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We send our best wishes to you for a wonderful 2019!
We were distracted last year around this time and missed sending our customary annual letter. Shame on us.
So this one’s a “twofer,” covering both years.
And roller-coaster years they have been, with plenty to keep us smiling over what a gift it is to be alive, and some bumps to keep us from becoming blasé .
Here’s what happened.
He’s miffed over the personal cost of global climate change: he got ONE tomato from a garden normally yielding buckets of them – no sunlight and drowning rains. Our precipitation this year was double the average.
Lots of Chesapeake Bay sailing, learning WordPress as a template-based alternative to Dreamweaver (you are reading the first results right now), skiing, and a second close election for city council in 2017. Lost by 18 votes, with a margin that grew a little when absentee ballots arrived. During the 2018 election he worked for a full slate of candidates and, possibly for the first time ever, all of his candidates won: Mike Busch, Sarah Elfreth, Alice Cain, Lisa Rodvien, Steuart Pittman, Anne Colt Leitess, John Sarbanes, Ben Cardin!
He continues on the Severn River Commission as member and vice-chair, and the Mayor is nominating him to the Annapolis Transportation Board. He’s involved in many civic activities, absolutely the best way to connect with people and the town we call home, and continues teaching Environmental Compliance Management at Johns Hopkins University.
Other activities include board membership in the Severn River Association and West Annapolis Civic Association. His signature efforts to establish an EPA No Discharge Zone in Annapolis were picked up and amplified by others, and we have local government approval for not only the city but also Anne Arundel County. There are bureaucratic steps yet, but for the first time there is general optimism that this will happen.
Sadness fell upon Kurt and family when his mother Jane died just after her 108th birthday. She was loved by all, was an accomplished artist and musician, and was a marvel mentally up to the end. Two days before her death she was asked, “How are you sleeping?” She opened one eye, and impishly replied, “Horizontally of course.”
Marieluise grew her passions of gardening, art, clothing design & commerce. She delights in her new grandson Milo and in maintaining connections with our ever-expanding families. The good parts of these past two years have included trips to Europe to see her dad and sister, raft-ups with sailing friends, and many other activities around our interesting town.
In the final days of 2018 she decided that no time would be better to jump on an airplane to visit daughter Tonya in New Zealand. Next year’s letter will feature Kiwi photos and tales aplenty!
Alas, too many burdens fell upon her. Her father and lifelong hiking-in-the-Alps buddy Werner Baeck had to move to an assisted living facility in Germany, and died just short of his 99th birthday. She also endured the indignity and pain of spinal and abdominal surgeries, a hip replacement, and an autoimmune disease. All this bit badly into her activities of gardening, hiking, and skiing.
Recuperation was a challenge but nobody is more determined or disciplined in achieving it. And that’s how she can now hike the mountains of New Zealand’s south island as I write this. She plans to ski again in March.
Nine years ago she found our wonderful dog Lexi and brought her home as a sweet and unexpected present to Kurt. Lexi had amazing health and energy, but suddenly was diagnosed with lymphoma and is unlikely to live much longer.
Old friends Tex & Jeannie Harris invited us to a nice luncheon featuring a speaker on the Hubble Space Telescope. Tex is a genuine hero of an awful period in Argentina, and inspired the State Department to create an award in his honor for Creative Dissent.
A bonus was conversation over lunch with Nancy Roman, a woman pioneer in the field of astronomy often billed as “the mother of the Hubble.” Only a few months later, on Christmas day, she died.
Dick Lahn, beloved by all around Annapolis, died. Freddie Goodhart died; he was a longtime Lexington musician, second-hand store owner, and generally wonderful character. Tom Wolfe, a student of Kurt’s father OW Riegel, died.
Our Extended Family
Tatiana and Veronique put polishing touches on their Mulholland Drive house and succeeded in protecting their pets from coyotes. They have an amazing life connected to those who make Hollywood work.
Tatiana‘s just finished editing The Girl in the Spider’s Web but the big story was her nominations as best editor for I, Tonya, for both Independent Spirit Award and Academy Award. She snagged the first and just missed the second.
Veronique has settled into a fascinating niche we’d never heard of before, doing accountant work for films in their post-production phase.
Amazingly and most generously, Tatiana was able to include both parents in the Academy Award ceremonies. It was a wonderful experience, hobnobbing with the glitterati and pretending to be one of them, but I don’t think they bought it.
Vignette: Kurt met Jane Fonda at the bar and said he liked her work. She stared back with laser intensity and replied, “Past tense? Really?”
Sam has fingers in more pies than he has fingers, notably voice direction and performing for Disney TV Animations. He picked up an Emmy for one of his works, joining Eden as a recipient of that award.
His latest venture is Critical Role, a weekly livestreamed Dungeons & Dragons game set phenomenon that has global reach. Quyen is also in the biz and is making a mark as an excellent cinematographer. She was recently awarded membership to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences (they give out the Oscars).
Their children Maximus and Kestrel are a delight, and we notice that already their talents are being highlighted in projects controlled by their parents. You can’t spell “Hollywood” without “nepotism”.
We were so happy to have them appear in Annapolis for two visits to our home. Now, if we can just get the whole family out on the Bay for a sail.
Eden & Andrew continue family activities beyond number with sons Jack and Henry. Showbiz activities include voice work and direction by Eden together with appearances in televisions shows, most recently a Spielberg production of Amazing Stories shot in Atlanta for Apple streaming. Andrew‘s latest is a George RR Martin project Wild Cards for Hulu.
Jack’s a second grader, crazy about soccer, both he and Henry play the violin and are doing well in French, and are rapidly becoming excellent skiers.
After their living-in-Maryland experiment, Pasha and John listened to their inner voices and moved (again) with Jamie to New England, Portland Maine this time. They’ve recreated jobs, found new friends, and thrown themselves into their new community while keeping in touch with Josh and Emily.
Deciding to move might have been influenced by a hundred year flood in Ellicott City in 2016. They lived uphill and assisted survivors from the lowland. Their decision was confirmed as wise again in 2018 when another flash flood devastated Ellicott City. A small house fire and the pressurized culture of the DC area were also factors in a yearning for Maine.
Tonya and Kevin Sweet are deeply embedded in their new hometown of Wellington, New Zealand where they both teach and do research at Victoria University. They are working like crazy but living in paradise and taking advantage of their environment with every chance they get.
As this is written, they are acting as tour guides on the South Island for Maise. They hope to break ground on house and a necessary new retaining wall soon.
Mark continued his work as sustainability manager at the University of Maryland, with results that have made them a leader in environmental and energy performance.
Taya continues as a school teacher and managed to move to another school that suited her better.
Their big event was the birth of their totally delightful son Milo. (He’s been called Meelo, Meyelo, and Moli, but never Grüber as somebody secretly wished.)
The ambitious renovation project on their house in Silver Spring was completed, with magnificent results.
We picked Annapolis as a fine place for our home, a “drinking town with a sailing problem.” So naturally, we’ve been sailing all over the Chesapeake Bay in our Beneteau 361 (Starducks), particularly enjoying raft-ups (several boats tied together on one anchor) with friends. The annual Eastport Oyster Boys concert in Shaw Bay was great in 2017 but rained out in 2018. (Kurt likes foul weather sailing a lot more than Marieluise.)
We escalated our sailing this year, chartering a 45-foot Lagoon 450F catamaran, covering much of the British Virgin Islands. The boat was magnificent, sailed well, and had four luxurious cabins for us and good friends Ed & Linda Gray, Doug & Laura Tilley, Doug & Nancy Fineberg. The BVI sailing experience is fabulous, we recommend it highly! Although damage from Hurricane Irma was horrible, evidence of repair and rebuilding is gratifying already.
Stellar musical experiences stick in our minds. As usual, the Eastport Oyster Boys and the Seldom Scene exert an irresistible magnetic force on us. Favorite venues include Shaw Bay for the Boys, and Limekiln Theater for the Scene.
New to us was Ray Weaver, late of Annapolis now living in Denmark. We caught him when he returned to Pirates Cove, for a benefit for his daughter enduring tough times.
We saw André Rieu’s amazing extravaganza of a production live in Fairfax. It was not exactly Maastricht, but it was pretty damn good.
The horrific massacre that occurred at our hometown Capital Gazette affected us all. Having appeared from time to time in that publication in interviews and opinion pieces, Kurt has gotten to know many of the staff, including two of those killed. And of course, they put out the damn paper the very next day.
We went to memorial events with heavy hearts, as we realized that the current American insanity over guns has now struck our home town and people we know. Only here is a problem, already solved in most other places, regarded as impossible. It isn’t.
Other Happenings in Annapolis
West Annapolis is hopping, with new restaurants and events like an annual Oktoberfest and a visit by the Budweiser Clydesdales.
Visitors brought happiness to our home, including all our children and grandchildren, Frank Israel & Isa Baud from the Netherlands, Kathy Warren from Moscow Idaho just arrived from months in Europe, Susan Harding from San Diego, and many others.
Our Mayor’s signature goal is enlivening Annapolis for locals as the way to attract visitors and commerce. He’s made bold moves like Dinner under the Stars (closing down West Street for restaurant tables once a month), outdoor art and music, a brief experiment with a bike path in the wrong place, etc. Kurt’s intends next year to help to bring new transportation diversity and resilience to our town.
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And HAPPY NEW YEAR!
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