Tag Archives: Otis XII

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.

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 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.

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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Otis XII

November 4, 2014 by and
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

If you’ve spent any time in Omaha, you know the voice. The voice. It’s been in your head since the 1970s. It was in your head at the height of album rock, back when the pot haze up in the rafters of the Civic Auditorium got you higher than… well, the rafters of the Civic Auditorium. The voice invited you there and you followed the voice there and there on that Best Day Ever you experienced Eddie Van Halen shredding the Frankenstrat and your eardrums. Dude, seriously, Otis XII might have spoken to you more than your own mother. And since he was probably the coolest guy you knew, since he was always there for you, he may be the guy you’re still trying to be.

The voice still fills a room at 64 years of age. It even fills the back yard of his home near Maple Street and I-680. This writer first heard the voice on his Pioneer SK95 boom box back in the early 1980s nearly 100 miles southeast of Omaha. Riding the Z-92 waves the voice reached even the hinterlands of Eastern Nebraska.

Here on the patio, the voice that filled a yesteryear of pimples and awkwardness and premature-everything carries pretty much that same memorable tenor. Let’s say it hovers in the low G range: Resonant like the deep bong of a wind gong. But, alas, the vocal chords, thanks to his last active addiction—smoking—have been scraped ragged. There is gravel now. We’ll call it character.

Really, the gravel fits the man behind the voice. Somehow, this guy brought a soothing heft to the locker room heckling of FM radio. He was funny, but there were strong suggestions of the Jesuit upbringing, the formative years spent in a monastery, the love for Continental and Eastern philosophies, the years on the road, and maybe, a collection of scars. The guy wasn’t heavy, really. He just had a heft and thoughtfulness unusual for the morning drive. Even the absurdities had a hint of gravity. It is a mind and voice that arguably better fits his current job. He is the voice of UNO’s KVNO radio. Classical music. No way is this guy classy. But he is still pitch-perfect for the refined.

As for his face—damn. Rasputin? “I got the face I deserve,” he says. Is “fugly” too strong a term? This is not the face of a man without sin, woe, and hard-won experience. If you are of a certain bent, though, this is the roadmap face of a fellow you really want to explore.

Much of his story’s arc is funky cool and full of holy-cow moments, but, ultimately, kinda what you’d expect from a roaming hippie, travelling-show-minstrel-turned-radio-star that is now the sagely, sedate, wisely-sober-but-not-overly-AAish voice of a cultured non-profit. The chronology: college shenanigans. Electric Bathwater. Haight-Ashbury. Crazy hippie sh*t. Dr. Demento. Good Times. The Mean Farmer. Space Commander Wack. Bad behavior. Worse behavior. Rehab. Family life restored. The middle-age writing phase. Lots of memorabilia. Mozart. The occasional charity event. All great campfire fare.

But underneath all of this, there was always a horrible secret festering. This other story is heartbreaking and messed up. When the drinking stopped in the late 1980s—when things slowed down and the self-medicating stopped—a monster returned. Here is where the story turns.

At this point, we’ll call him by his birth name, Doug Wesselmann. This was his name when he was 12 years old and the man he most trusted from church took him for a ride.

He was that cool older friend.” The guy drove a cool convertible with duel pipes and a nice stereo. “It all lured me in—that’s how predators operate,” Wesselmann says.

It happened out on a quiet county road not far from Wesselmann’s home in Kansas City. The guy took him for a ride, then parked unexpectedly. Wesselmann understandably truncates details. He’ll say this much: The man raped him, strangled him, and left him for dead in a ditch. Wesselmann awoke and staggered home dazed with an aching throat and blinding headache. At his house, he washed himself off with a garden hose and went inside. His father, who travelled often for business, wasn’t there. His mother was asleep. He didn’t speak in detail about the attack for more than 30 years.

A few months after the attack, Wesselmann left for Atchison, Kansas, to enter the Benedictine monastery there. Each day until he graduated from secondary school he spent time in the strict silence demanded by the Rule of St. Benedictine. The monks believe silence clears the mind of distractions.

He came to Omaha in the mid-1960s to attend Creighton University. He was steeped in church teaching, he loved philosophy, but the priesthood, as any longtime listener might guess, was not for him. At Creighton, he started a counter-culture radio show on Creighton’s university station that regularly rankled the Jesuits.

Along with his friends, Wesselmann gravitated toward programs “with this really odd mix” of music and comedy. Skits, weird characters, the latest trippy music. The names of the shows and troupes were psychedelic and inspired. (“The Electric Bathwater,”  for one). In 1970, Wesselmann, Bill Frenzer,” and Bill Carey formed the music and comedy troupe “The Ogden Edsl Wahalia Blues Ensemble Mondo Bizzario Band,” a name they wisely shortened to “Ogden Edsl.” Weird, satirical, and often quite dark (one of their biggest hits was “Dead Puppies”), the group was often featured on the nationally syndicated “Dr. Demento” radio show based out of Los Angeles. In fact, “Dead Puppies,” became the most requested song in the history of “Dr. Demento.”

Wesselmann lived “hand-to-mouth” off of his band earnings in the San Francisco of the early 1970s. Life was “pretty much what you’d imagine” for a travelling comedy and music troop in that era.  “We weren’t making much, but, you know, we were actually making a living doing that stuff,” Wesselmann says. “It’s something every young person should do.”

Through this time, he says, the trauma from the attack in his adolescence stayed neatly packed away. His lifestyle, he says, helped keep anything unpleasant at bay. “Drugs and alcohol can work great for a while.”

By 1977, though, Wesselmann decided it was time to move on. He wanted to marry and have kids— “that whole thing.” He moved back to Omaha. Here, his good friend, artist Kent Bellows, introduced him to his sister. “I guess Kent thought we were good breeding stock.” Doug and Deb have been married for 37 years.

Upon arriving in Omaha, Wesselmann quickly teamed up with a like-minded comedian named Jim Celer, who picked up his own moniker, “Diver Dan Doomey.” The duo started with a weekly show on rock station KQKQ. They were then asked to do the morning show for a new Omaha rock station, KEZO-FM. Z92 took off thanks to their morning show and what Wesselmann calls a “genuinely superb staff.”

The ride lasted 13 years.

Through the 1980s, in the background, Wesselmann drank. He lived the substance-abuse cliché: He kept a balance for years, then he increasingly didn’t. He started damaging his relationships. “Drugs and alcohol worked for a long time, and then they stopped working but I kept using. That’s the stage there where you put everyone around you in pain. The usual process.” Wesselmann entered rehab in 1989. He has been sober for a quarter century.

Flipping through the dial here: In 1992, he went to KFAB. In 1993, CD-105. After six years, he started doing talk radio for KKAR. In 2001, not long after September 11, Wesselmann left KKAR. “After 9/11, everything became jingoistic. You were expected to provoke, not inform. That’s what made money. It just wasn’t for me.”

He and Deb moved 54 miles east of Omaha to Walnut, Iowa. At the time, Wesselmann was increasingly becoming known for his short stories. After leaving radio in 2002, he turned his attention to writing fiction and essays. His first novel, On the Albino Farm, was shortlisted for the 2003 British Crime Writers Association “Debut Dagger Award.”

Other pieces, A Prozac Notion, The Goodness of Trees, and On the Albino Farm all won significant prizes. Wesselmann, for whatever reason, was particularly popular and critically-acclaimed in England.

But, his royalty checks looked like those of most fiction writers. In 2006, the family moved back to Omaha and Wesselmann took his current job with KVNO.

Although he no longer writes fulltime, Wesselmann says he is not finished with writing. He has journaled all his life. He continues to journal. He journaled heavily once the night terrors began back in the mid-1990s.

Now, he and Deb have begun writing a book together. Deb is a psychologist who works with trauma victims (this isn’t why the couple met). Their book will be an amalgam: She will discuss methods of coping and working past PTSD, he will provide interludes in poetry and essays from the perspective of someone who has been wounded by trauma.

He will be telling the story of how he found peace. He will also tell the story of the day he went hunting for his attacker.

The night the couple met, Deb says, “I really had no intention of ever seeing him again. He was trying to impress me with his knowledge. We got in a big fight. I told my brother (Kent Bellows) that he was the most obnoxious person I had ever met.”

Needless to say, her opinion softened in subsequent meetings. The couple married and had children. Work and family life was all-consuming.

Through the 1980s, Doug marched through the stages of addiction. A few years after he got sober, Deb left teaching to pursue a master’s degree in psychology. She wanted to work with traumatized children, in particular. It was “just strange coincidence” that, “somewhere around 1994, [Doug] started giving these hints that something was wrong—that something happened at some point
in the past.

“There was no longer the self-medicating. He didn’t have that crutch. He became more easily agitated. The night terrors really floored him. It was awful for him, it was really awful to live with for both of us. There were all the symptoms of [Post Traumatic Stress Disorder].”

He finally told her the details of the attack. He sought therapy. He meditated. He journaled. “The process was pure drudgery, two steps forward, one step back,” Deb says. “Five years. Finally, he started reaching some level of peace.”

For the most part, Doug says, the years in Walnut and the years with KVNO “were the most peaceful of my life.” But there was still an unresolved issue: Where was his attacker?

Two years ago, against the wishes of his wife, Wesselmann took a trip back to the monastery in Atchison, Kan. He wanted to talk to the priest who helped cover up the crimes of his attacker. He says he honestly couldn’t predict his reaction if he found out where his attacker lived. “I assumed I could make peace with it. I don’t know.”

Wesselmann found the priest. He told the priest that he wanted to go to confession. Wesselmann had a plan: “In a confessional, it would be very difficult for him to lie. Did the priest feel any remorse? Where was the guy? I just wanted to know.”

He found what he was looking for: “There was heartfelt remorse.”

And then…

“The priest tells me that the guy wrapped his car around a tree. Dead. Done. Maybe it’s what he deserved. I don’t know. But he was dead.”

“There was a whole new serenity to him when he came back,” Deb says.

Now Doug and Deb are in the process of co-writing a book on overcoming severe trauma. As co-founder of The Attachment and Trauma Center of Nebraska, Deb has helped hundreds of victims of trauma find peace. In her portion of the book, she’ll provide a toolbox for trauma victims.

And Doug “will be doing the right-brained stuff.” Interwoven with her expert advice (Deb has already written three books herself) will be his essays and poems—some humorous, some decidedly not—detailing and ruminating on his journey. The couple is in the beginning stages of writing and compiling.

Maybe the book succeeds. Maybe it doesn’t. “It’s not going to change things either way,” he says. “I’m where I want to be.”

“Since that trip to Atchison, he’s really been at more peace in his life than ever,” Deb says. “I put that in the category of a ‘miracle.’ Considering where he was—truly, deeply tormented—to where he is now, it’s difficult not to call all of this a miracle.”