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Happy 2020 from Kurt & Marieluise Riegel. May this one be a good one and may all our troubles melt away. We’re a few days late, but this letter arrives after the holiday rush when there was zero chance you’d read it anyway. Yes, it’s long, but it serves the dual purpose of keeping friends and family informed, and keeping a family history. And it proves that Kurt’s finally mastered WordPress.
Maise is still working full time either in her beloved garden, or in her studio which she considers her private sanctuary and a place to let creativity and beauty flow.
She designed around 90 garments this past year and sold 80 of them through her online shop maisestudio.com . For the sake of physical activity and enjoyment of the outdoors in our beautiful neighborhood, she likes long walks in summer, sometimes reading down by the river. In winter her yoga mat serves as a suitable and more comfy retreat.
So much of her, and our, lives are devoted to family and friends, an account of which follows.
An astronomer friend of long standing , Eugene Epstein, pointed out that our families have become so complex that it’s tough to grasp all the relationships. Even we sometimes get confused, so here’s a cheat sheet:
Here’s what they’ve been up to, endeavors and accomplishments that make our minds explode in wonder.
Tatiana and Veronique are moving toward construction of a swimming pool at their Mulholland Drive home, on a slope so steep they get an “infinity pool” without even asking for it.
After her Academy Award nomination for I Tonya, Tatiana moved to London to shoot Cruella with director Craig Gillespie, starring Emma Stone and Emma Thompson. It will be wonderful.
Sam and Quyen grow their family with activities aplenty. Maximus does gymnastics, and piano with sister Kestrel. They’re sneaking their kids into showbiz already, and the credits are accumulating. All are great skiers.
Sam ‘s voiceover directing tapers a bit as he takes on the challenge of producing an animated cartoon series Vox Machina spun off from their Dungeons and Dragons Critical Role internet production. They’ve hired scads of people and companies and have sold two seasons to Amazon after a fortuitous meeting with Jeff Bezos. Don’t scold your children for playing silly games … sometimes it pays off, big time.
Quyen has worked as cinematographer on an impressive series of films and was recently honored as a new member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (the folks who give out Oscars.)
Eden and Andrew continue their professional work in Hollywood, she as an actress/ voice over artist/ director and he as a screenwriter.
Their Jack and Henry attend an international school and have mastered at least two languages, English and French.
Jack is the cartoonist of note in the family, and we do not question that his talents and fame will grow. And of course, music is an important part of this family’s life and all are great skiers.
In November Kurt visited California, bouncing like a hot potato among three Riegel households. He had wonderful time with all, and even connected with Maxine Savitz with whom he worked on energy efficiency at the Department of Energy.
He saw Sam working and in live performance, in his current showbiz roles. He even ran into Cliff Clavin (video 20 s) from their Boston days. He had holiday greetings and thoughts on Sam’s professional prospects. Finally, Kurt rented his first electric scooter to zip a few miles through scary LA traffic.
The Family that Skis Together
Kurt’s children gave him the best gift ever for a major (let’s keep it quiet, please) birthday, time with our complete families in Deer Valley UT for skiing, family warmth, humor, food and drink.
It could not have been better, even considering less than ideal weather keeping us on our toes during whiteout conditions. Regrettably, Tatiana’s knee got whacked and we all felt her pain.
From there, Kurt & Marieluise dropped down into Park City to join up with Ed & Linda Gray at their place for a week’s skiing and the best camaraderie imaginable.
Because Kurt’s children overbought food, we found ourselves with more provisioning than we could consume for an entire second week! Whiteout ski conditions continued but we had some clear weather and did well, totally enjoyable and no injuries for us this year (apart from a stomach flu, drat.)
Marieluise’s children are even more widely scattered, Pasha in Maine, Tonya in New Zealand, and Mark in Maryland. This makes reunions more difficult and yet more precious.
Pasha and John Marlowe, having moved to Maine, are now deeply embedded in the life of their new place. John is teaching school and Pasha founded Roots and Springs (personal training, fitness, wellness.)
The family has had to deal with the difficulties of Lyme disease, infecting nearly all members. The latest and most severe is Jamie, still in difficulty but fighting hard. They love the pace of their New England setting and are making the most of community and geography.
Emily is finishing at Rensselaer University and will will be taking a job at Microsoft in Dallas.
Josh has finished school and is now employed by Ford, designing automobiles.
Tonya Sweet continues teaching at Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand. Her research and art have taken her far enough and often enough that Marieluise and she have been able to connect during the year. And of course Skype now connects us all.
Mark and Taya Stewart live closest and have just added Luca to their family. He is graciously accepted also by his older brother Milo. (Rumors that these children’s names are Gustav and Grüber are categorically false.)
Taya is taking leave from teaching for a year, and Mark has taken temporary parental leave from his job as sustainability manager at the University of Maryland and College Park.
He’ll soon be back, saving Earth as he saves his little corner of our state.
In and Around Annapolis
Lion of the Maryland House of Delegates Speaker Mike Busch died. We’d gotten to know him and his wife Cindy during several campaigns, and in connection with Chesapeake Bay environmental issues. He was beloved by all, and was superbly effective in implementing progressive measures that have made Annapolis and the state better.
Our West Annapolis neighborhood continues fine traditions such as the Oktoberfest celebration, and the annual appearance of the Anheuser Busch Clydesdale horses just a block from home. Frivolity abounds, including Halloween.
There have been many events and tributes honoring the five slain Capital Gazette staff, some of whom we knew personally. The Eastport Oyster Boys composed a song “Rise Up” that has become an anthem for that tragic event. We caught their Maryland Hall concert, but missed their annual Shaw Bay raft-up concert because of our European travels.
Kurt continues his participation on the Severn River Commission and the board of the Severn River Association. He’s testified on forest conservation legislation before the Anne Arundel County Council and has published Op-Ed articles on the subject. We were successful in staving off the worst weakening amendments and have made a significant step forward in protecting (somewhat) mindless destruction of our forest and trees.
He was appointed to the Annapolis Transportation Board and the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Reconstruction Advisory Group. He continues on the board of Severn River Association, and is on the Severn River Commission
Having worked for the election of Steuart Pittman and Lisa Rodvien as Anne Arundel County Executive and Councilperson respectively, it was a pleasure to attend their inauguration events and provide ongoing advice regarding environmental protection and quality.
Kurt’s signature initiative when he chaired the Annapolis Environmental Commission was a No Discharge Zone for our waters. As a result of the efforts of many, it has gained broad acceptance, has been endorsed by both the county and city councils, and earned approval by the state on its way to the Environmental Protection Agency. It will be helpful mainly in heightening awareness of the contribution to water quality that recreational boaters can make, and in improving the infrastructure needed to keep boat sewage discharges out of our waters.
Kurt was elected as an at-large member of the Annapolis Democratic Central Committee and looks forward to supporting good candidates in the next local election.
Membership in the National Press Club gets us into the best forum in the world. Sooner or later, everybody you ever heard of there speaks and it’s a pleasant opportunity for education and rubbing elbows with fame.
Marieluise and Kurt attended a Strong Towns presentation by Chuck Marohn and are so impressed by the connections he’s been making between liveable communities and common-sense choices we can make in the future regarding planning and transportation. A simple summary: limitless sprawl and mandated parking space, subsidized by government, are unsustainable; we should return to more traditional designs for better economic and environmental performance.
We Lost our Dog Lexi
Alas, our loving and super athletic Labrador/Golden mix suddenly showed uncharacteristic hind leg weakness, diagnosed ultimately as lymphoma. She appeared to be on the brink of death, but prednisone perked her up amazingly for another 4 months of good life. Then suddenly, she crashed and we had to say goodbye to the best dog we’ve ever known, a surprise gift from Marieluise to Kurt ten years earlier.
We had a short trip to New York city for a wonderful reading of Phebe McPherson’s broadway show in development, visiting also with Lenore Riegel. We’d not seen the city since 9/11.
Marieluise visited her daughter Tonya in New Zealand at beginning of 2019, while Kurt was on Lexi death watch at home.
She had the luxury of three seats on a very long airplane ride. The lesson here is that New Years Eve is an excellent time to fly if you want space to spread out. She had a fine tour of both the north and south islands, and verifies that the scenery is spectacular.
It was a good travel year for us, visiting four European countries together with adventures galore. We started in the Netherlands, visiting Frank Israel and Isa Baud in Noordwijk, marvelous people who opened their home to us and then took us to their farmhouse in Dalfsen. We had no idea that life as a Boer is so nice!
Public transportation is simply perfect in the Netherlands, taking us painlessly, quickly and economically wherever we wanted to go.
Rail trips aboard the Nederlands Spoorweg included Amsterdam with both the Van Gogh and Stedelijk art museums, and Alkmaar with a visit to the famous cheese market and totally charming neighborhoods.
Germany was our next destination, to visit Maise’s sister Stefanie and Frosch. Connecting with them was a great pleasure and they generously allowed us to experience some of the highlights of the town.
Especially enjoyable was a production of Rossini’s opera Il viaggio a Reims (The Journey to Reims) done in a lively multimedia style we’d never seen before.
A bonus was excellent bakery goods like German bread and tortes, to die for. We had healthful exercise climbing five flights of stairs several times a day, a helpful remediation countering our caloric excesses.
Then on to Stockholm for a taste of Sweden and an opportunity to connect again with Sandy and Karin Sandqvist. This was our fist time together since our graduate program in College Park long ago.
Our visit to their house was especially pleasant and we are so impressed with their green lifestyle, chickens for fresh and healthful eggs, and complete reliance on public transportation and bicycles to get around. In Sweden you have practical options to do so and I hope we can bring them home.
Sandy gave us a nice walk through the woods and a tour of the observatory where he worked for decades. That historic building is no longer used principally as an astronomical observatory, but as a wonderful school with youngsters everywhere.
The overnight accommodations that Maise picked out for us were perhaps the most unusual that could be found. Although the space was cramped, the boat is centrally located in Stockholm. We slept well and had a fine breakfast each morning.
Greece, Sailing the Aegean Sea
On we went to Athens, for a day of Acropolis and more sightseeing before we got on our Lagoon 45 catamaran for our long-planned sailing adventure.
It was a fine boat, its 4 cabins and 4 heads providing a luxury sailing experience. We know this boat well, having sailed it already last year in the BVI.
We boarded our aptly named catamaran Hydra in Athens, and set sail the next day after high winds had briefly closed the port. The boat sailed well throughout our voyage, the only real problems being a plastic bag inhaled by the generator and biting bugs in Maise’s bedclothes. Both were fixed.
We joined a flotilla of three boats, our catamaran and two monohulls. We were sailing on our own, the others had hired captains. We joined the flotilla for the local knowledge that Steve Parry could provide, a good decision. We went many places and learned much that we would otherwise have missed.
Departure was from Alimos (Άλιμος) marina, thence to Aegina (Αίγινα), Poros (Πόρος), Hydra (Ύδρα), Kythnos (Κύθνος), Kea (Κέα), and back. We had perfect weather except for the long leg from Hydra to Kythnos when the wind died. We’d looked forward to the long sail, but the need to motor was compensated by a pod of dolphins joining us to play (video 3:28 m). They converged on our boat, frolicked all about us, swam between our hulls, and showed off by thrusting their bellies up at us.
Hydra was our favorite place, with no cars and only donkeys for transporting people and goods. It was Leonard Cohen’s old retreat, with wonderful walks and charming eating/drinking places. We learned the fine points of Mediterranean mooring, a different thing altogether for Chesapeake sailors like us (video 1:08 m.)
The differences we found from American life, here and on the other islands were treats to be relished.
Restaurants in the remote islands typically invite customers into the kitchen to pick out their own seafood. Cash is hardly ever required, and credit cards got us through all countries without the trouble of currency juggling.
Credit cards are never surrendered because the customer always personally inserts the credit card into a reader, for security seldom found in the US. Never will you see a waiter hover with an “Is everything OK?” and dishes are cleared after you depart. Little things, but we like them.
Ed Gray suffered a cough during our voyage, and it worsened to a more general problem when we returned. Thankfully, both he and Linda are mending from medical annoyances and it was a pleasure to be permitted to do the small favor of taking their Crosswinds sailboat around for the winter from South to Rhode river.
Our boat Starducks was hauled and painted at the Casa Rio marina in July, a procedure that must be repeated every 3 years to renew the somewhat toxic copper hull paint that keeps the growies away.
We joined the Corinthians, an association of about 500 amateur yachts-people promoting sailing, fellowship, and sailing experience with members. We’re looking forward to cruising next summer.
We sailed to St Michaels, as we frequently do, to attend the Small Craft festival, featuring many small handcrafted boats.
Kurt attended a nice talk by the legendary Seymour Hersh at American University’s Investigative Workshop. By a quirk of fate, we’d met in the mid 1960s, chance seatmates on flight from Dulles to LAX, the first leg of Sy’s first trip to Vietnam where he was to break the My Lai massacre story.
Another chance meeting on an airplane to Denver was former Colorado Gov Roy Romer. Ours was a fascinating conversation, covering everything from fracking to environmental air quality monitoring, to Democratic politics, to Sy Hersh. It turns out that Roy Romer is Sy Hersh’s biggest fan.
We notice that our contemporaries cover health items in ever expanding detail. We won’t. Stuff happened, tiny stuff, and we’re just fine. So far.
Tatiana met Mayor Pete Buttigieg at a fund raiser in LA. The presidential sweepstakes were just heating up.
We attended a multi-class reunion of Lexington (VA) high school. Man, those people are old, we’re glad we dodged that bullet.
Visitors included Kathy Warren stopping off from Europe to Idaho, sister Dee & her husband Barry Bingham recuperating from a long flight, and Steven Gilbert whom Kurt met in Oxford MD at anchor and under the weather with us in Annapolis.
Congratulations, you made it to the end. We admire your diligence, but can’t quite believe anybody will actually read this line. Now for the important part:
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
(Click on images above for full-size versions, on 2019 Photo Gallery the for more images, or the tab at top right for even more.)