NEWSLETTER – 2012 No. 1
by Elena Greco
December 1, 2012
Welcome to the first edition of the Newsletter!
Well, to begin with, this is a radical departure from my usual writing. I’ve done technical writing for years, mostly plain-English instructions about computer software for law firms (snooze…), and I often do informational writing about my own work, either consciousness and healing work or music. So writing this Newsletter is something new for me – something I hope will lead me to explore the somewhat trepidatious territory of free-form writing. My fear is that it will be boring to the reader, as it is hard to shake my “technical” voice, and that fear has held me back from beginning this journey … so, to hell with fear – the Newsletter is here!
The quarterly Newsletter is written from my personal experience, because I believe that is what connects us to the creative flow the most deeply. (And for those who don’t already know, I am a creativity facilitator, someone who is committed to, and skilled at, supporting and freeing the creative flow in others. Although I wear several other hats, that is my primary commitment, one that colors everything that I do.) There is nothing more inspiring to me than reading what interests or moves someone else when they consciously engage with life. I hope that this Newsletter will be useful or inspiring in some way for those who read it, that you will come away with an idea or a flash of recognition that ignites something in you.
Personal stories are always interesting to me, and even more interesting is what people make of these experiences for themselves, the gold they glean from their experience – or don’t – and how it changes them. And I think that what we experience in our lives is sometimes very meaningful for others. Why is the National Enquirer still in business? People magazine? Why do people enjoy the theater? We love knowing about other people’s lives, don’t we. And why is that? My own thought is that it is because we see something in others’ experience that reflects our own and lets us see it anew, but is nonthreatening, sometimes even humorous, because it is not us. And it makes us feel connected with another human being, something we all need, like it or not.
So here goes. I’ll start with where I’ve been, and then maybe I’ll get to where I’m going….
I went to Northwest Arkansas in September to look for a concert venue, as well as to visit some family there and do some digitizing of very old family photos for a web album I’m working on. I say “Northwest Arkansas” rather than a specific town, because that’s how they refer to this area. It’s one of those places where a number of small towns grew so much, so quickly, that they all ran together. The towns still retain their original names, but it’s hard to tell where one ends and the other begins, so “Northwest Arkansas” it is. This is the very northwestern corner of Arkansas, which borders Missouri to the north and Oklahoma to the west, and almost Kansas, but not quite.
I had trouble finding a venue there for either of my current projects (more about those later…), but I did happen upon a beautiful little cathedral in the woods in Bella Vista that would be wonderful for a concert of a more contemplative nature than my two (my concerts are lively rather than contemplative). Sitting in the Mildred B. Cooper Memorial Chapel, I felt such a sweet, peaceful feeling, surrounded by trees and sky. And yes, I have pictures!
It was wonderful to spend time in the outdoors for a few days – no pollution, no street noise, just peaceful greenery and silence. This is my favorite kind of vacation, enjoying the beauty of nature and the peace of silence. Bella Vista is beautifully designed, with bike baths and walking trails everywhere, lots of lovely landscaped golf courses and houses, and just plain beautiful nature. I stayed with my uncle, who lives in the country about halfway between Fayetteville and Bella Vista. His front yard is a large, green field with a pond in it, where deer wander gracefully and shyly through the yard. At night you can see the stars twinkle (yes, really!) and hear the katydids and frogs. Idyllic.
Next, on to my (so-called) Florida vacation at the end of October. I posted on Facebook a while back that I really, really needed to go to the beach, and asked if anyone knew of a place on the east coast that was cheap and fast to get to. A Facebook Friend who used to be an actual friend of mine when she lived in New York responded that I could come and stay with her at Pompano Beach, where she had retired, that she was only 10 minutes from the beach. Wow, I thought, perfect! This was someone I used to spend time with many years ago, but she had appallingly bad manners at times, which eventually drove us apart. My thought when she invited me was that, first, she was retired and perhaps more mellow, and that since she had invited me and would be playing the role of host, she would be on good behavior. I looked forward to seeing her again after all these years and renewing our friendship. So I hit the road again…
I decided to stay a long weekend — three nights and two days – enough time for us to get reacquainted, for me to have two good beach days and to treat her to dinner to repay her for letting me stay there, but not to overstay my welcome or get bored. I found a flight on Spirit Airlines that cost half what any other airline was offering. I remarked to a friend at the time that I was a little concerned about flying on a rinky-dink airline, but, after all, it was just a non-stop flight to Fort Lauderdale. What could possibly go wrong? (ominous music plays in the background…)
Although I was aware that a tropical storm off of Florida had turned into a hurricane, it seemed that it would be out of southern Florida by the time I got there and would have moved out of New York by the time I returned. So on Thursday afternoon – after a harrowing cab ride to LaGuardia during which my angry, insane cab driver drove over 80 mph on the wet highway, leaving me shaking – I flew (unknowingly) directly into Hurricane Sandy on Pompano Beach. As we plowed through intense winds and angry, dark skies, rocking from side to side, up and down, in the kind of roller-coaster turbulence that leaves your stomach in the air, I actually wondered if the plane would crash. Looking out the window at the black, swirling clouds was not reassuring. I’ve never been a Nervous Nelly about flying, but this time I was, um, concerned (gulp). Upon landing, the entire plane burst into applause, and the woman next to me, who had tightly grasped a rosary through the last 20 minutes of the flight, screamed what seemed to be a combination of Catholicism and profanity (a lot of “praise Mother Mary” and “goddamn!”), at which point I realized that I was not the only person who had wondered if this might be our final flight. I’d like to add that it was a female pilot who flew us through a hurricane safely!
Finally on the ground, I greeted my friend and climbed shakily into her car, and we drove toward Pompano Beach. Although it was early evening, the sky was completely black and the wind was intense. I was starving, having just flown through a hurricane and all, so my friend drove us toward a restaurant. The electricity was off in large parts of the neighborhoods we drove through, giving them an eery feeling. There were fire trucks and police everywhere, and something that looked like a fireworks display was going off in the background, which made the sky look weird. The whole thing seemed liked a science fiction movie, unreal and creepy. I didn’t understand what was happening. At one point, we could not see the road. I was confused as to where the road had gone, when my friend finally exclaimed, “It’s sand! It’s covered with sand. That’s why we can’t see it.” The hurricane winds had blasted a half a foot of sand in from the nearby beach, so that you could no longer see the road. It finally dawned on me that this was the aftermath of the storm, that it had caused massive destruction in the area, and the “fireworks” were electrical explosions.
I had dreamily envisioned a few days feeling the sea breeze, resting my eyes from the computer by looking at a beautiful blue sky and palm trees, swimming in the wonderful, healing salt water, while relaxing, eating fresh seafood, and catching up with someone I thought of as an old friend.
When we got to the apartment I was dismayed to find that the only window in the small living room was blocked by a huge Christmas tree. This was in October, and my host told me that she had bought the tree last year, only to realize that she had no place to store it, so it stayed up permanently. There was a small screened-in porch (I am a total porch fiend, love porches!), but this one had a very heavy screen that obscured the view – of the parking lot. There was a duck pond at the apartment, though, the only saving grace in the situation, although it was bordered by a major highway with major traffic noise.
Unfortunately, even in the role of host, my former friend’s manners had not improved in the years I hadn’t seen her; they had become worse. She did not make any effort to make me feel welcome or comfortable and was crass and rude the entire time I was there, which made me want to stay away from her. The room where I slept was not comfortable, or comforting, so I vowed to stay outdoors as much as possible. Unfortunately, because of the storm, the weather in sunny south Florida was not sunny or warm. I had to wear a jacket and socks sitting out on the porch in 60 degree weather. As for the ocean, swimming was not possible due to the wind gusts that lingered for days after Sandy had supposedly left the area, and was unsafe due to strong currents and undertows almost the entire time I was there. It was also too cold to swim in the ocean, so although my host dropped me at the beach briefly several times, I could only sit on the beach watching the water while trying to stay warm. So I never did get to swim in the ocean, even for the few hours that I got to be on the beach when my host drove me there – on a ride that took a half hour or more, not the 10 minutes she had told me, not only because she drove only 30 mph(!), but because it was a long way from her apartment. Having the car windows open caused her ear to hurt, so we had to drive with the darkly-tinted windows rolled up (even when she wore heavy perfume, in spite of knowing I have severe asthma) and the air conditioning on – alas, no view of the blue sky and palm trees or breath of salt air. We seemed to spend hours and hours in the car, driving to this place and that. And the restaurants she took me to had the most vile food at the most unbelievable, higher-than-New York prices. The only enjoyable meal I had was at Ferdo’s, a Syrian restaurant, where a terrific belly dancer entertained us.
I was scheduled to go home on Sunday – I couldn’t wait! By Saturday, the weather report forecast Sandy to hit New York by Monday night or Tuesday, so I didn’t anticipate any problem flying in on Sunday. That morning I checked Spirit’s website, and everything was a go. I went to the airport two and a half hours early, and checked in successfully at the Spirit ticket machine. But when I went to the desk to verify that my plane was on time, Spirit’s representative told me casually that there were no more flights to New York! Panicking, I scrambled, trying to get on any airline at all. I just missed getting the last ticket on Jet Blue. If Spirit had informed me even a few hours before my flight that it was cancelled, I could easily have gotten on another plane, but they did not inform me until well after the scheduled flight time that it was cancelled. Foiled by Spirit Airlines, although I tried my best, I simply had to accept that I could not get out of Florida. I was doomed.
So I spent my Florida “vacation” enclosed in a small car with darkened windows with a rude woman talking incessantly on a cellphone while driving 30 miles an hour to nowhere. The rest of the time was spent in a small, dark apartment with a large Christmas tree blocking the sole window while my host was either rude or ignored me. Trapped for days in that miserable situation, without even my computer to rescue me, I could not believe how much I missed my apartment, my friends, my music, rehearsing with my accompanist – even my office job! It caused me to appreciate the life I have now so very much. I wanted to go home! There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home, there’s no place…. Alas, I had no red shoes.
I spent the majority of the next two days first watching the news to see when Sandy passed through New York, then scanning the internet on my host’s laptop while simultaneously holding on the telephone for hours to ensure that I grabbed the first flight out. I could only think of how much time (almost a week!) and money (hundreds of dollars, coming out of my concert budget) I was wasting on a truly unpleasant experience. Finally, on Wednesday morning, I got myself on the first Delta flight to JFK Wednesday afternoon. Hurray! After resolving some problems with the plane itself, we took off – I was free! When we landed, applause once again broke out among the passengers and even the crew. We flew into NYC at an angle and altitude I’ve never experienced before, giving us the most beautiful nighttime aerial view of Manhattan I have ever seen. I have never been so grateful to be home in my wonderful apartment in the city I love so much.
Okay, it was more like this, since the lower third of Manhattan was without power.
Shortly after I had settled into my Manhattan life again, PBS ran an incredible documentary called The Dust Bowl (see http://video.pbs.org/video/1311363860/ for the video and for more information about the Dust Bowl). I knew about the Dust Bowl from my two grandfathers, who came out of it in the early 1930s (they lived in northern Texas, although not in the worst part of the Dust Bowl). I didn’t know, though, until I saw this PBS documentary that it was caused primarily by environmental changes resulting from what people and machines did to the land in their quest to make a fortune from producing wheat, which does not naturally grow there.
The incredible hopelessness and severe hardship these people survived reminded me that I have the life I have because of what our predecessors endured. We think a hardship is no internet service. To them a hardship was dying from inhaling dirt or starving to death, with no hope for a better life in sight. What a contrast.
On the bright side, in the 1930s a man thinking far outside the box came up with a solution to the dust problem and transformed the land from a hopeless, lifethreatening desert back to the plains it was, and is once again. Thanks to FDR for having the vision to put such a man in charge of transforming an impossible situation to one of possibility – a reminder that creative, compassionate, forwardlooking thinkers are the solution to complex problems, then and now.
When Thanksgiving came along, it naturally got me thinking about gratitude. With the images that haunted me after I saw the Dust Bowl documentary, combined with the experience of being stranded away from home during Hurricane Sandy, and Sandy’s catastrophic aftermath here in New York, gratitude now occupies a much larger place in my heart. I am truly and completely grateful for the life I have – my friends, colleagues and clients, my office job, my apartment, the beautiful scenery, architecture, energy and opportunities in New York City, and most of all for the music in my life and for my kind and amazing accompanist.
Gratitude, a very important element in creating a beautiful life, is a state, rather than an emotion or feeling, a state which colors our experience of life. It perpetuates itself, bringing us even more to be grateful for. And its opposite, ungratefulness, not surprisingly tends to have the opposite effect. So I am grateful for an experience which leads me to more gratitude! Most of all, the state of gratitude brings a sense of well-being and happiness. And it’s so easy to feel grateful – just find one thing you’re grateful for and focus on that, and before long your state has changed!
Speaking of gratitude, why are people so UNgrateful sometimes? And so mean-spirited? Someone recently attacked me on a Facebook group, simply because I responded to a request for information from a fellow singer. And I’m shocked by other behavior I see on Facebook sometimes, where people actually point the finger at someone who has Commented and say rude or hateful things to them, or talk about them crassly. Why attack someone for sharing their opinion in a responsible way (i.e., keeping the focus on themselves and their own ideas)? You have the freedom to share your own thoughts, so why direct aggression at someone else or behave crassly because they express theirs? Clearly, these folks do not understand healthy communication, and for that I do not fault them since it is not taught well in our society (and I am committed to raising the level of understanding of healthy communication), but rudeness, aggression or hostility against fellow musicians or anyone else is really not acceptable at this point in time. We have evolved past that, haven’t we? Manners seem to be deteriorating in our society. And bad manners reflect so poorly on us as professionals.
I don’t really understand bullies. You’d think they would eventually realize that bullying doesn’t work in the end, that it costs them more than it gives, but maybe the payoff is too great in the present for them to think about trying a more rewarding and kinder strategy in life. My stance with bullies is to stand my ground, simply and with integrity, and then walk away and ignore them. Yes, this really works! Without someone to interact with, i.e., bully, they deflate, and that is the end of that. And as long as you have no remaining fear or anger, there will be no harm to you or residual from your interaction with them. Think of bullying as a boomerang. If it does not stick to anything, it returns to the sender. And there’s no reason to spend time with people who behave negatively; we do not have that obligation.
The people we surround ourselves with determine the quality of our lives, so think carefully about whom you choose to spend time with, as your life will reflect the quality of theirs. I live my life out of this realization and surround myself with conscious, kind, creative, committed, evolved people because that’s the kind of person I want to be; those are the qualities I want to cultivate in myself and others. What kind of person do you want to be? Do the people around you reflect those qualities?
Speaking of the people in our lives, I’ve come to see that Facebook is an extension of my life and that I should be just as careful about whom I interact with there as I am in my non-virtual life, something I had been a little too relaxed about because I wasn’t thinking of it as “real life.” I had to look at why I occasionally Friended people I didn’t really have a resonance with – was it for professional reasons? Was I willing to have these people in my virtual life solely for that purpose? Once I looked at it that way, I came to the conclusion that my virtual life should be no different from my non-virtual life. They are expressions of the same life, the same reality, so the same “rules” apply. I intend for my Facebook life to be as transformational and inspirational – in both giving and receiving – as my “nonvirtual” life.
And for those few people in my life who still don’t have a Facebook account, you really are missing out. Yes, the company is just looking for the $, but there are so many positives to using it. For one thing, Facebook is the place where I share, for example, my blog posts, nature and animal pix, news about the environment and health, and yes, a few political rants (but only a few). If you’re not on Facebook, you don’t see these, and you don’t see the Comments and Statuses I post which would allow you to get to know me a little better. It’s where I support my colleagues and friends by Liking, Sharing or Commenting on their posts. I’ve found friends from 30 years ago and gotten reacquainted. I’ve found new friends through other Facebook Friends that I might never have met otherwise, people I’m happy to know. And there are so many other reasons. As one Facebook Friend just posted (I’m not naming her to protect her privacy): “Six months ago, not only had I never used Facebook, but I didn’t even know how to open it. What I didn’t expect is that it would connect me to so many old friends, and old memories, and introduce me to so many new ones, sharing their positive experiences with me. Now I can’t go to bed without checking in to see what’s new.” So what are you waiting for? If you’re concerned about identity theft, all you have to do is create a dummy account on Google Mail or Yahoo email and use that email address to create a Facebook profile. You don’t have to say a word about yourself or give out any other information. So come on board!
This year has some wonderful and challenging work in it, a lot of new experiences, and I can’t wait to begin!
I am SO excited about the two musical projects I’m working on this year. Next week I begin work on THE FLAVOR OF SPAIN™ Part 2, the music and composers of northern Spain. Such beautiful music! The first performance of this concert is scheduled for May 1.
If you liked Part 1, well, let’s just say that this one will be a continuation, but a little more streamlined – a shorter video presentation, better set transitions (as in, someone will remember to change the backdrop and props at the right time) and fewer mishaps (as in, no one will drop their instrument, and the projector will stay plugged in!). Okay, so there were a few issues, but it was, after all, the first performance of that show. People seemed to enjoy it , and that was my main intention, as always.
And I learned so much from that project! I learned most of all that I cannot do all of the production work myself and still expect to be healthy, perform well and enjoy the show, so I have hired (and am looking to hire more) people to help with the technical and marketing side of putting on a multimedia production so that I can focus on the artistic direction and performing. I vow that I will be rested and full of energy this time (a New Year’s Intention) – and that the show will be even more enlivening for the audience! Entertaining the audience is always, and always will be, my reason for performing. It is, first and foremost, my job to entertain.
Next will be ELEMENTS™, a part of the CONCERTS FOR HEALING™ series. Many of you know how much I love nature. Elements focuses on the environment, with beautiful music about the elements of the earth, and a presentation of images and information about nature and how we might possibly contribute to preserving and protecting it. Contemporary art song, musical theater, jazz standards, Latin jazz and some music of the 1960s combine to provide an experience everyone can enjoy.
I’m thrilled about these two productions, because I know that they offer something new and fresh. As states the motto of Elena Greco Multimedia Productions™, their purpose is to “entertain, educate and enliven.” I spent a lot of time, research and care in constructing the programming and initial artistic direction of these two projects because I want everyone to enjoy the shows, and for the experience of the concerts to allow people to take away something that stays with them, in addition to being thoroughly entertained in the moment. I’ve carefully chosen the musicians and technicians on these shows as people who are committed to that, as well, which the audience can’t help but feel.
On the writing horizon, I’m finishing up an article about the art of accompanying, how it can transform vocal music and make us as singers seem even better than we are (imagine that!), complete with quotes from singers and pianists I’ve interviewed to get their perspective, as well as important points on how to get the most from the singer/accompanist relationship. If any of you whom I haven’t already interviewed have thoughts you’d like to share, I would love to hear from you. Look for that article to be posted midJanuary.
I am very grateful that I have truly wonderful, authentic, gifted, supportive, creative friends (yes, you!). I feel blessed to have all of you in my life, and I am happy that you’re here contributing your unique gifts and bringing light to uplift people. I know it seems rather dark at times right now, as we are in a period of great change and upheaval, but please believe, as I do, that there are many of us here who are committed to holding the light and supporting others in their struggles.
I end as I began, hoping that I have not bored you to death, dear readers. I have been too verbose, I know, something I intend to overcome. But as in any other creative endeavor, there has to be a beginning, and only when you begin, can you expect to get to the gold, even if there is a little sludge to be gotten through at the beginning as you get the wheels spinning for the first time.
Thanks for joining me, and I hope to see you again here in the Spring! Elena
(Please note that this Newsletter is, and contains, copyrighted material, and I ask that you not use it without crediting or asking me, for the usual legal and professional reasons.)