Sunday, May 25, 2008

tunes for summer

So, the Surfrider Foundation, once again deciding to be a totally badass organization decided to have a contest asking people to list their top ten summer tunes. The prize is free tickets to the upcoming Jack Johnson tour so I figured I'd be a good sport and play along. Hey, I always like making new playlists. If only the kids today knew about the glory of the mixed cassette tape. Ah, those were the days. Maybe you got the Memorex tapes with the multi-colors that you could write on with a Sharpie, or as the girls preferred, the glitter pen! If it was a mix you really thought was awesome then maybe you splurged and spent the extra few bucks for the Maxell blank tapes, charcoal gray with white labels. One tape, 110 minutes? ...aww yeah! That was some pre-"drag-n-drop" magic.

In any event, I put together a little sampling of sensational tunes for summer sun adventures. Enjoi.

(not necessarily in order)
1) The Hook - Stephen Malkmus
2) Center of Gravity - Yo La Tengo
3) Ventura Highway - America
4) Surfer Girl - Beach Boys
5) Show the World - Apples in Stereo
6) Deadbeat Club - The B-52s
7) Holes to Heaven - Jack Johnson
8) Driving on 9 - The Breeders
9) Curly Locks - Junior Byles
10) That's the Way of the World - Earth, Wind and Fire

cheers, -arborboy

"Packard Goose"

"Information is not knowledge,
Knowledge is not wisdom,
Wisdom is not truth,
Truth is not beauty,
Beauty is not love,
Love is not music,
Music is the best."

On the Stereo: Frank Zappa, Joe's Garage

Monday, May 19, 2008

And on the 8th day, God created days off

I have had the opportunity to get to know an amazing author named Patricia Klindienst over the last year or so. Patricia wrote a book called The Earth Knows My Name: Food, Culture, and Sustainability in the Gardens of Ethnic Americans, and quite simply, it's amazing. She writes about different populations of people all over the country and their relation to their gardens and the land and the food that connects them so closely together. Like herself, her writing is eloquent and engaging and takes you right there, from the pueblo in New Mexico to the coast of South Carolina. I had never thought about which of the thirteenth colonies was the greatest producer of rice in the new Americas. I never knew you could grow so much in the desert. We forget about the power of folklore and history and oral tradition sometimes. At one of her talks at The Horticultural Society Patricia talked about the power of seeds. From the standpoint of the people she had met while researching her book, seeds are perhaps the greatest gift you can give or receive. As a horticulturist this made perfect sense to me. I can't easily articulate it. It's the gift of life, of a plant that can grow and thrive, but it can give you greater understanding too. Seeds are not just connected to plants, but they're connected to history and humans and our relationship with the land. So, when a package came from my friend Erin and it was loaded with tropical seeds she has collected while living in Florida I was truly awestruck. What a sweet gesture, I am so flattered to have such a dear friend. Some of the names I knew, most names I had never heard before. Six species in total. So many seeds to sow. Such a wonderful gift.

After seven days of work I've made it successfully to a day off. And as I've said in the past I'm not strictly devote to one faith, but the phrase "Thank God" sure does flow pretty easy off the tongue. Gym felt good this morning. The Ipod shuffle on the stereo is treating me well. I've made a list of all the things I'd love to do today, and it now sits in the kitchen a couple rooms away. And I sit here, rather motionless, and slightly dewildered. Not sure where to begin I guess. Sort of like when you go shopping only to arrive at the destination, become completely overwhelmed at all the selection, and instantly feel as if you have no idea what your taste is or mission was in the first place. And not that sitting here enjoying the peace and quiet isn't very nice, but it seems like I ought to be capitalizing more on this day off.

Luckily the last seven weren't nothing but work. There was a birthday thrown in there, on Tuesday the 13th to be exact. It was a great day. I had to work but I made sure that I was nowhere near the office. Instead I made my office for the day three different gardens in Brooklyn. It was a beautiful day and zipping around in the new wheels checking on the gardens and cleaning them up all by myself felt centering and calming. Between two of the gardens in Bushwick is situated my brothers house so I stopped in to see Frosty and Ea. Miss Ea had a stuffed up nose and was being quite the little fusser. Her adorable expressions ranging from bliss to misery in a single moment had Frosty and I laughing away. Ea was clearly not as amused, and made no hesitation to exercise her lungs and let us know. We walked the house up and down and over again.

Eventually the gardens looked good enough that I could walk away for the day and I retreated home to find my love with her notebooks studying for finals to happen the next day. Beside her two wrapped packages sat on the coffee table. Funny how a little gift wrap can bring on such a smile. We transitioned from work to play and resumed our perch on the couch. I wasted no time. The paper torn my hands stopped and my eyes grew, large. "Are you serious?" I pondered aloud. I don't remember, but I bet a deep belly laugh followed. I was 100% surprised and very psyched. At 31 I finally got my first Nintendo! How perfectly ridiculous. But, I am still smiling. Exactly what I wanted, even though I had never realized it. I had played Wii a few times before and not a surprise I loved it. Then one night Juan had a party (shh, don't tell the bosses) at his new office and my love got her first dose. I take it she thought it was pretty fun too. Found a used one around the corner. Genius.

Inevitably someone would ask me if I felt older. I think it was my mom. I was pruning back some spirea shrubs that had gotten too shaded out by a stand of amazing birch trees. Aside from the present waiting on the coffee table, I was having a rather grown-up day so I said "I guess so". It was my kind of day, typical but comfortable. Interesting to think about it that way. No shots at midnight or plans to get wasted, just a delish dinner up at Fatty's courtesy of my sweetie. I was active and outside and enjoying the world around me, enjoying my lists and challenges and goals for the day, knowing full well that a comfy home and relaxed evening await, not to mention the best hugs in the world. No push for cake or candles, just good conversations and run-ins with friends. A flurry of text messages and voicemail from those that rock. The retreat to comfy pants. The sighs of relief. I guess I am getting older. But, I couldn't ask for my life to be much better so I'll take the extra digit and perhaps some newfound wisdom.

A card came in the mail today. A sweet note from my girlfriend's mom and a treat of some cashable currency. Perhaps I'll take that walk to the plant shop after all. Leave that list on the table for a little while more. Hell, I'll have another day in a week or so. Thank you to all of my friends and family and loved ones for your extraordinary gifts and blessings. So we're now officially in our thirties, so be it. It's all about being a kid at heart, right?!?

Mmm, soft serve!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mother's Day Freewrite

My mom and brother during a family vacation to Prince Edward Island, August, 2004

It’s Mother’s Day in Astoria, Queens.

Walking to the gym this morning the sidewalk in front of the florist was overflowing with potted houseplants, perennials, and small shrubs. It took me a minute in my pre-coffee haze, but the unprepared fathers buzzing around helped me to catch on. A man leading with his large belly was cutting off the older Latin man trying help him with his morning purchase. “No, you don’t tell me what I want” he barked, “I tell you what I want”. My pace didn’t slow, but I was reminded how much happier I am now that I don’t do retail any more, especially on holidays such as these. Be nice to your mother but be a rude bastard to everyone else on the way to her house? Oh, sure, that makes perfect sense. I’m sure she’d be very proud. But then again, perhaps in part it’s those people for whom we have created national holidays like this, or at least created all the ridiculous hype. Those unfortunate souls who don’t appreciate the matriarchs in their family enough the rest of the year that then they have to scramble and try to make up for it come some random Sunday in May. You know, we all come from a mother, every single person on this planet. And I’m not saying that everyone has the best relationship with their mother, but in the end you got to realize that all you got is family. I hope that we don’t need to have a national holiday to be reminded of that. Shouldn’t this be a time of celebration and love and gathering, and not scrambling to make up or make due or make right in lieu of 11 months and 29 days of not doing what you are supposed to as a good kid? But, then again, I guess my situation is not normal, and I forget that.

I am a very fortunate person in that I have a wonderful relationship with my family. My parents and I are buddies, always have been, always will be. As we all age we only seem to relate better to each other and get closer sharing our different adventures, our hopes and fears, our stories that make us who we are. So I don’t often think much of this day. I mean, sure, I called my mom. If I hadn’t I’d be fucked with a layer of guilt so thick I might not be able to breath otherwise. She has a gift that way. The thing is, I talk to my mom a lot. So yeah, I called when I got home from the gym. Mom was going to take Nanny out for a drive of the north shore. My grandmother on my mother’s side lives with my parents for most of year now during the warmer months due to it being cooler up here compared to Florida and the case of cancer that is slowly spreading. My Nanny is a fighter, and even cancer won’t slow her down. When my mom said she was worse this spring I expected to find a certain person when we went out east last weekend. Of course I was proven wrong by the strong women in my family once again. Nan was halfway through the laundry and had already done all of the morning dishes. She bounded up the stairs faster than I’d seen in ages and grabbed me with a strong hug and kiss. So, today they were off to the north fork, the land where Nanny and Pop-pop had their piece of the pie and raised their three kids on the water. From Southold, NY, my mom couldn’t wait to get to Alfred College upstate. And at the age of 19 she knew there was more to life than that so she up and moved to New York City. She came to the city with little else but $9 dollars and some change, no joke. Her first roommate was a woman named Nancy and they lived in affordable housing for young women. She worked on the stock exchange during the day and tended bar at night. I’m guessing that is where her workaholic nature really came into its own, but the reality is it probably dates back much farther. Some years later she would notice an advertising writer who frequented her establishment. Supposedly she made him a damn good martini, and the rest was history. They would leave the city to raise a family out on Long Island, this time on the south fork. They surrounded themselves with other artists and writers and free thinkers and loving families. They found their own piece of the pie, a 20’ x ‘20’ shack in Amagansett, NY, and would soon have two kids of their own, Gian Carlo and yours truly.

My parents and both sets of grandparents were always around. Family dinners and get-togethers were main staples growing up. In summer we would go out on Pop-pop’s boat or go fishing out at little Albert’s. My friend Rory would come over to play on Sundays especially, hoping that Grandma Feleppa was making her infamous homemade pasta, meatballs, and sauce, which of course took all day to prepare. So as we all got older and as my grandparents health deteriorated, my parents only did what was natural. They all stepped up and took care of their folks as they hope their kids will take care of them. My aunt took in and cared for my grandmother when she had cancer. I think I was 12 when Florence Pizzi Feleppa passed away. To this day I don’t know anyone’s meatballs that compare. My grandfather, Doc, would end up coming to stay with my parents when he became ill three or four years later. He passed away right before Christmas in the downstairs of our house on Indian Wells. Pop-pop passed one of the following falls and the service was small. We stood in the gray morning and smelled the salt spray off the Long Island Sound. That was the first time “Amazing Grace” made me weep. I can’t imagine how tough it must be to be alone after so many years of being with the one you love most. But, like I said, Nanny’s a fighter. She has great-grandchildren to watch grow up, she has her own stories to share, and she’s not stopping any time soon if she can help it.

I was glad to hear they were going for a drive today. My mom doesn’t take enough days off for herself and Nanny always loves to see the old stomping ground so I was glad the day provided the perfect window of opportunity. My dad wasn’t so sure about being stuck in the car all afternoon but I told him to take his camera along and shoot some pics and that that would be fun for him. He appreciated the suggestion and said he would. I felt bad that I wasn’t there to join them, but all us kids went out last weekend and had a hell of a time catching up, eating and drinking up a storm, and turning into total mushes staring in amazement at beautiful little Ea Mimm. We’ll get out there again soon.

My mom strayed from her mother’s house to find herself and establish her own identity. I did the same, as did my brother, as will our kids years from now, much to our dismay I’m sure. But we all come back. How can you not? Remember, we all have a mother after all. And even though we might think the apple falls far from the tree, we know deep down it really doesn’t. My mom is just as much of a workaholic as my grandmother. Coming to my own 31st Birthday I can’t deny any longer that I am a workaholic just like my mother before me, and her mother before her. And even though we get crazy with our lives, we realize the strength and fortitude that comes from a good family, and we force ourselves to slow down and enjoy that peace and comfort, even if only for an afternoon drive.

Happy Mother’s Day, moms, you deserve this and every other day in your honor.


collage on paper, 6" x 7.5", aef03

Saturday, May 10, 2008

"Quartet, 1998"

marker on paper, 5.5" x 8", aef98

Arisaema triphyllum

(click on the above to see it much bigger, and please remember not to steal other people's photographs, thank you, -aef)

Arisaema triphyllum is commonly called Jack-in-the-pulpit. I found this picture last night which I took just two years ago when I lived up in Massachusetts. Jack-in-the-pulpit is a northeastern native perennial, a member of the Arum family, Araceae. If you are lucky, you find these little guys in natural woods with good high, dappled shade. Their flowers are undoubtedly bizarre, and pretty wild in their design. Most people can miss the flowers since they come out in early May, often under a trifoliate leaf that many mistake for poison ivy. Then later in the summer when the pollinated flowers mature to a cluster of bright orange-red berries, people can't believe their eyes. But don't touch the clusters of berries. Supposedly they can irritate the hell out of your skin.

After all the rain we got yesterday I bet the woods are very busy today.

On the stereo: Gillian Welch, Time (the Revelator)

Friday, May 9, 2008

Rope Swing

Thinking about simpler times today. Before adulthood was in full swing, back when work was just a job and "career commitment" was barely even a thought. For example, the summer of 1996, living up in New Hampshire after freshman year in college. We'd impersonate Dartmouth students so we could borrow kayaks from the canoe club and take them out for an afternoon and evening on the river. I have no idea how long the rope swing had been there before we stumbled upon it, but 'Ski and I were so thrilled when we did. We took that first ride and were hooked. Living and working with my friends that summer was not alway easy, "Real World New Hampshire" as Chang called it, but there were some days that were amazing. Barely any ties, barely any belongings, just riding our borrowed kayaks to our own sacred space where we could still shout and play like the kids we were.

On the stereo: Guided by Voices, Bee Thousand

Monday, May 5, 2008

Ea weekend

For you lovers of cute babies out there here is a new pic of my niece Ea. Plenty more were taken last weekend and uploaded to my flickr account. And on that note, Happy Birthday Frosty! We love ya, and your little bundle of wonder.

I Want You... go out and party! Feds just surprised me with 600 clams in the ol' piggy bank. Woo hoo! Thanks Feds, you bastards, I'll enjoy cocktails and dinner on your cent any time. And trust me, I'll be drinking up, I know the recession is on it's way. Such a love-hate thing. Love to hate the government but then the money always comes at such a good time. So convenient really.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

sometimes I love limbed-up shrubs

Granted they often have to be pretty mature like these rhododendron, but I love how older shrubs can often be limbed-up and transformed into a great new element in the landscape. I doubt this was intentional as much as necessary given the shade canopy building above the rhodies, but still a great outcome. My friend Nisse once cleaned up a yard of junkie junipers with an aggressive pair of pruners and transformed them into these amazing living sculptures up on the bluffs in Springs. They almost had a Japanese or Bonsai feel to them, and they looked badass to me.

Back to the rhodies, they had been pruned up enough that you could just barely stand beneath them. It just looked like a space that totally invited a little seating area or maybe even a well crafted table that could fit within the legs of the rhododendron. That is, if this were in a home garden and not a cemetery.

leafing out

(definitely click to enlarge)

I'm not entirely sure what this is leafing out but thought it looked amazing. In fact, I would love to know but these were the only shots I took. These were taken in Amagansett, in the cemetery on Windmill Lane, Sunday, May 4th, 2008.

Friday, May 2, 2008


I heard the voice of Errol Morris on the TV recently and was reminded of his killer High Life commercials from some years ago. You can go to and click on commercials for all kinds of hyterical little clips. This one always cracks me up. The "would-be casanova".


I was digging through my photos trying to help my coworker put together the graphics for our latest mailer at work and I rediscovered these great shots of Echinacea from Garden in the Woods and Nasami Farm, both operated by The New England Wild Flower Society. Thought I would share them for a nice little visual on this gray Friday morning. Above is the straight species Echinacea purpurea, commonly called cone flower.
Then there are a lot of great new cultivars that growers are developing. Many still need to be tested for years to make sure they hold up as well as the original, in terms of size, durability, winter hardiness, etc. Above is an Echinacea called 'Sunrise' and below a beautiful reddish orange 'Sundown'.

Happy Friday y'all!