal.

Rough and ready!

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

The Clutter-Free Cat


A few days ago I wrote in triumph about cleaning up the office.

Jeoffry is sure enjoying the clean space!

He spends hours stretched out just enjoying the view of all the birds and squirrels. He clucks and chirps to himself. OK, in the picture above, my desk got a little messy with markers and stuff. But I always clean it up before the end of the day. There is nothing like this room, I am telling you. Sometimes I go in there just to sit. I just sit down and stare into space and think: I did this. I am back working on my writing too. Everything just seems doable now that did not before.

I have improved it since last I posted and I will have to take more pictures. However I hope this might some day inspire someone, somewhere.

Clean that clutter!

If I can do it, anyone can!

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Bring Flowers of the Fairest


Today my house cleaning continued. Really, cleaning does not actually say it. I wished I had one of those construction debris thingies attached to the window so I could just dump stuff into it!

Finally in the evening I went outside and picked some violets. I was going to do a painting of them. However when I got inside with them I had another idea.

I remembered when I was little and we used to put flowers in front of our statue of the Blessed Mother. I loved that about May. We would say a decade of the Rosary and sing a song, maybe "'Tis the Month of Our Mother," something like that. I always remember those beautiful evenings, like tonight -- warm, fragrant. Howard and I ate dinner on the porch tonight and the air had the aroma of flowers.

I do not think I ever thought to do this in my adult life, but tonight I thought, I will put these violets in front of my statue of Our Lady.

Now things grew complicated. For one thing I could not find the right size vase. For another I have two statues of Our Lady. What to do? What to do?

I have them arranged on the sun porch with St. Joseph in the middle. Remember the statue of St. Joseph, how I got it? That is this statue.

After reviewing the situation I finally put the violets in front of Our Lady of Mount Carmel because her eyes seemed to go sweetly in the direction of the flowers. Heck, it really doesn't matter, you know? Whatever statue the flowers go in front of, they go in front of Our Lady. 

The Our Lady of Mount Carmel statue also is special to me because Howard fixed it. Jeoffry knocked her down once when I foolishly had the statues on the radiator. I remember Howard breaking the news to me. "It's bad," he said. But then he glued her back together. I was so grateful because my mother had given me this statue.

Long story short, now we have violets in front of her. I said a "Hail, Holy Queen," a prayer that I love, and I really loved continuing my childhood tradition, after all this time.

Now I have this song on my brain...

Oh Mary, we crown thee with blossoms today...

Queen of the angels, Queen of the May!

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Marie Kondo and Me

Today was a huge day in my life. I Feng-Shui-ed the office!

This is Howard's and my shared office/studio in the back of the house.

Here is a Before picture. Yikes!

And from another angle. Double Yikes!

I had not planned this project for today. It is 80 degrees and sunny and it made no sense to be working inside. However in a way housework goes more easily on a beautiful day. You do not feel so discouraged.

While I worked I got on YouTube and listened to the audio version of that book Marie Kondo wrote on decluttering. I had heard it before. It sort of goes off the cliff when she talks about your possessions having thoughts and feelings. However it beats a few other videos I tried. I do not want to be told that people are happier without any possessions, which is what one video started pushing. And I do not want to be blamed as an ugly American for having too much. With me it is not a matter of keeping up with the Joneses. It has never been. I do not even know what the Joneses have nor do I care.

At least Marie Kondo is calm and she has a sense of humor. I would laugh at what the book was saying as I worked. 

Jeoffry took a liking to the garbage bag.

I did not get everything done that I wanted to get done because other rooms in the house got involved, also I had to go to choir. However I got done what I needed to get done for today. And it will continue tomorrow. 

Here are the After pictures. 

Notice my old pole lamp from when I was a kid. I really enjoy that lamp.

It is not perfect, I am not saying that. You will see I did not get to the huge pile of books because I had to run to choir and before that get in a sketch. However tomorrow is another day.

But what I did get done was magic to me. See the sun on the floor? I could not believe walking barefoot across that hardwood floor -- I had forgotten I had hardwood floors because there was so much stuff in the way. And sure, they are not professionally refinished or anything, but they feel beautiful under your feet, these warm boards. I do not even know if I want them refinished. It is like my old Steinway. I love my 1905 Steinway as is. This floor is beautiful and it feels great.

I am looking forward to tomorrow. I am afraid I am going to waste another beautiful day but still.

This feels great!

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Jeoffry Counteracting the Devil

 Jeoffry on the windowsill as twilight falls.

There is that line from "Pippin".. "Cats fit on the windowsill." We sang that song way back at Christ the King and I never forgot it.

Cats fit on the windowsill.

They do!

Haha, that picture looks so, ahem, urban. The curtain is like that because I bunch it up so it clears the part of the window that is open. 

I was not aware when Jeoffry slipped into the room and I did not hear him jump up onto the windowsill. I looked over and there he was and it was so cute I took the picture.

What do cats look at when they are on the windowsill? What do they see?

Here he is in the kitchen, looking out into the night.

That is explained in the poem "My Cat Jeoffry":

For he keeps the Lord's watch in the night against the adversary.

For he counteracts the powers of darkness by his electrical skin and glaring eyes.

For he counteracts the Devil, who is death, by brisking about the life.

The picture shows Jeoffry counteracting the powers of darkness.

And there is also this line:

For every house is incomplete without him and a blessing is lacking in the spirit.


Monday, May 9, 2022

The Great Northern Elevator in Graphite

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly to the Great Northern Elevator.

This particular grain elevator has been dodging bullets ever since a storm took off part of the covering over the elevators, I personally do not see how they can think of tearing this building down. After all on the Outer Harbor they have all this tourism arranged around our grain elevators, and this one is the oldest, the centerpiece, the jewel in the crown. However all I can do is hope for the best.

I have such a relationship with this old survivor. I have sat for hours on long hot summer days sketching it and studying it from various angles, from the Outer Harbor, from Ganson Street, and from points in between. One day last summer I was there on Ganson Street for hours, seeing trucks come and go, watching the progress of the sun across the gigantic structure. There is just something about this building that I love. I remember the first time I saw it, walking down Ganson Street from downtown when I was still with The Buffalo News. This huge thing appeared out of a mist -- it was a misty foggy day. And I said out loud, "What in the world?"

Long story short, today I went back today and I drew it in, ahem, graphite.

Why say pencil when you can say graphite?

I have been doing a little drawing recently in, ahem, graphite. Sometimes it's good to try something different. Drawing in ink all this time has been good for me because even when working in graphite, I never erase. I never think about erasing. I just dig in and draw.

You do kind of dig in when you are working in graphite. It has this texture. I realize I handle things differently. Starting the drawing feels different. With ink I usually start with one deliberate but delicate line. With the graphite I just hit it, hard and fast. It's a lot of fun.

Plus there is just something kind of viscerally satisfying in drawing an industrial scene in a medium that is more gritty and smudgy! Trucks and train cars kind of call out for that kind of thing.

You know what, I like this drawing. It is all smudgy on the right because I am right-handed, and I guess it is kind of rough. I sort of missed the detail I could have gotten in with the finer-tipped ink pen. However that's the game. The rules are different.

I noticed I worked faster. Guess what my favorite part of the drawing was? You're right! That truck in the middle!

It looks like a pig! That's what I thought when it pulled up. And I just laid it out in a few heavy strokes of that pencil. I was using some kind of soft pencil. My favorite brand, Artist's Loft. I had to sharpen it literally every two minutes. I think I used up half of it.

When I try this in charcoal, I think I will need bigger paper. I need to work big or else I will not be able to get in any detail, and you know me and detail.

This is going to be a good summer. 

I am thinking big!

Friday, March 18, 2022

How To Identify Birds, and the Bird I Saw Today

On lucky days I spot a new bird! Today was one of those days.

On my walk in Delaware Park I heard a bird call, a kind of low rumbling call, I never remember hearing. It is hard to describe bird calls and I do not know the correct terminology. However I was able to fix the call in my head so I would remember it.

Then I looked up into the tree I was passing hoping I could see the bird. This time of year, you do not have all the leaves in the way, so sometimes you can. And sure enough! I saw him!

He had a red head. The rest of him was gray. He was making that call and another bird was answering him from another tree.

I got home and found this great site, All About Birds.

They have a feature called Bird ID.  Oh, darn. I am trying to link to Bird ID and now it is demanding my email and stuff. A few minutes ago I was able to get around it somehow by Googling "Northeast US Bird With Red Head." And this site came up, and it let me do Bird ID.

They ask you questions such as, where were you when you saw the bird? Buffalo, N.Y., USA.

Where was the bird? On a beach, on the ground, at a feeder, in a tree? In a tree.

What colors were the bird? They let you choose two and I put "red and gray."

I discarded a few possibilities -- robin, scarlet finch -- because I know robins, duh, and for finch, the call was not right.

About the fourth bird down, though, I had a positive ID. The sound was "a churr, a kwirr." I listened to it to make sure.

It turns out what I saw was a Red-Bellied Woodpecker!

Triumphantly, I clicked a box that said, "Yes, that's my bird!"


I copied the picture from All About Birds and pasted it up above and now I am sitting here regarding it proudly.

A new addition to the mental aviary!

Saturday, March 12, 2022

Walking and Talking in Delaware Park

In Buffalo a walk is not a walk. It is an adventure! That is because in our town strangers talk to strangers.

When I go for a walk I do not always talk to everyone. Sometimes I am antisocial. However today is one of those days when I cannot shut up. I think it is because I am a little under-slept. When I could use more sleep, that is when I talk. And I keep talking! 

As soon as I walked into the park I spotted two people putting their skis into their car. I approached them and asked how the snow was for skiing. On account of I had thought about bringing my skis but I had worried the snow was too wet.

I was right as it turned out. "Terrible!" the woman said in answer to my question.

Then we all laughed about times when we had been stuck clumping around on our skis.

Subsequent conversations as I went on my way involved dogs, little kids and that Buffalo classic, the weather. A protester, an Indian guy, was on the pedestrian bridge over the Scajaquada. He was holding up a big sign and drivers kept honking at him. I hung out with him for a while, exchanging views and opinions on world events.

It was windy and when the wind blew, you could almost call it bitterly cold. So there were not many people out. I would venture to say that I ended up talking with most people I passed. 

In between I took some pictures, including the one up above. Is this Siberia? No, it's Buffalo!

David looked chilly standing there in his altogether.

Across the way Mozart had a powdered wig. I did not get to take a picture of that. It was actually not easy to take pictures because the bright light made it hard to see what you were getting in the shot.

The Great Gates of Kiev! I mean of Nottingham Parkway.

I love this iron fending they put up by the Miller Mansion.

And I love the lanterns you pass in the park.

Look at these vistas.

I am so lucky to live where I do!

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

The Mysterious 4 a.m. Chicken Dance

 Last night at 4 a.m., Howard and I were awakened by a car blaring the Chicken Dance.

As I put on Facebook that is something that could only happen in Buffalo! 

We even have a phrase for that. We say "That is so Buffalo." My friend Melinda and I did a story once with that headline and it included a million things that warrant you saying that.

Too bad this car blaring the Chicken Dance waited until now to happen, otherwise it could have been front and center in that story!

I am not sure if everyone knows about the Chicken Dance so for non-Buffalonians, it is a kind of polka that we do at weddings here in Buffalo. You have to flap your arms like a chicken flapping its wings.

I just found this video. It appears the Chicken Dance is big at Oktoberfest. Like many Buffalo things it is a German / Polish thing.

Anyway. 4 a.m., I awaken to this faint music. I think it is trickling from my or Howard's phone. These phones are always doing funny things.

But no. As I slowly regain consciousness, it gets louder and louder until it is earsplitting, right in front of the house. Like a window-rattling boom car, only it is the Chicken Dance. And then it begins to recede. And I realize it is a vehicle passing the house.

What in the world?

You almost had to laugh. Well, OK, you totally had to laugh. I laughed.

I said, "Howard, we need this, in these times."

Monday, March 7, 2022

A Visit to the American Mariner


The American Mariner has been wintering downtown at the Cheerios plant!

I saw it a few weeks ago and I went back yesterday after church to visit it. The Outer Harbor was dramatic and windy but you can tell spring is coming.

Geese were walking around on the ice.

This is a time of year I love. A few days ago I paused in running errands and I drew Channel 4.

It is still pretty cold out to do drawings outside. I had hopes yesterday when I went to the waterfront but it was so windy you just had to forget it.

However again, that is what I love about this time of year. Spring is just getting started.

The sky is the limit!

Wednesday, March 2, 2022

All of a Sudden, Lent

 I dread Lent. For years when I was a kind of cafeteria Catholic I did not think about it much, but now that I am in a traditional congregation, Lent looms large.

And today being Ash Wednesday, here it is!

The line for the confessional today before Mass, you should have seen it! And after Mass, too. It is hours later and I bet they are still there! 

Meanwhile there was all that beautiful and mournful Lenten music. At the end of Mass we sang the  "O Sacred Head Surrounded." That hymn always gets to me and afterward I was kneeling watching the crowded church empty (or more accurately get into the confession line). And one of my friends from the choir tapped me on the shoulder.

"Can I ask you a question?" she whispered. "The ashes, do you keep them on your face all day?"

I blinked. This is not a question you are used to. You just kind of grow up with this and you know what to do. Then I remembered that this one gal, she did not grow up Catholic.

"When do you wash them off?" she asked me.

I said, "Well, you usually keep them on all day, yes. You just wash them off when you wash your face at night." Then I thought about it. "Although I do not think it is a sin to wash them off. I just never thought about it."

Well, let me tell you this. I hope it is not a sin to wash them off. 

Because that is exactly what I did when I got home!

It was evening anyway, and wet snow was coming down, and I just got into the bathtub and took a hot bath and washed away those ashes. The Mass had been intense, as Ash Wednesday masses usually are, and I just felt it was time.

Not only that but my ashes this year looked really awful. They were like this charcoal blotch on my forehead. No cross, just this blotch. Having a cross on your forehead is one thing. Having just this blotch is another.

Hahaa.. I just found this chart.

Here I go making light of things however I got something between the Blob and the Hindu.

I understand that I have to be reminded that I am dust. However at least put a cross on my forehead, you know?

Oh, dear.

It is going to be one of those Lents!

Monday, January 3, 2022

Blue Skies, Shining on Me!

Nothing but blue skies do I see! 

What a surprise! After all these gray days.

I took a quick walk around Delaware Park and took pictures.

Is this the North Pole? No, it's Buffalo!

I like the above view because of the little red building.

It was just such a beautiful day.

The park was almost empty but a few people were cross-country skiing. I should have toted my skis from across the street. The only problem is, you never know if it is quite right for skiing. When I got to the park I could see the conditions were good. However normally you just do not know. Just a few degrees up and down can make a difference.

Plus sometimes it is just nice to walk and take the air.

So beautiful. 

So blue!!

Sunday, January 2, 2022

My New Year Behind the Eight Ball

I feel behind the eight ball in the first days of 2022. However it is not my fault.

The holidays have been crazy this year!

We had this situation with Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve falling on Fridays. Christmas Day and New Year's Day then are on Saturday.

Then you have Sunday. That means that for two weeks in a row there was early Mass two days in a row. I kept forgetting what day it was, as well. Today is Sunday and yesterday I kept worrying I would forget to go to church. On account of I had just been to Mass on Saturday morning, New Year's Day.

I admit, I did not do Christmas morning Mass. I did Midnight Mass which in our church really does start at midnight. It is surreal. At 1:15 a.m. you are up in this choir loft singing Mozart's "Jubilate Deo." So as far as Christmas morning mass at 9 a.m., other people in the choir did it, God love them. But me, I did not see that happening and it did not.

However I did do New Year's Day, aka the Solemnity of Mary. That is a dramatic day at Mass in that so many people who show up have been out partying. I was one of those people! I was out to a party. At one point I paused in my reveling to take the picture up above. End result, as we say here in Buffalo, I had to send word the next morning that I would not make the 8 a.m. rehearsal. Then I got a move on and hoped for the best. 

As I am getting near the church I see an electronic clock that said 9:04. Could my car's clock be that far off? Obviously I was very late. 

As I was parking the car I saw the procession. The priest and his entourage were leaving the sacristy and parading toward the front doors of the church. 

I grabbed my music and went flying!

As the procession was going up the center aisle, I was going up the stairs to the choir loft. I got there just as the organ was sounding the first notes of "Adeste Fideles." I stood behind the kids' choir and I was on time for the very first line.

A New Year's miracle! But then this morning I had to do it all over again. A snowstorm was predicted... aiiiiieee! However it ended up not being bad where I live. I was on time for rehearsal. 

This was like hazing! I was joking about that before mass.

However it does take you out of your normal life for a few weeks.

That can be a good thing!