|Qualifies. As ‘Room with a View’?|
|Second Stop, Tierra Patagonia|
|Glacial Lake. Reflects well on all of us.|
Having completed the altruistic element of our annual voyage, we transcend to the indulgent. Arriving in Santiago, Chile we meet up with the Greenburger entourage.
Lori and I find ourselves having upgraded our accomodation from a one room wood cabin with toilets and a cold shower a reasonable walk from our room, to the Ritz Carlton. The hotel affords us a panoramic view of the city, rooftop pool and a suite. Our first dinner we join our fellow travellers at a local eatery. The participants have arrived from all corners of the world. An ethically and socially diverse group whose common bond is Francis Greenburger. Those of you who know me, by and large, have heard me comment on this unique individual more times than you may have wanted to.
A gifted and unique being, Francis is a man whose accomplishments in any one of the numerous facets of his life would be considered exceptional. The fact that he has managed to enhance value in a plethora of interests is truly a marvel. He is a 21st century Renaissence man. Whether it be in terms of the financial empire he has constructed, his dedication to reform in terms of the American justice system, his devotion to and accomplishments in the arts, his creation of a literary agency, his sports background, raising a family of bright and talented children, or his sense of adventure and travel, all have resulted in his attracting a unique, fun loving talented group. On this voyage the members of the group, some from his business world, others from the arts, others longtime literary associates, and just old friends and family, the 40 of us will coalesce into a single organic moving troupe of fun loving, insightful adventurers.
Many of the participants are folks that Lori and I have met on earlier excursions. Other new faces will morph into new friends over the upcoming week. I apologize for not having kept up with my reportage. Usually phase two of our trip involves the two of us on solo journies to parts of the globe hitherto unexplored by ourselves. In this case, we are busy having fun from dawn to midnight, and on occasion pre-dawn to well past midnight, immersed in conversation, gaiety, and just having a grand ole time. Other than the blog’s regularity, there have been no victims.
A brief character sketch on the participants:
Viktor and Ingeborg are a unique and elegant German couple. Vitality is not an issue as Viktor, well into his seventies, was at the head of our 18 kilometer hike into the mountains yesterday. He and Francis go back around 50 years when Francis, as a sixteen year old literary entrepreneur, went to Germany to meet with a young publisher, which ignited a friendship that has carried forth into a new millenium. Armed with a sense of humour and vigour, Viktor headed one of the most successful publishing houses in post war Eurpoe. When life dictated a change in literary direction, he began publishing childrens books and comics. He was responsible for bringing Robert Crumb comix to the forefront. So those of you who have read the exploits of Mr. Natural and the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers have Viktor to thank for those illustrious head trips of your youth. His wife, Ingeborg, is an attractive woman of similar age who reflects the crazy times of post WWII Europe. She was one of those kids in the late ’50s who used to hang out at the Kaiserkellar in Hamburg dancing to the sound of a young band who left Liverpool to seek fame, fortune and experience on the continent.
Tarik and Nayana hail from India. A successful authoress with a best seller on the NYT booklist, Nayana
reflects the successful transition of nature (culture, social, parenting, etc.) from her Indian heritage to modern Americanism. Her hubby is an architect, sculptor and visual artist. Sharing the unbridled energy inherent in the group, he has a quick draw on his pencil and regularly produces sketches of the magnificent geography that we all are experiencing. Seeing the plethora of photographs taken by the various participants (Lori, Irena, Isabelles, Ross, etc.) we see accurate and beautiful representations of what we’ve been gawking at for the week. However, seeing Tarik’s hand drawn images in sketch form further enhances the visions by providing an abstract personalized view. Tarik and I sit on the board of Art Omi. It is a wonderful experience getting to expand my horizons, learning different and new elements of a personality in areas that had previously been unexplored.
Don Golden is a west coast transplant who now, with Francis, owns and operates an apple orchard in upstate New York, Columbia county, located a MacIntosh’s throw from the Art Omi International artist in residence facility. With a rich and diverse background, commencing as an infant in Taiwan due to his status as army brat orphaned at an early age, through a marriage to and subsequent divorce from a Baltimore Jewish socialite who he derisively refers to as Cruella (“She hates Dalmatians, drives fast cars, and loves fur coats”), to a 63rd floor occupant of #2 World Trade Center on September 11th, to a father of two interesting and exceptional children and having recently gone through a fire that obliterated his farm house/office, Donald reflects an inner tranquility who has come to terms with the the fact that, in the words of Bob Dylan – ‘Someone’s got it in for me’. A kind and gentle soul, he refuses to submit.
The person charged with the task of making the impossible possible is Natalie Diaz
who spends her 9 to 5’s doing precisely this. Natalie has been Francis’ right hand for three years and her day consists of planning, coordinating and executing. If she is as good at this in New York as she is in Patagonia, (and she is; Natalie is my main contact point to TEI in my day to day dealings with the firm) Francis is fortunate to have her around. Another west coast transplant, Natalie embodies all the good parts of 21st century America. A mix of half a dozen cultures, Natalie carries herself with a quiet, refined confidence and possesses a strong sense of organization and commitment, to both the little details and the larger elements. Her innate reliability gives comfort to those around her.
Howard and Carol are old friends of Francis. Tennis partner, woodworker, and co-investor, Howard has a dry, wry sense of humour and also has refused to come to terms with the curse/blessing associated with advancing years. Carol is a literary agent who works with Francis’ company. They also form part of a large Anguilla contingent. Numerous members of our number spend time in Anguilla, playing tennis, philosophizing and finding new ways to explore beauty and have a good time. Us older folks seem to share a vitality and appreciation of all things around us and the good fortune that has accompanied us through the ages. Many people, as they move down the line, become inured to the world around them. Those of us on this bus tend to be continuously awed by the forces around us, gobsmacked by the natural beauty as presented by the physical traits of Patagonia and the places we stay at and visit. The appreciation infuses us with energy and appreciation, whetting our appetites for more.
Ross Willows is the brother of Francis’ first wife Judy. A fellow Canadian, he is boisterous, young beyond his years, a cinematographer, painter and photographer who has proven to be a very good drinking buddy for me. He reminds me of my cousin Cliff in terms of physical resemblance, vocal presence and slight bad boy personality. He and
Carol Frederick are also newlyweds There are no younger 70-60 couples that you’d more want to hang with. Carol’s tie to Francis is originally via the literary trail; she reads and reviews scads of books, lives in Columbia county as part of the upstate contingent, was a dear friend of Judy’s, and has lived through and endured the sundry tragedies that have knocked at the Greenburger’s doors from time to time, as any true friend would. Displaying her talent with a brush and watercolours, Carol is another individual with multiple artistic skills that resound in addition to her sensitivity.
Joanne Scolnick come to the party as a a result of a party. Lee’s cousin is Francis’ cardiologist. A chance conversation between the two led to a discovery of their mutual love of music, art, tennis and architecture. Having seen a few of Lee’s works, I can suggest that anybody looking to have a magnificent home, with spectacular sightlines and exterior finishes in harmony with the environment contact him. If you require illustrations, speak with his wife Jo Ann, a former Audubon employee, teacher and artist in her own right.
Roberta Axelrod works with Francis in his real estate company. She runs the residential side in the business and her competence, ability and tenacity has her occupying one of Time Equities’ top echelons. Aside from 32 years on the job, her loyalty to the firm is exceeded only by her loyalty to Francis. Her husband Larry
is a well educated and respected expert in the field of oil trade, displaying a vast knowledge of world politics within the framework of the ultimate lubricant that makes it all go around.
Other member of the German contingent include Oliver,
his wife Mona Marie
and their three beautiful, sophisticated and loving daughters,
Lina, Laura and Lucia (notice a pattern?). Lina turned 18 last night in an atmosphere of camaraderie and love that she is not soon to forget. Oliver is a super fit and good looking individual who reflects a unique German sense of humour (previously thought to be the ultimate oxymoron). When he isn’t running through muddy mountain trails, he presents himself back at the lodge, impeccably dressed, looking the way I wished that I did heading off to the office. Tall and slender, the girls and his wife hike together in the Alps and display a closeness of family that is endearing and speaks all too clearly as to how to raise a family.
The raison d’etre for this magical mystery tour is to celebrate Francis’ upcoming 65th birthday. In addition to treating himself (and all of us) to a magnificent Patagonian experience, he has, at this juncture in his life, decided to embody his vast and fascinating life experiences in an autobiography. Part narrative and part cathartic experience, he has engaged a ghost writer.
Rebecca, her husband Dan, and their two young children are an integral part of the caravan. Dan, a writer with Consumer Reports, met up with Rebecca when she was a writer for People magazine. Talk about a mixture of style vs. substance! Their daughter, a five year old delight, produced a wonderful birthday card for Lori yesterday with images incorporated from a nature walk they experienced together. The dominant image was a child’s rendition of a condor. How many birthday cards will you ever receive that have an image of a bird of prey with a ten foot wingspan? Emmy reflects the kindness and spirit that embodies the overall sensitivity of the entourage. Alexander, at 15 months, is the youngest member of the group. Angelic in face and nature, he is the antithesis of the type of young child whose whiny and aggravating demeanour wrecks the spirit of the moment. We met a few kids like that on a ferry boat ride. More on that in a later posting.
Alex and Emmy, along with Oliver’s girls, are not the only children here. Three quarters of the Greenburger offspring are also along for the ride, as well as Nicky, a travelling friend of Claire’s,
the youngest of the three Greenburgers. Nicky is accompanied by her mother
Vicki and Vicki’s boyfriend, David. Vicki is a bubbly daughter of Helas who, as a teenager in Greece, hit the jackpot, literally. The Easter morning lottery win allowed her the good fortune to reposition her life overnight. Coming to America and using her not unimpressive entrepreneurial skills, she’s managed to add to her good fortune through the acquisition and disposition of residences.
The Greenburger spawn are a unique, highly intelligent group; all of whom express a wisdom, sophistication and maturity way beyond their physical years. Come to think of it, amongst the 40 or so of us, the young seem old, the old seem young, and we tend to coalesce somewhere in the middle, which is perfect. Lori and I have been privileged to see the Greenburger kids grow up. Isabelle, Francis’ wife, was pregnant when we first met. Having been encompassed into the Greenburger circle, we have seen the children regularly, whether during the annual 3-day corporate partner’s seminars or over breakfast at their Manhatten home or Greenburger Inn as I like to call it, which I often frequent as an overnight guest. The eldest Greenburger, Noah,
is a physical replica of Francis. Tall, brooding and of careful measured thought, he has grown up before our eyes. We have seen him petulant, insightful, protective, swaggering, emotional and just fun.
Julia, 16 going on 25, speaks with a maturity and assurance that most adults will never possess. With the clan regularly exposed to social, political, educational and travel events that are experienced by a mere .01% of the world, Julie has synthesized her experiences in a mature and thoughtful way. She has analyzed her position in the world at an early age and accepts and lives her life within a sphere of appropriateness. Most of the time. Claire, the youngest, has extraordinary physical features.
Porcelain skin, framed by locks that would make Goldie jealous, her impish/angelic looks are portrait worthy. A quiet child in a boisterous household, as she comes of age, we are starting to see a bit of pushback and a growth in confidence that is comensurate and age apprpropriate. We are witness to the first stages of the metamorphasis. What is interesting is that as she started as a butterfly, what’s next? The children are raised by a set of parents who, while diametrically opposed in numerous ways, including methods of discipline, cultural dissimilarities and geographic points of origin, have managed to construct a partnership that governs the myriad elements of their lives. The skill sets, highly evolved and strongly developed, have served them well. Over the years, each partner has allowed the other in. The ultimate beneficiaries are the children who have been lucky to identify and pick up on the various gifts offered up by Isabelle and Francis and indeed are human proof of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts, or the brood being larger than the sum of the parents. And while the parts themselves show levels of extraordinary, their fusion will only lead to levels of greatness.
Francis’ other half is Isabelle Autones.
A tall blond from France who carries herself with confidence matched by a strong will. Her close friend is
Isabelle Bosquet, a tall blond from France who carries herself with confidence matched by a strong will. They are diferentiated to me as Isabelle A and Isabelle B. Isabelle B is married to a brilliant and complicated artist named John Morra. Lori and I have known Isabelle since the genesis of our relationship with the Greenburger group. John came on the scene a few years later and, while we have had the opportunity to mix socially, the relationship with him had been prefunctory at best until now. One of the highlights of this trip was getting to know him a whole bunch better.
John is highly principled, intellectual, guided by doctrine like beliefs, and possesses an encyclopedic knowledge of the profound and mundane alike. He is into a wide range of music, Monty Python, history, art, social issues and general silliness. Other than that, he and I don’t have much to talk about. We fundamentally agree on many topics and fundamentally disagree on numerous others. Both of us are hoping that the other will eventually see the light and call the other to apologize.
All told, a group of individuals, each having something in common with one particular visionary, have come together for a week of fun and extraordinary experiences. We all leave here with new found friendships that will likely endure within the aura of Greenburger magic. As Lori suggested the other night, speaking on behalf of the group – As long as Francis has birthdays, we’ll be pleased to show up for the party.