TRAVELOG: MILANO by Loreta Kovacic

MILANO, roundabout to fashion street

 In Milano Malpensa airport I am back in my native Europe, enjoying an attempting to use my favorite and the most musical language, Italian. Italians are always especially happy when you give Italian a shot, but here in Northern Italy most of them speak English.  It’s been a long time since my favorite Italian class with senora Anna at Rice, so I feel super clumsy with it, like a cow in a ballet class. My two teenage kids are here to readily point this out.  Most times I just give up and switch to English.  I decided to go with our original plan, which was created before my beloved husband Joe was denied entry on the plane because of his passport expiration date. The plan was to rent the car at Malpensa airport and use it here in Europe for our three week vacation. Car rental people were super nice, they gave us a nice new Fiat diesel.  My family back in Croatia used to own a diesel Fiat that my dad called “regina di monte” or queen of the mountains. I think this was a joke, because this car was huffing and puffing while trying to go up the mountain.

Now it is time to drive to the center of Milano, to our little apartment that I rented through Airbnb. I was counting on Joe to be driving especially here in Milano, but given no choice, I accepted this new role with excitement: this will be my first time driving in Europe!  My son accepted his role of Google map guide boss. Our car had a hotspot (yes!) and we have Google, so now we are rolling towards the city. It starts to feel like a roller-coaster because every two minutes there is a roundabout. I am yelling, which street, first, second or third?! My son, the boss is assisting the best he can. Truth is I have never been in a roundabout and this place was full of them.  I call them runarounds and my kids correct me perpetually.  They are also trying to explain that roundabout is a better for traffic flow then an intersection, and I am definitely not buying it.  It feels like we are in some kind of countryside maze full of circles and we are going somewhere far out of the city. My kids reassure me that indeed we are going towards the center of Milano. I just can’t believe it. Why are we on this country road? Well, there is a little glich, something I forgot all about: back in Houston I set my Google map to avoid toll roads.  Yes there is a toll road going from Malpensa into the city, but we are taking the scenic rout…

The city of Milano finally appeared in front of us, with beautiful architecture and bustling big city traffic. This is where the roller-coaster became real: there were still roundabouts on every corner, but on the top of that there was insane rush hour traffic with two and sometimes three lanes of cars driving on roads without any white lines that indicate a lane.  I was taking wrong turns and making mistakes left and right. I was covered in stressful sweat, but drivers around me seemed relaxed in all that chaos.  Even though they were cussing me out in a big way, and I was covered in cuss words from head to toe, they still let me in and almost guided me…There is a natural elegance and coolness about Milano drivers: it’s like they all act so cool to defend the grand face of their famous automobile city, the home of Ferrari.

Our street in the center, also known as Fashion district is pedestrian zone only, and our next challenge is to find parking.  I entered a garage on our street, Via Montenapolleone. Sri Lankan attendant told me that it will cost 45 euros per day. I could not believe it, that much?! I stormed out of the narrowest and steepest garage tunel and after another round of hopeless runaround, I returned to that same attendant, flashing my cowgirl dance pants that he complemented. I also knew about the first woman head of government of our modern world was the prime minister of Sri Lanka from the sixties, Sirimavo Bandaranaike, and this impressed him I think. So thanks to my Texas pants and my fading knowledge of Ms. Bandaranaike’s very rhythmic and musical name stored deeply in my brain’s memory, I negotiated my parking fee down to 35 euros per day.  Small victory of the day! It was not so much about the savings, it was more about claiming my victory and my territory at the time: a lesson for my American teenagers about taking charge, women power and their European roots.

Traveler beware: parking in center of Milano will be expensive, and you should probably look into using public transportation from the airport into the center of the city.  Most European airports are well connected with public transportation: busses or trains.

I confess that I chose our airbnb based on two things: central location and the picture of the host. My friends in Houston were betting that Mauro pic is just a smart marketing move and that my actual host will be an old man. Somewhere deep inside I must still have a heart of an optimist, because I admit I would have loved to meet Mauro from that picture. My Houston friends were right, because we never got to see Mauro.  We were greeted by Mauro’s cleaning guy and at the end of our stay in the fabulous building on Fashion street, I think I caught a glimpse of an old guy that looked like Mauro’s grandfather or father at best. My intuition told me that I just saw real Mauro. Who knows?! In any case, Mauro look-alikes are not a rarity in Fashion district, center of Milano. 

Our sweet little apartment was surrounded by fabulous stores by Gucci, Armani and who is who in the designer world. It was also decorated with beautiful and perfect looking Italian sales people, perhaps friends of Mauro.  Most people are window- shopping, discovering the latest trends in world fashion.  Our apartment is in the rooftops, high up, closer to the church bells and birds who are singing different kind of melodies than those familiar birds in Houston.  I was imagining a mocking bird that would sing us an aria she learned from a nearby “Teatro alla Scala”, the world’s most famous Opera House. Our cozy little apartment had a cutest little terrace from which we were greeted by a marvelous Milano moon at night. Coffee shops and restaurants in Milano center are fabulously hip and expensive and/or very touristy.  My kids managed to find a few stores to shop in, including Pull&Bear, a European chain, similar to H&M.

I was missing Joe and talking to him using Facebook messenger. We both purchased “passport” for our phones, which is supposed to allow you to use your phone in Europe, but this thing just did not work. I could not call anyone, not even my cousin who lives in Milano. Not even Mauro. Thanks God for Mr. Google and thanks God for Facebook. Out of many Milano cultural attractions, debating between going to see the “The Last Supper” in Santa Maria delle Grazie or the famous Milan cathedral, the “Duomo”, we decided for the letter. The building itself is a true work of art, the largest church in Italy, and third largest in the world. It took nearly six centuries to complete, and it practically covered in sculptures made by famous artists.  I had to do a Duomo selfie.  Mauro’s would look better, without a doubt.

Good news came to us from Houston: papa Joe is coming on a Scandinavian Airline flight to Malpensa and we have to stay in Milano one more night.  We decided to get out of the city, booked a cool modern “Novotel” Milano Malpensa hotel very near the airport, hung out at the pool where we watched a brave British kid challenge us to jump into its freezing cold water.  He was our person of the day, because he made that pool look so alive and almost tropical!  He told us that he wants to be a scientist and would love to work at NASA one day.  We told him that he would melt in our climate, and he agreed that he would miss his winters if he ever moved to Houston.  The next day we picked up our Joe at the airport and drove off into the Italian autostrada adventure, leaving Mauro and Milano behind…

Next stop: VENICE    to be continued….

I got this pic from Airbnb. His name is Mauro, but I call him Mauro Milano
Duomo selfie. Mauro would look better here...
Milano fashion street
Milano fashion cafes

TRAVELOG Loreta: PASSPORT RULE 2017

TRAVELOG       by Loreta Kovacic

 

PASSPORT RULE, leaving Houston

It was the last day of May and we are embarking on a family vacation to Europe, one of those passionately planned meaningful and rare trips. We are Houstonians, our two teenage kids were both born and raised in Houston, husband is a New Jersey native, sporting both Texan and Jersey mafia accents at times. I am a Croatian immigrant, living in Houston since 1990, but cannot shake my Croatian accent no matter how hard I tried. Needless to say, I have been traveling back and forth to Croatia gazillion times, visiting my family there since 1990. One can say that I am a veteran traveler, right? Guess what?! On this trip, at the very start, I learned that all those years in travel time are worth nothing because I made a rooky mistake. I did not inform myself about the passport expiration date rule, I did not consult my good old boyfriend, Mr Google on this.

So I did check the expiration date on all of our passports. I did see that my husband’s passport is expiring one month after our return flight back to Houston and I thought, this is totally legit. Weeeeelllllll. It is not. I learned that one month is not enough. It has to be SIX MONTHS. How did I not come across this earlier?!  I don’t know, maybe it’s bad luck momentarily catching up?!

We took Uber to the airport. It was ominous already because we were stuck in the middle of huge reck on the Beltway, we were not moving for a long time. Our Uber driver was driving like James Bond to try to make up time at the end.  I remember he sang “I’m so excited” in unison with me. He also played Houston’s rapper Scarface’s song “God”. I recognized John Legend’s beautiful voice in the song. Our driver did a great job in distracting us with music. In my mind he represented people of Houston: great at their job, individualists and entertainers. I had to give him a tip.

We arrived at Singapore Airlines on time. We were smiling and excited. But not for long. Passport check was next. We were told that my beloved husband Joe cannot travel. His passport’s expiration date is only one month beyond our return date. We tried to argue…. We did not know this rule…But then the young handsome manager came, the face that I will not forget for the rest of my life. He waved his hand like a dance move and engaged his robotically calm and resolute mode: Expiration date has to be a minimum of 6 months after the return date. He did his job, how can I blame him?! My family was broken instantly. Bush Intercontinental turned black. I was crying, thinking about giving it all up, having a flashback of “give up” graffiti from Houston roadways….My husband reacted fast, he wished us happy trails and told us that we will meet in Milano soon. Off we go, a family of three instead of four and I am still crying…

At the gate I ran into one of my Houston friends, a Montenegro immigrant, Pedja. I usually see him at our West Side Balkan parties, when we are happier then happy… He immediately noticed my distress. I explained what happened, dramatically, of course. He said that he knew about the 6 months rule. I guess that made me feel a little better, because I knew that it is true. The rule is real!  How did he know about this rule, and I did not?! Well, he travels a lot on his job, and his secretary does the travel plans for him. He learned this from her.  We should all have his secretary!

We are off to Milano where we have planned to stay for two days. The way this is going, we will probably have to wait for Joe in Milano a day or two longer. Also Joe’s ticket is flushed down the toilet. It is void. He is going to have to buy a whole other ticket. Consolation: it’s only money. Worse than a loss of money is that Joe cannot even come back with us. But, let’s look on the bright side: soon we will all be reunited! Let the adventure begin!

It looks like my Travelog just gained a whole other insight: important information to share with fellow travelers. Educational. As you are reading this, tell me honestly did you know about the six months rule?! 

 

to be continued…..  next: MILANO

passport rule: 6 months!

SISTER (by loreta kovacic)

Shine on, smile on star sister

you traveled too far

now you are a blue hole in my heart

 

THE DAY YOU PASSED I GOT A LETTER

A MOTHER MERRY DECAL WITH A TINY MESSAGE

WRITTEN IN BEAUTIFUL LETTERS ON THE BOTTOM

AND IT READ: "do not grieve"

Do not grieve, sister.

 

What an elegant way of saying good bye,

your minimal, Budha-like style

decorated with the memory of your

signature smile.

 

ZAGREB MONA LISA, MADONNA, PUNK

You rocked this life

with simplicity and intensity

of a black cat monk.

 

Shine on, smile on, cause one day, sister

We'll reunite and sing to all

your song of joy.

Shine on smile on Sister

no more crying, halleluiah!

shine on smile on sister

The Universe is calling.

sister


Preschool music class curriculum “BEETHOVEN: MOON and ASTRONAUTS”

 Preschool music class curriculum

“BEETHOVEN:  MOON and ASTRONAUTS”

From “Alchemist Da Capo” by Loreta Kovacic

Beethoven by Loreta

 

VISUAL aid : Bring the "Moon": laser lights, shiny light or disco ball etc. You can use a CD for the moon visual. Cut out a photo of an astronaut who is flying next to the "moon".

MUSIC:

Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata for piano solo: first movement.

Pink Floyd: from the “Dark side of the moon”: shine on you crazy diamond 

Loreta Kovacic from “Brother Tadpole classics”: Hula dance in space.

CONCEPTS: creative space movement and sound. SOFT and SLOW music and movement with space sounds. PITCH: low and high, RHYTHM: clap the rhythm of the words and the beat. DYNAMICS: piano and forte. Playing the TRIANGLE. SINGING.

-------- -------- -------- -------- --------- ---------- --------- ---------- -------

Music day boogie    (APT intro song)  
(C) Yay yay yay  (eb d c)  music day (eb d c)
(F, G) Yay yay yay.   Music! yeeeeeee    (ab g f, g g high)
(C)   Music day….. (eb c c)

 

------ ------- ------- -------- -------- --------- --------                                                             

1 MUSIC: Beethoven: Moonlight sonata, first movement.

STORY: Read or tell story about Beethoven in your own words. Mention his Moonlight sonata, his hair and his piano and how much he loved the moon:

Beethoven is a great composer. He plays the piano. He plays his song about the moon. Beethoven wrote his MOONLIGHT sonata for piano. It goes like this:…. Play Moonlight sonata, first movement. Show picture of Beethoven playing in front of people.

 

SOUND:  CARBBON COPY SOUNDS:  Make space sounds and play “carbon copy”. The next kid copies the sound. Sssssss. Bzzzzzzz. Etc.

RHYTHM:

Clap the rhythm, then make up words to the rhythm of the theme in the 1st movement of the Moonlight Sonata:

a-e-iiiii… low-and-high

a-stro-naut.

It’s-my-moon,

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2 MUSIC: Pink Floyd: dark side of the moon. (shine on you crazy diamond)ACTIVITY: Make space sounds and movement like flying: sssss or bzzzzzz. This is the space travel or “space movement”: Pretend you are floating inside the Space Station then land on the moon like the astronaut.

Show astronaut picture. Talk about astronaut-wear.  Ask questions. Astronaut wears: a helmet, boots and space suit. On his back he has a backpack called safer with jets.  It allows him to fly, or travel back to the rocket ship.

TACTILE: Beethoven bust, Astronaut mat, fluffy “moon grass” rug or blanket, soft and hard “moon rocks”, hand made or use large shiny plastic beads.

SOUND LAB: Show how you can make maracas with hard moon rocks. The more moon rocks you put in the plastic container, the louder the sound. Kids older then three can experiment with this but younger kids can just observe the teacher because they do like to put things in their mouth...

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3  APT CIRCLE SONGS:

ASTRONAUT WEAR (The more we get together tune)

Oh would you wear bunny ears, bunny ears…….. in a rocket ship?

Kids respond (say their names):  ------ can wear bunny ears, bunny ears, bunny ears, we cannot…..in a rocket ship

LET’S GET DRESSED FOR THE MOON  

(to the music of heads and shoulders: piano and forte)     

Let’s get dressed for the moon, (kids respond LOUD or SOFT): for the moon!

Boots and helmet, space suit too.  Let’s get dressed for the moon: for the moon!

-------- --------- ----------- ---------- ---------- ---

4 MUSIC: Hula dance in space by Loreta Kovacic

ACTIVITY-DANCE: move slowly and quietly: stand on one foot like floating. Introduce SLOW tempo and movement. You cannot run on the moon. There is no gravity. Hula dance with arms right to left.

INSTRUMENT:  triangle “from the moon”: loud and soft playing, individually.

ART: cut out moons from aluminum foil to take home. Give moon or piano stamps at the end.

APT game: MUSIC MONSTER MATCH:

Make cute simple round "music monsters" from play-dough that can be hardened (in the oven). Draw music signs on their backs from p for piano to the whole note, etc. Make a matching pair in the same color. When kids find their matching pair, the monsters touch, then fly in the air making a sssss sound like astronauts in space.

http://glasstire.com/2014/05/04/thank-you-mrs-de-menil/

Thank You, Mrs. de Menil

May 4th, 2014 – LORETA KOVACIC

All three times I met her are memorable, but the last one really strikes an outward chord in my memory…

I was invited to an art preview at the de Menil museum, one of those events you go to because you are into the culture, but you are not necessarily prepared for or excited about, especially at a young age of thirty something . . . let’s say that I was growing up my second or third childhood in Montrose, living the bohemian life of an independent musician, playing my first solo concert at Carnegie Hall, and all that cool stuff that goes along with it, the social life, the parties, the cultural life. A scientist friend of mine invited me to a presentation of Mark Rothko’s exhibit at the Menil. It was around lunch time, and I was not in the mood for a long intellectual speech . . . I love Mark Rothko’s work, but the museum’s director was talking about Rothko’s art in a very dry, super-intellectual way, known to art scholars and the like, and it basically sounded like Muzak to me. I was looking at these large paintings, thinking: wow, in those complicated art historian’s words, I don’t hear what I see in front of me at all!

Then suddenly, almost dramatically, Mrs. de Menil rose from her wheelchair and with one round movement of her arms and a few words, including “feeling” and “in space” she struck a chord with all of us. It was that aha! moment, as if I woke up from a winter sleep and was alive, feeling Mark Rothko’s art around me. Wonderful. Powerful. Unforgettable. THANK YOU Mrs. de Menil.

It was the simplest yet best words and movement ever used to describe works of art in my view. And I can really dig the fact that Mark Rothko was an artist that she knew very, very well, as an old friend perhaps . . . but also someone whose artwork she absolutely adored.

This does not in any way diminish my memory of how I met Mrs. de Menil the first time. In retrospect, there is a leitmotif, a theme to each meeting…best described by “outwardly”, “extraterrestrial” interaction.

So the first time we met, I was again invited to an opening at the museum. Since I lived close by, I used to go to openings a lot in those days. I would show up alone, and then I would usually hook up with a lot of different artist friends there. Sometimes we would go out to eat or to a party afterwards. Every show at the Menil was always worth seeing, sometimes inspiring too. This time I showed up alone as usual, and when I looked around, there was no familiar face in the crowd. But one face just kept beaming, and I could not keep my eyes away . . . it was maybe a little bit how I imagined Mother Mary’s face?! Extremely white skin with blue dreamy eyes and with an aura around it . . . all on a very fragile small body, dressed in a simple robe. I was naturally drawn to her, as if I was going to an altar . . . and I trust my instincts with people.

I must digress here and explain a little more . . . the reason why I can approach strangers without any fear also comes from my father who was an extra in a few Hollywood films when he was young. Since early childhood he trained me not to be afraid of approaching complete strangers. He would sometimes stop famous singers or actors on the streets of my hometown Zagreb just to show me how it’s done. He said that people will just play along and pretend that they know you just to avoid embarrassment of being blamed for a loss of memory, and the more famous the person is, the more people they know, so it is harder for them to remember all of those acquaintances, old friends, enemies and lovers. He would start by introducing himself and continuing to talk as if though the two of them are old friends, amigos, from a movie set or vacation. I have to say that I was entertained with the whole act. So call it a social skill or call it a social dysfunction, here I am—going towards her, drawn by her face, thinking of Mother Mary…

I do remember that we talked for a long time, like we were old friends from another planet. Both of us love art, of course, but I remember asking her, where she was from, probably because I thought that she came from heaven. She was a little confused, she stopped for a while, trying to think. We connected right there, because, as an immigrant, I felt similar, not really knowing, not really belonging fully to any place. I think she said she felt like she was the citizen of the world, although she was originally from France, and sure,  anyone could hear that in her accent. Yes she was an extraterrestrial, an unusual creature, full of light and a thinker. It was a great feeling, talking to her, a rendering, beautiful, creative composition, like Thelonius Monk’s music perhaps?

After a while, I spotted a few familiar faces in the crowd and I parted with Mrs. de Menil. “Do you know who you were talking to?” they screamed. “That was Mrs. de Menil!” She never told me her name, but I was not surprised at all. I knew she was special.

After all, I am so grateful for this memory of Mrs. de Menil, a person who contributed so much to our city’s culture.

THANK YOU, Mrs. de Menil.

Loreta Kovacic is a musician and founder of AlchemistPianoTheatre.org, in Houston

AMARISHNA, poem by Loreta Kovacic

Dedicated to Philip Glass, composer.

 

Alah-halLah, Buddha, Lord and Mother Mary

I prepare my soul and body blind

to dedicate to you my little prayer:

Ready, set, clear, OOOOMMMMM ready, set, clear, OOOOMMMMM>

 

Amarishna krishna Rama Vishna

Abudabi Ludjak neki Radza

Born on 3 kings day in Medjugorje

Looked up and saw high above these plains

kako kisne brada Rama Visne.

Djelem djelem in a dimple's Temple

hide your pimple, Sheik, Baby Shake.

 

BABY CALL ME RAMA AMARISHNA

YOU CAN CALL ME RAMA AMARISHNA.

Ready, set, clear OOOMMM< Ready, set, clear OOOMMM>

 

Rabi Ben, Babba Karl Iman, grew up in Iran

moved to Iraque, then to Afganistaaaan,

became the best known incognito politician,

who singlehandedly, like Bukowski,

in off the beaten path, ski lift upper class,

high in snow covered Swiss Alps,

while KGB and CIA were hiding in the bush,

removed all the evil dictators of tomorrow and today

just one superhuman against the evil world

Alibaba guru Ben Iman, Von Chilladeen,

Gavrilo Princip revolt in his blood stream,

just like my own during Milosevic regime,

in my native Ex Yugoslavia, doom's deem, 

 

BABY CALL ME RAMA AMARISHNA

YOU CAN CALL ME RAMA AMARISHNA.

 

 

 

amarishna yoddle girl

I WISH I COULD HAVE BEEN THERE

I WISH I COULD HAVE BEEN THERE

                                                  by Loreta Kovacic, October 2013

 

Eight weeks of mending time

Mother Mary's here with me

Outside the dawn is yawning

Decorated by a palm tree

 

Iggy pop is in my head

Braking silent living room

I feel like going underground

While they're playing way up high

 

BUT I WISH I COULD HAVE BEEN THERE

In my decked out wheel chair

I’d be up there shine or rain

With my stiletto walking cane.   how I wish!!

 

Worry now cause mighty dollar

Takes away our civility

Worry now cause mighty dollar

Makes the world go tippy toe

 

What about Sick America, noise ostinato in my head!

What about Weak America, noise ostinato in my head!

If You can get a view from my hospital room

It”s a party up on the rooftop and I’m not dead!!!!!

 

Drag Racing in valley of pain

We have to fulfill our dreams

But they have a way to scream

Like peacocks against blue sky

 

Meds keep me laying down

And that's why I'm looking up

I have a dream of getting better

Mixing human with alien matter

 

I WISH I COULD HAVE BEEN THERE

In my decked out wheel chair

I’d be at that party shine or rain

With my stiletto walking cane   how I wish!!

photo.jpg

ALCHEMIST PIANO: Reflections by Loreta Kovacic

LK.jpg

As I am laying here on my hospital bed in the middle of what used to be my living room, waiting for the old pelvis bones to heal, I reflect about my “Alchemist Piano” studio, past and present. As the new studio is almost finished, I look back at 23 great years of my studio’s esoteric yet blooming business dedicated entirely to the Musical Arts. 

It started as a modest piano studio, growing through time into a recognized music studio with an added original musical theatre for children, the Alchemist Piano Theatre. I would have never guessed…I thought that I would forever be playing Prokofiev, Bach and Papandopulo. Many years later, after the Tortured Tendon Tour, after taking new twists and turns along my musical journey, we have arrived! And it’s all good, as I say in one of my children song: It’s all good, my dear friends. The field of Music is such a wide open road, full of hidden treasures and fantastic discoveries…it’s very similar to Alchemy or, dare I say, Science.

This morning I finally ventured into my studio to play the piano for the first time since a major car accident, which left me in a wheelchair. I played Ave Maria, both Schubert’s and Bach’s. I played it on the piano, then added melodica, then my singing voice, just in parts of it, improvising singing melodies especially in Bach.  It was such an exhilarating experience: to be doing music again, in my old studio, on my old Steinway, and, additionally, to be playing songs dedicated to Mother Mary, the one who watches over me both literally and spiritually.

I have a sculpture of her on my wall right in front of me, given to me by my Uncle, Capt. Z, a great man who sailed over many seas with his amazing wife, Ana Habl. The sculpture itself is a treasure, because of where it came from, not to mention all of its supernatural properties…. Being Croatian by birth, it comes to me naturally. The Virgin was implanted into my blood stream many generations ago, somewhere in the Dalmatian Coast, next to a church and a rocky field, with a beautiful vista of the sea from high above….

Croats.jpg

The Virgin is huge in the Dalmatian coast. She is one major player on the rocky slopes of hope, aspiration, longing and dreaming of Dalmatian folk. My mother goes to the pilgrimage in her native island Hvar once per year where they walk for miles and miles carrying the stunning sculpture of Mary back to its original church. Some people walk on their knees just like in Mexico where they are just as crazy about “Senora de Guadalupe” as us Croatians.  It is not surprising that I got married in a small church in Houston’s colorful East End, the beautiful “Our Lady of Guadalupe.” This church reminded me so much of the Dalmatian coast churches that I am familiar with. Everybody knows about Medugorje, the place where Mother Mary appears and communicates with a select group of children, now adults. This is only a couple of hours drive from Omis, my father’s home town, and also our family’s fantastic summer place in the middle of the Croatian Coast, next to Split.

I have another sculpture, the one that I brought with me to the US from Croatia when I first came here in 1986. It’s Mestrovic’s  “History of Croatians.” It’s a small replica of a large bronze sculpture decorating the front of the Law School, across from the Croatian National Theatre on Mazuranic square in Zagreb. Mestrovic created a quiet, strong, big-boned lady dressed in black, with a big black scarf on her head sitting in a yoga pose, resting her arms comfortably upon a large book. She looks kind of like a Slavic version of a Yogi.  I remember naming her “Yogi-Slav Woman” and around the same time I named myself the “Texas Slav.”  I call my son Johnny, Johnny-Slav sometimes, and my brother IS Stanislav, but we call him Stanko for short.

A small Mestrovic replica of ‘Yogi-Slav Woman’ always had a prominent place in my studio, and subconsciously it was a symbol of meditation, yoga, all that Zen and Buddhist stuff that I was into during the 90’s and into the 2000’s here in Houston. I was a Doctoral student at Rice University when I named myself the “Alchemist” or someone that’s dedicated to research, experimentation, someone that has chosen a spiritual path, also a teacher that’s trying to turn “lead into gold.” At that same time, in 1990, I named my piano studio “AlchemistPiano” and later named my original children’s theatre “AlchemistPianoTheatre.” One of my board members and friends wrote this about me as a part of my AlchemistPianoTheatre’s add: “Her spirit is what makes her a true alchemist in that she has the uncanny ability to transform the seemingly normal into true gold. This ability is reflected in the people she works with, inspiring a new level of confidence through music and performance!”  So, for all these years, people really bought into it, this idea that I am a music guru with a gold cape and a magic stick?? A note to self: ”You’ve got to produce something good, like: Moon rocks!!” (from “SpaceWiggs” by Loreta Kovacic)

Well, it was a good word that I picked, because I still love it today, after 23 years of performance, composition and teaching as “the Alchemist.” I also love all the mysticism that surrounds the word, the colors, the imagery, words like “philosopher’s stone,” the healing crystals, the elixirs, all that alchemical symbolism, the path of discovery, healing and learning….  I have the word “Alchemist” written with gold letters at the entrance to my studio, and inside my studio there are many objects that evoke the feel of the word: the golden owl, the planets, the moon and the sun, daily meditations, the shining crystal-like hanging sculpture by my favorite artist, Hana Hillerova, etc.  Even my artistic endeavors somehow manage to evoke those alchemical dreams….In recent years I especially remember my original accompaniment of Georges Melies’s “Voyage to the Moon” and other alchemy-related silent shorts that I hand-picked from his amazingly huge opus. The poster was made by the venue, Discovery Green in Houston, showing the famous picture of the moon and the rocket getting stuck in the moon’s eye. Everyone recognizes that image, and I just love it.

Trip-to-the-Moon.jpg

I can’t believe how much I love that nickname, the Alchemist, after all these years. On second thought, it does make sense, because I think that any nickname you make up for yourself is going to work better for you than the one given to you by others. I was named “Sovuljaga”  or the “Ugly Owl”  when I was in grade school, a name given to me by my arch nemeses. I would have preferred just “owl” because I really do love owls. They are a symbol of wisdom. My alma mater Rice University’s symbol is an owl. How appropriate! In more recent years I was named “Doc,” short for “Doctor” by my friend Duane, Houston’s public radio KPFT 90.1 manager. I like that name, it’s cute, but still, he only named me that because one time when he interviewed me I told him not to call me Doctor Kovacic. I prefer to be called by my name or the nickname I gave myself, the “Alchemist”.

I find it fascinating that there are practicing Alchemists in this world today, like Mark Stavish who says this about alchemy: “Alchemy offers us the opportunity to relieve suffering, ignorance, and fear of death through direct experience of the invisible worlds and how they relate to the physical world of matter. The alchemical path can bring us peace of mind, a positive outlook on life, increased vitality and creativity. Most importantly, alchemy helps us become better people.”

This brings me back to the beginning, how I played the piano today, uplifted myself and my family with music dedicated to Mother Mary. Today is the first day that I did not take my meds, trying to experiment, just like an Alchemist would, in an attempt to see how I do without them….I was feeling a little pain in my pelvis and lower back, but as soon as I started playing, swoooshhh!!!!–it was gone. Music, the art I love, protected by planet Venus, was doing its magic.

We musicians are alchemists because we work in the realm of the invisible which then brings us peace and joy in the visible world. Musical alchemy increases our vitality and creativity, and all of that made me like a thunderbolt this morning. I felt good, uplifted and happy. My family came to hear me and join me in singing or just listening. As a teacher and as a performer I feel the power of alchemy given to me through the practice of musical arts. I feel so blessed by it and I am grateful for it. I think that what I did this morning was putting the ancient alchemist phrase “ora et labora” or “pray and work”  to work through the music that I was playing. Somehow I felt both Mother Mary and God, the limitless light, closer to my heart.

“Alchemist Piano” studio is now moving to a building right next to my house, a bigger and brighter space. Two old friends, who are also friends of Alchemy, are working hard right now, putting in a beautiful golden cork floor. This was a long waited experiment finally realized.

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May I suggest a meditation practice for your experiment of the day (month, year, decade, etc.): Pay attention to your dreams as you undertake your experiments because your dreams will come true!! Dominus tecum. Peace.

"Time for healing" by Loreta Kovacic

This is the title of an article published in CROATIA WEEK online magazine in September 2013. Reflecting about Capt. Z and aunt Ana and beautiful healing memories from their home in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. Written after a major car accident on a highway in Houston. Loreta ended up with a broken pelvis, 8 broken ribs and a collapsed lung. This poem inspired the article: 

 

TIME FOR HEALING Loreta Kovacic, 2013

Sacred satin lady

She’s watching over lowdown me

Mother Mary in your eye I see

Houston hometown wonders

Sweet surprises hidden

In the hands of friends

From this planet’s many ends

Like golden specks of light

We can see from up above

Mary’s heart in orbit beating

Tick tock in unison

With low drums on Fanin

IT’S TIME FOR HEALING , BUT NOT FOR CRYING

ITS TIME FOR BREATHING IN THESE OPULENT DAYS

CAUSE I GOT MY SECOND CHANCE

A BRAND NEW POTION FOR ALCHEMY INVENTION.

Main street so alive

Like I’ve never seen before

Many bumps on city streets

Bring the ticking of the pain clock

But I don’t care so much for pain

I’m taken by the colors of rain

And the trees, I see them

Through an x-ray of our

Claim called life,

I can really feel all that

green good luck divination

in a glow of summer emanation.

 

Houston and Zagreb, my hometowns

HOUSTON and ZAGREB: mixing business with pleasure!

By Loreta Kovacic, the Alchemist

I have two favorite cities and two hometowns. The first one, the one I was born in, and the second one, where I was reborn as an American. The first one is Zagreb Croatia and the second one is Houston, TX. Every city can be summarized in a single word they say, so for LA the word is Hollywood, for Paris, it’s the arts, for Rome it’s romance, for New York it’s the center of the world as all New Yorkers seem to believe, and the list goes on…It is a fun little game to try to define a city in one word.

When one feels the heartbeat of the city and calls it their home, this game becomes more difficult. I interviewed many people before drawing the line on Houston, because my idea of Houston is this other, lesser known part of the city: it’s vibrant art scene, its authentic blues music and musicians full of quirky and independent history and presence you can feel, taste and hear….And the musty picturesque bayou landscape especially the one covered with trash, and yet from a distance looking like an oil painting by Matisse…After all, if I was the decider, I would use something like “blues and bayou” to describe my beloved Houston, and I could not take one away from the other…they are such a perfect duo. In my song “Bayou tango” I sing: “don’t get lost in the magical bayou mist, where all the foliage is covered with lovely litter….” And then there is all that space history, now being slowly stolen from us by LA, a city I find to be most like Houston. However, my interview results led me to the most popular word: “business”. So, Houston is the city of business, amen.

Business it is, because in this town, you have to have at least a tiny bit of a business sense in order to survive. Mind you, survival here is a lot easier then in New York or LA by the mare fact that everything from housing to restaurants is cheaper here. It is easy to run a business here too: I know a woman who runs an extremely successful piano studio here, with a degree in Chemistry. So things are still a little bit wild and western, not so regulated, but rather new and somewhat refreshing. Why not? You just feel like, if you set your business mind to it, you can achieve miracles in Houston. I like that feeling. But sometimes, I feel that business kills an artist in me. It’s simply because I have no time to sit around in my typical “fjaka” mode and philosophize for hours over coffee and beer like I used to do in my native city of  Zagreb, Croatia.

This brings me to the words for Zagreb. I just mentioned coffee and leisure, and that seems like an extreme opposite of the word “business”. So the first thing I thought of was, why can’t Houston and Zagreb be married, because opposites attract, don’t they? Houston is business and Zagreb is leisure, two characters complementing each other? Or, in some cases hating each other, like that dysfunctional love and hate relationship? I have to say that the optimist in me sees it as a win-win situation: mixing business and pleasure!

Zagreb is still a city where I spent my childhood and graduated from college. And my version of it is going to have a little twist as you expect…I can think of two things that I love and miss: coffee shops and shoe stores, one after another in a row, thousands of them, with people sitting in coffee shops and happy women shopping for shoes....Perhaps that explains why I still have a closet packed with hundreds of pairs of shoes, majority of them bought in Zagreb, made in Italy, of course. And maybe that’s why I frequent my local coffee shop here in Houston regularly (not as regularly as I would be if I was still living in Zagreb).

As a Zagrebian living in Houston I can manage to find leisure in this business city, because I have been programed to do so. And as a Houstonian I can find a little business to do while vacationing in Zagreb like: appear as a guest on “good morning Croatia”, maybe play a concert if I am really ambitious, or, my favorite, work really hard looking for the newest and coolest pair of shoes for the best price, of course….

Just like happy little infants love bubbles you too will end up falling in love with these two cities. You will fall in love with Zagreb probably from the first sight, because, let’s face it, Zagreb is more beautiful visually, and Houston will have to grow on you, but I can say with a certainty of a bubble lover (cause if you hate bubbles you should visit your psychiatrist immediately): business and leisure make a beautiful couple, it’s like a perfect song, and you simply have to check it out. Mixing business with pleasure is the way to live. That is the word from the Alchemist.

 

Alchemist On The Road needs funding for projects

One of our projects is to take APT’s concert  production on a tour to New Orleans and Croatia. The first APT concert was on April 7th  at Christ the King Church in the Rice Village in Houston and the premiere of “Tadpoles save the ocean” was on Friday, May 10th  2013 at 1100 Roy street.  

Grants are also needed for projects and community events hosted at APT: "Houston Live radio show" and "Family Band Jam".  

APT needs your funding for additional supplies and support, but more importantly to provide scholarships for all children with dyslexia who join the program.We also to reach more students with special needs so we are asking for your help today. APT is a 501.C3 charity and as such all donations are tax deductable.