Catskills Conversations: Rob Greenberg

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

So what brought you to the Catskills?

First of all, I’ve been upstate for many, many years in different areas, Syracuse, Poughkeepsie and I lived in Kingston for a couple of years. I was born in Brooklyn. We moved out of Brooklyn when I was pretty young. I was 11 or 12 years old. I wound up coming to the Catskills from Long Island. I lived on Long Island for twenty something odd years and I used to backpack up here and hike, and that really was the original motivation to come to the Catskills. I had no idea about moving here or living here [when I visited]. I thought it was a great place to come for long weekends and to embrace the mountains that way.

It’s tough to live up here to make a living.

That’s why so many of the young people leave and they come back to retire here or semi-retire here. If you’re not in the service industries, it’s tough.

And it’s tough surviving winters up here.

You get used to it, but never really get used to the cold.

Every spring there’s something wrong with my house caused by the ice and the snow. [Laughs]

It takes its toll and on you (too) and on the house and the cars. It’s a rugged way of life, but that’s also part of its allure.

So how long have you lived here?

We built the house in 1986 and moved up full-time in 1988. So we’re talking 27 or 28 years.

You still haven’t lost that Brooklyn accent.

That you never lose.

I feel like I’m in the movies.

That and you’re never a native unless you were born here.

I’m a foreigner, so I feel like I’m being taught yoga by a character in Goodfellas. So, how did you get into yoga?

I kind of came in the back door. I started meditating, which is really the back end. The end of a yoga practice is when you start meditating. A friend of mine: his wife was adept at meditating and it caught on really quick with me, because I was really a Type A personality at the time and the meditation had a way of burning away the edge a little bit, which was good. And then I came to the physical aspect (yoga) and I’ve been involved with that since the sixties.

What did you do before?

I’ve been in sales almost all my life from the time I got out of the service. In different parts of selling, but it was always sales, marketing or training salesman or marketers.

So you were in the service?

I was in the Air Force for four years and then I was in the inactive reserve for another eight years, but the inactive aspect of it was nothing. I was just there to be ready in case we were called. Those (first) four years were probably the most interesting part of my life. I went in when I was 18 or 19 years old and I wouldn’t have called myself wild, but again, it was part of the burning off process. No responsibility other than showing up for work. I had no family at that time, so it was an easy way to go. I didn’t like it while I was in the service, but looking back it was a great four years.

You have to have a lot of discipline to serve.


Not that I’ve served…

I mentioned my Drill instructor the other day. At the time, I could have probably throttled him given the chance, but looking back, he did his job. He did what he was supposed to do. He molded young, wild kids into soldiers.

What a job. What was your first trip to the Catskills?

An uncle brought me to Sullivan County and it was the old Borscht Belt, as they called it. That was probably in the late fifties. He was looking to buy a piece of land and I tagged along with him. I was amazed that there were beautiful pristine places like that even in the fifties or sixties and I thought this was a place I’d like to live one day never dreaming that it would really come to fruition. And then I forgot about it for many years after that.

My house is from the eighties.

How long have you lived here?


What brought you here?

I think it was post-9/11.

Yes, for a lot of people.

A lot of people left at that time. Most of my friends left New York after that. A lot of Europeans returned to Europe and a handful to the West Coast. Then I met my husband. A lot of people split up, or got married and moved away. It was a real pivotal time.

They were looking for something stable.

And before that, there was the millennium rubbish, where everybody was worried about the turn of the century.


Yes. It was probably just too much drama for a lot of people and they were like oh forget it. Plus Brooklyn is a very expensive place to live now. It used to be really cheap. My friends had their own gallery in a basement underneath the Williamsburg Bridge. I don’t think you see stuff like that now.

Manhattan and Brooklyn are becoming only homes for the rich. They’re forcing people out. Only the very rich or the very poor can afford to live there.

What inspires you most about the Catskills?

Nature has a way of accepting you if you accept it: the cold winters, the two month growing season. If you accept all of that and try to live within nature’s parameters, it envelops you, it hugs you and it’s an ongoing thing. You don’t lose it. If you allow it to blossom in your heart, it gets bigger and it gets better. The greens become greener. If you look outside, there’s a ton of different shades of green and if you allow that to permeate your being? Where else would I rather be?

I know. So are you retired? Are you just a yoga teacher for now?

Yes. Well, I still maintain some of my accounts that I’ve been doing business with for 25-30 years. The beauty of my last selling job was that everything could be done over the phone. As long as there was a telephone, I was in business. So I was lucky to be able to live anywhere. When we came up here in ’86, we used to come up every weekend, my wife and I. We never missed a weekend. I was able to do the “T to T” – Tuesday to Thursday and the rest of the time was up here. After our last child moved out, we had this big house on Long Island that we were rattling around in. So we gave it a shot. I promised my wife that if after a year she didn’t like it, we would move back.

And you never looked back.

I said the same thing after Europe. My wife is from Germany where we met. I said let’s give the United States a shot for a year and if you don’t like it, we’ll move back.

Do you do all your own gardening?

I do my own landscaping and have an organic garden.

It’s pristine here. Every time I come for yoga I think to myself that I’ve really got to tidy up my yard.

My wife does the flowers and I do the vegetables and do the shrubs and all that stuff. That I would hate to give up. I can’t see myself sitting on the verandah, drinking a mint julep and while somebody else is cutting my grass. That would be criminal.

Lawns don’t take that much to maintain. You just have to keep mowing them.

Yes and you don’t have to plant seed or anything. It’s green and beautiful when it’s cut short.

And if you have places where the grass was burned or worn out, it fills itself in and flattens out.

Ain’t nature grand?

So I’m still asking this philosophical question: what is work?

To me, work has different meanings as we age. Younger, for me, it was a struggle. We had four children and my job was to provide and take care of everyone, which I did. So work was work, capital W, but as I got older and the kids became a little bit more independent, work took on a different look for me. It had to be something that I enjoyed doing, whatever it was. It was always selling as far as I was concerned, but I had to believe in what I was selling or it became capital W work again, which is something you carry on your back. But I always said I would take a 25% cut in pay in any job I had because I enjoyed doing it. As you get older, work becomes more enjoyable because it’s not do or die.

Is there anything you want to say about yoga?

It’ll change your life. It’ll change your life for the better.

One thought on “Catskills Conversations: Rob Greenberg

  1. Joseph M Sanchez

    I think I knew Rob Greenberg back in the 1970s and would like to contact him. He lived in Smithtown at the time and I lived in Oyster Bay.


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