Sunday, April 23, 2017

Carjacked!

At 11:35 PM on Wednesday, 4-19-2017, I parked my car on 49th Street between Hamilton and Caldwell Streets, next door to the apartment building I live in. (No space was available in the building's parking lot.)

Before I could shut the ignition off, a man in his twenties or thirties approached me. I went ahead and rolled my car's left front window down.

First thing he asked me: "Do you have a cigarette?"

"No," I told him. "I don't smoke."

"Do you have a cell phone that works?" he asked me.

"No, I don't," I answered.

This same man then pulled a gray semiautomatic handgun, pointed the gun at me, and asked me for my car keys. After I turned the ignition off and relinquished the keys, he instructed me to "Run down the street. I won't try to hurt you." 

He pointed toward Caldwell Street, and I ran down Caldwell...for a few seconds. 

I then turned around and saw him speed up 49th Street before he made a right turn to Hamilton.

After that, I jogged (and eventually walked quickly) toward home. 

At 11:45 PM, I called the Omaha Police and reported the theft. About a half hour later, two officers and, later, a detective stopped to interview me about the carjacking.

This incident DOES have a happy ending:

At 1:57 AM that Thursday morning, the police phoned me to let me know that my vehicle was found...in a parking lot at the 3000 block of South 104th Plaza.  

Two more OPD officers stopped by outside the apartment building I live in to deliver my car...and I was able to drive it again at 2:56 AM that Thursday morning.

The car was left intact.

In fact, the thief not only left $2.14 in change in my 2006 car...he also left a Black & Mild cigar band inside the car (as well as the cigar's wrapper).  

I LUCKED OUT!!

Even so, the second-guessing already has begun: A loved one told me that "I would've just rolled the window back up and driven off."

With my luck, I would've been shot and killed for rolling the window back up. 

This is why I've felt reluctant all these years to tell loved ones about personal troubles. When I make a move to try and change all that, this is what I get: "I would've just rolled the window back up and driven off."

Things just AREN'T that simple! 

This morning, a reporter from one of the local TV stations interviewed me about the incident as part of that station's report tonight about local carjackings.


I originally intended to tune in...but because of tonight's second-guessing by this loved one, I won't watch tonight. 

I mean, it's not enough that the last 94 hours have been ruined because of this carjacking.

It doesn't matter to that second-guesser that I'm safe and that I got my car back. 

Here's my question for the second-guessers out there:

"With all that I've been going through these last sixteen months, how would you feel if this carjacker had gone on and shot and killed me?

"Who would you turn to next to dump on? HUH?" 


Tuesday, March 28, 2017

An Omaha landmark for 22 years

On Saturday, 3-11-2017, one of the Omaha/Council Bluffs/Bellevue area's best and most famous places to eat called it quits.

I'm talking about the Pizza Shoppe and Pub (AKA Pizza Shoppe Collective), located at 6056 Maple St., Omaha, NE 68104.


From the day in 1995 that the restaurant first opened its doors, the Pizza Shoppe served up some of the best pizza in town (well, I like to think it did!), along with a variety of sandwiches, salads, and oven-baked pastas. 

PSP/PSC served up something else that was superb: Live entertainment.

Some of the best local bands (such as Clark and Co.) played the Pizza Shoppe
...as did some of the best solo acts in the Omaha Metro.


And down through the years, restaurant owner Amy Ryan and operations manager Carla Kerrigan opened up the Pizza Shoppe and Pub to different nonprofit organizations so that the groups could do fundraisers.

One such group was Omaha Together One Community, which held a 2013 fundraiser at the Maple Street eatery. (Man, that fundraiser was a success!)

The OTOC fundraiser inspired the Great Plains Ragtime Society (the folks responsible for the local Ragtime to Riches Festival) to try its luck at drawing a crowd at the Pizza Shoppe. 

Result: Starting in 2014, Amy, Carla, and the rest of the staff greenlighted the first Sunday night in November for Ragtime Night at the Pizza Shoppe. 

For the 2014 and 2015 events, Bob Arsenault and I teamed up to play for the eaters.
Last year, though, things didn't work out for Bob (what with the busy, busy schedule he and his wife Pat went through during 2016)...so I ended up being the whole bill. 

Still, all three Ragtime Nights at the Pizza Shoppe were fun! 


We drew some good crowds for Ragtime Night, with 2015 being the most successful incarnation (GPRS earned $99 that time...10% of what the restaurant took in that entire Sunday).

Here's what prompted the decision to close down the Shoppe: Amy accepted a new gig...that of operating the Benson Theater, next door at 6054 Maple St.  

But beginning next month, if you're still looking for a deep-dish delight (or a thin-crust one) at 6056, you'll be in luck: David and Brenda Losole will start up a new eating place, Virtuoso Pizzeria. [Currently, David's still at the family restaurant, Lo Sole Mio (3001 S. 32nd Ave., 68105).] 

Here's wishing David and Brenda...as well as Amy and Carla...all the very best. 

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Now, you KNOW I love me some "Storytime!"

Every Saturday morning at 9:00 AM (Central time), KPAO- Omaha's public-access TV station that's available on Cox Channel 22 and CenturyLink Channel 89- shows a half-hour program called Storytime with Lydia. 

I started watching it last year...after finding out about the show online. (Oh, the power of the Internet!)

Storytime with Lydia first came on the air a couple of years ago, occupying the 9:30 AM-10:00 AM slot on KPAO. And initially, it was a mother-daughter collaboration as far as hosting was concerned: A local teacher named Jill Bruckner and her then nine-year-old daughter, Lydia.


Also at first, the series' name was Story Time. 

As first conceived, the show featured Lydia talking about what she'd read and why she enjoyed what she'd read. It was really fun to watch Lydia and her mom banter away. (I'll never forget the time Lydia told the viewers about what it was like to read "Morgan and the Artist," a children's book James Cross Giblin and Donald Carrick came up with in 1985. It was about a troll- Morgan- who inspired a painter. Eventually, Jill playfully asked Lydia how people get snail mail...and Jill tried to tell the folks trolls deliver it. But Lydia playfully exclaimed: "No trolls!") 

That lively, unrehearsed mother-daughter banter sold me on the show. 

In time for the show's second campaign, a "BYOB" segment was added; in it, the Two Bruckners invited a guest to bring his or her own favorite book and discuss the publication. 

Now in its fourth season, it's no longer Story Time. Instead, it's Storytime with Lydia. (Jill went upstairs to become the show's executive producer.)

I loved the old format...and this new format (unveiled on 2-18-2017) rocks, too!

The new setup starts out with Lydia talking shop with SWL's newly-hired floor director, Gladys Schmadys. (It's basically the same playful banter that Lydia and Jill got into in the former setup.)


After the opening credits roll, the next segment is "Author's Corner," where Lydia interviews a local writer. [You'd be surprised how effective this eleven-year-old girl is as an interviewer. (Take THAT, Matt Lauer!)]


Some more Bruckner-Schmadys banter takes over, then it leads to the next segment, "Lydia on Location," in which the young host visits a local business or some other attraction (in the season opener, it was Don Carmelo's Pizzeria)
to show the viewers just how things tick over there.  

This whole season is dedicated to Jim Nelson, the KPAO station manager who died last month.
At KPAO, Jim mentored Jill, Lydia, and Lydia's big sister Madeline Lynch (who, at first, was the show's director).

And it was all because Jim thought it'd be cool to bring a show like this- where a youngster talks about how cool reading actually is- to the airwaves. 

If you think it's cool, too, get on Facebook and "like" Storytime with Lydia, check out the show's YouTube channel, and if you live here in the Omaha/Council Bluffs/Bellevue area...just tune in every Saturday morning.

Don't be surprised to find out that Lydia Bruckner will blow you away.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

A playoff cycle for the books!

The first six-touchdown performance in the history of these "shoulda-coulda-woulda" Division 1-A football playoffs...the first second-round loss by a Number One seed in six years...a team that'd been 0-2 in playoff appearances finally rising up to win a pair of postseason contests...a Mid-American Conference team making the Final Four for the first time...and a new color in the throne room.

Well, I'm just going to cut to the chase and tell you how the 2016 edition of this version of a big-school NCAA football playoff went down: 

FIRST ROUND (seeding in parentheses): Michigan (9) 63, Oklahoma State (24) 21; San Diego State (16) 28, Toledo (17) 7; Colorado (13) 30, USC (20) 23; Wisconsin (12) 31, Nebraska (21) 0; Florida State (19) 41, Western Kentucky (14) 34; Stanford (22) 24, South Florida (11) 21; Louisville (18) 28, Temple (15) 14; West Virginia (10) 31, Appalachian State (23) 27

SECOND ROUND: Michigan 37, Alabama (1) 22; San Diego State 28, Boise State (8) 7; Ohio State (5) 21, Colorado 13; Washington (4) 42, Wisconsin 10; Penn State (6) 46, Florida State 7; Clemson (3) 30, Stanford 21; Oklahoma (7) 28, Louisville 21; Western Michigan (2) 19, West Virginia 3

QUARTERFINAL ROUND: Michigan 42, San Diego State 17; Washington 13, Ohio State 12; Penn State 38, Clemson 27; Western Michigan 35, Oklahoma 28

SEMIFINAL ROUND: Washington 20, Michigan 6; Penn State 34, Western Michigan 20

CHAMPIONSHIP GAME: Penn State 29, Washington 13

Now...on to the highlights!


FIRST ROUND: Freshman RB Chris Evans (12) keyed the Wolverines' rout of the Cowboys by scoring six TDs- four on the ground, one on a catch, and the other on an 84-yard punt return- to break Ki-Jana Carter's one-game record of five, set in 1994 (still the mark for a championship game)...after two first-round failures (1986 and 2015), Aztecs rode RB Donnel Pumphrey's 18-carry, 200-yard spree to victory over the Rockets...Hilltoppers' 30 first downs (and 574-527 yardage edge) weren't enough to stop the Seminoles, who won the game when WR Kermit Whitfield ran it in from seven yards with 3:05 to go in the fourth quarter...in a battle of Mountaineers, West Virginia pulled it out with 4:15 left in the fourth on RB Justin Crawford's two-yard scoring jaunt after K Michael Rubino's 48-yard field goal gave Appalachian State a brief 27-24 lead...Buffaloes avenged a 20-5 loss to the Trojans when QB Sefo Liufau scooted to paydirt from the USC 11...Badgers capitalized on Husker QB Tommy Armstrong's absence (due to an injury against Iowa) by limiting Nebraska to 229 total yards and by avoiding turnovers and penalties...RB Christian McCaffrey (20 runs, 133 yards, 2 TDs) helped Cardinal overcome Bulls' 14-10 halftime lead.

SECOND ROUND: Broncos dismissed the Men from Morgantown by holding WVU to a sickening 76 total yards (44 on the ground, 32 in the air)...RB Saquon Barkley (23 rushes, 101 yards) and QB Trace McSorley (two TD passes, two rushing scores) keyed Nittany Lions' dismantling of Seminoles...QB Baker Mayfield hooked up with WR Dede Westbrook for a 54-yard TD to advance Sooners over Cardinals (and their Heisman-winning QB, Lamar Jackson)...McCaffrey took the opening kickoff 100 yards for a score, but Tigers overcame all that with QB Deshaun Watson's three TD tosses (and 20-of-29 passing for 187 yards)...the Pumphrey Express flattened Boise State (he gained 131 yards on 23 tries and scored a TD)...QB Jake Browning's four air scores (18-29-359 yards-2 INTs on the night) helped Huskies oust Badgers...Crimson Tide outgained Wolverines, 334-253, and kept Evans out of the end zone- but six sacks by Michigan's defense led to Alabama's demise (six years after Wisconsin embarrassed top-seeded Auburn, 28-21, in the second round). 

QUARTERFINAL ROUND: 19 Tiger penalties (for 131 yards) caused Clemson to waste Watson's 38-49-358 yard-3 TD-2 INT effort...for the first time ever, a team from the Mid-American Conference reached the semifinals- because WMU QB Zach Terrell flipped a one-yard scoring toss to WR Corey Davis with 4:54 remaining in regulation to kick the Sooners out of the playoffs...in what was a game of three-pointers, WR Aaron Fuller won it for the Huskies by running a punt back 80 yards to daylight (after returning just one other punt during the season- and that for five yards)...QB Wilton Speight's five TD throws (he went 20 for 31 for 311 yards and two picks) helped the Wolverines bury the Aztecs.

SEMIFINAL ROUND: Terrell outdueled McSorley (316 passing yards to 290), but Trace flicked three air scores to Zach's two- and got help from Barkley, who ran 24 times for 121 yards...Huskies held Wolverines to 272 total yards- 54 on the ground (in 28 carries); meanwhile, Browning and WR Chico McClatcher hooked up for two scoring strikes.

CHAMPIONSHIP GAME: Barkley (this season's playoff MVP) toted the Nittany Lions on his back by scoring a pair of TDs (while running 24 times for 88 yards).


Result: Penn State won it all for the first time since 1994 (when the team from State College, PA crushed Kansas State, 63-14, in Carter's monster game).

The Nittany Lions kept the "shoulda-coulda-woulda" crown in Big Ten Conference hands (Iowa was last season's champ after stopping Alabama, 14-7, in overtime).

The Blue and White became the fourth club in the history of these playoffs to win it all under two different head coaches- joining Nebraska (Tom Osborne in 1982, 1989, 1990, 1993, and 1997 and Frank Solich in 1999), Miami (FL) (Dennis Erickson turned the trick in 1992, followed nine years later by Larry Coker), and Ohio State (which won in 1996 under John Cooper, then did it again in 2005, 2007, and 2010- all on Jim Tressel's watch).

And 22 years after Joe Paterno brought the crown to Happy Valley, James Franklin got it done...and became the first African American to head up a champion in this version of a D-1-A playoff. 


Had Washington come through, Chris Peterson would've made "shoulda-coulda-woulda" history, too...as the first head coach to take two different teams to the top. (His Boise State squad went all the way in 2006 and 2008.)

This playoff cycle was truly one for the books.

Can the 2017 playoffs top that? 

I'm Jim Boston...thanks for reading this blog!

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Good riddance to 2016

For billions (well, at least millions) of people all over the world, 2016 was a trying, bad, horrible, no-good twelve-month period.

From personal problems all the way to global issues, this year was a testing one...to say the least. 

The way I see it, the clincher came on 11-8-2016.


Because 62 million Americans preferred this man to run this country's government (and he got the magic number of electoral votes as a result), most of the world's remaining 7.1 billion people (including the 65 million US voters who wanted the first woman who ever won a major political party's presidential nomination here in these fifty states) received coal in their stockings. 

The Chinese didn't term this "The Year of the Monkey" for nothing...and they weren't talking about a dance from the 1960s. 

I hope we all can survive 2017...let alone see it turn into a Happy New Year. 

There's good college football ALL OVER this country

That's right, folks...the South (and the Southeastern Conference in particular) doesn't have the corner on how the collegiate game (especially the NCAA Division 1-A kind) should be (let alone IS) played.

I'm just now getting this put up, and I apologize for the delay in bringing this to you. (After all, it comes down to those pesky-yet-vital things called "life events." They've got to get taken care of.) 

Here's how this one blogger's version of a 2016 Division 1-A college football playoff looks (regular-season records shown in parentheses):

1. Alabama (13-0; SEC champ)/2. Western Michigan (13-0; MAC champ)/3. Clemson (12-1; ACC champ)/4. Washington (12-1; Pac-12 champ)/5. Ohio State (11-1; Big Ten at-large)/6. Penn State (11-2; Big Ten champ)/7. Oklahoma (10-2; Big 12 champ)/8. Boise State (10-2; Mountain West at-large)

9. Michigan (10-2; Big Ten at-large)/10. West Virginia (10-2; Big 12 at-large)/11. South Florida (10-2; AAC at-large)/12. Wisconsin (10-2; Big Ten at-large)/13. Colorado (10-3; Pac-12 at-large)/14. Western Kentucky (10-3; C-USA champ)/15. Temple (10-3; AAC champ)/16. San Diego State (10-3; Mountain West champ)

17. Toledo (9-3; MAC at-large)/18. Louisville (9-3; ACC at-large)/19. Florida State (9-3; ACC at-large)/20. USC (9-3; Pac-12 at-large)/21. Nebraska (9-3; Big Ten at-large)/22. Stanford (9-3; Pac-12 at-large)/23. Appalachian State (9-3; Sun Belt champ)/24. Oklahoma State (9-3; Big 12 at-large)

Thirteen of this year's shoulda-coulda-woulda playoff teams were in there in 2015, when Iowa needed an overtime run by Jordan Canzeri to dethrone Alabama, 14-7. One of the baker's-dozen holdover clubs, Oklahoma State, nosed Air Force out for the last playoff spot; each team had 260 quality points. Nevertheless, the Cowboys got the edge over the Falcons because Oklahoma State's D-1-A opponents won 69 games this past season...while the Academy's D-1-A foes totaled just 66 wins. 

Boise State and Wisconsin are back after a year's absence, Louisville comes back after losing the 2013 title game to Baylor,
Nebraska's back in after a four-year hiatus, and six squads- Penn State (first time since 2009),
USC (2008), South Florida (2007), West Virginia (2005), Colorado (2002), and Washington (2001) are all making 2010s playoff appearances for the first time.


And Western Michigan's in the field for the first time since 1988 (when the Broncos lost in the second round to eventual kingpin UCLA).


At least P.J. Fleck's undefeated club has some MAC company in this year's playoffs, what with Toledo keeping its place at the table (despite Jason Candle taking over from Matt Campbell as head coach).

Nick Saban's Tuscaloosa juggernaut is the lone SEC team this go-'round. (Auburn, Florida, Tennessee, and Texas A&M won eight contests apiece in 2016. And, when it comes to these playoffs, eight isn't enough...unless it's a conference champion.) 

This year, five Big Ten teams got in, four Pac-12 ones made it, and three each from the Big 12 and the ACC punched playoff tickets. 

Even the AAC and the Mountain West were able to join the MAC in outperforming the SEC in playoff entries. 

In all, eight schools with Southeastern zip codes entered their football teams into this version of a 2016 1-A playoff. 

At any rate, I'll be using Lance Haffner Games' 3-in-1 Football (computer vs. computer mode) to play these games...and I'll get the results posted as soon as possible.

Who knows?

Maybe 'Bama will get its 1-A playoff championship back. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Is it time to split the United States?

Like millions of other Americans, I'm still smarting over what happened three Tuesdays ago.

That's right...unless at least 41 electors get some spine and decide to vote their conscience when they and the remaining 497 electors meet on 12-19-2016 (or unless the current recount effort in four states bears real fruit), the United States will official go under a fascist government as early as 1-20-2017.

Inauguration Day.

Think about it...if you haven't been doing so already. 

Then think back to 12-26-1991 (if you were around back then).

That day happened to be the one in which the Soviet Union officially broke up (after all fifteen of its old socialist republics, one by one, declared their independence).

What if some regions of the United States declared their own independence? 


After all, it's now estimated that on 11-8-2016, 62 million US voters- whether they thought so or not, knew it or not, liked it or not- decided they'd rather live under fascist rule. 

What if they had their own country...the old Confederacy plus some states in the Northwest and Midwest? 

Due to the geographical implications, the states to the west of this new Confederacy would be an entirely different nation...hopefully, one run as the republic America was supposedly set up to be.

And the same thing would go for the new country north of this revived CSA.

Oh, well...it's just a thought.

What do YOU think? 

Is splitting these fifty states three ways the only answer to satisfy Trump supporters, Clinton fans, and everybody else?