speak truth to power

I awoke this morning at 10 minutes 5Am EST... 11AM CET Half way around the globe in Oslo, Norway, The Nobel Foundation was about to announce that my friend and yours, Al Gore would be this year's recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.


Your thoughts, words, and works have continued to be a source of inspiration to me.

It is in that same mindset that I would like to mention the following:

I will be doing a small lecture on GROWAHOUSE at the DC AIA on Thursday, October 25th from 6-7:30 pm

You already know the story. You lived it. But hopefully there are some folks out there that will be inspired by it... by the movement... and rest assurred... that despite a long summer with minimal posts, growahouse.com still lives. Don't forget what we accomplished. I haven't forgotten you.

I've just been thinking a lot about how best to tell our story. Wordpress Wordpress CMS
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not forgotten

I have indulged in a 60+ days of relaxation. "me" time.

I have been well.

Paused, but not forgotten... the digital manifestation of my life.... this site... the magical, musical, place where I write, you read, and we all grow...

So Russell... what do you love about music? "To begin with..........everything."

I love this house. I've learned so much. I grew the house I live in... but more importantly, I'm growing as a result of it.

I've learned to be silent and learned when saying nothing is a beautiful use of negative space.

So my apologies for my absence... but I have not forgotten you. There is much to discuss

8 days have passed

It seems like this week has been a melodious yellow haze.

I guess I could just have easily titled this post my inner Barney Rubble. The point, undoubtedly, is one in which the author feels like he has been driving a barefoot powered vehicle around the last 18 months.

I slept so peacefully last Saturday night... almost as if my bed was made of sunshine and elementary school recess.

The Global House Warming was unimaginable.

There are far too many conversations and experiences to recount them all...

...but here's a window into the event that symbolized a dream...

A gentle breeze rustled... swiftly tapping some backyard shrubbery against an open awning window. In fact, all the growahouse awning windows were open that day... outstretched and angled like a butterfly... all 21 of them... inviting the most picture perfect weather in recent memory to enter the house as a guest... as a friend. I am reminded that the most efficient mechanical system performance is one in which it remains... off.

Not yet dim enough for a crisp appreciation, a photo montage of the growahouse process flipped from one moment to another, projected on a wall in the basement. As the day progressed to night, the photos would be replaced with a screening of Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth. Both visuals would rest on a wall that stood above 275 square feet of carpet that days earlier rested in a warehouse in NE Washington. Its significance subsequently rests in the fact that months ago it rested in another home... 21 miles away in Vienna, VA. This treasure was salvaged from one home, to give life to another.

Waste not.

As guests would arrive from as far away as California, Illinois, New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and next door... so would smiles, nostalgia, and beautiful plants that radiated with the sunshine as they passed from one caretaker to the next.

Growahouse received 53 plants on Saturday... simply amazing

Laughter was infectious... so were stories. Glances were exchanged from the third floor landing down and out to the courtyard gates in an unbroken gesture. Joyous pride filled beats filled the house and the street like a we had plugged fingertips into speakers and were listening to the heartbeats of a community united.

I spoke to the masses congregated in the courtyard about ecology, family, love, responsibility, stewardship, difficult times, honest realizations, and pleasant progressive thoughts ahead... over a hundred people packed in the courtyard... and front yard... and side yard... with glasses raised and smiles beaming.

It was a green snapshot... a single eco-friendly, socially responsible instant...

...regardless of the shared past or the individual trials to come... we stood shoulder to shoulder as friends in the yellow shadow of this house in this moment...

and we lived it well.

Thank you for believing

I will post a collection of pictures later on this week. If you have pictures from the event, please forward them to growahouse@gmail.com

can you feel it?

The world is working in seamless harmony with the growahouse movement. Tomorrow will be sunny and 76 degrees. I couldn't have scripted it better.

I made the rounds to my neighbors last night... Telling them that the global housewarming would be tomorrow and that they should stop by... have some jerk chicken... talk the talk... feel the movement

I found myself hammering my new and improved mailbox into its redefined locale at 3:00 AM last night. (Got a chance to break out Angela, my sledge hammer, and give her a couple over the shoulder swings) It seemed to be a fitting task on a mild moonlit night. There is something about the vibe and the potential energy of getting and receiving mail, that says...

"I'm reachable... and I look forward to hearing from you."

Come one, Come all...

1.5, 6.5, 4... 12 hours

Do we define friendship in minutes, hours, days, years?

I define it in respect.

Respect for how you live your life. The goals you set... the people you choose to share milestones and misery with...the effortless way you greet me... the confidence I feel when I say I know you.

I set a goal with this house project, I reached out for something that I was not certain I would be able to hold onto... almost like chasing a butterfly...almost too delicate to truely grab and hold... so it is constantly IN and OUT of your grasp. It can be frustrating, and overwhelming.

But I have friends.

Some of whom I knew not what incredible level of commitment they would showcase over the last year and a half .... on my behalf... most of which, I still struggle to feel deserving of.

But yet still... I have friends.

And in a quiet hotel room in Tempe, Arizona... one such friend calms his spirit to a whisper as he prepares himself for his own butterfly. On Sunday, a friend and growahouse patriot, Eric, will endure a twelve hour mystical and physical journey into the limits of his abilities as he begins and completes his first Ironman Race.

  • 2.4 Mile Swim
  • 112 Mile Bike Ride
  • 26.2 Mile Run
  • This Herculean effort is daunting to most, maybe even to Eric.... but like a true growahouse veteran, he will meet it on the battlefield nonetheless.

    If I could make the water more buoyant, the wheels faster, or the tailwind stronger...

    I would.

    Unlike the 450 lb countertop or the impromptu flight of stairs, and despite my strongest desires to help...this is not a burden that I can share with you.

    But I CAN wish you well... I CAN think good thoughts for jersey #277...

    ....and I WILL summon the full breadth of the growahouse spirit and community energy in welcoming you back to its hallowed halls next weekend.

    Good luck tomorrow, old friend. Breathe easy.


    In reflecting on design decisions... it is often inquired... not just how I did something... but "why?" "Sustainable"... "Eco-Conscious" or better still "Intentional Living" as I define it, is often much more about the "WHY" than the result. Process is important, mind you... and the end product should to be a hot design and visually well worth the effort, but understand that we are in an era of transition. We are in an era in which the fundamental reason we make decisions has to be rooted in a place that ensures our survival as a species. It's that serious.


    So the challenge, as I saw it, was to start to finish the interior of the courtyard in a way that supports the tenets of the house. Living intentionally means that I believe that if I put the weight of my intellect and passion behind every component of design decisions... the end result should, by gestalt, be exponentially more meaningful.

    Process Lesson ONE: Conserving Resources/Identifying Assets

    This is the fence that separates me from one of my neighbors. I realized recently that it was, in fact, two fences. His fence and my fence. My fence consisted of a rickety and semi-rotted 5' tall pickets that ran about 50' down the side of the house. In addition to being firmly entangled with vines, their nooks and crannies have undoubtedly provided years of safe haven for all kinds of creatures.

    For this particular venture, I will let the pictures tell the story.

    Reclaimed. Recycled. Reused..... Rediculously hot!

    [As always, thanks Doug]

    welcome back

    So cheers to my man Al Gore for agressively talking the talk over on the Hill yesterday. The more times politicians are confronted with the ever-present reality of Global Warming, the less evasive they can be in ignoring the obvious. With that said.

    What’s up with you coming to Washington and not giving a brother a call, Al?

    I thought we had a mutual admiration thing going on... some professional courtesy... I'm just sayin... we could have gone to Trusty's and drank beer out of a jar while we compared notes on socio-economic obstacles to embracing a compact florescent lifestyle or the increased salinization of the Pacific Ocean and its effect on low-tier crustaceans.


    river currents

    I think I started this entry last November on the streets of Denver, Colorado. I had come to the conclusion that my life was way too hectic for me to manage in my current mind state and that trying to manage the madness in "mountain time" was equally as ridiculous. So I'm walking the streets of mile high city and I see a ne're-do-well couple having an intense argument. It was the kind of argument that made me stop and worry because it looked like it could get violent..... but in my distant and silent anticipation...they were dysfunctionally picture perfect...on mute...they were in the heart of the city quietly and verbally pushing and pulling amidst columns and amphitheatres, and monoliths. It made me think.....How do we design public spaces?

    Do we design for breakups? Do we design for mid-day lunches?... for siestas?....for lunches when she said yes to eat with you outside, and the other person you only invited as a buffer unexpectedly cancelled?... Do we design for chance encounters? Do we design for the “good and the bad”... ?

    I walked 4.2 miles last night in my meandering trek home... it was just too nice outside to not keep walking...to not keep moving. I walked across the Sousa Bridge, the Anacostia River breathing heavily below. I stopped midway to look into the black. I noticed, as always, that there are granite benches carved into the bridge, but they face inward... why would I want to look at traffic? I want to look at the river... to feel its pulse and know that it is the life blood of the city that I just traversed....

    Can I design for that?

    For that late night Anacostia River walk on a unexpectedly warm day in Washington.... for my 21-year old Italian past that slept along the Tiber?.... for an honest early morning reflection of an amazing yesterday while on the shores of the Charles?

    Can I design my life to flow with my rivers?

    the great debate

    Begat in the depths of NY-DC brotherly cell phone texts and nurtured in the paper strewn cubicles of my office... a conversation has emerged about what type of feast the global house warming will engage. First, there was talk of a CRAB BAKE.

    Not really sure what that meant, but convinced that it sounded like a damn good time...the festival seemed to be well on its way to becoming epic.

    So then, urged on by a certain moustached gentleman of leisure, who shall remain nameless, but his initials are Wade H. McKinney, IV.... there was talk of a PIG ROAST.

    Primal... authentic... hands on.... I like the flare that a spigot roasting pig would bring to this feast...and surprisingly enough, there is a bounty of online info about how to make that a reality.

    But some things.... are a little TOO real.

    So....... I consulted a local cooking aficionado and she suggested an Open Pit Earth Oven.

    Nice. I could use the leftover bricks from the original chimney on the house to line the pit and create the base for the coals and stones that would support a fire fit for growahouse. It's hardcore and natural, without stressing over PETA stoping by for a "conversation."

    I'm going to investigate this further. This could be something for the ages.

    There is a man in Washington Heights, NYC who will want to hear about this. They call him Marvin The Martian.

    He bleeds barbeque sauce.

    iditarod... iditawrong

    So many may be familiar with the annual Iditarod dog sled race in Alaska. [Shout out to the shorter member of Team San Diego who has this race on her "things to do before I die list."] Anyway... this past week, for the fifth year in a row, they have had to relocate the start of the race to an area that has "more snow". hmmmm.... Alaska.... "need more snow"..... seem odd to anybody else?

    Maybe it's just me.

    but whatever... maybe I should just be happy and embrace Spring, right? hmmmm....So... in lieu of more soap boxing about the climate crisis, I will share an important experience I had last night.

    ...a two hour midnight yoga session.

    I will leave the particulars (along with the subsequent muscle aches) for another time. What I will share, however, is that this experience reminded me why I was inspired to build the courtyard in front of the house... and why it's so important that I finish it. Connection with oneself... connection with myself... is intrinsically tied to connection to the outdoors. It's who I am. It's why I feel a little guilty when I pass my mountain bike on my way to my circle saw. I know I've been the guy who puts hammer to nail with vigorous persistence... but I'm also the cat that closes his eyes when the wind blows.

    The courtyard is the place where brick becomes grass... it's an in-between melody. I want to go there and feel peace in that transition. Maybe I could do a little yoga out there sometime?

    The yoga instructor kept reminding us to choose an intention... something or someone to send our positive energy towards... one that would make me smile...

    I know what mine was. But I'm not tellin.

    global house warming - april 21st

    It is a inexplicable feeling to begin wrapping my brain around the idea of having a celebration to honor the house that shaped my life for the last year and a half. I am equally nervous and empowered.... not unlike a mad scientist... I feel meticulously giddy.

    So why April 21st?

    "April hath put a spirit of youth in everything." -William Shakepeare

    Spring is... a time for awakenings. Life......unrestrained and unrefined. That is the spirit this house was built with... That is the natural stage on which it should be celebrated. Falling on the eve of Earth Day, the 21st will literally and emblematically usher in the calendar symbol of communal eco-consciousness, global stewardship, and intentional living. All tenets that are the mortar of this house... this home.

    So come one, come all.

    It's a Celebration!!!

    There is more information in the News & Events section of the site and I will add details as I develop them, but in the meantime... please forward your U.S. post mailing addresses to growahouse@gmail.com

    It will be epic.

    wipe all four feet at the door, friend

    In strong defiance to the designer dog condominium culture permeating the sleek new corridors, coffee shoppes, and neighborhood parks across the river, growahouse welcomed its first four legged visitor this weekend... ... in all his well-behaved-not-a-poodle-so-I-can-shed-if-I-want-plus-I-don't-do-sweaters-but-I-do-speak-hindi-100%-mongrel glory.

    I hope you enjoyed the chicken apple sausage, homie.

    st. got to love the cold...day

    The situation was dire to say the least.

    Lets flash back to the fact that I got a welcomed ride home this evening after having been stuck out in Northern Virginia all week doing software training. No huge vendetta against VA... but I'm just not a fan. I mean... come on... any rookie proponent of urbanization has got to have at least a tiny little pocket of hate for the vast, monotonious bowl of vanilla that is northern Virginia. It's crazy... every one of those cookie cut "cities" like Balston, Clarendon, and Rosslyn exist in this weird state of frenzied boredom... like you took the third floor of Any Mall USA...nyahmean? ... Starbukrombie & Fitch... blew it up and built a town around it.

    Anyway... apologies for the digression.

    So I come home and the vicious ice storm that has ravaged the east coast has also laid waste to my courtyard gutter. So I spent an hour outside on my ladder hammering the ice in the gutters to break it up and clear it out.


    I guess there's not really much to that story. The ice weighed too much for the gutter. It was cold. My fingers were like popsicles. I was a bit miserable...I grabbed my trusty hammer and did what had to be done.

    my diamond snow shoes are too tight

    Unbeknownst to many, there has been a silent/ unnecessary battle of wits being waged between me and my would-be gardener. Many of you might remember him from the unfortunate deforestation-shrubbery-clear-cutting-incident back on '06. Or perhaps you heard about the frequent 2:00 AM doorbell ringings on his way back from the club (cus he saw the lights on... who does that? really?). Since then, hatchets have been buried. Laughs, as well as, 5's, 10's, and 20's have been exchanged... and yard debris removal/out of town security services have been rendered. Make no mistakes... he's a good guy.

    However, Jack Frost has breathed his ominous breath over the nation's capital and alas, the lawn maintenance needs for a while have been minimal at best. What this means is... no more chores... and no more chores means... no more loot from my pocket to his. (Which works out well for me, since the lush green forest of my wallet has been slowly taking the path of the traitorous follicles on my dome)

    So anyway.... my friend and yours... decides that he has a new winter plan. He starts taking out my trash. An interesting move. So now every Tuesday evening when I'm pushing up the hill from the bus stop, my trash and recycle bins are already at the curb for the next day's pickup.

    Convenient... grossly unnecessary... but one less thing for me to do, right? We should all be so fortunate... Plus... honestly... the third world soul in me loves the notion of contributing to a local micro economy consisting of pocket cash and small favors.

    Well after a few indulgent weeks of curb side trash service followed closely by random visits for payment... I had enough. I can walk the 18 paces to the curb myself... and for free, nyahmean? So two weeks ago, I start locking my trashcans up in the courtyard and taking them out myself on Wednesday mornings.

    Checkmate!! I'm back in control.

    This morning, I awoke to about 2 inches of freshly fallen snow.

    ... and a freshly shoveled driveway

    He's back in the game...

    dungyness melody

    A football aficionado I am not. Moreover, I hasten to reveal that I am at best... a person with a fair weather appreciation for the gridiron, (unacceptably offensive Washington DC mascots not withstanding)

    Last night, the Colts, their coach Tony Dungy, and their rainy south Florida victory in the super bowl... highlighted a necessary character trait for which my appreciation is infinite.

    Less is More.

    It is said that at the beginning of the season, Dungy, with a calm and stirringly gentle voice, said to his team... "I want you to pay attention to what I'm saying, because this is as loud as you will hear me speak all season."

    In essence, it's the proverbial catch more flies with honey, than with vinegar.

    I spent the latter half of the superbowl nailing 1/4 inch rubber weatherproofing strips to the interior seam of the giant front doors to keep Jack Frost at bay... and as the bitter northeastern cold front chattered the back of my teeth... I thought about less being more... about governance through quiet respect, as opposed to aggressive fear or better yet... thunderous intimidation.

    I feel that in a world where we grow our homes and lives understanding that we have individual responsibility for shared fate... it is the quiet voice that will resonate and sustain long after the loud eco-bandwagon has run its course. Mind you, the aggressive proponents of green living should not be chastised or undervalued... but if we have learned nothing else from inability of the solar panel industry to thrive in America or even from the demise quality hip-hop music... we should know... that eventually momentum fades and mediocrity takes its place.

    Unless... you change the character of people, as well as, their habits.

    Well done, Tony.

    natty dreadlocks no wear handcuff

    so it was 2:47 AM and I'm finishing some painting in the kitchen nook. Ordinarily, this mid morning jaunt into my waking sleep would go unnoticed, or more so... unreported. Maybe it was the seamless i-tunes music transition between Jr. Gong, Dido, and Terence Trent D'Arby.... maybe it was the gin and tonic I had with dinner (well... three gin and tonics)... not sure... maybe it was noticing the Cherimoya fruit(Custard Apple) on the counter was ripe and eagerly deciding that I was going to eat it the following morning....again... not sure... but I remembered something.

    I remembered the feeling that I had pushing into '07 and I realized what it meant to me. I realized how to describe it.

    Indulge your idiosyncrasies.

    If the house is a reflection of the owner, then it has long been time to turn the volume up a bit.

    this photo was taken on Saturday afternoon in the 3rd Floor bathroom. There is an illusion that tape will ensure clean lines ... perfect painting... not so much. Given that experience... coupled with last night's clarity...I have presently redefined my desire/need for perfection. I take my time. I let the craftsman within step up to the plate and I accept him as he is. Most times, I believe my lines will be fairly straight. I'm confident that I can make manifest my intent if I believe in the task... and if I give myself to it.

    An imperfect act forged in the desire to trust myself to do it well is INFINITELY more rewarding then one born from the desire to stop myself from doing it badly. - M.

    I don't use tape anymore.


    Perched high atop my sometimesy folding ladder... the first floor steps rising perilously below, I stood balanced between motivation and my exhaustion. That was tough place to be.

    Task: Hang chandelier over first floor steps.

    I went to Home Depot Expo with moms a few months ago and saw a modern looking stainless steel four-light chandelier that I knew would do well in the house. In particular, this fixture had individual moving lights and I wanted to use one of the lights to focus on the 9 foot tall niche that stands adjacent to the steps. But as with all things... it was like $50 cheaper online.

    Needless to say... It was difficult and dangerous (had to call some folks on the phone to let them know that they should check on me in about 20 min in case they needed to come collect my mangled body from the stair below after my untimely fall)... but I got it up and sat on the step ready to turn on the switch and rejoice in a job well done... and as soon as I smiled in the new abundant radiant light and walked down the steps to try the other switch...

    I remembered where I was.

    So in a nutshell...the electrician, in his infinite wisdom, wired power to the light switch for the downstairs foyer. No problem there... but then homeboy decided to run power from THAT switch to the courtyard lights and the new chandelier area. So basically, I have to turn on one light in order to turn on the others.

    Why would you do that?

    In that one white wire/black wire decision, he robbed me of the ability to bask thoroughly in my moment. I hate when that happens...... and that type of incomplete moment is none too infrequent an occurrence at the house. So I turned off the power, rewired the switches and was back in business. It still irritated me. Some things should go smoothly... why does it always have to be...

    My hard work balanced against some joker's minimalist work ethic.

    national geographic

    This is a tale of felines, warm winters, and destiny. "Its not global warming, its el nino."

    They lied to you about global warming... so don't believe the El Nino hype that wearing board shorts mid January is perfectly normal. It was 70 degrees in DC this past weekend... huh?... I watched folks playing ultimate frisbee on The Mall like they were catching a breather during summer session Calc II at GW.

    Its Not Normal... Its Not Good.

    What do five of the last six years have in common?

    The hottest years on record, since they started recording temperature.

    So with my windows open mid January... I'm painting on the first floor and I look out to see one of my friendly backyard cats(white with grey patch) stalking a squirrel in my oak tree. It was nothing short of fascinating. For ten minutes, the cat sat patiently at the bottom of the tree... eager, but stoic in preparation and then as though the veil of silence had been lifted abruptly ...potential energy burst into kenetic and the cat was 10 feet in the tree at the squirrel nest in three bounds.

    No Luck.

    The squirrels were quick and as the cat sat in their nest, not triumphant, but somehow accomplished... I couldn't help but think of another cat... (black, white patch). Struck by a car at the bottom of the block roughly 6 months ago. I have watched, unabated by timely removal and unaided by winter's snowy promise lost...I have watched this creature slowly and effortlessly unexist.

    During my daily jaunt down to the bus stop, I stop habitually to notice milestones of this gradual procession into the earth. In stark contrast to the vibrant prey-seeking feline that stirred my soul and stopped the progression my painting, this daily reminder exists for several reasons.

  • So that I remember that life is fleeting.
  • So that I understand that all things are connected... all things are... in life and death... connected. One feeds another. One eats, ones becomes food.
  • I mean imagine if the white cat had caught the squirrel, then got hit by the car... the cat and the squirrel would then feed the ground they laid on... together.

  • So that I repeat my most essential question... what do I do, with the time I am given?
  • a new beginning

    Some have undoubtedly been waiting for some new year's message of encouragement and optimism... a verbal testament to the audacity of hope. well.

    I have spent the first fortnight of 2007 agressively recording my thoughts. I will start to share some of them with you in a thinly veiled attempt open myself up to you... to be overtly candid.... to be free thinking... and to explore my potential by not hiding my more private emotions. The intent is that by sharing my prose I will get to the core of something within... that will hopefully make me:

    a more dynamic designer... a more accountable person...

    and if nothing else...

    a more honest soul...

    I'm not sure what I will unearth... but I think its important for all of us.


    zapatos de navidad

    I awoke this morning in the still of the night. The sun had not yet burst free of its nocturnal bondage and I, alert and engaged, stood on a balcony… in a distant city… wondering if the lights on the houses in the distant view below were symbols of the souls that laid asleep within their walls. Soft yellow hue glowing symbols… subdued energy… peaceful brilliance. As the depth of the sky’s darkness crept further into my pajama’d silhouette, I had a phone conversation with a great friend, who like me, was searching for meaning in the morning stillness. The conversation, like the friend, brought some amiable answers to questions… some simple solace to the morning… some purposeful prologue to Christmas.

    As many are aware, I am transitioning my thoughts from growing a house to growing a village. There is a shift in focus that is far more altruistic. It’s less about me, nyahmean? The burgeoning complexity of the transition is, at times, difficult to wrap my brain around. I have not yet completed the house… have not yet matched the reality with the intent and here I am… trying to think about the next step.

    But that is my path… my star in the night.

    In seamless timing with my soul searching, I received as a gift a pair of Starbury sneakers. They came to me at a time when I was looking for simple answers to complicated questions. Typically, sneakers tied to professional athletes cost over $100. This high cost can contribute to additional problems/ persistent inequalities for consumers that face financial hardship, a condition that encompasses a large percentage of the sneakers’ buyers. At $9.98 for mine, an athlete saw an opportunity to break a chain of negative decision making in various communities by simply charging a price for his sneakers that was congruent with the cost of producing them.

    Complex problem…simple answer… exponentially positive results… village growing.

    They’re brilliantly inspiring people out there to help us embrace the answers to the questions that drive us…

    …if only we awake searching.

    Merry Christmas