Monthly Archives: August 2010

The big 2^5

P1090337.JPGIt’s that time of year again. I’m a year older now (the big two-to-the-power-of-five, for the mathematically inclined), and I had a wonderful weekend to celebrate it with both friends and family (thanks primarily to Vivian, who had a weekend full of wonderful surprises in store for me!)

We kicked the weekend off, naturally, at the Eagle’s Lodge at 24th and Douglas, mostly for the giant group of birthday jams we held, one of which was mine. I’d had a fairly light dinner and saved my appetite for Village Inn afterward, which proved to be a sleepily goofy night as always.

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Vivian had kept the details of my birthday weekend something of a surprise, which was just fine by me. We started the afternoon off at Fun Plex, a small amusement park in mid-town Omaha that I was surprised to learn had its own miniature version of Oceans of Fun in the middle of it. I had a great time with Eric, Jon, Jenny, and Kristen and Gabe as we made use of the wave pool, the “lazy” river, and the water slides. The slides were especially fun, both because there was practically no waiting at the top, and because they were significantly faster that the ones available at Oceans of Fun. I found myself flipped around a number of times and went airborne more than once. Of course, I made full use of our waterproof camera, snapping as many photos and video as the battery would allow.

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After working up an appetite at the water park all afternoon, we went out to dinner at Johnny’s Cafe out in South Omaha. Johnny’s is something of a fixture in old Cow Town, having a long history sitting next to the old stockyards and even being featured in the film About Schmidt. (There’s a big photo of Jack Nicholson in the foyer, just to remind everyone.) We were joined with a dozen of our friends and Vivian’s parents to enjoy some delicious steak and onion rings together before heading home for cake and ice cream.

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Back at the house, we had some carrot cake and blueberry pie Donna had made with a crust made with vodka to give it an usual texture. We also some scrumptious homemade peanut butter ice cream courtesy of Vivian with a whole buffet of toppings to go along with it. I opened presents and a few cards before gathering with everyone in the basement to watch Mystery Science Theater 3000: the Movie. I’d seen it a couple times before, but it’s always fun to watch again, especially with people who’ve never seen it before. About half the crowd stuck around to watch the “encore” episode of Pod People, courtesy of my brother Jonathan who dropped by to join the party.

We stayed up until well after midnight once the movie was done, wrapping up the evening with unspeakable acts of gross with whipped cream (which wasn’t quite as naughty as it sounds).

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On Sunday (my birthday), I went to Lincoln and dropped by Northpointe Community Church, my old place of worship several years ago. They had a new building out in Northwest Lincoln, and I was glad to be able to visit it. There were only a handful of people I recognized from the old days, but it was good to say hello and catch up with them before heading out.

We spent the afternoon with Nathan and Ranae, who gave me a copy of Robert Crumb’s Book of Genesis. It proved to be a very unusual graphic novel, and considering the explicit nature of most of Crumb’s works, I was quite surprised to see that he’d illustrated the first book of the bible entirely “straight.” It should prove to be a very interesting read (even more so than Fritz the Cat).

The five of us went to lunch at the Engine House Cafe in Havelock, one of my favorite little restaurants, and then went to the 20 Grand to watch Vampires Suck. I probably wouldn’t have picked that movie on my own, but it turned out to be much funnier than I expected (probably because I’ve sat through all three of the Twilight films so far and could appreciate all the gags). We played a few video games in the lobby before heading home, and then I got to wrap up the day opening a few more presents. I got copies of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, Sun Tzu’s Art of War, and Seth Godin’s Linchpin courtesy of my parents, an iTunes Gift Card and an audio book of Ben Stein’s How to Ruin Your Life courtesy of Jonathan (among other things I’ll have to share later), and a bottle of Glenlivet and an AC/DC adapter from Vivian. Needless to say, I was quite the happy birthday boy.

It was one of the best birthdays I’ve ever had, certainly the best in recent memory, and I had a wonderful time with the dozens of wonderful friends and family who came to share the weekend with us. I feel blessed every day I’m with Vivian, but this weekend made me feel more blessed that I could imagine. I love you, sweetie! You’ve made me very happy to have been born.

Balloons and barbecues

The dog days of summer are well underway, and as the hot, muggy August days drift by, Vivian and I are still keeping busy having fun with our friends (among other things)

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Last weekend, we went to the wine and balloon fair with Jenny, Jon, and Sarah Adair out in way West Omaha (where Maple Street thinks it’s in Gretna). It was hot and windy, and there wasn’t actually much ballooning. About two or three were able to take off before the balloon people gave up. There was plenty of wine to be sampled, however, with local wineries such as James Arthur Vineyards and Soaring Wings making some welcome appearances.

Vivian and I spent that Saturday and Sunday staining our backyard deck. It looked like it needed some sprucing up, with plenty of dirt and grime that we had to spray off with a pressure washer. Now were treated the surface with some lovely red stain that seemed to breathe new life into the old wood surface.

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Saturday night, Vivian and I headed down the street to the Nothnagels’ house for their annual barbecue. Vivian brought her legendary artichoke dip and some banana rum that tasted quite interested with a strawberry margarita. People enjoyed the food outside and made use of the playground next door before the ravenous mosquitoes decided to take over the backyard. Inside, we made good use of the giant basement dance floor to Lindy Hop to every goofy track we could find on Troy’s laptop, and I also wound up “swinging” Shannon’s cute kids C.J. and Kasee around until I was dizzy. Some people played Rock Band upstairs, and Vivian got me to croak along to Green Day’s Know Your Enemy, which I know best as the bicep track from Body Pump 72. There were also a couple amusing games of Twister that seemed to lack a clear winner.

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On Sunday, I got to enjoy some Lindy in the Park at their new location up beneath the archway at 11th and Farnam. The new location was a little breezier and had more shade than the usual spot down the river on the Gene Leahy Mall, so I danced on the uneven pavement with a few of our Jitterbug friends before heading back to the Nothnagels to help consume a few of the leftovers.

The next day, Vivian and I both reached a milestone in our experience at the YMCA — we both completed our “summer sweat” cards. Over the summer months, participants could get a free T-shirt if they participated in 30 different group fitness classes and collected initials from their instructors in order to prove it. The deadline was September 3, so we both made it with a few days to spare. Go team!

Niobrara Trip 2010

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It’s camping season once again, and for the fourth year in a row, Vivian and I joined Jenny and a group of our mutual friends for a weekend of roughing it. This year we went up to the Niobrara River for some canoeing, much like the trip we took three years ago. (Has it been that long already?)

We all carpooled to the campsite except for Keith, who took his new “Fuzzy Buggy” up to northern Nebraska with us. It’s a van inexplicably covered in blue astroturf that he bought to replace the infamous “redneck truck” when it finally croaked. It was the source of much amusement for us and a few other campers over the weekend, but I think it’d do very well in a parade for the Creighton Bluejays (especially with the platform on the top for some cheerleaders).

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We set about putting up our tents and grilling some burgers well ahead of the drunken tubers who eventually started filling up the campgrounds. The weather was hot and muggy all weekend, so I quickly decided to jump into the river and enjoy the cool water before dinner. I also gave our waterproof camera a dry-run before the canoeing trip.

We had dinner, and Jon had some fun with Diet Coke and Mentos afterward. The sun went down, and we roasted some marshmallows as the drunks at the campsite started blasting music from their flatbed pickups and motor homes. Despite the noise, we were still able to enjoy the great outdoors, gazing up at stars we could never see under the city lights of Omaha. We also counted a bunch of beautiful shooting stars, which are apparently far more common that I ever would have imagined.

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We started off on our canoe trip fairly early the next morning, leaving around 8:30 by bus and arriving at the river a little after nine. The tubers were already up and drinking at this point, disgusting light beer in hands and loud, floating stereo systems already blasting away along the river. Vivian and I paddled quickly past them so we could enjoy some actual nature on our trip, and we were quickly rewarded with some quiet, natural rocky formations and waterfalls along the route.

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We had lunch at Smith Falls State Park, home of Nebraska’s highest waterfall. If any of us were still sleepy from last night, we got the chance to have a nice, brisk shower at the rocky base of the falls.

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Next stop along the trip, of course, was the “jumping off point” along the river. This is where a rocky ledge along the river goes from an inch of water down to eight or nine feet, making it the perfect spot for jumping and swimming along with the river’s current. There was also a small set of waterfalls and rapids around the corner, where you could sit and fight the current as if it were your own personal jacuzzi.

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Back at the campsite, after we’d had the chance to shower and cool down for an hour or two, we grilled up some potatoes and brats and settled in for the evening. Vivian brought her electronic Catchphrase game to pass around, and then we got to tell another progressive campfire story. This year’s story, among many other things, involved Big Bird’s shocking relationship with Madonna. (We also learned that the word “meanwhile” is the control-alt-delete of progressive storytelling.)

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On Sunday, we dropped by the Snake River Falls before heading on home, just as we did in 2007. This is the widest waterfall in Nebraska, and I was able to take my waterproof camera all the way behind the misty, cascading falls this time, which was fantastic.

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We stopped in Valentine for lunch before starting our long journey home, and I was finally able to get a photo of a Valentine Police cruiser. These are the guys who write you a ticket if you forget to get your significant other something on February 14. The rest of the gang went to Subway for lunch, which I in my constant pursuit of unique small town dining experiences dropped by the Frosty Drive-In across the street. Yes, a freshly-made bacon cheeseburger with onion “chips” and a raspberry shake may not be as health-conscious as a Subway veggie sandwich, but if I want a bland, flavorless sandwich made by a boring franchise fast food restaurant, I can find one around every corner in Nebraska.

Our drive home was fairly boring compared to Eric’s. He decided to stay behind and take photos of a railroad ghost town called Long Pine, Neb. and got caught up in a severe thunderstorm along the way. Vivian and I kept just ahead of the storm, so we didn’t get to see some of the interesting rotation Eric saw underneath (and that was fine with us).

As soon as we got home, I started putting together a short video from our trip and had it online within a day or two. Having a waterproof camera made capturing the adventure we had almost as much fun as living through it. Check it out:


A video summary of our trip