All the years growing up in Western New York and not once did any of us ever consider getting out on the snaking Allegheny River that winds through town. Not once*. A paddle or even a swim might as well have been a bike ride to the moon.

Yet, on this particular Saturday at least, groups of people – families, too – were pushing in rafts at various points along the river. Parking areas near recently constructed launch spots – built in response to the bump in water enthusiasts, I assume – were full, and, out on the roads, pick-ups hauling pairs of kayaks motored down side-streets. A fresh resurgence seems to have grabbed ahold of the old hometown. One project gives way to another – Good Times, a reconfigured main drag, a revived ball park and a new amateur baseball team to call it home, a coming hotel on a decades-old brownfield, an upstart brewing company to get excited about. God knows what else. Larger issues exist, of course, primarily the stagnant job market, which is nothing new for a town built on manufacturing. But, the front-facing stuff reflects, I think, a community believing in itself again, and it’s so awesome to see.

*Did our parents actively discourage this because – and who knows if this was/is actually true – the Allegheny was a cesspool of coliform bacteria, Mad Cow, SARS, Zika, etc.?

Take a second and think back over your last two months of existence, and, if you’re like me, it all just appears like one, big amorphous blob of days. Minus something completely out of the ordinary (a weeklong trip to some faraway place, say, or your house burning down), even special times worth remembering get rolled into the blob, to the point that answering the simple question, “What have you been up to?”, becomes like trying to explain the theory of relativity.

A couple of years ago, this void in memory made me sad, that I could live days, months, an entire year, and only come away with a few lines. There were special moments during time’s passing to be sure, but damned if I could remember what the hell they were. So I started writing everything down as a reference. Good thing, too, because when I look back on Spring 2016, my fickle eyes can’t see much beyond a day or two. Everything beyond that is just hazy, indefinite shapes dotting the timeline. Even squinting only gets me back a week or two. Our animal brains aren’t fit for this kind of mental storage. Thank god for pens.

Family: Lindz and I have been to Geneva (NY, not Switzerland), back to Olean for my grandmother’s 90th, out to Keuka Lake and Waneta Lake, and out to the Hudson Valley for a weekend. This Saturday, we’re heading back to Olean for a birthday, and, later this month, it’s out to Vermont to meet up with friends for a little vacation. We celebrate our one-year anniversary in July. Things are great. Both of us are trying to establish this daily habit of dedicating at least one hour of each evening to our respective crafts – she holes up in her studio to work on an ongoing project; I tinker away on guitar, songs, piano, or whatever. The activity is symbolic in a way – after all responsibilities are handled, the day ends with meaningful work that charges us up for the following day. So far, so good.

Our dog, Ada, is an ornery little shit, though. Two walks per day, an extended run, soccer in the backyard, and she still follows us around the house, grumbling about her little dog problems. C’mon, dog.

Music: I’m in gigging mode recently, driving out to Rochester on two separate weekends and Corning on another. This month, I’ve got three gigs in Ithaca. The shows have been fun and, at the very least, have been lessons in taming my anxiety leading up to gigs. I can’t really explain how gratifying it is to battle through that dread, drag my ass onto a stage and sing even as my out-of-control brain is in a state of meltdown – “Run! Run now!” If I’ve learned anything these past few months – and this goes beyond music – it’s that my feelings are really not accurate most of the time. My moods, my feelings, change with the direction of the wind. Silly, then, to be guided by them.

The barn: Our sagging, 100-year-old carriage house is fixed and ready for another century-long fight against gravity. Most everyone for whom we sought guidance advised us to simply tear it down and build something cheap and practical. We just couldn’t do it, though; we had to find someone out there who could bring our carriage house back to life, and that someone was a barn restorer named Seth. Inside of five weeks, he and a partner jacked up the barn, tore out the foundation, paved a new one, braced all the walls, and replaced what needed replacing. The roof line is actually that – a straight line. It’s damn magic.

Et cetera: I’ve been taking piano lessons with a guy named Noah since February, and the challenge of learning a new instrument has unearthed some of that old excitement I had when I first picked up guitar as a teen. In many ways, I’m flying blind – I visualize shapes on the guitar’s neck, and that helps me remember chord patterns and scales. But there are no mental maps on which to draw from with piano, where all those keys are laid out linearly in front of me. In two weeks, I’m playing a recital (adorable, I know), where I’ll play Chopin’s “Prelude in E minor”, a piece that has taken me months to master.

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The DiPietro-Glover residence, Trumansburg, NY. February 2015 (photo by Lindsey Glover)

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Lindsey’s show at SUNY Cortland, March 2015.

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Lindsey at Longwood Gardens, outside of Philly.

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Green wall at Longwood Gardens. (by Lindz)

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Lindsey’s piece, Glacial Lake, is featured at the Ice Box gallery in Philadelphia. (by Lindz)

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Springtime on the Black Diamond Trail.

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J. DiPietro, Uncle Neil and Luca hit the links somewhere in Virginia. First stop on the road trip that would take us to Charleston, S.C.  April, 2015.

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Night One of the annual Fogarty Golf outing, Charleston, S.C.

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BBQ with friends and family in Allegany, NY. May, 2015.

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Night One of wedding weekend with 2/3 of the Hernquist brothers and 3/4 of the Fogarty cousins, Ellicottville, NY, July 2015. 

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Fam. July 11, 2015. Ellicottville, NY

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Just married, July 2015, Ellicottville, NY

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Lindsey and Ada at Northpoint, Trumansburg. Summer 2015.

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Chenango River Adventure, Summer 2015 (by Lindz)

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Alexandria Bay in the Thousand Islands, Summer 2015 (by Lindz)

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A walk on Curry Road, Trumansburg.

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Southwick Beach encampment, September 2015 (by Lindz)

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Lindz at Genesee County Park, Summer 2015.

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At the finish line of the Buffalo Creek Half Marathon, outside of Pittsburgh, Pa., October 2015.

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Carnegie Museum of Art and Natural History.

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Lindz and the big, red door in Corning, NY. November, 2015.

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Lights out, December 2015 (by Lindz)

I’m not a very intelligent dude. I like things on the bottom shelf*, put in simple terms. And though I’m not often the best at it, I aspire toward clarity.

Which brings me to god.

It seems in our faithful efforts to define who god is, we’ve resigned to impart the most basic, overly simplistic and flawed identity: god is everything and everywhere, all the time. The ambiguity is unsettling, leaves room for doubt. No wonder, then, that whatever message god intended for us is likewise dumbed down – be good, go to heaven; be bad, go to hell – misinterpreted, or drowned out completely.

Mired in the hair-pulling between countless entities with convenient and pliable value systems, bitching about who god is and what god meant – and can’t forget the murder and genocide carried out in that effort – is a very clear charge: Be good to each other.

That’s it, to me at least. Not heaven or hell, or saying the right prayers, or living a life “according to god’s plan”, not even spiritual salvation. All it’s ever been: one billion Sunday sermons and several hundred pages of scripture distilled into a single, foundational directive that has proved more than enough work for us to handle.

Be good to each other, always.

Merry Christmas.


* intellectually and physically; I’m short.

purityIt seems borderline impossible nowadays to enjoy a tiny sliver of pop culture without bringing at least some third-party opinion into the experience. Hype – positive and negative – snowballs in the age of the internet, where deep-dives and think-pieces exist to segment, dissect and extract cultural value. To say we’re blind to it or that it has no sway – even a single headline in a Twitter feed – is a convenient self-deception, a hopeless hands-over-the-ears attempt to retain our idea of pure individuality. Despite our best efforts, hype finds us.

Which is all well and good, but I just wanted to enjoy Jonathan Franzen’s new novel in peace. Damn you all, Internets.

After being billed as the Next Great American Novelist by Time in 2010, Franzen’s standing turned online, it seemed. If the take-downs were to be believed, Franzen was no longer a great novelist but sexist and tone-deaf in his white maleness. At his base, he is an asshole. And, while we’re at it, is he really a good writer, anyway? All this before I even got to Page 1 of Purity.

And though I read far more critically this time around – Thank you, Gawker Media – I’ll just say: I think Purity is a pretty good book, just like Corrections and Freedom before it. I enjoyed reading it, found it worthy enough of my limited time and attention. And really, there isn’t much else to say beyond that.

“How odd a figure I must seem to you now, a solitary crank who maroons himself with a TV set and dozens of stacks of dust-jacketed comic books. Don’t think I wouldn’t appreciate a dramatic visit between two and three in the morning,” he told her, “from an intelligent woman in spike heels and a slit skirt, with high-impact accessories.”

Don Delillo’s “White Noise”

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“Don’t Try”. Knowing we do about Bukowski — straight-shooter, mostly miserable, hated lots of things, author of great poems — I assumed his epitaph was a nihilist middle-finger to humanity. Nope. Not at all, in fact.

Chinaski, in a letter to a friend, on trying:

“We work too hard. We try too hard. Don’t try. Don’t work. It’s there. It’s been looking right at us, aching to kick out of the closed womb. There’s been too much direction. It’s all free, we needn’t be told. Classes? Classes are for asses. Writing a poem is as easy as beating your meat or drinking a bottle of beer.”

And years later, his wife explains:

“Yeah, I get so many different ideas from people that don’t understand what that means. Well, ‘Don’t Try? Just be a slacker? lay back?’ And I’m no! Don’t try, do. Because if you’re spending your time trying something, you’re not doing it…’DON’T TRY’.”

From Open Culture