2007 Annual Letter from Kurt & Marieluise Riegel

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Posted at home.comcast.net/~qmhdk/x2007

Additional photo pages at Malibu , Miscellaneous , and Lars .

    115 Blackfoot Drive, Arnold MD 21012
Verizon cell       410.507.2999   410.997.2241
E-mail   Kurt.Riegel@gmail.com       Marieluise.Riegel@gmail.com   


It's been a quiet year in Annapolis, our home town, down by the Chesapeake Bay. Here's what happened.

As is true for all of us, Kurt is falling apart, thankfully at a tolerable rate so far. He now sports a tooth implant, a titanium post deftly inserted into his jawbone by a skilled oral surgeon, onto which a crown was affixed after this fashion photograph was taken. It replaces the natural tooth that went down his gullet during a crab feast.

Was it an act of crab revenge? Fearing that this might be an omen, Kurt set about protecting the habitat of the crab, lest even more sinister retaliatory schemes are incubating among Chesapeake arthropods, over what we are doing to their environment.

Therefore, Kurt's been working as president of the Severn River Association to protect and restore the Severn River watershed, which includes Annapolis and parts of Anne Arundel County. The challenge is enormous. He's been working especially hard on stormwater, giving public testimony on legislation, working with legislators and public-spirited citizens to get control of stormwater and to repair damage to the streams in the watershed of the Chesapeake Bay estuary.

Deforestation and impervious surfaces now cause huge quantities of pollutant-laden rainwater to be discharged into streams within minutes if its falling. No longer is rainwater mostly transpired back into the atmosphere by trees, or filtered for months through groundwater systems before slowly entering streams as clean water. We worked on cleaning up and restoring the Jabez branch, the very last native trout stream in our county, are engaged in many other projects, and wrote both this and this for the local newspaper in hopes we might energize the electorate and motivate political action.

Our Year of Weddings

Four weddings, no funerals (let's keep it that way), kept us hopping all the way from Maryland to Hawaii to New Hampshire.

Jack Davis to Rosemary Rigoletti. The first wedding of the four was Kurt's college roomie Jack, who married Rosemary in Honolulu in a wonderful convening of friends and family with island hospitality for all. Meeting so many nice people was a treat indeed - we were kindly hosted during our stay by Elsa & Gary Wixom in their place overlooking Diamond Head from the east.

Gary also took us out for a superb sail from his berth at the Waikiki Yacht Club, into waters so blue and so clear that we knew we were in paradise. Our short voyage took us toward Diamond Head with that famous view, only this time seen from the vantage point of a lively sailboat. One could see the bottom clearly in 30 feet of water, an amazing sight for Chesapeake sailors who seldom see even one foot into our severely impaired waters.

We had time to tour a number of places on Oahu, walking and swimming and snorkeling to get the feel of the place. Although we saw many lovely underwater sights, this time we missed a glimpse of the Hawaiian state fish, the Humuhumunukunukuapua'a, but we found this song about it by Teresa Brewer, who died this year, and this other song from the hit High School Musical.

Finally, we were treated to a second sail by the Commodore of the Pearl Harbor Yacht Club, Carolyn Heinrich, in a sprightly sailboat that relied on wind, and wind alone, for its propulsion. She turned out to be German-born and was very skilled at handling the boat.

Jon & Pasha Marlow, Kurt & Marieluise Riegel, Emily Blundo,
Craig & Erin & Mark & Tonya Stewart, Josh Blundo

Pasha Stewart Blundo to John Marlow. The second wedding was on the shore of Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire, for the wedding of Marieluise's daughter Pasha to John. Wedding preparations started early in the year for Pasha and John, and Marieluise spent a spring week in New Hampshire, establishing a perennial garden for their wedding gift.  Pasha's theater group “Kids on Stage” performed that week and the grand kids were outstanding! 

Leo Greene officiated at the wedding, and the Riegels are tied to him not only by this wedding, but also by two fairly significant sailing experiences on the Chesapeake. The July wedding was a happy and colorful event, even though the rain chased us from the lake into an old bat infested barn.  The reception at friend Pattie's lake house was splendid.


Mark Stewart to Erin Sharp. The third was Marieluise's son Mark, who married Erin. After adding a very labor-intensive second floor to their craftsman style home, they decided it was time to tie the knot for yet another wedding in our crazy year.  

A small wrinkle developed in their plans when Tonya accepted a teaching assignment in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which had her departing before her brother's wedding.

When Erin found out that her maid of honor was going to be in China, a civil service saved the day by including these two very special people.  The officially announced wedding also proceeded, as scheduled in September. It was a day to remember, a lovely setting at Quiet Waters Park in Annapolis. Another wish came true for Mark when he was hired to be the Sustainability Coordinator for the University of Maryland, where he is finishing a Masters degree and is greener than any ten guys you know.

Eden Riegel to Andrew Miller. Our fourth wedding was held in a fabulously lovely setting high above Malibu only a few weeks before fires swept the area. Family, friends and showbiz glitterati assembled from all over North America for a few days of joy and celebration. Their engagement announcement, a video, is fantastic - do view it if you haven't yet.

Parents Joel and Linda Miller are from Toronto, so Eden and Andrew have now assumed a special responsibility to do everything they can to dissuade Canada from executing a long-planned Surge southward that would force Canada's new southern province to accept a democratic form of government. Here's another page of photographs of the finest wedding Malibu has ever seen.

Eden finished her run with the television soap opera All My Children, and performed in a summer production of Regrets Only on Cape Cod. We visited them, saw the emergence of a wonderfully strong comedic actress in Eden, and shared some of the joys of living on the Cape during the summer, including a swim in a lovely pond.


Other Family News

Tonya, after spending a few busy weeks with us in Annapolis, left for the UAE and started a demanding teaching schedule at the American University in Sharjah.  What a change in culture!  She is now the proud owner of a Jeep, an abbaya and sheyla (long black robe and head scarf) and spends her free days exploring the other Emirates and Oman, taking pictures whenever this is acceptable.  You can read all about her adventures, complete with stunning pictures, at her blog.

And since that wasn't enough of a change from the good old US, she is currently in Africa, hiking up Mount Kilimanjaro.  She is supposed to summit on New Years Eve and we're keeping all fingers crossed that she'll be able to handle the lack of oxygen at over 19,000 feet.  She'll return to the UAE in mid January to start the next semester.

In the meantime, other good news happened in the cold North.  Pasha gave birth to baby James, who is an absolute sweetie, and Marieluise was able to visit with them right after Thanksgiving.  John is a very happy, diaper changing daddy, and Josh and Emily take excellent care of their baby brother.

Marieluise is always productive, imaginative and energetic, and transformed our house into a new miracle of art seemingly every week or so. She owns more internet domain names now than you can shake a stick at, intending to use them to support her massage therapy practice and artistic endeavors. She talks frequently with her Dad, Werner, who spends most of his time and energy caring for wife Ruth after her stroke several years ago.

Werner is ahead of Kurt in solving the mysteries and frustrations of Windows Vista, a mixed blessing that Kurt is grappling with not because of its present capabilities but because of its promise to manage his new quad-core computer more effectively at some future date. Those funny Mac vs. PC ads are oh-so-true when it comes to Vista's faults, among which are a gazillion challenges to the user's authority to do what he wants to do, and incompatibility with Microsoft's own Office programs, we suspect intentional so they can sting us all again for upgrades.

Tanya has had an absolutely splendid year as a Hollywood film editor. After leaving the rigidly formulaic House television show, she worked on three films that were release this year - success after success. The wonderful PU-239, a story about a worker exposed to a fatal dose of radiation in a Russian nuclear facility, was shown first on HBO before theater release.

Then she finished Lars and the Real Girl, got really, really good critical reviews, and we all derived intense pleasure from seeing it. It's a charming story of a delusional young man made whole again by the patience of Lars' community, good people playing along with his delusion in order to cure him of it. Her third film is There Will be Blood, already nominated for a Golden Globe award.

Because we were in town (for Eden's wedding) when Lars premiered the next day, Tanya gave us the treat of attending our first Hollywood premiere, meeting and chatting with all the stars and the director. As we circulated among the stars, we pretended that we are oh-so-accustomed to this rarified Hollywood atmosphere, but we don't think anybody bought it.

Sam and Quyen are busier than busy can be. Sam is doing live performances of sketch comedy and music with his writing and performing partner Rob Blatt, animation video voiceovers, personal appearances at fan conventions, and some personal assistant duties for some Hollywood big shot.

Quyen, having finished UCLA, is in great demand as a cinematographer and has been running around the world on jobs from California, to the midwest, to Viet Nam and Cambodia and Laos and Thailand. Sam and Quyen are together over the Christmas/ New Year holiday this year to tour new places, visit Quyen's relatives, and celebrate their ever-expanding and most stimulating lives.

All the Riegel children living in Los Angeles completed the renovation of their 4-unit apartment building, occupying 2 of the units themselves. It looks just wonderful, the epitome of good taste and flawless execution. One can only hope that the crashing real estate market does not include rental properties in the Fairfax Avenue district of Los Angeles!


Our passion and obsession with this sport/ recreation/ science/ technology continue. We had many fine sailing trips and raft ups in the Annapolis region, plus a few farther afield. We did very pleasant trips with friends Ed & Linda Gray, Doug & Laura Tilley, John & Catherine Kane, and of course Eden & Andrew during their short visit to Annapolis (they do love the Chesapeake blue crab.)

Kurt and Leo Greene attempted to sail from Annapolis to Dewey Beach, Delaware, but were beaten back by a particularly nasty Delaware River - the weather is not auspicious at the end of July, wind tending to blow either not at all or very weakly in the wrong direction.

Our major trip of the summer was the long-anticipated circumnavigation of the DelMarVa peninsula (named for the states comprising it). Marieluise and Kurt sailed southward in a little over 3 days from Annapolis to Yorktown.

There she left the boat, and was replaced by Josef Bucman and Mike Stockert, recruited through the SpinSheet as crew for the more daunting ocean and Delaware River portions of the circumnavigation. Fearing a change in weather that would stall our progress northward after leaving the Bay, we left just before sunset. We sailed down the York River, under the Chesapeake Bay Bridge near Norfolk, and out into the Atlantic Ocean turning north. We had a nice wind, settling in so comfortably that Kurt took a snooze to store up some energy for the last half of the night.

Eden & Andrew - At One with the Wind

Wham! He awakened to cries for help from Starducks' steadfast crew, as they found themselves beset by a sudden and violent squall. We had all our sail up, were grossly overpowered, saw our dinghy flipping somersaults and diving underwater to become a sea anchor. We had to take heroic measures to reestablish control, fouling the jib sheets in the process. It took over two hours of very difficult work to put things right again, but we did! One of our members, who shall remain anonymous, was thrown into the throes of seasickness during this buffeting but recovered in about 12 hours.

We arrived at the mouth of the Delaware River and anchored for a necessary quiet night's sleep in the protection of Cape Henlopen. We put Josef ashore the next morning for his return to work, and Mike and I pointed up the Delaware. What a wild sail! The wind was very close, fortunately not directly head on, but we had to do a great deal of tacking to make headway. The wind was 20-40 knots all day and night, and we worked very, very hard to navigate the sinuous natural channels among the shoals of the Delaware. In exhaustion, we dropped anchor at the end of the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal at 3 AM, having done very hard sailing without respite for 20 hours.

The rest of the trip, southward in the Chesapeake, was very pleasant and we arrived home a day ahead of schedule after traversing about 475 statute miles, not counting our tacking back and forth. Kurt was exhausted, happy, and satisfied to have accomplished this feat. Mike and Josef, and of course Marieluise, deserve great credit for making it happen.


Other Happenings

Our ski trip this year was to Big Sky, Montana, and we happily report fabulous skiing, the company of wonderful friends, and no injuries. Skiing has become a real joy each winter and we find ourselves wanting a second week, but all the groups we go with seem to be geared to a single week only. Marieluise threw herself skillfully down the Nastar race course but Kurt chickened out over deep ruts and exposed bare rock. Maybe he'll screw up enough courage to try another Nastar race during our planned 2008 trip to Steamboat Springs in Colorado.

We run and bicycle around Annapolis. Marieluise was joined on a bike trip by Kathy Warren, visiting from Idaho. We even had a nice family hike on Christmas day up to the top of House Mountain near Lexington in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, although some grumbling was heard that Kurt's pathfinding skills are deficient.

Ever since we moved into our house we have both loved and feared a large red oak tree in the back yard. Fear finally won out, since this massive object was leaning 15 degrees in the direction of our house and could be counted on to pretty much demolish everything, and probably kill us, when its inevitable fall would come. So we hired a crew with crane to take it down, a very sad day indeed. Counting the rings, we verified that it was 150 years old. It it was a cold, cruel thing we did, and yet the tree's firewood will warm us with generosity and forgiveness for several winters. Kurt has planted 6 saplings that sprang from this wonderful tree's acorns, realizing the we will not see their magnificence but that future generations might.

Membership in the National Press Club, the world's best forum, continues to delight and entertain as we attend luncheons and receptions for speakers there.

This year we met personally with and heard talks by George McGovern, Sen. Jim Webb, writer/actor Gene Wilder who'd just written a totally charming little book My French Whore, actor Sam Waterston, Terry & Bindi Irwin after "crocodile man" Steve Irwin's death, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Morgan Freeman, Ken Burns and many others who are mostly Washington functionaries and therefore sometimes less interesting than non-government luminaries.

Kurt did some fascinating consulting work for Antares Group on Hybrid Solar Lighting, systems using tracking solar collectors with fiber optics to distribute sunlight within buildings to save energy. It has promise, within limitations. He's also gearing up to offer his course in Environmental Compliance Management again at the Johns Hopkins University.

Kurt's getting better at photography, as we hope this letter demonstrates - we've loaded it up with lots of pix taken during the year - see these additional photos. Sadly, the camera that took them died yesterday so we're looking for a replacement.

We rented out our house during the Naval Academy's graduation, called Commissioning Week, when housing is scarce in Annapolis. We went sailing while renters stayed in our house, and had a marvelous view of the Blue Angels flyover of the Severn River. The rental experiment worked out so well that we've rented out the house again for this year.

Additional photo pages at Malibu , Miscellaneous , and Lars .

Marieluise & Kurt failed, yet again this year, to acquire either a dog or a rooster. It's a perennial to-do item, so your assistance is again requested - maybe this next year.

We hope this year has been a good year for you and 2008 will be just super. Keep in touch with us, come visit and sail with us on Starducks, and we look forward to seeing you soon.