Q & A: Down And Dirty With Dante

Dante 1With a name like Dante the Comic, it’s pretty obvious that he’s a funny guy.  The name, though, barely scratches the surface of all that he does on screen, behind the scenes, and in his yard.

Dante first came to national attention on season five of NBC’s “Last Comic Standing,” where he received each audience favorite award and a standing ovation in the semi-finals.  Ever since, awards and honors have continued to roll in, including the grand prize on ABC’s “America’s Funniest People,” the most comedy awards ever presented by BET, and performing for more US troops than anyone since Bob Hope.  And if this isn’t enough, he also writes for E Network’s “Fashion Police,” with Joan Rivers, and hosts a podcast, “Stimulus Package,” which is available through iTunes.

Dante’s newest project is co-starring in the film The InAPPropriate Comedy, slated for a March 22 nationwide release.  Directed by Vince Offer, the Sham Wow guy, this sketch-comedy movie follows the mayhem of a tablet computer fully loaded with offensively funny apps.  Taking part in the irreverent and raunchy humor is Academy Award-winner Adrien Brody, Lindsay Lohan, Michelle Rodriguez, Rob Schneider, and Dante’s girlfriend, Rebekah Kochan, an actress/comedian with her own loyal following.

For gardeners, though, the most impressive piece of Dante’s resume is the work he does in his yard. Dante the Comic, you see, is also Dante the Gardener.

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These Squirrels Are Making Me Nuts

8:00 am: Swept clean.

It’s 8:00 am, and I have swept the walk to my door for the buh-zillionth time, thanks to the squirrels who are ransacking my oak tree for acorns.

They’re also not the neatest nor efficient of eaters. As I sweep, I notice there’s a lot of waste. Mixed in with shards of shells are whole acorns — perfect for tucking away into the nether regions of your cheeks. So I wonder, just what are the squirrels getting so squirrely about?

First, there is the coming winter.  There is a belief that you can predict what sort of winter you will have by observing the nuttiness of the squirrel population.  It’s as if they are our very own Farmers’ Almanac.  If that’s the case, then we are in for an Arctic blast of snow, ice, and below-freezing temperatures — and judging by the acorn debris that is littering my walkway, we may never thaw out.  Either that, or my yard will be buried

24 hours later: Not so much.

in an avalanche of acorn shells — Long Island’s very own Pompeii.

Second, I’m concerned about the frenzy.  This particular squirrel colony is in hyperactive mode, running and racing up and down trunks, onto branches, nibbling here, nibbling there.  The squirrels are not just eating acorns; they are stockpiling them like a cult of the-world-is-ending believers.  If they are like this now, what will they be like in December 2012, the notorious date when the Aztecs predicted the world would really end.  There may not be enough nuts to satisfy their craving.

Third, and I am completely serious here, I think the squirrels have declared war on us.  This nut stuff is just the opening volley.  At this time of year, I cannot even stand and have a conversation with my neighbor on the walkway.  If I do, I will be

Debris field.

pelted by not only debris, but whole acorns, as well.  In fact, I think they are intentionally hurling these whole acorns at me. 

You think I’m kidding.  Just listen to the sound of a whole acorn falling from the tree and hitting the roof of your car parked on the driveway.  It’s like the acorn shot heard ’round the world — and I find it difficult to believe that the velocity is the result of gravity alone.  There has to be some squirrel strength behind that acorn.  Perhaps the squirrel soldiers have fashioned a sling shot in the upper branches of the tree.  Then, “Ready.  Aim.  Fire.”  And each time they hit me or the car, I swear I can hear them giggling.

What to do with my furry frenemies?  Trap them and release them to another location?  Nah.  That only encourages replacements to take up their positions.  Cut down the oak tree?  Absolutely not.  I

Come on, Squirrels. How about a day off?

love the tree more than I dislike the squirrels.  For, now I will have to be contented with a broom and a hard hat — and if  the neighbors think I’m the nut case . . . Well, we’ll just see who’ll be laughing when the squirrels chase us up into the trees.

 In the meantime, a friend found an abandoned baby squirrel and is now rehabilitating it.  In addition to sweeping the walkway, I offered to  gather acorns to feed this foster squirrel.  I must be nuts.


Here’s One For Dad

A few posts ago, I wrote about mowing the lawn and now that it’s Father’s Day, I’d like to revisit it. 

My father is the one who taught me how to mow the lawn.  It was an orange, gas-powered model, and my father taught me how to pull the cord, adjust the throttle, pour the gas, and the all-important mowing pattern.  The idea was to mow the perimeter, and then to continue in smaller and smaller circles until  I reached the middle of the yard.  In reality, it was a rite of passage; a passing of the torch.

My mother and my father had different approaches to gardening.  My mother planted flowers and filled pots and worked at making the yard and home look pretty and appealing.  My father, on the other hand, was the gardener.  He did the digging and turning of soil.  He pruned the trees and shrubs, including the blue hydrangea in the backyard.  This is still a sore point, because it never rebounded.  It may be why I’m hesitant to cut any of my own hydrangeas.  I know there are those that bloom on old wood, and those that bloom on new wood — but for me, there will be no hydrangea pruning, thank you very much.

My father organized and planted the family’s vegetable garden.  It was filled with tomatoes, carrots, pole beans, bush beans and so much more.  What my father didn’t realize is that he planted more than vegetables in that garden.  It was the family garden, our garden, and each one of us participated in the planting and caring of our small home garden.  We weeded and harvested and told Dad of any pests that were getting too comfortable in it.  And although it was small, for us it was “the lower forty.”

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No Sunflowers, Ever!

In my last post, I made brief mention of my Mommie Dearest moment — a not-so-proud incident that clearly illustrated the ugly and, yes, comedic side of gardening.  I had asked people to remind me to tell the story, and they have.  So here it is.

Once upon a time, a long time ago, in a backyard not so far away, there lived a young gardener, me.  Joe and I had recently purchased his parents’ home, and the yard presented us with a blank canvas.  I had always enjoyed gardening as a kid, but that was usually relegated to the family’s vegetable plot.  Now, I had a whole yard and a big vision and no money.  The layout in the back was pretty basic.  There was a large built-in pool with red and green patio blocks surrounding it.  To the east, there was an area of pebbles and stones, and this led to a small lawn.  The rocks were held in place by a low wall of cinder blocks, all placed on their sides.

I decided to start small one year, and I planted marigolds in each of the cinder block openings.  They did quite well, thriving on neglect and heat.  The following year, though, I saw on Martha Stewart’s early television show that she grew gigantic sunflowers and would harvest her own home-grown sunflower seeds.  Then, in true Martha-style, she would even hang some of the flower heads in the trees to feed birds and squirrels.  The whole idea sounded like an eco-friendly winner.

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