Tag Archives: Otis Twelve

The Best Is Yet to Come

March 10, 2017 by

Wow! A city of “Bests!”

Omaha is filled with so many amazing businesses, innovators, artists, entrepreneurs, vendors, doctors, venues, restaurants, and… well you name the category. The “Bests.” They make us proud to be from Omaha.

And yet, how many times have you been on a trip to some exotic locale like Bora Bora, Paris, Costa Rica, Portland, or even Lubbock, and upon being asked where you’re from, you’ve mumbled, “Omaha,” furtively, under your breath?

Despite the fact that our hometown boasts a 6-foot-tall bronze statue of Chef Boyardee, and the archetypical power of our name emblazoned on the Wizard of Oz’s escape balloon, we feel shy about claiming our place as one of the best places on earth.

Admit it. We’ve always had a bit of an inferiority complex about where we’re from—where we live. But, why? Well, I suspect that bit of shame might be rooted in the lyrics of an old song that described this town of ours back in the early days:

“Hast ever been in Omaha,
Where rolls the dark Missouri down,
And four strong horses scarce can draw
An empty wagon through the town?
Where sand is blown from every mound
To fill the eyes and ears and throat?
Where all the steamers are aground
And all the shanties are afloat?
Where whisky shops the livelong night
Are vending out their poison juice;
Where men are often very tight,
And women deemed a trifle loose?”

Hardly a “New York, New York” or “April in Paris,” that’s for sure. The lyrics are no match for “Bombay Se Gayi Poona,” either.

We started with a pretty brutal musical self-image. Maybe this nagging sense of “less than” is rooted in the dearth of good tunes about our fair city.

Groucho Marx tried to lift our spirits with a ditty that included, “There’s a place called Omaha, Nebraska, in the foothills of Tennessee.” The geographical illiteracy, however, negated any positive image building.

Stan Freberg didn’t help with his musical Omaha! that included lyrics like; “Who me? Miss the weenie roast in Omaha?” and “Omaha moon keep shining. You shone on Council Bluffs last June. Leaving Dundee lovers pining. Please remember you’re an Omaha moon.”

Nobel Prize winner Robert Allen Zimmerman (aka Bob Dylan) sang, “I’m going to ride into Omaha on a horse. Out to the country club and the golf course,” in 1964—no comfort there.

Psychedelic ensemble Moby Grape did us no favors with their 1968 single, “Omaha,” which didn’t mention Omaha even once beyond the title.

Bob Seger sang about “A long and lonesome highway east of Omaha” in his paean to touring as a rock star but he never mentioned actually coming into town while he was in the neighborhood. So, thanks a lot, Bob.

We did hit it big in 1973 when Grand Funk Railroad sang about “four young chiquitas in Omaha,” in their No. 1 hit “We’re an American Band.” The problem was, Little Rock got top billing in the verses, and, after the chorus we ended up getting a hotel torn down.

So here’s the deal, we need an Omaha anthem. A song with the Omaha equivalent of “little cable cars,” and some parallel to “that toddling town.” We need to be where “little town shoes” are headed. Omaha needs a “Best Song About Omaha” winner next year. We need to patch up the psychic scars we’ve borne for all these many years.

It won’t be easy. Others have tried and failed. I’m counting on you, we all are.

Do you have an anthem for Omaha? E-mail a video of your song to Omaha Magazine at editor@omahamagazine.com to be considered for prizes.

Drunk on a Truth Binge

February 24, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

What does a medieval murder have to do with your television viewing habits?

How could a bit of historical treachery lead to a description of your propensity for watching endless hours of Netflix, abandoning family and friends for 28 consecutive episodes featuring a British actor playing an epically depressed Swedish detective, or your continued, addictive retreat into the vast canon of Sex in the City?

Indeed, the old saw is all too true: “Those who do not know history are doomed to re-watch it.”

There’s a Shakespeare quote from Henry VI, Part I that offers our first clue. “A base Walloon, to win the Dauphin’s grace/Thrust Talbot with a spear in the back.”

“Who the heck was Talbot?” you wonder as you search for your Amazon Fire remote. “Glad you asked,” I reply. Sir John Talbot, 1st Earl of Shrewsbury, was an English commander during the Hundred Years War. (Yes, back in the 15th century warfare was a more leisurely pursuit.) He was defeated by Joan of Arc at the Siege of Orleans, and eventually killed by the aforementioned “base Walloon” at the Battle of Castillon in 1453.

“What the heck is a Walloon,” you inquire half-heartedly, as you browse the menu looking for that eight-episode series starring the onetime “King of the North,” post-Red Wedding, Medici: Masters of Florence. “Once again, glad you asked,” I answer. The Walloons are an ethnic group, who populate a region in Belgium centered on the Sambre and the Muese rivers. Descendants of Roman soldiers and Gaulish collaborators who stood on the lower Rhine against the Germanic barbarians back in the day.

“And I should care about them, because?” you interject as you give the Turkish miniseries about Suleyman the Magnificent, Muhtesem Yuzyil, a single star review because you didn’t like the music. “Well, because they have a Carnival,” I explain.

“Get on with it,” you’re getting a little exasperated now. “Where is this going?”

You see, at this Walloonish carnival that precedes Lent just like Mardi Gras, the citizens of one old walled town parade around wearing scary wax clown masks and ostrich feathers, throwing oranges at people. Everyone gets wild and does crazy things they couldn’t do any other time of year. They go wild. Excess is the rule of the celebration. If you can avoid being struck by too many oranges, or being traumatized by a feathered waxy clown, you can indulge yourself without pause.

“Indulge myself without pause?” Now I’ve got your interest. “And the name of this town?”

I thought you’d never ask. The tiny walled city is called Binche.

“Binche?”

Yeah, Binche. Say it out loud. Repeat. Binche. It’s the origin of our new favorite word.

“Oh! I get it! Binge!” Your face lights up. Not from any sudden understanding, but from the glow of your 77-inch black matrix LED big screen as episode one of Breaking Bad starts. You’ve got a long weekend ahead. You’re starting your latest binge.

So, Shakespeare mentions a murder, which brings attention to an obscure ethnic group who have a yearly party in a walled town full of fruit-tossing creepy clowns, and that gets us a word that describes us stuck on our TV room sectionals.

Stop, I confess! I made it all up. Well, everything about Henry VI, the dead Talbot, Walloonish clowns, and the walled town of Binche was true. Unfortunately, none of it applies to the origin of the word in question. It’s another case of fake lexicography. In reality the word “binge” comes from the Northampton, England, dialect, “To binge,” meaning to soak. Yes, even the truth can be wrong.

Ain’t that the way it goes these days?

Otis XII hosts the radio program, Early Morning Classics with Otis XII, on 90.7 KVNO, weekday mornings from 5 a.m. to 6:30 a.m. Visit kvno.org for more information.

This article was printed in the March/April 2017 edition of Omaha Magazine.

A Hole Truth

August 26, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

There are two things everybody has…” Those are the wise words of my grandfather, Johannes, who hated Kaiser Bill, loved bacon ends, and worked the hard soil of northern Iowa for most of his life. I won’t complete his sentence because people are easily offended these days by references to certain anatomical features of the human animal. 

One of those things is an opinion. I’ve got one—an opinion that is—that matches up with about any subject. So do you. We’re all opinionated.

In fact, we live in the Golden Age of Opinions. They’ve never been easier to access: Facebook, Twitter, blogs, pundit TV, talk radio, YouTube, and your inebriated uncle at every family gathering no matter whether it’s a funeral or a feast.

Surveys and polls suggest that 95 percent of us have an opinion about everything. We opine about subjects left and right with barely a breath in between. Vapor trails in the sky, head football coaches, the kids today, whether pumpkin spice flavor has any place in a sane world, and politics—whatever the subject, we have our own personal take on the matter. The five percent who answer “no opinion” are bald-faced liars. At least, that’s my opinion. As for “undecided” voters, don’t get me started. As the Mean Farmer once said, “They know. Oh, you know they know.”

Now, it is also true that most of the opinions we have are not original. Mostly, we just parrot other people’s opinions that our sources are repeating from other sources that are sourced somewhere in the same mysterious underworld where dirty jokes come from. For example, it’s likely that we all have some political opinion that a pithy, made-up quote from Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, or Nelson Mandela will back up. As Lincoln himself once said, “There are two things everybody has…” Again, I can’t complete the sentence.

You may have noticed that I have not mentioned religion. That’s because Faith is a special case. Our own religious beliefs are just that, beliefs deeply held—a whole different basket of loaves and fishes. Our creeds are beyond any mere earthly opinion, except perhaps what we thought about last week’s sermon. We do, however, have any number of opinions about other people’s religions because…well, just because.

You may have also noticed that I have not mentioned “facts.” There is a simple explanation for that. When it comes to opinions, “facts” don’t matter. They are troublesome things that, most of the time, don’t fit comfortably into our mental pockets. Besides when my grandfather said, “There are two things everybody has…” trust me, he was stating a fact.

Anyway, that’s my opinion. Omaha Magazine

OtisXII

The Revenge of the Lawn

July 20, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Being a suburbanite—a classification that gnaws at the very fabric of my bohemian soul—I find myself more and more obsessed with the vegetation that surrounds my mid-century modern home.

It is as if there is some hidden sequence buried on the double helix of my aging DNA that has been triggered—some drive to surround my humble abode with a flawless blanket of lush, manicured, green carpet. But why?

I suspect this growing compulsion is rooted in the most primitive parts of my brain. I’ve read articles by anthropologists who theorize that our love of lawns is an expression of our evolutionary history. These deep thinkers say that when our furry ancestors came down from the tree branches and ventured out onto the savannahs, we were compelled to stand erect on our hind legs so that we could see over the tall grasses and spot large saber-tooth predators before they snuck up on us.

Standing tall, we were thus able to minimize the numbers of clan members who were snatched and dragged off to some stupid, sharp-toothed quadruped’s Sunday dinner. The upside of this was that, as a species, we thrived. The downside was that many more of our bothersome relatives also survived to make holiday gatherings, like The Invention of Fire Day, emotionally challenging for the rest of us.

Walking on our hind legs, the scientists surmise that our forelimbs were freed to learn to manipulate tools. Thus, we could also develop weapons to defend ourselves against the large variety of meat eaters I referenced earlier, with the added benefit that we could on occasion dispatch a few of the aforementioned extended family members, or even strangers, who offended our bipedal sensibilities.

So, 4 million years ago we dropped out of the branches of an ancient Ginko biloba tree, stood up, and looked out over the tall grasses of a primitive world full of existential threats. We acquired digital dexterity. We learned how to make sharp sticks and to throw rocks. That was basically the story for 4 million years, though our sticks got sharper and the rocks got bigger. Bottom-line—we killed most of the animals that wanted to eat us, and a good number of our fellow primates on the side.

Nothing much changed until that defining moment when evolution took another quantum leap. One hundred and eighty-six years ago Edwin Budding invented the lawn mower. Human beings could now cut down the tall native grasses and rest secure in the knowledge that, even though they are mostly extinct, large hungry carnivores could no longer sneak up on us or our children.

I mow because I am.

Je tonds parce que je suis.

I hope the Toro starts this week. The neighbors are starting to complain. They are beginning to suspect there may be a hungry Sumatran panther in my front yard.

OtisXII