Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Delaware Park in the dark

We have a little heat wave going here in October in Buffalo. It reminds me of other Octobers that were very warm. It happens!

But after tonight the temps are supposed to fall into, well, fall. Big time.

With which, tonight I took the Huffy Harvard Limited on what might be its last spin this year -- although, who knows. I pedaled aimlessly around North Buffalo a bit and then, when it was getting dark, I swung twice around the Ring Road of Delaware Park.

It is a kick to go into Delaware Park in the last warm days. Last night I went walking around and even after it was dark, I mean really dark, the park was still full of people. It was as if it were 3 p.m. Kids were zooming past on scooters. Families were camped on the lawn. The basketball courts and the exercise area continued to play host to nonstop action. Speed bicyclists were racing around the park with their helmets and strobe lights. Those bicyclists are kind of annoying, you know? But still.

Fun to see everyone there! I took that picture above, by the way, when the sun was going down. I hate to see that evening sun go down!

Tonight was the second night and I did not stick around quite as long, but the place was jumping as it was last night. There is a kind of desperation in the air now because here it is 80 degrees but tomorrow, so they say anyway, will be different. Motorists were extra obnoxious. Radios were loud. Motorcycles were roaring around by the million. It was enough to make you think ....

.... almost enough to make you think....

.... maybe it is time for fall, after all.

No. I did not say that.

But almost.

Monday, October 8, 2018

A poisonous prompt for #Inktober

Today we went for another family picnic. This is in the grove we went to when we were kids at Emery Park. It was a beautiful day! I took the above picture while we were playing croquet.

Every time we go for a picnic we get a little bit better at it. Today we were more in order with our dishes and our tablecloths. The food was great. My sister made a salad with all kinds of good stuff and I made a red cabbage salad with walnuts and cheese and my brother George grilled pork loin and hot dogs. I brought Fuji apples I had scavenged and my sister Katie and brother-in-law David brought mushrooms they had scavenged. They are great at mushroom foraging and brought wonderful mushrooms that we threw on the grill.

I told David about these alarming orange mushrooms I saw in Delaware Park this morning.

I asked him if they were poisonous and sure enough, my instincts were right. Those are Jack-O-Lantern mushrooms, David said, and they are deadly!

That settles it. I will have to ink a picture of them. The first #Inktober prompt was "Poisonous." I have not been going with the prompts because -- well, because of that first prompt. I could not quite come up with a good picture to go with it. I had planned to head over to Hertel Avenue to draw a picture of 5 Venoms, a tattoo shop. But it rained and I could not go.

I do believe I took a picture.

But it was out of my car because it was raining. And I have a rule to draw my pictures in person as opposed to from a photograph. I have to impose rules because I am German. One rule I have imposed is that one. Another is that I cannot draw the picture in pencil first. I must wing it.

My third rule for #Inktober was to take as my theme "Look in your own back yard." Everything I have drawn so far has been in my immediate neighborhood.

But today I might have to cheat because I was away at the picnic. I did a picture at Emery Park and I will have to use that. Perhaps I can amend that rule. I can draw something in the course of my normal life. I happened to be in Emery Park so I drew a picture there.

Tomorrow perhaps I will return to those orange mushrooms and give them a shot. It is not too late to catch up with a few of the prompts. 

Here is a hilarious article about a legend that says the Jack-O-Lantern mushrooms glow in the dark. That totally settles it. 

They must be sketched.

For #Inktober!

Sunday, October 7, 2018

'That old-fashioned fruit that is so hard to find'

Today at church before we went in for Mass in honor of the Feast of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, also known as Our Lady of Victory, my friend Joe presented me with a little paper bag. Inside was something I had never tasted.


"I have a flowering quince tree," Joe explained, almost apologetically.

He said he was not quite sure what could be done with quince other than jam, because you hear of quince jam or jelly but nothing else.

You cannot eat quince raw! That was what Joe told me.

But I was hardly listening. All I could picture was a flowering quince tree, as in the picture above. Joe is always bringing us treasures from his gardens and now there was this too.

"Joe," I said. "It sounds as if you live in paradise."

Which he emphatically told me was not true, but I do not believe him.

Now there is the matter of what to do with the quince. There is not that much of it, maybe a couple of pounds. I would like to make some manner of jam and present Joe with a jar of it. Or make something with it to bring to our coffee hour. Perhaps a 16th Century Quince Pie.

Oh, look! Kitchn calls it "that old-fashioned fruit that is so hard to find."

Me, all I can think of is Edward Lear's "The Owl and the Pussy-Cat."

After the owl and the pussy-cat got married, they "dined on mince and slices of quince, which they ate with a runcible spoon."

When I bring my quince pie to coffee hour, I will have to remember a runcible spoon.

You have to do these things by the book!

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Ink-stained wretch

I am three days into Inktober. The door up above was for Day One.

They give you prompts for Inktober and the prompt for Day One, Oct. 1, was "poisonous." I love the idea of following the prompts but life got in the way. It rained and there went my plan to walk to Hertel Avenue and sketch the 5 Venoms Tattoo Studio which was my plan on how to deal with "poisonous." But the rain did not let up till later so I dashed across the street to the zoo and drew this door.

I feel so blessed to live across the street from a Victorian-era zoo! That is how I described it on Instagram. The zoo brass keeps trying to obliterate all historic elements but a few have escaped and this door is one. Howard and I have long admired it.

"Who would be authorized to open that door?" Howard marveled on one occasion.

They suggest that you take a theme for Inktober and mine is Look In Your Own Backyard. I love finding seasonal Inktober-ish stuff looking out my back door.

I realize, as I mentioned, that I am blessed. I have this zoo right on hand, and Delaware Park, and right next door one of the nation's great cemeteries, Forest Lawn, complete with the grave of a U.S. president. Today I sketched the statue of Mozart in the park. I will have to post it.

Imagine how good I will be at the end of October.

I hope so, anyway!

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Prepping for Inktober

I want to do Inktober this year. It is a 30-day art challenge and all you have to do is draw in ink.

That could even be a ballpoint pen!

Of course I do like to complicate things. That is why my Leonard Pennario book project has taken me 10 years and also why I am drawn toward those fine inks from Germany pictured above. Drawn to the inks, get it? Ahem.

Also I had to go complicate things by getting a sheaf of colored inks and I would like to try painting with them. At the same time, though, I like that ink can be simple. Plus I love how ink goes with October. Way back in '08 I celebrated October by telling tales of the supernatural ever day.

Yikes, that was 10 years ago!

It is high time I did that again!

Along with Inktober. I can post my pictures too.

Anyway today, downtown, we sold out our donuts in only half an hour or so, and I had extra time, so I biked by Forest Lawn and began prepping for Inktober. I drew mausoleums and statues.

Ink might be simple but it is a challenge in that I did not let myself use pencil. I have to learn to wing it. I used a narrow little drawing pen.

I drew these things.

That was a stone mausoleum and on the right is this statue which I believe is called Aspiration. Forest Lawn is kind of strange like that, you find statues to things like Aspiration.

Aspiration was a doozy to draw. It got discouraging because when I get to work in pencil and erase, I am capable of better stuff. Several times drawing in ink I almost gave up. But I made myself keep going.

I did not want to take forever on any one thing because I have all kinds of work to do. So after a little while I turned the page and began again.

And again.

Technically these are not much better. The picture on the right, I almost ripped the page out in disgust. But I kept going.

And now, you know what, I like it!

I got home and first thing I did was get out my sketchbook and look things over. Funny thing, at the cemetery I had felt like a loser because I was thinking everything I had done was kind of a failure. Then I saw that picture and thought, I have something going on with this one.

This picture, I kind of liked it. I liked its swirls and its long lines and the weird look on Aspiration's face.

Clearly Aspiration was thinking, What in the world?

This picture was one percent Aspiration and 99 percent perspiration.

Perfect for Inktober.

This will be fun!

Monday, September 10, 2018

The secrets of the garden

You know what is almost as much fun as identifying mystery birds?

Identifying mystery trees!

Through what amounts to a supernatural act of God, the back yard is being cleaned out. We are cutting back some trees to encourage others. A tree that has pressed against the garage roof forever is now ausgegangen. That is German for "outta here"! My dad used to use it frequently.

The apple tree is being rehabilitated. Remember the apple tree? It has been so hopeless for so long. Now things are different. Dead branches are ausgegangen and so is a vine that it turns out was choking it and depriving it of sun. It will produce apples again!

Honest, it is like "The Secret Garden." And my name is Mary! Just like in the book. Plus, I have the book. And I have the coloring book. It is only fitting that now I have the garden too.

Speaking of Victorian literature, one thing we have found is Hibiscus Syriacus "Blue Bird," or "Oiseau Bleu" if you are feeling French.

Not only one but two of them!

This flowering shrub, which I worked hard to identify, was popular in Victorian gardens. Tomorrow when it is light I will post a picture of the real thing. Meanwhile there is this.

I cannot wait to tell my friend Ari because we always used to joke about the Hibiscus Room. I cannot remember exactly where or what the Hibiscus Room was because the entire joke was that Ari would say, "The Hibiscus Room," and I would laugh.

Now my back yard can be the Hibiscus Room.

I am on my way!

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Like a Bos

You know how people ask you, "And what did you get out of Mass today?"

Today I have an answer!

Sleepy as I was, and preoccupied with the coffee hour as I was, nevertheless this Mass taught me something I will never forget.

In the Gospel today there is something about a cow. And the Latin word for cow is "bos."

I gazed at that word charmed.


That explains "bovine."

And even better, it explains "Bossy."

That is why people have historically named their cows Bossy!

Remember the bossy Lutherans and the bossy estate sale people? "Bos" does not explain them. Nothing can explain them! But cows named Bossy, the Latin word has to be the reason.

It has to be!!

Naturally I could not wait to share this observation -- or should we say rumination -- with a couple of my fellow choristers up in the organ loft. A few minutes later I felt terrible. Here I am diverting their attention from the Gospel. What is it in me that makes me want to disturb people's devotions?

But still, Bos.

They will remember it.

They will thank me!

Thursday, August 23, 2018

A day of croquet

The other night our family had a picnic. My brother Tony brought a croquet set and after dining in the open air, we played croquet. That is us up above, enjoying our sport. My brother Tony is at left.

Fooled you! Actually this is us.

From left to right you are seeing my brother Tony, my nephew Georgie, my niece Barb, and Tony's friend Jacquie. You may wonder at Tony's look of grave concentration! It was his job to instruct us all as to the rules and keep the game moving. Not easy!

If you could not see the wickets in the picture we could not either. But that is part of the challenge of croquet.

We used to play croquet years ago in our family. We went to Emory Park in East Aurora, to the exact same location shown in the picture, and would play croquet as the sun was going down. We would play until it was too dark to see.

Once Tony, who was about 12 then, missed a shot and he threw his mallet into the air in frustration. My dad filmed it on this camera he had and he would play it in when we had Home Movie night. Then he would play it in reverse so you could see the mallet airborne, then returning to Tony's hand. Ha, ha! Tony tells the story hilariously.

Now, I will tell you this, I can understand his frustration.

There is nothing like whacking that ball toward the wicket and it just grazes it and rolls off into an utterly inconvenient direction. The other day that kept happening to me.

I lost that game fair and square!

I put the "croke" in croquet!

But I am looking forward to next time. And there will be a next time. This is the second family picnic we have had and everyone is psyched for another.

I will be working on my game.

No more sticky wickets!

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

My encounter with Aretha Franklin

I was sad to hear a few days ago of the passing of Aretha Franklin. She died so young. And it gets me on a personal level, because of the time my path crossed hers.

It was a unique encounter! The saga began with a phone interview I did for The Buffalo News.

This particular call was an accident. Our pop music critic, Jeff Miers, happened to be on vacation when Aretha's publicist called offering the interview. We did not want to say no to an interview with Aretha Franklin, seeing that she lived in Buffalo as a girl. So I stepped up to the plate. I put myself through a quick crash course on her career -- I was an expert on Leonard Pennario, not on Aretha Franklin -- and then the diva and I spoke.

Here is the interview I did. Reading back on the interview I smiled remembering how when I mentioned I played the piano, and began asking her about her own playing, she seemed to relax and brighten. Pianists love to talk to other pianists!

But the real fun began afterwards.

It was right as I was telling her goodbye -- isn't it funny how that is when people come out with stuff? Aretha began talking about the friends she had as a little girl in Buffalo.

She wondered if I could help her get in touch with this family. And so I did. First I put together a story, a kind of shout-out to them. Blassingame, the name was.

Subsequently I was able to get a hold of Wayne Blassingame on Facebook. We had a bunch of friends in common and so I was able to message him. Aretha had remembered him as the baby of the family. She had been sort of sweet on his older brother, Gordon.

Aretha came to town and as you can see in The News' photos, was delighted that she was able to meet Wayne, who still lives in Buffalo and, may I add, is still my Facebook friend. Meanwhile, I got to talk with Gordon Blassingame.

We ran that story under the subtle title, "Aretha Franklin's Childhood Crush Tells All." I believe I wrote that headline.

The whole experience really touched me. You could tell Aretha was taking stock of her life. You could tell she was looking back wondering what things might have been like if her life had been different. This boy Gordon Blassingame -- well, he was now, like her, in his 70s -- she had tried to reconnect with him a couple of times in his single days, after their paths separated. Once, when she showed up looking for him in a limo, he was out of town.

He struck me as a salt-of-the-earth guy, the kind of man every girl would be lucky to marry. He had been in the military, joining the Marines. Then he had settled down to a job in public transit, and retired with what I imagine must be a good pension. He had been married to his wife for 41 years and hoped to top his parents' record of 50 years of marriage. He chuckled that he and his wife joked about Aretha from time to time, affectionately.

No wonder Aretha had seen something in him. A celebrity's life can be lonely and I bet you wish for that kind of normalcy, for a good faithful man to stand between you and the world.

My Aretha Franklin story did not end when her concert did.

A few days later, this gigantic bouquet of flowers arrived at work. That is the bouquet in the picture at the top! Howard found it. The flowers were from Aretha, with a note thanking me for helping her reconnect with her friends.

I think we did an email back-and-forth after that. I know I wrote her to thank her, and she mentioned to me that when she next came to Buffalo maybe I could give her a tour of The Buffalo News. Which, we all would have loved that. But she did not come back here, at least not that she knew. She did come back from time to time, we heard, to visit her mother's grave in Forest Lawn.

It got so I liked to go to Forest Lawn too! Too bad we never realized we had that in common.

I sort of thought I would get to meet her one day. She had invited me to say hello at Artpark, but I think I had to be at the Philharmonic or someplace. Plus I learned a long time ago not really to listen when artists invite you to meet them backstage. Who needs another stranger backstage, you know? And those situations do not bring out the best in me.

I still cannot actually name one Aretha Franklin song aside from "R-E-S-P-E-C-T." But I began jokingly to think of her as my buddy. My buddy, Aretha. I said a prayer for her when, in the car, I heard she had died. We should all say our prayers for Aretha Franklin, pray that she makes it to heaven. I have a feeling she will.

She was more than the Queen of Soul.

She was a gracious lady.

Monday, August 13, 2018

The Sunday baking report

One reason I went for that bike ride yesterday was that I was relaxing after my church coffee hour baking.

It is hard to believe I have been baking for the coffee hour for two years now. Two and a half years! What is really funny is I still get a real kick out of it.

Yesterday my theme was, I was baking out of a cookbook called "Breakfast at Nine, Tea at Four." It is put out by, ahem, the Mainstay Inn in Cape May, New Jersey.

With us it is more like, Mass at Nine, Coffee Hour at Ten Fifteen. But it is all good. I made Orange Kuchen and Blueberry Breakfast Cake, both from that cookbook. They were part of a larger buffet that also included banana bread, corn bread, eggs with sausage and veggies ...

... and my trademark Jackson Pollack coffee wreath pictured way up above. This week I made a chocolate filling.

Also on the groaning board were Lizzie's brownies and yummy zucchini bread, and watermelon that our friends Bill and Margaret bought. That is life at St. Anthony of Padua's Latin Mass! Every week is like Babette's Feast. Other people bring stuff, too. We do love to eat.

Yesterday to the pleasant surprise of Team Coffee, the turnout was great even though it was a summer day and our Latin Mass Picnic was last week so you would have thought people would have had enough of each other for the time being.

We went through almost all the food!

And my friend Alenka who is from London praised in particular the Orange Kuchen. Alenka does not care for cinnamon and deplores that here in America it is everywhere. And so I had subbed in allspice for cinnamon in the recipe, all on account of her.

I was particularly proud of the eggs because they were a last minute sub for something that, uncharacteristic for me, had not worked out. I threw this dish together and prayed it would bake fast enough to get me to the church on time, as the song goes.

My prayers were answered! I was on time! Well, almost on time. The priest and the altar boys ...

... made it in just before I did, darn. I had to stand back.

But still. Such fun, you know? Sometimes at Mass it is hard for me to keep my mind on the prayers because I am thinking about the food.

I am not Mary, I find myself thinking on those occasions.

I am Martha!