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Q&A With Francis Greenburger, Entrepreneur In Our Midst

By Jamie Larson

Francis Greenburger has led an astonishingly successful, self-made, elite life. Last year he condensed a lifetime of accomplishments and struggles into a co-authored biography called “Risk Game: Self Portrait of an Entrepreneur.” On Saturday, Nov. 4, the longtime/part-time Columbia County resident will read from his book and take questions as part of the Chatham Public Library’s Authors and Artists series. The talk starts at 3:30 p.m.

Locally, Greenburger is known for founding the Omi International Arts Center 25 years ago and more recently for purchasing Love Apple Farm, which he has renovated and created the Love Apple Art Space in the old farmhouse. But that’s only a fraction of the story.

Greenburger is the founder and CEO of Time Equities, Inc., a 50-plus-year-old real estate investment, development, and asset and property management business that holds in its own portfolio approximately 22.61 million square feet of property. He started the business as a teenager and began turning pre-war apartments into occupant-owned co-ops. He also still runs the Sanford J. Greenburger Literary Agency, started by his father.

Additionally, he founded The Francis Greenburger Center for Social and Criminal Justice, which works to reform the prison system, decrease incarcerations and improve the justice system’s handling of criminals with mental health issues. This is a personal crusade for the progressive philanthropist; his son, who suffers from mental illness, served prison time without access to the treatment Greenburger feels he and other inmates in the same situation deserve.

The library event is a unique opportunity to hear, in an intimate setting, Greenburger discuss his many-faceted life. In anticipation of the event, RI caught up with Greenburger to talk Columbia County, his book, and his outlook.

Rural Intelligence: What is your history with Columbia County? How did you first come here, and how do you feel about the area?

Francis Greenburger: Although I met her in New York, my girlfriend in 1970, Esther Wanning, had grown up in Germantown. She had friends who had rented a farmhouse on the Esselstein farm in Claverack. We spent a summer visiting them almost every weekend and eventually found a weekend place in Columbiaville. Esther got a job working at Love Apple Farm over the summer, picking apples. Chris and Rande, who owned the farm, became close friends and I recently bought the farm from them when they retired.

I have had a house in Columbia County for almost 50 years. Although I still live in New York City, I consider Columbia County my psychic home — the place where I can feel most secure.

RI: Are there any local restaurants, businesses or organizations that you love or have particularly close relationships with?

FG: Originally it was Kozels on 9H, but now I would say it is Blue Plate in Chatham. However, there are many other places we go both for dinner and lunch, like the Omi Cafe, Love Apple Farm, etc.

RI: Omi has evolved over the years and seems to be focusing more and more on engaging with the public. Was that something you always felt would be a part of Omi or did your view of Omi’s mission grow over time?

An artist’s rendering of 50 West, one of Time Equities’ current construction projects.

FG: I did not have a fixed vision for Omi. It was very much an evolutionary process where we facilitated and encouraged programs and people who came Omi’s way. Although we always had public programs in addition to our professional ones, our public programs have taken on a life of their own. This year I think we will have 28,000 visitors, triple our audience of five years ago.

RI: In the course of your extremely busy life what role does Omi play for you personally? How often do you walk the fields?

FG: My connection is most strongly with the people who attend our international residency programs. Over the years I have created strong friendships with many of our alums and can visit almost any country in the world and find old friends who I made at Omi. I also enjoy our exhibition program and constantly check out new art installations by walking through the fields and checking out what is in the gallery.”

Greenburger with artist Janet Echelman at an Omi event.

RI: Looking back at your life through the lens of writing your book, was there anything that surprised you upon reflection? Was there any experience or time period that you now see from a significantly different perspective than you did at the time?

FG: Well, I think the thing that surprised me was when I realized that some people who read my book and who I was meeting for the first time, knew many more things about my life than what I had told them. That was a bit weird. I think I realized that I am a collector of stories — about myself, people I meet and experiences that I have had. And sharing these stories was natural to me and of potential interest to others.

RI: What do you hope readers take with them after they finish your book?

FG: Since my book and my life touch on many subjects, different readers find different things. Some people who read it work in the same fields and find my business life and success of interest. Others relate to my not-for-profit work in art, education and criminal justice reform. Readers who have had to deal with a variety of challenges identify with those parts of my life — the death of my first son and my first wife, the challenge of having a family member with mental illness, surviving very difficult economic cycles, etc.

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Posted by Jamie Larson on 10/24/17 at 09:39 AM • Permalink

The Meaning Of Movement: Choreographer Paula Josa-Jones

By Amy Krzanik

You don’t need to be a “horse person” to read this article. You don’t have to have a background in dance, either. Although Paula Josa-Jones has had years of practice as both a rider and a choreographer, the only thing she asks you to bring to her latest venture, her book, is an open mind.

After all, therapy – be it sitting in a chair across from a psychologist, painting alone in a quiet room, or working with horses – isn’t about the psychologist, the art or the animal, but about you. No one can force you to look, but if you’re open to learning, they can make you see.

There are examples of this, along with strategies, and more than 65 meditations and gentle exercises, in Josa-Jones’ new book, Our Horses, Ourselves: Discovering the Common Body – Meditations and Strategies for Deeper Understanding and Enhanced Communication. In it, she marries her long career in dance and choreography (having taught at Tufts, Boston University and other schools) to her even longer adoration for horses. And while Our Horses, Ourselves will help you interact better with your equine, it was written to help you outside of the ring, as well.

The book focuses on improving consciousness of breath, movement and touch to better communicate with both animals and people. “Movement is our first, native language,” says the Kent, Connecticut-based Josa-Jones. “It connects us to others. Unfortunately, it’s not understood and not something people are fully conscious of.” Understanding the more subtle dimensions of our movement exchanges, she says, makes us more trustworthy, more comfortable in our own skin, and better prepared to act with balance, sensitivity and kindness in all of our relationships.

Although she rode when she was younger, Josa-Jones’ time with horses was limited during the years she ran a dance company in Boston. But about 20 years ago, she began to wonder if therapeutic riding would help the strain that years of dancing had put on her hips. “They taught me something far greater,” she says, “including connection, softness and compassion.” She says that, in addition to riding, she wanted to be on the ground with them and find out how she could be understood, speaking through the shared language of movement. “I hoped to understand them, and be understood in a more profound way.”

She began bringing her dancers to interact with the horses, too. “We began to understand how our movement languages were connecting, how to create an inter-species communication,” she says. It was a learning curve that led ultimately to her first dance performance with horses, “Ride,” which was then followed by other performances, classes and workshops with horses.

A TTEAM (Tellington Touch Equine Awareness Method) practitioner, somatic movement therapist and Somatic Experiencing (trauma healing) practitioner, Josa-Jones offers a way for people to explore their own relationships with horses and without, and to learn and explore on their own. It’s for horse owners, sure, but it’s also an open door for people who are curious, or even afraid.

“Horses aren’t here to win ribbons or help us achieve technical perfection” she says, “but for a bigger, more soulful purpose. Horses reflect our inner emotional landscape rather than what we may be trying to project.” She tells the story of her 22-year-old Andalusian gelding, Amadeo. “He continues to be my most amazing teacher because he has the capacity, in the most subtle ways, of showing me when I am out of sync, emotionally or physically. I came to his stall one day and wanted to pet him, and he moved away. I felt in that moment that I ‘needed’ something from him and that need was in the way of making a true connection. He felt it, too. I stood and waited, and when I settled into just ‘being,’ he moved toward me and placed his nose in my hands. That level of teaching is something that they can do, but you have to be willing to take the time. The real goal, and gift, is the ability to understand ourselves better, to ‘get ourselves right.’ We have to do that hard work to become more human, open, playful and compassionate.”

You can hear Paula Josa-Jones speak and answer questions at these upcoming local events:

September 30 at 2 p.m.
House of Books
10 N. Main St., Kent, CT

October 6 at 6 p.m.
Equis Art Gallery
15 W. Market St., Red Hook, NY

October 14 at 12 p.m.
Merritt Bookstore
57 Front St., Millbrook, NY

October 21 at 7 p.m.
Scoville Memorial Library
38 Main St., Salisbury, CT

October 28 at 1:30 p.m.
Mason Library
231 Main St., Great Barrington, MA

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Posted by Amy Krzanik on 09/25/17 at 04:55 PM • Permalink

Food, Farming And Sex: Alice Clayton’s Hudson Valley Series

By Andrea Pyros

Inspiration comes at the oddest of moments. For best-selling romance novelist Alice Clayton, the idea for her sexy, saucy, food-obsessed Hudson Valley-based trilogy — Nuts, Cream of the Crop and Buns — came to her while she was waiting in line to buy cucumbers at her local St. Louis farmer’s market. “The dreamiest farmer I’d ever seen was there,” Clayton says. And although, at the time, everyone else was writing romances about billionaire bad boys, she had other plans.

“I thought, ‘Farmers are the new alpha. I think they need their time in the sun.’” She’d wanted to write a story set in a small-town agricultural center, and although Clayton is “a Midwestern girl, born and raised,” she’d always been intrigued by the Northeast, so she decided to set a series of books here.

“The first time the Hudson Valley came on my radar was when I saw Dirty Dancing as a kid. I’d never even heard of that region of the country. I loved the idea of these wonderful old mountain resorts in the Hudson Valley and Catskills and Adirondacks. Years later, I was watching No Reservations when Anthony Bourdain visited the Hudson Valley and he went up to Mohonk Mountain House, and I was mesmerized. I started doing research on the area — it didn’t look real! — and I fell in love.”

Clayton and her publicist took a research trip to the RI region, renting a car and tooling around towns like Hyde Park, as well as Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow, marveling all the while at their “picture-book, Disney cinemascope” charm. The pair made a stop at Blue Hill Farm, and Clayton said that was when everything really started coming together.

“As a Midwestern girl turning her gaze towards this part of the country, I loved the idea that you have these wonderful communities, some artsy, some are agrarian, some full of big houses, and wonderful little mom-and-pop stores next to wealthy bankers’ wives; it’s a really different way of looking at small-town America and a really different slice of life in the Northeast.” Using inspiration from places she’d seen, Clayton created the fictional Bailey Falls, New York, and its appealing cast of characters.

Each of the Hudson Valley books have sexy farmer types with dirt under their nails, quirky small town characters (if you’re a “Gilmore Girls” fan, we need say no more), plenty of banter and R-rated shenanigans, and a big-city woman who comes to town and finds her life — love and otherwise — completely upended. True to our region, cooking and eating are front and center in the series, from descriptions of lovingly baked pies and vintage flea-market cookbooks to arguments over whether Cadbury Creme Eggs are gross or amazing (answer: both).

“Barefoot Contessa is my life,” Clayton jokes. “And I’m obsessed with “America’s Test Kitchen.” I’m a foodie who loves to cook and loves to eat, and in the last 10 years I was taken with slow food and farm-to-table and getting to know the local growers who bring you food. It just seems natural to incorporate that into a writing project.”

Even though Clayton’s not a local, she gets letters from readers in our area asking if she’s writing about their town. “So far, so good in that I’m representing the region. That’s all I want to do — create a place where people who don’t live there want to go there.”

Buns represents the last in this trilogy, but Clayton admits she’s been thinking about another series set in our region. After all, Clayton, who dedicated Buns to Mohonk Mountain House (“where inspiration becomes reality,” she writes), has fallen in love with the Hudson Valley and says she’ll use any excuse to visit the area. Stay tuned, then, Clayton may have more food, fun, farmers and romance for us.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 05/22/17 at 09:51 AM • Permalink

Dani Shapiro’s ‘Hourglass’ Explores A Marriage Over Time

In her new memoir, Hourglass (Knopf), Dani Shapiro of Litchfield County excavates and celebrates her marriage of nearly 20 years to screenwriter/director Michael Maren. In her previous critically acclaimed memoirs—Slow Motion and Devotion —Shapiro has put her personal history under the microscope to come to terms with her parents’ deeply flawed marriage and to search for a meaningful spiritual practice.

Now, Shapiro focuses the lens on life with her husband and teenage son, Jacob, and the hard realities of looking into the rearview mirror in late-middle age: “Some things that definitely won’t happen,” she writes poignantly. “We won’t have more children; we won’t host big family reunions; we won’t own a compound where generations will spend summer weekends playing badminton and roasting s’mores. Jacob won’t grow up in the city. I won’t enroll in a doctoral program to become a psychoanalyst, nor will I go to rabbinical school. M. and I will not move to Nairobi, where he will be based as a correspondent. He will not accept a job from the CIA, or the World Bank.”

Shapiro has two readings this month in the Rural Intelligence region — on Wednesday, May 17, at the Merritt Bookstore to kick off the Millbrook Literary Festival, and on Thursday, May 18, as part of the White Hart Inn’s Speaker Series in Salisbury. She took time from her cross-country book tour to chat with RI co-founder Dan Shaw, who profiled her for The New York Times in 2013, after she had appeared on Oprah’s “Super Soul Sunday.”


In Slow Motion, you wrote unflinchingly about your “difficult” mother while she was still alive. In Hourglass, you expose your husband’s dreams deferred. “Where does hope go when it vanishes,” you write. “Does it live in a place where it attaches itself to other lost hopes? And what does that place look like? Is it a wall? A sea? Is it the soft bafflement I sometimes see in my husband’s eyes?” Who was it more challenging to write about?

In one sense it was easier to write about my husband and my marriage, because my marriage is much less conflicted than my relationship with my mother was. In Hourglass, I was attempting to write about a happy marriage from inside of it — to ask the question, what does it mean to walk alongside someone over time? It was, of course, still terrifying, because I wanted to tell the truth of my marriage without betraying it. Writing about my mother, on the other hand, meant writing about a thorny, enormously complex relationship. She was the single most challenging person in my life, but still, I never wanted to hurt her, so I tried to be careful, while still telling my story, a story which, by necessity, had to involve her.


Why did you call Michael “M” in the book?

It was an intuitive decision — and I think it came from two places. First, in a literary sense I just thought it was more poetic.  Virginia Woolf, often when writing about Leonard, referred to him as “L.” And Mary Oliver, when writing about her longtime partner Molly Malone Cook, referred to her as “M” as well. It may also be that it made it purer, in a sense, to think of Michael as a character, which is what a writer of memoir must do, with herself and those she writes about.


Did Michael read every word of the final galley? Did Jacob?

Michael not only read every word of the final galley, but he read every word as I was writing Hourglass. He’s always been my first and best reader, and writing this book was no different. In a way, we were able to work together in the same way we always have. To put aside the fact that this was “us” and talk about the book in a literary sense. At the same time, Michael had total veto power, as far as I was concerned. If he had asked me not to write the book, I simply wouldn’t have. As for Jacob, he didn’t read Hourglass (by his own choice) until it was a finished book. It must be weird to read about your parents, and to a lesser degree, yourself, but he’s the kid of two writers, and he understands and thrives on the creative process. He told me he loves Hourglass, and that means more to me than just about any reaction from anyone else!


You are forthright that writing and promoting your books (especially on Facebook and Instagram) is the way you make a living and not about ego.

I can’t imagine what writing out of ego would be like. The writing life is way too fraught and full of indignities and rejection to be approaching it from an egoic place. If I can make the distinction, I don’t write my books in order to make a living (god knows there are easier ways to make a living!) but it is how I make my living, it is my “job.” And these days, a writer can’t simply publish a book and go back in the cave to write another one. I’m fortunate in that Knopf, my publisher, is sending me on a significant (26-city) book tour for Hourglass, and there’s a lot I enjoy about it — meeting readers, connecting with booksellers, traveling, running into friends I don’t get to see much. I think readers really appreciate meeting writers whose work they’ve responded to.


What aspect(s) of the book have readers reacted to most strongly?

It seems readers are seeing themselves, their own marriages, partnerships, relationships in Hourglass — whether they’re at the beginning of a romantic relationship or well into a committed one. I’ve had it said to me that every mother-of-the-bride should give her daughter Hourglass, and I really love that, almost as if the book is a glimpse into the future, after the bouquet and the champagne and wedding cake. But I have also had readers who have been married 50 or 60 years tell me that I got something right about contented long-time partnerships, and that means a great deal to me.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 05/09/17 at 09:49 AM • Permalink

‘Love Where You Eat’ Brings Joan Osofsky To The Table

By Dan Shaw

“Here in the country, when you invite people to dinner, they always ask, “What can I bring?” writes Joan Osofsky in her new book, Entertaining in the Country: Love Where You Eat (Rizzoli.)  Osofsky, who owns the Hammertown stores in Great Barrington, Pine Plains and Rhinebeck, understands better than almost anyone that friendship and community — not competitive, showy cooking — is the raison d’être of dinner parties and luncheons in our neck of the woods. Indeed, bringing people together is her life’s work. “Entertaining is at the core of the Hammertown style,” she says.

Like her previous book, Love Where You Live: At Home in the Country, this new volume is our story. It is filled with recipes, tips, and table settings from neighbors such as Andrew Arrick and Michael Hofemann, who own Finch in Hudson; Michael Trapp, who owns an eponymous antiques store in West Cornwall; fashion designer Patrick Robinson and Vogue editor Virginia Smith of Ancram; Dana Cowan, the former editor in chief of Food & Wine, who lives in Amenia and who enlisted Serge Madikians of the restaurant Serevan to prepare and share his recipes for falafel and eggplant dip in the chapter “Cocktails on the Terrace.”

Photographed by John Gruen of Lakeville and co-written with Abby Adams of Ancram, Entertaining in the Country is about actualization, not aspiration: the tables are set simply and realistically; the recipes require a minimal amount of time spent in the kitchen, so inviting people over for a meal does not become an ordeal. Sourcing of ingredients is important. “Food has more meaning in farm country,” says Osofsky, who was once a farmer’s wife and provides sources for local produce, meats, cheese, charcuterie, and spirits. And she suggests local shops where you can pick up desserts if baking is not your thing.

Abby Adams and Joan Osofsky. Photos: John Gruen.

Sometimes called the Martha Stewart of the Rural Intelligence region, Osofsky is not a perfectionist or taskmaster, but a soulful and supportive Jewish mother.  She is generous with crediting other tastemakers who’ve influenced her such as Lee Bailey, Mary Emmerling, and Bunny Williams of Falls Village, whose An Affair With a House is still one of the most successful books in the country lifestyle genre 11 years after it was first published.

One chapter of Osofsky’s new book is devoted to the quintessential country party — the potluck supper. But Osofsky doesn’t want to ever pressure friends and family so invitations to her potlucks ask guests if they would like to bring something. “It would be terribly rude to demand that they do so,” she writes.

Entertaining in the Country
is, quite simply, empowering and embracing. (It has the same down-to-earth sensibility as The Pollan Family Table by Sharon weekender Corky Pollan and her four daughters.) It will inspire you to bring people you love together around your table. And when your friends reciprocate, it would be the perfect hostess gift to give them.

Book signing with Joan Osofsky and Abby Adams
Sunday, May 28, 2-4 p.m.
Finch
555 Warren Street, Hudson, NY

 

 

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Posted by Lisa Green on 05/02/17 at 01:54 PM • Permalink