Tag Archives: Otis XII

Food for Thought

August 5, 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. 

Choose Your Own Adventure

May 3, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Somebody once said, “Life is an adventure.”

I don’t remember who said it exactly, maybe Aristotle. He was a wise man, or at least we take the word of the ancient Greeks that he was. It might have been easier to be wise way back then—fewer people, less competition for the title.

But what is adventure? Do you have to be Magellan circumnavigating the globe, or Admiral Byrd headed for the pole, or Geraldo Rivera about to open Al Capone’s vault to have an adventure? I think not. You could dive out of an airplane tethered to a former mall security guard, or bungee jump into a gorge with the taste of Jägermeister fresh on your tongue, or try to sneak a family-size bag of Vic’s popcorn into the multiplex. Or, if you’re like me, you could find adventure in books.

Do you remember those books, those little Bantam books by Edward Packer? The books with “Choose Your Own Adventure” headlined above the title? You know, the ones where you dove into the stories written in second person and where the journey was actually determined by your own decisions at critical moments? The stories where your friend, Dr. Nera Vivaldi, always showed up with a clue or advice to help you choose your path through the tale? Dr. Vivaldi seemed to show up in every new volume, whether you were in outer space with Moon Quest, or on a cruise with Terror on the Titanic, or dealing with the undead before the undead were cool in Zombie Pen Pal. Nera was ageless and omnipresent, kind of like Helen Mirren. I loved Nera Vivaldi.

You got to choose where the plot led you. Do you open the airlock when you hear the mysterious knocking from the vacuum on the other side of the bulkhead, or do you fire the rockets and incinerate the multi-tentacled alien threat, or, if you’re wrong, your desperate, oxygen-starved friend outside? Do you get in lifeboat No. 6, or wait a while longer for another way off the ship while you steal the Kaiser’s gold in stateroom 6B? Should you answer the bloodstained postcard that shows up in your school locker or “return to sender” and go to the Snow Ball with Sally forthwith?

Every choice you made prompted a turn in the saga. You might discover a diamond in the lunar dust or perish when your helmet visor cracks. You might be able to warn the captain before the unsinkable liner hits the iceberg, or you might find yourself trapped in steerage far away from Jack, Rose, and the floating door—I still think there was room for two on that bit of flotsam, I just do. Do you decide to make friends with the zombie and then become buddies like Gibson and Glover, or do you suddenly realize that your body is numb and your brain is the featured dish at Undead Golden Corral? The point of the books was that your choices had consequences—just like real, regular, ordinary, day-to-day life.

Of course, unlike real life, if you made a bad choice and came to a premature ending, in the books you could go back and change your decision. You could follow the next thread of possibilities to an alternate climax. No matter how many wrong choices you made, you always had the ability to invoke a do-over—unlike real, regular, ordinary, day-to-day life.

I loved those books. I shared them with my little ones. I remember them, and in that remembering, I recall the greatest adventure of all, the adventure that begins with three little words.

“Let’s have kids.”

Nera Vivaldi, where are you now?


This column was printed in the May/June 2018 edition of Omaha Magazine.

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.

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.

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:

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.

Ode to M’s Pub

March 25, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Mirrors

Covered in lives

And streaked with assignations and carrots on buns and snails and fine wine and fruit in vodka jars as large as your darling’s eyes spying on you from that perfect angle across the room

(M. baked a cake once an amaretto cake a cake so soaked I was drunk in a bite and happy and amazed by the flavors of her life)

Back steps down to more

Mirrors

Ruts tread into the wood as deep as the Oregon trail down into an underworld worthy of Orpheus and furtive sounds and hidden rooms and back up again into the urgent fragrances of conversations just beyond understanding and

Mirrors

Reflecting you back to you

And then, yes, we know, fire and smoke and shouts and hoses and nothing nothing that could stop the offering to the January sky and the cathedral of memory takes flight and lands here and there as cinders locking away tiny atoms of the secrets and

Ice

Like all the mirrors melted and gathered on the stone

A new mirror

I still see myself there once and once again

All my old friends and my M.

MsPub

My Daily Wake

July 17, 2015 by

This article appears in July/August 2015 Omaha Magazine.

I get up every weekday morning at 10 minutes after three.

Let me repeat, it’s very dark, sometimes very cold, and always very, very, very, early in the morning when my alarm goes off. Did you get that? While you are snuggled in your bed, your brain happily feeding itself on REM-induced trances involving Bora Bora, tropical fish, and 100-proof rum concoctions garnished with mangoes and little umbrellas, I am being shocked into painful real-world consciousness by rude buzzing, cruel ringing, or cacophonous jangling.

I am a living case study in sleep deprivation.

I have been doing this (with only a few short intermissions) for 35 years. The dark-thirty (very, very early) alarm goes off. I get up. Over the years the implements of my self-induced torture have mutated. It began with an old Westclox Big Ben alarm clock. Not only did this device produce an audible ticking sound through the night, it went off like the bell at an old fire station, all the while hopping up and down like a hyper-excited wombat in a Warner Brothers cartoon from the ’40s.

Though highly effective in the finest medieval manner, another human being who had come to share my sleeping space voiced some objections to having her dreams so harshly terminated both by Big Ben and the muttered epithets that I naturally chose to accompany my rising. People can be so unreasonable. I was advised to move on to a more “humane,” modern device.

Ah, yes, the modern clock radio…the theory of this innovation was that the sleeper could be gently awakened by the strains of music as programmed by either an AM or FM radio station in the immediate locality. Sometimes the concept worked. Sometimes it didn’t. Sometimes I opened my bleary eyes to “Stairway to Heaven.” Sometimes my bloodshot peepers were pried open by “Highway to Hell.”

And then there were the mornings the digital number card flipped with a click and a carpet commercial stuck its loud, ugly head directly into my slumbering visions to yell at me, “Time to get up, moron!” In those moments as I tried to rid myself of the subliminally implanted urge to buy new white shag for the family room, I wrestled with a new, wonderful temptation—the snooze button.

Wake up! Hit the snooze…wake up! Hit the snooze…wake up!  Hit the snooze…wake up! Get served divorce papers…wait…yes, snooze abuse has ended more than a few relationships. After all, there is no mention of having to put up with psychologically damaging, intermittent sleep interruption in wedding vows.

And there was another problem. My job through most of these past 35 years has involved me playing musical selections for a discerning morning audience. Music is my profession. It permeates every pore of my being. I love music. But music does not wake me up.

Next I tried one of those New Age natural sound generators that manufactured sounds ranging from gentle surf hissing on a sandy beach to a forest complete with mystical bird songs to a mountain ambiance that mimicked a breezy ridge line in the Andes. I was frequently late for work.

Nowadays, I am sent out into the world by my iPhone6 that can produce any number of sounds heretofore unimaginable to such mortals as I. I have settled on the “Last Words of King Joffrey at the Purple Wedding.” I now arise with a smile and, after my morning ablutions, head out into the pre-dawn world most people never get to experience—the world of bread truck drivers, die-hard party folk, and eight-hour-old convenience store coffee.

I am blessed. I get up every weekday morning at 10 minutes after three.

Otis Headshot

Clocks1

Omaha Magazine Wins 2015 Great Plains Journalism Award

April 14, 2015 by

Photo above: Director of Photography Bill Sitzmann, Creative Director John Gawley, Managing Editor Robert Nelson, and Senior Graphic Designer Kristen Hoffman with our award-winning cover at the 2015 Great Plains Journalism Awards ceremony in Tulsa, Okla.

Omaha Magazine won best magazine cover at the prestigious 2015 Great Plains Journalism Awards, one of five categories in which the magazine was named among three finalists.

The Great Plains Journalism Awards annually recognize the best newspaper and magazine journalism in an eight-state region comprising of Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and South Dakota. The awards were presented during a luncheon April 13 at The Mayo Hotel in Tulsa, Okla.

Omaha Magazine won the top award in the Magazine Cover category for the January/February 2014 Best of Omaha issue, executed by Creative Director John Gawley, then-Junior Graphic Designer Paul Lukes, and Ben Lueders of Fruitful Design.

We received two of the three finalist slots in the Magazine Cover category. Gawley and Director of Photography Bill Sitzmann were nominated for our November/December 2014 cover featuring local radio legend Otis XII in a story written by Managing Editor Robert Nelson.

Nelson himself was a finalist in the Magazine Profile Writing category for his July/August 2014 cover story on then-Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and again in the Magazine Column Writing category for his September/October 2014 “The Closer” column, titled “Slogan Explosion.”

Sitzmann was recognized for his portrait of Jeff Toma accompanying the story “The Handyman Diaries” in the January/February 2014 issue of Omaha Home. That story was written by Executive Editor David Williams.

Mike Lang and Corey Hart of Spectral Chemist were recognized for their video supporting our September/October 2014 story “Cricket: The Grandfather of Baseball is Making a Comeback in Omaha,” written by Robyn Murray.

“I am proud of our talented staff and we are honored to tell the stories of the people of Omaha,” Omaha Magazine Publisher Todd Lemke says. “It’s great to be recognized by our peers as being right up there with the best of the best in an eight-state regional competition where Omaha Magazine was the only Nebraska magazine recognized as a finalist—let alone a winner. We also congratulate the Omaha World-Herald for their strong showing at the awards.”

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Nostalgia

March 9, 2015 by

Originally published in March/April 2015 Omaha Magazine

So an old friend said to me, “I used to like living in Omaha, but now it’s too big.”

Putting aside for the moment the imprecise nature of what “big” is exactly, I do get it. When I got here in 1967, the town’s west side ended at 79th Street. Omaha was referred to proudly as a “15-minute town.” You could get anywhere in 15 minutes. I remember the shift to “a 20 minute town.” Now I think we may have crept up to the half hour mark. But my friend’s problem isn’t distance, or traffic, or sprawl—he’s simply stuck in the past.

It’s impossible to avoid nostalgia.

Oh, there was a day when nostalgia had a bad name, but that was a long time ago, back when we all looked to the future for comfort. (Yes, I do plan to write about irony in my next column.) But back to the future—what went wrong with that?

For a start, every election we’d hear about how “our children are our future.” Now that seems to be an obvious platitude…unless those of us who’ve had children stopped to think for a second about a world run by our kids. When we considered the implications of that seemingly benign premise, the prospect filled us with a deeply felt sense of doom. None of us want to admit it, but the truth is that parents know at a very primal level, despite all of the love and pride we have for our gifted offspring, that these benighted little creatures have no brains.

We’ve observed the tykes at close range over a significant period of time. We’ve observed behaviors that give us cause to examine their skulls for leaks. On top of that we remember when we were “the future.” Look where that got us.

So this whole “future” thing makes us quake in our boots—or, tremble in our Birkenstocks if that is the lifestyle we chose back when we were vacant-minded adolescents.

I loved Popular Science magazine with its glossy, Technicolor artist renderings of flying cars full of happy nuclear families jetting out of the towering spires of some utopian megapolis into the peaceful green countryside where shiny robots milked the farmer’s cows and fed his bright pink pigs. The future? Well, I’ve lived in big cities and I’ve worked on farms. I know there are very few sparkly spires, pink pigs, or perfect families, and there sure as heck aren’t any flying cars.

So we gave up on the future. And that left us only the past—nostalgia.

We long for that fabled 15-minute city, part of some Golden Age, enlightened, peaceful, stable. These yearnings comfort us only so long as we don’t read history, research the ancestral tree, or recall that when we could get around town in a quarter hour, there was really nowhere to go.

For me, the final straw regarding the past occurred when it came to my attention recently that my days on rock radio were part of someone’s idyllic past. “Remember when Otis and Diver had that big election party at Peony Park?”

Oh, the horror! I had become nostalgia personified. The revelation had the same impact as waking up to discover I was a large cockroach. Thank you very much, Franz Kafka.

The future is scary, the past is a dream, and we are left in the unexpected position of having to choose the present…today…the now.

So, my humble suggestion, get in the car and go to Fontenelle Forest. Wander down the walkway to the trails and head down towards the river. Find a spot in the trees and sit down on an old stump. Listen. That’s the now welcoming you.

From my house the drive is exactly 29 minutes.

Otis XII’s newest book, Tales of the Master: The Book of Stone will be released this summer by Grief Illustrated Press.

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