Monday, June 27, 2011

"one of the best offices in the city"

This is the Conservatory Garden in Central Park, the park's one and only set of formal European gardens. For almost three years this has been my workplace and it has been amazing. Standing at the Vanderbilt Gate and looking west into the garden you see the central Italian garden with it's lawn, hedges, and wisteria covered pergola. Every day I see hundreds of people stand in this spot and take this same photograph, in awe of the garden they have just "discovered". As I begin to transition to a new challenge within my life as a horticulturist I saw this visual coming into work this morning and had to stop myself. Usually I mock the masses shooting the same boring old shot, but today the scene struck a chord deeper down in my soul and I had to pause a second and take it in again like it was the first time. I pulled out my phone and with the gates still locked behind me and the place all to myself I snapped this shot as millions have done before. When people say how nice it must be to work in such a magical setting my reply is simple and truthful and always delivered with a smile. "Well, I always say, one of the best offices in the city!" I know my new adventures are what's right for me and my career moving forward, but I sure am going to miss calling this place my turf.

The Conservatory Garden in located at 105th and 5th Avenue on the east side of Central Park and open free of charge every day of the year from 8am until dusk. For more information go to the official website of Central Park, www.centralparknyc.org

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Melvin and the Dinosaur

It's true, I've become one of those people who photographs their pets. This is Melvin and his dinosaur. But the funniest thing is that this picture isn't staged at all. How the little T. Rex ends up upright and in perfectly hysterical placement every time we look away the world may never know.

Sometimes...

Sometimes the best pictures are the ones you don't take.

We have returned to our summer surf adventures. Once again we give huge props to the folks in Long Beach for providing such a clean and chill and well maintained beach. Happy to support such a smart system that takes care of who knows how many hundreds of thousands of people a year, we love it when we get to pick up our pass for the season and resume our day off sessions. Long beach has designated surfing beaches so us surfers are not banned from doing what we love like we are in most other surf towns around here. And I know, as a surfer you never reveal your favorite break to the masses, but um, well, the cat's already out of the bag as the increased crowds this year have already told us. But we get up at the crack of dawn by default these days so we get out of the house early and right into the water.

So far we have had a few killer days. The summer surf is small but we don't mind. It often means the "tough" guys don't bother paddling out so we get to work on our timing, seeing how fast we can pop up and catch a wave, maximizing the short ride. In some cases we get these little rollers all to ourselves like today. When it's totally flat we paddle back and forth between the rock jetties and at least give our arms a workout. Either way we're doing what we love and getting better at it. Krissy rides a 7'2" which is a much smaller surfboard compared what she learned on, but she has adapted to it in record time and has gotten some sweet rides. I have a 6'10" wave catching machine shaped for me by my best childhood friend Rory Knight so I have been rebuilding my confidence too following an all-too-long hiatus from this love affair with the ocean. We've caught some thrilling little swells and definitely have had some very funny, very ugly wipeouts. But the bliss of that dance with nature, the "experiential learning" as my anthropological mind would call it, that is the best stuff in the world. It's all about being there and being in the moment, giving in and immersing yourself in the experience to get the most out of it. It's not about hiding behind some gadget to have proof to say you've done something as much as it's about having that experience and knowing deep down how amazing it was. I guess maybe that's why for all the surf sessions we have had as of yet I have only taken one single shot. One morning post-surf, the "happy car" loaded up and the beaming wife saying it all...

Friday, June 24, 2011

Saving Dad's Tree

A friend recently emailed me with a tree question. Jimmy lost his dad some years ago and ended up planting a tree in his backyard. Now Jimmy and his family are on the verge of moving so he emailed wondering if there was a way of taking the tree with him. He mentioned that a few saplings had popped up but didn't know what to do with them. Not knowing what kind of tree we were talking about I asked Jimmy to email me some shots, including ones of the saplings. Below is our little back and forth. I thought it might be interesting to those of you that might want to preserve and grow various saplings that might show up on your property.

Jimmy wrote:
Hey Alex,
Here are two pictures of the tree(s). After I noticed the one sapling, I found another much further from the tree. I won't be moving for quite some time. Who knows, I may even have some others grow next year. I had one last year start to grow, but then it never survived. I need to move them though, because one of them are on the edge of my garden (if I ever get around to planting). the other is growing where my association mows the grass near my house.

I planted the tree in 2000 when my Dad died. It was about two feet tall at the time.

Any info you could provide would be huge. I did read that Japanese Maples like slightly acidic soil. I drink PLENTY of coffee if the grinds would help. :-)

Thanks for taking the time to do this.
I look forward to hearing (reading) what you have to say.

Thanks again.
Jimmy

Here is the small novella I replied with:
Thanks for sending the pics - they always help a lot when dealing with plant questions. Definitely saved you at least hundreds of words, if not thousands!

So, Dad's tree is probably a kind of Japanese Maple called a 'Bloodgood'. The scientific/botanical name is Acer palmatum 'Bloodgood' and that is nice to know sometimes because it can lead you to more knowledgeable websites amidst the sea of commercial shit on the internet. As you know it is a great upright, spreading tree with that awesome red foliage that keeps all season. Though not a terribly fast grower a Bloodgood maple can get to be 15'-20' tall and maybe 10-15' wide before it will begin to slow down and approach maturity. You're psyched because of all the Japanese maple cultivars that are out there this guy is known for it's durability and resistance to various pests and diseases, and in time they do create a beautiful form in the landscape. When studying color composition in the garden you learn to incorporate red foliage into the scenario because it tricks the eye and makes the greens of the garden more vibrant. But enough of the history and theory nonsense, let's talk about the challenge at hand.

I'm going to talk about the saplings because I think that is an easy and perfectly doable way of keeping the tree as part of your life. However, before going on, let me also say that you can propagate this tree from cuttings. Basically you would take fresh cuttings of new growth of a certain size, apply a powder packaged as a "rooting hormone", and pot them up and hope that they establish roots and become their own trees. If you wanted to go that route then we could have a quick phone conversation and I can pass on the steps and order involved. But as you can imagine that is more of a process than just digging up the little critters you have found, so we'll keep it as your second option. Again, I imagine you can keep the saplings going, but if you wanted to try and get into propagating it can be fun and I'd be happy to get you started.

So basically it is as simple as you'd guess. You're going to dig up the saplings and pot them up and tend to them the best you can and hopefully they take and grow well for you. The saplings are growing from seed dropped by the tree (of course), and they should grow true-to-seed, which basically means they should look like the parent tree as they become their own entities. However, you want to know a few things going into it.

You see how those leaves on the sapling you photographed look different than the leaves on the main tree (more curvy and lobed, etc.)?
When grown from seed, plants often produce a first set of leaves that is different looking, and that is what we are seeing. The next leaves the sapling produces, you should see, are going to be more like the basic five-point leaves that the main tree has. In my opinion, if you can, I would wait until the sapling produces a few "real leaves" (for lack of a better phrase) to let you know that it is a little further along in terms of development. However, because of the concern of the lawnmowers I know time is of the essence so if you can't wait that long then so be it. With your trowel begin to dig around the sapling but give yourself more room than you think is necessary. In other words I would dig the circle at least a few inches in radius from the sapling, and score the soil straight down and not at much of an angle towards the roots of the sapling. From seed maples love to start with a good tap root to get established and you need to keep that intact through the transplant. The tap root could be as tall as the sapling so use a trowel that it at least 4-6" because you will want to carefully dig and excavate that deep to be sure you aren't breaking anything. You know, take your time, no need to rush, it's going to take you all of ten minutes. Eventually the roots will begin to grow more out than down but by that point you should be on to the new place and new yard. Once you have the kids out of the ground pot them up in plastic pots with drainage. Plastic retains moisture better than a clay pot, and you can use/recycle a cheapo "growers pot" like you get from the garden center, or even chop the top off a 2-liter bottle and just poke holes in the bottom. The pots have to have drainage (most crucial) and yeah, again you will want a container at least 5-6" deep by 4-5" wide. You don't have to use a container so big as a 5-gallon, that's kind of overkill. If you can find and use regular garden soil to fill in your containers that is fine. I'd choose potting them in good crumbled, loosened up, garden soil over potting soil because the plant will have to deal with less unnecessary adaptation. Once potted up you can pick out some of the grass plants if you want and top-dress with soil, but don't bury the top of the young stem too much. Overall your goal to keep the "rootball" that you have excavated in one piece and not try to break it up too much or at all. Keep the potted saplings in a protected spot in part shade, so maybe by that little shed. Be sure to water them well after being transplanted, to the point of seeing water come out of the bottom of their containers. Once all is said and done, if you have a dead space in your yard where the lawnmower is not a concern, you can even sink the whole pot back into the ground (called "heeling in" a container), keeping the lip of it above ground so you know exactly where it is. Sometimes if I have a transplant that I am not going to use for a while I will heel it in, pot and all because then at least I know it is going to stay more insulated and protected in the ground, and when I am ready to plant it in it's new place then all I have to do it pull up the whole pot and plant away. The only catch with that is that you have to remember to still water it during long dry spells. Your potted saplings should be okay in their containers for as long as you need to keep them that way. If it becomes years then you will have to transplant, but I know it won't be that long. Well down the road we will talk about proper training of young saplings to help get a nicely shaped specimen.

Hopefully all this is helpful. Obviously if this brings up any more questions ask away and I'll chime in again soon.
Best of luck, and keep me posted.
cheers,
Alex

setting the day off vibe

I cashed in a vacation day at the last minute and am not feeling bad about it. I'm in the midst of a major shift within my career as a horticulturist and educator, switching my focus from formal gardening to woodland management. It's been six months in the making and I could not be more excited about the challenges ahead, but at the same time I am zapped. Needed a day to process it all, a day clear the mental slate and start fresh. The plan was to wake early and hit the beach but the Atlantic Ocean looked more like the Long Island Sound so plans have been modified. But still a day for self, and a great day it will be.

Years ago my oldest brother Tim gave me this LP, Byron Lee and the Dragonaires "Rock Steady - 67". ...from the Rock Steady days when the beats were heavy and the men really knew how to sing. This is Mr. Lee with "On the Beach", a killer tune to set the day off vibe.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

if you're a New Yorker, know this org

plant, preserve, protect

I recently completed a course to become a certified street tree pruner in New York City. And I admit it had been something I had been meaning to do for a while. In the five boroughs, in order for you to prune street trees legitimately you have to have approval from the Parks Department. So even though I know my trees and proper pruning techniques I had to jump through the proper hoops before I could go out and begin to beautify my local neighborhood. But I finally did, and can't tell you how happy I am to have done so. First of all I got to revisit and support a fabulous organization I have known for a while now. Second, I had to take a course, and as you know in horticulture and arboriculture you are never done learning. (PS, if you ever meet a gardener who says they know everything, be concerned, and definitely don't hire them to take liberties with your landscape!) Third, my conscience was starting to really bug me so it was time to shut it up and do the right thing.

Some years ago when I was Director of Horticulture for HSNY I was asked to be on the advisory council for the new Million Trees NYC initiative introduced by Mayor Bloomberg and Bette Midler's organization, New York Restoration Project. Via those myriad of meetings and discussions I was lucky enough to meet Susan Gooberman. Quickly I would learn that Susan was the Executive Director of a small organization called Trees NY, formerly the New York City Street Tree Consortium. An amazing cast of only 5 people, Trees NY has for years teamed up with the Parks Department to encourage, educate, and recruit New Yorkers to be stewards of the very trees that shade bustling city streets, help to combat the "heat island effect", remove pollutants from the air in exchange for vital oxygen, and vastly improve the quality of life in New York City. As I was those years ago, I was recently reminded of the huge and essential impact this tiny organization has on the city and its people.

I registered for the citizen tree pruner class a few months ago and signed up to attend the classes at the Arsenal in Central Park on 64th Street. (Trees NY now offers classes downtown, and in Brooklyn and Queens.) Based on my previous training I assumed most of the information would be more of a refresher, but as I said before you are never done learning so with an open mind I submitted my registration and gladly paid my $100 to Trees NY. The class would be held over over the next month and a half, with four 2-hour class sessions and one 4-hour jaunt out in the field to practice our pruning first-hand. Sam Bishop II is Director of Education for Trees NY and he did a fabulous job teaching our class. Like you might expect there were people from all backgrounds and all levels of knowledge and skill. In class we were all equals and quickly the information was fed to us in a smart and enjoyable fashion, and overall I think the class loved our time together talking trees. The time flew by and yes, even I learned a few things I didn't know before. It was so great. In the end I would pass the final exam to become a certified citizen tree pruner and aside from being elated that I finally supported Trees NY I was unexpectedly overwhelmed with such pride.

In short I can't speak highly enough about Trees NY. At our cute little graduation ceremony I would meet people from all boroughs excited to take on our new roles as NYC street tree stewards. I got to see Susan for the first time in years and we would have a ball reconnecting and talking about how the city is greener than ever. I ran into old friends from the Parks Department and learned that we are up to about 500,000 trees, so halfway in terms of the initiative. Before running off I would make Sam pose with me for a quick pic. If you are in the city and value the presence of green, know and support Trees NY. For only a handful of people they improve the quality of life for millions and millions of people, most of whom don't even realize it. If you want to go the step further, become a citizen tree pruner and help ensure continued success for these trees. In order for the Million Trees initiative to succeed and for us to create a healthier environment in this city we as citizens have to take ownership and get off our asses to help the cause. I assure you, the education, excitement, and sense of pride will make you feel real good inside, not to mention make this a better home for all.

Cheers,
arborboy
Me with Sam A. Bishop II, Director of Education for Trees NY

Sunday, June 19, 2011

International Surfing Day: June 20th

Tomorrow is International Surfing Day, June 20. If you are near an ocean, or great lake, on a river or behind a tanker, get out there and represent. Rejoice and marvel in the power of surfing, that most unmistakably sensational experience. It's time to paddle out people. For more info you can go to http://www.intlsurfingday.com/ or just turn off this thing and get yourself and your board to the beach, pronto!

let there be waves,

and props to Surfing, Surfrider, Barefoot Wine and all the real legends out there...

Happy Father's Day!

My father, Richard A. Feleppa, with me and my two older brothers, Gian Carlo and Tim, at our home in Amagansett, NY, circa 1978-79. Photo courtesy of Timothy R. Feleppa.

Happy Father's Day to all the awesome dads out there, including all my friends, mentors, and good ol' Dick Feleppa, the best man I know. Hope your days are filled with peace and love and good times with your kids. Cheers,

Friday, June 10, 2011

Recycling in the garden

I saw this today and thought it was brilliant. The quick explanation is that someone used their cut bulb foliage as mulch for their freshly planted veggie garden. Knowing how recycling your cuttings can give back to your soil and your plants essential nutrients that they need to strive through these hot summer months, priceless.

the longer train of thought goes like this:

Often I don't think your average gardener is educated enough about recycling in the garden. When we cut and remove green foliage from the garden because we are tired of it we have to remember that the garden can still use that "garbage". When you study professional turf management (a bit of a tangent, I know...) you learn the real value of Nitrogen, the macro-nutrient that plants need to survive that keeps their foliage green and plush. Everyone wants a rich green lawn that looks and feels fabulous, let's face it, it's a great thing to have. So you do the right thing and in the spring you over-seed if necessary and apply the right fertilizer with 25% water soluble Nitrogen for the quick shot and 75% water insoluble Nitrogen which is going to slowly breakdown and give your turf a nice steady feed through the summer months. Maybe you spoon feed your lawn a bit around July 4th, but ultimately you are set until the fall and can go on about the rest of the yard. You get into your summer mowing schedule and if you are most people you pick up and remove the grass clippings. But have you ever thought about the nutrients you are removing in the form of those rich green clippings? What most people don't know is that grass cuttings can be left on a lawn and refeed those thousands and thousands of plants with an unbelievable amount of nutrients. Yes, over time you have to then learn about the "thatch" that dense turf creates and you will have to incorporate aerating your lawn into your spring protocol, but you can maintain a much more self-sustaining and healthy lawn in the long run. You'll be psyched and your neighbors will wonder how you do it.

So take that thought and revisit the cut bulb foliage used as mulch. Yes, ideally you want to leave bulb foliage attached to the plant for as long as you can stand it after the flower is past until the foliage is totally yellow and no longer photosynthesizing. However, let's face it, you look at your daffodil and tulips leaves for so long and they begin to look pretty tired and your patience is gone, it's time for them to go. It's time to make way for the other perennials emerging. But if those cut leaves are still green then they still have valuable amounts of Nitrogen and other nutrients that can be recycled back into the soil. The only thing that I would change is that I would try and grow a lot more bulbs so I had even more foliage to lay as mulch, which would allow for really making a great look out of the long strands. You could lay a lot down and give the mulch a greater sense of movement and design. Weeks later I would see that the woman also used cut iris foliage, which is big and flat and gray-green and beautiful and she had enough of that to lay out a great looking pattern below the brightly colored swiss chard at the other end of her genius mini veggie garden. I love being impressed by the things people come up with in the garden when you think a little bit and go with your own creativity. Makes me wish I came up with the idea! You're mulching which is one of the best things you can do in summer because you are regulating the soil temp, keeping moisture in, and helping to keep the weeds suppressed. Not to mention you are recycling valuable nutrients and making your soil better so you can grow whatever you want to try. And you're not spending anything more than time in your awesome garden, making the earth that little bit more green. Like I said, priceless.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Puck and the Thunderstorm

We hadn't had rain in almost three full weeks. The plants were tired and stressed and so were we. I got off the train and was walking up the street when the sky began to change. The dark clouds were rolling in fast from the west and the wind was whipping the dry tree limbs in a way that demanded attention. Trees are comprised of two types of cellular tissue, lignin and cellulose. The lignin is what makes woody cells strong and rigid, able to support the trees weight and movement. Cellulose is what gives the tree that movement, a compound in the cellular structure of living plants that gives them their flexibility and amiability. If people are curious to know more about tree physiology comment and let me know and I will be happy to babble further in future posts. So, anyway, the wind is blowing like a mad thing and a major thunderstorm is only minutes away. Luckily I'm home in no time. I wonder what kind of storm we are in for as I lower the windows and turn to see Puck walking by. Puck is not a fan of thunderstorms, you see, so he turns out to be quite invaluable in instances such as these. When he makes a b-line for the center of the apartment and sits still as a stone in the shelter of the interior doorways you know you are in for some weather. I love that he looks like one of those old sepia tone photographs of your great, great grandparents from a century ago, so fixed in the pose. And the rain came, pouring buckets and rattling through the neighborhood like a freight train. You could hear the trees and plants breathing their sighs of relief. A necessary break from the dry heat the teeming water was instantly rejuvenating . ...and Puckus? God love him, not moving a muscle.


funny, now I guess we know the safest spot in the apartment if we ever have a major hurricane or earthquake - Ha!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

A Testimonial to Bill Dodds

I have to admit, at first I was petrified. Here I was, trailing behind a beaming bundle of energy named Stephen Baldonado who clearly knew his job and knew his volunteers like nothing else. The cast began to enter the garden from all directions and instantly there were more names and faces than I knew what to do with. “This is Gloria and Andrea and Sally and Brigitte...” I just tried to keep up, having already forgotten half the names fed to me. Joe and Nancy and Susan and Tadpole. Tadpole?! Oh gosh, what have I gotten myself into? With ease Stephen assigned the tasks and put the mass of smiling faces quickly to work, sweeping and skimming and deadheading this picture-perfect secret garden. I nodded to a tall, slender gentleman efficiently snipping some past dahlias and asked, “Remind me his name?” “Oh, Bill, Bill Dodds,” Stephen began. “You’re going to love him,” he said facing me with an open-eyed honesty that naturally made me smile in return. I learned that Bill was from Iowa and in no time we were talking about the value of family and friends and how we both came to the Big Apple. Over the weeks the names became more known as the blooms continued to change. Volunteers would come and go from week to week but quickly I learned I was always going to see Bill. Every Tuesday and every Thursday I got to start my day with my new friend, getting a ton done and seeing where the conversation would take us. I got insight into backstage Broadway, to stars and starlets you’ve only ever seen in the magazines or read about in the papers. Bill would talk about his favorites and those who made his blood boil. I just sat back and soaked it all in, loving the insight into this man and a side of New York I never knew before. I thought to myself, “this is why I live in this city, this is why I love my job.” Through the seasons and through the years Bill and I would make short work of the tasks at hand, always doing our best to please the Warden while having a perfectly fine time together. Eventually I would be wheeling the overflowing cart of tools and under the mighty crabapple the inmates would report to me. I would get to know the strengths and weaknesses of my different volunteers, as well as myself. And through it all there was never any question in my mind when it came to Bill. This guy... This guy’s a real inspiration, a testament to hard work and perseverance, having the right attitude, and enjoying the life we make for ourselves. There is no question my life is ineffably enriched by one Bill Dodds, and to you sir, because there are not enough words to articulate, I will simply say Thank You! Thank you for the times we’ve spent and thank you for the fun times yet to come. It’s an honor to say you are my friend.
Cheers, Alex Feleppa

Monday, June 6, 2011

late May blues

In May we as gardeners get excited because so much begins to come into bloom in the garden. As I have mentioned already in May you have your peonies and roses and foxglove (among others) bursting forth in all their spring glory. ...different colors and sizes and petal counts reminding you of all that is possible in the garden. But I definitely have to put in a plug for some favorite late May blues. These shots I admit I took many weeks ago, and for a while was thinking because of the tardiness that I might as well forget posting them, but I hope that people still enjoy the shots and IDs for present or future reference.

These pictures were shot early morning so some of the colors are not entirely true to reality so I've made notes where applicable.

Iris sibirica is an iris that has slightly smaller, narrower leaves and an overall shorter size compared to the monster German bearded iris that most people have in their gardens. This clump comfortably takes up a few square feet in the garden and is quite easy to keep in check. I'd guess height to be about 1-1 1/2 feet for the foliage and little over 2 feet for the inflorescence of flowers with their graceful upright standards and down-turned falls.

Perennial geraniums I've learned from my various bosses and mentors have great merit in the mixed border. Geranium 'Johnson's Blue' is this guy. Sure enough the way the sun is hitting the flower in the pic above it appears more light and purple, but don't be fooled. The plant with it's finer dissected foliage and delicate blue is a wonderfully soft option for the forefront of a display and a welcome 2-3 foot filler of a plant.
The color below is a little more right-on. Geranium 'Johnson's Blue'...

And ah, yes, the beginnings of the blooming Clematis. Let this slightly woody vine grow in as much sun as possible and keep the roots well protected and moist as best you can. Wonderful for climbing up a structure, whether that be a wire fence or your favorite shrub rose or small tree, when they come into bloom you will undoubtedly be elated. This beautiful lady is Clematis 'Ramona' and her color is really a perfect purplish-blue that you have to have just the right light for in order to properly capture on film, ...or digital memory card as the case may be.
Clematis 'Ramona'
The shot below begins to give a slightly better idea of the purple tones in the sizable 4-5" flowers.

Like geraniums, budding gardeners should know about the value of perennial Salvia cultivars now common throughout the trade. Salvia 'Blue Hill' is this tight, mounded sun lover which blooms well twice a year. Famed public garden designer Lynden Miller in her lectures loves to include this in her plant list, especially for those managing and designing college and university campuses. The reason as Lynden would explain is because they put out their first strong display of upright blue flower spikes in May as school let's out for the year and graduation is celebrated and then they bloom again in fall as the next semester commences and the students return to campus. Very smart.
Easy to deadhead and maintain and another great addition to the late May blues you can also find Salvia 'East Friesland' quite commonly and they are all worth playing with.

Happy shopping.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

near death experience #4...?

During the six years that Krissy and I have been together we have shared a few near death experiences in this crazy city of ours. There was the cab ride from a Brooklyn Glove Compartment gig years ago when the cabbie, Das Badal, tried to kill us on the BQE going 15 miles-an-hour across multiple lanes. And then there was the time during Krissy's personal assistant days in Grammercy when the black Escalade fleeing from the cops jumped the curb, gunning to run us down on the sidewalk like the bulls in Pamplona. Then of course was the time the tow truck driver wasn't looking where he was going and hit us walking across the street near our old place coming home from the grocery store. And I don't know why, but I guess I kind of felt like we paid our dues. The city would let us know it was maybe our time to get out before we became another scary statistic, but somehow it seemed like we were in the clear. Well, if the crazed man on the train last night followed through with everything that was coming out of his mouth then I am not sure if I would actually be dead right now, but I know I would have been seriously maimed for a long time. So I'm really thankful not to be in a hospital bed right now.

We were on a 6 train heading down the east side to Astor Place to meet some friends for a night of beer drinking and karaoke. Having the whole weekend together we were feeling good and looking good and psyched to be out on the town. We boarded the train and sat down in the center of the car. The downtown train was not too packed, a variable cast of city folk sat throughout, and we rumbled on under ground. Up above Krissy and I spotted a non-smoking ad that caught our attention. The subways are lined with all sorts of advertisements, some obviously better than others, so it is always fun to see what you find. In our jovial mood we thought the ad adorned with bunnies and hearts and hokey phrases seemed kind of funny and wrong for a non-smoking ad so we got silly sharing a good laugh over it.
While we are looking and commenting on this ad, having our little laugh, we realize that the man next to me is beginning to mumble to himself. He is a middle aged black man, a healthy size and build, dressed in typical jeans and sweatshirt with various bracelets and necklaces. We fall silent to try and hear what he's mumbling about. The words begin to get more clear. "Are you insulting me? Are you insulting me?" I look to my right and man is staring at me intently. "No, sir", I reply, "uh, I'm sorry, I'm not insulting you at all sir, I'm not sure what you are talking about." He holds the same mean stare and says, "oh, ok" as we turns to face forward again. Next Krissy remembers him saying, "that's good 'cause otherwise I'd have to fuck you up." I thought I dodged a major bullet but this was apparently just the tip of the iceberg.

People get off at the next stop and a few newcomers board the car. Tourists with big rolling suitcases take up the space by the doors and an older man sits down across from us.

Now the man is really beginning to work himself up. His mumbles are not entirely understandable but somehow I pissed this guy off and he is now talking to himself about how he is going to teach me a lesson. Now the guy is telling himself that I am making fun of him, making fun of what he cares about, and it's time to fuck me up and teach me a lesson. His rant is building and the rage is getting scarier and scarier. He's convinced himself that I have seriously wronged him and he's not going to stand for it any more.
"Love needs honesty (look into my eyes)..."

My heart is now racing, my adrenaline flying through my veins, and Krissy and I are clutching each others legs. This man has gotten himself so worked up I simply do not know what to do. I turn to him and try and back-pedal because I have no idea what else I can do. "Excuse me sir, have I done something to offend you? My wife and I were just poking fun at the advertisement up there, nothing was directed towards you sir. Have I offended you because if so I am very sorry."

"No, no, I love you, I love you..." As he continues to repeat how he loves me he has clearly graduated to full-on, indescribable rage. He's now talking about how this ain't no fucking Law & Order bullshit, how he's going to destroy me before any cops get anywhere near us. He's not going to hit my lady but he is sure as hell going to fuck me up. The crippling fear sets in as he methodically begins to disrobe. As his tirade builds to the utmost limits he slowly begins to take off his necklaces and bracelets and puts them away. He takes off the serious leather-buckled wrist bands and I am really thinking to myself that I might get beaten into a serious coma.
"...Loving is not smoking (bunnies never lie!)"

The train is still between stations but a quick glance between Krissy and I and we know the goal is to run once we enter the next station. The tall lanky tourists with their bags by the doors and the older man across from us simply stare in disbelief at this scene and the three of us, equally unsure of what is really going to transpire here. The man continues to disrobe and slowly store his valuables.

I see that we are entering the 33rd Street station just as the man removes the last of his jewelry. The final step is when he removes his sweatshirt to reveal arms of pulsing muscles under his small green tank top. Now I know I am really fucked. It's like the Jerry Springer show, but real. This guy is really nuts, and there's no going back. And he is really going to lose it. And I'm on my own. No one around is going to come to my rescue, nobody would dare get in this guy's way. The question is just whether or not he will begin his attack before the train doors open and we have a chance to escape. The train slows but it seems like each second is going slower and slower and time is not on my side. The conductor announces the station. The doors hadn't opened yet and not wanting to give him any reason to jump into action any sooner we continued to sit still as stones. By this point he's a sitting fury of spit and curse words, still folding his sweatshirt carefully on his lap so for a split second I thought, "I have a chance". We took one final breath in unison as the doors finally opened and we wasted no time. With purpose and no eye contact we jumped over the collection of suitcases between us and the door and kept ourselves to the fastest walk we could muster. Off the train we were ten feet from the doors in seconds and Krissy, who I had walking in front of me, had the nerve to look over her shoulder. He wasn't behind us. He was still on the train. The doors closed and we stopped, shaking and staring at each other on the quiet platform as a couple of young giggling girls passed us and exited through the turnstiles.

What exactly set this guy off we don't know. Krissy would later guess that maybe he liked the same sign we had been mocking, that he took it personally that we were poking such fun. Who knows. But there is no doubt the danger was real and by far one of the scariest situations I have ever been in. The randomness of his rage and the certainty of his anger combined was more frightening than I truly know how to articulate. We stood there shaking and staring at each other for the next minutes until another 6 train came our way. We feared for the folks still on the train because now the guy was worked up and it was going to explode on someone, somehow, or so it seemed. All we knew was that we were safe, we avoided the emergency room yet again, and we couldn't be more thankful. Eventually we would make it down to Astor Place and have a ball with Alba and the gang singing at Sing Sing on St. Mark's. We told of our harrowing tale and the bar crowd was equally in awe. Let me tell you the beer never tasted so good.

On the way home from the bar we got on an uptown train and found the same comical poster that had gotten us into this whole mess so that's how I got the above shots. ooh wee! Never quite know what you are going to find in this city. But the more we think about it, the more it might be time to get out.

props to rooftop bee keeping!

It was the first time in months that my wife had Saturday off, so it meant we had the whole weekend together and were loving it. We hung around the house catching up on house work and chores, taking it easy and enjoying the chill day. From our living room we look west towards the Manhattan skyline and in the afternoon as we have seen a few times before we saw man standing atop one building a few blocks away. I saw him back in late winter tinkering around on his roof and wondered what he was up to. Fixing one of the many satellite dishes or something? I shot a video because I was perplexed.
video
Well, this time I figured out the reason for his rooftop antics. It turns out he is a rooftop bee keeper. How cool is that?!?!

I never tire of the individuals in this city that persevere, utilizing their own creativity and thinking outside the box to make this a better place for themselves and all other living things. So very cool. Makes me want to get into bee keeping.