Tuesday, April 23, 2019

I sure could've used a helpful smile last Thursday

I'll never again shop at the Hy-Vee Food Store at 7910 Cass St. here in Omaha.

Chalk that up to a young sacker named Kyle.

At 1:34 PM on 4-18-2019, I pulled into the parking lot of the supermarket in question. I'd been a steady, loyal customer at that Hy-Vee for twenty years, and that Thursday, I was in a hurry and trying to get shopping done prior to going to my own job in a local plastics factory.

After putting a trio of letters in the mailbox in front of the store, I ran inside the store...ahead of two other customers who were about to walk in.

Kyle, who was changing the trash bag in a wastebasket in front of the store, saw me, and told me: "Don't ever do that again...cutting in front of customers."

I turned around and saw Kyle.

I was flabbergasted.

I tried to explain myself, and that I was in a hurry, and that the week hadn't been too cool for me...but Kyle didn't want to hear from me.

I tried to apologize. Kyle still didn't want to hear from me.

Kyle told me- three times- to move on. Each time, he gestured me away from his view.

The way I see it, young Kyle was trying hard to show off his White Supremacist views.


At 1:36 PM, I found a manager on duty: Chris. And I told him about Kyle and about the way Kyle treated me.

Chris assured me he'd talk to Kyle, and assured me that I'd done nothing wrong and that I had no reason to apologize.

Got my shopping done at 1:48 PM that Thursday, still angry about the way Kyle treated me.

I even yelled inside the store...and that got me a reprimand from another manager on duty, Wendy.

So, to try and smooth things over, I apologized to Wendy and to the cashier who waited on me, Kay Lynne. (Kay Lynne and I had been able to get along quite well...and in fact, Kay Lynne showed much more understanding of the situation than Wendy.)

I continued to fume at my own job and couldn't wait to get home to send a nasty email to the store director at that Cass Street Hy-Vee (also known as the Peony Park Hy-Vee; a famous amusement park previously stood where that supermarket now does).

The angry email got sent off early last Friday; the next day, I heeded the message at the bottom of the receipt and took Hy-Vee's survey...and doggone right, I mentioned the 4-18-2019 incident.

In both documents, I mentioned that I'd never again shop at that particular Hy-Vee.

The store director emailed me and apologized for the whole thing.

Still, I'm going to start shopping at the Hy-Vee at 51st and Center Sts. here in the Big O.
I don't want to turn my back on the chain that promises "a helpful smile in every aisle."

I like Hy-Vee's wide selection...and that's the biggest reason I'd been shopping there all these years.

What I don't like is seeing racism in action.

And that's what Kyle, like too many others in my life, showed me.

Too many millions of Americans have felt emboldened ever since that walking toilet bowl gave that inaugural address on 1-20-2017...or ever since he won on 11-8-2016.

Kyle showed me he's one of the emboldened.

And I don't EVER want to be in his company again...for any damn reason. 


Thursday, February 28, 2019

Frozen retribution?

Every time I get up these days, I can't help thinking about this current winter...one of the worst and most severe we've had here in the United States in a long time.

This weekend, here in the Omaha/Council Bluffs/Bellevue area, we're slated to receive more frozen precipitation. (Sorry...I don't feel like using the "S" word that rhymes with "crow.")

Through yesterday, according to WOWT (the local NBC affiliate),
the Omaha Metro has picked up 48.0" of the frozen stuff. (Last winter, through 2-27-2018, 14.6" had fallen around here...an area in which the average had been 21.0".)

The local record for frozen precip for one winter: 67.6", which took place around here in the winter of 1911-12. 

Lots of demoralized people around here right now. 

Let's face it: I'm one of them, too.

When it comes to why the winter of 2018-19 has been so brutal, with its frequent blizzards teaming up with long stretches of bitter cold, some people will tell you it's all cyclical (and that we were spoiled around here the previous two winters).

Others tell you that it's all because America is paying for its sins.

Still other folks chalk it up to climate change. 

After all, the fact that the world's average yearly temperature has risen- with most of the twenty warmest years in the world's history having taken place since 2000- has made storms (winter and nonwinter alike) more frequent and more violent.

With all that, and humanity's role in bringing about climate change, atmospheric forces (according to some folks) have told us that the bill is due.

What's your take on all this that's going on outdoors? 

Saturday, February 9, 2019

"Jim Boston, how could you skip a month from your own blog?"

Well, here's how:

Last month, I stumbled onto the world's biggest social network and educational center for creatives in movies, television, and the stage.

And I got hooked!

It's none other than Stage 32, and right now, it's up to 500,000 members worldwide...more people than live here in Omaha (by itself, not counting the suburbs). 

For almost three years, I've been trying to kickstart a pursuit that hooked me from 1980 to 1994: Screenwriting.

When I was still attending Iowa State University, I bought a paperback copy of the script to the 1973 classic "American Graffiti." I really liked the way George Lucas (the movie's director...that's right, that George Lucas!), Gloria Katz, and Willard Huyck wrote the story.

Bought a couple of handbooks on writing for TV and for movies...and I've still got one of them to this very day: "The Television Writer's Handbook," a 1978 publication Constance Nash and Virginia Oakey teamed up to bring to the world.

Then in 1979, as an elective, I enrolled in a screenwriting class Joe Geha conducted. The chief project for each class member was a 30-minute script...and I ended up concocting a TV sitcom pilot called "Long Way," about two women who drove a truck for a Central Iowa soft-drink bottling company. (I worked at such a company during the summers of 1976 and 1978...and liked it!)

The next year, I moved here to the Big O, where I tried and tried and tried to come up with movie scripts (when I wasn't working for a local inventory service). I subscribed to Writer's Digest as well as something called Hollywood Scriptletter, a newsletter that, in the mid-1980s, was renamed Hollywood Scriptwriter.  

Through WD, I found out about the Peggy Lois French Agency. Armed with another TV sitcom pilot ("Edna's Garage," about a New Orleans auto mechanic and her crew), I tried to get representation through that Sun City, CA firm...but I was told: "You haven't had enough life experience." 

Not even working for my dad at his own Des Moines auto-reconditioning firm during the summers of 1969-72 and 1977 (as well as most Saturdays from 1969-72) supposedly counted to the PLFA staff. 

Well, in the middle 1980s, I joined a screenwriters' support group. In those pre-Internet days, we mainly wrote letters to each other. Things were fine...until a letter from a Phoenix member named Willi Waltrip stated that I should give up trying to write scripts and, instead, peck out novels.


I dropped out of the group, stopping trying for a few years to write scripts, then got back into it by 1990- two years after I'd moved from Omaha to Sioux City, IA. 

Between 1990 and 1994, I'd typed out four more screenplays...then packed it in as I started hitting the unemployment lines as the used-record-and-tape-and-CD store I moved to Sioux City to help launch got ready to call it quits.

I was through trying to cook up screenplays. That was it.

Until 2016.

Three years before that,
Nick Holle (who teamed up with Michael Zimmer to helm a 2012 documentary about the World Championship Old-Time Piano Playing Contest and Festival, "The Entertainers") gave me his Power Mac G5 computer...originally purchased by a former OTPP contestant,
Brent Watkins (who teamed up with his wife Jackie to help produce the documentary).

This Power Mac had- and still has- a copy of Final Draft 6. (Yeah, I know...that was five Final Draft iterations ago.)

But since 4-18-2016, I've been using that copy of Final Draft 6 to get back in the screenwriting race, cooking up a fresh-out-of-the-box, 2010s effort and refurbishing three others (two from the 1980s and one from the 1990s). 

I've learned a lot from logging onto Richard Botto's claim to fame
...especially when it comes to how a spec script should look. First of all, I learned that, in today's screenwriting, you don't refer to camera angles in a spec script. You keep character descriptions to, basically, age and traits. 

And every scene, in addition to being "EXT." or "INT.," must also be labeled "DAY" (if not "MORNING" or "AFTERNOON") or "NIGHT."

I've never been more fired up about writing scripts than I am right now, thanks to Stage 32 (named after Paramount's Stage 32, a property that previously was in the hands of the old RKO Studios; in fact, "Citizen Kane" was filmed on that very stage).

And I can't wait to pitch my stuff, either. Stage 32, matter of fact, has a page full of listings for pitch sessions.

Well, all I can say after that is: Log onto stage32.com to see what all the hoopla is. And if you'd like to see any (or all four) of the screenplays I've loaded onto Stage 32, just visit stage32.com/profile/673680/scripts_screenplays. 

Thanks, thanks, thanks for reading "Boston's Blog!"

Monday, December 31, 2018

College football fans, lick your chops!

First of all, I apologize for getting this post out this late. [This year's been one of so many life events...from a biopsy to my car's starter needing replacement to me needing an MRI. (By contrast, I got the chance to go to a high school reunion.)] 

But, anyway...I finally got the chance to find out which teams would populate the 2018 version of an NCAA Division 1-A football playoff (that is...if Mark Emmert and Co. actually conducted such a sports event instead of leaving it up to the people who run the five biggest revenue-producing collegiate conferences). 

Without further ado, here's the 24-team field, with each club's record as of 12-15-2018 (just before the bowl games):

1. Clemson (13-0; ACC champ)/2. Alabama (13-0; SEC champ)/3. Notre Dame (12-0; independent at-large)/4. Central Florida (12-0; AAC champ)/5. Oklahoma (12-1; Big 12 champ)/6. Ohio State (12-1; Big Ten champ)/7. Georgia (11-2; SEC at-large)/8. Michigan (10-2; Big Ten at-large) 

9. Appalachian State (10-2; Sun Belt champ)/10. Washington State (10-2; Pac-12 at-large)/11. Fresno State (11-2; Mountain West champ)/12. Cincinnati (10-2; AAC at-large)/13. Army (10-2; independent at-large)/14. Utah State (10-2; Mountain West at-large)/15. Washington (10-3; Pac-12 champ)/16. Boise State (10-3; Mountain West at-large) 

17. UAB (10-3; C-USA champ)/18. Buffalo (10-3; MAC at-large)/19. Penn State (9-3; Big Ten at-large)/20. Louisiana State (9-3; SEC at-large)/21. Kentucky (9-3; SEC at-large)/22. Syracuse (9-3; ACC at-large)/23. North Carolina State (9-3; ACC at-large)/24. Northern Illinois (8-5; MAC champ) 

Some surprises jump out right off the bat.

*First of all, maybe the biggest surprise is how Dabo Swinney's Tigers jumped ahead of Nick Saban's Crimson Tide to snare the top seed in this year's "shoulda-coulda-woulda" D-1-A playoffs.

Clemson earned 680 quality points this time around, while 'Bama totaled 670. (The figures include the 55 bonus points each unbeaten team gets.) The difference: The ACC's best team played eight teams that ended up with winning records, and the SEC's kingpin took on (as things turned out) seven winning squads here in 2018. And Alabama's Division 1-AA foe, The Citadel, had a 5-6 season (same as in 2017!)...while Clemson's single 1-AA opponent, Furman, came in at 6-4 this time around.

Now's a great time to tell you how this point system works. For starters, a Division 1-A team earns 50 quality points for defeating a 1-A club that had a winning record and 45 points for stopping a 1-A squad that played .500 ball or worse. If the 1-A team beat a winning Division 1-AA entry, that's 40 quality points. If the D-1-AA member had a losing (or .500) campaign, that means 35 points. 

A team in Division 1-A can lose quality points, too. If a club loses to a winning D-1-A squad, 50 quality points are subtracted. Had a nonwinning 1-A team administered the defeat, our contingent loses 55 quality points. 

What if our 1-A team lost to winning 1-AA one? Well, the 1-A team surrenders 60 points...while the 1-A team coughs up 65 points for losing to a 1-AA foe that faced a .500 campaign or worse. 

*Well, this version of a 24-team playoff includes four SEC clubs...in addition, the ACC, Big Ten, and supposedly inferior Mountain West each contributed three entries. And in this cycle, the only three leagues with one squad apiece are Conference USA, the Sun Belt, and- that's right- the Big 12.

*Speaking of Conference USA and the Sun Belt Conference...their champions were involved in tiebreakers.

And both won out!

In these playoffs, the first tiebreaker involves the number of wins a club's Division 1-A opponents racked up. And here in 2018, UAB's 1-A combatants won 68 games to Buffalo's 1-A opponents' 65.

Even more startling is how Appalachian State beat Washington State to the ninth seed. The 1-A teams that played the Mountaineers won 67 games while those that took on the Cougars racked up 66 victories. (And, yes, Louisiana-Lafayette- Appalachian's SBC championship-game victim- counts twice on App State's schedule. Conference title games count in this tiebreaker...even if they're rematches of regular-season tilts.)  

*Fresno State and Cincinnati were involved in another tiebreaker. The Bulldogs bested the Bearcats because Fresno's Division 1-A opponents won 72 games to the 62 wins picked up by Cincy's 1-A foes. Jeff Tedford's club took on Boise State twice (losing to the Broncos in the regular season, then beating them for the MWC crown)...but if you count just one Fresno State-Boise State game (ending up with a 62-62 tie when it comes to 1-A opponents' wins), the Californians still beat the Ohioans because Fresno's 8-1 conference mark topped Cincinnati's 6-2 AAC showing.

Had Luke Fickell's Bearcats taken on Fresno State, the head-to-head competition would've taken precedence over conference marks.

If the tied teams' conference records are the same, point differential is examined, first in head-to-head competition, then inside the conference(s)...then in all games. 

Just in case all else fails, it all comes down to a coin toss. 

Well, at any rate, I can't wait to play these games! I'll be using trusty ol' 3-in-1 Football, from Lance Haffner Games (and it'll all be computer vs. computer).

Wishing you all the very best in 2019 and beyond...and thanks for reading this blog!

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

I wasn't going to let construction work stop me from voting!

Well, yesterday, I did it.

Finally got it done.

At 12:20 PM (Central time), I walked inside Dundee Presbyterian Church (52nd St. and Underwood Ave.) to cast a midterm ballot.

Took me 25 minutes to go through the whole procedure...from giving the Election Day attendants my name all the way to filling out a two-page ballot.

And once it was all done, I was able to join millions of other Americans in scratching an itch that had been festering for two years.

Two long years.

Two excruciatingly long years.

Two years of- let's face it- this country's Republicans setting the stage for full-fledged fascist rule, what with the Elephants dominating all phases of government...from the national level all the way to (in too many places) the local level. 

Speaking of local level...it seemed as if Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert (she's a Republican) and her staff were determined to make it difficult for folks in the precinct around Dundee Presbyterian (and people living in the precinct centered by nearby Brownell-Talbot School) to get to their respective polling places. 

Roadwork along 52nd Street gave the game away.

So...I ended up parking on Webster Street and walking across Happy Hollow Boulevard to get to the church. 

And when voting was done and I left the polling place, it felt good.

But I ended up spending most of the next ten hours on pins and needles.

I'd feared that the Republicans had retained both divisions of Congress.

They didn't. 

The Democrats took back the House while the Republicans added to their Senate majority. And according to www.dailykos.com, the Elephants won 18 gubernatorial races while the Donkeys got 13 of 'em.

I didn't get everything I voted for (Kara Eastman and Jane Raybould didn't unseat, respectively, Don Bacon and Deb Fischer, while Pete Ricketts got reelected as Nebraska's governor), but I'm glad about the fact that in two months, this country's House having more Democrats in it than Republicans should help to bring checks and balances back to Washington. 

And here's hoping that Nancy Pelosi and Co. investigate, investigate, and investigate.

And oh, yes...start impeachment proceedings.



Sunday, November 4, 2018

And what's more, the school didn't look the same!

Well, it was Sunday, 9-23-2018...the third and final day of the Class of 1973's 45th get-together in the Des Moines area.

This time, the final major activity of the reunion was scheduled to take place at the very school itself: West Des Moines Dowling Catholic High School. 

Nope...not a pep rally.

No, not another sports event.

It was a Mass.

And two of our classmates- now men of the cloth- were tabbed to say that morning's Mass.  

But first...it was time for interested classmates to tour the very school that gave so many of us so many great, great memories. (This was the tour that was originally scheduled for the previously Friday afternoon.)

And, thanks to a recent construction project, the physical plant at 1400 Buffalo Rd. is bigger and better than before. 

Our host for the understandably brief tour was Ron Gray...the longtime (and legendary) DCHS head wrestling coach who's now the longest-tenured teacher in school history. 

He's been at it for a whopping 41 years!

We got a chance to tour the hallways (lockers, trophy case, and all) and Ron's classroom. (By the way...in addition to currently being the school's head boys' golf coach and head girls' golf coach, he teaches economics and social studies.)

What if we'd had this kind of a classroom back in the late 1960s and early 1970s?

Okay...it's not really the size of the classroom (or style of classroom) that counts.

Now it was 10:30 AM...and time for Mass.

I hadn't been to an out-of-town one since Saturday, 6-11-2005.

It's a long story (and a possible blog post in itself), but after high school, I largely stopped going to church (only to go back to Mass on visits to Des Moines while an Iowa State student). 

I'd had my fill of the downbeat messages the monsignor at the Catholic church I was going to in DSM was giving his parishioners. (Whenever the church wasn't taking in enough money to suit the monsignor there, he'd tell the churchgoers: "You're throwing defiles in God's face!")

I switched to the Unitarian Universalist Church not long after I first moved to Omaha in 1980...only because First Unitarian is within walking distance of where I first lived when I moved to the Big O on 8-2-1980. (I moved back here on 3-29-1997.)

Moved to Sioux City, IA on 6-30-1988 to manage a used-record-and-tape store...and spent the next five years and two months shunning church services.

All this time, though, I'd still go into church basements and get some practice in on those congregations' old-fashioned upright pianos (something I started doing in October 1976, back in Ames). 

Well, that all changed in February 1994.

That was the month I decided to fill up the hole in my life and join the United Methodist Church.

I've felt more comfortable as a United Methodist than I ever did as a Catholic. 

Even so, that wasn't going to stop me from participating in a Mass that Jim Gould and Dennis Wright were to preside over.

It was supposed to be Mike Peters teaming up with fellow Catholic priest Jim G., but Mike P. got called away to another assignment.

So Dennis W., now a deacon in the Des Moines area, took Mike's place. (I remember Dennis' cartoons in the school newspaper...the publication originally called The Aquin but renamed The Paper once the old, all-boys' Dowling merged with the all-girls' St. Joseph Academy in time for the 1972-73 school year and set up shop on Buffalo Rd. in the 'burbs.)  

The Mass took place at DCHS' brand-new St. Joseph Chapel, a much bigger one than the chapel that originally came with the new Dowling.

And it went beautifully...from Julie Russell Craven's music (she played the hymns on an electronic keyboard) to Jim G.'s homily to everything else. 

Once the service- meant to honor the 29 classmates who've passed away- was finished, we went right to the school lobby for coffee and donuts.

This coffee-and-donuts session was more enjoyable than those I was able to attend when I was younger and going to a church whose top priest railed away about all those defiles. 

Tom Meyer, Ron G., Jim G., Dennis W., Julie R., hubby David Craven, and I got together with Joni Hockins Edwards, Lisa Lamberto (one of Joni's fellow cheerleaders), Meg Tibbetts Williams, Margo Munoz O'Meara (never had a chance to see her at the other reunion events), and so many other classmates to talk up old memories and current goings-on. 

We had such a great time that our time together ran into overtime...and the DCHS Class of 1973's 45th Reunion broke up around 12:15 PM.

All I can say is:

Please, please, PLEASE let circumstances allow me to get to the 50th Class of '73 get-together! 

About that Mass I went to on 6-11-2005: The Mass was actually a wedding of Matt and Liz, a young couple I met earlier that year at the Omaha Children's Museum. (From October 1997 to June 2006, I volunteered at the OCM, where they let me entertain visitors of all ages on an old-fashioned upright piano in the museum's music room. The best part of it all: When I wasn't playing, I got a chance to hear the children and some of the adults they brought with them tickle those ancient keys.) 

After they heard me play, Liz and Matt invited me to perform at their wedding reception. I said "yes," and on the second Saturday in June that year, I traveled to Shenandoah, IA, to watch the two of them become husband and wife.

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

Sunday, October 7, 2018

We still didn't look the same

Well, it was Saturday, 9-22-2018...the second day of the Dowling Catholic High School (West Des Moines, IA) Class of 1973's 45th reunion.

It started out with a golf outing put together by classmate Mike Chenchar.

But not for me. (I'm not a golfer at all. My younger brother is.)

Instead of trying to embarrass myself at eighteen holes, I had my heart set on going bowling with my younger brother Mike and my thirteen-year-old nephew Jordan (my younger brother's and younger sister-in-law's son). 

Last year, our favorite Des Moines-area bowling center, Plaza Lanes, burned down due to an electrical fire.

So, this time, we got together at Air Lanes (4200 Fleur Dr., Des Moines, IA 50321; 515 285-8632).

I'd never been to Air Lanes before...despite the fact that the bowling center opened in the late 1960s, at a time when I was finishing my growing-up years right there in America's Raccoon River City.

You know how at most bowling centers here in America, the large-screen TVs show you sports events in between the scores the customers are rolling up?

Well, at Air Lanes, in between the scores its customers are racking up, you get music videos.

That's cool, too!

On 9-22-2018, Air Lanes became the very first place where I ever won a game in a family bowling outing...and it came down to the very last ball Mike B. rolled in the third and final game.

Speaking of firsts...all the time I was a Dowling student, I'd never gone to a "mixer." 

Well, back in June, when classmate (and former varsity cheerleader) Joni Hockins Edwards sent me the letter announcing the 45th get-together, I not only said "Yes!" to the invitation, I decided I was going to, at long last, get to that "mixer." 

The reunion's "mixer" took place at another Des Moines landmark, Christopher's (a restaurant at 2816 Beaver Ave., 50310; 515 274-3694).

Jeff Gass and I arrived at Christopher's party room just before 6:00 PM, the "mixer's" start time. Already, a good-sized crowd had gotten seated, awaiting the chance to eat the great food the Saturday-night event promised...while some hits from the 1970s poured out of the stereo speakers in the party room. 

I was able to recognize Dwayne Carter, Chris Adams, Rick Vasquez, Paul Koester, Ann Gladfelder Lawson, Rick Benson, Meg Tibbetts Williams, Bill Lawson, Tom Naughton, Paul Duwelius, Mark Cooper, Ron Gray, and Dan Mueller from the night before at Fire Creek Grill in West Des Moines.

But the Christopher's get-together attracted some classmates I didn't see (or don't remember seeing) at Fire Creek: John Nesbit...Kelly O'Brien (I ran track alongside him)...Mary Manning Bracken (she works for Iowa Public Television; she and I took photography our senior year)...Mary Gallo Eckerman...and two classmates who go back to the eighth grade with me: John Duffy and Greg Murray.

It was fun, fun, fun being able to reminisce (as well as being able to dish on what we've been doing since 1973)...and Jim Gould (he's now a priest in Virginia),
Sue Boesen, Jim Conway (ran track alongside him, too), Cecelia Kirvin (a classmate from senior-year business math), Molly Maloney (she was a varsity cheerleader), and Joni herself came in to the party room to join in on the fun. 

The food was, according to the reunion brochure, supposed to be "heavy hors d'oeuvres."

It turned out to be one heck of a spread instead.

Besides the hors d'oeuvres, Christopher's offered a veggie tray, two kinds of pizza, meatballs, and four kinds of cupcakes...as well as your choice of alcoholic and nonalcoholic drinks.

Among other things.

And then- among the other things- there was the table full of yearbooks and old newspapers in the tap room. 

Some of us- especially John N., David Craven, Julie Russell Craven, and I- just got lost in the yearbooks and old Des Moines Register copies. 

Matter of fact, it got to the point where those of us who'd turned the tap room into a library were the last ones to leave Christoper's. 

So...it was off to the bar at Christopher's, where we watched Iowa blow a 17-14 fourth-quarter lead and end up coughing up a 28-17 decision to Wisconsin.

That bar's also where I caught back up with CeCe Lynch...and caught up with Larry Quijano. (Larry and CeCe run their own eatery, too. It's Quijano's Bar and Grill, at 1930 S.E. 6th St., 50315; 515 243-9595.)

Not long after the Wisconsin-Iowa football game came to an end, it was time for me to go back to the hotel (EconoLodge Inn and Suites on Merle Hay Rd.)...and time for me to get ready to do something else I hadn't done in ages.

I'll let you know what that was when I come back.