The LongHouse Experience

The weekly wellness series is in partnership with James Lane Post, an East End experience.

The past year caused a chaos within ourselves likely unmatched by anything we’ve experienced prior. As a collective, we were overwhelmed by the news, isolation, death, fear — the list of pessimistic pandemic associations goes on. It left us in a wake of distress, frazzled, and in need of an emotional recovery, as much as a physical one.

Post-Pandemic Wellness

The end of Mental Health Awareness Month happens to be in alignment with America’s reopening, and thus recovery, in a post pandemic world. However, (without sounding too cliche) mental health matters more now than ever. We’ve been conditioned to stare at screens, cover our faces, and live in fear of what’s beyond our front doors. As we return to the world we’ve known, we cannot ignore the trauma of what we experienced and the toll it has taken on our overall health — maybe 2021 should be declared Mental Health Awareness Year.

As our lives return to a new normal, we will, undoubtedly, be more conscious of our overall health. Defined by the World Health Organization, “health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” So the question lies in: why do so many of us hyper-focus on physical wellness and treat social and mental health as secondary? This summer, from Memorial Day to Labor Day, my column will feature ways to stay healthy physically, socially, and mentally. 

Fortunately, there is a place to visit that addresses all three: LongHouse Reserve.

The LongHouse Experience

LongHouse Reserve is a 16-acre property and sculpture garden, located in East Hampton, centered around its art and garden installations. It’s best described as spiritual therapy, an immersive experience that excites the senses and calms the mind.

According to Holger Winenga, horticulturist, LongHouse has thousands upon thousands of flora varieties — daffodils, hellebores, hardy geraniums, sweet pepper bushes, butterfly bushes, to name a few, and the collection continues to grow. Upon first glance, the natural beauty is positively overwhelming. The areas of First Lawn and Peter’s Pond are vibrant and expansive, where open fields of East Hampton meet picturesque beauty reminiscent of Monet’s Gardens.

There’s an abundance of wildlife — bullfrogs, painted turtles, toads, box turtles, garter snakes, eastern cottontail rabbits. Overhead, watch robins, catbirds, chickadees, cardinals, and Baltimore orioles (bird, not baseball) fly into the trees. The sensation of being among the fauna provides a greater perception of self-awareness as they all move about undisturbed, as you are in their environment.

Some LongHouse sculpture installations are permanent, while others are displayed seasonally. Work highlights include pieces from Willem de Kooning, Yoko Ono, Daniel Arsham, and Buckminster Fuller. Riddled throughout the property are benches and chairs for guests to sit back and enjoy the view with loved ones, although some of them are confused for the art installations themselves (guilty).

The LongHouse experience is emotionally, mentally, and thus physically healing. Akin to a Band-aid for the soul. To simply call it a sculpture garden would underrate all the benefits it provides, beyond what the eye can see. 

LongHouse Reserve is located at 133 Hands Creek Road in East Hampton. There are timed-ticket reservations available. Each time slot is for one hour and 15 minutes, but it’s understandable to linger a little longer. Contact them at 631-329-3568 |

Basquiat: An American Artist

Jean-Michel Basquiat was an influential American artist in the early 1980s during the Neo-Expressionism art movement. He quickly rose to fame from his beginnings as a graffiti artist known as SAMO during the New York modern art era, a time when artists were celebrities and celebrated in nightclubs and downtown galleries. His life seemed to be extinguished in an instant when he died at the age of 27.

“American Masters — Basquiat: Rage to Riches” is a 90-minute documentary, produced by David Shulman, shows interviews with Basquiat’s relatives, former colleagues, intimate friends, and lovers. The film celebrates the life of the artist; 2018 marked 30 years since his death.

The film was released in 2017, only months after a Basquiat painting told for $110.5 million at Sotheby’s in New York. “I think he’s one of the most significant artists in contemporary history,” said senior curator of Parrish Art Museum Corinne Erni. Basquiat, as a young black artist, she added, “changed the narrative in the way he painted. The art world was very white male dominated at the time. It becomes pretty clear that, although a lot of people think Andy Warhol made Basquiat, Basquiat enjoyed a lot of success before he met Warhol. I think the film is a great way to change that narrative.”

Michael Halsband, who is also featured in the film, famously photographed Andy Warhol and Basquiat wearing Everlast boxing gloves. “I thought it was fun and cool. I wasn’t a conceptual photographer, so I was fine to contribute the spontaneity to it. Basquiat had that imagery in his work and saw the irony in that, the kind of iconic play,” Halsband explained. He met Warhol back in 1978 and met Basquiat in 1985 during a group portrait for the famous ’80s nightclub Area.

The two iconic artists were at ease with each other throughout the July 1985 photo shoot, Halsband recalled. “It went for about an hour and I exposed 15 rolls of film. From those images we used two for the gallery poster and one, which is the one where Andy is knocking out Jean-Michel, which he completely staged, was used at the after party for the show,” he said. For this iconic image, Halsband explained, “Jean-Michel laid his hand on Andy’s gloves and made the expression of being punched in the face. While he was setting it up, I was taking pictures and realized what he wanted. I then tilted the camera, created the exposure and set the image.”

The friendship between Halsband and Basquiat developed quickly from there. Halsband said he was looking through the photographs he took at Basquiat’s studio, when the young artist invited him to join him in Paris with Eric Goode, one of the owners of Area. They arrived in France on Bastille Day and, from there, Halsband and Basquiat traveled Europe together for about a month.

“Our friendship was closer than most people. We traveled together, shared hotels, ate many meals together,” said Halsband. A year later, the two began to drift apart, he said.

On August 12, 1988, Halsband received a call at his Water Mill home that Basquiat had died in his New York City studio. The cause of death was later determined to be a drug overdose. “I felt very removed. I felt like I dropped the ball, like I should have been more sensitive or alert in that moment where there was a chance to save him or deal with it more immediately. It was shocking. There was this opportunity, many times, to reach out and try and help him. But he was hard to connect with and communicate with throughout that time,” said Halsband.

For more information on Halsband,

This article originally appeared in the February 19 issue of The Independent Newspaper but was updated on August 8, 2020.

Pat Benatar & Neil Giraldo: The Real Life Romeo & Juliet

The 1980s were defined by a rock-and-roll voice so profound, so powerful, that women today still define love as a battlefield. Lindenhurst [Long Island] native and four-time Grammy Award winner, Pat Benatar’s songs of female empowerment, both tragic and hopeful, have transcended decades. Benatar and her husband and guitarist, Neil Giraldo, aka “Spyder,” have a real-life Romeo and Juliet story, but with a not-so-tragic ending.

Over the summer, together, in conjunction with Guild Hall, Jamie Cesa, and Bel Chiasso Entertainment, they presented a free concert and staged readings of “The Romeo & Juliet Project” at Bay Street Theater’s “Under The Stars” at Mashashimuet Park in Sag Harbor.

The concert, which debuted for the first time, had the crowed all fired up with its modern-day twist on a classic; Old English is outlawed, the Capulet’s grand party is at a warehouse, there’s a budding homosexual romance, the list goes on. Attendees were left enthusiastically wondering, ‘will it end up on Broadway?’.

Prior to the concerts debut, I caught up with Pat Benatar herself.

What was your reaction the first time you came across ‘Romeo & Juliet’?

The first time I read it was in seventh grade and I fell totally, and madly in love. I was a romantic fool. It was perfect. It was everything I loved — the historical fiction, the romance, and the entire life. I was 13. It fit right into my lexicon of the universe at that time.

How did all of this come together?

About four years ago, Spyder and I met with Jamie Cesa, the producer of the show. We met with him with the idea of doing a biographical musical, a jukebox musical. We were working on that for a couple of years, getting our writers and false starts, meanwhile continuing to do performances. In the first two years, Bradley Bredeweg was producing a small version of a musical called “Romeo & Juliet: Love Is A Battlefield.” You obviously can’t have two performances going on at once, so we sent people down in Los Angeles to check it out and they said it was really good. I said, “Oh shit.”

So, we shut the production down. We had to. He didn’t have the rights to the music anyway; it can only go so far. Then he was at a benefit and came up and introduced himself. Then, Spyder and I decided we didn’t want to do another biographical musical. So, we called Bradley. What he had done was so brilliant, it was amazing. The songs that are being played are done in the form they were written in but it wasn’t the form we wanted. Then, we all got together, us, Jamie, and Bradley, and we came up with what we have now. A reimagined story of “Romeo & Juliet,” the original in some places with a detour into things more relevant for right now.

What is the music like in the show?

A hybrid. It’s our music reimagined as a musical theater number. It’s remarkable how the lyric content fits in the story.

Out of all plays to emulate, why ‘Romeo & Juliet’?

Everyone has always called us the Romeo and Juliet of rock and roll because they’ve thrown everything at us on Earth — trying to split us up, all of this horrible stuff that people do — and we’ve managed to survive it. It has relevance for us. We’ve been married for 37 years and have been together for 40. You know, I’d love to say that this has been a picnic, but it has not.

How did you and Neil Giraldo meet?

I signed to Chrysalis Records and the company put together a group of studio musicians. We were putting things together and doing demos with wonderful studio musicians. It just wasn’t raunchy enough. It wasn’t rock enough. I mean, it sounded beautiful, but it wasn’t what I meant. I met with Mike Chapman a few times and I told him what I was trying to do, so he said he had a guy. So, Spyder came down the day I was doing auditions for the other band members and just came so we’d meet. He was already too accomplished to audition. He came in with everybody else. I didn’t know he was there. Someone told me Neil Giraldo was there, but I didn’t turn back.

Then, I heard someone behind me say, “Hey, man, can I borrow your axe?” And I thought, oh my gosh, he didn’t even bring his guitar? I was ready to turn around and skewer him. Then I saw him and that was the end of that. My brain literally shut down, the rest of my body lit up on fire. I tried to compose myself, like “What the hell are you doing?” I was madly in love with him. I composed myself, shook his hand, and he got on stage to play the most unbelievable guitar chord I have ever heard. I wouldn’t have worked with him if he hadn’t been the right guy, the right guitar player, but he was exactly what I was looking for.

Was the first song about you two?

“Promises In The Dark.” We were dying to be together. I was still married; he was in a relationship. So, we were not together. We made that whole record with all of that emotional, physical tension going on. We were trying to figure out how to start the relationship, because they don’t make it. We were crazy about each other but didn’t want to blow the career. It was a hard to decision to make. We took it really slowly, and the first song we actually wrote about the relationship was “Promises In The Dark.” It’s our signature thing.

How does this rock ‘n’ roll journey differ from others?

We’ve had a really amazing life. It hasn’t been perfect, there have been lots of struggles, but we came out on the other side. We have two daughters, two grandchildren. We’re so grateful. To be able to circle all the way around, go back to my Long Island roots, and be able to start this whole other adventure, where music that has been so critical and important to your life is now being put into another format. It’s amazing. I’ve never heard the songs sung by anyone but me. To hear them all singing these words that we wrote, we played, that have never been sung by another person, is spectacular.

This article first appeared in The Independent Newspaper on August 13, 2019, prior to the concerts debut. Read more about #EverythingEastEnd here

Donna Adi: Modern Day Fashion-Cartoonist

“When I’m having a bad day, I think of a pink frosted donut, or a bowl of pasta, or a crazy hamburger. Even if I’m not going to eat it, the thought of food is social and fun,”

said Donna Adi, an artist and creative director from Los Angeles.

Adi has become an Instagram and branding sensation through her use of fan art in the fashion world. In an industry that is closer associated with diets than junk food, Adi incorporates anthropomorphic food into her images. Scroll through pictures of models holding pop-art pizza melting on the plate, two ice cream sandwiches kissing, or a happy hamburger. It’s relatable and it’s a feeling that goes into each piece with the hope others feel the same sense of guilt-free joy. “It’s females in their happy space having moments for themselves,” she said.

She has been in the fashion industry for over 10 years. “This art was my break away from fashion but still incorporating it into my work. It’s very female-oriented. The fashion I choose is very much about the girl taking care of herself, enjoying her life. It’s putting together an outfit, going out for a croissant and a cup of coffee,” Adi said.

A modern-day fashion cartoonist of sorts, Adi excelled in art classes as a child but never thought to make anything of it. She studied animation and illustration during her high school years and then, at 17 years old, began a graphic T-shirt line. Eventually, her experience managing social media, photography, and an online store brought her to a serendipitous moment while vacationing in Tel Aviv. She met Galia Lahav, a couture fashion designer, and Adi used her expertise to land the designer in global stores and fashion week, in addition to rapidly growing an online presence. Eventually, a born entrepreneur, Adi wanted to do her own thing.

“The main thing that I took away from the fashion industry, which I incorporate into my work, is understanding the composition of fashion photography, what makes the photo work and how to tell a story through an image,” she said. That’s when she started illustration.

She has multiple tablets with several processes. “I take a lot of photos myself and I illustrate on them while I’m traveling. Sometimes I find a striking fashion image online that just takes my breath away and I have to draw on it. Sometimes I make a sketch and I think there’s a photo I need to make it come to life. I’ll sketch out an image. I’ll find the image of the photo that’s right for that image. And, you know, put it together. It’s like a collage,” she explained.

In the beginning, her work was created purely for fun — an intuitive outlet to be herself, an inner child at heart. Then in 2017, Colombian reggaetón singer J Balvin’s manager requested Adi do an album cover. Soon after, Nordstrom reached out for its winter campaign, Adi’s first big job. That’s when she knew she had a talent others wanted to use. “I’ve never done outreach. I think that if I had to reach out and prove myself, I’m not sure it would be as exciting as people understanding the potential of working with me, and using my work for their campaigns or commercial,” Adi said.

Celebrities are now reposting her work — Gigi Hadid, Winnie Harlow, famed fashion photographers. “At first, I was nervous, thinking maybe they don’t like my work or me trying to make something out of their photos. But it was just such a positive feeling to see that these people like what I’m doing on their images,” she said. Adi’s client list impresses with names Ralph Lauren, Michael Kors, Puma, Dior, Google, Skechers, Apple, Nestlé, Diesel, the list goes on.

Adi continues to grow freely in a meticulous branding industry. Her broad range of expertise is landing her creative director roles with some leading commercial names.

She brings fashion, and all others worlds, to life through a unique vision of vibrant colors and designs. Every one grows up watching animation, in one way or another, and her images seamlessly bridge together childhood and adulthood. “It’s very big in my heart. I grew up on cartoons. It’s in my style and it’s inevitable, I’ll never be able to get away from it, because I love it,” she said.

Adi is currently living in Paris, soaking in creativity at every turn. Make sure to keep up with all this visionary is doing at @donna_adi.


This article first appeared in The Independent Newspaper. Read more about #EverythingEastEnd here


Mountainfilm on Tour returned to Southampton Arts Center on Friday, September 6 and Saturday, September 7 for the fifth year in a row. The annual festival originated in Telluride, CO in 1979, held every Memorial Day weekend, and it brought its inspiring documentaries based on adventures to the East End.

The films ranged in time from three to 29 minutes. Each showcased non-fiction stories revolving around current events — ranging from political climate to adventurous climbing — and included professional athletes, philanthropists, artists, and beyond for a celebration to lift the spirits and elevate experiences.

“Life of Pie” follows two pizza chefs who transform the town of Fruita, CO from a desert location to a mountain biking destination with their Hot Tomato Café. “(People) of Water” dives deep into the limits of the U.S. Men’s Raft Team as they try to break the Grand Canyon speed record, only to discover an ancient form of aquatic travel.

“Grizzly Country” showcases the grizzly bears that were one Vietnam War veteran’s companions for years in the Montana and Wyoming wilderness. “Detroit Hives” is about one couple’s apiary community movement in the city of Detroit. “Tenaya Creek Kayak Run” proves that Yosemite is a world-class kayaking destination. “Sacred Strides” travels to Utah’s canyons that still mark the homes of several Native American tribes and how, amid the Trump administration slashing the area, these tribes reconnected to the area.

“Safe Haven” sets its sights on Memphis Rox, the nation’s only nonprofit gym, exploring the benefits of such a strong hobby. “R.A.W. Tuba” interviews a homeless man in Baltimore who became a world-class symphony musician. “All In” concludes with a tutorial on Alaska heli-skiing.

Presented by Brown Harris Stevens of the Hamptons and Elyn and Jeff Kronemeyer with added support by Dr. Paula Angelone and Jerry Rosengarten, it’s filmmaking on a mission, taking artistic ideas and placing them on a screen in hopes to insight change within individuals for a better world. The group even awards $30,000 in grants annually to project makers who are creating forward-thinking initiatives intended on bringing call to action.

“These films are important because they create understanding of different cultures and people, making people more open to one another,” said Elyn Kronemeyer.

Mountainfilm goes a step further by providing a list of organizations for those who want to take action on its website. Additionally, there is Mountainfilm For Students, a no-cost program offered for kids in kindergarten through 12 grade, with a customized playlist for appropriate grade level, and content and materials aligned with Common Core Anchor Standards. There’s even a Festival Camp option, in collaboration with Telluride Academy.

You can watch previously shown films at