Tuesday, November 12, 2019

A walk into winter

Today I was getting over a migraine brought on by recent dental derring-do. It was really no big deal, I had this deep cleaning, pretty much describes it. I get migraines in response to anything. They are not terrible migraines. They do not put me out of business.

Still I would rather be without them, you know? And so today I went for a walk in the park.

This walk in the park was no walk in the park!

It started out nice and sunny. I loved it. I slipped back my hood and got me some Vitamin D. There was a smoky aroma in the air. I could not remember when I had enjoyed a walk so much. Blissing out, I took the picture up above.

And this picture, of Ashker's in the Park all shuttered for the season.

This was in contrast to my summer sketch of Ashker's in the Park ...

...  that led in a roundabout way to my show going on now at Ashker's on Elmwood.

I loved doing that drawing, sitting on a tree stump on a summer day. But I love winter too. I love the stillness, the snow. Thinking thoughts like this I rounded the corner by the bathrooms and continued counter-clockwise parallel to the expressway.

That was about when things began to go south. I mean north! Because it got colder and windier. The sun was still out but somehow it was not hitting me.

I worried I would slip on black ice. Trying to walk in the snow to avoid that I got snow in my boots. Yikes and zut alors!

I struggled on. This being Buffalo I kept passing a bicyclist. Of course people were bicycling in the park, you know? You have to love this town. The thought made me smile as I entered the home stretch. Finally, finally. With the end in sight, I began enjoying myself again. The view really was stunning. I mean, if you showed someone this picture ...

... and said you took it in Greenland, that person would believe you.

The bison did not care what kind of day it was.

Watch that ice!

And a picture of the walkway because I love this view and take pictures of it in all seasons. And this being winter there were no cars ruining the view.

Wow, look at this gallery! Pushing a button on my camera is a lot easier than drawing, I will tell you that right now! And one other thing, my head had stopped aching.

A winter walk will work miracles! And when you get home you can have brandy.

That makes it even better!

Monday, November 11, 2019

The first snow

Today is the first snow and we are supposed to get several inches before tomorrow morning. Luckily it is ending about 6 a.m. and then we can plow out.

I always have great sympathy with people who have to get out and go somewhere because so often that has been me! I come from a family of teachers and when a snowstorm blows in, they are all la la la la la la la, because if it gets bad, odds are they will have off, and they can sit around and make snowmen and bake cookies.

Not me! I always had to get to work and even now I have to do work related things a lot. And I have to get to church for various things too. There is always something. Reminds me, I am fascinated by that song, "Let it Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow." I did a Let it Snow Christmas card, with a sketch I did of Hertel Avenue digging out after a storm.

But the lyrics, they have little in common with my life. Granted I think too much. But a few days ago I heard ...

It doesn't show signs of stopping
But I've bought some corn for popping...
The lamps are turned way down low..
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

And I was thinking: I cannot imagine a set of circumstances where I could just say, let it snow, let it snow. There is always something! If not tonight then next morning. Or next afternoon. You would have to be on vacation or something.


I am very lucky in that Howard is out getting the plow in order. He took that picture at the top of the plow, deployed just today, and my old Crown Vic next to it. Howard drives the Vic now.

I am sentimental about the Vic because Leonard Pennario rode in it and so did my mom. But the Vic is terrible in snow and looking at it I remembered terrible times in it. Such as once when I was coming home from The Buffalo News in a snowstorm. I was driving the Vic over the bridge on Michigan Street right by Scott Street and I was stuck in traffic and all I could think was, I am going to slide all the way down this bridge hitting all these cars.


So what I did was, I called Howard from the top of the bridge. As if that was going to do any good! But somehow I think it did. He calmed me down and then miraculously the Vic did not slide. Things went OK and I made it home ... hours later, but I got there. That was not a long time ago. That was pretty recent. It was funny, I was thinking: This is the worst snow drive of my life. And that included the time I was driving home from the Niagara Gazette and did a donut on the Robert Moses.

Ah, the memories.

The memories that a first snow brings!

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

The sketch calendar

Fast away the old year passes! Hail the new, ye lads and lasses!

Also hail my first calendar!

I love calendars and planners as I have surely written about before. I keep a bullet journal. And I thought it would be fun to fit some of my sketches onto calendar month cards.

Hilarious experience putting it together. When I thought everything was in the bag I realized that in three different months, the days were off. Then I kept going back and forth about type faces. There are all these details you never think of.

Luckily having worked for years as a newspaper writer I have all kinds of safeguards in place. You learn to check everything out of necessity.

Here are some of the months lined up like the Rockettes.

The calendar posing on my desk.

Flush with success I added the calendar to the products at BuffaloDonut.com. I also put it in our Etsy store, Buffalo Donut.

May I take this opportunity to say I cannot believe how the year has flown. I cannot believe we are looking at 2020.

Here we are back in Eastern Standard Time, plunged into darkness! And we have already passed All Saints Day and All Souls Day. I heard a priest at church say once that at this time of year, the readings at Mass all turn to matters pertaining to the end of the world. It is a time of year that I confess, I love.

But it all goes so fast!

I will be using my new calendar before I know it!

Sunday, November 3, 2019

My first art show

Yesterday I celebrated the opening of my first art show. It was a life experience.

That is how I keep describing it. It is true! The show is on till the end of the month. That is right, the show must go on! Meanwhile we opened it last night with style.

People are so nice. I keep thinking that. Friends I had no idea would show up showed up. My friend Gary held a party for me after it. Strangers came in off the street.

These were all pictures I had drawn in the last year. It started in Inktober when I discovered how much I loved going out and drawing from life in pen and ink. Now the walls of Ashker's, this beautiful coffee shop on Elmwood Avenue, were covered with my drawings.

The show itself made me realize how much work goes on behind the scenes in the art world the same as in every other world. At The Buffalo News we would joke about how actual writing was only about 10 percent of our job, if that. The rest was ... oh, returning phone calls, making phone calls, getting sources to talk to you, schmoozing people so they would tell you what you needed to know, keeping your calendar in order, fact-checking yourself, thinking up new ideas, going to meetings, it never ended.

So it is in art too. I do not even want to talk about the work that led up to this. But it had to be, you know? I read that Leonard Bernstein said that the secret to success was "a great idea, and not quite enough time to do it."

Nothing gets done without a deadline!

Look at Mozart. They had to lock him up to get him to finish "The Magic Flute." If they had not locked him into a hut someone else would have had to finish it.

Anyway. I had my deadline and I worked. To steady my nerves I listened to "Die Meistersinger," this production I found on YouTube with Berndt Weikl and Siegfried Jerusalem.  Then on Friday I went in to Ashker's and the curator, Julia, and I put the show together.

All day we worked, getting pictures up on the walls, and there are a lot of pictures, because I do a lot of drawing. Finally in the late afternoon I left and scooted downtown to get to Mass for All Saints' Day. Of course it was a holy day!

The actual day itself was more stressful than my wedding day. I was in a complete daze. At church today I had trouble praying because I kept thinking about stupid things I had said, duh. But people were great and I got through it. Everything worked out great and I feel exhilarated now that the opening is over and went so well.

The, ahem, art will be on the walls until the end of November. You will have to go and see it if you are curious because I have discovered that the picture mechanism on this Web log is not working for now. No pictures, for now.

But they are at Ashker's, 1002 Elmwood Ave.

On the wall!

Monday, October 14, 2019

The Bosch, the gift that keeps on giving

It is funny how one thing you do in your house can lead to a chain reaction.

A few weeks ago, remember, the Bosch stove kicked once too many times and I kicked it out. Now I have that no-frills white stove with not so much as a clock. It is a pleasure to cook on this new stove, I will tell you that. No worries! However, also, no clock.

It is weird not having a clock. Not until you do not have one do you realize how often you looked at it. I keep glancing over and over at this blank white stove.

Finally this morning I said to Howard that we should keep an eye out for a kitchen clock. And he came downstairs with a never-opened clock radio. This is the kind of life we lead! This is why it is fun to be us.

We situated the clock radio in the hall outside the kitchen door on the radiator where it replaced the boom box. Now the boom box had to go somewhere.

The boom box is also a CD player but downstairs we never played CDs, only records. I thought: I should put it upstairs in my, ahem, studio. I do not spend much time in the studio actually drawing because I like to be out drawing on location. But it is there for when I need it to do technical stuff, mostly. Like photograph my creations for Etsy or BuffaloDonut.com.

And when I do that, I thought, it might be nice to have music sometimes.

Optimally I would like to have a record player but the CD player could do until the real thing comes along. I have all these CDs basically doing nothing. I have pared my collection way back but held on to some things I love, Lieder and Leonard Pennario and whatnot.

So I put the boom box in this dresser in the studio. Before I did that I had to do some cleaning. See that picture at the top of the post? Things do not look like that any more!

Next, to plug in the boom box I needed to perform some electrical derring-do involving the power strip. Nothing serious, I just had to move it and straighten out some cords and whatnot.

Finally when I got things straightened out I took a fresh look at this weird '70s pole lamp standing next to the dresser. It had been mine when I was a kid, I mean, my parents had assigned it to me and my sisters. Somehow I had inherited it and it had made its way to this room and had just been standing there because the cord did not reach to any plug socket.

Now, with a little more derring-do, it did! The studio needed more light. It was worth a try. I plugged it in, and -- it lit!

There was that smell of when you plug something in that has not been plugged in in decades.

Happy in the new light, I grabbed a CD, which turned out to be Schubert's "Die Schoene Muellerin." When I was just grabbing a CD the odds are good it will be "Die Schoene Muellerin" because I have a million recordings of it. This one was by the excellent baritone Christopheren Nomura. In the bright light of the pole lamp, I snapped it into the boom box and hit "play."


That's better!

And people thought I would regret getting rid of that Bosch.


Wednesday, October 2, 2019

My Guardian Angel and me

This evening I went to Mass. I had a feeling I should go to this daily Latin Low Mass we have at St. Anthony's because today is the Feast of the Holy Guardian Angels. I thought I should go on account of my Guardian Angel who does so much for me.

It is a complicated situation, the Guardian Angels, and I admit there are things I do not quite understand. However it is in Scripture, that we have a guardian angel. And I know I keep mine working overtime.

Why did I get her? That is what he is thinking. Or she. I am afraid do not have my theology straight on this. Do angels have genders? They must, because think of St. Michael the Archangel. It was just his feast day on Sunday.

This Guardian Angel appears to be a woman. This is by a 17th century Italian painter who surely knew what he was doing.

The picture at the top of this post, by another Renaissance painter, also shows a female angel with a child.

Not to show disrespect to these august masters, but it is easy to portray a guardian angel guarding a child. What about guarding a grown-up?

Why do I always picture a guardian angel as a male being, guarding an adult? These paintings to be honest took me by surprise.

Does Howard have a guardian angel? That is another thing to think about.

Do you have to be Catholic to have a guardian angel?

If so then I would suggest everyone become Catholic right away because who would say no to an angel by your side? All other things being equal?

On the way home while I was pondering all this, I turned on the radio and WNED was playing Saint-Saens' "The Swan." This beautiful, peaceful music. I drove by the Peace Bridge blissed out.

Then I thought: Is my guardian angel enjoying this music?

Can he or she hear music? I imagine yes, because angels are always observing your life and what you say and do.

But this music, beautiful as it sounds to me, must be like nothing to the angel who is used to heavenly music.

Imagine what my guardian angel thinks when I listen to some really dumb song as is sometimes my wont.

I wonder if my guardian angel talks to other guardian angels. When I was in California with Leonard Pennario I wonder if Pennario's guardian angel communicated with mine.

While I was on this topic I asked my guardian angel to pray that I am able to complete my book on Leonard Pennario and mastermind the publishing.

La la la la la la la.

This is why you should not spend too much time by yourself. If you have other people in the car you are not pondering this stuff.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Think ink -- it's Inktober

Yesterday I realized that today would be Inktober. Inktober is this art challenge that demands that you do an ink drawing every day in October. It can be anything! It can just be your cup of coffee. Just do it.

Then ideally you post it on Instagram and slug it #Inktober.

I did Inktober last year. I never imagined how it would change my life. The first day, I went out in the evening, and I drew one of the doors at the Buffalo Zoo which is pretty much across the street. Then I went home with it and took a brush to it and tried to ink in the shadows I had seen. Then I sat there at the dining room table and looked at it.

I loved it!

I still like this drawing, the drawing of the zoo door. Actually I did two, on facing pages. The one on the left was the one I brushed up and the one on the right was there because ... You know what, I forgot why I did two. But it is still something I do a lot, do one drawing and then another of the same thing, right away. You flip the page and start over. On account of you never know.

They give you prompts for Inktober but the prompts are optional, and though I thought about using them -- I wanted to use them -- I could not get it down to a good system. The first prompt was "Poisonous," and I was going to draw the Five Venoms Tattoo studio over on Hertel Avenue. But the plans hit a hurdle. I think it was raining or something, or I could not get a good vantage point on Five Venoms. It was a great idea but alas. All of a sudden you miss that day and it is the next day with a new prompt and you are behind.

So I adopted a theme of my neighborhood. Everything I drew had to be within walking distance, or a very quick bike ride. My neighborhood is amazing for Inktober's inky themes. I am unbelievably set up. I mean, within walking distance I have a Victorian zoo; the Hertel Avenue strip; and a world-class historic cemetery (Forest Lawn) complete with the grave of a U.S. president (Millard Fillmore).

What else? I can walk easily to statues of Mozart, Lincoln, the Indian Scout, and the Centaur. The History Museum is practically down the street. And the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, including whatever wacky sculptures they choose to plunk down in their front yard. I can walk to the old Pierce-Arrow motor car company factory, and various other ancient industrial sites, things I love drawing more than anything. We have the greatest water towers, the best old factories, atmospheric old alleys -- I ever drew Kmart and found it terrific material.

Which makes me think: I do believe I will continue to explore my neighborhood this year.

I did a lot of drawing on Elmwood today because the owners of Neo Gift Studio, the beautiful gift shop on Elmwood that I am honored to say carries my note cards, requested an Elmwood set. And I love drawing on Elmwood, love it. There is so much life and the buildings are so quirky. Elmwood would give me a lot of material this year I did not explore last year. And there are other options even closer to my doorstep. Such as: The Gates To Nowhere, the Monster House, and the Secret Staircase. Those are all ideas that occurred to me as Inktober approached. As I said, I live in a great neighborhood in a great city.

Who knows what tomorrow will bring?

Monday, September 30, 2019

When flowers find you

Yesterday before Mass I took a peek at The Buffalo News because we were having no coffee hour on this particular day and so I could take a minute to breathe.

There was this story by my friend Susan Martin about what decorators advised for your home. Decorators, I love that idea. People used to have decorators back in the 1960s. Leonard Pennario had a decorator. Everyone did.

But anyway. One decorator said there was nothing like fresh flowers to make your house feel beautiful.

As I may have mentioned I have been cleaning the house and tidying it hoping that it makes my life less chaotic and I can reach all of my goals with no exceptions. I thought hmmm. The roses are blooming outside! And/or maybe I should go out and buy some flowers.


Flowers found me!

After Mass, there being no coffee hour, I asked my friend Meghan who sings with me in the choir if she wanted to go grab coffee. Which she did. We went to the Public at the Hotel Lafayette where we enjoyed coffee and yummy sausage sandwiches.

And as we were dining, this woman came up and offered us flowers!

They were her bridal centerpieces. She had just been married the night before at the Lafayette. Her husband was with her.

I told her best wishes on her wedding being that my mother told me to say best wishes to the bride and congratulations to the groom. And Meghan and I gladly accepted the centerpieces! Here is Meghan with the flowers. The bride is in the background. Her husband is to the left, I do believe. And in the background is a table full of guys who were accompanied by a big white poodle dog. I should have gotten the dog in the picture. The guys also accepted flowers!

Thank you, newly married gal!

I went home and the flowers went well in my dining room. I should post a picture but I would like to do a little more cleaning up first.

For now at the top of the post I put up a sketch I was doing not long ago at the Botanical Gardens. I pompously signed it even though I was not done with it. I was also with Meghan, now that I think of it, on that occasion. She is my sketching buddy. But more importantly...

She is the flower child!

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Sylvia, the '80s, and me

I have been tidying the house because it is this nightmare. And today this old datebook washed up on the tides. It is "The 1988 Sylvia Book of Days."

Sylvia was this cartoon to which my roommates and I had a deep devotion back in the day. Awfully feminist, awfully funny. The cartoonist who wrote the comic strip, Nicole Hollander, is 80 now, how about that? I just had to look it up.

I should write an, ahem, essay about this and get it published somewhere, but I am too lazy and I have other things to write and do. Speaking of which, the things I wrote and did while I was using this datebook, just looking at the notes I made of them takes me back to this crazy era of my life.

What was I, 25? I turned 26 during the course of this book. I do remember though that I carried the book around with me long after that, because I had a lot of notes and phone numbers in it. The list of phone numbers made me kind of teary. My Uncle Bob was on it. I miss my Uncle Bob. Robert Junior Lockwood was on the list too, God rest his soul. He was a bluesman my friends and I were friends with. We went to Cleveland and stayed at his house.

The notes show me freelancing for the Niagara Gazette. I recognized my questions for John Lennon's sister, who was one of the people I interviewed. Some of the interviews I totally forgot. On Monday, Oct. 24, I had a note to interview Maria Irene Fornes at the Lenox Hotel. Who was Maria Irene Fornes? I had no recollection so I Googled it and she is a lesbian Cuban playwright. 

How boho is that, interviewing this Cuban playwright at the Lenox Hotel? Surely we spoke of many things. I kind of remember going to the Lenox Hotel for something, you know? But beyond that, it is a mystery.

The Niagara Gazette hired me near the end of that tattered year. My tryout was Oct. 7. The "yuch" I wrote did not mean I did not want the job. I did. But the tryout stressed me out. I was much more happy to write that on Oct. 9, my bartender friend Lupe was singing at the Feede Bagge.

Suddenly because of the Gazette a net was dropped over my head and the days are marked, "Off." "Midnight." "Late." Late was the late shift, 6:30 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. At least if you are going to get a job, get the craziest job you can get, you know? That is what I did.

The honeymoon with the Niagara Gazette did not last long because I had these plans to go over New Year's to San Francisco with my brother George to hear the Grateful Dead. I stuck to those plans -- I made the job let me go, I remember -- and it totally shot my work ethic. The old Sylvia datebook  includes a million notes for the trip. I went back and jotted them on unused pages earlier in the book.

There were money notes about splitting the expenses with George, directions involving Sausalito and the Golden Gate Bridge and my Auntie Rose, who lived in Santa Rosa. My dear Auntie Rose. She is gone too. She was very anti-job and it was while we were touring the Sonoma wine country that my work ethic officially vanished. I stuck it out for something like two years at the Gazette but things were never the same. They stopped letting me write, was another problem. They wanted me to write headlines but not stories and I became discontented with that.

Back to Sylvia. There were pictures stuck between the pages of hippies George and I met in San Francisco. There was a postcard of the Three Stooges that made me laugh out loud because I knew it was from my friend Daryle and sure enough it was.

There was also a photo of Jackie Kennedy Onassis and Nelson Mandela. And a photo of me with George and our sister Margie who, I have to say, looks exactly the same now. Phone numbers of guitarists. Lists of my favorite blues songs.

Really, as Dickens famously wrote, it was the best of times, it was the worst of times. It would be over 10 years before I met my husband. I was not even yet in my West Delavan apartment. I think I was still living in the haunted Parkside place. What a zoo.

Moral of the story: Do not toss your old datebooks!

They are time machines!

Saturday, September 14, 2019

The Bosch gets the kabosh

We put the kabosh on the Bosch, b'gosh.

The Bosch stove this is! Not the dishwasher. The Bosch dischwascher -- sorry, you just have to spell it that way, you know? -- is the light of my life. I treat it like gold and buy it expensive rinse aid because it is the one appliance that has not betrayed me.

How did Bosch make such a great dischwascher but blow it with the stove?

Anyway. The saga of the Bosch has been chronicled extensively on this Weblog. It kicked two years after I first bought it, and then, well, it just kept kicking.

Finally I kicked it!

The other day it began leaking gas and that was the last straw. Up until then Howard had been fixing it whenever it broke, which was often. We kept ordering parts. But a gas leak is no joke and so as of today the Bosch was out the door. While I was waiting for the new stove I gave the Bosch the ceremonial kick.

Not long after that the phone rang and it was my Aunt Marce. I told her about the Bosch and how it was finally outta here.

She said, "Well, I hope you gave it a ceremonial burial."

I said: "I did. I kicked it."

Aunt Marce is a wonderful cook and that conversation was a pleasure because I knew that she understood me on a visceral level.

The thing was, that Bosch, it would desert me without a moment's notice. I do my church coffee hour and I could not go on like this, the thing dying on  Friday or a Saturday right when I was prepping for it. It had gotten to the point where it kicked several times a year. What if it kicked on Thanksgiving? Fie on it! Fie!!

So the Bosch got the kabosh.

Because of bad experiences I had had with Orville's over this Bosch, I went with Lowe's this time. Burned by this luxury stove that did me dirt, I am now going with a bare-bones model. It is a no-frilled General Electric with not so much as a clock. Something like this ...

It is just this big blank white stove. No controls. Not only that, it has a broiler drawer. Down at the bottom! I could not believe that.The last time I had a broiler drawer down at the bottom of the stove, I think I was in college.

When I realized that what I thought was the warming drawer was actually the broiler, I could not stop smiling. It is like memory lane! In my college apartments, we had these ancient Laurel and Hardy appliances, and the stove always had the broiler in this bottom drawer. I had forgotten all about that.

Well, you must excuse me now, but I have an Italian pork loin braising slowly on the front burner of my new stove.

A new day dawns!

Thursday, September 12, 2019

The new Aldi

There is a glitch with the system tonight and it would not let me upload the pictures I wanted to upload. The only thing I could get to work was "Upload pictures from blog." So I did that and I saw the picture up above and I posted it.

On account of you cannot have a blog post without a picture!

What I wanted to report on was, our new Albrecht Discount reopened after its remodeling. And I went to it!

It is still a work in progress. It still managed to be a bit woebegone even with its remodeling. I think it needs to fill out a bit more. I have been to Aldis in worse neighborhoods than mine and they have looked better.

Also I could not find what I was looking for. It took me forever to find coffee and when I did, they were out of the Beaumont brand, the cheap brand, that I always buy. I had to settle for the 100 Percent Colombian. Which, I do not mind trying it, because I might like it. But still.

There were no good markdowns.

The checkout was slow. Lots of people in line. O look! The blog is letting me post a picture I took.

What other pictures can I post?

I guess I was not in a big enough hurry to catch these limited-time specials.

The view across the store. You see what I mean? It still looks kind of lackluster.

Another picture I took. Photography is sure easier than sketching!

I should have taken more pictures. But once in Price-Rite I was reprimanded for taking pictures. That was funny because I was taking admiring pictures of their spice department. I love their spice department and I wanted to tell the world. Plus, how can a store tell you not to take pictures? You are allowed to take pictures.

Ever since then I err on the side of caution. I do not like conflict.

But next time I go to this Aldi I will be bold and I will take more pictures. Perhaps it will have changed!

Perhaps the Limited Time Better Hurry case will be better stocked. Either that or perhaps I will be earlier.

Perhaps the Beaumont Coffee will be in stock.

Perhaps the checkout lines will be shorter.

I cannot wait to find out!

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Summer in the city

As I write this, thunder is booming outside and rain is pouring down. The cat is in the window, fascinated.

We have been having this wonderful summer of weather and this sudden storm bears it out. It is like Camelot. The rain can never come till after sundown.

This evening I got on a bike and went to our historic Buffalo tavern, Ulrich's. I sketched Ulrich's from across the street. I had only about an hour before it began to get dark and I got back on the bike and pedaled home. Before I left I took the picture up above, just for reference. Tomorrow I will post my sketch. It is awesome! Well, I was happy with it, I will say that.

While I was drawing I was thinking: Grover Cleveland drank in that tavern! Odds are my great-grandfather drank in that tavern!

Did my great-grandfather know Grover Cleveland? That is a question to ponder.

When I was nearing my house it was the most amazing thing. There were people everywhere. Kids were swinging on the swings across the street from my house. Couples were walking with baby carriages. People were walking their dogs. All along the street you saw people on the sidewalks, people on their porches.

The city was alive!

It is like this all summer but especially in the last days of summer. The motorcycles too are roaring down the streets. Writing that, I am all of a sudden affectionate toward them. Everyone feels the summer is leaving.

We must enjoy it while we can!

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

The art of Kmart

I did another Buzz column -- yikes, what is this, week five?

I cannot believe I can be this consistent! Of course miracles happen when someone is holding you to a deadline and Howard is. I am like a trained horse. I need deadlines.

One thing I loved about this week's column is I got to work in my sketch of Kmart, up above, which I am crazy about. Urban sketching at its finest!

Kmarts are falling right and left but ours here in North Buffalo has been dodging the bullets rather well. I did the above picture from my car on a cold day last winter.

Kmart is not Monet's pond of water lilies but it is something. I loved drawing the carts. I always love the details.

I did the Kmart sketch for my friend Ryan who loves Kmart but I would have drawn it in any case and Ryan knows that.

One day I will paint Kmart in the style of Monet, Van Gogh, and John Singer Sargent.

That reminds me.. I may have mentioned, I have that kind of New Age-y habit of writing my goals, every morning. You write things in the present tense, as if they have already happened. And lo, it comes to pass! At least that is the idea.

Every day I write: "I draw and paint like John Singer Sargent. I play the piano like Leonard Pennario."

Now we shall wait and see!

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Castle in the air

I just did my fourth weekly edition of the Buzz Column! It is my new weekly sketch diary modeled after the column I did for years for The Buffalo News.

I realize I am falling back into my old ways!

Just today I caught myself emailing notes to myself for the next go-round. I always used to do that.

I began jotting down a few things people told me.

It is nice because along with working on the book I am working on, it reminds me that I write.

It also allows me to track what I have done. This week I made the main drawing the sketch I did a few days ago of the Connecticut Street Armory.

When I drew the Connecticut Street Armory I had special fun drawing the bus shelter. I love the contrast between the big medieval-looking castle and the mundane NFTA shelter. The people on their phones.

Why is everyone always on a phone, you know? This morning I was walking around the park and you know how you get when your mind wanders, you can get brooding over something. I was brooding over I forget what, and I passed one of the million people you pass who are on their phones. And suddenly I brightened.

I said to myself, "At least I'm not oblivious."

Now that I look at that picture I drew, it is like one of those Charles Addams cartoons you used to see in the New Yorker. These people are on their phones oblivious to this giant castle rising over their heads. It is as if they did not know it was there.

Looking at it with that in mind it is almost as if I dreamed it. What an amazing, absurd creation that place is.

At least I'm not oblivious!

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

The most beautiful German word ...

... is, admittedly, an honor for which the competition is keen.

There is Busgruss, or "bus greeting," referring to when two buses pass and the drivers wave at each other. I think that one was the result of a contest.

There is "schuft."

There is my dad's favorite German word, "Auspuhfsrohr," which means exhaust pipe. I am not sure I spelled it right but I sure know how to say it -- "Owss - poofs -- roar!"

I love all those words, love them from the bottom of my heart. But now I have a word that eclipses them all, at least for now.

It is Balkongestaltung!

I do not even know exactly what that means but I think it means "balcony porn." There is a Pinterest board with that title that I have fallen in love with.

Having given that link I will poach from that board freely.

Can you stand it?

It is not just the porches themselves. It is the landscapes that surround them. These high rises. The architecture.

There are whole movies you can watch. This is my favorite. It is like "Gone With the Wind." I have already watched it three times.

I mean, 4:59. Where in the world is that?

5:13. Sometimes I just stop the film and stare.


7:23 is one of my favorites. I like the evening pictures.

7:39. What a vista!

I am trying to decorate my back porch as I may have mentioned. The month of August is going to be a big one for me. There is much work to be done. I need to get a lot in order before September.

Hence my porch. I want it to be a haven of relaxation for when I need it.

I began researching ideas for low-budget things I could do. Note: I realize that if you have a small porch, as I do, it helps to use the word "balcony." Otherwise you get pictures of huge wraparound porches with tons of furniture and rocking chairs and tables and everything. "Small Balcony" does the trick.

Now I am beginning to wonder: Who needs that haven of relaxation when I can just look at these pictures?

Take me away!

Saturday, July 27, 2019

The Warming Drawer

So today my life felt as if it were spinning out of control and so I cleaned the house.

That is what it takes for me to clean the house!

One thing I did was scrub the Bosch stove. I always mean well, intending to clean the Bosch daily or at least once a week. Which, I never do that. And so it gets dirty.

I felt like the gal in the picture at left! Except my stove is a Bosch. And it was no so easy to scrub as the oven in the picture. I want that oven.

I was scrubbing the Bosch and I did the range part of it. And then what I did was, I pulled out the Warming Drawer. That is the drawer at the bottom where you keep all your baking pans.

The drawer was unbelievably scuzzy!

I mopped it down. I mopped down the drawer where it comes out, and then I swabbed down the entire drawer. The drawer was unbelievably dirty. I took all the pans out of it and washed them. Then I thought ...

Why don't I leave this empty, as the Warming Drawer?

What is a Warming Drawer, anyway?

Bosch says it is to keep meals warm before you serve them.

It would be nice to see if the Warming Drawer works. There is always something on the Bosch that does not work and right now that is the broiler. If the Warming Drawer worked that would be a plus for the stove. I have never used the Warming Drawer but it has never been empty so I could use it. Perhaps if it were empty and clear of all the pans you store there, I could use it.

Whatever, now the Warming Drawer is empty, and clean.

Perhaps I can use it now!

Friday, July 26, 2019

We discover Columbus

Yesterday my friend Meghan and I went to Columbus Park and drew the statue there. I sent Howard the photo up above and Howard posted it on Facebook with the title, "On this day, Mary discovered Columbus."

Which I love! But it goes deeper than that.

You never know when that statue of Columbus will be gone!

Every year Columbus is back in the limelight on Columbus Day. He has been dodging bullets for years. Somebody does something, douses the statue in red paint, vandalizes it somehow. He stays standing there stoically, handsome in his Renaissance pantaloons, holding the territory. Every year, after Columbus Day, there is a kind of thanksgiving. Columbus lives to see another year.

Whether that will happen again is uncertain. I understand a sign is nearby saying Columbus is to be removed. I did not see that sign.

Who is going to get the statue?

Can I have it?

Just a few weeks ago we all saw the reproduction of the Santa Maria in the harbor and we all loved it, as you can see in my picture.

About the statue of Columbus, can we all just get our heads together here?

People demanding this statue come down should take a step back and admit something -- that they do not know the first thing about it. Nobody does.

We all would have to do our homework and go back and read Columbus' original letters which, who has the time to do that. We cannot believe everything we read these days. Heck, we cannot believe anything we read. We have to check it out for ourselves. We have to do research and read centuries-old documents.

Until we have a chance to do that, can we just leave the statue up? Just an idea.

It is a beautiful statue. The foundation reads that it was dedicated by the Federation of Italian-American Societies and by the Public-Spirited Citizens of the City of Buffalo. That is a description I love.

Columbus Park was beautiful when we were there. A woman was sitting on a bench reading a book. Hours passed and she was still there and so were we. It was quiet.

Except -- I almost forgot this -- this big brown-and-white bird kept swooping around, making this big loud call I never remember hearing. It was magical, this day, this place.

I want this place to stay, as it is. With the statue.

I want Columbus to stay so I can sketch him again!

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Ron Moss -- a boss, and a very sad loss

A sad thing has happened. We have lost Ron Moss.

People who have read this Web log for a while will know that Ron Moss, pictured above on my couch, is Howard's cousin. He had a long and colorful career as a cab driver and more recently was known for pushing shopping carts around town. Always he asked you a million personal questions. Always he made you laugh.

There was a graveside service this morning and I could not believe it, Ron Moss no longer among us. It was a Jewish service and it did not pull punches. I threw a shovelful of dirt on the coffin like in "Doctor Zhivago." I was not sure if I was supposed to participate both as a woman and as a Catholic but I went ahead and participated.

You almost had to, or you would not believe it.  Half way through the brief ceremony Howard's phone rang and he whispered, "Maybe it's Moss."

It would be like Moss for it to be Moss, that is for sure!

Anyway. Back home from the cemetery I went onto the Web log and began looking up Ron Moss stories. I got teary reading them. Each was more loony than the last.

There was the time Ron Moss pushed a gift under the fence of Howard's garage. 

Moss's words of wisdom: "It can be postponed!"

Ron Moss Participates in City Crackdown. I remember Howard wrote that headline.

There is this classic:

Moss cracks up a Metro Bus full of people.

A list of Moss-isms, inspired by him yelling obscenities at an officer.

And the time Moss appeared at Occupy Buffalo.

One story I found and really loved did not even directly involve Moss. Moss ...

was not there. This story was about Howard on a patio wearing a Moss T-shirt and -- well, read it, I insist. was laughing and laughing.

In between these highlights were lots of littler things.

 A scheme we had to get Ron Moss operating a ride service.

The time we considered having Ron Moss living in the Tillinghast Frank Lloyd Wright house.

Moss getting his flu shot and asking everyone at CVS if they knew "union boy" Len Lenahan.

Just a garden-variety sighting of Moss and his shopping cart on Hertel was classic.

As was Ron's initial appearance in "Cast of Characters," way back in 2008.

The way you could always threaten to put people or businesses who annoyed you or cheated you onto Ron Moss's daily calling list. I considered that once.

The picture I took of the back of Ron Moss's head.

One thing makes me happy on this sad day. I am very happy I have kept this online diary all of these years. It started out as a way to promote my book about Leonard Pennario but it took on a life of its own. It took on my life, is what it did. Because of it I have all these things written down that I would have otherwise forgotten. Speaking of which here is Moss with my brother George.

Howard has posted a million pictures of Ron Moss on the Weblog over the years. He used to write these funny captions for them. They are all over the place including in many of the posts I just linked to.

This post is too long already but I am telling you, start a blog. Do it for yourself. Don't worry if nobody reads it. When my mother passed I loved all the stories I had about her, because of writing in this more or less every day. (I did that for a long time and am planning on doing that again.)

You remember the big occasions on your own but you forget all the little everyday things, the little conversations you had, the funny things that made you laugh. When you lose someone you still have that and I am telling you, it is a big comfort, and it is fun, and it makes you smile.

It almost makes me think that when Howard's phone rang this morning it really could have been Moss.

Ron Moss lives!

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Back to the Clinton Bailey Market

For a few years now, certain of my friends and I have had our eye on this recipe from The Joy of Cooking. It is Tutti Frutti!

It is also known as Brandied Fruit as this article states. And its real name is Rumtopf which in German means "Rum Pot."

"The Joy of Cooking" is a great go-to German cookbook. It is loaded with German recipes because the Rombauers who wrote it were German. Another thing I like about the Rombauers was Erma Rombauer was friends with the conductor George Szell. You have to figure that being into classical music on that level she knew who Leonard Pennario was. I like that in a person.

The Rombauers named their Rumtopf recipe Tutti Frutti Cockaigne, named for their summer home. They would attach that name "Cockaigne" to their favorite recipes.

That is something I hope is not being lost. In those formal old Gourmet magazines people would write in letters with their family recipes, or recipes they had come up with and loved and they would attach their last name to the recipe. For instance if I came up with a Rumtopf recipe of my own it would be Rumtopf Goldman.

That has a ring to it!


Today I went to the Clinton Bailey Market to shop for our Rumtopf.

I took a break in my shopping to sketch the fire station across the way. That is a picture of it up above! Other than that I shopped diligently.

I bought strawberries and raspberries and cherries and apricots. You are supposed to start with your liquor -- rum or brancy -- and then add these fruits one at a time as they come into season. It will be ready by Christmas. Although traditionally you are allowed to take a nip here and there starting on the first Sunday of Advent.

And so it begins.

Our friend Zach has come up with a crock for it so that is our green light. Zach found the crock at Clarence Antiques. He paid $40 for it. He is investing in Tutti Frutti!

The crock is with Zach and it is big and heavy and hard to move so I will have to get him the fruit. Meanwhile I tossed the strawberries with sugar and stored them gently in the fridge. The cherries can wait a day or two. They are stored carefully. They do not need to be pitted. That is what I read.

It is funny reading anything about how to make something like this because online recipes are all full of warnings. No one wants to trust in old science. They are always throwing in this or that complication and finally I said, you know what? People have been making this for centuries. It works. It is not rocket science. You do not have to be Wernher von Braun to make Rumtopf!

The one important thing is the fruit has to be perfect. That is what The Joy of Cooking said.

"Use only perfect fruit." We were all laughing about that.

I have a feeling the Rumtopf will be fine no matter what!

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Back to the Buzz

Once upon a time I wrote the Buzz column for The Buffalo News. It was a kind of gossip and humor column, things going on around town, lots of fun.

I am bringing it back.

For fun!

My friends have been asking for it, I am happy to say, ever since Howard raised the possibility of me writing it again on a lark. We could now incorporate my drawings.

It sounded nuts at first but then there is nothing wrong with that. And when I got to thinking about it I realized it could be a kind of a sketch diary for me. I could do pictures and riff from there.

Here is my first.

There will be another next week.

People on Facebook have been great about sharing it. It really warms my heart. The first column featured for starters the sketch up above. That is of the Parkside Meadow, this tavern near my house. It is kind of my corner tavern. If someone says, "Let's go grab a glass of wine," that is often where we go.

It may take a few weeks for the new Buzz column to reach equilibrium but I have no doubt it will happen. I did that column for a million years. Week after week. It hardly lapsed at all. I guess it lapsed for a few months while I was in California with Leonard Pennario but otherwise it kept going. When I went on vacation I wrote it in advance. When I got married I Buzzed my own wedding, writing about ways in which the ceremony and reception ran off the rails. I will have no problem picking it back up.

I am looking forward to it!

Monday, July 15, 2019

An alley in the sun

The other day I went sketching with my friend Meghan and we wound up in an alley off Edward Street. That was where I drew the picture at left.

I think it was off Edward Street because later we went walking up the street and drew Founding Fathers Pub and I do not remember turning any corners. I will have to learn to take notes in these situations because in the future biographers will be interested in them.

It is like Leonard Pennario taking notes because one day he knew I would want to see them. I am not making that up. He told me that.

You must always take notes because you never know what your biographer might need.

Back to Edward Street, at least where I think I was. The sun was bright and I loved the shadow on the wall of the house on the right. I also loved how the fire escape on the house at left cast shadows on the brick. We are seeing too little of the sun this year if you ask me. Whenever the sun is out I want to go out and make hay and that is what I did.

It was chilly but sunny and you know what, I do not care if it is chilly, I just want that sun.

I wonder if the weather this summer will ever pull itself out of the crapper. I kind of think not.

But so what. Whatever it is, I will roll with it.

Just give me some sun here and there, and I will be happy!

Sunday, July 14, 2019

A morning in the Japanese garden

This morning the sun was out and so I took my sketchbook when I went walking in the morning. I found myself at the Japanese garden.

Decades from now when scholars debate the deep meaning of my work they will point out that this picture has philosophy behind it. In the foreground is the Zen of the Japanese garden. In the background you may make out trucks and cars barreling along the expressway.

Yin and yang! That is not Japanese, I do not think, but it is close.

That is a strange little sculpture and yet I love drawing it. I love the curve of the legs it stands on. It is a funny thing, drawing in ink. You do not get a second chance if you goof something. Well, you can turn the page and start again. But that is the only second chance you get.

And so I get in the zone. I make sure that the line is supposed to go where I am about to draw it. That is what makes pen better than pencil to my way of thinking. I discovered that last fall when I did Inktober. With pencil you get too sketchy and just start anywhere. With a pen you must have a plan.

Somehow the legs of this sculpture just draw themselves. And pen does stone so well.

The rocks were fun and so was the grass.

Here I am working on it.

The sun had gone in by that point. It was there and then it was not and then it was again.

La la la la la la la.

It was a beautiful hour or so I passed drawing that picture. It was warm and sunny for once and I feel good that I was out there in it. I was so relaxed and the air was so fragrant and now that it is raining again as usual I wish it were this morning again.

I wish I were back in the Zen zone!

Saturday, July 13, 2019

A foggy day in Buffalo town

Today was the Buffalo Marathon and I used that as an excuse to bike to my 9 a.m. Mass. Usually I help out with the coffee hour and have to bring baked goods but today the hall was rented and so there was no coffee hour. And so I was at liberty to bike.

It was fun biking. Your day feels different. At 8 a.m. the city was swathed in fog. It was like San Francisco! Or like that beautiful little poem by Carl Sandburg you learn in school.

The fog comes 
on little cat feet. 

It sits looking 
over harbor and city 
on silent haunches 
and then moves on.

I had that memorized! When I reached downtown and got to Big Blue I sent this picture to Howard.

I thought of the Sandburg poem and also Bismarck "Bix" Beiderbecke's "In a Mist."

Wow, listen to that. Bix on piano!

Mass was long because we are singing a lot of Gregorian chant these days and just taking our time. We are in no hurry. Summertime, and the living is easy. It was almost 11 a.m. when I returned to my bike. The fog was still there. It had not gone anywhere!

I pedaled leisurely in the direction of home, more or less. I went along the Riverwalk.

There is an amazing juncture where you get a panoramic view of the Niagara River. The Peace Bridge had gradually appeared from the mist and here it is.

Eventually I found my way to Unity Island, formerly Squaw Island. I love railroad bridges and the one to this island is a beauty. So I sat on a curb and took out my new ink pens and drew the picture at the top of this post.

I sort of wanted to wash in the clouds later but I like the lines of the picture, its angular nature, so I will think about that. While I was thinking I biked over the bridge. As I wrote on Instagram it felt like family now that I had sketched it.

On Unity Island I found the bike path and it takes you right by the river's edge.

Unfortunately at this point it also got really cold! It felt like summer in the Arctic circle. It looked like that too. The waves of the river just disappeared into the sky and you could not tell which was which.

Next time I go there I will draw that beautiful International Railroad Bridge that appears in the mist in that last picture. OK, to tell you the truth, I already did draw it. I could not resist. It was so dramatic and I drew my picture in the presence of several Border Patrol agents. They were parked there keeping an eye on the bridge.

I loved this foggy Sunday.

I am glad I have so many pictures so I can remember it.