Showing posts with label hicks. Show all posts
Showing posts with label hicks. Show all posts

Friday, July 06, 2012

'The mask I polish in the evening,
by the morning looks like s***'

From Moscow on the Hudson, Omaha's Conor Oberst tries to
keep up with underprivileged New Orleans teenagers busking
on a French Quarter street corner. Metaphorically, at least.

The other night at TD Ameritrade Park, Omaha officially -- in my mind, at least -- exposed itself as too big for its britches.

Simultaneously -- again, at least in the mind of this 24-year Omaha transplant -- it exposed itself as the cow-town version of a "hill William." You know, a hillbilly with pretensions. That often happens when your own great PR goes to your head like straight double bourbons on your 21st birthday.

To be fair, though, Omaha was goaded into it. It was confronted with something that wasn't
A) Journey, B) Keith Urban or Kenny Chesney, C) Conor Oberst whining in the key of Z about how woebegone is his life to an audience of angst-filled emo navel gazers . . . for a six-figure paycheck.

I should have figured that when a band like Cowboy Mouth is slated to be the entertainment sandwiched in between the TD Ameritrade Home Run Derby and the start of the
Omaha World-Herald 's Fourth of July fireworks show, nothing good could come of it.

To begin with, who thinks a band that lives somewhere near the corner of Joe Strummer and Professor Longhair (just a short block from Lynyrd Skynyrd Avenue) will appeal to a general audience in a town that touts itself -- somehow -- as "the new Seattle" of the indie-rock world . . . but can't support one decent radio station? Where Saddle Creek -- the little record company that nearly made Omaha almost-famous -- can only get one act onto the playlist at the closest thing we have to an "alternative" FM station?

C'mon. This was an event where people willingly forked over $7 for really bad beer and enjoyed it. Where Journey droned over the PA system like a Dave Heineman press conference, and people sang along. Like Dave Heineman.

Because they like it . . . and him.

Where people itched for that grand moment in the fireworks show where the pyrotechnicians blow shit up to yet another "patriotic moment" of Lee Greenwood schmaltzing his way through "God Bless the U.S.A." And the crowd . . . goes . . . wild!

Because we're hip that way in the Big O. Er . . . I mean "O!"

After Cowboy Mouth's mistaken decision to willingly walk into such an ambush -- one where Journey- and Lee Greenwood-lovers booed and yelled "Nooooo!" when drummer-frontman Fred LeBlanc asked "Do you want us to play one more song?" then tweeted and Facebooked about how the band and the show "sucked it hard" -- the New Orleans quartet's only consolation (other than what one hopes was a big paycheck) had to have been "God Bless the U.S.A.'s" omission from the fireworks extravaganza.

I'LL GIVE the naysayers this: The audio mix for the miniconcert was awful . . . because nobody turned off the stadium PA system, which caused an unbearable echo. Presumably, Cowboy Mouth wasn't in charge of the speakers ringing the ballpark in addition to its own sound system in front of the center-field stage.

Presumably, that was an all-Omaha clusterf***.

Still, the ugliest audience this side of Bob's Country Bunker may have forgiven all if only Fred LeBlanc would have counted down into a stirring version of the Rawhide theme. Or maybe "Stand by Your Man."

But a rude audience and a disaster of a booking isn't what's pissing me off.

There's no accounting for taste, or cultural differences
(and on that account, Nebraska and Louisiana might as well be on different continents) . . . or even for what percentage of the booboisie ends up attending big events that feature bad beer and relatively cheap admission.

And fireworks.

To overuse an overused phrase just a little bit more --
it is what it is.

What pisses me off, for the record, is arrogance tag-teaming with invincible ignorance. What pisses me off is when someone, thinking he's stating a fact as obvious to all as "The sun rises in the east," says something that's instead as gobsmackingly arrogant as it is unspeakably stupid. Like a local newspaper acquaintance after the fireworks show announcing to all who could hear that Cowboy Mouth wasn't his "cup of tea," which is fair enough, but then that "there must be 1,000 bands in Omaha better than that."

You probably best know me as someone with a raging love-hate relationship with Louisiana, my native state. And as a Nebraska transplant who generally is thrilled to be one.

It may surprise you, on the other hand, to know that I'm someone who, more often than not, just keeps his mouth shut instead of interfering with a body's God-given right to make himself look like an idiot, an ass . . . or both.

IT USUALLY surprises me when -- and where -- my inner pissed-off, ready-to-kick-Yankee-butt coonass from Baton Rouge erupts with full force. And as a native Baton Rougean, it surprises me even more when it's in full-throated defense of New Orleans.

"A thousand Omaha bands better than Cowboy Mouth"? Really? Leaving issues of musical taste aside . . . really?

What I told the guy, rather loudly, was this: "I'll guarantee you that 999 of those Omaha bands aren't anywhere as good as Cowboy Mouth. And I'll lay money on that."

I can say that because I've actually listened to Cowboy Mouth apart from an ill-conceived gig with shitty sound. For example, in the case of the band's 2006 "Voodoo Shoppe" release, I was left dancing and crying in the space of a single CD. And all you need to defeat a know-nothing is to know a little.

The guy walked away kind of stammering after I committed the ultimate Midwestern sin of being impolite in the face of complete bullshit. The effect is enhanced when someone thinks they're stating the obvious -- and then you call bullshit.

On the Plains, that moment when a blowhard is left defenseless by the belief that he couldn't possibly require one might be called "All hat and no horse." When I was a kid in Louisiana, we had a more colorful way of putting it: "His mouth overloaded his ass."

We Louisianians may have our problems -- and God knows our native state has more than its share of bad ones -- but one of them is not being boring. Boring might be more of a concern someplace that aspires to be the next musical Seattle instead of the next musical New Orleans.

arrogant and silly are definite immediate-action concerns for people in "the next Seattle" who think any but a couple or three local bands could hang for five minutes with a ragtag assortment of teenagers from the Tremé (or the Ninth Ward, or Central City, or the Seventh Ward) learning how to be a proper brass band on a French Quarter street corner in "the first New Orleans."

It would be like Nebraska touting far and wide the quality of its football program and the warmth and classiness of Memorial Stadium fans, only to have the "sea of red" raining Jack Daniels bottles upon visiting opponents after the Cornhuskers lose yet another game by 75 points.

Let's you and me examine some facts, Omaha.

Cowboy Mouth has been together for two decades. It's made more or less a go of it nationally. More importantly, it has made a go of it in New Orleans which, for all of its myriad problems and poverty, probably has more inherent cultural depth and musical talent in an average neighborhood than 21st-century Omaha has had to work with altogether as it pulls itself up toward the emo-wracked cultural nirvana of . . . Seattle.

I dunno, maybe a venerable and successful New Orleans rock band might get more respect here in Coolsville if Fred LeBlanc and company wore more plaid flannel. Sang more about the sheer psychic hell of living life in one's pasty white skin. Drank more Pabst Blue Ribbon and less Abita Turbodog.

And likewise, maybe people might really start to think Omaha really was Coolsville if Omahans started acting a lot less like Hicksville.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Speak American! (wink)

You know how folks are always saying "This is America. Speak English"?

We don't mean it.

Sunday, the
Omaha World-Herald gave lie to our dirty little secret with this story:

A small-town Nebraska librarian who won national recognition for teaching immigrants how to read has resigned in a dispute over expanding her literacy work.

Karla Shafer, who was awarded two national grants to teach literacy to immigrants and given an expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C., resigned her part-time post as director of the Hooper Public Library last month after she was confronted by a City Council member.

Shafer had planned to teach English to immigrants at Nickerson, about nine miles from Hooper, as part of a second $5,000 American Dream grant from the American Library Association.

But she quit her 28-hour-a-week, $10.64-an-hour job, she said, after City Council President Gene Meyer told her she shouldn't do that because it would appear that the village of Hooper approved of the classes.

“I told him, ‘You can't stop me. It's my own vehicle, on my own day off, with my own energy,'” Shafer said. “You can't tell me what I'm doing on my time off.”

When reached, Meyer disputed that description of events.

“I just said it was pretty unusual that we paid the librarian to go to Nickerson,” Meyer said. “She could do that (literacy class) in town.

“She doesn't work there anymore, and I'm not going to go any further on it,” he added.
NO, WHAT WE really mean when we say that if people want to live in America, they ought to learn English is "Get your damn Mexican butt back to Mexico where you belong. America for Americans!"

And if they habla'd that lingo better, towns like Hooper still would be blissfully all-white, and troublesome free-thinking weirdos like Karla Shafer -- what with all her fancy books and pinko ideas -- wouldn't have half the chance to make mischief like she ended up doing with all them socialist "grants" she was getting.

Don't touch
that dial! According to the newspaper, this gets even better.
After she resigned, Shafer said, she went to the library to retrieve her personal items, including many decorations and displays she bought with her own funds.

She said the city clerk and police chief not only blocked her from retrieving her personal items but also began questioning her about how the grant funds were used and whether any went to her personally.

Shafer said she started crying.

“I felt like a criminal,” she said.

Police Chief Matt Schott and Hooper Mayor Larry Klahn said it ultimately was determined that nothing improper had been done with the grant money.

“We had a few questions. She answered them,” Klahn said.

He said city officials had been concerned that city property and Shafer's personal possessions were intermixed.

Shafer was allowed into the library Friday to get her personal belongings. That came after she hired a lawyer, on the advice of friends and library colleagues, to provide help in answering the allegations about the money and in getting back her things.

Shafer said she had to sell a family recreational vehicle to afford the attorney fees. She has suspended teaching English at the library to two Hispanic families that she said are legal residents.
THE MORAL of this tale is a familiar one: Good deeds never go unpunished.

And that goes double in woebegone little burgs like Hooper, Neb.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

What's wrong with being a hick?

I love Omaha, but one might argue -- contra the theme of the "Eastern Nebraska State Song" -- that one sign of being a "hick" state is going to great and self-conscious lengths to convince the rest of the country that you're not a hick state.

Besides, what the hell is so wrong with living in a hick state? I fell in love with Nebraska a quarter-century ago when I moved to a "hick" town in the "hick" part of the state.

I FELL IN LOVE with the Sandhills and that feeling of complete freedom you get when you look out over the grassy dunes that stretch as far as the horizon . . . and beyond. And I fell in love with living in a town where, if you don't know everybody, soon enough you probably will.

I fell in love with friendly and unpretentious people. And with giving folks a little wave when they were driving one way on a lonely road and you were headed the other.

Finally, during my stay in a hick town in -- yes -- a "hick state," I fell in love. And I married my sweetheart in a hick ceremony, in a hick house, in that wonderful hick town.

And while I'm happy for all of Omaha's growth in the two decades we've lived here -- and while it's exciting to see downtown become more and more hip and cosmopolitan every day -- telling the world Omahans aren't "hicks" and we don't live in a "hick state" ain't gonna convince Blue Staters of anything.

Not that anyone ought to give a rat's ass what they think anyway.

IF YOU LIKE where you live, and if your kids are well educated -- if they master their studies, if they likewise learn to be honest and kind and love God and their fellow man -- and if crime is low and neighborliness is high, isn't that good enough?

Because, after all, a lot of the things we value most when we pick a spot to grow roots come from the better, "hick" angels of our nature. Now, call me a hick, but I think it's high time we embrace the best of who -- and what -- we are.

And if that be "hick," "rube," "hayseed" or "Gomer," so be it.

If Noo Yawk don't like that, it can lump it. 'Cause I don't give a flying cowchip one way or another.