New York Tales from Curious Borough Dwellers

010 : Rob Giampietro in the garden in the Cloisters, Manhattan
Born 1978 in Edina, Minnesota. Rob Giampietro currently works as a graphic designer, writer and teacher. Why New York? Equal parts comfort and fear. He digs the following Gotham bits: Writing, kinship, food, surprises and people watching. He is, however, a bit miffed by cab fare, "pedlock," comparison to others and resulting anxiety, posers and douchebags. For more info on Rob Giampietro you should send an email or visit Giampietro+Smith.

“Vibrating almost imperceptibly in the breeze like a woody tuning fork.”

The trip to the Cloisters[1] with my girlfriend Susan was my third trip. I have now been there a total of five times, but we have only gone together that once. Most of our visit that day was comparable to my other visits: Here again was the studied precision of the religious icons and illuminated manuscripts; here again I felt the serenity of the abbeys and the reconstituted chapels. Like anything brought brick-for-brick across the ocean, the Cloisters retains the feeling of being somewhere else, somewhere unnatural and magical. It is a place grafted onto its surroundings but somehow still living, even blossoming, as a result.

On this visit, though, I was moved to an intense degree by the sight of a pear tree. I had not noticed it before, tucked as it was against the shallow of a wall, nor have I felt so deeply for it since. Its invisibility was part of the point. The tree was an espalier, groomed to lie flat against the stone so as not to crowd the tiny castle garden.

The pear tree faced a patch designated for “magic plants.” These plants had names like “Lady’s Mantle,” “Mandrake” and “Scarlet Pimpernel,” names that hinted at stories told and repeated, and I suspected that at least some of the magic this harvest held could be found in allegory. I’d noticed them first, and photographed them, before the pear tree.

Facing it finally, I was overcome by the beauty of its order. There was careful symmetry to its wispy branches, bent into the traditional shape of a Palmetto Verrier[2], vibrating almost imperceptibly in the breeze like a woody tuning fork. I felt its gardener’s labor and love for a slight but strong tree[3]. This natural thing had been made to grow in a certain beautiful, ordered way. Its branches had been cut and split, grafted and repositioned, painfully sometimes, but still—on it grew. The tree reached skyward. In a few weeks its golden pears would be vibrant. I wondered who might eat them and if they would be sweet to the taste.

Far off past the low garden wall, the Hudson River shone in the sunlight. Kids played on blankets in the park below us. The pear tree cast the hard shadow of its silhouette. Susan adjusted her purple dress and smiled at me from across the garden. I remember looking at all of this before we headed off for dinner.

referenced works

  1. The Cloisters is a monastery cobbled together from pieces of medieval French monasteries. The Metropolitan Museum's uptown medieval annex, it sits on a four-acre site overlooking the Hudson River. (Source: metmuseum.org)
  2. A vertical form of espalier.
  3. Espaliers are commonly more robust then their undomesticated brethren, and earlier to fruit.

location information


017That's when I knew I wanted to live in New York: in the midst of those fragile bralets and bodysuits.— Ling Ma

016The guns, we tell the police later, were black like ice.— Tara Deal

015...my own talisman against the folly of my youth.— Andrea Jarrell

014Y'all in a band'r somethin'?— Abraham

013Perhaps it was the lanky teenager with the bright red book-bag that made me think I saw Adam.— Carrie Teicher

012I remember flattening myself against the streaky windows of the PATH train like an insect.— Erin Fisher

011I glanced up to see another shape hit the sand.— Ken H. Judy

010Vibrating almost imperceptibly in the breeze like a woody tuning fork.— Rob Giampietro

009Then the jazz stopped and the radio said the war had started in the Middle East. — Roland Kelts

008Shirtless Boris Yeltsin’s skin reddens as he reads a book.— Michael Maiello

007Port Authority was there with open, non-judging arms.— Khoi Vinh

006His almost-loss was my almost- nonexistence.— Matthew Rand

005On the cold hard floor of the orphanage, I sang, longing for the day that they would come and rescue me.— Jen Egan

004He was a lawyer, after all.— Kristin Gardner

003The parking lot gate was open, and we ran in with the skateboard.— Lorraine Martindale

002We arrived on completely Russian streets, with Russian signs and a familiar rudeness.— Kseniya Melnik

001...the hourly clicking of Oxfords and high heels across the parking lot.— Tam Nomgum


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