Friday, November 28, 2014

the last "bottom of the barrel" (including uncharacteristic capital letters)

From the Bottom of the Barrel - 26/11.2014 

Gulp. Deep breath. These are some very big shoes to fill. My dad bought the Platte Enterprise in 1965 and he’s written a weekly column in this very space for nearly 50 years. I’ve done the odd guest piece over the years, but this is the first one where I really feel I have to fill his shoes. Because those shoes are so sadly empty now. 

We lost my dad just after midnight on November 22, just a few weeks shy of his 81st birthday (it would have been December 7). I live in Denmark and I was entirely too far away when the news of his hospitalization came through. It took me way too long to get to McKennan Hospital in Sioux Falls from my home in Denmark. I missed a lot. Friends and family came out of the woodwork and gathered at his bedside. And although I wasn’t here for all of the visits, we are so grateful for this - for your stories, for your laughter, and yes, for your tears. Because my dad, Ralph Nachtigal, meant a great deal to all of us. It was awe-inspiring to see how much he meant to so many.

Ralph wasn’t an easy person or a simple person - he could be hard on you (my rule growing up was “win or don’t come home”), he assessed the blame, his humor could be ironic and a bit harsh, he was unafraid of discussing politics and he had a competitive streak (and he would have hated how long this sentence is getting). He was an avid gambler and could place bets on everything from football to his next putt.  But, he was also probably the funniest person I ever knew. He could laugh about anything and make any situation, including being picked up by an FBI agent and taken for a little drive and a chat around Platte Lake, into a humorous anecdote, even while he admitted that he was completely crapping his pants at the time. He was ornery, but he had a heart of gold and I know he helped many more people than I even know, in ways of which I was never aware, through the years. 

He studied agricultural journalism at South Dakota State. While waiting for his assignment for Associated Press, the Enterprise came up for sale and he bought it, sealing his future in the little town where he had grown up. He’d been out to see the world in the Navy (coming close to, but not really that involved in the Korean War). He once hitchhiked from San Diego to Platte and those adventures were apparently enough for him, so after stints as a sports reporter at the Watertown Public Opinion and the Sioux Falls Argus Leader, he settled down again back home. 

He and Mom and their friends made a yearly winter pilgrimage to Las Vegas (that was, in retrospect, pretty dumb of them to leave their teenagers home alone, each with an empty house (hello, party for the last episode of M*A*S*H!)) that seemed to satisfy his wanderlust. He was content to do his part to make the small community where he grew up grow and thrive - and he wasn’t afraid to get involved, as a state legislator, chairman of the school board and then the later of the hospital board. He knew that if you want a little town to thrive, you have to get involved. 

He was a lifelong Democrat (one of about 12 in South Dakota, at last estimate). He always said that he hoped that one day he would have enough money to become a Republican. Alas, that didn’t happen. He served two terms in the South Dakota State Legislature (1976-79) and during that time, tacked an amendment onto a particularly absurd bill to make the fence post the state tree, to further underline the absurdity of the bill. It failed and the Black Hills Blue Spruce is still our state tree, but he made his point with humor. That was definitely a trademark. 

When I studied in Russia in 1994, he and Norm Huizenga came for a visit. We took the 13-hour train ride out to Kazan and back and explored Moscow and he met all of my friends. We stayed with a grand elderly lady fittingly called “Aunt Kate” in Moscow and we drank a bit too much vodka on a couple of occasions and generally had an awesome time in post-Soviet Russia. I heard him say, for the first time (and last) in my life, “get out there and buy something!” at a middle-of-the-night stop where workers from a crystal factory sold their wares somewhere between Moscow and Kazan.

I went on a Fulbright to Macedonia in 1997 and Dad and Monica came there for a visit as well. We toured ancient ruins in Macedonia and hung out in Greek tavernas eating octopus and drinking ouzo and the most fabulous cold Nescafé frappés. We laughed and laughed together amidst the ruins of ancient Thessaloniki. And although I don’t think he ever said so, at least not to me, I know he was proud of me and that Fulbright.

He and Monica had a couple of trips as well. When they left Macedonia, they explored the pubs of Vienna. And a year and a half ago, when they came to see us in Denmark, they went home via London, the beaches of Normandy and Paris. Monica even made him go to a Pink Martini concert at Royal Albert Hall in London. Pretty cool for a 79-year-old. And he was the kind of person who always had a song lyric for any occasion, so taking him to Pink Martini concert wasn’t really that far off.

Now we may never know what really happened with the Ole Horn Incident (it got him kicked off as Editor of the Collegian) or that time his legislative roommates got caught temporarily appropriating saddles from a tack store late at night (he swore his innocence in both until the bitter end and probably he even was innocent). But, I do know this, it was a privilege to have him for a father. He showed me that there was a world out there and that I should go explore it. He raised me to be confident and unafraid, but to remember my roots. I am privileged to have had him for a father and I hope that you all feel privileged to have called him a friend. He will be missed. Sorely missed.

I know there are many other stories to tell and that Dad’s friends in the Platte area meant the world to him, and we heard many of them on Monday evening at the Lake Platte Golf Club. A big thank you to everyone who came and told their stories! I know that you all will miss him as much as we do. There is a big, gaping hole in our hearts right now that no one else can ever fill. Ralph Nachtigal was really something - larger than life, full of life, truly one-of-a-kind. This little corner of the world is forever changed by his having been in it. 


As Dad wanted his body to be donated to the University of South Dakota Medical School, there will be a memorial service in lieu of a funeral at 3 p.m. on Saturday, November 29 at the Platte Community Building. We ask that instead of flowers, you make a donation to the Platte Health Center Avera in his name.*

*originally i suggested that folks contribute to the Ready for Hillary campaign, but since there are only a handful of Democrats in SD, i changed that. tho' it does make me chuckle to think of all those R(h)INOS (Republicans In Name Only) contributing to Hillary....

Monday, November 17, 2014

telling stories, weaving meaning and figuring out why the danes are so darn happy

my computer has been acting up for more than a week now, which is why i've been so absent again. this weekend, i gave it a thorough vacuuming, upgraded my smc fan control and it seems to be behaving like its old self again. i made sure it's backing up, as i do fear it's on its last legs. it's been a good iMac and it has served me very well. i hope to get some more time out of it, but i guess we'll see. computers aren't made to last forever, after all and those shiny new iMacs look pretty cool.

i'm down with my first flu of the season. i've got a headache that won't quit, a low grade fever and aches in all of my muscles. it really rather fits with the grey, dreary weather we've been having and if one must be sick, it may as well be in these dark, rainy days. there's no better time to curl up in bed with a book and a cat or to listen to the serial podcast again from the beginning. (seriously, if you're not listening to serial, you're really missing out, there's even a reddit where people are discussing it endlessly obsessively.)

serial feels to me like it's somehow reviving storytelling or retrieving it from the trite hollywood ending kind of storytelling that we've become so accustomed to. and i know that serial isn't the only place where a great story is being told slowly...there are spoken word festivals and other great story events/podcasts (like the moth), but it's such a sensation that it feels like it's moving us in a good new direction with stories. something sort of akin to the slow food movement, slowing down and enjoying the process, whether it's of a story or a dish.

apropos stories, at drink & draw on saturday evening, we got to talking about that whole thing with the danes being the happiest people on earth. and we talked about ways of drawing out people's happiness stories, since we did agree that all that happiness isn't necessarily visible to the naked eye. and i think that maybe investigating the happiness and talking to a whole lot of people, in a kind of a slow storytelling way ala serial just might be the ticket.  slowly gathering all of those individual happinesses of different colors and gathering (weaving?) them in a whole carpet of happiness (i had to make that photo go with this post in the end) sounds like a pretty good idea for a project, doesn't it?

kerosene: which one(s) to buy?

the house of kerosene is a niche perfumery based in detroit. i got a box of samples to try in order to figure out which one(s) to buy.

Friday, November 07, 2014

MiN New York: and i'm officially a niche fragrance convert

if you've been reading this blog for some time, you know that i love perfume. i've always been a pretty mainstream perfume kind of girl and admittedly, most of my scents have been acquired through the years in the duty free shops of airports around the world. my sister has a good friend who is a scent aficionado and she has sent my sister to small, esoteric shops in paris after some amazing, exclusive scents. so it was no surprise on my recent trip to new york city, that monica had a couple of perfume places on her list. we lost quite a lot of one day of her stay (we won't say why, but a late show at a comedy club and a cheap bottle of wine on top of oysters and foie gras might have had something to do with it), so we chose to visit just one of them - MiN new york in soho.

just peeking in the window of this beautiful shop made me quiver with intimidation. if my sister hadn't been there, i don't think i'd have dared to go in on my own, thinking the experience and the prices would be far above me. i expressed a bit of that intimidation when i came into the dark, warm, richly scented interior, but the people in the shop very quickly put me at ease - one was the president of the company, an attractive guy with longish hair and a cool manner and the two sales girls, with their exotic accents and easygoing, totally not snobbish manner.  they quickly made us feel welcome and as if it was exactly our kind of place. i realized very quickly that i could get used to niche fragrances.

in addition to a lot of exciting niche scents from around the world, they have their own line of what they call scent stories. there are 11 chapters to their scent story book, each with their own personality and heady fragrance. we tried only three of them (your nose can't really take that many more) and we were also trying some of the kerosene scents (more about them in another post).

my sister fell in love with one called magic circus, which the folks a MiN describe as: "Turn of the century, a carnival travels at dusk. A scrumptious gourmand perfume. A splendid wonder swirling in enchantment. Candied nuts, cotton candy, caramel, sprinkled with pink peppercorns, bergamot, labdanum, geranium, patchouli, and woodchips." all of which rings scrumptiously true in the complexity of the scent. it smelled wonderful on her, but less so on me.  it was obvious that my sister needed the magic circus and she serendipitously got bottle number 72 (of 1000 - they only make 1000 of each of the scent stories per year), which is both the year of her birth and her lucky number. it was meant to be. i went away with samples of memento and barrel, as my skin chemistry can be temperamental with perfumes and so i need to see if they go bad on me over several hours (when that happens, it isn't good, believe me).

and in the end, tho' i had decided that i loved the barrel most, but was chickening out on going all the way back down to soho and spending $240 on myself, when my sister called and said, "can you get back to MiN by 6 and pick up your barrel, i've just ordered it for you." i couldn't believe it and told her not to buy me a christmas present for the next five years. but i also jumped on the subway and headed to MiN immediately. there was a film being made on the street right outside of MiN, so i didn't have quite the same slow, drawn-out experience i had when we had visited together, but that was ok, as i wasn't in the market for more scents right then anyway. i did grab a sample of barrel to send to my sister so she could test it out as well.

my bottle of barrel is #86 of 1000. as the MiN folks say of barrel, "Evident in the first sniff, a slight floral opening gives way to bold, beautiful notes that we taste in full-bodied dark spirits and wine. Peaty, smoky, smooth, and earthy, this is the scent of the selfless vessel that rest in halcyon, incubating the finest spirits throughout the years. A complex cocktail of spirits, spices, dirt, tannin, and woods: absinth, coriander, pink pepper, rum, myrrh, orange blossom, tuberose, oak, oak moss, leather, vanilla, patchouli, and vetiver." in other words, deep, dark heaven. and i would love to go back and try some of the other scent stories. i have a feeling my book of scents in nowhere near complete.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

moving (literally and metaphorically): a salon evening

on tuesday evening, i co-hosted a salon evening for the first time. it was in cooperation with our little local group of creatives - called creagive - and our local library, so it involved some of my favorite people. the theme was "moving" (at flytte (sig) in danish). we chose this theme because we recently had to move out of our local kulturhus so it can be renovated into a new library and creative space, so moving referred both to physically moving, but we also talked a lot about things which have moved us in a more metaphorical sense over the years.

how it went was that when people arrived, they got a little glass of fernet branca and a name tag with a symbol and a color on it. we had jazz playing and the locale was lit primarily with candle light and we had even burned a bit of lavender incense, in order to set the scene. the tables were set with various fun dips and snacks and a bowl of edamame. we wanted people to expand their horizons and move their boundaries a little bit, so we chose foods that they may not have tried (like edamame) and in combinations that they may not have tried - so dipping carrots in pesto and bread sticks in ajvar. the fernet branca was a bit too much of a leap for some and they immediately asked for a glass of wine instead. we allowed that and didn't push them.

on the tables, we had a little sticker that matched the different symbols we had chosen (a martini glass, a tree, a house and a heart), so that you went to the table that had your symbol in the first round. this way, people wouldn't just sit with the people they came with, but would mix and mingle a bit. 17 people came, so we had three groups of 4 and one group of 5. for the second round, we switched places and you had to go to the table that matched the color from your name tag. this way, we mixed things up a bit.

we had prepared some conversation-starting questions for each of the rounds - 5 for each and we gave a half an hour for each session. both times, we extended by 5-10 minutes, because people weren't done discussing. as we had pitched it as an art salon, we linked some of our discussion questions to art. the first round questions were: "which artist has moved you the most?" "which place did you most recently move from?" "how many times have you moved in your life?" "which country would you like to move to?" and "how old were you when you moved away from home?"

to warm everyone up for the questions, two of us told short stories related to moving. i told the story of the time i touched matisse's goldfish painting at the pushkin museum in moscow. there was, in those days (20 years ago!), no security and there was also no glass on the painting, so i touched the actual surface of the paint that matisse himself brushed to canvas. it was a defining moment for me in relation to art - and the first time i felt a personal relationship with an artwork. my co-host told a tale of moving rather spontaneously to paris to work and study painting in her youth. she found an art teacher through an ad and was ushered into a funny little apartment by a funny little man and ended up studying with him for a long time. our stories and our questions really opened everyone up and we had a lively discussion, people remembering their first apartments away from home or all of the places they had lived along the way. it was actually quite difficult to stop the discussion and take a break before the second round.

our second round started with a wonderful poem that at the base of it was about being human and fickle and never satisfied and ever searching for spirituality and love and companionship. the poet herself presented it and it set a fantastic stage for the second round where we had come up with some deeper questions: "what advice would you give to your 18-year-old self?" "what moves you most? travel? people? thoughts? work? experiences?" "what stops you from moving?" "what was the first artwork that meant something to you?" and we had a selection of different artworks, from danish artist kvium to picasso to malevich, which we asked, "does this work move you?" what was interesting was, at least with the groups i was with, the first round, which i had seen as easier, more superficial questions, was much livelier and people were more engaged and actually dug a bit deeper than it seemed with the second round. but it was also perhaps the group dynamic of the second round. it was also great, but it didn't feel as deep. that was interesting because we thought the second round questions were deeper and more philosophical.

we will be doing another salon in february. in celebration of 100 years of danish women having the vote, we have given it a wonder woman theme (i might have had something to do with that). we want to discuss the pressures on women today to be wonder woman - having the perfect career, children, home and life. are we all wonder woman? or should we be? and who expects it of us? what are our super powers? these questions and more will be discussed next time.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

double exposure project: two cameras, two continents, two views of the world, one roll of film

i am ashamed to say that back in 2011, the wonderful marinik and i exchanged a roll of film. i'm ashamed to say it because although i put it in my camera almost upon receipt of it, i didn't develop it until a couple of weeks ago when i was in new york. life intervened, film developing places became scarce and untrustworthy and so i sat on that film for ages. ages developed into years. i think 4 of them, to be exact. but oh my, was it worth the wait. there is a special kind of serendipitous magic that happens in these double exposure projects. you load the film into your camera, having no idea what has already been done with that film. and while not every photo is magical, some of them are. and it makes you want to do it again.

so if any of you would like to exchange a roll of 35mm film that you've sent through your camera with me (be careful when you rewind, because i'll need that tail to be exposed so i can put it through my camera too), just let me know in the comments. we're going to do this again. this is the kind of magic we need in our lives. and by we i mean me. but i also mean you. let's co-create something, baby.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

hello there, my neglected blog

it may seem that i've turned my back on this blog. the days go by and by and with each of them, i think that i will finally sit down this evening and catch up. and then life intervenes and there's dinner to make and stalls to clean and horses and cats to feed and lawns to mow (yes, we're still mowing, it's been that warm) and speeches to give and pumpkins to buy and books to read and netflix to watch and entryways to tidy and work to do. and somehow, i don't find myself in front of the computer to blog. and i miss it. my sanity misses it. my inner sense of well-being misses it. so i think i'll just have to pick up the threads and go on and not worry about catching up. eventually, one day when i'm hungry, i'll do another post of new york food, as there's much more of that to share and i'll write that post that's rattling in my head about the differences between seattle and new york. and through writing it all, i'll work out what i think and i'll find my way back to myself and this space. because this space plays a great role in keeping me in touch with myself. and that job is far from complete.

one of the reasons i've had a hard time sitting down to write is because a great tragedy befell the great majority of photos that i took on my recent trip. i had downloaded them along the way into iPhoto on my work computer because my memory card was nearly full and i had all of new york ahead of me. with the jetlag and everything else, i didn't get them moved over to my backup drive when i got home on the weekend. then, on my first monday back in the office, i had all kinds of computer problems and went over to IT for help. and their solution was to delete my profile and create a new one. and in doing so, they wiped out my entire computer. and all of those photos that aren't anywhere else. luckily, most of my nyc comiccon photos were uploaded to flickr, but i hadn't had a proper chance to go through any of the ones i took in seattle, so they are all lost. 

luckily, i took a lot of shots with my new iPhone 6, because it was easier and it has a great camera, so i'm not completely without photos of my trip, but i did suffer a devastating loss of the sculpture park in seattle and the good photos of chihuly, aside from the few i uploaded for my daily photo project, thinking i'd do the rest later, when i'd had a proper chance to go through them. i can tell you that the loss of those photos has awakened me in the night on more than one occasion over the past few weeks. we trust so much to bits and bytes these days and i trust so much of my memory to my camera, that i feel like there may be great gaps in my memories of my trip without those photos. technology is not entirely trustworthy and neither are those guys in IT. back up your photos, and/or send them into the cloud, it's the best advice i can give. and i intend to take it myself in the future.

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love these lamps.

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i forgot how much i love design for mankind.
erin is just so delightfully, unpretentiously real and authentic.
she even makes homeschooling sound ok.