Tag Archives: Otis Twelve

Food for Thought

June 15, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

A couple months ago I was in Copenhagen.

No, I did not see the “Little Mermaid” statue in the harbor. I know everybody goes to photograph it when they visit the city. But I remember that this Little Mermaid is based on the Hans Christian Andersen version, not Disney’s romantic feature film.

In the original telling, the mermaid does not get to marry the prince of her dreams and live the happily ever after. Instead, the young scion is married off to a genuine princess, the daughter of a neighboring king. Yeah, turns out the fix was in even before she gave up her fins.

Her mer-sisters offer a nice, sharp knife to gut the prince—a chance to void her contractual deal with the sea witch (which had stipulated marriage to the prince or death). But instead of stabbing her beloved, the mermaid dives into the waves, turns into sea foam, and becomes a creature of the air. The prince never realizes how close he came to being assassinated.

Fairytales are often a bit darker than we choose to remember them. I mean, for accuracy’s sake, shouldn’t the poor heartbroken thing have a knife in her hand?

Whatever, I skipped the obligatory visit to the scorned gold digger’s monument. 

I was in Copenhagen for food.

I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to travel here and there around the globe, and my first goal is always food. I believe you get the best idea of what a country is all about by discovering what the natives eat.

In Italy, the Mediterranean diet rules with divine pasta, fresh vegetables, and seafood. I’ve had the best roasted lamb in Trastevere, great liver (yes, liver) on the Via Sistina, and Genoese salami to die for.

Germany is where a Midwesterner can go for comfort food. Schnitzel is basically chicken-fried steak, and potatoes and gravy are everywhere you turn. At a street fair in Cologne, one booth specialized in deep-fried bacon. I felt like I was at the Iowa State Fair.

In Hong Kong, I recommend you try the spicy chicken feet or the hairy crab. Or grab a fish from one of the tanks at the street market and hand it to the woman in the next stall who will kill it, clean it, and turn it into the freshest fish stew you’ve ever eaten.

In Japan, everything is good—everything from street vendor yakisoba to Okinawa-style soba. Everything is good except the natto. Do not eat the natto. Just don’t (unless you enjoy munching chunky booger goo).

I wish I could time travel, because (according to Reddit) archeologists recently discovered the oldest ever recipe on a tomb wall in Egypt. It’s for a soup that includes hippopotamus and sparrow, two delicacies I have never had the opportunity to try.
I suspect the dish represents our primitive ancestor’s first attempt to deal with leftovers.

So anyway, there I was in Copenhagen, skipping the unarmed Little Mermaid statue, looking for good food. And what did I find?

Well, during my short stay, I had great Italian food, some of the best sushi this side of Osaka, along with fish and chips that beat anything in London.

I even found a Neolithic restaurant serving only what our hunter-gatherer forebears might have found while walking from here to there (basically plants and prehistoric roadkill). I skipped that place.

I did try the frikadeller and rugbrød with gherkins. Meatballs and bread. It wasn’t bad.

But here’s the point of the column. If you’re in Copenhagen, try the Danish.

Which, for accuracy’s sake, should be called “Austrian.” The pastry was originally introduced to the country by Austrian bakers when their Danish counterparts went on strike in 1850. After more than a century of acceptance, the pastry has become genuinely Danish. Kind of like an American, Disneyfied version of the Little Mermaid. But more delicious, and you don’t need a knife.


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

This column was printed in the July/August 2018 edition of Omaha Magazine. 

Remember The Maine!

April 7, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Remember the Maine?

Press baron and Citizen Kane archetype William Randolph Hearst told us to do just that in 1898, but most have forgotten these days because we have so many other things to remember, like our Amazon Prime password and debit card pin number, let alone where we parked the car in the shopping mall parking lot.

In our defense, we do still remember Pearl Harbor and some of us even “remember the kind of September,” though revivals of The Fantasticks do seem to be thankfully decreasing in frequency.

Anyway, here’s a refresher. The USS Maine, an obsolete, poorly designed battleship, plagued by cost overruns during its construction—there is nothing new about military budget waste—sailed into Havana harbor to “show the flag.” That is, America wanted to show a little newfound muscle towards Spain, the last colonial power besides us left in the Western Hemisphere.

Well, our “muscle” sat there in the harbor for a couple of weeks until, tragically, it blew up along with 200 of its sailors. Immediately the American newspapers put forth the story that the Spaniards had treacherously used a mine to destroy the ship. Hence the headlines: “Remember the Maine!”

A nifty little war ensued. In short order, Commodore George Dewey sailed into Manila and sank the Spanish Pacific fleet, and Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders, in support of the African-American 10th Cavalry, charged up San Juan Hill in Cuba. (Teddy got all the press, of course.) Cuba was independent pending the later outcome of Michael Corleone’s casino scheme with Hyman Roth, and the Philippines, freed of its old Spanish overlords, were then happy to be governed by new American overlords. “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.” Sorry, I can never resist tossing in a quote from Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr. It’s my thing. Stick with me, I know where I’m going.

So—“Remember the Maine”—remember? Well, the thing is, it wasn’t blown up by a mine at all. Most experts now agree that the cause of the fateful explosion was a fire in a coal bunker. Yes, our old friend coal. It was big in 1898. Sure glad we’ve moved on from the stuff here in the “modern” world. The slowly growing fire in one of the battleship’s coal bunkers eventually ignited the ship’s powder stores. Boom! War! History!

And where do you keep the powder, and ammunition for a big ship’s guns? According to Merriam-Webster, you keep that stuff in a “magazine.” In this case, a magazine that changed the course of a nation.

Which brings me to my point—I know, finally, right?—a magazine.

Happy milestone to Omaha Magazine. This issue marks the completion of 35 volumes in print. Has this magazine changed the world? Maybe it has, a little here, a little there. Change does occur when facts and inspiration can join forces. Thirty-five volumes highlighting the people, places, issues, and interests of our community; giving writers, journalists, artists, and leaders a forum where they can share and inform; giving our city and region a chance to look clearly at our triumphs and tribulations.

So, here’s to more explosions of art and ideas. Here’s to Omaha Magazine.

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

This article was printed in the March/April 2018 edition of Omaha Magazine.

What I Know For Sure

February 19, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

We all “know” things.

I mean, we just believe this or are convinced of that, or we think another thing is probably true. But beyond all that, there are those things we simply “know.” They are the certainties programmed into our DNA—buried in our psyches.

We all know that the world is flat. As proof, we are all aware of people who have gone west and never come back.

We all know that lemmings go into a frenzy when the mating season tips things out of balance. We all know that the little rejected male voles, drowning in hormones, rush off in a column for the nearest cliff and follow on off the edge to their fluffy deaths on the rocks below. Millions have witnessed this phenomenon in a Max Fleischer cartoon from 1936.

We all know that the only man-made object that can be seen from space is the Great Wall of China. We heard it from a friend, who knows a guy, whose slightly tipsy aunt was told this by Buzz Aldrin at a Cold War-era cocktail party in Naples, Florida.

It is established in our heads that penguins mate for life. Never mind that none of us have ever seen a penguin engage in extra-marital egg cradling.

Napoleon Bonaparte was short. He was very short. The “little corporal” was a tiny man. We all know that this lack of stature caused the Corsican to overcompensate and prove himself the match for any “tall” man by conquering Europe. We’ve all known a short person who shares this “Napoleon Complex,” and we never invite them to our dinner parties because we don’t have booster seats handy. Randy Newman put it all into a song.

We all are certain that our mothers were right to warn us that we should not go in the water for an hour after eating. If we jump into the overcrowded municipal pool 55 minutes after the bologna with Miracle Whip sandwich, we will immediately cramp up and sink to the bottom of the over-chlorinated water and go unnoticed by the cute lifeguard who is flirting with the bad boy outside the chain link fence. We all trust our mothers.

It is simply true, and we absolutely know it to be true, that Vikings had horns on their helmets. We all saw the drawings in our history books picturing Eric the Red doing something, or Leif Erikson doing something else, and they always had horns.

It is an established historical fact (and oft-repeated) that though Mussolini was a fascist thug, he did make the trains run on time. I think that’s supposed to excuse all of his other sins.

Those are just some of the things we “know.” Of course, they are all wrong. All of them. Every single one.

The world is round. People actually return from California, even if they are not pleased with having to come back after not making it in Hollywood.

Lemmings do not blindly follow other lemmings over the edge of cliffs. I mean, it would be cool if they did, but they just don’t.

It’s actually very hard to see the Great Wall from space, but you can see I-80, or the huge San Bernardino Walmart parking lot (larger than 45 percent of incorporated towns in America) easily from the International Space Station porthole.

Penguins do not mate for life. It’s just that they all look alike and private detectives have problems tailing them when trying to catch them in flagrante delicto. “Is that Paul on the left in the tuxedo?”…“Beats the hell out of me.”

Napoleon was not short. He was 5’7”, which is one full inch taller than the average male in the era. Historians know this because they measured a lot of old clothes. Sorry, short people, you do indeed have no reason to live.

You could eat a Thanksgiving feast with all the tryptophan-laced trimmings and start your channel swim straight out of your chair. The biggest danger you would face is falling asleep, and missing the Chargers vs. Cowboys game.

Vikings did not have horns on their helmets. I don’t know why they didn’t because it would have been cool, but the whole horned helmet thing is Richard Wagner’s fault.

Finally, it turns out that Mussolini wasn’t good at anything, except making people think he got the trains to run on time. He didn’t. Plus, he was a monster.

Yep, it turns out we know less than we think. Maybe that’s a good thing. It’s hard to learn when you know too much.

All I know, I know, I know, I know…is, there ain’t no sunshine when you’re gone.

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 column was printed in the January/February 2018 edition of Omaha Magazine.

Some Free Advice

December 3, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

There is of course, an old saying, “Free advice is worth every penny you spent on it.” But then, I’ve never had enough money to afford any truly valuable advice, so I’ve come to trust in a few nuggets given to me gratis over the years. Besides, that old saying is in and of itself “free,” isn’t it? Life is full of logic loops.

Oscar Wilde—in a book I paid for, so it was therefore not in the worthless category—once said, “I always pass on good advice. It is the only thing to do with it. It is never of any use to oneself.” With that in mind, I offer you a few gems, no charge.

I had an uncle who left the farm to move to New York City back when Times Square was, shall we say, a bit more “grown up” than the current Calvin Klein version. In fact, he once claimed that while there, he met a heavily armed Kurt Russell trying to escape the island. Anyway, when he returned to his small Iowa hometown years later, he said to me…

“Never trust a naked bus driver.”

It’s a bit of advice that still rings true.

I once had a friend whose home went up in flames, a total loss. When I ran into him a week or so after the conflagration he seemed remarkably sanguine despite the disaster. I asked him how he could be so accepting of the calamity, and he leaned over his third pint of the night and told me…

“Never own so much that you’ll be secretly pleased to watch your house burn down.”

Possessions do evolve into clutter, don’t they?

I recently ran into a woman I had dated a few times in high school before she tore out my heart and stomped on it. Every teenage romance is dramatic, don’t you agree? She recounted to me that she had subsequently been married six times and divorced five. “Wow,” I said. “That’s a lot of failed marriages.” After she finished laughing, she replied, “Failed? Not failures by any stretch. Four were victories and one was a draw.” As for the institution, she advised me…

“Marriage is like a track meet. The pistol should be used at the start, not the finish.”

I’m not sure I understand the gun’s role at all, but I have to admit she had more experience than I do.

Most advice that we get in life seems to be about money. Heck, there’s a whole profession full of people called “financial advisers.” Some of them are even licensed. Go figure. I once spoke to one of those folks. I’d avoided them for years, but after the 37th invitation to a “free” steak dinner at a local eatery, I found myself a bit peckish and decided to take these money gurus up on the deal. After the some-what subpar sirloin was consumed, I found myself cornered by one of these name-tagged hustlers who babbled at me incessantly while I searched vainly for that lint-covered extra-strength Tums I knew I had left in my sports coat pocket a few months earlier.

After he mentioned how my money should work for me, and I explained that my money was as lazy as I was, he brought out the big guns. “You need a plan,” he said, which was no surprise since he was a planner. Suddenly, something my grandmother had told me years earlier popped into my head.

“Money is like cheese. If you’ve got more than you can eat in a week, invite some folks over.”

He wandered off. I went home. I leave you with this last bit of free advice, though I have no “license” to do so…

If someone tries to bait you with free meat, stay in the Barcalounger.


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

This column was printed in the November/December 2017 edition of Omaha Magazine. 

Listen to Otis read this column in his own words here:

Greatness

November 10, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

It’s not a “Best Of” category that we consider, but we should.

There’s a guy who works on the Yard Waste Truck that services my neighborhood, who I noticed one day, who should be considered for one of our “best.” It’s easy to forget the folks who keep everything going—the people who are at the foundation of our society. This guy is great. I don’t use the word great lightly. His greatness can be traced back 2,350 years. Let me explain.

Back in the fourth century B.C.E., Alexander of Macedonia won so many battles, and marched his army over such great distances spreading Hellenistic culture, and named more entire cities after himself than our current president’s eponymous towers, he became “the Great,” or Alexander “the Best.”

Then other conquerors came along to challenge Alexander. Julius “Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres” Caesar made his claim. He spread the Roman Empire across Western Europe right up to the Rhine—where my tree-worshipping German ancestors on the far side of the river gave him reason to yearn for another summer on the French Riviera. He was good, but Julius had a rich, united, populous, hyper-organized society at his back, a society that knew the difference between X and C. Alexander came from a cultural backwater. A rocky province far from the core of a quarrelsome, city vs. city, fragmented Greek civilization that had been weakened by years of internecine warfare and hemlock overdoses. Julius falls short—Alexander the Best.

Mehmed the Conqueror took down the last vestiges of the Roman Empire when he took Constantinople in 1453. He spread the Ottoman Empire across the Middle East, the Balkans, the Crimea, and into Central Europe where he even bested Prince Vlad III, best known as Dracula. But he too, was the beneficiary of a well-organized, large base of operations—the Macedonians were but a speck on the map in a time when most maps were covered with dragons, monsters, and blank spaces. Again, Alexander the Best.

Napoleon humbled army after army sent against him by the scions of a post-feudal, aristocratic system, that was, even then, feeling the tide of “modern” culture as it dampened the careworn threads of its fraying cloak. (But Napoleon had gunpowder, artillery, muskets, factories, powdered wigs, and crepes. Alexander had a one-eyed father and a homicidal mother. Nowadays the lad would have needed some serious therapy, but back then, he translated his trauma into a career of conquest. Alexander outranks him.

So what made Alexander the “Best?”

Was it his tactical skill in battle? His force of personality? His legendary horse Bucephalus? (Forget Roy Rogers and Trigger. Bucephalus was, by all accounts, the “best” horse ever.) All these factors are important, but the root of Alexander’s greatness starts in the forests of Macedonia’s rugged mountains and valleys. There was a tree in that wooded landscape that lent itself to being cut into long shafts. Tipped with a spearhead, these lances, known as sarissas, stretched up to 20 feet long. The Macedonian army, organized into square formations known as a phalanx, bristling with these elongated, fearsome weapons were simply unbeatable—at least until they ran into enraged elephants in the Indus. The wood of these trees has the perfect grain, the perfect blend of flexibility, weight, and strength that could be assembled in sections like fishing pole and used to conquer the world.

Which brings me to those same trees, the trees that made the lances, the trees that grace my front yard—the mighty ash.

My ash trees have grown old. They shed branches like I shed hair. I take those branches and cut, cut, and chainsaw them into shorter lengths that I bundle and leave at the curb. And then he arrives.

Announced with the rumble of the green Deffenbaugh truck, he balances with one foot on a pad and one hand holding a rung at the rear of the vehicle. He performs a perfect semi-jeté off the running board towards my pile of wood before the truck has even made a complete squeaking stop, pirouettes as he snags the broken bundles, and flings them without a single wasted motion into the maw of the compactor. Then, in a blink, he is back onboard and the truck moves on, now carrying scraps of the same wood that made Alexander immortal.

I watched it all from my porch. I thought to myself, “This guy is great.”

He is the best.

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 published in the 2018 Best of Omaha results book.

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.

Listen to Otis read this column in his own words here:

Eat ’Em If Ya Got ’Em

July 21, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

To quote Monsanto’s 1970s propaganda: “Without chemicals, life itself is impossible.” The multinational agrochemical/biotech corporation is ostensibly in the business of helping farmers grow food. So, let’s just say, “Without food, human existence goes kaput.”

Okay, we need water, too. Oh, and oxygen. We gotta breathe, right? Food, water, and oxygen are three legs supporting the stool of life for us hunter-gatherers. Yes, we are hunter-gatherers. Although we do sport better clothes and haircuts thanks to the domestication of sheep and the invention of scissors, don’t let it fool you. In the geological sense, mankind has barely stepped from the Paleolithic Age.

You see, in the old days, we humans clumped together in small bands and clans as we wandered from one unmapped rock to another uncharted ravine. Oxygen was plentiful since most of the super-volcano eruptions were distant memories, and thanks to a few hundred-thousand comet strikes, the planet was positively soaked in water. We’d be on the move all day, always on the lookout for a bite to eat. Turn over a mossy rock and, by golly, some tasty bugs were revealed. Perhaps a bit tart, but with a satisfying crunch, they were proto-chips with dip included.

Pull up this scraggly plant and we are rewarded with a high-fiber edible root. Munch on this glistening leaf, add an odd berry and bean, and we’re good to go. Some scaly lizard sunning on a ledge might offer a good target for a well-thrown stone, and meat is on the menu. A scraggly prehistoric chicken could be snared and consumed. “Tastes like snake,” said Ug.

Nowadays, we hunter-gatherers have automobiles, so we can range farther than before, but nothing has fundamentally changed. We breathe—the air occasionally laced with hints of Febreze. We drink water—mostly now from plastic bottles—easier to carry than a tanned animal bladder but harder on our whale friends in the ocean. We eat.

We are no longer wandering blindly. Google Maps can guide us from the now-precise coordinates of the old rock visited by our furry ancestors to that ancient ravine, converted to a food court. Instead of turning over an old rock, we ask our electronic clan-mate Siri, “Where’s the nearest restaurant?” and a long list of eateries scrolls out on the screen.

Some of these locations even have salad bars, so we’re back to foraging leaves (this time from behind a sneeze-guard). More than a few places serve bugs. Well, OK, they serve shrimp. Did you ever look at a shrimp? It’s an underwater bug. There’s no denying it. If you spotted a few shrimp crawling around in your garage you’d call Terminix right away. Me, I’d be thinking, “Where’s the garlic?”

Yes, we modern hunter-gatherers now have a global reach. Thanks to technology, trade, and transportation, my clan and I have eaten bugs (shrimp) from Thailand, roots (carrots) from Canada, leaves (lettuce) from Mexico, and beans (chocolate) from Africa. We’re still on the same daily trek from waterhole to waterhole, only now we read Yelp reviews online. We watch Anthony Bourdain downing a bowl of soba on Okinawa. We are so connected to virtual experience that we are disconnected from real experience.

Here in America, we are in the Land of Plenty. Food is taken for granted by most. We have lost something in the bargain. We no longer experience the simple pleasure of putting something strange in our mouths, chewing, and hoping against hope that it doesn’t kill us. Food has lost a bit of its old sense of adventure.

It’s lonely at the top of the food chain.

 


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

This column was printed in the July/August 2017 edition of Omaha Magazine.

Listen to Otis read this column in his own words here (with two different animations of the words):

If I Were King

April 27, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

I have difficulty falling asleep because I obsess about one thing or another that happened during the day—like the lobby door at the dentist’s office that lacks a “push/pull” label, or the person ahead of me at the checkout line who was just staring at the card reader in amazement while the cashier and I twiddled our thumbs, or the local news anchor’s nightly grammatical error. While I am ruminating over these signs of the apocalypse, waiting for Morpheus to bless me, I play a little game in my head to distract my worried mind.

If I were King:

I would decree that everyone get more stickers.

Everybody loves stickers. I feel great when I get my “I Voted” sticker. My granddaughter likes smiley-face stickers, and my grandson is hooked on Ninjago (don’t ask; he lives in Japan). The point is, we humans love stickers. Our woolly ancestors, after bringing down a mastodon, would stick bits of its liver to their chests as a sign of their hunting prowess. I’m sure I read that somewhere. More stickers! We should get stickers like “I opened the door for somebody with an armful of packages,” or “I didn’t lose my temper with the kid at the drive-thru who forgot the ranch dip,” or “I parked inside the lines,” or “My hair looks good today.”

If I were King:

Cell phones would have to be converted to rotary dialing. Think about it: Texting would become impossible, distracted driving reduced, frustration with butt calls ended, and our memories would be improved because we’d have to remember numbers again. If you don’t remember somebody’s number, they’re not important to you anyway. There may even be health benefits as we strengthen our finger muscles. Think of it—a nation of healthier fingers. An added benefit: It would really make it hard to play irritating game apps. I hate you, Candy Crush.

If I were King:

FedEx guys would just leave the package on the porch and not ring the doorbell. It upsets the dog. ’Nuff said.

If I were King:

Naps would be required. Every day, all places of business, offices, factories, and telemarketers, would be required to close from 1 p.m. until 2:30 p.m. As in, closed. Shut down. Not open. Everybody would have to take a nap. Why? Because, naps are good, and the King likes naps. I think the “Grouchy People Index” would drop. We’d all be happier. And after a few years’ practice, we’d be good enough nappers to send a team to the International Siesta Competition in Madrid. Snoozers are judged on sleeping position, loudest snore, and original costume. America needs to win this competition. Besides, I nap every day between 1 p.m. and 2:30 p.m., and I like a little quiet. After all, I am the King.

Now back to sleep.

Wait…Can’t sleep…I’m worrying about my costume.

This article appears in the May/June 2017 edition of Omaha Magazine.

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

Drunk on a Truth Binge

April 18, 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 5-9 a.m. Visit kvno.org for more information.

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

The Best Is Yet to Come

April 5, 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.

This article was printed in Omaha Magazine’s 2017 Best of Omaha” issue.