Tag Archives: Otis Twelve

Ars Gratia Artis

June 13, 2019 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

“I don’t know art, but I know what I like.”

That’s an old maxim that originated with Monty Python, or Archie Bunker, or Will Rogers, or Mark Twain, or North Carolina Sen. Jesse “liberals are going to hell” Helms—or maybe Francis Bacon wrote it in the 16th century and forged William Shakespeare’s signature.

Whoever said it, we all believe it. Nobody is a better critic of art than we are. We walk up to a painting, or out of a concert hall—we put down a book or examine a statue—and we turn to whoever might hear us and say, “I don’t get it.” Judgement thus rendered, we start looking for a food truck.

Some folks like the masters of painting—Rembrandt, Vermeer, Caravaggio, Michelangelo. Some love the impressionists—Renoir, Monet, Paul Cezanne (although he is truly post impressionist). Many admire Salvador Dali’s moustache and melted clocks. Some love the happy little trees that Bob Ross taught us to paint on TV, or those big-eyed orphan/puppy/kitten paintings. And don’t get me started about the genius of Arthur Sarnoff’s masterpiece, “Dogs Playing Poker.” 

In music Beethoven was a grouch but we love his music. Mozart was a spoiled child star. Franz Liszt had groupies. Chopin was heroic. Gershwin made Fred and Ginger dance. Bernstein kidnapped Romeo and Juliet and schlepped them to the West Side. The Beatles turned rock into pop into art. And Keith Richards has become a monument just by surviving.

The great sculptor Auguste Rodin was a thinker—we have all imitated the pose. Degas and his ballerina…Michelangelo and his David…and his Pieta…Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi created our Statue of Liberty. And what the heck is that thing on the Council Bluffs overpass?

As for literature, did you actually read James Joyce’s Ulysses? No, you didn’t, but you have an opinion about it, don’t you? Did you listen to Cole Porter when he told you to Brush Up Your Shakespeare? “Just declaim a few lines from Othella, and they’ll think you’re a hell of a fella.” Do you read bestsellers? Did you love Joseph Heller’s Catch-22, or did you puzzle out The Da Vinci Code? Hint: she’s his great-great-great-great-etc.-granddaughter.

Do you ever read or listen to the art of poetry? They even have competitive poetry now. They call those events “slams,” although no actual physical contact occurs—that is, no one dives in to savagely block an attempted couplet. The slams are pretty exciting and it’s a way that more and more young people are introduced to the art form. As for me, I marvel at the fact that I actually know our state poet. I knew him back when he was just a county poet. It’s even more remarkable to me that one of our great poets actually wrote a poem that mentioned me—really, I keep a copy in my wallet.

What is art?

That question has caused a few thousand books to be published over the years, as philosophers from Aristotle to Snoop Dog have attempted to explain why this odd bipedal species we belong to makes music, recites rhymes, tells stories, and draws pictures on cave walls, canvas, and our own bodies. Tolstoy says that art “Is a means of union among men.” And Tolstoy had a beard, so he must be right.

Go out and find art. Go out and support art. When you find it, tell others what you found. If you know an artist, support them. Our lives are art when we open ourselves the uncommon wonder to be found in every common thing.

Art is all around us. You may not be able to define it, but you’ll know when you like it.


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 July/August 2019 edition of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

How Did I Get Here?

April 17, 2019 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

There’s an old joke about a traveler in New Hampshire chatting with an upstate farmer. “Have you lived here your whole life?” asks the visitor. The farmer replies, “Not yet.”

A lot of folks think I’ve lived my whole life here in Omaha. “You look like you’re from here,” they say. Perhaps it’s the faraway look in my eyes as I stare off towards the distant horizon. Maybe it’s my stoic persona. I don’t know. I’m even frequently asked about where I went to high school.

Many assume that, with my boyish charm, incisive intelligence, and somewhat socially maladaptive personality that I must have attended Creighton Prep. I didn’t. I was, in fact, trained by Benedictines, the natural enemies of Prep’s Jesuit founders. Those 16th century bloody feuds are still bitterly remembered. That said, I didn’t get prepped there, but I was admitted to Creighton University despite my somewhat shady secondary school background. How that happened is a short story that I will endeavor to lengthen.

Truth is, I’m not from here.

I was born in Des Moines and then quickly trundled off to Philadelphia for a while with my Navy dad and family. Yeah, I was a toddler in the City of Brotherly Love.

We moved to Kansas City, eventually, where the nuns thought my Philly accent was a speech impediment and soon had it out of me, using rulers and holy water.

So, mostly, I grew up in Kansas City, which is really different from Omaha. Omaha is like the little brother to Chicago—a smaller version of the Windy City, it’s one of those “broad shoulders” Midwest cities that grew up on the far side of the wide Missouri. Kansas City, Missouri, is a sister to Atlanta—Southern-styled and genteel, with a touch of the mob, it’s a city that stayed on the east side of the Muddy. You got kolaches and a cathedral; we got easy access to grits and lots of Baptist gospel choirs. You got polkas; we got ragtime. You say “Bee-at-triss;” we say “Miz-zer-rah.”

But a streetcar got me here. Let me explain.

My dad went to Creighton, before a certain World War intervened. Before he got his Navy wings, he was just a ground-bound farmer’s son who had made it to college—no small accomplishment. My dad, Vince, was a fun-loving guy and there was a certain pub in Dundee. It may, or may not, have been called the Golden Buddha. Whatever the name, my dad would take the streetcar from the Creighton campus that ran straight into old Dundee and visit the establishment—only after his studies were completed, of course. That’s where he met Harry.

Harry?

Hang on I’m getting there—or here…

Harry went to Creighton, too, and when Vinnie met Harry a friendship came to be. And then, Harry took Vinnie home to Iowa one weekend and introduced him to Ethel. Love happened. Biology worked. Eventually, I came to be—in an existential sense. Cutting to the chase, I was weaned, learned to walk, picked up a Philly accent, lost my Philly accent, played second base for the Monarch Electric Bolts, grew 62 inches, hung out with Benedictine monks, graduated from high school, and as time came to pass…I decided that I wanted to attend my father’s alma mater…so…

Here I am.

A visitor recently asked me, “Do you like it here?” I remembered the New Hampshire farmer and replied, “Yes…So far.”

Yep, here I am in Omaha.

All thanks to a streetcar.

We should still have some of those.


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 first appeared in the March/April 2019 edition of Omaha MagazineTo receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Otis XII

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.

Two Habits To Save The World:

February 14, 2019 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

There are two things that frame my life—naps and walks.

Sure, I have a job and a family, but those roles take care of themselves so long as I have a nap and a walk on a regular basis. Most of life entails performing repetitive tasks: shopping, cooking, eating, breathing, filing your taxes, making your bed, and occasionally actually speaking to fellow humans with a modicum of courtesy. Living in the modern world is not really very complex, and for me at least, it’s easy when it includes the aforementioned snooze and stroll.

Now, napping is, on its face, also a simple task. Close your eyes, slip through a hypnagogic state into the realm of Morpheus, and there you are. It’s very similar to going to bed at night, except it must be done during daylight hours, when others are busy at seemingly “productive” tasks. Napping can be done while prone, sitting, crumpled in a corner, or even, by truly accomplished practitioners, standing, though I do not recommend beginners attempt this technique as it can lead to bodily bruising that is hard to explain to supervisors, spouses, or law enforcement officials. It should also be noted that napping is best when there are no children or small nervous dogs nearby.

The successful napper enjoys a myriad of benefits from the practice including an improved complexion, peace of mind, and a pleasant sense of detachment from the so-called “real” world. People who nap regularly rarely commit crimes, start wars, Google inappropriately, root for the New England Patriots, or embarrass themselves or others by becoming overachievers. People who nap are a natural brake on the world’s propensity for making too much progress, or letting achievements get out of hand.

I have learned that napping is a great thing to do when facing any problem, large or small. It seems that most problems in life solve themselves. In fact, they do so most efficiently when they are ignored. Thus, grab some “zzzz’s” and your problems will simply disappear.

Walking is actually a prerequisite for napping. A good stretch of the legs prepares one for a good stretch of afternoon shut-eye. But be careful, do not confuse walking with exercise. Exercise, or “working out,” as many addicts call it, is to be avoided at all costs. The worst form of this affliction is running.

There is never any excuse for running. Mankind has wiped out most of the old predators who fed on our tasty flesh, so we are unlikely to find ourselves in a life or death chase these days. Likewise, we no longer have to pursue our own prey since a good number of grocery stores are now open 24/7. Running is simply for showoffs, and running on a treadmill? The worst form of narcissism.

Walking is simply walking. It is important not to have a destination when walking. It’s a Zen thing. Simply move your legs and begin that journey of a thousand miles with a single step, always keeping in mind that you have absolutely no intention of ever covering a thousand miles. Avoid treadmills, jogging (a “gateway” behavior), and health clubs.

Take a walk. Take a nap.

The world will be a better place.


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 first appeared in the March/April 2019 edition of Omaha MagazineTo receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Otis XII

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.

My Bucket List

January 3, 2019 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Lots of people have what they call a “bucket list.”

That, of course, is a list of things you want to do before you die. Because, obviously, there are not a lot of things you can do after you die. At least, so far as I know.

Before we go any further, it’s important to note that there are all sorts of buckets. Livestock buckets, ice buckets, mop buckets, ash buckets, sand buckets, etc. None of these buckets are to be confused with milk pails. All pails are buckets, but not all buckets are pails.

And it’s also important to understand that, in my mind, nothing made out of plastic should be considered a bucket. Plastic things with handles are an abomination. It says so in the Bible. Trust me. Just search Leviticus, you’ll see. True buckets must be made from wood or some type of durable metal, preferably galvanized aluminum or steel. Plastic buckets are…well, they are…plastic. There’s too much plastic in the world. We should put all of it in a super large bucket and seal it in a mountain in Nevada. Our grandchildren and the planet would thank us.

But back to “bucket lists.” Where did that phrase come from anyway? I know it’s a reference to “kick the bucket,” like Jimmy Durante did at the beginning of It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. But what does “kicking” a bucket (not a pail) have to do with dying? Some say it’s a reference to knocking the bucket out from under your own feet while you are trying to hang yourself in the barn. That’s a cheery thought. There’s an even less cheery explanation that involves slaughtering pigs…I will spare you that origin story.

There is another, less gruesome claim to the genesis of the saying. Back in the old days, the dearly departed would be laid out for the wake and a bucket of holy water would be placed at their feet. Mourners would then file by and sprinkle the corpse. Now, though no kicking the bucket would be expected at that point, I suppose if a clumsy friend knocked the pail to the floor, he might suddenly blurt out, “It wasn’t me! He did it!” pointing an accusing finger at the motionless honoree.

Wherever the term came from, like I said, lots of people have bucket lists.

I’ve noticed that most of these lists are heavy on travel. Like, “I want to visit the Alhambra at sunset.” Or…“I want to go to Bora Bora with Jennifer Aniston.” Well, leave me out of that. I love being in cool places. But I hate getting there. I’m 6’5” and not fond of security checkpoints, sitting in coach, or deep-vein thrombosis.

I have my own bucket list. So, before I die….

  1. Please let me never be on a Perillo Tour of Italy.
  2. Spare me food poisoning and/or a Caribbean cruise.
  3. I don’t want to ever watch the television news while in the dentist’s chair.
  4. Give me a cellphone with the ringer permanently set on “off.”
  5. Please let me never hear the words, “You might feel some pressure.”
  6. Three weeks alone at the Merritt Reservoir would be nice.
  7. I’d like to have a personal assistant. Might be fun.
  8. I’d like to have a TV that responds to me when I yell at it.
  9. Keep me alive until the Cornhuskers, 76ers, Cubs, and Chiefs win it all in the same year.
  10. I want to attend my grandchild’s retirement party.

Don’t get me wrong. I also want to see the Alhambra at sunset. But until there’s a train to get me there, I’ll just sit here with my steel bucket and dream.


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 January/February 2019 edition of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Simply the Best

November 12, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Celebrating the best things in our community is a very good thing. In fact, it is better than good by definition. It is the best. Yes, it is beyond the comparative. It is superlative.

(Thanks, and a “Best Of” sticker to Sister Rose Agnes, the best grammar teacher I ever had, who taught me all about that good, better, best stuff.)

Obviously, in this issue, Omaha Magazine recognizes the superlative achievements of businesses across the metroplex—the Best of the Best.

Which reminds me, whatever happened to Pete Best? And while we’re on the subject of Best as a surname, do you realize there are 159 people named “Best” in the Omaha phone book? Why don’t we ever recognize them as some of the “Best in Omaha?” There are so many “Bests” in the world.

Ahmed Best, an American actor, got his big break from George Lucas when he was hired for Chapter One of the Star Wars saga. Unfortunately the part he got was performing the voice of Jar Jar Binks. Never in the history of the American cinema has a character been so pilloried. Audiences were almost unanimous in their dislike of the odd, shuffling, alien caricature. Sadly, instead of blaming Lucas they blamed Ahmed and nearly drove him to suicide. Fortunately he got through the trauma, and I hereby give him an honorary “Best Bad Star Wars Character Ever” award. It’s a case where being the “Worst” turns out to be a “Best.”

C.L. Best was the founder of the C.L. Best Gas Traction Co. Many people ask “Who?” or “What?” He later changed the name of the firm to Caterpillar. That’s pretty cool. One of the Best things you can do on a sunny afternoon is watch a big earthmoving machine level a lot or knock over an eyesore. Am I right?  Thanks, C.L.  You’re one of the Best.

Edna Best was a British actress who did a few notable films, including Hitchcock’s original The Man Who Knew Too Much, and The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. Edna had the Best Wedding Ever, her third. She was granted a divorce from her second husband in a Las Vegas courtroom and then married to her third by the same judge, in the same courtroom, five minutes later. You have to admire her moxie.

Skeeter Best was a great jazz guitarist back in the day. He worked with Ray Charles, Harry Belafonte, and Etta Jones. He holds the title of “Best Nickname For A Guy Named Best.”

But the Best of the Bests was probably William Best, First Baron Wynford, who was Speaker of the House of Lords in the early 19th century. Lord Best suffered from a bad case of gout and thus, was carried into the chamber by four servants, as he remained seated in a large armchair, because it is good to be king, but it is better to be Lord Best.

Here’s to the Bests, in Omaha and beyond.  

Now, let’s be the best we can be to one another. 

View the full list of 2019 Best of Omaha winners here: https://omahamagazine.com/articles/best-of-omaha-2019/


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.

Garbage In, Garbage Out

October 24, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann
Illustration by Joe Pankowski

Back in late 1969, America could do anything and meet any challenge. After all, those were the days of the Apollo Project. Neil Armstrong had taken his “small step,” and two days later blasted off the lunar surface, leaving behind the landing module’s descent stage and a collection of various scientific apparatus, tools, flotsam, jetsam, and flagpoles behind. In other words, we had successfully sent a man to the moon and back and left litter behind, because that’s what we humans do.

Speaking of garbage.

As a nation we were optimistic and sure of ourselves, and John Boyd of Falls Church, Virginia, was a visionary to match the times. Boyd had been working in the waste management field for years when he had his “Eureka” moment. What did America need? It all seemed so clear to him, America needed a household appliance that could convert our trash into neat little cubes—kind of like those bundles that Wall-E stacked sky high in that movie. It was a “can’t miss” idea, and Boyd got his patent. The kitchen trash compactor was born. The world was never the same.

Soon Kenmore, Whirlpool, and a host of brand names rushed the machine into appliance stores. The hydraulic power of the under-the-counter miracles would receive its daily allotment of debris and with a hum, a bit of a grinding noise, three or four clunks, a crack (no glass in the trash please), a slight ultrasonic hiss, and voila! That loose clump of garbage would be transformed into a super-dense odoriferous singularity. “What a boon,” the ads trumpeted, “Only take out the trash once a week!” 

The other thing we Americans are good at, besides having visions, is marketing. Trash compactor sales took off…at first…and then….somebody said, “Why would I spend $300 on a machine that turns 30 pounds of garbage into 30 pounds of garbage?” The light bulb went on above everybody’s head almost simultaneously, and the miracle appliance miraculously flopped.

Yes, Americans can achieve anything if we put our minds to it. The problem is that sometimes we achieve extremely stupid things.

Right now, some visionaries have a new vision, which of course, is what visionaries are supposed to have. They imagine our streets and highways full of driverless cars. Computers and little servo motors will, they say, seamlessly operate all our motor vehicles—even huge semi-trailer trucks—freeing us from the drudgery of paying attention to the traffic jam that surrounds us and giving us more time to stay riveted to our Twitter feeds for the latest absurdities of the dysfunctional electronic family we are all welded to these days.

Of course, the idea seems cool. Unless it’s foggy, or raining, or there’s a bit of construction on your route, or somebody tries to cross the street on foot. Yes, there can be, and have been, tragic consequences. OK, maybe it would be good news for Uber drivers, because none of them would work for Uber’s robot fleet anymore. Freedom! Other than that, it’s a cool idea that we should relegate to dystopic science fiction movies. Sometimes we humans have too many ideas. Ask John Boyd.

Driverless cars? Really? Why do we need a technology that will turn a freeway full of one million cars into a freeway full of one million cars?

Just asking.


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 2018 edition of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

What’s in a Name?

August 23, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann
Illustration by Joe Pankowski

In Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare wrote: “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose. By any other name would smell as sweet.” Gertrude Stein continued, “A rose is a rose is a rose” in her poem “Sacred Emily.” NBC’s Craig Calcaterra concluded, “Pete Rose is a cheater.”

In my opinion, it is important what we name things. Take the “rose” in the above statements. Change “rose” to “salamander.” Juliet’s take on the scent of a salamander would not be quite so romantic. Stein’s poetic reflection on identity would lose its meter. And Pete Salamander would be in the Hall of Fame. Names are important.

When I was a precocious toddler on the verge of verbal proficiency, my family went to the beach. My young eyes took in all the new, heretofore unimagined, sights around me. The surf rushed in around my knees when suddenly, I saw it, and, in a flash, I knew what to say: “Clam!” I pointed at the new thing. I was naming the unnamed. The human need to understand drives us to categorize things in order to organize the universe in our minds. Naming things is an essential part of that process.

“Clam!” I said again.

“It’s a seagull,” said my father patiently. “Sea-gull.”

“Clam!” I liked the sound of my word better. What did I know? I was only a 1-year-old. I was transfixed as I watched the clam spread its wings and take to the sky, heading out over the waves towards the far horizon.

What I’m trying to say is, it is good to name things, but it is also a good idea to do it correctly.

When I was a somewhat older kid, I fell in love with baseball. I would take every opportunity to head down Brooklyn Avenue in Kansas City to watch my beloved Athletics at Municipal Stadium. Yes, the field was called “municipal” because it was a municipal building, that is, it was owned by the city. Cleveland had a Municipal Stadium, too. No one was confused. The name made sense. Here in Omaha the baseball park was named after Johnny Rosenblatt. That made sense because Johnny was a good guy and there would not ever have been such a stadium had it not been for his efforts.

The Bears play at Soldier Field. The Bills used to play at War Memorial. The Yankees played at Yankee Stadium—where else? Now some fields had names like Wrigley, but that was because Mr. Wrigley actually owned the stadium. He built it with his own money. Wrigley Field as a name makes sense.

But…here comes the old codger part…now we have this thing called “naming rights.”  Companies pay money to have their logos stamped above the entrances and scoreboards. It’s getting ridiculous.

If not for “naming rights,” whoever would have thought of Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, Talking Stick Arena in Phoenix, or the Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento? And the latest worst and most terrible, stupid, regrettable stadium name of all time is…wait for it…

ENRON Field in Houston. Ouch. The perils of selling naming rights.

Here in Omaha we have a beautiful downtown venue. It was called the Qwest Center, then the CenturyLink Center, and now it is tagged as the CHI Health Center. We could have done worse, I guess, but I still wonder, when I hear the name, should I take an Uber to the concert or an ambulance?

I hope to hit a Powerball someday. I’ll buy the naming rights and proudly watch the letters go up on…wait for it…Municipal Arena. Wouldn’t that be nice?


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 September/October 2018 edition of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Food for Thought

August 5, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann
Illustration by Joe Pankowski

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. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Remember The Maine!

April 7, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann
Illustration by Joe Pankowski

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 column was printed in the March/April 2018 edition of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.