Friday, September 24, 2010

Road Trip/Sketchbook Journal: WNY

One morning I pulled a stint filling in at East Branch Books, the bookstore in Sherman, and had some time to catch up in the sketchbook while listening to a tape of Charlie Parker's 1949 concert. Some clipitty-clop heralded the arrival of some local Amish farmers participating in the budding Farmer's Market initiative that's started up in town. Nothing like having a fruit and veggie stand set up right outside the shop. Also scored my coveted "Sherman, NY: A Place Like No Udder!" embroidered cap with a cow on it. Now I'm cool.

One of the top three gustatory experiences on this entire trip (the other two being the Iowa sweet corn and the pizza in Maine) was discovering "fry-pies." These concoctions were pastries stuffed with apple or cherry, mixed with cream cheese and brushed with a sugar glaze - think Hostess Fruit Pies but homemade, fresh and on steroids. Even pacing myself at a buck a pop I still kept strolling down for several more throughout the morning.
Speaking of, the Amish artist Anna Weaver I profiled here last year is gaining more clients and exposure, including her first solo show at the local gallery in Sherman, congrats for that.
Wait - more food: enjoyed the traditional Beef on Weck, some potato pancakes, and of course, authentic Buffalo chicken wings at my top two sources: Larry's Cantina in Westfield, and The Village Casino in Bemus Point on Chautauqua Lake.
The day before my arrival in WNY a rare and powerful tornado had torn through town, and the strewn wreckage was plainly visible as it left a trail of downed trees across pastures, including one not very far from where family lives. My fetish for violent thunderstorms aside, one notable volley was the first to ever scare me completely out of my mind when a particularly loud stroke detonated directly above the trailer. No cats anywhere that night. 
Took a short but exceptional hike with Herb through the French Creek Watershed Project (a Nature Conservancy preserve): eyes and mind seemed to soak up the deep, rich green, and the roadside riot of color from blooming Joe-Pie weed, Queen Anne's Lace, teasel (my favorite) and chicory, all shot through with the occasional streaking goldfinch.

No barn sketches this trip, but I did get to see and learn about another interesting business: while helping out at an antique book sale, I noticed huge silo streaked with a funky purple hue across the street. Found out they were in fact vats of grape juice (not unusual in the community, as there's also a Welch's plant down the way) for the famous kosher winery Mogen David.
Also observed the inexorable transformation from storing silage in silos to the current habit of just heaping it all up in massive piles, covered with plastic sheeting that's weighted down with conveniently abundant used tires. It's a curious and ubiquitous visual that's spread across farmlands everywhere, as the beautiful old barns are increasingly left to rot - leaving behind the silent hulks of concrete silos. 
Frequent cafe campout spot Stedman Corners was a fertile spot to observe human behavior and eavesdrop on conversation. The above moment from a poseur rebel was priceless: seems there's more and more roving bands of retirees opting to recapture reimagine the lost rebellion of youth. Probably ranks in the top five petty annoyances of mine - nothing says you don't care about being obnoxious louder, which is hilarious from a rumble of doctors and lawyers.
I had the most disconcerting experience of the entire trip while sketching on the porch: simultaneous with reading about a tragedy that had just happened back in Fairbanks where a 14-year old girl was killed by somebody running a red-light. The cafe is situated at a notorious intersection where it's pretty much a guarantee that at some point you will witness some rich asshole (or equally, to be fair, a drunk redneck) speeding right through and ignoring the warning light and four-way stop signs. Nothing like looking up from my iPod while reading that story and seeing yet another self-entitled jerk in their luxury sedan tear through on their way to the Chautauqua Institute, probably running late for the opera, talking on their cell-phone about how the poor peasants better stay outta their way. More on that topic later.

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