Woodstock’s Best Kept Secret


Woodstock is really a very special place.  But…not how yo think.  There are several places in our fair U S of A where you can drop me off blindfolded and I’ll know exactly what town I’m in.  The places, in alphabetical order, are:




New Orleans

New York City

San Antonio

San Francisco


The sounds and smells tell the whole story just the way it is.

Each of these places hold secrets.

I really shouldn’t be publishing this article so soon.  After all, this is a brand new blog and I shouldn’t be giving away the goodies up front.  I should, instead, publish articles for at least a year or 2 before I begin to spill the beans.

But, I can’t wait.  I never could keep either a surprise or a secret forever.  So, here goes…

The best kept secret in all of Woodstock is  not who’s sleeping with whom, or who has the best dope, or if I think so-and-so is going to try to run against somebody special this year in the election or anything like that.  Or why…oh well…I could go on forever.

The best kept secret in all of Woodstock is…ta DAH…where the best place to eat in Woodstock is.

There is this little place located on 26 Mill Hill Road in Woodstock.  It’s upstairs in the educational building behind Christ Lutheran Church.  This restaurant is the creation of Victoria Langling and has been open continuously since May 17, 1993.

It’s open Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.

The menu at this restaurant is simple…as is the decor.  Renee Englander sets up the tables in the afternoons before the Daily Bread Soup Kitchen opens.

About 3:15, a volunteer from one of the local churches goes to a local area restaurant and returns with a large container of a specially prepared hearty soup.  Volunteers from the local religious congregations take turns in the soup kitchen monthly.  They set the tables, serve the soup and clean up after the kitchen closes.

The donating restaurants vary with each soup kitchen day so that it’s possible to eat at the soup kitchen every day it’s open for an entire month without eating the same soup twice.

Donating restaurants include:

Bistro to Go

Bread Alone

Catskill Mountain Pizza

Hickory BBQ Smokehouse

Hurley Ridge Market

Little Bear Restaurant

Nana’s Creative Cafe

Oriole 9

Mountainview Market

Woodstock Meats

Breads are served with the soups…from Bread Alone, no less.  Real butter is offered also.

Desserts are baked goods from Meredith’s.  Cookies are also available.

Half and half is offered for the coffee.

There is always a generous serving of peanut butter and jelly so sandwiches can be made to eat in the dining room or take home.

The whole package is delicious, nutritious, inviting.

The soups are wonderful, delectable, hearty.  If purchased in one of the local area restaurants which donates them, they would cost much $$$.

The room has large windows overlooking Mower’s Meadow.

The clientele is consistent.  Woodstock’s Colorful Characters are always in attendance.  An occasional person will come over from the food pantry on Wednesday.  Sometimes people recuperating from a hospital stay will drop by for a take out container.

All are welcome.  The soup is superb.

Thank you to everyone who makes this event a reality.








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Thurman Greco





Woodstock Public Library District

rocks and sand

The 1st thing that happens when I think of the Woodstock Public Library is the aroma of the books.
Paper, print, paste all combine to create the most welcoming, nurturing smell on the planet. Every library I’ve ever visited has this smell:
the San Antonio Public Library,

the St. Mary’s University Library,

the Fairfax County Public Library

the San Francisco Library
the tower at the University of Texas,
and on and on. Even the  library in my father’s office had this smell.

Once I walked into the Department of Commerce building in Washington, DC and this aroma about knocked me over.  It was so beautiful!
When I attended massage school, I learned from my teacher, Kerrith McKechnie that the sense of smell is most important. The sense of smell goes back in time very far…into past lives if you have that belief.
So, whenever I visit the Woodstock Library, that welcoming aroma embraces me as soon as I open the door. Then, immediately, I’m greeted by the people crowded in the place. 6 computers placed right at the entrance are always filled. 2 more computers are off to the left. These are filled also.
If  I walk past the 2 computers on the left, I walk into the children’s area.
Beyond the children’s area is a very important part of the library which nobody seems to ever mention: the public restroom. The Woodstock Library has one bathroom.
This is important. Libraries are havens for the homeless, the cold, the tired, the hungry. They visit the library to read newspapers, get computer time, get inside   someplace, use the public bathroom.
Woodstock is a wonderful place but the public bathrooms are few unless there’s $$$ for a meal in a restaurant. Family has a bathroom. There’s one in a concrete block building outside of the Family building. This one has a men’s room and a women’s room and is open from April 15th to November 30th each year.
Sunflower has one for its customers. That’s it, really.
There’s something else nice about the Woodstock Library. People can take their pets. That’s a nice touch.
The hub of the whole library is the 8 computers at the front of the building. Unless you’re without a computer, you can never know how important these machines are. None of us realizes, I don’t think, how dependent we are on them.
I pass out cards to the hungry in the line at the Reservoir Food Pantry telling people to go to  www.myBenefits.ny.gov.   This website is a wonderful resource…if you have access to a computer.
The homeless are really isolated without a computer.
It’s almost impossible to get a job, get housing, find a food pantry, learn about a bus route without a computer.
The library is the lifeline for a whole category of people who fit into a number of classes:


crazy poor

disabled poor

elderly poor

employed poor

generational poor

hard working poor

home bound


ill poor

infant poor

mentally ill poor

messed-up poor



newly poor

resource poor

situational poor

struggling poor

transient poor

underemployed poor

unemployed poor


Our economy is flying right now. The rich are paying fewer taxes. The poor are getting less and less. Everyone, actually, has a lobbyist in Washington but the poor. The only thing the poor have left, it seems, is the food pantry and the library.

As a fundraising project, the Friends of the Library offer ongoing used book sales.  This is really a Woodstock tradition.  The books are reasonably priced which makes them a real “find”  when it’s time to get a gift for someone.

For 30 years, the library has been offering the Library Forum – the longest-running cultural and public affairs series in the Hudson Valley.  Anyone can walk into the library and book a vacant slot and make a presentation at the library.  And, anyone can attend because the Library Forum is free.
Woodstock has been discussing an upgrade of our library for many years…. at least since 2007. It surely began earlier but I wasn’t aware of it.

My awareness of the expansion saga began when the Library Board asked for $$$  for repairs and upgrades.  It was as if they had lobbed one over the bow.

The town returned the lob  when residents  voted it down…big time.

Word on the street was that residents weren’t going to give not even 1 cent to the library renovation until the librarian who had been working at the Woodstock Free Library for what seemed like her entire adult life retired.

She must’ve heard the gossip because it wasn’t long until she retired.  Just like that.  She did the ladylike thing and put in her papers.

Amy Raff, the beloved assistant librarian was promoted to fill the vacancy.

So, that left the town holding an empty bag.  There were no more excuses.  It was time to fix the library.  Except that now it’s 2015 and we still don’t have an updated library.

If we’d done what we should have back then and voted for the $$$, we’d have an updated, expanded library in place and be happily using it.

But, that’s not how things went.
The hub of the library, any library, is the Librarian. We’ve been very fortunate over the years to enjoy the talents and generosity of our librarians.
Amy Raff was  a special gift for this community. She knows her subject (library management) very well and also knows how to treat people…whether they’re homeless or are billionaires.
People visiting the Woodstock Library are special. She offers respect, honor. She approaches her job as a religious calling.

Amy  is a class act.  She did a very ladylike thing recently.  She resigned.

This whole saga has not been a walk in the park.  It is more akin to a barefoot walk  on a rocky beach.

Thanks for reading this blog.
I hope you found this article helpful. Please leave your comments below and check out the other posts.
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Good luck to us all.
Thurman Greco


Photograph provided by Jennette Nearhood


Father Nicholas – Woodstock Hero for Hunger


The call came through today about 10 a.m.  I didn’t answer the phone quickly enough so he left a message:

“Good morning, Thurman.  I’m calling to let you know  that we have 5 ice chests full of yogurt and juice.  We also have 4 large boxes filled with juices and teas.  We also have about 6 dozen doughnuts.  They’ll be right outside the pantry in the shade waiting for you.”

This call comes every week.  I can almost set my clock and calendar with these calls.

As soon as I hear this message, I get in the car and drive out to the Holy Ascension Monastery to pick up these wonderful goodies and take them over to Reservoir Food Pantry.  But for Father Nicholas and his generosity, our pantry would not have even 1 serving of yogurt for our shoppers in Boiceville.

I first heard about Father Nicholas several years ago when a Good Neighbor Food Pantry volunteer from St. John’s Roman Catholic Church asked me, almost in a whisper, if we had any extra food for some priests.  Through the grapevine, I heard Heidi Motzkin knew some people (priests?) needing food.

Hmmm.  This sounded weird.  Then, a few days later, I heard another story about a group of priests needing food.  Things were quiet for a week or 2.  I didn’t act very fast because, in this business, it takes a shout to get my attention.  Anyway, I continued to hear little whispers so I got curious.  Who were these guys?  Where were they?


So, Peggy Johnson, the Good Neighbor Food Pantry take out manager, and I got in the car and off we went.  Out on Cold Brook Road we found a very special place – the Holy Ascension Monastery.  We were greeted by a tall, thin man with a full beard and pony tail, wearing a black cassock, a tall black hat, and black combat boots.

The story went that the monastery had, for years, housed 3 priests.  Then, 1 day, several priests in the Brookline, Massachusetts, monastery, loaded up a U-Haul truck and drove to Bearsville.  On the same day, several other priests boarded a bus in Boston and rode it to Woodstock.  In 1 day, the population of the Holy Ascension Monastery increased  to 20.  The monastery needed extra people because they’re constructing a large, beautiful sanctuary on the grounds.

In the expansion preparations, everything had been taken care of except, of course, the extra food needed for these priest/construction workers and volunteers.

Food?  You need food?  Peggy was delighted, excited, enthusiastic.  She was on the job right away.  Within days (hours?) the Holy Ascension Monastery had food.  Peggy learned about their dietary considerations, as well as the people needing food.

Like a Supply Sargent in a Mash unit, Peggy learned that the Food Bank of Northeastern New York had #10 cans of food.  Nothing would do until our pantry showroom had a whole shelf filled with them for Father Nicholas.

Fresh produce?  Father Nicholas came by each week for all the fresh produce the monastery needed..

Well, it wasn’t long until Father Nicholas and the Holy Ascension Monastery had their food needs straightened out and no longer needed pantry food.  As smoothly as greasing a cake pan, Father Nicholas and his fellow monks became part of the volunteer pantry crew.  He delivered  food to home bound households weekly.

And, as if that weren’t enough, Father Nicholas and the Holy Ascension Monastery became a Food Pantry Agency of the Food Bank of the Hudson Valley serving food to hungry dropping by:



struggling area residents

The Holy Ascension Monastery is open 7 days per week.  Shoppers take what they need and return as often as they need.  (None of this 3-day limit stuff for the Holy Ascension Monastery.)

And, of course, while all this was happening, every one of us fell in love with the monks.  Never in a million years would any of us have met these gorgeous men of God if it hadn’t been for the pantry.

The face of God is everywhere.  All you have to do is:

work at a pantry,

open your eyes,

look around.

How cool is that?





Thank you for reading this blog post.

Please refer this article to your preferred social media network.

Please leave a comment.

Good luck to us all.

Thurman Greco


Did you read Shiv’s message on Facebook?

Shiv’s message came through on Facebook the other day.

“I finally decided to take the step and become a Tibetan monk after taking instruction with HH Yangsi Rinpoche, shaved my 30 years of dreadlocks and beard and now I’m getting my robes today.”

April 1, 2015

1:54 am.


Although I didn’t know him personally, he was a popular  face at Monday night poetry readings at the Colony Cafe.  I noticed him each time he attended a poetry reading, with his massive mound of dreadlocks wound around the top of his scalp.  He also had an open smile and everyone  seemed to like him.  And, of course, silly me, what did I know?  Here he was, living and breathing…the most famous of the famous.

One of the first things that impressed me about Woodstock was the prevalence of artists, writers, poets, musicians, singers, actors.  They move about town as if no one knows who they are.  And, indeed, many are not known to people on the street.

It’s been that way for years.  Byrdcliffe has attracted people in the arts since  the early 20th century years.  Artists live at Byrdcliffe both permanently in their private homes and temporarily through the artist-in-residence program.

And, then, the famous Woodstock Music Festival  brought another group which also never left.  They are seen about town today.  Some of them are now local businessmen.  The story goes that the original owner of Taco Juan was at the festival, for example.  Ditto for Not Fade Away.  The new Shindig is owned by a “festival family”.

But, back to Shiv,  the most talented in a lineup of many.

Both famous, semi-famous, and unknown talented people in the arts used the food pantry regularly after the downfall of the economy in ’07.  Because Woodstock attracted artists, musicians, and writers, many of them had second homes in Woodstock.  Some of these creative and talented people saw their incomes totally dry up.

I heard similar stories.   They essentially went like this:  the person would have a home in the Woodstock area in addition to a place in New York City or Paris or Dubai, Katmandu, Delhi, or Miami or someplace…anyplace else.  As the income dwindled, the person looked around, assessed his/her situation and tried to unload the most expensive place which was usually in the someplace else location.

Some sublet.  Others sold.  Still others underwent foreclosusre.

They came to Woodstock to live in the cheaper home, only to find   zero opportunity to earn $$$ away from  the city environment.  So, here they were…down and out in Woodstock and Bearsville.  Some even experienced foreclosure of the Upstate New York home.

The pantry line filled weekly with intelligent, well educated, talented people who were stranded because their support system was just not what it should have been.  They, for the most part, made the best of it.  What else could they do?  Artists, musicians, writers, actors…talented…all.

Eventually, some established new lifelines.  A few ended up homeless.

Battling the restrictions of the building committee, while trying to serve everyone who needed food was challenging for the volunteers.  Often the wait was over an hour for a 3-day supply of food  during the darkest days of the depression.

Somehow, I felt these talented people deserved better than a begrudging attitude offered to them in the cold basement of the Woodstock Reformed Church.  As volunteers, we did the best we could to make them feel welcome, safe, accepted but it was hard.

Shiv Mirabito was  the center of the group in the food pantry line each week.  He  offered strength with his positive attitude and smile.  I credit this with the essence which makes makes Shiv Mirabito the person he is.  He has spent his entire adult life studying Tantric Buddhist philosophy and lives what he studies.  Each moment is a religious experience for him.

Now, time has passed.  Possibly life has improved in the bowels of the church on pantry day.  Hopefully fewer of these talented people need food from the pantry.  I’m not sure because I moved  to Reservoir Food Pantry where the atmosphere is totally different.

We’ve all changed.  Especially Shiv who will be totally unrecognizable for awhile on the streets of Woodstock.  I’m hoping to see him soon in his new robes.  Without his dreads, the robes will be the only way I’ll be able to recognize him.

Shiv has a publishing house in India for his fellow writers/artists.  He prints their work on handmade papers.  Shiv has been doing this for years.  Shivastan Publishing uses traditional printing methods to craft print chapbooks and broadsides on handmade paper.  Each of these books is a work of art unto itself in addition to the poetry printed on the page.  There are typos to be found.   After all, the people doing the printing don’t read or write English.

And what has happened to the other equally talented artists, writers, musicians who were stuck for awhile in Woodstock?  Hopefully times have changed for them too.  I occasionally see 1 or 2 of them in Kingston.

It was gut wrenching to see the effect of the foreclosures on them in Woodstock.  And, it was difficult for them to leave Woodstock.  For some, foreclosure affected their emotional health.

A few, I know, returned to the primary city where life is easier for them now.  They are happy for the return move.

RUPCO is opening a new housing unit for those in the arts.  It’s located in the newly refurbished, historical Lace Mill in Kingston.  I’m hoping some will be lucky enough to get an apartment there.

Opening soon, 1, 2, and 3-bedroom lofts will be available with mezzanines and high ceilings.  Several gallery spaces,  designated shared and private work studios are planned.

A common artist utility room is being built on every level.

Outdoor sculpture areas are designed for public art.

I’m hoping some of those in the arts in Woodstock will be lucky enough to get an apartment there.  I’m hoping they’ll enjoy it.  It’s  gorgeous!


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I hope you found this article helpful.  Please leave your comments below and check out our other posts.

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Good luck to us all.

Thurman Greco