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November 16, 2018
Once again this year, I will be playing Polish Christmas favorites on guitar and concertina at several different venues. Here is my December schedule if you are interested in hearing me play:

Friday, December 7, 14 & 21: Polska Chata, Irondequoit, NY:  5 PM - 8:30









Sunday, December 9: Wigilia - Traditional Polish Christmas Eve Dinner at Syracuse Polish Home, 915 Park Ave, Syracuse, New York 13204 DETAILS
















Saturday, December 8: Wigilia Dinner at St. John Fisher College, Rochester, NY

















Saturday, December 15 & 22: Euro Café, Geneseo, NY - 5 PM - 7
Please remember to call for reservations!

Alex Johnson, with wife Ginny, son Chris and friend.
December 8: Wigilia Dinner at St. John Fisher College, Rochester, NY
December 8: Wigilia Dinner at St. John Fisher College, Rochester, NY
December 8: Wigilia Dinner at St. John Fisher College, Rochester, NY
The Psalmtones
Polska Szkoła
Thursday, December 13, 2018: Rocky Jog and Slippery Hill Climb, Rochester, New York
Wednesday, December 19, 2018: December Visit to Highland Park
Euro Café
Euro Café
Euro Café
Are you familiar with the old Polish custom that the musician gets to award a kiss to any lady of his liking midway through the performance? At  Euro Café I chose the unsuspecting young lady in the above left photo (seated at the table with the three handsome young men). Ladies and gentlemen, my daughter Jessica! 

You should have seen the look of terror on the patrons' faces 😳😱😨😰 when I informed them of this faux "old Polish custom" I had just made up. Hah! And how relieved she was my daughter. 
      Thursday, January 3, 2019: Ballada wagonowa
Marian Poczobutt told me about this song when I visited Syracuse not too long ago. "Ballada wagonowa" is a fun song made popular by Maryla Rodowicz (1970). Naturally I thought I'd give it a try. Just couldn't resist it! Thanks for the tip, Marian. And thank you Nancy Smardz for the great hat. And of course, thank you Lila for the red and white bracelet which, as you know, is featured in many of my videos. (I'm on my second bracelet now... I wore out the first one.) By the way, the Polish language features an abundance of fricatives and affricates, so pronunciation is always a challenge for me. Thank you for viewing:
Tekst piosenki:

Pamiętam był ogromny mróz
od Cheetaway do Syracuse
pamiętam był ogromny mróz
od Cheetaway do Syracuse

Sam diabeł szepnął: wietrze wiej
od Syracuse do Cheetaway
Sam diabeł szepnął: wietrze wiej
od Syracuse do Cheetaway

Trzech pasażerów pociąg wiózł
od Cheetaway do Syracuse
Trzech pasażerów pociąg wiózł
od Cheetaway do Syracuse

W moim przedziale wszyscy trzej
ten z Syracuse, ten z Cheetaway
W moim przedziale wszyscy trzej
ten z Syracuse, ten z Cheetaway

Ten trzeci to był na mój gust
nie z Cheetaway nie z Syracuse
Ten trzeci to był na mój gust
nie z Cheetaway nie z Syracuse

Mój cudzoziemcze zostać chciej
gdzieś w Syracuse, gdzieś w Cheetaway
Mój cudzoziemcze zostać chciej
gdzieś w Syracuse, gdzieś w Cheetaway

Zatęsknisz jeszcze do mych ust
do Cheetaway, do Syracuse
Zatęsknisz jeszcze do mych ust
do Cheetaway, do Syracuse

Wesele będzie hejże, hej
od Syracuse do Cheetaway
Wesele będzie hejże, hej
od Syracuse do Cheetaway
Friday, January 4, 2019: Bike Ride #21
Too nice not to ride today! Monroe Ave, past Strong Museum of Play, to the skating rink at MLK Jr. Park, then down East Ave to the George Eastman Museum (Kodak) and Park Ave.
Wednesday, January 4, 2019: Lake Ontario's Fury
Wet, wild, windy, wavy, and wintry walk to the end of the world at Webster Park. WOW!
www.RochesterMyHome,com
This Sunday, January 13, I will be attending 11 o'clock Mass at Corpus Christi in Buffalo. Ludowa Nuta will there to perform kolędy during the service, then again during dinner after Mass. I plan to post video of everything. Next Saturday, January 19 will be a jammed-packed day. First I will videotape Docenko and Buffalo Touch polka band at the Broadway Market and later John Gora at St. Stanislaus on Peckham St. In between events, I hope to do a little skating downtown. Buffalo is definitely a fun place!
Sunday, January 13, 2019: Celebrating Christmas with Ludowa Nuta
Wednesday, January 16, 2019: Jak długo na Wawelu
Autor tekstu:Konstanty Krumłowski (autor niepewny) 
Kompozytor:anonim
Rok powstania:1921 (rok niepewny)
Covery:Bernard Ładysz, Stanisław Wielanek
Płyty:Stasiek Wielanek & Kapela Warszawska. Dawne polskie piosenki (LP, 1991), S. Wielanek & Kapela Warszawska. Piosenki Legionów Polskich (CD, 1998)
Ciekawostki:Tytuły alternatywne: "Jak długo", "Jak długo w sercu naszym", "Zwycięży Orzeł Biały".
Friday, January 18, 2019: Should I go to Buffalo tomorrow?
The snow storm is predicted to begin Saturday afternoon and get nasty in the eveningI think my return drive to Rochester could be dicey. 

According to Channel 10 WHEC meteorologist, James Gilbert, heavy snow is on the way:
"My thoughts on the snow. Forecasting 8-12" area-wide through Sunday morning, then an extra 4-8" with lake-effect snow as the storm system moves out. 

Sunday will be... GNARLY!"
Sunday, February 3, 2019: Super Bowl Sunday
Yesterday I posted my rendition of "Freight Train" by Elizabeth Cotten on Facebook. I like it for the guitar part, but also because it reminds me of my life as a kid (ages 11- 16) in Sloan, New York. Sloan, located just east of Buffalo, was - and still is - surrounded by noisy train yards... yet it was a great place to live... and so is Buffalo.

I happened to drive down Michael Street today, which is featured in this video. BTW, not only did I live "down at the end of Michael Street", but 'ole Number 9 came rolling by too. What luck!!!

Today is Super Bowl Sunday, but let me tell you the greatest street football and street hockey was played on Michael Street. Yep, for sure!

My real reason for driving to Buffalo was to try out the toboggan chutes at Chestnut Ridge Park and to check out the skating rink at Buffalo's Canalside. 
Thursday, February 14, 2019: Valentine's Day
​Here is my Valentine's gift: "Haniś, moja Haniś" --->
Ain't I romantic! This is one of the sweetest Polish tunes I know, so I am sharing it with you. Don't worry, it won't rot your teeth like chocolate!



Tuesday, February 19, 2019: The Federalist
​My favorite school subjects when I was in high school were French and social studies, which we called “history”. My two favorite history teachers were Fr. Joe Bissonnette (R.I.P.) and Fr. John Ryan. In my senior year, with most of my required courses out of the way, I took a course called Foundations in American Government (NOT Fundamentals of American Government, which is different). The goal of the course was to familiarize us with primary sources and other important works that strongly influenced American government. We read, for example, “The Constitution of the United States of America”, Frederick Jackson Turner’s “Frontier Thesis”, Alexis de Tocqueville’s “Democracy in America” and select portions of “The Federalist Papers” authored by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay.
I am telling you this because I feel our leaders should be familiar with these and other works that helped shape our nation. I think many of our leaders have done their homework and are indeed very familiar, but unfortunately some are not. All should be! I realize reading requires a serious effort and a lot of time away from the boob tube, but it is essential for understanding the principles of our government.

Our country is in big trouble right now. We are extremely divided and democracy is in jeopardy. Regardless which candidate or party wins in 2020, we as a nation must take a good look at ourselves, refocus and decide what kind of a country we want to be moving forward. Certainly, we will need leaders who can bring us back together again -- at least enough to be willing to sit together in the same room and work things out in an intelligent and civil manner for the greater good. I am a dreamer, I know.

There are lots of qualities I expect of our leaders. I don’t want to get into all that here, but I surely hope they READ and are very familiar with our nation's history. If I ever get to meet any of our candidates, I will ask them if they have read The Constitution and the book you see me holding in this photo. If they say no, I will ask them to please get a copy and read it or withdraw from the race.

Read, dammit!
Read, dammit!
Spring 2019: Events I hope to attend: 
  • Concert/Fundraiser for Leokadja Dobrowska/ Polish Singers of America Scholarship Fund. St. Michael Church, 651 Washington St., Buffalo, New York. March 14, 2019 at 7 p.m. Free will offering, Free parking. Sponsored by Permanent Chair of Polish Culture at Canisius College and Polish Arts Club of Buffalo.
  • Lecture: Wednesday, March 20 at 7:30 p.m. at Sloan Auditorium, Goergen Hall, University of Rochester River Campus: "Does Poland have its own carefully planned soft power? Polish foreign policy after 1989". Presented by Dr. Piotr Kłodowski, professor at the Centre for Comparative Studies of Civilizations, Jagiellonian University, Kraków, Poland.
  • Concert: Friday, April 5 at 7:30 p.m. "An Evening of Polish Music" with Ania Wu and Paulina Świerczek, soprano. Performance at the University of Rochester River Campus Interfaith Chapel. Free and open to the public.
  • Lecture: Friday, April 26, 2019 at 7:30 p.m. at Sloan Auditorium, Goergen Hall, UR River Campus."An American in Warsaw: Hugh Gibson, US Minister to Poland, 1919-1924". Presenters: M.B.B. Biskupski, Stanislaus A. Blejwas Endowed Chair in Polish and Polish American Studies at Central Connecticut State University.
  • Dyngus Day: Dyngus Day always falls on the Monday after Easter. In 2019, Dyngus Day will take place on Monday, April 22nd. I will certainly videotape the parade again this year in Buffalo. I have been asked to play Polish folk songs during lunch at Polska Chata restaurant in Rochester, New York. Fritz's Polka Band will play later on in the day/evening.

Saturday, March 9, 2019: Polish-Russian Friendship Concert: 
I ran into some of my old teacher friends at the concert - an unexpected treat! The chorus sounded great and Polska Chata once again did a wonderful job hosting. I love that place! 


Yale Russian Chorus at Polska Chata in Rochester, New York
I lived on Peckham Street in the white house with reddish-brown roof near the church.

April 4, 2018: Boyhood Heroes
Everyone always wanted to be the hero. When I played with my buddies back in the 1950's, I always wanted to be someone heroic, like Davy Crockett, the Lone Ranger, Robin Hood, Zorro, or some other popular TV character -- and of course so did my buddies. Everyone wanted to be the cop, never the robber; the cowboy, but never the native warrior. Well, maybe sometimes...

Our neighborhood battles were always a blast. I especially liked defending my yard by throwing lumps of clay against DK and his army. (DK was the older boy who lived next door and the aggressor.) Grass was hard to grow in our backyards on Peckham Street so we always had plenty of clay for ammo. Clay was ideal for warfare; better than stones. When clay projectiles hit the ground or nearby buildings (DK's garage or our woodshed) they exploded into realistic dusty clouds of simulated smoke. If you didn't duck fast enough and happened to get hit by a chunk of clay, it didn't hurt too much; besides, blocking incoming projectiles with your garbage-can-cover shield was half the fun. Injuries were rare with both sides ultimately either declaring victory or a truce before suppertime. Hostages were promptly unbound and released per the rules of the Geneva Convention, and clotheslines returned to the shed. After supper, we played corkball across the street until dark.

As I mentioned, our heroes were mostly TV characters. I never much thought about who Polish boys wanted to be when they played their games until I came across this passage in a book I am reading about the first days of World War ll. The author describes his boyhood memories growing up in Poland before the war. It makes me wonder who boyhood heroes are/were in Poland and other cultures:

… Parks, grass, trees, roaring crickets: That was where one played. You said: Who will be the Marshal, and you said: I will be the Marshal. You be the Bolshevik (or the German or the Swede or the Tartar or the Cossack or the Moskał) and this bench will be the fortress of Zbarasz and the stump will be the cloister of Jasnagora, the Mountain of Light. And if you didn’t get to be the Marshal or Hetman Czarnecki or King John Sobieski – in which case you needed some additional equipment like (a) a Vienna to relieve from Turks and (b) CHRIS-TIANI-TY to save and (c) Turks and (d) a girl to play the role of CHRIS-TIANI-TY so that she could be saved – and got to be instead, Ulrich von Lichtenstein or some other Grand Master of the Teutonic Knights or Bismarck or Karol Gustaf Adolf or Tuhaj-bey or Bohdan Chmielnicki or (most unfortunate) Catherine the Great, you struggled and protested and sometimes wept because the outcome was inevitable: Your side would lose and you would be tied up with laundryline and led in a triumphal procession past the park benches where the mothers and the governesses sat. If you were the smallest there was no doubt what your fate was going to be. If you had to be something that you didn’t want to be it was best to be Ivan the Terrible. He did a lot of shouting and rolled his eyes a lot and had, in fact, a chance to hold his audience for a while before the inevitable caught up with him and he was bound and forced to march. But there was nothing to be said for being Catherine the Great, who was tied up extra tight and usually pummeled before it was her turn to be somebody else because she was not only a Moskał (which was bad enough) and a German (which was just as bad) but she was also the Great Whore (whatever that meant). You tried your best not to be Catherine the Great. But if the bigger boys felt particularly mean they might insist on being Kosciuszko or Prince Jozef Poniatowski, and that called for a Catherine. Not necessarily from the point of view of historical accuracy, but from the point of view of bigger boy’s meanness. And then the day, which had lost much of its brightness early in the morning, would lose more. You would say that no, you wouldn’t be Catherine the Great, that you couldn’t be, because you were you and nobody like you…could ever possible be anything but the Polish Hero.

​- “The Thousand Hour Day”, W. S. Kuniczak, pp 532-533 


I lived on Peckham Street in the white house to the right of the church.
<------- My house
Former Johnson Residence at 341Peckham Street in Buffalo, New York
April 8, 2019: Bike Ride #22
Yesterday was a great day for the first long bike ride of 2019.  This one took me to downtown Rochester, then south to Genesee Valley Park, then west along the Erie Canal and north to Greece. I then found my way to Charlotte and bike along the lake to Sea Breeze, then back  home to Monroe Ave. Good ride!
April 15, 2019: La Cathédrale de Notre Dame de Paris
I awoke from my nap this afternoon only to see that Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris was afire. I could hardly believe my eyes. What a nightmare! Fortunately they were able to save the relics and treasures housed in the cathedral and they will rebuild, so all is not lost. Fortunately no one died as a result of the tragedy.

I remember attending Mass there on Palm Sunday with my students. That was back in 1984. They do not have palms in northern Europe, so branches such as the one in the photo are what we saw. Poland too has its own unique "palms", which are also very different from what we use in North America.  Hosana!

Easter is just around the corner, and then... Dyngus Day!
In Christian countries, Palm Sunday, the last Sunday of Lent before Easter, commemorates Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem where he arrived to celebrate Passover with his disciples before his crucifixion.

Palm Sunday in a Country With No Palms
In Poland, Palm Sunday is known as Niedziela Palmowa which marks the beginning of Holy Week known as Kwietna or Wierzbna. People around the world bring palms to church to be blessed. But palm trees are not indigenous to Poland so, instead, the faithful bring greenery found in the fields. Others bring posies made of pussy willows, the first buds to appear in Poland, and a plant considered to love life because it grows in the worst conditions.

And in other regions of Poland, Easter palms, known as Palma Wielkanocna or Palemka Wielkanocna or palemki (little palms), are made of branches of arbor visattae, spruce, boxwood, and yew. Since flowers are not yet in bloom, artificial ones made from tissue and crepe paper are fastened to the branch. Sometimes, flowers that have been dried from the previous summer are attached and colorful ribbons festoon the "palms" that can reach the length of your elbow or as high as a 12-story building!

Palm Competitions
Every year, palm competitions take place throughout Poland. Two notable ones are held in Łyse in the Kurpie region, and in the village of Lipnica Murowana, southwest of Krakòw.

The village of Łyse holds a contest for the tallest and most beautiful palm. People from all over the region work hard for the forty days of Lent to make their entries.

The palms in Lipnica Murowana are so tall, they cannot be carried upright and are transported to the main square or churchyard by several men who hoist them up so they stand on end.

In Wilno (now in Lithuania), palma take the form of slender bouquet sticks known as wałki in varying heights. They are decorated with dried flowers, and spikes of grasses and mosses.

The contests are very competitive with specific rules -- no nails or other metal elements can be used in making the palms, only wood, willow, reeds, green branches and paper flowers are allowed. Wires, ropes, and lines from synthetic materials are also forbidden. In order to qualify for the contest, the palm has to stand upright without breaking, it has to be raised with no help from machines (just men in trees guiding it and others on the ground with special long pushing forks), and the creator of the palma must be able to encircle its girth with his hands.

Mystical Powers of Palma
While the blessed palms have a religious significance, they are placed over a sacred image or above the front door to protect against fire and all evil. Early in the morning on Easter Sunday or Easter Monday in southern Poland (particularly in the Sącz and Rzeszów areas) bits of palm or palm crosses, along with blessed eggs are placed or buried in the fields and garden to bless and defend them from hail and pests.

Jezus Palmowy
In the village of Tokarnia near Myślenice and other areas, a custom known as Jezus Palmowy or Jezus Lipowy takes place in which a figure of Christ riding a donkey is placed in a cart and pulled through the main square in a procession. This tradition, which started in the 15th century, was banned by church authorities in 1781 because they had turned into raucous affairs, but it is slowly returning to its place of honor in Palm Sunday celebrations.
Parisian "Palms" (Les rameaux)