Note to Self:

Friday, May 26, 2017

Things that can be carried on a bike (#717)...


I haven't been using the trusty old Mundo v3 that often in recent years as I've other options these day, but when I need to haul large or heavy things it's nice to know it's still there, and geeze o' man is it fun to ride.

Anyhow, on the bike: A cardboard box with 8 live vegetable plants, a book, a magazine, an extra front bicycle rack, and a small pile of lumber.

Five or Eleven Quotes from Ralph Waldo Emerson

May 25, 1803 - April 27, 1882

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”

“For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness.”

“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense."

“Always do what you are afraid to do.”

“Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail.”

“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”

“Dare to live the life you have dreamed for yourself. Go forward and make your dreams come true.”

“The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.”

“Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.”

“Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.”

“Life is a journey, not a destination.”

More Five Quotes.
Urban Simplicity. 

Monday, May 22, 2017

This is Jay (and he was a bit of a challenge)


This is Jay. I met him on my way home this evening. But before I tell his story, or what I know of it, I have to tell you mine. At least mine from this evening.

Earlier this evening I was on a phone call with a professor for a class I am currently taking. During our conversation I told him how I feel we are all equal. All of us. No exceptions.

On a side note, if you've been to this blog before then you know that I sometimes profile people on the street.

Anyhow, I had stopped out for a couple beers and was on my way home when I heard him. He was across the street sitting on a stoop. I couldn't see him because from my view he was hidden behind parked cars. But I could hear him, almost wailing. He was asking for help to get something to eat. So I walked over to him.

When I first approached he immediately asked me for money. For what I asked? I am really hungry, he replied. He was going to the store down the street for a sandwich, some chips, and--he added--a beer if he had enough money. [Note the beer sitting next to him.] I thought about taking him to the store to buy a sandwich for him, but I was tired (life, sometimes, can be so exhausting).

I asked him his story, he was somewhat guarded, but this is what he told me. He was released from prison very recently, July of 2016, after 23 years. That's a year ago, I thought, but after 23 years that's pretty recent. I didn't ask him what he was in for because I really was afraid to know. But he told me that when he "was in" he was beaten so badly he now has memory problems and seizures. This, I suppose, also explains his halting way of speaking.

Anyhow--and this is a true story--when I reached into my pocket for change I pulled out not just change but also a small pocket rosary that I had purchased last summer at St. Paul's Chapel next to Ground Zero in NYC. I sometimes carry it with me when I travel. I don't remember putting it in my pocket today, but there it was. What, is this a test, I thought to myself? I had intended on just giving Jay a couple quarters but gave him what I had in my pocket, which was nearly two dollars.

Jay was challenging, there is no question. The way he spoke. His assertiveness. But he is still a human on planet earth, and one who has some problems (as we all do). Yes, he had a beer sitting next to him and was hoping to get enough money for another, but I had just come from a tavern where I had three. None of us would hope to end up on the street, but some of us do, and that doesn't necessarily make them a bad person. So now, as I get ready to sign off on blogger and log onto Netflix to watch a half-hour of something mindless before crawling into bed, I hope and pray that Jay also has someplace to sleep on this unseasonably chilly spring evening.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

The Angels Were Bowling.


I woke with a start.
Early morning thunder.
I didn't get out of bed.
I lay there and listened.
The angels are bowling, I thought.
That's what my mom would tell me.
A few more crashes.
And then the rain came.
In buckets.
I lay there listening to this, too.
After breakfast and coffee I went out.
For more coffee.
It had stopped raining.
For now.

The air hung heavy.
So did the clouds.
Off and on, it rained.
For most of the day.
Droplets cover everything.
Drawn up to the clouds.
As a mist.
From far away.
Then released.
And here they are.
Droplets everywhere.
Nourishing, rejuvenating.
Beautiful
.






Thursday, May 18, 2017

Flesh on Flesh, the Yam Cutter, and other Photos...


The above photo is one of mine which will be on view and for sale at this weekend's one-night-only photography popup. The photo is titled, "Makin' Bacon," or alternatively, "Flesh on Flesh." I'm one of 10 or 11 photographers displaying their work. All photos are unframed and for sale at a mere $25.

Here's a brief description from one of the co-organizers...

"The photography pop-up series is intended to exist outside of Buffalo's mainstream art scene," says Molly Jarboe, co-organizer. "The pop ups are never at a gallery, sponsorships will never be accepted, and work will always be sold at or below cost. This is a people's art event."

All the photographers are showing people at work in Buffalo, I chose to do mostly closeups. Here's a bit of a description describing my series...

"This series is a departure from his usual work in that he shows close up views of kitchen life and the juxtaposition of beauty and grotesque, both of which are present in the image of the butcher preparing a pork belly for bacon. The flesh of his hand is pressing down into the flesh of the pig, restraining it but in a way communing with it. Though you'd likely recognize some of the names of the hands in these photos, Joe has chosen to keep them nameless in honor of all the line cooks, prep cooks, and dishwashers who often toil unnoticed behind the kitchen doors. For some, who have never worked in a kitchen, they may have the misconception that it's like a television show and all glamour. In snippets it can be, but mostly it is the day in and day out routine of the job. Some days you're cutting meat, some days vegetables. It's always hot. And then some days you're simply buttering toast, lots and lots of toast, for a Sunday brunch."

To see the official Facebook page, which describes the popup more fully, click here. To see the show profiled at Buffalo Rising click here. To see the show profiled, along with sample photos, at the Buffalo News, click here.

This should be a fun show, I'm really looking forward to it, and I hope to see you here. Oh, and one more thing, I've been told there will be free beer courtesy Community Beer Works

Urban Simplicity.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Things that can be carried on a bike (#716)...


Another bike.

Here's the brief story behind this photo...I had to take the Boda Boda to the shop to have some bearings replaced, so I dropped it off and walked home. They called and said it was ready so I rode the Dahon to the shop and towed it home with the Boda Boda. I've done this before with larger bikes but not in a while. It was fun.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

A Day in a Life. Journal entry 5.14.17


“Life is what happens to us while we are making other plans."
 ~Allen Saunders (but often inaccurately attributed to John Lennon)

Sunday.
I wake before the alarm goes off,
and I lay there for a few minutes.
Thinking.
When I go downstairs I turn on the coffee maker.
The dogs scurry about.
They act as if they haven't seen me in 8 years instead of 8 hours.
I feed them.
Franklin, the finicky one, just looks at me.
I have to feed him a couple pieces of food by hand to get him started.
Coffee ready and dogs in the backyard,
I check emails, the NY Times, and scroll Facebook.
Looking at the clock I realize I'm running late for church,
and I'm scheduled as head usher.
Showered, I wheel one of the bikes down the plank on the porch,
and when I do I notice a tulip in a neighbor's yard.
It's withered.
Just yesterday it was in full bloom.
Nothing is permanent, I think to myself.
I snap it's photo.
As I pedal to church the air feels good.
It's chilly but the sun is out.
It's Mother's Day, and during worship the pastor speaks of mothers.
I think of my mother, who left us too soon.
I think of a specific time and tears well in my eyes.
I hold back tears as I ready myself for collection.
So many years later and I still feel.
I am grateful.
On my way home I stop at a coffee shop,
to read and write.
But it's crowded and I can't focus,
so I leave.
I have an egg sandwich for lunch and feed the dogs pieces of the crust.
I lay down and am surprised that I fall asleep for just a few minutes.
After a few stretches I sit on a cushion in front of the small altar,
which is off to the side of the room.
I pray, 
asking mostly for guidance.
Then I meditate for a few minutes.
I have to pick up photos from a show that came down last week.
But it's raining, so I make coffee and scroll Facebook,
and wait.
I use my large bike, and a trailer, to retrieve the photos.
The gallery is about two miles away, and I push hard into a strong headwind.
I huff and puff but know that the wind will be at my back on return.
The reward.
Pushing the bike up the plank I notice the tulip again.
Now is all we have.
I switch bikes,
to a shorter one,
then head to the JCC for a steam and swim.
I love riding this particular bike,
but there is an incessant click in the crank,
and it's gotten louder.
The street is slow and crowded,
I keep pace with traffic,
but I pull over to the side to inspect the sound.
When I do the person behind me beeps
and yells an obscenity out their window.
I make eye contact as they pass and say nothing.
I feel sorry for them.
Angry and saddled to their car.
When I swim it feels good.
In the buoyancy of the water nothing aches.
The steam room feels even better.
I have leftovers for dinner.
Rice-and-beans with roast vegetables.
My dogs stare at me while I eat.
I don't give them any; they've had their meal.
It's still early so I decide to stop out for a couple beers.
As I pass my neighbor's I notice the tulip again.
It's beautiful, even in its weathered and wilted state.
A snapshot of life, I suppose.
Real life.
I walk to the tavern.
It's still light outside but dark inside.
The first sip of beer tastes good.
If fizzes across my tongue.
When I return home my dogs greet me as if I've been gone for two days.
I sit on the floor and let them crawl all over me.
This is now, I think.
Now.
Tomorrow is tomorrow.
Another day in a life.
But now is now.
And it's beautiful.
But sometimes I need reminders.
To remember.
To return to now.
And that's okay.

“Every moment and every event of every person's life on earth plants something in their soul."
~Fr. Thomas Merton

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Asparagus with oil and garlic...


Before I begin I have to chant the mantra for all, or at least most, of the recipes which I post on this blog...this is so easy to prepare, and it is delicious and nutritious. Okay, that out of the way, this is a classic recipe for aglio e olio (oil and garlic). Most Mediterranean countries have versions of this, and nearly any foodstuff can be prepared in this manner. The classic, of course is pasta, but it is great with vegetables, potatoes, and even seafood or chicken. The key is in browning the garlic and hot peppers...it should be started in a cold pan then heated slowly until light golden-brown. At that point lemon juice is added, which forms a temporary emulsion and creates a light sauce which is literally bursting with flavor (see the two photos just below. Once you have the sauce nearly anything can be added. In this instance I added asparagus, but as aforementioned, it is applicable with a large variety of foods, especially pasta. For mare recipes cooked like this click here. The recipe which correlates with this photos is below.



Asparagus Aglio e Olio 

1 pound asparagus  
¼ cup olive oil 
3 cloves garlic, minced 
1 teaspoon crushed hot pepper 
½ teaspoon sea salt 
2 tablespoons water 
3 tablespoons lemon juice 


Trim the asparagus of their tough ends, discard the ends, then set the asparagus aside. Combine the olive oil, garlic, hot pepper, and salt in a skillet then place it over medium-high heat. Stir the garlic and peppers in the pan as it heats. Stir and cook the garlic continuously until it is golden-brown, then add the water and lemon juice. Stir the ingredients together then add the asparagus. Turn the asparagus in the sauce, then cover the pan with a lid for just a minute or two. Remove the lid and baste the asparagus with the garlic, oil, and peppers. Cook the asparagus until it changes color but is still crisp, al dente. Transfer to a plate and pour the sauce over the asparagus.


Monday, May 1, 2017

This is Mark.


This is Mark, Mark Buffington. Like Washington only with Buff like Buffalo in front of it, he told me. I had stopped out for a couple beers tonight and was on my way home. That's when I met him. The tavern I had gone to had an open mic and I was enjoying the impromptu musical creativity. Then when I left and began to cross the street I heard another rhythm, a sort of tapping. So I went over and met Mark. He was "playing" all these random things. The only actual instrument was a harmonica. Resourceful, I thought. He's been on the street "for a while," he told me. Ever since his girlfriend kicked him out. "It doesn't make me a bad person, I've not done anything bad," he also added. And I concur, being on the street doesn't make you a bad person...things happen. He told me he felt things will get better soon, that he's okay. I asked him about his health (because I could see that he kept his one hand covered, and that it was crooked), and he told me that he was doing okay, that the doctors at Roswell (cancer institute) are giving him a clean bill of health. We talked for a while, and he played me a couple numbers on his stuff. Never once did he ask me for money. When I offered him a couple dollars worth of change he took it. And when he did he shook my hand with his bent one and said "Thank you brother; God bless you." Then we parted. As I walked away I could hear his tapping...on an old tire, a wooden crate, and also I heard his harmonica. A couple blocks later as I put the key in my front door I felt grateful. Not only for my ramshackle house I call home, but also that my path crossed with Mark Buffington this evening. My life is enriched because of it.

"Love your neighbor as yourself."
~Mark 12:31


Urban Simplicity.

The Eggplant and the Angry Tomato (Sauce).


Okay. So this is more about the angry tomato than it is an eggplant. Or, more specifically, the angry tomato sauce. But I'm jumping ahead. 

This past summer I ate at an Italian restaurant here in Buffalo and had a pasta dish with arrabbiata sauce. Oddly--for someone who cooks for a living and who really enjoys Mediterranean food--I had not heard of this sauce. I asked the server about it and they simply said it was a "spicy tomato sauce." Hmm...I thought. Nonetheless, it was delicious. But I also thought $17 was a bit pricey for a plate of pasta and tomato sauce.

Anyhow, this past weekend I was in Toronto with family and we ate at an Italian restaurant. I saw the same dish on the menu so decided to order it. Again, it was delicious, but also pricey @ $21. 

I decided to look into it further to recreate it for myself. It turns out that the word, arribbiata, is Italian for "angry," making reference to the spiciness of the sauce. And the server that waited on me last summer was correct, it is simply a spicy tomato sauce. 

Arribbiata sauce, it seems, is part of a trilogy of spicy Itlian tomato sauces. It is also the simplest. They all contain hot peppers, but of the other two, Fra Diavolo (Brother Devil) also contains anchovy, red wine, and usually shellfish, while putanesca (whore sauce) contains anchovy, olives, and capers. Arribbiata sauce, though, simply contains crushed red pepper...it could be, in a way, the base sauce for the others. 

This said, in the recipe I included below I added red wine, which is an option and also makes it closer to a Fra Diavolo sauce. I also added a bit of sugar, simply because I like it, but this is also an option. While the sauce simmered and pasta cooked I also diced and sauteed an eggplant, to which I then added some of the sauce, simply to make a heartier dinner. The recipe below represents just the sauce. 

In conclusion, this is about as simple a sauce as you can get but it is packed with flavor. It can be made in a half-hour or less and can be used for a base for others. Add meat or seafood or other vegetables if you like. If you'd like a recipe for Fra Diavolo, with historical info, read this earlier post.


Arrabbiata Sauce 
(Angry Sauce)

Makes about 5 cups

¼ cup olive oil
1 small onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons crushed hot pepper
1 cup red wine
1 cup water
1 tablespoon sugar
1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
1 teaspoon salt
1 bunch fresh basil, chopped


Heat the olive oil in a heavy pot over medium-high heat, then add the onion. Cook the onion, while stirring, for about 5 minutes, or until it just begins to brown. Add the garlic and crushed hot pepper and cook for another couple minutes, or until the garlic begins to brown. 


Stir in the red wine and water, bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Cook the liquids for a couple minutes, then stir in the tomatoes, and salt. Simmer the sauce for about 10 minutes, then add the chopped basil and simmer another 10 minutes or so.


Friday, April 28, 2017

The view from my handlebars...


Yesterday was unseasonably warm here in Buffalo. Hot, even. 85F in April. But it felt good. I had the day off, and after having lunch with my son, I rode over to Forest Lawn Cemetery for a bit of solace and to snap a few photos. I have posted and commented on this cemetery in previous posts and feel that we are lucky to have it. It sits in the middle of the city but one is transported while there. Besides all the souls that reside there, it is also an unofficial bird and wildlife sanctuary, and in many ways a human one as well. The feeling I have there is sort of like being in an outdoor sanctuary of a church...peaceful, yet inspiring. The sculpture above is one of my favorites. The artist is John Field, and the caption for it reads, "And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then you shall truly dance." To see more photos of this place, click here, here, here, here, or here.






Urban Simplicity.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

A Walk in the Woods (without leaving the city)


One of the things that is unique about living in Buffalo, NY is while it is a medium sized city it is also a small town, and with that one doesn't have to go far in order to encounter wilderness. In fact, one doesn't have to even leave the city limits. I'm referring to two nature preserves that are along our shoreline and are just outside of downtown. Both of these preserves, Tifft Nature Preserve and Times Beach Nature Preserve, are less than a 5 mile bike ride from my front door. Indeed, in the summer months the trip is much shorter with the aid of Buffalo Bike Ferry. Anyhow, thus said, a couple days ago I had the day off and the morning free and felt like I needed a bit of recharge so I rode over to Tifft Nature Preserve and went for a walk. It truly is what I needed. Here's a few things I saw. To see previously posted pictures from Tifft, click here, and from Times Beach, click here.






Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Things that can be carried on a bike (#715)...


A pug!

This is Maxwell on his way home from the groomer after having his nails clipped and a painful ingrown dew claw tended to. He is very happy and relieved :)


Thursday, March 30, 2017

The View from the Top...


This is a series of photos I shot last week from the observation deck of Buffalo's incredibly beautiful City Hall. The observation deck is visible in the above photo as the strip of glass that surrounds the very top of the building. The first photo below was taken from the steps, looking up. This, in my humble opinion, is one of the most underused and free attractions to our city. To see photos of the interior of the building, here's a series I shot last year, and if you'd like to see a couple photos of the building at a distance and lit up at night, click here.

Anyhow, the photos are as follows...the second photo below is looking east over the city just as you walk out onto the observation deck, when you are up there it is easy to see how the street patterns were laid out in a sort of wheel pattern in the same way as Paris. Walking around the side of the deck and looking northwest one can view Niagara Falls 20 miles away, that's the next photo (if you look close you can see the mist from the actual falls). The photo below is a zoomed in photo of the tightly packed West Side, my neighborhood. The last photo is a zoomed in photo of the top of the Liberty Building, which is also visible (in the distance) in the photo looking out over the city. What I find interesting about this zoomed in photo is that if you look past the city you can see dozens of windmills in the distance, those I believe are the windmills off to the east of Buffalo in Cattaraugus and Wyoming counties. Anyhow, whether a local or visitor to the City of Good Neighbors, the observation deck as an excellent and interesting way to spend a (free) half hour or so.






Urban Simplicity.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Mystery...two brief stories about the same thing


The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.
~Albert Einstein

I have always believed in the mystery of the unseen. No, I am not referring to ghosts, but simply that there is more to this life than we can see. What is reality, after all? Science will tell you that everything we can see and touch is not actually solid but is moving and vibratory (Google string theory as one example). But I have to restate my opening sentence, or at least amend it.

I have always believed in the mystery of the unseen but don’t always remember or know it. By this, I mean that I am not always open to it. Such has been the case these past few months. Trying to manage a full-time job, a part-time job, and 8 credits of schooling (and trying to have a life) has been trying to say the least. So I just shut things out and live in the material world, which isn’t always my favorite place. The irony is that some of the credits I’m taking, and the class that has been most challenging for me, is a religious studies class. The reading and writing required for the class is approached academically rather than theologically or devotional, in short in my head not my heart. When I get like this I sometimes need a slap in the face to wake me out of my slumber so I can again see the incredible mystery that is all around me. And this is what happened a few days ago.

As with all of us, there are certain dates of the calendar year that have great significance to me. I’m not referring to holidays, but personal dates we remember each year. There’s one such date that I remember each year and on that day take a sort of pause, to remember. What the date means to me is something I’d rather not share in this public forum other than it is very personal. It has had life-altering significance and on that day I simply remember. But this year I didn’t remember; I forgot. I didn’t realize I forgot but I did. Then, out of the blue, I received a text from someone who made reference to the date.

Slap! Wake up, it was telling me. When I read the text I felt like I was in a movie...reading it but not really able to comprehend. I was groggy from being woken up. My skin tingles now as I type these words.

There is so much mystery around and it is so easy to see and feel but when I am so engulfed in my own issues it’s as if I shut everything out and live externally rather than internally, which for an INFJ can be a very scary place. The text reminded me to stop and remember not just that particular day but life, each and every day. The difficult part—the real work—is to keep it going.

The day after I received the aforementioned text I had the day off. It was early and I was heading out to a coffee shop. As I rolled my bike down the plank on my front porch I half-expected a squirrel to run up. No I am not crazy (okay, maybe a bit), there is a squirrel that lives in the eave of my neighbor’s porch and in the spring and summer it runs up to you as you leave the house. My neighbor named it George but we’re questioning whether we should rename him Georgina because he may be a she. But the squirrel didn’t show.

When I bring my bike down the porch I have to set it on its kickstand so I can go back up the porch to lock the front door. It, being a rather large bike, has a rather large kickstand which makes a sound when unfolded. Anyhow, when I set the bike on it’s stand and it made it’s predictable sound I heard the sound of feathers being ruffled. It came from the direction of my neighbor’s porch where George/Georgina resides. I look up to see a peregrine falcon perched directly above the squirrel’s hole, which is only about 15 feet from where I was standing. Holy shit!, is what I’m pretty sure I said aloud. It was waiting for George/Georgina. Did he/she have babies in it’s nest, I wondered?

Then the falcon flew to a tree branch, which was actually closer to me but higher. And for another few seconds it looked down at me then flew away. I tingled. The cycle of life I thought. Even in the city these wildlife things happen.

I hopped on my bike and rode to the coffee shop, and as I did I thought of how incredibly strange life is and what was real. Both of these stories are really about the same thing, the mystery of life.

After a lifetime of working in kitchens I don’t have any money to speak of and have (mostly) stopped worrying about it. I really don’t desire things any longer. Experience is what excites me, and life is about experience. That, to me, is reality.

As I pedaled I thought of the famous conversation Buddha had with his disciples, as recorded in Dona Sutta. I’m abridging and paraphrasing, but it goes something like this. He was first asked if he was a god or messiah to which he answered no. Then asked if he was healer or teacher, also no. Then what are you, he was finally questioned. To which he simply answered, I am awake.

I need constant reminders in my life to stay awake. The text was one—that really was a slap—and the falcon another. I need them constantly, we all do I suppose. When I came home this afternoon George/Georgina came running up to me, as usual a bit too close for my comfort, so I stomped my foot for him/her to stop. And when he/she did I told him/her to be careful, to stay awake, that the falcon knows where you live. I don’t think he/she understood me.

In a way, I suppose, when I warned George/Georgina I was really warning myself. Stay awake, because the falcon (ego) knows where you live. Stay awake lest it plucks you away. Next year, I’m sure I will not forget the date.

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
~ 2 Corinthians 4:18 

Urban Simplicity.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

After the Parade, and a Few Other Things I've Seen Recently While Walking or Riding a Bike...


So a couple things. One is that I've begun carrying my camera with me again on a regular basis, hence the photos. It's therapy for me (seriously). The first three photos (the one above and two below) were shot today just after the St. Patrick's Day Parade (Buffalo recently ranked the #1 city for this event). I didn't see the parade but as I live very close to where it happens I snapped a few photos afterwards. While the above shot--which is one of my favorites--may seem a bit snarky I don't mean it to be. It's three drunk people stumbling along and holding one another up (if you saw them in person they sort of swayed in a synchronized motion as they walked). Anyhow, I thought it was nice how they all held one another up. Years ago (many years ago) that may have been me. This rest of the photos are in no particular order. They were shot over the past week or so, where we basically experienced every season (except truly hot summer) within the course of the week. Click any photo for a slightly larger view.












Urban Simplicity.