Everyone can identify with being “the odd one” at some time in their lives. Everyone also can identify with not being able to master some new skill.
So when someone takes these barriers and smashes them – turning them into business and art in the process – it’s an inspiring story.
Baltimore native Coffin Nachtmahr says he’s always been a little bit unusual. His manner of appearance, with studs, rings and multi-colored hair, makes him stand out to the eye. His manner of speech, calm and quiet with a stutter, makes him stand out to the ear.
“I preach individuality wherever I go,” he says. “I don’t change myself for the people that I’m around.”
Nachtmahr is a living, breathing billboard for that life lesson that we all need to learn: It’s okay to be yourself. He took that message to Savannah school children and film enthusiasts as part of MountainFilm on Tour in Savannah.
A multi-day event held each January, MountainFilm on Tour in Savannah this year positively enthralled kids with Nachtmahr’s individual presence and masterful skill.
The skill he mastered? Throwing a yo-yo.
“I love throwing just because it feels like an extension of my being,” he says.
Hypnotic, mesmerizing, rhythmic and brilliant, Nachtmahr’s throwing goes far beyond any “walk the dog” or “around the world” I learned as a kid.
“It all just comes in time,” he says. “It’s really just up to how much time you put into it.”
He’s national championship good. He’s corporate sponsor good. He’s “started his own business” good.
A star in the throwing world, Nachtmahr sells his own line of yo-yos and yo-yo related merchandise (through his company, Oh Yes Yo), in addition to traveling the country talking to people about the things the toy has taught him.
“You learn the parts to it and that’s how you understand how it works,” he says.
Good news for me and smartphones! Good news for me and marketing! Good news for me and whatever life throws at me! I don’t have to master these things. I asked Nachtmahr what makes a good yo-yo.
“It doesn’t matter how you spin it,” he says. “It just needs to spin.”
I can’t think of better words from this interview with him. He shares a lot more in the 10-minute film produced about him.
Directed by Baltimore filmmakers Darren Durlach and Dave Larson, “Throw” delves more deeply into how the yo-yo subculture gave Nachtmahr purpose and acceptance.
I wanted to know more about his signature moves and the inspirations for them. As it happens, his artistry comes from music.
“It keeps me fluid,” he says. “It’s a must.”
He throws to music of any kind, from classical piano to Miles Davis and electronica. (I’d like to see what Mozart or Madonna produces.)
“I didn’t figure it out,” he says. “It all just happened. I was just going with the flow.”
And if by going with the flow, he landed in Savannah with a positive word to spread, I’m extremely grateful. So many people go with the flow and end up going down the wrong path.
Or they end up in the same game as everyone else.
“There’s not just being a football player,” he says. “There are options.”
And so, as the years go by, and I, inevitably, run into trouble, I’ll remember Nachtmahr’s option: being myself and learning new tricks.