Monday, June 28, 2010

Nathan's 30 and other stuff

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Last Tuesday, my brother Nathan turned 30 years old. I'm not sure why this came as a surprise to me, but it seems like just yesterday that I was celebrating my big "three-oh." Time certainly does fly. To celebrate, Vivian and I met up with Nathan and his wife Ranae at their apartment in Lincoln to have some Fat Pat's pizza, and then we went to see Toy Story three with my other brother Jonathan, who drove down from Wayne. Naturally, we arrived early enough to get good seats and play some video games before the show started. We were actually the first ones in the theater and arrived shortly before a troop of several dozen Thespians dressed up as superheroes ranging from Robin to Inspector Gadget.

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The Grand Marquis were playing at JNO Friday night, and even though Vivian and I managed to fritter away most of our evening going to the YMCA and watching a DVD of Bosom Buddies while drinking Buttery Nipples, we still found time to go to the dance. It was a surprisingly small crowd for a night with a live band, and the few of us who had the natural desire for breakfast after midnight decided to crash at the Bellevue IHOP for a change of venue for our post-JNO BS'ing. (Kevin seemed particularly interested in figuring out where he'd met our waitress before. It was apparently at the same IHOP.)

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On a blazing hot Saturday, Vivian and I dropped to see our mutual friends Tim and Robin at their housewarming party for a barbecue. It was apparently so hot that they had to call the Bellevue Fire Department over to cool things off a bit, but Danny had his wading pool out, and a few extra squirt guns helped everyone else in the vicinity keep cool for the afternoon.

In other news, Vivian's brother Oliver was in town, and she spent part of the day shopping with him for bathroom faucets. The lot of us had dinner at Outback, where I learned both what "Pittsburg" grilling means, and then we crashed back at our house to watch Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland before calling it a night.

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On Sunday, Vivian and I had dinner with some bible study friends in Papillion. Justin and Kelly served up some tasty stuffed pasta shells, and Justin got to show off his recently completed shed. They're dog-sitting their neighbor's Lhasa Apso (named Dusty), and he managed to keep us company by being irresistibly cute.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Family visits, Outdoor Dances, and Father's Day

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One of the best parts about owning a house is having the room for family and friends to stop by and visit, such as my Aunt Carol, Uncle Ben, Cousin Laura, and her five kids. They were passing through Omaha last week to see my other cousin (once removed) André wed Rebecca, his fiance of a couple years. We dropped by a nearby IHOP to take advantage of their "kids eat free" night, and then reconvened at the Johnson House to play some noisy foosball afterward.


On Friday, Vivian and I spent the evening at the Eagle's Lodge with the usual cast of Jitterbug characters. We had resident swing dancers Dan and Gaby teaching some Lindy Hop this week, so we got to watch one of their classes and then danced with them both in a jam circle later on. We also had a birthday jam for our friend Lee and then went to an impromptu birthday party with her at Village Inn afterward. Nothing's quite as nice after four hours of dancing than pie and breakfast food (except maybe Jambalaya).

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On Saturday, the swing dancing continued at the Papillion Days parade down 84th Street. We met up at Target for some chicken wings and a slushie before heading down to our spot in the parade route. It was a not-too-warm-yet 85 degrees outside, and we had a fairly decent crowd out to watch as we Lindy Hopped down the pavement. This parade moved much, much more quickly that others we've participated in, and we had to run half the time just to catch up with the rest of the floats. We collapsed down by Halleck Park once we were done and then faced the daunting task of getting back to our cars up at Target. We decided to try piling ten swing dancers into the back of a pickup truck and hitching a ride over to 72nd street, which would have worked fine if we hadn't gotten pulled over by the fuzz.

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On Sunday we had a somewhat rainy Lindy in the Park down at the Gene Leahy Mall. Fortunately, the precipitation was down to an occasional sprinkle, which left things nice and cool as we danced, and the wet pavement even proved to be a better dancing surface than usual for a Lindy Hop. Unfortunately, the crowd was a bit thin due to be being both rainy and Father's Day, but we still had a good time dancing with everyone who braved the weather and did show up.

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Vivian and I celebrated Father's Day back home with Jack and Donna, who we had over for burgers in the afternoon. The rain went from trickling to pouring off and on, and Donna had to hold an umbrella over me as I did some grilling out on the patio. We assembled some tasty burgers with all sorts of toppings for lunch, and we enjoyed them with some potato salad courtesy of Donna. Afterward, we gave Jack a copy of Nadia, a made-for-TV film about the life of Nadia Comăneci. We watched it downstairs and then had some of Vivian's delicious blueberry pie before calling it a night.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Baseball and mawwiage

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It's summertime again, the season for both baseball and getting hitched. On Thursday last week, Vivian and I dropped by Rosenblatt to see the Omaha Royals almost beat the Nashville Sounds in a ten-inning game. It was particularly memorable for us, since we were invited down onto the field to play the "balloon bust" game between the sixth and seventh innings. We didn't win, but we did get to sit in the first base camera well, giving us the perfect view of pitcher Philip Humber getting a line drive to the face courtesy of Nashville Sounds infielder Luis Cruz.

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On Friday night, Vivian and I and a couple of our mutual friends had some fun "storming" the Holland Center courtyard to watch The Princess Bride outdoors. It was a muggy night, but after the sun went down (and they started the film at the beginning rather than in the middle) we were able to enjoy the show. Inconceivable? Not at all.

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On Saturday, we attended the wedding of a few good friends, Keith and Micah. Micah was one of the first Omaha Jitterbugs I got to meet four years ago when I walked into the Eagle's Lodge for the first time. She and Keith both attended our own wedding two years ago (Micah played the guitar as everyone was seated in the chapel) so it felt very special for us to be included in theirs. They were both wed at the Suckau Chapel on Grace University campus, and held their reception at the Bellevue University Student Center just a few feet (literally) from the chapel where Vivian and I were married. I took the liberty of playing videographer at the event, which was fun, and Vivian and I had the honor of leading the Shim Sham for our fellow jitterbugs in the midst of several other dancers. It was a beautiful ceremony and I know this wonderful, Godly couple will have a wonderful life together.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Cookout in Omaha: Day 4

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Vivian and I had been hoping to sleep in a bit on Sunday morning (considering how we’d been up gaming until after three), but around nine we were were woken up by a dart gun war going on outside our bedroom door. I’d held onto the gun I’d bought at last year’s cookout, and Fading Aura had apparently brought pistols for everyone else. After an hour or so of dodging bullets, Fading Aura took a break to make some waffles before we continued our little war in the back yard.

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We said goodbye to Vort, Michelle, Telly, and Mixed Myth around lunchtime, and then the five of us remaining decided to take another tour of downtown Omaha. We walked along the Gene Leahy mall and then visited a few candy shops in the Old Market. Fading Aura has a fairly well-known sweet tooth and wound up climbing a few trees before we headed home for a quick lunch of Omaha Steaks. Then we had to hurry up and take Aeridius back to the airport (and giving him a good-bye glomp.)

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We had enough time afterward to browse through the remains of the Sands in the City event downtown, where local businesses got to sponsor space to build giant, amusing sand sculptures for passersby to enjoy. By “remains,” of course, I refer to the sculptures that were still standing by the time a weekend of rainy weather and unattended children had taken their toll on them.

We dropped by Panera Bread afterward to have some last-minute comic jams before picking up the donation bread and heading on home, drawing to a close another successful cookout. We might just have to do all this again next year!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Cookout in Omaha: Day 3

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Saturday was the day of the big cookout. We started things off with a trip down to the Old Market to sample wares from the farmer’s market. We tried some beef jerky, pastries, and homemade root beer, and Vivian bought a basil plant for her mom that kept things fairly aromatic wherever we went. We stopped by Spaghetti Works for a little lunch outdoors, and then tried to see how many comic generators we could fit inside a phone booth (almost all of us, as it turns out). We had the chance to walk through a few art galleries in the Old Market Passageway before heading on back to the house.

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The weekend forecast had included scattered showers, so we weren’t entirely sure where our cookout was going to be, but by late afternoon we were fairly sure it wasn’t going to rain again, so we all headed off to Haworth park for a little grilling. It was the first time since 2006 that we’d actually had a cookout at the cookout — the other events were so large that we held them at hotel ballrooms and had them catered. Vivian and I managed the charcoal grill and cooked up some tasty hamburgers for everybody. Telly made a "ghetto kite" out of a stick and a plastic Walmart bag, and we all took a turn on the swings, feeling like kids again. Later on, we used the coals afterward to roast some gooey marshmallow s’mores together (a tricky feat, keeping the marshmallows free of ash and soot from underneath the grill).

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After dinner, we got to abuse the playground equipment a little more, testing the spiral slide to see how many of us could fit on it at one time. We also had a group of kids give us a good spin on the merry-go-round, testing the integrity of my stomach to see whether I could keep down an extra-large cheeseburger as we slowly approached mach-1. I always feel like a kid again when I hang out with my comic crew.

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Back home, Aeridius served us some Buttery Nipples — a drink Vivian seems to like primarily so she can say the name — and then everybody gathered in the basement for some late-night role-playing. Vorticus played game master for the “PDQ” style game. The rest of us voted on “bikers of the apocalypse” for our campaign setting and then proceeded to write up a colorful cast of characters. I created a “one-eyed monster” whose primary function was to sneak around just long enough to get into trouble, while Vivian created a fighter with a Trap-Jaw style arm with interchangeable weapons. Naturally, we doodled up profile sketches of our characters as we defended our compound against a band of ice cream thieves before following them back to their hideout.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Cookout in Omaha: Day 2

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On day two of the cookout, we spent a good deal of time catching up over laptops and sketchbooks while Fading Aura made French Toast for everybody in the kitchen (and also some yummy pancakes for me). One advantage in having a relatively smaller number of cookout attendees is that we can all fit in one house, but I’m always amused at how most of our web comics crew managed to retreat to our virtual world even when we’re all together in real life.

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After a quick trip to the airport to pick up our blue-haired friend Aeridius, we all went down to the Henry-Doorly Zoo for the afternoon. I’ve never been able to visit all of the giant zoo before, but we were able to tour the aviary and gorilla valley before splitting up. I followed Fading Aura and Dragon Kingdoms into the desert dome, while everyone else went to look at penguins. It seemed to be nap time for several of the animals, but we still managed to catch a few of the critters on display before the park started to close. We met up with Telly outside and then headed down to the Old Market to have some much-needed ice cream at Ted & Wally’s before heading home.

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That evening, two universes collided as our friends from Comic Genesis came to visit the Eagle’s Lodge to attend Jitterbugs Night Out. Only a couple of our fellow Comic Generators ventured out onto the dance floor, but it was still quite fun to see our friends from both sides of the screen meeting (and dancing together) for the first time. The rest of the gang seemed content to play games on one of the side tables as the temperature in the dance hall grew from bearable to sweltering. Fading Aura and Dragon Kingdoms split to do some "geocaching" while everyone else headed home.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Cookout in Omaha: Day 1

For the last seven years, a few members of Comic Genesis have chosen the first weekend of June to hold a cookout together and meet each other on "the other side of the screen." I've attended three cookouts so far — two in St. Louis in 2006 and 2007, and one in Nashville in 2009. These started as small get-togethers but eventually grew into fairly large gatherings of 50 or more people wreaking havoc in hotel ballrooms. This year's cookout was a little bit different — we had a smaller crowd, but we managed to wreak just as much havoc, and this time we did in our house.

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The official cookout kick-off started Thursday night when Mixed Myth and Dragon Kingdoms arrived. We had some Papa Murphy's pizza at our house and then walked it off across the pedestrian bridge into Council Bluffs. We wanted to stop by Ted & Wally's for some ice cream, but they had a line running out the door, so we decided to stop by tomorrow instead. We returned home and spent a while drawing together while waiting for a few other guests — Fading Aura, Vort, and Michelle — to arrive. I can't describe how surreal it was to have these old comic friends in our house together, but it was quite awesome.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Bikes, Ben's Birthday, and Bocce Ball

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Vivian and I had a lovely Memorial Day weekend enjoying some of the great outdoors and putting some finishing touched on the bathroom before our Comic Genesis cookout this week. We were able to spend some quality time last week as well — we took another bike ride together, and then we biked through the drive-thru at Culver's to get some ice cream afterward. On Friday, we went out for drinks after work and then stopped by the Chicago Dawg House up on 108th and Maple for some loaded hot dogs before starting our weekend.

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On Saturday, I spent the afternoon putting a few finishing touched on the Epic Bathroom Project, and managed to learn just how sticky and impossible to remove white silicone caulk can be. That evening, Vivian and I dropped by Jon Paper's house to attend Ben Anderson's birthday barbecue with some of our mutual friends. Ben blew out a birthday propane torch, and we enjoyed some strawberry cake together. Later on we got to browse some of the scooters Ben's selling out of his basement, and then we played a game called Wits & Wagers together in the living room until midnight.

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On Memorial Day, Vivian and I started cleaning house for our forthcoming Comic Genesis Cookout Weekend. At the end of the day, we dropped by Lee and Chelsea's house to have a barbecue together and play Bocce Ball for the first time. It was a very simple game, though bumps in the lawn made it nearly impossible to make any ball roll straight. It would be interested to see how that game would play out on our own back lawn, which is more or less one big slope.

Coming up next: The Comic Genesis Cookout: 2010!