My Favorite Foods of 2020

If you know me, you know I love food — and not just for the taste, but for the memories of family and friends that go with every bite. We’ve had lots of good food together this year just like every other, and I’ve whittled down our selection of tasty dishes down to these top ten. Bon Appétit!

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#10. Buona Italian Beef Sandwich

Our local Aldi began selling giant tubs of this “Italian style gravy and sliced beef” back in May, and I learned about it online. It’s apparently from a very popular chain out of Chicago. We ate ours inside an Italian hoagie with sautéed onions and peppers.  It was very similar to a cheesesteak, but I liked doing mine “French dip” style with the au jus left over (and there was a lot of it).

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#9. Fish fry at St. Charles Borromeo

Lenten fish fries have been a tradition for me ever since I was introduced to them over a decade ago, and I think St. Charles Borromeo has my favorite fried fish of all the ones I’ve visited.

This year’s visit was particularly special, however, because it came at the start of the fish fry season, which was before everything was locked down for Covid a week or two later. I was very happy to have gone to a real, in-person fish fry during this window, and we likely wouldn’t have gone at all we hadn’t been invited by our friends the Simpsons.

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#8. Sickie’s Fried pickles

Sickies Garage Burgers & Brews” opened in the old Summer Kitchen in Bellevue with great anticipation back in January. Vivian and I had been planning on eating there for months. In fact, we swapped our “sushi anniversary” with our First Date anniversary just so we could stop on by. We weren’t disappointed and had three delicious burgers between the two of us. My favorite item on the menu, however, wasn’t a burger, but the fried pickles appetizer we had beforehand. Very tasty!

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#7. Red Bag Chicken

Red bag chicken” at Aldi refers to the frozen, breaded chicken breasts that are very similar to what you’ll find in a Chick-Fil-A sandwich. Combine it with some pickle slices and a brioche bun, and you’ve got a delicious sandwich that’s an easy dinner any day of the week (with or without waffle fries).

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#6. Avocado Toast

I’m just a bit too old to be considered a Millennial, but I’m certainly not too old to appreciate the deliciousness of a toasted piece of sourdough smothered with avocado and sprinkled with “Everything Bagel” seasoning. It’s probably my favorite thing to have for breakfast, so long as I time the ripeness of the avocado just right. I could eat this any day of the week, and often do.

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#5. Sage’s stuffed mushrooms

We held our biennial hors d’oeuvres party again this year, and we had many tasty competitors, but Sage’s mushroom caps stuffed with cream cheese and ground beef were the clear favorite. (And I don’t think we had any leftovers.)

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#4. Homemade Pizza

Vivian made some homemade pizza several times this year, kneading the dough with her new KitchenAid mixer. It’s a delicious thing to have any time of year, but I particularly enjoyed one we had al fresco on our deck with leaves of fresh basil picked from our garden.

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#3. Dinker’s Hamburger

The sign calls it “Omaha’s Best Burger,” and while I certainly have my favorite burger joints in Omaha, Dinker’s was my favorite this year. What makes these burgers particularly unique is how tasty they were without slathering them with seasoning, toppings, or much of anything else. Somehow, the meat by itself is just that good.

We went there for a “Takeout Tuesday” back in March and had a lovely picnic dinner on a beautiful evening at Hanscom Park — our first time visiting the park, which made the occasion even more special.

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#2. Buttermilk Biscuits & Gravy

These delicious biscuits are about as homemade as you can get. Not only are the biscuits made from scratch, but the buttermilk itself is made from scratch — being the result of Vivian’s experiment making fresh butter from cream. She whipped up some sausage and gravy and we had some for a lovely Sunday breakfast before church.

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#1. Thomas Jefferson’s Vanilla Ice Cream

This was the highlight of our trip to Mount Rushmore — sitting down after a long walk around the monument to have a giant cone of vanilla ice cream made from a recipe by the third President of the United States, Thomas Jefferson. It was remarkably good ice cream, but part of the fun was eating right in front of Mount Rushmore itself.

We had other delicious contenders on our road trip, including a Runza on Lake McConaughy, an Egg McMuffin on the road, and a burrito from Scotts Bluff, and spam while camping, but this alone was the most memorable.

Parents’ birthdays and Living Nativities

We’re inching closer and closer to Christmas, which means Christmas movies, egg nog, and checking more items off our holiday bucket list. (That apparently includes making enough Chex mix to feed an army.)

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We had a bit of a warm spell last week that made the weather ideal for a visit to an outdoor Living Nativity down the street at Avery Presbyterian Church. It was a lovely, festive little gathering, and I’m glad we go to visit before a passing cold front created a bit of a winter wonderland the next day. The kids got to see and pet a live camel, a donkey, some goats, and a calf all under a tent with folks dressed up as Magi and Shepherds. They also had some lovely shell-shaped sweet rolls for us, along with a table of gifts from “Santa’s Workshop” for kids to pick through to find gifts to give to loved ones. We got them to pick out a few things for all four grandparents. We also got a brief visit with “Santa” for a few pictures before we left. (I also got to overhear a few things for “Santa” to bring our kids come Christmas morning.)

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Saturday brought a blanket of snow to the world, which stayed wet enough to me to shovel without any trouble, leaving our neighborhood quiet picturesque by the end of the day (and nightfall).

My parents also had their birthdays this week, so we celebrated both of them on Saturday afternoon. My dad wanted to go through one of his trunks of treasures with us, which included such things as handmade floor rugs from my grandmother, a Shakespearean tapestry from England, paraphernalia from my parents’ time as missionaries in Brazil, and some unique knick-knacks and tchotchkes made by Brazilian natives, ranging from stylized animal carvings to an actual carved Brazil nut.

My folks opened a couple gifts from us afterward, and then we went down to HyVee to get a bunch of Chinese food for dinner. I also baked my parents a birthday cake, but they’d gotten one of their own from the Uptown Bakery on Fort Crook. They blew out some candles on mine before we ate and then played a few games with my brothers in the living room, including a Family Feud game of all things.

Less than two weeks more until Christmas!

Union Station and Outdoor Lights

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One of our annual Christmas traditions is a visit to Union Station downtown, which we did again this year — pandemic or no pandemic! We got a lovely family photo in front of the tree and got to walk through a train car and a streetcar down in the basement, just like always. Santa was on-hand to hear the kids’ Christmas wishes as well, though he had to stay several feet away and take their requests via telephone (though we did get a photo).

The highlight of our trip was the Jim Henson exhibit, which featured several very original Muppet characters on display, including Bert and Ernie, Fraggles Red and Wembley from Fraggle Rock, Bunsen and Beaker, as well as Gelflings and Mother Aughra from the Dark Crystal and even coffee commercial mascots Wilkins and Wontkins. There were some interactive activities as well — Hannah and Aaron got to assemble features on a “fat blue” Anything Muppet, and they also got to perform with a Muppet in front of a TV camera in a recording booth.

We finished off our visit with a few “phosphates” at the soda fountain before heading home.

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I got some chores done over the following week, cleaning out the garage and unearthing treasures such as my old Game Boy (which I let Aaron try out). Our friend Scott also stopped by and helped replace the latch on our stove.

We also had some fun looking at Christmas lights with the kids. On Tuesday, we took them down Larimore Avenue to see some houses adorned with enough lights to make Clark Griswold proud (one with a Family Truckster on the roof). We also stopped by Wood River Drive, but once again missed seeing Santa.

Then on Thursday, we had some homemade Nacho Navidad (and Christmas cookies from out neighbor Betty) and then took advantage of the unseasonably warm weather to stroll around Washington Park in Bellevue. The park was filled once again with multiple light displays, all animated and timed with music that played overhead. The kids had some fun walking around the displays with us, particularly Aaron, who seemed to feel like he was inside a giant video game.

We’ll be having some more Christmas fun happening in the weeks ahead. I just hope I’ll have time to get all my shopping done.


Christmas at Union Station

The Season Starts

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody! We’ve had a lovely — and busy — Thanksgiving weekend celebrating the holiday with family and then getting our tree and decoration up to kick off the Christmas season.

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We spent Thursday morning watching the Macy’s Day parade while having some quiche for breakfast before starting to get our food together for Thanksgiving dinner. Hannah and Aaron spent their time decorating the bunch of balloons we blew up for her birthday and turning them into a bizarre cast of characters to play with.

The weather was nice enough for a walk to Grandma and Grandpa’s house, during which time Hannah found a spare tire she decided to claim for herself. My dad carved the turkey while my mom made Waldorf salad (along with olives, pickles and cranberry sauce served in antique cut glass). Vivian and I brought the stuffing, potatoes, and green bean casserole. Uncle Jonny joined the lot of us as we stuffed ourselves and had pie before sitting around watching a “virtual” (i.e. prerecorded video) of the tree-lighting at Union Station. Nothing can compare to the real thing, of course, but it was better than having it cancelled completely.

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Then on Friday we wasted no time getting ready for the Christmas season and headed off to Santa’s Woods to pick out a Christmas tree. It was lovely weather for a stroll through the tree farm to find the perfect fir for our living room. We wound up picking a 6½ foot tree that Hannah and Aaron seemed to like best. They were amused at some of other trees being spray-painted various colors, we but kept ours all natural.

We stuck around a little while afterward to have some hot cocoa, let the kids roam around a bit, and say hello to the reindeer (Twinkle and Mr. Noodle). Then we got the tree tied to the roof of our CR-V and drove it on back to Bellevue, where I carried it inside and we spent the evening cutting it loose and stringing some lights. Aaron in particular seemed to enjoy putting the glowing strands on carefully before we had some pizza for dinner and called it a night.

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The Christmas decorating continued the next day, as the whole family set about putting ornaments on the tree. I played Christmas music all the while via our Sonos as the tree slowly got dressed, and then I went outside to put up the lights on the house as well as our snowman.

The kids and I spent the afternoon at my parents’ house watching Alabama completely roll over Auburn during the Iron Bowl. Hannah and Aaron came along to play a bit in the backyard, rolling the tire Hannah found and spying on the neighbors. I brought some chips and salsa while my dad made some chicken wings. I don’t watch my football myself, but it was a lovely way to spend a Saturday.

We returned home to see our house lit up in all its festive glory, and I was quite happy to see everything seemed to work after the sun went down. I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving (and lots of leftovers)!

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Let the Christmas Season begin!

Harold and Hannah have a birthday

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We had a couple of birthdays in the Johnson household this week. First up was our guinea pig Harold, who surprised our friends the Mills by popping out of his mommy’s tummy one year ago Monday. Hannah made him a plate of his favorite foods arranged in a smiley face for breakfast that morning, and then that evening I had some cilantro and baby cucumbers for him to much inside of a new, snuggly guinea pig bed I picked up from PetCo. I’ve had four guinea pigs growing up, but I never actually knew any of their actual birthdays, so this was a special day!

In the meantime, Aaron got to bake some cookies he prepared at church during Sunday School. Hopefully the ones he’s saving for Uncle Jonny and August make their way over before they go stale.

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On Tuesday, I joined the Men of God group at Wildewood for a barbecue dinner — the first time I’d attended since before the pandemic. Our guest for the evening was Charles Wilson from the Omaha Street School, and he shared his story growing up and getting into trouble in college before coming to Omaha to attend Grace University.

We also enjoyed some lovely weather later in the week and decided to take the kids down to Stinson Park. Even though we’d visited several other parks throughout the year, we hadn’t been to “Daddy Park” since way back in March, so it felt good to be back. The kids got to have some quality time running around and playing on the swings. Temperatures were around 70, so we didn’t even need coats. It felt good to get outside for some fresh air, and Aaron even lay down to watch some of the airplanes leave trails in the sky overhead.

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Then over the weekend came Hannah’s birthday (shortly after a few birthdays for her dolls). We had a little party for her and a few of her little friends at our house on Saturday. Sammy and “Other” Hannah came over and made a variety of crafts on our dining room table in the afternoon. Donna brought over a Camping Cake featuring the four of us together (and me taking photos of the food), filled with lemon, strawberry, and chocolate cakes.

Hannah opened a few presents from her friends in the living room afterward before blowing out her candles (on a makeshift “nine“), and everybody had fun eating the little miniature fondant sculptures on Grammy’s cake, which included a butterfly, a bunny, a squirrel, a picnic table, hot dogs and hamburgers, and all of us, of course.

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Hannah actual birthday happened on Sunday, so we got up early for a breakfast of bacon and donuts together before opening some presents. Grammy got Hannah a “bed tent,” which I immediately helped set up for her and Aaron to play in. She got a handful of other presents from mommy and me, including potato chips and Hatchimals. Aaron also had some gifts he picked out, along with a birthday card decorated with the Pokémon Cinderace, which is apparently the final form of Hannah’s favorite Pokémon Scorbunny.

We dropped by Grandma and Grandpa’s house in the afternoon so Hannah could opened a few more presents, including a giant 24-piece set of “Twosie” characters, as well as a plush Scorbunny from Uncle Jonny, which immediately became Hannah’s favorite gift. We went by Dairy Twist for some ice cream afterward, and then settled the kids down watching Finding Nemo while eating (ironically enough) shrimp for dinner to finish off the day.

I think Hannah had a very happy birthday, but we barely had time to catch our breath, as Thanksgiving is right around the corner. (And that meant rushing to buy a turkey in time to thaw!)


Highlights from Hannah’s birthday

Election Day and Autumn Fun

Well, election day turned out to be more like an election week — with margins far narrower than any poll predicted and results much different on election night than they appeared days later. It wasn’t nearly as much fun as it was four years ago, but I’m still glad most of the people I voted for — particularly Congressman Fortenberry and Senator Sasse — will be returning to Congress.

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Last week, Vivian and I participated in the democratic process and cast some ballots down at Calvary Christian Church. I expected long lines and crowd, so my parents were kind enough to watch Hannah and Aaron while Vivian and I did our civic duty. There were a couple dozen people in line when we finally got inside to vote, and not much more had arrived by the time we were done. In the meantime, Hannah and Aaron build a few things with blocks and Lincoln Logs before we returned took them home.

Then that evening, Don Bacon and his crew were doing some last-minute sign-waving down at the corner of 72nd and Dodge. Because I work not far from there, I drove down to say hello and grab a few pictures. Among the sign-wavers was Senator Ben Sasse, who must have felt pretty confident about his chances to spend the waning moments of the campaign giving Congressman Bacon a hand. (I even mentioned this on my Twitter account.)

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We had some delightfully warm weather over the weekend, so we spent as much of it as we could outdoors. On Saturday, I raked up some leaves so the kids could have some quality time jumping into them. Hannah also brought a few of her stuffed animals — reconfigured into Pokémon, since she and Aaron are currently enjoying that show — into the pile with them.

On Sunday, Hannah and Aaron made an herb garden and some no-bake cookies in Sunday school, respectively. Then we spent the afternoon down at Dreamland Park across the river. The place was very busy with people enjoying some nice weather before wet and cold hit us this week. They got some more time on swings and a merry-go-round or two before we headed on home.


Thoughts on the election

I’ve had a lot of thoughts about this election, which still feels up in the air despite everyone knowing what the outcome will be. I’m not, however, going to join with many of my friends in saying the election was stolen. I don’t think it was. The margins were ridiculously close in a handful of states, particularly considering what the polls were saying. There may have been some shenanigans that need to be looked into, but I highly doubt there was enough ballot-stuffing going on to flip the margin of victory.

This was an election where the Democrats were supposed to make major gains, and at the moment, it looks like the GOP will gain several seats in the House when they were supposed to lose them. Even if Trump had won, he would have had his hands tied with a divided Congress. Now, the Republicans look poised to take Congress back in 2022 and perhaps the White House in 2024.

So now, I’m focused now on the future, and the potential of meeting and greeting a whole new slate of candidates in a few years. And for now, the goal I had several years ago of getting a selfie with a POTUS was finally realized — just not in the way I expected. How do you like that, you dog-faced pony soldiers?

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See you in “four more years,” Joe.

Halloween 2020

It’s been a fun, long Halloween weekend — a holiday that I think I’m enjoying more and more as an adult than I did even as a child, partly because I get to live through it again vicariously as a dad.

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The fun started Friday night as we somehow made it to two trunk-or-treat events. First was at Lifespring, which was a drive-thru trunk-or-treat. It was very slow-going at first, but soon our kids got various candy and treats handed to them by a variety of costumed characters — including the cast of Wizard of Oz, a cow, Thanos, clowns, pirates, astronauts, campers, a karate guy, a donut baker, and even Aaron’s Kindergarten teacher. There were even some Christmas elves at the end to remind us how badly we want 2020 to be over, along with some Bee Keepers to talk about the “Bee Attitudes.” Everything seemed to be very Covid-friendly and socially distant, but it was still a fun little experience, especially for the kids (who made out like bandits).

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Afterward, we immediately went down to Grace Bible Church at Southroads Mall, which was having its own trunk-or-treat event. Our kids got some candy from a lumberjack, a gumball machine, a fishing hole, and a shark cage.

Then inside, they had hot dogs and chips along with a bunch of carnival-type games for extra candy. We arrived at the tail-end of the event and didn’t get to stay for long, but the kids definitely enjoyed being able to get out of the car and move around a bit to get candy instead of staying strapped in. We even got a family photo before we headed home.

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We had some gorgeous weather on Saturday, which Vivian and I thought warranted a trip to the park with the kids. We went all the way to Mahoney State Park, making use of our annual pass before the year ends, and giving them some quality time at the Robert H. Storz Family Children’s Recreational Area. The kids got some quality time on slides and swings, and even mommy took a turn on the springy snail with Aaron.

We took a bit of a break back at the house to make some milk jug Jack-o-Lanterns with the kids. Vivian came up with the idea, and it was certainly less messy than carving an actual pumpkin. The four of us took turns making faces with a Sharpie marker, and then we dropped glow sticks inside each of the lanterns to adorn our front porch. I think they turned out very cute!

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On Halloween night, we all headed out to walk our own streets for a bit for some real trick-or-treating. I also got into the fun this year dressing as the late Wilford Brimley to walk along with the kids, and I also made a special Protoman Shield to go with Aaron’s Mega Man outfit. There were noticeably fewer houses participating this year (because of Covid, I’m sure), but the ones that did seemed to go all out. Our neighbors down the street had a giant block party with decorations all over the place, while another house around the corner had spent five weeks filling its yard with haunted memorabilia — and turning its garage into a walk-through haunted house.

Other folks handed out candy per the norm, such as Betty down the street along with my own parents. Others had “help yourself” bowls of candy out on the front steps, which was what we did as we had no one this year to tend to our door while we were gone. We finished the night at Grammy’s house, and she had bacon of all things ready for the kids when they arrived. Despite the pandemic, it was a fun night, and I even got to share a bit of my childhood with the kids by showing them Garfield’s Halloween Adventure when we returned home.


Final thoughts before Election Day

Election Day is almost here, and this will be my last update until then. I’ll have plenty of thoughts once the election is over — though that may not be for a while, depending on what shenanigans go on with absentee ballots. I do have a few final thoughts before the election, though. Despite all the negativity, anger, and actual civil unrest that has gone along with this year, riding the Trump Train has been a thrill. The crowds only seem to get bigger every time President Trump comes to town, and the atmosphere is more like a football or a rock concert than a campaign rally. I got to hang around plenty of Democrats during these past two years as well, and one thing I’ve learned is that the anger each side hast toward the other is based on the misconception that Americans who disagree intend to do each other harm. While there are genuinely bad people out there, just about everyone only want to live their lives in the best way possible, and they vote for whichever side they thing will make that happen.

I’m voting for President Trump, but I pledge that I’ll remain friends with anyone who doesn’t. And even though I’ll be disappointed if Biden wins on Tuesday, I’m still happy I got to meet him twice. Being able to shake the hand of anyone seeking the highest office in the hand is a unique privilege, and I look forward to taking that journey again when the next election season starts (which I believe is going to be on Wednesday).

Trump Returns to Omaha

President Trump returned on Omaha on Tuesday this week for a campaign rally down at Eppley Airfield in a series of last-minute events in an increasingly tightening Presidential campaign. The rally apparently trended on Twitter yesterday, and not for any of the reasons I would have guessed. More on that at the end.

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I brought my friend Jake along again for the rally, warning him ahead of time about the expected crowd (25,000 according to the Omaha Police Department) and hours of standing in line. We got there early at 2:30 PM hoping to beat most of the crowd. We immediately got on a shuttle bus that took us to the rally site, where trump staff took everyone’s temperature coming into the rally and had free masks, hand sanitizer, bottled water, and hand warmers for everyone. There was a respectable crowd in line already when I arrived, some having brought chairs, coolers, and even heaters like one big tailgate party. I saw some familiar faces while waiting to get inside, and I enjoy chatting with some of the die-hard Trump fans, one of whom wore a blanket with a photo of Trump they’d personally taken at the White House.

The crowd continued to pour in until OPD eventually shut off traffic around 6 PM — with thousands more still arriving. A series of local candidates and politicians got to up to speak before the President arrived, including David Young, Don Bacon, Kristi Noem, Deb Fischer, Gov. Ricketts and his brother Todd. Finally Rick Holdcroft, running to represent my state district, gave an opening prayer before the National Anthem.

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There was a bit of a lull after the speakers concluded. A couple staff members threw hats to the audience and other waiting in long, long lines for food vendors and free hot chocolate int he warming tent. Then around 7:45 PM, we saw the lights of Air Force One descending onto the runway, with plenty of cheers as it taxied along the tarmac behind the bleachers. President Trump emerged a few minutes later to the tune of Proud to be an American and took the stage. He made a few quips about the cold as he launched into his stump speech. This was his third rally of the day, but he had plenty of energy, taking shots at Biden (Joe and Hunter), particularly recent scandal involving Hunter’s laptop.Trump also had a few videos that played overhead, highlighting civil unrest among other things.

The crowd was very responsive, particularly when Trump pointed out various Nebraska politicians in the audience. The crowd started chanting “Bacon! Bacon!” when he pointed out the 2nd District congressman, and Trump took a brief shot at Ben Sasse, commenting that Deb Fischer was his “favorite Senator from Nebraska.” Then he wrapped up shortly before 9 PM, telling the crowd “we will make America great again” before dancing to YMCA by the Village People, which blasted overhead as people began to make their way out.

The Aftermath

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The long walk back.

As you may have heard, getting out of the rally proved to be a bit of an adventure, but the media has blown it way out of proportion. Jake and I followed the crowd out of the rally fairly quickly, hoping to get an early spot on a bus to get back to the parking lot. The buses hadn’t arrived yet, however, and the majority of the crowd seemed to just want to keep on walking down the road on foot. I didn’t quite realize they weren’t just walking to a bus stop but were actually walking the entire way back to the parking lots — a trek of over 3.5 miles.

It took Jake and me around an hour and a half to walk the entire way, at which point we were quite sore and tired and ready to collapse. Adding insult to injury, the first fleet of buses passed us along the way, making me wish we’d just waited a while at the curb for them to arrive. We had about half an hour after that to squeeze out of the south parking lot before we could finally head home.

The story didn’t seem to end there, however. The news media picked up the story, and declared that Trump supporters were “left stranded in freezing temperatures” after the rally, which was ridiculous. Only those of us dumb enough to walk back (raising my hand here) were left in the cold. Some folks discovered partway that they couldn’t make the trip and needed medical attention, some of which included blisters or cuts on feet from all the walking. What the media aren’t pointing out is that the crowd was far, far larger than expected — and may very well be a leading indicator for the election next week. We shall see.

Jake was a real trooper through the whole experience, and he even said he’d do it again if he had the chance. In particular he liked bragging to his dad that he got to see Kristi Noem, who they missed at the Governor’s steak fry a month ago.

A Day to #WalkAway

I spent the day on Sunday with Brandon Straka and his gang from the #WalkAway movement — a campaign of former liberals who’ve found themselves pushed to the center as the American left moves further to the fringe. The event was jointly-sponsored by the Nebraska Log Cabin Republicans and the Nebraska Liberty Caucus, and like Scott Presler’s visit a few weeks ago, there was a significant emphasis was on building a “big tent” party (specifically including the gay community).

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The day began with a “Walk Away Rally,” which was moved from Memorial Park to the Starlight Chateau due to winter-like conditions that dropped on the city with a dusting of snow, and a crowd of a little over 100 packed the hall. While they were mostly conservatives, I got to chat with one guy who supported Amy Klobuchar but was also voting for Don Bacon. He didn’t like the way Kara Eastman treated her Democrat primary challenger Ann Ashford, and he’d been brushed off by her campaign while being greeted by the Bacon Brigade with open arms. He’d also been called a “closet homophobe” for not supporting Mayor Pete and a racist for not supporting Kamala Harris, who was his second choice.

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The rally started with the pledge of allegiance and the national anthem, both initiated with a flag from the audience (as the venue didn’t seem to have one). Then Brandon Straka took the stage, introducing himself as a Nebraska native from O’Neill who left the state a liberal and returning as a conservative. He also talked briefly about the WalkAway campaign and highlighting the bias in the media, who refused to cover violence directed at his members and instead trying to blame them for initiating it. Congressman Don Bacon took the stage next, making his case for a third term in Nebraska’s second district, and then KFAB’s Chris Baker played emcee introducing the rest of the WalkAway gang. First up was Karlyn Borysenko, who found herself castigated when her knitting community went woke (knitting the “pink pussy” hats you may have seen at the Women’s March). Next was political commentator Shemeka Michelle, followed by the most “banned person on Twitter,” Mike Harlow.

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Straka re-took the stage briefly to introduce a woman named Lydia, who is a Catholic living in Bellevue who emphasized the “big tent” idea that we don’t have the luxury of voting only for people who align with all our religious beliefs. Straka then led the crowd in a sign-holding chant to wrap up the rally, which he posted as a video on Twitter.

Following the rally was around half an hour for pictures and selfies with Straka and his gang, and among the audience members getting photos were Straka’s parents, some of Omaha’s finest, and me, of course. After most of the guests had cleared out, Straka then took his WalkAway team downstairs to check out the crypt beneath the Starlight Chateau. The facility had once been a monastery with nuns entombed underneath in a series of vaults in a crypt, which the gang dubbed “Biden’s Bunker” before heading back upstairs.

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Then that evening, Straka and the WalkAway gang went up to the Cross Training center on north 72nd for a more dressed-up evening with a few more guests. More people got pictures and selfies during the cocktail hour, and then KFAB’s Scott Voorhees played emcee, introducing Straka and the WalkAway gang as they spoke a bit more about the campaign and their experience being homeless former liberals after the ground shifted left underneath their feet. Most interesting among the evening’s guests was Chris Janicek, the Democrat running against Ben Sasse for the United States Senate. I didn’t get the chance to ask if he were walking away, but he stayed a while chatting with guests, including Straka’s parents before the evening wrapped up.

It was a long, fun day for me, being engaged in politics, but I found it particularly interesting how the political ground has shifted so significantly since the days of George W. Bush. There is a clear libertarian movement on the right that eschews foreign wars and embraces gay marriage and legalized marijuana and a strange, almost religious purity test on the left that’s leaving more and more Democrats without a home. It will be interesting to see how this continues to evolve after Election Day.

Covid 19 and a Trunk or Treat

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October’s been a crazy, topsy-turvy month so far! It started with a couple weeks of quarantine as both Vivian and I tested positive for Covid 19. That meant I worked from home in a makeshift office while watching such things as Aaron doing virtual school on an iPad and Hannah building a fort in the backyard. We had some wonderful friends bringing us food during this time, and we also had some beautiful weather that tricked our lilac tree into blooming a second time. After my mandatory two weeks of isolation, I tested negative at a drive-thru testing site and was happily cleared to leave the house again.

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On Friday last week, we took the kids out for some trunk-or-treating down at Beautiful Savior Luthern Church. Aaron is dressed as Mega Man this year, and Hannah’s going as a tiger. It was windy and cold, so we didn’t stay long, but we got to see a handful of decorated cars and get the kids all sugared up early in the Halloween season.