I took the dogs out for our after dinner walk this evening as usual. We headed over toward the water filtration plant on the other side of 23rd St. My plan was to walk over to the edge of the hill and see if there was anyone in the leash-free area. There are no lights there and no shelter from the cold winds and lately dog owners have been clearing out early.

The leash-free area was empty. I thought for a second I’d take the dogs down the hill and over to the path by the lake, when I saw a coyote out in the field. It was rooting around in the field and I’m guessing it was mousing. For a brief second, the coyote looked up at me, and then started moving slowly closer to the hill. I turned the dogs around and we jogged back toward the road. I’m happy to avoid any kind of encounters with our dogs and wildlife.

By the time we got to the road, the coyote had emerged at the top of the hill and was a third of the way across the field, coming toward us slowly but with some determination. We crossed 23rd and headed down Iris. Halfway to 25th, Memphis had to stop to pull out the little snowballs that build up between her paw pads. I looked back and the coyote was still in the field but only 15 or 20 feet away from the road.

The dogs were oblivious to this action. If they could smell the coyote, they showed no sign of it. Maybe the wind was in the wrong direction for that. They were only concerned that we were heading home so fast instead of completing our usual full walk. The coyote looked pretty scrawny except for its tail but it was hard to tell if it was healthy or not. This was not the first time I’ve seen coyotes in the park or the filtration plant lands – but it was the first time one followed me.

Of course there are different types of coyotes. Here is Guy Clark singing about the other kind…

Tecumseh Valley

We’re always making value judgements, and we do it at lightning speed. I like this, I don’t care for that, that’s ok, oh no, not that. We do it about art and music and literature and everything else. I’m OK with that. For instance with music, I listen to a broad range of material, some of it very disparate. I don’t listen to everything though and I know there are some things I don’t give half a chance. Oh well.

I was on a roadtrip once with East Texas Red. We were out west somewhere chasing trout and at this particular moment we were having mediocre pizza with bottomless Coca Cola at some roadside joint and we were talking about music. East Texas Red asked me what made Townes van Zandt such a great song writer. Why did I admire his tunes so much? Fair question.

The first Townes van Zandt record I had was Live and Obscure. It was on vinyl. Remember vinyl? I played that record until it was scratched and it skipped. It seemed like Townes carried all the worries of the world on his shoulders. He sang terribly sad songs and he brought out every ounce of melancholy and hopelessness.  He must have been one troubled guy.

I didn’t say that to East Texas Red though. At the time I didn’t really have an answer to his question beyond, “because his songs are really good.” This was quite a few years ago. Since then I’ve listened to those Townes van Zandt tunes hundreds of times. If East Texas Red asked me the question now in the fullness of time, I’d say, “because you can listen to them over and over and over for years and years and never get tired of them. That’s saying something. I get tired of most songs I hear on the radio really quickly.

Here’s Townes van Zandt performing Tecumseh Valley with Nanci Griffith…


Underground #4

Underground #4

I’ve been thinking about a series of paintings I made quite a number of years ago called Underground, so I thought I’d share one of these images tonight. Underground is actually a title I’ve applied to other paintings as well, and I suspect at some point in the future there may be more Underground paintings. This particular series is distinguished from the all the other paintings I’ve made because it is on a strange material that was described to me as aluminum foam.

A friend of mine was involved with the company that made this weird material, and he provided some pieces for me to try out as a painting ground. The first thing I did was to break the sheets into irregularly shaped chunks, with each chunk destined to become a painting. I think there were 8 in all. The one pictured is #4 – but keep in mind the numbers were just added in order to distinguish one from the other for practical purposes.

I found the material to be very challenging to work on, and the irregular shapes added to the difficulty. The resulting paintings were highly organic and highly textured, somewhat awkward and anything but pretty. The material and the shapes created the sense that these paintings were like core samples from my imagination.

I exhibited some of the paintings from this series at the old Loop Gallery on Queen St. West here in Toronto. A couple of them sold along the way. I gave one to a friend as a gift and I still have a few of these unusual paintings here at 27th Street.

Serenade to a Cuckoo

These days I’ve been listening to a lot of stringband music, as regular visitors to this joint can attest. Still sometimes I need a dose of jazz, I need to hear the horns, those fantastic extensions of the human voice.

Here’s  Rahsaan Roland Kirk performing Serenade to a Cuckoo…

Early this morning….

IMG_2553It isn’t often we get snow before the Shishigashira sheds its leaves. By this afternoon, the snow was gone from the trees but there were still traces on the ground, and forecasts suggesting a little more is on the way. Well, bring it on….

Down the river I go

I wonder how many river songs there are? The other day I shared a tune called Going down to the River. Today, it’s Down the River I go (Uncle Joe) performed by Cathy Barton and Dave Para.

Do you have a favourite river tune?

How about The Texas River Song?

That one is also called Down on the Brazos or the Brazos River Song, but it isn’t the only tune that mentions the Brazos. There’s also Ain’t no more Cane on the Brazos…. here’s Lyle Lovett



Paintings in Flux

I envy painters who can make a drawing then translate that drawing to a painting. In all the years I’ve been painting, that approach has been foreign to me. In fact I don’t make many drawings at all.  For me it’s all one. When I’m on, drawing is painting, painting is thinking.

The fact is that even after all these years I feel like I’m starting at the beginning every time I go to work in the studio. It’s still a big mystery to me.

I have several paintings going in the studio right now – various smallish sizes – and I have them all over the place down there. It’s almost overwhelming to me. Some I’ve been working on for a while. Others I’ve just introduced into the mix.

I walked down there the other night and thought what the hell am I doing in here? This is, however, not unfamiliar. I often go into a group of paintings with a bunch of preconceived ideas about the next paintings, and the first thing I do is kill off all those preconceived ideas. How can you get anything done like that? I don’t know.


Bench check

It’s been a couple months since we installed the Magnolia Bench, and we wanted to do a quick technical check – just to make sure all the tesserae were solidly in place and there were no issues with the grout.

IMG_2531IMG_2532I drove out for a look this morning, and it’s looking just fine.



IMG_2539Our Shishigashira, or Lion’s Mane Japanese Maple is one of the last trees to turn colour each year around here. Up until just a few days ago it remained a deep green, Then it changes quickly over just a few days, and hits us with stunning oranges and yellows. It’s a short show though, and when this one changes colour I know winter is around the corner.