Wednesday, October 14th, 2009

Gay Gardens

LIONAs we like to do every October, Stephen and I recently drove to Brewster, a small town in Westchester County, about an hour north of the city. Our first destination was the company ____, which you will no doubt recognize as an importer of fine ceramics, glass and textiles-not to mention garden statuary and urns. They were holding an 'outlet sale' at their office-park warehouse.

After parking the car, we went directly to a remarkable assortment of cement lions, any one (or more!) of which would have been suitable for the urban garden.


I regretted the lack of space in our current garden and not for the first time dreamed of moving to the estate section of Riverdale in the Bronx. It was not hard to picture ten or fifteen of these magnificent lions scattered about the grounds, some partially submerged in the earth-or at a minimum covered with moss and ferns-perhaps broken into pieces in the attempt to call forth the essence of ruins, which if you are anything like us is one of the most desirable gardening aesthetics for its reflection of a philosophical pessimism that stands in marked contrast to a more Hegelian ethos promulgated by certain shallow-minded optimists or 'utopians'.


Note that if you are investing in 'lionware' for your garden, you will want to avoid a traditional or classical placement-for example, on symmetrical plinths outside a doorway-which will lead you down one of two equally undesirable paths: 'narchitecture' or camp.


I was less enthralled by the selection of lesbian statues on hand.


Inside, we admired serving trays. These are a necessary accessory to the garden, for what else would you use to carry the bottles of _____ with which you will get completely zonkered while staring at the leaf motifs under the flickering candlelight as you lament the current state of your life and society at large?


We bought several green bowls for a friend, whom we excitedly texted with pictures. By spending only $____ for these items in the suburbs, which would have cost $____ in the city, we saved him a lot of money!


We next went a few miles down the road to an apple orchard.


Here we observed throngs of non-homosexual sentimentalists leading their children through the pumpkins.


Despite our status as urban non-heterosexual outsiders, it was easy to get caught up in the excitement. Everything seemed freshly picked and beautifully packaged and not even that expensive. Just like in our local grocery stores in Washington Heights.


Even the chrysanthemums-that 'perennial' symbol of suburban conformity-tugged at my heart, and for a few seconds I wanted to leave the city and live like any other upper-middle class American married couple in the suburbs with shitloads of disposable income (thanks to the great bank bailout of 2008).


We consoled ourselves by eating at least a dozen donuts each and drinking hot apple cider. We sat in the sun, swatting away the bees, until the vision of what we wanted and did not want was burned away, and I felt relieved by a more familiar sense of resignation and ambivalence.


Back in Washington Heights, I was happy to be mesmerized by the red leaves of a pin oak at 165th Street and St. Nicholas.

Previously: The Hyacinth Bean Vine

Matthew Gallaway is a writer who lives in Washington Heights. His first novel, 'The Metropolis Case,' will be published in 2010 by Crown.

31 Comments / Post A Comment

HiredGoons (#603)

"reflection of a philosophical pessimism that stands in marked contrast to a more Hegelian ethos promulgated by certain shallow-minded optimists or ‘utopians’."

Matthew, will you gay-marry me?

HiredGoons (#603)

also, I love _____ !

mathnet (#27)

"Here we observed throngs of non-homosexual sentimentalists leading their children through the pumpkins."

atipofthehat (#797)

"Lionware" is my new favorite word.

kneetoe (#1,881)

I'm not feeling the pin oak. Are you SURE that's a pin oak.

MatthewGallaway (#1,239)

Ok — maybe guilty? — I'm not entirely sure, but there ARE a lot of them around here (subject of future column?) and I love them (especially the columnar variety). The color is not quite right b/c I 'saturated the shit' out of it on Photoshop. I'll try to check next time I walk by…(btw, note what is certainly the ugliest park entrance in the history of civilization — glass brick, sad columns, triangular metal arch — someone deserves an 'award' for that.)

SemperBufo (#1,849)

Your anti-teleological landscaping aesthetic just slays me. I'm already married, but I support your constitutional right to marry anonymous internet commentors.

Abe Sauer (#148)

Hey. I've got mums.

kneetoe (#1,881)

If I were you I'd keep quiet.

there's a vaccine for that

Abe Sauer (#148)

Oh SoooOOOOORRRRRrrrriiieeee. I've got mums and don't wear boots that come up over my knees.

MatthewGallaway (#1,239)

It wasn't at all my intention to disparage mums — I mean, christ, I have zinnias! They're just one of those flowers that gets a lot of grief (Greif/lol?) from snobs for being a suburban (in the bad way) staple. (It also can be a bit depressing to see acres of them at Home Depot, but I don't hold that against the plant so much as our 'disposable society'…it's kind of like puppy mills or something?)

Abe Sauer (#148)

Well, i've got em b/c despite my best efforts they won't die and christ i need SOMETHING else living in my house beside things that fart and snore.

Baboleen (#1,430)

I love autumn, and it is too damned short, where as spring has just up and disappeared.

RickVigorous (#214)

For a second I thought this was a Mad Libs.

Matt (#26)

AHHHH ERYKAH QUOTE!!! ___, ___!!!

In the voice of Brian Lamb: 'Lionware–really?'

It is part of gardening's contradictions that one can invite estate statuary into one's garden and mum bash at once. To each their own. But, consider that what gets sold by the gazillions (and thrown out in a couple of weeks) are graceless lumps bred for suburban respectability (in colors that whore-out fall's exuberance), while actual garden mums are true gems for late color. Look into 'Country Girl,' 'Sheffield's Pink,' 'Will's Wonderful', among others. Yes, they can be sprawly (unlike the above-mentioned graceless lumps), but are entirely fitting to the season. Who wants prim order in fall's melting splendor?

I live about 15 minutes from Brewster. I know that orchard.

In fact, I am a non-homosexual sentimentalist who has led my own child through those very pumpkins.

I'm not sure how I am supposed to feel about this. Should I be proud? Ashamed? Ambivalent?

sox (#652)

oh lovie, all three…
hush now and have some more cider, munch on your donut, and smile at the vision of pumpkin guts and such for later.

MatthewGallaway (#1,239)

It just depends if you're a 'repressive' sentimentalist or not; if so, you'd better start apologizing for your existence. (I'm kidding if that wasn't obv.) I love Westchester and constantly fantasize about moving there.

Did you ever see RETURN TO OZ with the lovely Fairuza Balk? The pained lion expressions reminded me that completely twisted kids movie.

mathnet (#27)

OMG no, never seen it. But have you seen her in the completely twisted (and awesome) kids' movie The Best Christmas Pageant Ever? Girl fucking rules.

YES. Fairuza was the archetype for my moody 'interesting' young girl phase! HELLO THE CRAFT

MatthewGallaway (#1,239)

No, but will NF asap! I feel like there's another awesome director who did a lot with the pained expressions of statues — Kieslowski maybe? — but my memory for these kinds of things is fucking atrocious.

Maevemealone (#968)

I want to buy all the pumpkins in the world. All of them. And the little gourds too…

riggssm (#760)

Two points:

1) During my father's college days, he "liberated" a lion from a high-end condo in Wildwood (oxymoron alert just now!) and it got mossy, and weathered, and beatiful. My mother banished it to behind the lilac hedgerow. "Horrible," she said. She, of the "country kitchen" decorating bent. (I swear, I turned out liking boys to spite her taste, not because of it.)

2) Hope you picked up some honey! The regional nuances of honey are interesting.

Point two just made my heart melt! So quaint and true!

MatthewGallaway (#1,239)

Score one for 'lionware' liberation! (And the pleasure of ruins…)

poisonville (#776)

How delightful.

C-Monster (#1,162)

i need to get me some lions.

atipofthehat (#797)

Me, too. They would come in handy in so many ways.

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