Tag Archives: Omaha Magazine

American Red Cross

September 15, 2017 by

The Big Give was published in the September/October 2017 edition of Omaha Magazine. To view this sponsored content as it was printed, click here: https://issuu.com/omahapublications/docs/omahamagazine_1017_2_125/66

MISSION STATEMENT

The American Red Cross prevents and alleviates human suffering in the face of emergencies by mobilizing the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors.

BACKGROUND

For over 100 years the American Red Cross has served the Omaha metro in times of need, turning compassion into action through its strong network of volunteers, donors, and partners.

We provide comfort and care to those affected by home fires, severe weather, and local disasters. We serve members of our armed forces and their families. We provide first aid skills training, and we ensure that people everywhere have access to lifesaving blood and blood products.

BRAG LINES

American Red Cross provides nearly 40 percent of the US blood supply, making us the single largest supplier of blood in the nation.

Last year Red Cross volunteers served the Omaha metro by providing help, hope, and comfort to 274 families (715 individuals) who were affected by disasters.

PAY IT FORWARD

» Become a volunteer. It’s simple. Click on the volunteer segment of the website, or call 800-733-2767.

» Donate blood. There is always a need and each blood donation can save up to three lives. To make an appointment today, visit redcrossblood.org.

» Make a donation. An average of 91 cents of each dollar donated is invested in humanitarian services and programs. To make a $10 donation to Disaster Relief text the word REDCROSS to 90999, or visit the website.

WISH LIST

» Volunteers
» Blood donors
» Platelet Donors

UPCOMING EVENTS

Heroes in the Heartland

March 1, 2018

AMERICAN RED CROSS

2912 S. 80th Ave. Omaha, NE 68124

402-343-7700

redcross.org

MeanStreets Omaha

September 13, 2017 by
Illustration by Matt Wieczorek

“Forecast: random mid-air explosions with a chance of the neighbors setting your house on fire.” This post from July 4 captures the sarcastic-but-informative tone of MeanStreets Omaha, “a group of passionate volunteers live-tweeting the Omaha Police and Fire scanner” since May 2013. The clandestine MeanStreets Omaha organization consists of a small number of anonymous individuals who translate police and fire scanners into tweets, covering issues ranging from weather, to traffic, to crime, to “free” couches left on the side of the interstate.

The handle @MeanStreetsOMA boasts more than 118,000 followers on Twitter—between
@WOWT6News’ 104,000 and @KETV’s 130,000—effectively making it a leading social media news source in Omaha. A similar account in a much larger Midwestern city, @Chicago_Scanner, has roughly 40,000 Twitter followers.

MeanStreets Omaha’s digital presence also consists of meanstreetsoma.com (an aggregate site with answers to frequently asked questions, an online store, and links to a plethora of resources), a GoFundMe page (which shows they’ve nearly reached their goal of $5,500), Instagram and YouTube accounts, and a Facebook profile with 67,000 followers.

So, what makes MeanStreets Omaha so popular?

“It’s amazing all the ‘little things’ that go on every single day in our community that nobody ever hears about from the big guys,” wrote Brad Williams, posting on an eOmahaForums thread about Mean Streets in March. “I find all the real life every day [expletive] that OPD has to deal with interesting and
@MeanStreetsOMA is great at pointing that stuff out.”

Jeremy Harris Lipschultz, a professor with the University of Nebraska-Omaha Social Media Lab and author of the newly revised Social Media Communication: Concepts, Practices, Data, Law and Ethics, thinks the size of the Omaha community contributes to MeanStreets Omaha’s popularity. He also cites the organization’s “creative aspects of communication” (e.g., their callbacks, humor, memes, etc.), but it is their engagement with the community that really draws people to them. “They’re not afraid to engage with their audience,” explains Lipschultz. “So, when people tweet at them—it might be a retweet, or it might be a reply, or a like, or a comment—but people know they’re out there, and that’s a kind of social connection, this building of online community through their identity, and presence, and interaction with others.”

Twitter user Ryan Allen (@NexusNcontext), an avid @MeanStreetsOMA follower, agrees. He cites the “collaboration that seems to exist between followers, as well as people in the media, and those in police departments” as one of the reasons he checks @MeanStreetsOMA multiple times a day. “An event will happen, people in the area will tweet pictures, local media accounts will request permission to use those pictures on the news, and police officers will chime in, too.” Allen relates an anecdote where he overheard a police helicopter in his neighborhood, tweeted an inquiry at @MeanStreetsOMA, and received an explanation within minutes.

In addition to the community and media, MeanStreets Omaha also collaborates closely with Omaha police officers and departments. “[Police departments] have become aware that social media are a tool for gathering information about potential criminal activity,” explains Lipschultz, “and also for exercising community policing.”

Given the number of @MeanStreetsOMA followers, it makes sense for the Omaha Police Department to get involved; however, representatives of the Omaha Police Department declined to comment for this article.

The kind of grassroots, crowd-sourced news that MeanStreets Omaha provides appeals to those distrustful of the mainstream media and those looking for news with a more local and personal focus. Another commenter (using the name “jag42”) captured the sentiment with the following addition to the eOmahaForums thread: “I consider MeanStreets Omaha to be Omaha’s leading news source.”

Their popularity is undeniable, but what motivates MeanStreets Omaha?

“I think it serves as a curator for raw, unconfirmed information that’s swirling around on the internet,” Lipschultz explains. Acknowledging that they aren’t monetizing their efforts beyond what’s required to maintain them, Allen argues that MeanStreets Omaha is about accountability and transparency. “They provide you with the ability to put things into context and to take information that is raw, fluid, and truthful,” he explains. “There’s no hiding the scanner.”

In contrast to their crowd-sourced, grassroots approach to news, the volunteers of MeanStreets Omaha go to great lengths to maintain their anonymity. In February 2016, when asked why they choose to be anonymous on a Reddit AMA (which stands for “Ask Me Anything”), the organization explained that “It is more fun that way!” Lipschultz believes that their anonymity is something they feel is necessary for the way they function, while Allen thinks it protects them from corruption and lobbyists. In response to an e-mail query, MeanStreets Omaha declined to comment for this article.

So, what’s in the future for MeanStreets Omaha? “We have a LLC created now and a business plan,” they explained in their Reddit AMA. Lipschultz suspects the organization may have a long-term plan to evolve into a local news site. This hypothesis is supported by a comment by MeanStreets Omaha on their AMA: “There may be a time in the future where we are a ‘legitimate’ media entity where all will be revealed.”

Find MeanStreets Omaha on Twitter and Facebook at @MeanStreetsOMA. Visit meanstreetsoma.com for more information.

This article was printed in the September/October 2017 edition of Omaha Magazine.

Main Street Studios

September 1, 2017 by
Photography by Katie Anderson

This sponsored content appeared in the Fall 2017 edition of Omaha Magazine. To view, click here: https://issuu.com/omahapublications/docs/omahamagazine_1017_2_125

Main Street Studios owner Tyler Curnes saw a need for a vibrant artists’ community in Elkhorn, not only as an area native but also as an artist. He knew the area was ready for a gallery featuring local artists producing stunning art in a variety of media. He was right—the venue is so sought-after that Main Street Studios has a waiting list for artists’ studio space.

The artists who currently have studio space at Main Street Studios represent an eclectic group: an acrylic painter, a bronze sculptor, a silversmith, and a glass artist. The varied media represented is intentional. “The gallery is appealing to walk through and see,” says Curnes, explaining that he selected each artist by first ensuring they “have high energy and quality art.”

High energy is important for Main Street Studios artists, since they all work around a rotating schedule to ensure an artist is always present at the gallery to answer visitor questions or even to demonstrate their work in action. Guests can watch Curnes manipulate glass, turning it into art right before their eyes. “People can see artists work and talk with them about their art since there is always an artist on duty,” says Curnes, adding that there is something special and powerful about meeting an artist before purchasing a piece as it adds to the overall experience.

A monthly meeting of the Main Street Studios artists ensures that everyone has a say in how the gallery is presented. They frequently change the look of the gallery to present a new experience to everyone who walks through the door, even if they are frequent visitors. “We recently redid the entire gallery,” says Curnes—the process took 20 hours.

Creativity can flourish in a place where artists work together. “It’s less like a job and more like a community or a family,” says Curnes. “It’s amazing. It’s a dream come true. The other artists are like a sounding board to critique my work.” He said that it’s easy for artists to experience stagnation in their work when they don’t have input from other artists.

“I can pull something out of the kiln and ask everyone else, ‘What’s missing?’ The other artists help me step out of my comfort zone and become a better artist.” Curnes also says that he and the bronze artist soon plan to co-op some art, collaborating in a way that only happens when a group of artists form a tight-knit group.

There is simply nowhere else like Main Street Studios in the Elkhorn/West Omaha area. It’s a place that is worth a visit by anyone who appreciates art—in particular, art that is locally produced. Speak with the artists and find out about their inspirations and muses, elevating each piece to a more personal level.

Another artist will join the group in September, bringing the total number of artists with work space at Main Street Studios to five. Their spring and winter open houses are excellent opportunities to meet all the artists and view their work. Other events are held throughout the year, or one can simply stop in during regular business hours to chat with an artist and view all the amazing art at Main Street Studios.

2610 NORTH MAIN ST. ELKHORN, NE 68022
402-452-3088
MAINSTREETSTUDIOS2610.COM

Stork Deliveries and Publication Deadlines

August 27, 2017 by and
Photography by Provided

Around the time when our July/August “Food Issue” arrived in subscribers’ mailboxes, special deliveries from “the stork” arrived for the families of two Omaha Magazine staffers.

One of those families is my own. My wife and I became first-time parents with the birth of our baby girl, Faye-Marie.

The next week, an office-wide e-mail shared good news from a colleague in advertising. Omaha Magazine branding specialist Josh Peterson welcomed his third son into the world.

Because of our staggered editorial deadlines, these births coincided with the middle of production on this September/October issue.

Because Josh is a more experienced parent—and he had the audacity to hand-deliver the baby—we share his story here.


The Art of Baby Catching

story by Blair Emsick

Upon arriving at the hospital to give birth to their third child, Josh and Stephanie Peterson had two questions: Can we deliver standing up, and can Josh catch the baby?

The husband and wife had discussed these possibilities with their doctor previously, but she was out. The on-call doctor quickly responded, “No,” to both questions. Josh didn’t want to push (no pun intended), so he let it go. However, upon learning that Josh was an EMT and was interested in learning the skill (just in case he ever had to deliver a child in the back of an ambulance), the on-call doctor agreed to let him “catch” his child.

Experiences during the childbirth of their first two boys influenced Josh’s desire to catch baby boy No. 3.

Twenty-five hours into labor on baby No. 1, doctors realized that Andy was stuck and had to be delivered via C-section. Stephanie’s platelets were low, so she had to be anesthetized for the procedure. She was unconscious for the first few hours after the birth as well. Although Josh was the first to hold his baby, he missed those first special moments between mother, father, and baby.

Then with baby No. 2, Connor came six weeks early and had to be rushed to the NICU right after being born. Yet again, Josh and Stephanie missed that special post-birth cuddle with their newborn. Instead, they watched doctors insert an IV into their newborn’s head.

With their third, Josh and Stephanie wanted to do it right. “I thought, ‘Well, there is no way this can go worse than our past births,’” Josh says. He was right. When Stephanie went into labor, and after the doctor gave the go-ahead, Josh gowned and got into place.

“Now, I know what crowning really means,” Josh says with wide eyes, remembering the experience. Then, after what felt like a nanosecond, Rory was right there in his arms—alive, healthy, breathing, and crying. Josh quickly passed the baby to his wife, but that first moment, to be the first person to touch his newborn, is something he will never forget.

Mother, father, and baby were finally together—happy and healthy. It was just like they had imagined. Perhaps the third time really is the charm. Catching baby Rory, Josh says, was “the coolest thing I’ve ever done.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This letter was printed in the September/October 2017 edition of Omaha Magazine.

Mary Zicafoose

August 24, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

The story of Mary Zicafoose—and her “Hope & Healing” tapestries—is one of unwavering focus, intensity, family tragedy, and a simple red scarf.

The world-renowned weaver’s two tapestries, each measuring 12 feet long and more than 9 feet wide, were recently unveiled in Omaha.

Not in a gallery. They’re in a hospital.

“Hope & Healing” hang in the lobby of the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center. The words “hope” and “healing” are woven in 16 languages. The two tapestries greet those entering through the center’s front doors.

“It’s very powerful to put all who come into the cancer center at ease—from our patients, their families, staff, students, and visitors,” says Amy E. Jenson, executive director of the Healing Arts Program at the Buffett Cancer Center. The Healing Arts Program aspires to reduce pain perception, anxiety, and depression in cancer patients.

It took Zicafoose, with the help of three studio assistants, almost one year to create the two tapestries. They worked up to seven days a week in her separate wet and dry studios in Omaha. They worked daily in front of dye pots and looms. Her process, called ikat, which means “to wrap,” is methodical and intense. Ikat is a meticulous “resist dye” textile technique, measuring and stretching individual threads, grouping them into bundles, and wrapping portions of the bundles with fabric into a specific design. The threads are immersed in a dye bath, where the unwrapped areas soak up the dye while the wrapped areas resist it. All this happens before they are woven into a fabric. Precise measurement in the project was crucial, as the words “Hope” and “Healing” had to be wrapped, dyed, and woven exactly where the design specified. In the end, 1,000 skeins of yarn were used.

“Watch Mary working at her loom for just a couple of minutes, and you’ll witness this incredible connection between maker and material that a lot of young artists dream of achieving,” says Karin Campbell, Phil Willson Curator of Contemporary Art at Joslyn Art Museum. “She is deeply invested in not just the outcome of her weaving, but also the process. This commitment to the handmade and her willingness to toil sets Mary apart.”

In an artist statement on her website, Zicafoose describes the process as a “meditative activity that draws you in, not out. One that has triggered my memory of who I am and what I came to do.”

While at work on the project, Zicafoose says her thoughts often turned to family. To her brother. The one she lost.

Her brother died of cancer. The five panels of the two tapestries were, after all, destined to hang in a cancer center.

Zicafoose explains that his death fueled her perception of illness, and in a way, led to a mission that was years in the making.

“If there’s any way I can facilitate healing as an artist, I want to do it,” she says while seated in the contemporary lobby of the cancer center.

She did not take a direct route to get to this point.

Cancer took Zicafoose’s brother while they were both in high school in Michigan. Following the tragedy, everyone assumed she would be inspired to become a nurse, like her mother. But Zicafoose wasn’t interested in healing the world that way. Coming from a family of many artists, she gravitated toward creative therapy. 

She studied photography as an undergraduate at St. Mary’s College/University of Notre Dame and then moved to Chicago, working in clay as a graduate student. While still in graduate school, she married and moved to Nebraska. The young couple lived on her husband’s family farm outside of Mead.

One prophetic day, a studio neighbor invited her to sit at a loom.

Her first piece was far from perfect (“It was a simple little red mohair scarf,” she says). Nevertheless, seated in front of the loom, Zicafoose felt she had discovered her destiny. She describes the artistic epiphany as a switch turning on.

“I’m glad it was so clear,” she says.

Knowing nothing about weaving, she learned the way everyone else has for the past 2,000 years: one baby step at a time. From weaving simple scarfs she moved to blankets, then she began to make tablecloths—approaching each piece as a fine artist rather than a craftsman.

Early on, she had big ideas but lacked the ability to realize them—at least not yet. She joined the Hand Weaver’s Guild of Lincoln for guidance, and, through several years of hard work, her abilities finally caught up with her ideas.

“I envisioned doing large-scale, graphically impactful tapestries. That was always the mission,” she says. “And today I am there, which is really satisfying.”

Zicafoose’s work hangs in U.S. embassies around the world, and in galleries, corporations, and homes throughout the country, including the San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles. They also hang in museums closer to home at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts in Omaha and the Museum of Nebraska Art in Kearney. She teaches, writes articles, and has held leadership positions, including eight years as co-director of the board for the American Tapestry Alliance.

“In her leadership role with ATA, Mary spoke passionately and eloquently as an advocate for contemporary tapestry,” says Mary Lane, executive director of the American Tapestry Alliance. “She inspired a level of professionalism and commitment in those with whom she worked…Despite her very successful and demanding career as an artist, Mary is always willing to give more.”

Others echo similar sentiments about Zicafoose’s work and dedication.

“She’s someone who’s enjoyable to work with because of her intensity to her art,” says John Rogers, owner of Gallery 72, where Zicafoose’s work once hung.

“Every conversation I have with Mary reminds me of why I became a curator,” Joslyn’s Karin Campbell says. “She is skilled, generous, insightful, and, perhaps most importantly, she possesses an unwavering faith in the power of art.” 

Zicafoose explains her approach to the Buffett Center tapestries: “If you’re going to devote a year of your life to creating art for a building, the work must be powerful and the process so worth it.”

Zicafoose looks around the lobby of the cancer center, pausing to think about the work she’s done.

“We know that healing is a very complex paradigm, and Western medicine can only take us so far,” she says. “The arts are doorways to access subtle energy fields, that is what they do best. And if per chance the arts can carry and stimulate subtle energy for healing, then fill this place up with great art.”

Visit buffettcancercenter.com/facility/art-healing for more information about the Buffett Cancer Center where the “Hope & Healing” tapestries hang. Visit maryzicafoose.com for more information about the artist.

This article was printed in the September/October 2017 edition of Omaha Magazine.

If

August 23, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

“What if” questions seem to be a big thing on social media these days.

Like…“What if you were dying and could listen to one more song before the end—what song would it be?” 

It’s not so much the “what” that bothers me. I just avoid anything to do with “if.” 

Except, of course, Rudyard Kipling’s great poem of that very title, which begins: 

“If you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing theirs, and blaming it on you…”

But then, as wise as Kipling was, no one took his advice about invading Afghanistan—don’t. So, it’s just more evidence that folks never listen to poets. If we’d listened to Kipling…well…sorry…there’s that “if” again.

But, back to the questions at hand, here’s one that was popular for a while: “If you could have just one super power, what would it be?”

The top two answers by far are: the ability to fly and invisibility. You can tell a lot about someone by his or her choice in this category. Being invisible is a selfish, perverse, and unacceptable answer. We all know what you’d do if you were invisible. It wouldn’t be saving lives, or rescuing people, or anything unselfish. We know what you’d do, so don’t try to make up some scenario where invisibility is used for the common good. Just don’t.

Flying, on the other hand, is a noble, useful, ennobling superpower. You can swoop in and save people in all sorts of dangerous situations—like on boats drifting toward the edge of Niagara Falls. You could take deserving people on really cool vacations while avoiding embarrassing pat downs in the TSA lines at airports. You could save kittens in tall trees and be famous because of the resultant viral YouTube video. You could speed up your friend’s move from that fifth floor walk-up apartment, stuff like that.

Another posting that bothers me is, “If you could give your 12-year-old self advice, what would it be?”

Aside from the implausibility of this whole time travel scenario, I mean, what if when I was back in time looking for my 12-year-old self, I accidentally gave my grandfather some bad advice, and he invested the family fortune in Studebaker? But that aside—that and the fact that there was no “family fortune” to squander—giving advice to myself seems to be a pointless conceit. I never took any advice from anyone. The fact that my older self was offering counsel would not have made the slightest difference. Being the pubescent lad I was, I would have simply laughed, put on my lucky socks, and gone back to the baseball diamond shaking my head.

So what advice would I try to give? Simple. Don’t sign with the Cardinals. If only I had listened.

“If you could have dinner with any historical figure, who would you choose?”

Lots of people say Jesus, or better yet, God. I think they’re just trying to impress. Besides stretching the definition of “historical figure,” God just wouldn’t be a good dinner companion. Think about it. What could you say that he hadn’t already heard a few billion times? And what could he say that you would understand? No. And I’m not interested in dining with Abraham Lincoln—I’ve read all his folksy jokes—or Jefferson, or Mata Hari, or King this, or Kaiser that, or any famous author—trust me, you never want to sup with a writer. 

“If” I gotta pick a historical figure with whom to have a long, conversation-filled meal, I choose my dad, Vincent Henry. He’s the bit of history I’d like to spend more time with… and…and…and maybe Mark Twain, who is way beyond the category of “writer.” Dad would understand if I brought him along.

Right, I haven’t answered the original hypothetical. “If you were dying and could listen to one more song before the end—what song would it be?”

It depends. If I’m having one of those peaceful, romantic death scenes like Garbo in Camille, then I’d want to stretch it out a bit, and I’d go for Gustav Mahler’s Third Symphony. It clocks in at around 105 minutes. If we’re talking a painful, traumatic exit, well then, The Minute Waltz if you please.

But all these are just “ifs.”

And as my grandfather said, “If Grandma had had wheels, she’da been a wagon.”

Otis Twelve hosts the radio program, Early Morning Classics with Otis Twelve, on 90.7 KVNO, weekday mornings from 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. Visit kvno.org for more information.

This column was printed in the September/October 2017 edition of Omaha Magazine.

Armana Chanel

Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Golfer Lorii Myers once said that true sportsmanship means taking the high road and walking off the course with pride whether you win or lose. Omaha’s Armana Chanel is definitely walking the high road to golfing success on the national mini-tour circuit (the minor leagues of professional golf).

Born and raised in Omaha as Armana Chanel Christianson, Chanel has always been an athlete.

“I played pretty much every sport you can think of before the age of 12: racquetball, basketball, soccer, swimming, volleyball, tennis, track, taekwondo, softball,” Chanel says. “Golf was the last sport I tried before going to high school, and it just kind of clicked.”

The Millard North graduate got her major start in golf playing Division I at Creighton University, later playing Division II golf at the University of Nebraska-Omaha.

“For me, golf is one of the most frustrating but rewarding things I have ever done,” Chanel says. “I am competitive, so I really enjoy and look forward to tournaments.”

Chanel says, as do most golfers, that the game is a way of life.

“You can practice every day for hours and still have things to work on the next week or next month,” says Chanel, a self-described perfectionist who loves a fun challenge. “It’s a constant learning process; it never ends. A lot of what I get from golf is internal.”

Chanel says she has been fortunate to not encounter many external setbacks, but being a female athlete in any sport comes with its own unique frustrations.

“There are little things that have made it difficult to be a woman playing a sport seriously. In high school it was subtle things like my name not being announced after I won state. Now it’s things like, if I want sponsorships or exemptions, it’s important to have a really strong social media following,” Chanel says of her growing and supportive fan base. “I have a pretty good following on social media, and I’m pretty open about my journey and how I play. I get a lot of messages of support; it’s pretty nice to see.”

“For me, it feels like it’s not a matter of IF I make it, but WHEN I make it. I have partial status on the Symetra Tour [previously known as the LPGA Futures Tour], which is a stage below the LPGA.”

Many athletes are goal-oriented by nature, and Chanel hopes to see herself progress athletically and professionally.

“Right now, my goal is [entering the] LPGA. I’m working hard on my game, my equipment, my fitness, and my mental game to make sure I make it there. For me, it feels like it’s not a matter of if I make it, but when I make it. I have partial status on the Symetra Tour [previously known as the LPGA Futures Tour], which is a stage below the LPGA. I’m hoping to be able to play in a few of those events towards the end of the season.”

Chanel also sought to improve her status at the LPGA Qualifying Tournament (also known as Q-School) in August. Stage I of the tournament began at Mission Hills Country Club on August 21-27 at Rancho Mirage, California. Stages II and III follow in Florida during October through December.

Until she advances to the LPGA Tour, she remains fighting to break out of the minors.

“Playing on mini tours is a lot of hours, a lot of traveling, and for very little money,” Chanel says. “I played well enough last year that I was able to break even. But I love the game and the competition, and have such a strong desire to play at the highest level, so I’ll continue to do what I need to keep competing and getting better.”

Visit armanachristianson.com and follow Chanel on Twitter, @ArmanaChanel, for more information.

This article was printed in the September/October 2017 edition of Omaha Magazine.

Umami

Photography by Bill Sitzmann

My first thought when I saw the crowd of customers waiting to be seated at Umami: Good thing I made a reservation. Diners occupied every table, booth, and bar stool at the city’s latest and most talked-about sushi restaurant, which opened in Bellevue in February.

The restaurant’s popularity shows that many local diners are hooked on sushi, and they’re willing to drive across town and endure long waits to get their fish fix. It also shows that Chef Keen Zheng made a good move when he left behind sushi-dense New York for Nebraska. Zheng has realized his dream of opening his own restaurant and helped fill the void of sushi spots in the Galvin Road area.

Zheng’s culinary background includes a stint at Sushi Nakazawa, one of New York’s top sushi establishments. The restaurant is run by Daisuke Nakazawa, a former apprentice of Jiro Ono, a world-renowned sushi chef in Japan and subject of the acclaimed documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi.

Umami’s vast menu features a variety of delicately prepared nigiri (seafood gently pressed over seasoned rice) and high-quality sashimi (thin slices of fish such as tuna or salmon served without rice). Also available are sushi rolls, known as maki, made with raw or cooked fish, vegetables, nori, rice, and other ingredients.

Those with seafood allergies or aversions to raw fish shouldn’t let that deter them. The menu includes sushi prepared with cooked ingredients, as well as teriyaki and hibachi dinners, noodle dishes, fried rice, soups, or Thai and Chinese entrees.

My dining partner and I both liked the pink lady roll, named for the pink soy paper that holds shrimp tempura, avocado, cream cheese, and asparagus. Those who don’t care for nori (seaweed wrappers) may prefer the soy paper alternative. A slightly spicy sauce drizzled on top lends a nice heat that’s not overwhelming. There are excellent versions of tiger shrimp sushi and inari sushi. The latter consists of marinated and fried tofu pouches stuffed with rice.

We also enjoyed the spicy mango shrimp roll, filled with cooked shrimp, mango, tempura flakes, and just enough spice to perk up the palate. Less successful, the coconut shrimp roll—crispy shrimp and Fuji apples topped with avocado and coconut flakes—has an appealing blend of creamy and crunchy textures, but coconut sauce on top dominates and is a little sweeter than we’d prefer.

Vegetarian options include a fresh and light farmer’s roll with slivered cucumber, asparagus, bean curd skin, lettuce, avocado, squash, and oshinko (Japanese pickled radish). Zheng is an expert at preparing sushi, each item well-crafted and beautifully presented. Diners who nab seats at the sushi bar can watch as he and his team hold command.

The staff is friendly and knowledgeable, but service can be slow, especially during prime dinner hours. Our server had a packed house to deal with the night we dined, resulting in long wait times to place and receive our order. Still, I’d happily return to try more of the menu. It’s hard to pass up quality, reasonably priced sushi executed with Zheng’s level of skill.

Rating:

food: 4 stars

service: 3.5 stars

ambiance: 4 stars

Price: $$

Overall: 4 stars

Visit umamiasianne.com for more information.

This article was printed in the September/October 2017 edition of Omaha Magazine.

Bien Fang goes Rock-A-Bye?

Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Rachel Tomlinson Dick’s pregnant belly moves her Fender Jazzmaster guitar sidesaddle. Head-banging, her short brown hair slaps the mom-to-be’s face while fingers fly over guitar strings at an April 28 show. Her co-writing and vocal partner, Katherine Courtney Morrow, jams next to her on a Fender Mustang bass. Morrow sings and sways in jeans, a black T-shirt, and a baseball hat. Nate Luginbill adds his own flair on drums with an understated head nod as his sticks slam along with the beat, not really aware of his surroundings as he tunes into the rhythm.

The trio combines forces in the grungy, stoner-metal band Bien Fang.

“We get all sticky when we talk about our genre,” Luginbill says.

The band came together two years ago when Tomlinson Dick was asked to do a solo Nirvana cover show. She wanted to add in bass and drums, so she asked Luginbill and Morrow to join her. Everything just clicked. 

“It is the smoothest songwriting process,” Luginbill says.

Morrow or Tomlinson Dick will bring in a riff or some lines. The group collaborates and contributes until it works, like putting the finishing pieces of a puzzle together. Tomlinson Dick says it is all about having conversations through music. Their first six-song EP release, Garbage Island, is a mixture of sarcastic vocals, distorted guitars, and heavy drum riffs. Rather than angst-filled lyrics, many of the songs are unusually uplifting. 

Morrow’s songwriting deals with body agency, or being in control of one’s choices, and not letting other people take advantage. “Push” explores the idea that when someone is shoved into the deep end, “I’ll scream like this.” She was once terrified to step on stage and sing, but gained confidence with Bien Fang. Morrow, 29, picked up her first bass just a few short years ago.

“Now I can have a good time,” Morrow says. “I’m happy to do it for others or for myself now.”

Tomlinson Dick, a sexual assault survivor, writes about real traumatic experiences. Leading with a murky guitar and a slower tempo, “Real Bad Man” is all about taking back power and healing with fierce lyrics like, “You can’t wash your hands clean of what they did to me.” She hopes her message will help other young women. Bien Fang has spread the word at such events as Rock Against Rape Culture: A Benefit for Voices of Hope. 

“The element of playing shows is connecting with other people,” Tomlinson Dick believes.

Tomlinson Dick once hustled for other people’s approval, picking up her first guitar when she was a freshman in high school. Now that she is older, her perspective has changed. She has something to say and “whether people like it or not doesn’t matter.” It was difficult at first for a woman in a male-dominated bratty punk world. Tomlinson Dick felt she had to nail each performance for all women. This impractical pressure was short-lived. She realized imperfection is messy and normal.

Luginbill, 27, isn’t intimidated spending time with two strong women and balances it by shredding guitar in his all-male punk band, Bogusman. He started his musical career at 15 years old when he “got in with the wrong crowd.” He traded his two South Park dolls for a Terminator guitar with a built-in amp and two nine-volt batteries. After a little web-searching, he learned Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water.” Drumming came later, after tinkering on his friend’s kit after sets.

Whether it is at the 1867 bar in Lincoln or O’Leaver’s in Omaha, Bien Fang tries to gig at least two times a month. But they have been on pause recently. 

Tomlinson Dick, 30, gave birth on June 11 to a daughter, Tomlinson “Linny” Thunder Darlington. Tomlinson Dick looks every bit the rocker-mom as she cradles her newborn: tattoos (including a skull which covers one entire knee), a nose ring, and old-fashioned cat glasses. 

Will Linny pull a Yoko Ono?

“Stefan didn’t break up the band, so why would a baby be much different?” Luginbill asks.

“Yeah, and Stefan is pretty needy,” Tomlinson Dick agrees.

Stefan, her black cat, glances up from his cardboard box.

Tomlinson Dick feared she would have to give up everything as a mother-to-be. She performed her last show when she was eight months pregnant, and she created a zine, “Moms in Bands,” for the Omaha Zine Fest to encourage herself before the big due date.

“Music brings wonderful people into your life,” Tomlinson Dick adds.

Corin Tucker, a vocalist and guitarist for Sleater-Kinney, relates to the struggle of being a musical mother.

“I don’t think men who are fathers in bands are being asked the responsibility questions about touring with kids—up until recently,” Tucker says (quoted in the zine). 

Tomlinson Dick has a very encouraging partner and bandmates who remind her she can still be a complete person as a mother. The group planned to head back into practice in late summer.

“When you love the music, sweating it out is so worth it,” Tomlinson Dick says.

Visit facebook.com/bienfangband for more information.

This article was printed in the September/October 2017 edition of Omaha Magazine.

From left: Rachel Tomlinson Dick (with baby Linny), Katherine Courtney Morrow, and Nate Luginbill

An Omaha Hockey Legend in the Making

Illustration by Derek Joy

Former UNO hockey star Jake Guentzel left school in 2016, after junior year, to pursue his dream of playing professionally. No one expected what happened next.

The boyish newcomer with the impish smile went from nondescript rookie wing prospect to elite scorer during two seasons with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in the American Hockey League. Upon joining the parent Pittsburgh Penguins in November, he made an immediate splash. In his NHL debut, he scored a goal with his first shift. He followed with a goal on his third shift. Two shots—two goals.

By January, Guentzel secured a permanent seat in the NHL team’s locker room. The club showed faith, placing him on its top-scoring line alongside captain Sidney Crosby. The Crosby-Guentzel pairing proved pivotal in Pittsburgh’s second straight Stanley Cup win. Their team defeated Nashville four games to two in the finals.

Guentzel would make NHL playoffs history before hoisting the Stanley Cup overhead: His 13 postseason goals made him the first rookie to lead the NHL playoffs (five of those goals were game-winners); his 21 points tied the league rookie record for a postseason; and he became the second-ever rookie to score a hat trick in the playoffs.

UNO has produced several NHL players but Omaha hockey historian Gary Anderson says, “I don’t remember any who have had the same impact.”

Indeed, the Maverick who signed with Pittsburgh as a third-round, 2013 draft pick (77th overall) became the talk of the hockey world. He paired with future Hall of Famer Crosby to form a lethal scoring tandem on the NHL’s best team. He was in the running for playoffs MVP (Conn Smythe award) won by his superstar teammate.

His former coach at UNO, the recently retired Dean Blais, marvels at Guentzel’s exploits.

“It’s hard to explain,” Blais says. “I don’t think anyone would have forecast that. He played well in the American League, but he was up and down, and when that happens you don’t expect great things.”

Not from someone who would have been playing his senior year at UNO.

“Then he goes into Pittsburgh, has a pretty good season, and in the playoffs he’s a couple goals or points away from maybe winning the Conn Smythe. For Jake to step in and do that is pretty special,” Blais says.

Sharing it all was former UNO and current Penguins teammate Josh Archibald. They became the first Mavs to have their names engraved on the Stanley Cup.

Guentzel’s performance recalled what local icon Bob Gibson did as a St. Louis Cardinals pitcher in World Series competition half a century ago. Like Gibson, Guentzel is now an Omaha sports legend. The city has a legitimate claim on him, too. He was born in Omaha when his father coached the Omaha Lancers. His two older brothers, Ryan and Gabe, also played collegiately.

He’s the second Omaha native to reach the NHL (Jed Ortmeyer in 2003 was the first).

The local connection extends to Guentzel’s father assisting one season at UNO under Blais (in 2010-2011), while the younger Guentzel also helped lead UNO to its only Frozen Four in 2015.

Mere weeks removed from gaining hockey immortality with his improbable heroics, he unwinds from the spotlight with family in his other hometown of Woodbury, Minnesota.

“It’s hard to put into words what happened,” he says. “It was hard to soak it all in at some points. With each win, the media got more and more crazy. It was definitely a crazy journey.”

photo by Richard Gagnon, Omaha Athletics

Preparation meets success

Guentzel’s skill and mindset proved well-suited for hockey’s biggest stage.

Mike Kemp, UNO associate athletic director and former Mavericks coach, praises his “high hockey IQ.”

“What makes him a special player at the highest level is his ability to think his way around the ice,” Blais says. “His biggest asset is his playmaking ability and his ability to get to the net.”

Former UNO teammate Justin Parizek says Guentzel has long-mastered the mental aspects of the game: “He thinks the game really well. He’s always a couple steps ahead of the play.”

UNO hockey broadcaster Terry Leahy admires Guentzel’s pedigree: “He just knows the game, and that comes right from his father and his brothers. He was just built from the ground up. His dad had a huge influence on that. His two brothers were really good college hockey players.”

Parizek envies the extra push Guentzel got at home: “His whole childhood he was pushed trying to keep up with his older brothers. Keeping up with bigger, stronger guys gave him that competitive edge. His dad’s a really good coach, and having that 24-7 extra coach in his ear has given him insights into how he can do things better.”

Archibald says it’s no wonder Guentzel was ready to shine: “He’s been preparing his entire life for that moment. Everybody along the way has put their piece in with him, and he’s taken it all in.”

“He was definitely groomed well,” says another former UNO linemate, Austin Ortega.

Even Guentzel’s father, University of Minnesota associate head coach Mike Guentzel, says the moment is “never too big” for his son.

The rising star credits his family for giving him what he needed to excel. “They instilled ‘you gotta work every day.’ It definitely implanted in my brain,” Guentzel says.

He’s grateful they shared in his shining moments—from that memorable first NHL game to hoisting the Stanley Cup.

“It’s definitely a family thing. I realize all the sacrifice they put in for me over the years in everything they did. They’re always there for me,” he says.

Guentzel’s dad and siblings never got this far in hockey, but they’ve been with him each step of the journey.

“Whenever I need something, I can look up to them and realize they’ve been through similar situations over their hockey careers,” he says. “They’ve definitely been huge for me, and it’s definitely cool to share this with my family.”

When dreams come true

Growing up, Guentzel dreamed of winning the Stanley Cup, just like thousands of other kids.

“But to have it come true my first year in the NHL is definitely crazy. I mean, I never would have expected that. It’s pretty special,” he says.

Securing the championship against Nashville, he says, was “a night I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”

Archibald says the occasion of two Omaha hockey products being part of a title team didn’t escape them.

“For both of us to play together at UNO and then to take that next step together in Pittsburgh was a great experience,” Archibald says, adding that as the Stanley Cup got passed around, “there was a moment on the ice when we were standing next to each other, and Jake looked at me and said, ‘I can’t believe we’re here. To do this together is the best thing in the world.’”

photo courtesy of Pittsburgh Penguins

Mind over matter

As the playoffs wore on, more hype came Guentzel’s way. Except for texts referencing his newfound celebrity, he says, “I tried to stay away from that stuff. You don’t want to get caught up in what people are saying. I just try to focus on what’s at hand.” As for media, he “gives them what they want” and moves on.

The well-grounded athlete applies a pragmatic approach to the game.

“Each level you go up, the competition gets harder,” Guentzel says. “You have to do whatever it takes to get there—if it’s staying late after practice, doing extra work. That’s what I’ve always tried to do. Growing up, you go through bantams, high school, juniors, and college. I’ve just stayed with it. I’ve tried not to think ahead of what’s happening in the moment. It’s the way you have to think. If you don’t think that way, you don’t really want to play, and you don’t really love the game.”

Others attest to his dedication.

“Everything he’s accomplished is due to the hard work he put in himself,” Ortega says, “and he got rewarded.”

Archibald knows well the sacrifice: “It doesn’t come easy. You have a lot of pressure on your back. But he pushed through everything. I think one of the things that helps him is being one of the hardest workers in the room.”

Guentzel feels his approach is consistent. “It hasn’t changed much,” he says. “People are going to be coming after you, so you’ve got to make sure you’re ready every day for everyone’s best.”

What some term “pressure to perform in the clutch,” he considers “a chance to do something special. I think as a player you like those moments. They’re fun to be a part of,” he says.

Of his Penguins debut, Guentzel says, “There were nerves for sure, but you just gotta stick with what got you there. There was a lot of emotion running through me that night. I was just trying to make the most of the opportunity, and remembering that all the hard work I’ve put in has finally led to my dream coming true.”

He felt at home in his new digs. His space in the Pittsburgh locker room was just beside Crosby, who took the rookie under his wing.

“It’s cool that they all kind of take you in and make you feel comfortable right away,” Guentzel says of his veteran teammates. “I think that’s why they have so much success.”

His own even-keeled attitude helped with the season grind, too.

“You want to be a good player in the league, so you’ve got to do the little things and keep working on them every day,” Guentzel says. “You’ve just got to stay with it, stay positive, because you’re going to go through tough patches.”

Coming up big

In the playoffs, he kept making big assists and goals.

“I watched all the games at home with my family,” Parizek says, “and sometimes we were like, ‘Are you kidding me, he did it again?’ It was a surreal run for him, and I couldn’t be more happy and proud.”

Guentzel’s scoring binge was out of character for someone reluctant to shoot in college.

“When I was at UNO, coach got upset with me that I was passing too much,” he says. “I was kind of a playmaker, and I always looked for the next play. As my career went on, I started to shoot more. I think I finally realized if I shoot more maybe I can score some more goals.”

“He’s a pass-first guy,” Blais confirms. “For three years we tried to get him to be a little bit more selfish, and when the opportunity’s there, shoot it.”

Making that transition in the NHL is unusual.

“That’s a credit to Sidney Crosby,” Guentzel says. “You’re just trying to find areas on the ice where he can get you the puck because he can pretty much get it to you wherever you’re at. I was very fortunate.”

Blais agrees Guentzel found the right mentor.

“I think when it really clicked is when he started playing with Sidney Crosby,”  Blais says. “It’s one thing playing for Pittsburgh, but it’s another thing for Sidney Crosby to want this 22-year old kid to play with him. That’s pretty special when the best player in the world wants Jake Guentzel as his linemate because he knows Jake plays the same way.


And I’m sure Sidney Crosby said, ‘Hey, Jake, when I get a pass from you, I’m going to shoot, and when you get it from me, you shoot.’ I mean, that’s the way it works. I think when Jake learned how to move and shoot the puck at the highest level is when he took off. Credit to Jake and his coaching staff but probably the most influential was Sidney Crosby.”

photo courtesy of Pittsburgh Penguins

Finding a coach and expanding his game

Despite not being the scorer his coach wanted, Guentzel treasured playing for Blais: “He was huge for me. I can’t thank him enough for all he did for me. He rounded out my game. He made me realize that to play every day you have to be at your top. That’s a big thing he impacted me with. I wouldn’t be the player I am today if I didn’t play in Omaha for him.”

Leaving after his junior year did not come lightly. “It was tough leaving Omaha for sure,” he says. “I just thought I was ready for the next challenge. It all worked out.”

Blais says being the close hockey family the Guentzels are, they made the decision jointly and he fully supported it. “Jake’s always been that player that has reached the highest level. He did it in college and now he’s doing it in the NHL. He’s one of the top players I’ve coached in all my years of coaching.”

UNO broadcaster Terry Leahy recalls Guentzel “began his college career the way he began his NHL career. “He had an assist right off the bat his first game as a Maverick—and he was on his way. The biggest memory I have of him is that his anticipation and passing skills were unbelievable.”

“He started out like gangbusters,” Blais remembers. “He broke Greg Zanon’s assist record his first year. Even though other teams were keying on him with their best players, Jake still managed to get his points. Even in the NHL, playing against the other team’s top line, Jake still managed to make plays and to get his goals.”

“He’s a complete package mentally and physically,” Leahy says. “He can fly, shoot, pass. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him wearing a [captain’s] letter for the Penguins in the not-too-distant future. He’s very mature…and he’s a pot-stirrer. He can chirp [trash talk] with the best. He was a little restrained his first year in the NHL, but there were moments in the finals you could see him starting to get under some Nashville skins. That’s definitely a part of his game. He’s got that baby face, but he can spring those horns pretty quickly after a whistle.”

photo by Mark Kuhlmann, Omaha Athletics

His UNO hockey family

Guentzel is happy his playing, not talking, is raising UNO’s national profile. “I only think it’s going to make the school become even more of a hockey place and have people realize Omaha’s on the rise,” he says.

“It’s a huge step for UNO hockey,” Archibald agrees. “It kind of puts it on the map in an unprecedented way.”

Leahy says with Guentzel and Archibald in the finals “UNO was on display through the whole run.” The fact that they are Stanley Cup winners “will be huge for recruiting.” UNO’s Mike Kemp and new hockey head coach Mike Gabinet have echoed such sentiments.

Austin Ortega takes inspiration from Guentzel’s example. “Seeing him do so well has definitely given me a little extra motivation and expectation to reach that goal and do what he’s done,” Ortega says.

Guentzel has not forgotten his UNO hockey family. “I keep in touch with them almost every day. They’re close friends. They’re definitely special to me,” he says.

“He has a lot of support back in Omaha and wherever his old teammates are,” Ortega says. “Myself and two other guys saw him for games three and four in Nashville. He was just the same old kid that we knew.”

“He’s not going to change, he’s not going to be cocky or arrogant about it,” Justin Parizek says. “He’s still going to go about his business and be the great guy he is and treat everyone the same.”

photo by Joe Sargent, Pittsburgh Penguins

Making his mark

Dean Blais can still hardly believe what transpired.

“To get his name on the Stanley Cup, to get a championship ring, to go from making $80,000 to $800,000, plus the Cup bonus. Not bad for a kid right out of college,” Blais says. “Everything looks bright for his future.”

Guentzel doesn’t think he’s arrived yet.

“I’ve still got to establish my spot,” he says, speaking with Omaha Magazine in June. “I’m still a young guy. I’ve got to go and try to make the team out of camp. You never know what’s going to happen, so you’ve just gotta try and make a name for yourself and do what it takes to stay at that level. You can’t take it for granted because there’s someone right behind who’s going to try to take your spot.”

Archibald senses Guentzel is hungry to “go back out there and prove to everybody he can do it again—I have all the faith in the world he’s going to be able to do it.”

“You gotta enjoy it, because it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Guentzel says.

Visit nhl.com/penguins for more information.

This article was printed in the September/October 2017 edition of Omaha Magazine.