Tag Archives: Shakespeare

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.

What’s That Thing

October 13, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Shakespeare wrote of love and betrayal. Tolkien of hobbits and wizards. Steinbeck and Faulkner of the indomitable American spirit.

Layne Yahnke writes about his VW Thing.

Yes, the two-wheel-drive, off-road convertible military vehicle first manufactured for the West German Army as “Type 181” in 1968. VW churned them out until 1983, including two years in the United States when marketed as “The Thing.”

Yahnke got his Thing in 2000 for $5,500. He’s lovingly restored it, most importantly giving it a peppy new motor that makes it Autobahn-worthy.

There’s only one other Thing in Omaha and Yahnke gets lots of second and third looks when he’s whipping down the Dodge Street Expressway from his Elkhorn home. Especially when the doors are off and windshield is down.

Everyone wants to know about…the Thing.

Thus Yahnke penned, “It Takes a Village to Build a VW Thing,” an ode to those who helped him with his beloved ride—his sons, Omaha VW Club members, engine and body shops, and parts stores.

“I wrote that right after the engine transplant,” says Yahnke, an Omaha native and vice president at Essex Corp., provider of senior living communities. “I guess I was moved. I get so many inquiries about it and I really feel so fondly about it.”

It’s not his first Thing. Yahnke and his wife of 38 years, Pam, owned one before their four children came along. As the kids have come and gone, so have the cars.

Lots of them.

Layne and Pam Yahnke

Layne and Pam Yahnke


Yahnke figures he has owned 60 automobiles in his life. His car fancy began as a kid growing up in Dundee where a friend’s dad spent his spare time restoring English cars. Yahnke spent hours in his garage and developed a love for Triumphs and MGs. His first car purchase was a 1962 Triumph for $425 in 1972. It wasn’t long, though, until he sold it at a profit.

“That’s what kicked off the buying and selling of English cars,” he says. “I discovered I could enjoy my transportation, but then as soon as someone wanted to buy it for more than I paid for it, out it went.”

These days, you never know what will be parked in the Yahnke driveway. Currently, there’s a Honda pickup, a VW Jetta, VW Multivan, and a 2001 Audi TT Quatro Convertible—purchased in apropos silver for his 25th wedding anniversary.

It’s the Thing he most enjoys driving. He logs about 1,000 miles on it each year. Most of those have come topless—Yahnke long ago gave it away to another Thing enthusiast and now only drives it sans roof.

“Anyone who sees this car has only seen it top-down,” he says. “I just got caught once in the rain, and that was probably a month ago. The cool thing about the Thing is you leave it out in the sun and it dries out and is ready to go.”

It says, “Summer is here,” Yahnke says.

“People speed up all the time to try to figure out what it is. It’s just a happy car and it’s so darn versatile. It puts smiles on peoples’ faces.”