Category Archives: Circus

Cheesy Movie and the Circus


There were a couple more fun things in store for us this week. On Tuesday, Joel Hodgson of MST3K fame came to Omaha to riff a movie live at the Orpheum. I got some Chinese food before the show with dad, Uncle Jonny, and Richard, and then we met up with Nathan to get wanded up and down before squeezing inside the Orpheum to find our seats (with LIsa’s help) with a couple hundred other MSTies. As usual, there were a number of dressed for the occasion, either as a character from the show or toting a life-sized Tom Servo.

The show itself followed the format of the original MST3K TV show. Joel came out and played the theme song on guitar (with the audience chiming in with a “la la la” or two), and then they introduced the cast — which included an “assistant” named Emily, a Pearl Forrester clone (and some Pearl puppets), as well as Krow and Servo. The movie being riffed was a monumentally cheesy Karate Kid knock-off called No Retreat, No Surrender, which was so delightfully cheesy it could be watched without riffs. Joel and the Bots performed a few skits during breaks (preceded with video of the classic “tunnel sequences”), and they had a curtain call with the actors themselves at the .

It was a very good show, though it felt like a much more formal a production than the similar shows I’ve seen with “the Mads.” Specifically, Joel and his cast stay on stage, while the Mads sit with the audience and have a Q&A after each show making for a much more interactive experience (especially with the meet-and-greet time before and after the show). Still, as a long-time fan of MST3K, it was great to see Joel himself up close and personal for one last “movie sign.”


Then on Thursday, I took the entire day off just to enjoy about an hour at the Tangier Shrine Circus in Council Bluffs with Vivian, Grammy, and the kids.. They performed a shortened “free” show on Friday, which included a motorcycle on a swing, some trapeze artists, quick-change artists, a dog and pony show, and a few acts by the local Tangier clowns. They had one new act — a trio of motorcyclists riding around simultaneously inside a spherical cage. My favorite act, however, was the Chicago Boys, who I’d seen multiple times before bouncing around and jumping rope to energetic music. Aaron actually got up and started dancing during their act, which was especially fun to see. Grammy also bought the kids some cotton candy just to get the kids properly sugared up before we headed home.

In the meantime, we’ve had a couple lovely weekends with spring-like temperatures — warm enough to venture at least one trip to Stinson Park during a lunch break this week, and likely more on Saturday. Soon enough it’ll be time for flowers to blossom and for me to get back to work on the lawn and garden again.

Circus, Hibachi, and Biking in February


On Friday afternoon, the Shrine Circus was back in town, so I joined Vivian, Grammy, and the kids for an hour or two of fun under the big top (AKA the Mid-America Center). The usual batch of local Shriner clowns were on hand putting out fires and arresting criminals. There were tigers, bears, and even elephants (oh, my). We got to see some tricks with foot-juggling, a swing, and hula hoops, and the Chicago Boyz were back to jump around as well. I think the most impressive act were a pair of quick-change artists who were able to change into and out of a variety of outfits in just a few seconds.


Jack and Donna celebrated 39 years of marriage together on Saturday, so Vivian and I took them out to Sakura Sushi & Hibachi, where we’d had sushi together just a few weeks ago. This time, however, we came for the Hibachi, which was something of a dinner and a show. Our chef, Herman, lit a fire for us and then spun (and juggled) some eggs around on the grill. He cooked up a big mess of chicken, steak, and seafood (and veggies) and lit an onion volcano for our amusement. The food itself was all right, but the experience was what we came for, and we all had a good laugh trying to catch bits of eggs on our mouth. (Bonus! Bonus!)


And in case you haven’t noticed the weather lately, it’s been unseasonably gorgeous, with highs into the 70s this past week, which is unheard of for February. We took the opportunity to take the kids out in the new car for a drive down to Thompson Park, It was warm enough for short sleeves, and we were also able to haul the kids’ tricycles in the back of the CR-V so Hannah could take a ride around the park a couple times.

Our tulips are already breaking out of the ground, so I hope they won’t be surprised by a sudden snowfall, which is already forecast for Friday. In the meantime, however, it’s warm enough for me to break out my bike and ride on to work for the first time this year. I even got to ride with the kids a bit once Vivian brought them (and their trikes) to the park for lunch. That was especially lovely.

Pizza in Lincoln, Circus in Council Bluffs


The weather has been steadily getting warmer here in Nebraska, making for several days where we can get some quality time outdoors without so much as a coat. On Wednesday last week, the Johnson Family took a road trip to Lincoln for a day nearly identical to the one we had in mid-March last year. I got to do a morning’s worth of freelance work for my old employer at Land and Sky, and Vivian took the kids to Lost in Fun in South Lincoln where they had a ball bouncing around and shooting hoops. Afterward, we all went out to lunch at my favorite pizza joint, Big Sal’s on 27th Street. The weather was so nice, we drove up the street for a little play time at Pentzer Park up the street to wear the kids out a bit before heading home.

In other news, Jack and Donna got to celebrate their 38th wedding anniversary with us over at the Crab Shack, we all got our fill of seafood before stuffing ourselves even further across the street at the Cheesecake Factory.


A few days later, the Shrine Circus was in town, so Vivian and Grammy took the kids down to the Mid-America Center to see them. It was Aaron’s first trip to the circus, so I had to be sure to get a picture of him with one of the terrifying clowns. They had tigers jumping through flaming hoops and a dog and pony show, just like our visit a few years ago. They also had some new acrobats, Mr. Springs and Tulga, and a whole team of “jumping people” AKA The Chicago Boyz, who Hannah seemed to like the best. I was able to take a break from work to join the family for a bit during the day, which was nice. Of course, the kids also had to get their own souvenir light sabers from the show, and we had to struggle to keep Aaron from whacking his sister on the head with his.

Holy Name and Homemade Pizza


It’s been a busy week here in Omaha, with lots of fun involving food (of course). On Monday last week, with temperatures pushing their way into the 90s, the whole family took a trip down to Lincoln. I had some freelance work to attend to, and Vivian took the kids to Lost in Fun for an afternoon of bouncing around. Hannah had been there when she was just one year old, but now she was old enough to visit more exhibits than just the ball pit, such as the big ceiling-projected video game in the “dark room.”

For dinner, we drove up to Big Sal’s and gave Hannah and Aaron her first taste of mom and dad’s favorite pizza place in Nebraska. Yes, Aaron got to nibble on bits of black olive and pizza crust, and Hannah managed to finish a whole piece by herself.


The next day was St. Patrick’s Day, so we got to imbibe in our annual tradition of corned beef and cabbage, Irish soda bread, and red potatoes. Every store was selling out of corned beef up until March 17, and then the price plummeted to less than $1/pound, so we picked up some that on sale to have a couple reubens down the road (which were, in fact, invented in Omaha. Don’t let anyone tell you differently.)

No green beer or Bailey’s, however — I’ve given it all up for lent.


On Friday, we had our second Fish Fry of the year, heading up to Holy Name in north Omaha with a cluster of our fabulous friends. I’d heard about this fish fry from our mutual friend Lisa, primarily being one of the first and biggest fish fries in the area. It was also notorious for having one of the longest lines, which was quite ironic, because when we arrived, there was absolutely no line at all. Seriously, we were able to walk right in, but we stood in the hallway for some time just to get the whole standing-in-line experience. (A crowd outside was hanging around for the same reason, I expect.)

The cafeteria was packed pretty tight, however, steaming hot and filled with the smell of fried fish that stuck to your clothes. The fish itself was hands-down the best I’d had at any fish fry before. We had freshly-battered chunks of pollock that were steaming and delicious the moment they were put on your plate. I washed it down with a can or two of Cheerwine that I smuggled in from outside and a fun night of goofiness fueled by deep-fried goodness.


Then on Saturday, we celebrated Uncle Jonny’s birthday down at my parent’s house. Jonathan had been wanting to relive his childhood, so my dad put out the lawn flamingos and spent the afternoon playing Intellivision and eating homemade pizza for dinner (literally the way mom used to make). Vivian also brought along one of her legendary chocolate cheesecakes.

We brought the kids along, too, of course. They got some time being cute with grandma and grandpa, which included learning the joys of chasing a red dot from a laser pointer all over the house.

Pink versus blue


It’s been a fun and busy week leading up to our “Gender Reveal Party” on Saturday.

On Friday, I got to spend a bit of family time with Vivian, Hannah, and even Grandma Johnson down at the Shrine Circus. Hannah had gone to the circus just once as a baby, so now she was hold enough to be properly terrified of clowns and such. We also got to enjoy seeing some animals perform, including a cute dog and pony show, Tahar “King of the Alligators” Douis, Anna Louise the dancing elephant, which Hannah discovered was much larger in real life than her board books at home would suggest. My favorite act was Jonathan Rinny, who could balance on a stack of cylinders rolling in all different directions, which was quite a feat.


Then came the main event on Saturday night! We invited a bunch of our family and friends over to play games, have some food, and learn whether our new bundle of joy (due in June) will be a boy or a girl. We divided up into teams of pink and blue to start the night off (with appropriate colored beads). Representing pink were Lisa Barrett, Jack, Tamra, Randy, my mom, Donna, Jen, Jon Paper, Lydia, and Jenny. On the blue team were Lexi, Drew and Teresa, dad, Dennis and Kara, Anne, Libby, Kody, and Jolene. Our series of games included tossing ping pong balls into cups (all at once), answering some Battle of the Sexes trivia, and snapping rubber bands at a line of pop cans. This last one was much more difficult than anybody expected, and the only ones who managed to knock off a few cans were Drew, Jack, Jon Paper, and, surprisingly enough, my mom! Contestants all won “He She” bars along the way.

A little after nine o’clock came the big reveal, as Vivian and I cut into Donna’s beautiful Baby Cake. Donna was the only one in attendance to learn the baby’s gender in advance so she could fill the cake with either pink or blue for the big reveal:

It’s a boy!

That’s right, I’m going to have a son, and the chromosomal balance in the Johnson Household will be brought into balance at last. We stayed up until nearly midnight afterward enjoying cake and a few crazy games of Telestrations. As usual, we had a number of hilarious (and confused) artists in our group.

The next day, after a long night of celebrating, we went back to Twin Valley Church, and my mom and dad were able to come by and have a potluck lunch with all of us. Hannah had some fun getting chased (and kissed) by a couple of the boys, and others of us welcomed little baby Jonah Campbell to our congregation after a few long weeks in the NICU.

Moving experiences

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Our little girl Hannah got to take her first trip to the circus this week! Vivian has become a stay-at-home mom, taking care of Hannah during the day for now and taking the job back from Grammy and Grumpy Daycare. It’s going to be a financial pinch to be sure, but her move to be a full-time mom will allow her to do things like take Hannah to see live elephants march around the Omaha Civic Auditorium. That’s what she did on Thursday with Donna. Hannah even had a cute little clown outfit to wear as she watched elephants and horrifying costumed characters drop by to hold her.

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On Saturday, the whole Johnson family dropped by to help Jenny move out of her house in northwest Omaha and into an apartment down on Q Street. It was kind of sad to say goodbye to the house with the giant backyard that had been host to any number of parties — Christmas, Independence Day, Luau, and of course Taco. I forgot what a workout it was to try to squeeze a couple couches out a tiny front door and up a flight of stairs, but the whole ordeal was over fairly quickly. We had pizza and chicken afterward before dropping into a coma for the rest of the afternoon.

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That evening, the Johnson Family dropped by the West House by Lake Cunningham to say Happy Birthday to Sarah. Hannah got to wear her “little black dress,” we had shrimp and fruit with a handful of our friends as Dean and Sarah made music on a variety of instruments before we headed home.