What a difference a day makes.

I took a snapshot on Saturday, to show what a good year the trillium are having.

And then showed the same spot, the very next day, during a little snow squall.

There was a polarizing filter on the camera, the only one I ever use, and the snow-covered plants can be seen more clearly in the photo, than by the naked eye.

The pictures could have been taken twenty minutes apart, though, that snow vanished quickly.

That’s just the way the weather is around here, in March.

Er…April, sorry.

Wait!  It’s the middle of May – – and it should be 30° by dawn tomorrow!





Finger Lakes, FLX, Frostbite, Nature, NY, Upstate New York

Walks Around the Finger Lakes. May. Trillium & Marsh-marigold. But not Snowdrops




Basically, this post was supposed to be about how much I’ve been wanting a haircut.

By a professional barber, I mean.

I now have an electric clipper thing, a rechargeable beard trimmer, given to me as a present, and hint, by my folks.  But I’d already shaved off my beard and mustache, as the weather got warmer, and anyways it really did seem like airborne germs might hide out there, muggers in the shrubbery, snakes in the grass.

I watched a couple of YouTube haircut videos.  The NYTimes how-to had a guy with the identical clipper and similar hair, but I’m not ready for the Paris Island look.  I’m not vain about my appearance, it’s just, I might need to wear glasses someday, and I just like my ears where they are, attached to my head.

This old truck prompted this thought, about a haircut, and also, Grace Bedell.



Grace Bedell, from Westfield, NY.

Recognize the name?

Maybe not, but if you went to grade school in the U.S., you’ll probably remember the story.

She was the 11-year-old girl, who wrote to a presidential candidate before the ’60 election, and recommended that he grow a beard.

That was John F. Kennedy, of course, and he opted for Ray-Ban Wayfarers instead, and was elected President.




Actually that’s wrong.

Kennedy didn’t wear Ray-Bans, they were American Optical’s Saratoga sunglasses, still, very cool-looking.





And the little girl actually wrote in 1860, to Abe Lincoln.

“I have yet got four brothers and part of them will vote for you any way and if you let your whiskers grow I will try and get the rest of them to vote for you.  You would look a great deal better for your face is so thin.  All the ladies like whiskers and they would tease their husbands to vote for you and then you would be President.”

Come to think of it, I received similar advice, about growing a beard and wearing some Ray-Bans, I think from a former roommate, who also recommended a haircut and dim lighting, and all that was just to get a date, not the Presidency.

Lincoln, by then fully-bearded, made a point of meeting Grace, on his way to the inauguration.  It was February, temperature was just above freezing, so he was probably glad of the beard, and anything else to cut the wind off Lake Erie.  His train stopped in Westfield, and he sat down on the edge of the railway platform, chatted a few minutes, gave her a kiss, and continued down the tracks to Buffalo, Albany, and eventually, Washington, D.C.

It’s a charming story, but as happens so often, one with a sad ending, as Grace eventually moved, and lived many years in Kansas.

It’s hard to imagine him without the beard, isn’t it.  We’d have a time changing all those statues, pennies, and postage stamps.

So anyway, as regular readers are aware, I don’t go off on tangents anymore, and to return to the central point of this post, I was thinking about a line from the Beatle’s “Come Together





Got to be good-lookin’ ’cause he’s so hard to see

Even if you’re a song-writer, and taking a lot of hallucinogens, I think we all know that’s just not so.  It just doesn’t always work that way.

Under all those vines, that is one homely automobile. I never knew Chevrolet made anything half that snub-nosed ugly.

I saw it last week, while driving to a park with my parents.  I guessed it was maybe a 1957 model, since that’s when my dad was born, and when they were standing side-by-side, they had a very similar state of decrepitude.  But he believes it was 1950 or even earlier.



I’ve tried to avoid that stretch of 14A, until the vines have leafed out, and covered this thing better.

But you know, I’ve been by it a few times since then, and that truck is starting to be like the hideous old bulldog that lives next-door – – without any conscious thought, or effort, you develop a feeling of affection, over time.

It just grows on you.

The bulldog snuffles and gasps and rattles, sounds like a dishwasher on its last legs, but he’s a very sweet-natured old boy, I’m always glad when he waddles up to say hello, and I swear this truck is growing on me too!  I’ll look forward to seeing it’s Green Man look in a couple weeks.

So, let’s not call it weedy and overgrown, we’ll say, “a luxuriant growth of native grapevine.”  And to hell with the haircut, too.


Rip Van Winkle awakens.  N.C. Wyeth









1950's, Automobiles, Finger Lakes, FLX, History, NY, Upstate New York

Old tow truck












Spring is finally trickling in to the upstate woods.

Yesterday the trout lilies and bloodroots were out and about, so we’re feeling a bit more sanguine about the weather.

Still dipping into the 30’s some nights, like a bad habit you can’t break.

And the woods still look autumnal in most places.  Last year’s beech leaves still clinging on, in a few spots, looking pale and ghostly.

Few trees have leafed out, and other than moss and evergreens, the wood colors are predominately browns and grays.

But finally, not a scrap of snow still lurking, even in the crevices of the darkest ravines.

I wondered why these acorns, even if they didn’t fall far from the tree, left without their caps.








A weed’s empty seed head, no bigger than a shirt button, is unexpectedly interesting.

Finger Lakes, FLX, hiking, Nature, Spring, Upstate New York





Wood, brick, or cobblestone, one-room schoolhouses still dot the Finger Lakes region.

Some are simply boarded up and slowly collapsing.  Every week, I used to drive past an abandoned school on Route 96, a small but handsome brick one, like the photo below, but it has fallen down and disappeared, since I was in high school.

Some have graduated to new roles, like this first photo, as cottage homes, or farm storage, like the second.

I haven’t known that many people, who attended one, but have read of countless famous folks who did, and they all have nothing but praise and appreciation for the experience.


Fayette NY. In 1900, there were sixteen schoolhouses in that town, with a total population of 2.711 residents, so some of them must’ve been almost one-student affairs.


But they’re really not completely ancient history, are they.  One of my teachers, who retired three years ago, attended a school like this in Cayuga County.  And there’s plenty of Amish schools all around us that are still active, for grades 1-8.  One of my grandmothers, who graduated from teachers college around 1950, was still required to do a term of student teaching in a one-room school.  But there are only a few hundred left in operation in this country.

I’d thought Herbert Hoover held the record, but actually Lyndon Johnson was, I think, our last “one-room schoolhouse” President.

LBJ, like nine other Presidents, did some teaching himself, before going into politics. And he achieved some important gains for education, like Head Start.

He briefly attended a one-room school at the age of four, and when he signed the “Elementary and Secondary Education Act,” in April 1965, he was sitting next to that school again.

LBJ Library

“In this one-room schoolhouse Miss Katie Deadrich taught eight grades at one and the same time. Come over here, Miss Katie, and sit by me, will you? Let them see you. I started school when I was four years old, and they tell me, Miss Kate, that I recited my first lessons while sitting on your lap.”  LBJ


But according to his biographers, apparently his conception of “domestic affairs” was a pretty broad, er…I mean, a pretty broad one, so to speak, and I think Miss Katie might have been a tad dismayed, if she’d learned just how many women LBJ invited to sit in his lap, throughout his married life.


Currier & Ives print of an 1858 painting by George Henry Durrie (from the MMA website). James Garfield, who might’ve been remembered as “The Education President,” if he hadn’t been assassinated, was our last “Born-in-a-Log-Cabin” President, also attended and taught in some one-room schools, including one in Poestenkill, NY. There’s a beautiful 1881 two-room school, in neighboring Brunswick, named in his honor.


The two-room “Garfield School” in Brunswick, NY. (Photo from Wikipedia). I haven’t been systematically photographing this old-time schools, but may do another post – – there’s some octagon ones in the area that might be of interest.




You may be surprised to learn, that I attended this school. (Well, for a day.) The Ansley School (1849 – 1953) is south of Geneva, and they bring grade-schoolers there for the one-room experience. I believe we practiced cursive writing on slates.



Winslow Homer’s “Snap The Whip” (1872)   A number of older folks have told me, they remember having prints of this hung in their schools.  This is the Met’s version – –  the original, larger version, exhibited at the 1876 Centennial in Philadelphia, had a mountain range in the background.




Butler Institute of Art


I doubt public schools would hang these pictures anymore – – bare feet!  no adult supervision!  dangerous single-sex game!  head coverings! unstructured play!  possible bees in the wildflowers!  children having fun!  etc.

I love both versions.  The mountains make it look more secluded, like it’s probably a small community, in a little valley.

In the other one, without the mountains hemming them in, the scene looks giddier somehow, and the open sky makes it seem like one of those kids might just escape the gravity of their little town, and get airborne, if they can just spin fast enough.


“The Country School” Winslow Homer 1871 (St. Louis Art Museum). I’ve read many times, that the teachers were often young, unmarried women. One of my grandmothers, teaching in a city school in the ’50’s, was married, but concealed the fact that she was expecting as long as possible, because they didn’t allow pregnant teachers in her school!






1880's, architecture, Finger Lakes, FLX, History, NY, United States, Upstate New York

Walks Around The Finger Lakes. April, Italy Valley Schoolhouse #4






Scene is along a country road, rainy day.

An interesting sensory experience, taking this photo – – a really nice floral fragrance, from the grape hyacinth.

And also, a farmer was busy in the field just in back, with a honey wagon.

If you’re not from dairy country…a “honey wagon” is a/k/a manure spreader.  I was going to say “a bucolic scene, despite the pong from the cow manure,” and then realized, that’s exactly right.  I looked “bucolic” up, and that word comes from “ox” and “herdsman,” so the cows’ contribution is appropriate.

I read about President Truman giving the press a tour of his birthplace, a farm in Missouri.  A White House staffer asked Mrs. Truman if she could please get the President to stop saying “manure.”

Mrs. Truman replied, “Do you know how long it took me, to get him to say manure?”



The farmhouse cellar and a collapsed barn, are just behind the forsythias. Whoever lived there, must have planted the grape hyacinths many years ago, for them to have naturalized and spread so much.

Finger Lakes, FLX, History, Spring, Uncategorized, Upstate New York

Walks Around the Finger Lakes ~ April, Yates County ~ A Place Where a Farmhouse Used to Be

Mexico, travel

Sittin’ in a bar in Guadalajara…

All photos taken with an iPhone 5s 

So, yeah, escapism.  I’m not actually sitting in a bar in Guadalajara, but after  30 days of home detention, doesn’t that sound pretty good?

Nights are sometimes still in the 20’s, here in Milwaukee, but in my mind…it’s a warm, sunny day.  A little table in front of a old, ocher-colored cantina, with a smiling waiter bringing some botanas to snack on, maybe a few pastes (kind of like Cornish pasties, but with mole sauce).


Side lanes like this fill the old city with cafes and life, almost like a little slice of Europe

Needless to say, I’d be sipping a Tecate, or Negra Modelo, or even a Dos Equis – – pretty much anything but a Corona.




The title is a line from a Kirsty MacColl song, about twenty years ago, “In These Shoes?”

You know it?  It’s great!

(MacColl knocked out some great pop tunes, and every New Year’s, I listen to her singing “Fairytale of New York” with the Pogues.  She died way too young, in Mexico, as it happens.)




But this post isn’t about pop music, it’s about my first visit to Mexico, just before the pandemic shut down travel.  Just for a few days, helping someone move to the country’s illustrious and often-overlooked second city, Guadalajara.



The Cathedral has been built and re-built, after fire and earthquakes, for over three centuries, mostly 1541 – 1854. It’s survived countless earthquakes since then, at least a half-dozen of them notable.

It’s the capital of Jalisco, a state in the middle of the country, and bordering the Pacific, but the city is inland, a couple hundred miles east of Puerto Vallarta.


The city’s coat of arms, created in 1539. Colonial history in Mexico goes back many years before the U.S.


Guadalajara is known for being a hub of traditions we all associate as “Mexican” – – in many ways quintessentially Mexican, friendly and funny — perhaps less cosmopolitan than Mexico City, but not prone to the violence and brutality of some of the unfortunate states surrounding it.  Tequila comes from there, as does Mariachi.



While I had no problem avoiding the tequila, I was unable to avoid the mariachi.  One of those bands (guitars, violins, trumpets) camped out under my hotel window.  I can now attest, mariachi is both prevalent and just as monotonous-sounding in Mexico (at least to my uncouth ear) as it is in the states.

Apart from the mariachi, Guadalajara is pretty great.

I’m not claiming any major insights from a six-day visit, but I did learn a couple things, maybe one minor revelation, when we tried enchiladas tapatíos, and pozole, a kind of soup, a bit like hominy, but better.


Inside the cathedral. The gold decor is all from the Aztecs, melted down and used to decorate the church.

One of the things that struck me was how very little about Guadalajara I knew. Or really, Mexico in general.




I’ve read that even when we’re shown facts that counter a narrative that we’ve accepted, we tend to not believe them, preferring our own internalized misinformation.






I knew from reading up a bit beforehand, that Guadalajara was traditional, colonial, and sprawling. Driving to and from the airport, this urban sprawl is evident. It’s often described as a smaller version of L.A., (and the same number of places selling tacos).  It’s low-rise, mostly flat, with some mountains on its outskirts. Oil refineries and manufacturing ring the outer areas, but soon you come to the beautiful colonial core.



One thing I hadn’t expected were the blocks of modernity. I knew there’d be the always-present American companies-McDonalds, 7-11, Ford, Coca-Cola, and Walmart. I was more surprised to see Starbucks (many Mexicans still drink Nescafe), and even more to see skyscrapers.



It’s less of a Big City feel, despite the skyscrapers, but still a place with a super-modern (actually quite attractive) shopping mall, and a bike share program.  The city has invested heavily in these bikes, hoping to promote environmentally-friendly commuting, and has built miles of bike lanes.


I was also surprised by the beauty. I knew they had a large central cathedral as most Latino cities do, but the miles of colonial architecture were a pleasant surprise. And not too far away is Guanajuato, the silver city of colonial architecture, also a gem worth visiting.



The Palace of Justice

I was not surprised by the hipster area. I knew that there was a famous area full of cafes and bars, but even that was more pleasant than I expected, in many ways reminding me of the more stately La Starria neighborhood of Santiago, Chile than anything else.


In Mexico, there were things that were still exactly what I expected.

First, the locals are very friendly.  And very funny.

I personally hold the firm belief that Mexicans are the funniest and friendliest people in the world. There are close runners-up, but Mexicans really seem to excel.



This is a representation of the Aztec creation myth

That doesn’t mean I’m oblivious to the problems in Mexico. When I was there, in honor of Women’s Day, a large-scale protest was held to remind us of the femicides. The central Fountain of Athena was dyed red to symbolize this.



And everywhere you go, there are guns.







I’m from upstate New York, and grew up surrounded by hunters and competitive shooters.  But in the US, at least where I’ve lived, guns are less constantly and openly present.  In Rochester or Milwaukee, for instance, most random storefronts don’t generally post two men in front, with flak jackets and Uzis. The central joyeria (jewelry store) had no less than ten men, dressed as if for combat — helmets, bulletproof vests, automatic weapons or heavy-duty large-caliber pistols.  Crime in Mexico is still extreme.

While I only saw it once, it was fairly jarring to see a truck-mounted machine gun and Mexican Marines driving by the central square, just a routine patrol.  That was a bit of a reminder of what Mexico is facing.

And despite this, perhaps because of this, there’s a sense of kindness.  When life may be short, better to be remembered for your niceness than for the bad.


One other thing I noticed, the Chinese restaurants!  I counted no less than 20 in the central area. Our portrayal of Mexico tends to be heavily focused on the influx from there to the U.S.. We often overlook, that for at least ten years, more Mexicans have returned to Mexico than gone to the U.S..  And of course, some of the people coming in from Mexico, aren’t Mexican (some aren’t even Latino – – Nigerians, and increasingly Indians, are making that trek).  Because we view them as a diaspora population, we forget that many people are moving to Mexico (including the nearly 500,000-1 million Americans living there full or part time!)  While I only saw three Chinese people in Mexico, there is a large Asian population, including Koreans.  And due to the rising IT industry, increasingly Indians are moving there, too. I’d read this, but seeing it for myself really seemed to blow my mind.




(Even the name of this place, if you think about it, has a hint of diversity.  Just as every time a Spanish-speaker says ““Ojalá” (Hopefully) they’re echoing an Arabic expression “If Allah wills it,” and these place names from Spain, beginning “Guadal…” also go back to the centuries that Spain was a Moorish kingdom.  Their term for a valley, “wadi”, as in “Valley of Stones” or “Wādī l-ḥijāra” -> Guadalajara.)




Chinese-Mexicans have been around a long time as it turns out, since the 1600s, showing just how little I know. Also present was DiDi, the Chinese delivery service that has made inroads across the globe. Chinese economic imperialism is starting to rival ours, and in Latin America I can understand why. For centuries our relationship has been largely one-sided and our rhetoric is bellicose. Why wouldn’t they want to let our rival in, as leverage?



Mexico’s oldest hotel – from 1610 – Hotel Francés

We heard some interesting stories about Mexican history. Some were dubious, lacking credible evidence. But often interesting – like the explanations for the hole in the face of a central clock, in the city plaza – caused by an assassin’s bullet from an attempt on the life of Zapata.  Though others say it was Pancho Villa.



The aforementioned bar I was sitting in. My favorite story arguably, is that a man couldn’t settle his tab so left his bike as collateral. We can assume he never paid it.

Just before I left, I got some first-hand knowledge of middle-class life.  We were in Zapopan (Guadalajara, like L.A. or NYC, is made up of several distinct cities that are all conglomerated now), in some ways, a cushier city than Guadalajara, with many middle class families and some real wealth on display.  BMW’s, Mercedes, a Tesla, Range Rovers, and the ubiquitous  old-school Mexican VW Beetles were all over.

Zapopan has its own central cathedral, and on its outer edges, there’s an enormous urban forest, full of fragrant pines and juniper. It felt miles from the city, and yet a few minutes out of the main gate, there are skyscrapers in the distance and streets full of cars and people.


Guadalajara Cathedral 1891, Library of Congress.  Looks like one of the towers was being re-built, again.


I think sights like this, might have something to do with the countless earthquakes in the region


The outer edge of Zapopan is more working class, but the folks we visited, live in an apartment building there, a very nice home, belonging to a middle-class Mexican family.  While the US and some parts of Europe are seeing their middle classes shrink, Mexico’s has been steadily growing for years. Many Mexicans travel abroad, buy houses, cars, TV’s. It was good to see how nice much of Guadalajara was.  Even the working-class areas, while not as shiny, and feeling like I had to be more cautious, seemed to be friendly, safe, and decent. There were no slums that I saw, though I know there’s some all around the edges of Mexico City.



The Teatro Dellogado by night. Inside is a beautiful old cafe, hidden away, serving coffee from Chiapas. An old opera singer, no voice left, saw me while waiting for coffee and told me of his days as a singer-traveling Europe and ending up back home in Mexico.

Like my flying trip around India, I only got a brief window into the lives and scenes of a country. Mexico is vast, with many different regions, with their own unique identities and culture. Landscapes range from desert to rainforest. It’s simply too much to claim that I “understand” Mexico, from going to one city for six days. But, I do feel I have a better understanding of what’s happening there now that I went. The news so often only portrays the bad. There is a lot of that. But it often ignores the little stories, like the emergent middle class, or the increasing pressure by women on society to improve the sexism that haunts them. Stories about green pathways don’t sell clicks, the way that bodies hanging from bridges in the border cities do. But I look forward to learning more and seeing more of Mexico in the near future.








A convent for former prostitutes

Within sight of the cathedral, a reminder of a pre-Christian tradition, Día de los Muertos



Telecommuting, Working from Home

Working from Home ~ ~ Things are just Humming Right Along.

My espresso machine finally arrived!! A vintage beauty, handmade in Zubrovka, you cannot get quality like this anymore. The little dents are where I hit it with a tiny ball peen hammer, which was included, it’s all part of the process.



Well, Day 21 of working from home.  Welcome to the New Frontier, or Brave New World, whatever we’ve got goin’ on these days.

I guess we’re all tech savvies now, addicted to the internet.

I’ve never followed any “advice columns” before, but have been doing a lot of Software Help Forums lately.  In addition to our regular lifestyle coaches & “influencers,”  like Ozzy Osbourne and Rush Limbaugh, I guess most of us are being guided by the DHHS, CDC & WHO.

And lately, I’ve felt like the AKC is running the show – – the continuing orders of Go Home!  Sit!  Stay!

Of course we know, it’s STTS (“Stuff to be taken seriously”).  I just had to curb my frustration, at all the directives from Employer & Media & Government, and not feel like I’m at the end of my rope, or leash.  I’ve resisted the urge to mark my territory as I leave the apartment.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how our surrounding affect our emotions, thoughts, and behavior.

Sometimes our reactions to the environment may be pretty obvious.  If it’s Milwaukee, for example, the reaction is probably shivering, for most of the year.

But often we’re not fully aware of the more subtle, hidden influences that our natural, or man-made habitats exert upon us.  “Surroundings” is exactly the right term – – after weeks of working from home, you do feel surrounded by these walls.

A public space, a building, an apartment—whatever milieu we find ourselves in, it does impact our thoughts.  For example, perhaps it’s a place – a university, coffee bar in an art museum, Québec, etc. – where you can say “milieu” without feeling pretentious.

So.  I decided to analyze my world, figure out what this apartment is doing to me.


Color #1

The beige walls seem to work just fine with me.  There is an affinity.  I am beige myself. Over time, the paint seems to be fading toward “antique white,” and I guess that’ll happen to me too, eventually.

Noise #1

The refrigerator is full, stuffed with provisions, and the compressor kicks in less often, so it hasn’t been producing that high-pitched whine.  I too am full, stuffed with provisions, and am whining less, because I like to eat.

Noise #2

The electric mixer makes a whirring sound, along with a quiet metallic clanging, that’s actually kind of nice.  Like a faint, faraway gong.  And it’s got a beat!  You can dance to it, and your mood lightens!

I just let it keep beating the egg batter, while I dance, it’s like the old Royal Navy saying ~ “Beatings will continue until morale improves.”




YouTube videos have helped me a lot with hooking up all the gear I need for work! I got all this cool stuff on eBay and my home office is now humming with activity.



Noise #3

On a related note, B flat I believe, did you ever notice, if you’ve stayed with friends or relatives overseas,  that their appliances sound different?  Just like the cars in other countries, sound different  – – there’s no mistaking the thin nasal sound of a Peugeot engine, as an insane person chases you down the sidewalk, or the whistling sound made by Tata Nano, as it runs a red light and takes a shortcut through your hotel lobby.

As you’ve come to expect, indeed, demand from this blog, I have a deeply-researched, scientific explanation for the vive la difference – – “Why do American appliances hum at a different pitch than foreign ones?”

It’s a burning issue.  Sometimes literally, if you got a bad lithium battery or travel adapter.  And it’s not your imagination.  Turns out, most of the world isn’t on our wavelength.

We’re the B Flat Boys, but most places overseas, they hear a different drummer, call a different tune ~ ~ the fridges, washers & Euro-trash compactors, etc. are buzzing & humming along in G.

It’s due to each continent’s different electrical systems, 50Hz vs 60Hz.  The Big Four ~ ~ U.S., Canada, Mexico, Palmyra Atoll ~ ~  we’re all in sync at 60Hz.  What’s a Hz?  It’s the unit of frequency, cycle per second.  Yeah, I have no idea, either, sounds like physics, or algebra (existentialism?  definitely one of those forgotten college classes, anyway) something about surfing electromagnetic waves.

Any questions, please email Herr Professor Doktor Heinrich Rudolf Hertz, although his Facebook status is “Away.”  (He died in 1894, flights of angels hum thee to thy rest.)

Brilliant guy, of course.  But did Hertz, Edison, Tesla, Westinghouse and all those guys, ever think about us, living with these machines, when they chose those waves?!  

It’s a transforming experience – – that hum is everywhere, once you’re aware of it.  After a sleepless night in an unfamiliar hotel, tortured by the sounds from the appliances, I’ve sometimes said to the mini-fridge the next morning, “Listen here, gadget, I can’t say as I care for your tone.”

Samsung it, and so did I.  Endlessly cycling around our brain, listening to the Song of the Whirlpool.   Waking up to your coffee makers, Black & Decker, coughing and gurgling as they imitate Bob Dylan on “One More Cup of Coffee,” except more musically than the original.  Feeling totally buzzed, totally amped, I call the customer complaint lines, demanding sound-proofing, but this Major Pain is outranked by Admiral and General Electric.

We’re used to our own cyclical change of current, and OK, it’s true – Mozart, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, all those guys, wrote great pieces in B Flat.  But I don’t think a convection oven humming “B flat” is appropriate for making a souffle, for example.

Well, I hope we’ve all learned a lot, and things are going along healthily & hummingly for all of you.  Good health, Zei gezunt.








Here’s a nice little fifty-footer, not too far from Boonville, NY.

People are surprised to learn, that the falls is actually located in Hurlbutville.  They often say, “Goodness, can that be so?  I’d have thought  Hawkinsville, or over by Forestport.  Or perhaps, between Alder Creek, and Alder Creek Station?  Or possibly, at the foot of Potato Hill?”

It’s hard not to scoff at such speculation, and I’ve no patience with wild conjectures.

It seems to me, that a sprightly name like “Pixley Falls” should be located someplace more legendary-sounding.  Rome, NY is just down the road, so they could’ve called this hamlet to their north “Gnome,” for example.

But it’s definitely Hurlbutville.  I’m sorry, but it can’t be helped.

Even though, I’ve never been able to see any real trace of that place.  I think maybe Hurlbutville, with a name that magical, might be like Brigadoon, only appearing once every century.

But then, I haven’t looked that hard, I don’t wander too far off the winding, sagging little road that runs from Rome up to Boonville, along the remnants of the Black River Canal.   It’s one of those wooded, thinly populated areas that surprises people, who think New York is all urbanity.

Just on the other side of the old canal, is a creek called Lansing Kill, and this falls.

That name shouldn’t make you uneasy.  If you’re from NY, you already know this, but “kill” is just an archaic Dutch term for a stream, and there are kills all over the Mohawk and Hudson valleys.  Like the little mountains called The Catskills (get it?  Cat’s Creek, maybe because of mountain lions, or because they used to wash the cats there, before making them into felt hats, when the beavers were all gone). (OK, no, that’s not true.) (But in the old days, they did use them for coat collars, my sister just read Gogol’s story “The Overcoat” and told me that. )

Just north of the waterfall is Boonville.  A nice little town, on the Tug Hill Plateau, famous for amazing amounts of snowfall, even by upstate standards.  People come there in the winter, to snowshoe and cross-country ski on the canal trail.

The Black River Canal took almost twenty years to complete, and then operated for seventy years.  It used to connect to the Erie Canal, until it went bankrupt a hundred years ago.  You’ll see some beautifully-constructed old stone locks along the trail – – they built 109 of them, for only 35 miles of canal – – more locks, and a greater rise & fall, than the entire Erie Canal.



This is from the Library of Congress, taken sometime during the last fifty years.

I’d seen different lengths quoted for the canal.  According to the Black River Canal Museum in Boonville,  it was 35 miles long, with another 10 miles for the Erie Canal connector, and they also “canalized” 42 miles of the Black River, to make it navigable.

In the autumn, Boonville is kind of an entrance to the Adirondack region, and hunters head there in droves, chasing after deer with not just shotguns and rifles, but bows, muzzle-loaders, and crossbows.  I realize they’re high-tech items, with AR-style stocks and telescopic scopes, but somehow seeing hunters with crossbows, or black powder/percussion cap rifles, just seem to add to the forgotten-by-time flavor of this corner of upstate.

The canal trail, about ten miles long, is a very pleasant walk, down the old towpath, part of it with the Lansing Kill right along the other side.


a rivulet flowing into the kill


canal trails, NY, Uncategorized, Upstate New York

Walks Around Upstate New York. Pixley Falls, late March, late afternoon.

Cold War, Frostbite, Great Lakes, Nature, Things to Do When Your Water Crystallizes on You

Old Man Winter still got teeth. Walks Around Upstate New York. March.




I resisted the title “Beech on the Beach,” but it’s accurate. Winter storms undermined this tree, until there was nothing left to shore it up. During a rare day of sunshine, I walked on the shingle, and saw this sparkling up ahead. It looked a bit like a big chandelier had crashed into the water.
















We’re at that slippery divide between seasons, transitioning from slipping on ice, to sliding on mud.  March always throws both at us.

Setting aside a month for a bellicose and unstable guy like the god Mars was not a good idea.  In the Great Lakes region, it’s a pugnacious season, and full woolen body armor is still recommended.

Full of bluster and false promises of warmth.  We don’t always see the lion-to-lamb thing – – it’s more “In like a blowhard, out like sheep dip.”  Still icy winds and snow, and then mud, that’s still pretty chilly when it soaks through the seat of your pants after an embarrassing slip’n’slide.  No flowers yet, and the only efflorescence going on around here is crusty deposits from road salt and chemical runoff.

I read an article recently about the old discussion over the number of Eskimo terms for snow, apparently going on at least since “The Handbook of American Indian Languages” was published in 1911 .   I don’t want to reignite the debate, and I don’t want to think about snow for a while. Just want to build a little birdhouse in my soul & a little Florida room in my mind.


Strange clumps of ice crystals along the lake shore, like those deep-fried “blooming onions” that were a fad for a while. It’s sad, really, how much I think about food. This picture looked ok and sharper on my computer, than here on WP (?) First time using a tiny Sony pocket camera, the size of a pack of Luckies. Unfiltered, both the cigarettes and camera, I got it for a trip where I’d be traveling light, but now cancelled due to the virus.


But if my enthusiasm for ice has cooled a bit, it does occur to me, we really don’t have nearly enough terms for mud.  I only know a few, like Muck & Mire.

This prompted me to look those two up – – I always thought they were the same thing, but in the final scene, we find out, Muck is the slimy one, and Mire is the deep one.

My personal favorite is “gumbo,” since as we squelch through the muck & mire, we often release all sorts of fragrant gasses and spicy odors.  Sometimes as things warm up, some paths, maybe the more aerated ones, give off a kind of nice composted smell, and sometimes a rich bouillabaisse aroma, that’s not unpleasant at all.

I’d be interested in any terms you use for mud (colorful is good, I know I don’t have to ask you to keep it clean).











Alternate History, Art, Socks, Uncategorized

Sock Reboot*


Last summer, I wrote about the World-Famous Senecka County Sock Festival, still held annually,  despite the obvious controversies, protests, and on one occasion, a catastrophic explosion.  Senecka Sock Fest

This is another post about socks, but it’s new and better.  Because it’s shorter. And we’ve added an elastic comfort-band with Lycra.

Just a summary of my findings from a scientific historical analysis.  But allow me to begin with a personal anecdote, that I didn’t include in my last monograph.

It’s brief, extremely relevant, and was the catalyst for the entire research project.

I’ve always had an inordinate number of unmatched socks.

Technically, manufacturers and retailers would call this problem un nombre excessif de chaussettes inégalées” (because I’ve found, the entire foot garment industry is conducted in French, for some unknown reason).

You can take it as gospel, I am absolutely religious about keeping my socks in pairs, and I swear, they go into the wash like creatures onto Noah’s Ark, two by two.

But not all of them come out again.

At least, not in this dimension.

So…when I was in college, I did a semester abroad at Lingnan University, in Hong Kong.

And the very first time I went down to the dorm laundry room, and opened the dryer, there were two of my socks.

They’d gone missing at home a couple of years before.  And here they were again, in Hong Kong.  The socks have a very distinctive pattern, and I recognized them instantly.

I’d always wondered if my lack of matching socks was due to a genetic flaw, or gremlins, or maybe I’d failed to fish some of them out of the Hoover when I vacuumed, but standing there, in a dank basement laundry in Hong Kong, I realized in a flash, that clothes dryers are some sort of time-space portals. 

Many of you have had similar experiences, and have sensed the truth of this.



As further evidence, I need only mention that Rockford Red Heel socks, used to make sock monkeys, were invented in 1932.

And yet a patent for sock monkeys wasn’t granted until 1953!!

I guess further explication isn’t necessary, but basically, it’s hardly credible that it would take people twenty-one years to figure out how to make a sock monkey, out of their unmatched socks.

So it follows that it was a lack of single socks that was holding things up. Ipso facto,  it was the sudden appearance of  the  electric clothes dryer, invented in 1938, that made it possible for the sock monkey industry to take off, by creating a huge surplus of single socks! 

The electric clothes dryer had to be invented, for sock monkeys to evolve and for history to progress.

Dryers seem like innocent appliances, and valuable additions to our modern lifestyle, but we now know, they’re actually a Clothes Line to Chaos.  I think you’ll agree, the logic is impeccable.


When I first got into sock collecting, just getting my feet wet, as they say, I picked this item up at a garage sale, as one does. The previous owner assured me, that it was an attachment for one of the original Amana clothing dryers – – an automated sock fluffer.  I’ve harbored an increasing suspicion, that this was malarkey.  I’m going to keep it, because I believe it can be tweaked & re-purposed, for another hobby close to my heart – – waffles.  More about that later.


So anyway, when I’m traveling around, visiting different states or countries, no matter where I roam, there’s one constant – – I will always pop into any laundromats I run across, even if there’s nothing that needs washing.

I just check the dryers.

One particular item continues to elude me, a mid-calf wool-blend, in Mackay tartan, but I will bring it to heel, it’s just a matter of time.




I remember something from Eng. Lit. about “poetic feet,” and it reminded me to ask – – do you know the English poet and librettist Charles Bennett?  He writes wonderful stuff, including a poem called “William Wordsworth’s Socks,”  it’s online, you should read it! [ ]

I offer as a very poor substitute:


I wandered lonely as a cloud

That floats on high o’er vales and rocks,

When all at once I saw a crowd,

A host, of unaccompanied socks;

Beside the lake, beneath the trees,

Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.


Continuous as the stars that shine

And twinkle on the milky way,

Stretched in a never-ending clothes line

Their faithless partners gone astray


It’s more melancholy with just socks, and no daffodils, isn’t it.


The stocking cap, a genius hybrid.  Freshman year, but I do not recall any of the particulars of the evening this photo was taken.


The “Sock Monkey” comic book was written and drawn by Tony Millionaire and published by Dark Horse Comics; cover design by Tony Millionaire

* If you think “Sock Reboot” is a lame title, it was originally “Sock Appendix”  But that sounded like an unpleasant medical condition.  “Sox Redux” almost made it, but you can’t make socks out of duck cloth, so I lost interest.