Showing posts with label Midwest. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Midwest. Show all posts

Monday, May 15, 2017

Pure Nebraska. Straight, no chaser.


In south Louisiana, where I was born and raised, you have Cajun music at Fred's in Mamou on Saturday mornings.

In way-rural eastern Nebraska -- by way of a couple of gravel county roads and a winding dirt one, if you're coming from the nearby metropolis of Brainard  (population 330) -- there's a polka band at the Loma Tavern on Sunday evenings.

You don't stumble across Loma, an unincorporated hilltop village of 30 souls, a handful of houses, a church, an empty hardware store . . . and the Loma Tavern. No, you have to look hard for Loma.

Ever see the 1990s cult movie, To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar with Wesley Snipes, Patrick Swayze and John Leguizamo? The fictional Snydersville, the middle-of-nowhere burg where they get stranded, is really Loma. And the bar is the Loma Tavern, which used to be the Bar-M Corral.

If you didn't know that before you find your way to the Loma Tavern, you'll know it before you leave.

Anyway,  in this stretch of Nebraska -- Butler County, like many stretches of Nebraska -- you have two kinds of people: Czechs and more Czechs . . . though I did see someone who copped to being German. And on this seasonable spring evening in Little Bohemia, 13-year-old accordionist Addie Hejl (pronounce Heil) was fronting the band for the first time. Then again, she's only been playing for a year.

Sounds like she's been playing for 20 but, no, just a year.


BEING FROM bayou country and having been force-fed a Saturday-night diet of Lawrence Welk during my formative years, I am not unfamiliar with accordions. Or -- thanks again to Mr. Welk -- polka music.

But polka is a Midwestern thing. In eastern Nebraska, polka music on small-town radio stations every Sunday afternoon is akin to Cajun music on small-town Louisiana radio stations every Saturday morning. I think, truth be told, that the DNA of folks on the Czech and German plains of this state has developed a polka mutation, much as my swamp-Gallic DNA has the extra Jolie Blonde chromosome.

The shared trait of the two mutations is the accordion. That and little roadhouses in the middle of nowhere that, on warm and lazy weekend evenings, become the center of the musical universe. Ask Addie Hejl, who still is eight years shy of being able to knock back a legal cold one.

When I was still eight years shy of being able to knock back a legal cold one, I, too, found myself in a few centers of the musical universe in parts of southeastern Louisiana more familiar to bullfrogs and bream than actual people.

A few of them, to tell you the truth, made the Loma Tavern look like the Cocoanut Grove. One in Whitehall -- in deepest, darkest Livingston Parish -- had a drop ceiling . . . with the bottoms of beer cases substituting for tiles.

I REMEMBER sitting at a table drinking my Coca-Cola as my parents and my aunt and uncle sat and drank their beers. It was a quiet Sunday evening -- not much going on except for another 45 dropping on the jukebox.

It was Tony Orlando and Dawn's "Knock Three Times."
Hey girl what ya doin' down there
Dancin' alone every night while I live right above you
I can hear your music playin'
I can feel your body swayin'
One floor below me you don't even know me
I love you . . .

Oh my darling,
Knock three times on the ceiling if you want me
Twice on the pipe if the answer is no
Oh my sweetness,
Means you'll meet me in the hallway
Twice on the pipe means you ain't gonna show
AT THIS, Aunt Ceil looked up at the ceiling.

At the cardboard beer-case bottoms that were the ceiling. At the Budweiser and Schlitz and Dixie and Falstaff and Miller High-Life "ceiling tiles."

"Knock three times on that ceiling, and the damn thing'll fall on you," she deadpanned.

I don't think Coca-Cola blew out of my nose, but it had to have been close. That may have been when I decided that Aunt Ceil was -- by far -- the funniest person in Daddy's German-Dutch-Irish family.




I THOUGHT of these things as I stood in the back of a century-old country bar in Nebraska listening to a teenage accordion wunderkind and a couple of guys a generation and two older playing polka music -- things half a country and a lifetime ago made present here and now by musical ties that bind.

As I looked across the tavern, through the dancing couples and toward the band, I saw something else entirely. I saw Mama and Daddy, alive again and younger than myself, two-stepping across the dance floor to a country band in Killian, La. I saw a time when a little honky-tonk between river and swamp seemed like a big thing to a kid.

To me.

The thought of trying to explain to strangers why a 50-something man was crying in the back of a little bar in Loma, Neb., kept the tears -- and humiliation -- at bay.

Maybe geezers like myself could be forgiven for thinking that, maybe, 13-year-old girls instead should aspire to play in a Runaways tribute band. Call it the Queens of Noise.

It's just that those accordions will get you every time.

Every. Damn. Time.

Monday, April 03, 2017

The city drops into the night


Eight-ish o'clock, Sunday night.

The Mexican joint in the Old Market Passageway has just closed for the evening, and I am full of chips, cerveza and the No. 2 combination plate.

The swanky joint next door is closed on a slow night for dining out.

Omaha is sluggishly, reluctantly steeling itself for the end of the weekend and the start of another workweek. But it's even worse than that -- there's a city primary election Tuesday.

When did we come to dread elections? Sigh.

All is quiet on the downtown front.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Summer's last gasp


 Iowa State Fair, August 2014

 
The state fair season is winding down and football has returned to the prairies, fields and Norman Rockwell towns of the Midwest. The rituals of its people point to the changing of its seasons, and we know the trees and shrubbery will, soon enough, will break out into a riotous festival of color, as if the Almighty were looking down upon his Technicolor palette and saying to LeRoy Neiman "You never could top me, could you?"

Then the leaves will exhaust the last of their color and blanket the earth for nature's long winter slumber. And we will settle in, bundle up and dream dreams of springtime.

Thus is the circle game of life.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Noah, call your office


We've had a little storm here in Omaha, by God, Nebraska.

Actually, we're still in the middle of a little storm -- or, more accurately, storms -- around these parts.

This is the typically Midwestern understated way of saying "WE'RE ALL GOING TO DIE!!!" We've already smashed the record for rain in a day . . . which has fallen in about four hours.

So far. 

And in my part of town, we were lucky. There have been no rescuing people from houses in fire department boats, as there has been in northeast Omaha. There also have been no suspected tornadoes or baseball-size hail, as there have been north of town.
 

ABOUT 3 feet in the front of our garage got wet. So what -- it's a garage.

And nobody has had to rescue us with an airboat. That's something, at least.

I am, however, afraid to check out the basement.

Nighty night from windblown, hail-pocked, flooded Omaha. The College World Series starts at the end of next week -- let's hope there's something left for folks to visit.



UPDATE: Make that "smashed the record for rain in day for the month of in June." It was Omaha's fifth-highest all-time rain total for a single day.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

A bridge of Madison County


Heading back to Omaha from the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, we took the scenic route away from busy Interstate 80.

On the road less traveled on a Monday afternoon, we communed with the spirit of the late, great John Wayne at his boyhood home in Winterset, Iowa. Before that, though, the missus and your humble blogger checked out a bridge of Madison County -- the covered, wooden Hogback Bridge that dates to 1884 and spans the North River.
Yes, I did take photographs of at least one of the covered bridges in that esteemed farm county.
No, I did not have a torrid affair with Meryl Streep.

There are a few things with which my lovely bride of 30 years will not put up. That one -- and I'm just guessing here -- would be somewhere near the tip top of the forbidden list. 

Is what I'm tellin' you.

Iowa's state fair is a great state fair


Our State Fair is a great state fair,


Don't miss it, don't even be late!


(Our state fair is great!)


It's dollars to doughnuts at our state fair,


It's the best state fair in the state!


OUR STATE FAIR IS A GREAT STATE FAIR!


IS A GREAT . . .


IS A GREAT . . .


IS A GREAT STATE FAIR, HEY!


Our State Fair is a great state fair,


Don't miss it, don't even be late!


(State fair is great!)


It's dollars to doughnuts at our state fair,


It's the best state fair . . .


in our state!


-- Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

A helicopter's-eye view of Nebraska


Just because people say something -- a lot -- that doesn't make it so.

Recently,  cinematographers took to the skies over our piece of Flyover Country to show folks exactly how flat and boring is Nebraska -- not. So, if you're someone who always thought the state tree was a telephone pole, prepare for your world to be rocked in three . . . two . . . one. . . .

Action!

Friday, June 07, 2013

Hooked on sticky-sweet phonics


As it turns out, the soon-to-be-former president of Everybody's Favorite University had it exactly bass-ackward.

Sorry Gordon Gee of THE Oh'o Stt Un'vrsty, it appears it's the kids at the SEC schools who can read just fine. The Big Ten? Not so much.

Caramel has three syllables, the middle of which is a short "a." Un, deux, trois . . . as in the number of weeks a certain soon-to-be-former university president has left on the job.

Anyone who can read can see this, and those who can see this inhabit all the schools the pres'dnt of THE Oh'o Stt Un'vrsty contends have an illiteracy problem. Oops.

"CAR ∙ ml"? Civilized people don't know what that is, but they suspect it has something to do with candy made from melted cars. Maybe it's popular in Michigan and Ohio, where they used to make such things.

But what do I know? I'm just a "damn Catholic."

Thursday, December 20, 2012

A winter wonderland


A funny thing happened Wednesday evening here in Omaha, by God, Nebraska. Winter showed up.

And how.

Above is the long-exposure view of what the blizzard looked like at about 20 of 11 last night.

AND HERE, immediately above, is what it looked like when using a flash.
The following photos represent what it looked like today, after the storm was through and we'd had a chance to dig out from under the 7 or so inches of well-drifted snow. I think they speak for themselves, so I'll just shut up now.
Besides, I got water boiling on the stove, and I need to make me a pot of coffee.