Will Cannabis Legalization Grow Over the Next Two Years?

Two words.

Tax dollars.

A lot more legislatures will be legalizing cannabis.  The current grassroots road works just fine, but the local governments are starting to do their jobs and are going to increasingly pass their own laws. 13 states had to grind out activist methods and win legalization at the states at the ballot box. The Vermont legislature was the first to write their own regulations that became law in 2018. The second state was Illinois in 2019.  The shift from activist to winning state legislatures is monumental. It means that there has been an actual shift in elected officials sitting in these seats to the point of winning majority votes in their state capitals.

The recent referendum that passed in New Jersey really put the northeast on notice. New York and Philadelphia will be watching closely for sure; they don’t want their tax revenues going to the freshly-deputized green state of New Jersey for their hookups.  Rhode Island has submitted a new ballot proposal every year since 2011.[i] Their version this year has a whopping 69% sales tax on it.[ii] Delaware is right there and they could possibly sneak a law in, but that may be too optimistic. Connecticut and New Hampshire would be the only holdouts at this point, and I don’t think the fair village of Marlboro would be too upset if their elected officials legalized weed for them one day soon.

The Mideast (Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky) have a long way to go.  Ohio does have a medical cannabis law, but it will be seeing the start of the next decade potentially bordering two states that have Recreational laws.

The great lakes states of Illinois, Michigan, and Minnesota are promising, with Minnesota being the lone holdout there. Michigan rebounded from a loss in 2016 to a win in 2018. Illinois was the second state to legalize cannabis through their legislature in 2019.

Texas is the big standout in the barren wastelands of the South. Their legislature just submitted a bill legalizing cannabis. In November. [iii] But Texas is Texas. They smell money, they may just go for it one of these times. The rest of the South on the other hand, well, let’s go back to 2018 and revisit their Amendment 4 initiative. It gave felons who did their time the right to vote. Of course, the oppressor knows well how to get around an election result that needed 60% of its voters to pass. It got 64%.[iv] Then, in true fascist fashion, the leadership took those rights away.[v] So I will just leave the south alone. Maybe the brief blue dot in Georgia can start some embers there, but at this point the south has to show change, not just talk about it.[1]

The big money lands are in the Midwest. North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Missouri, and Iowa. That is, after all, where the good dirt is. And they understand “bushels” quite well. They like “bushels” there. South Dakota just legalized cannabis this year. Nebraska will soon border two legal states. Nebraska has had decriminalized cannabis since 1978. Their biggest problem will be keeping it under control. It grows wild there and is actually everywhere.  It is actually a weed to many people there. The weeds grow by roads, by train tracks, in parks, on farms, by the rivers… Everywhere. And they grow very tall. Very, very tall.   

And then there is the collection of mountain states. Wyoming, Colorado, Montana, Idaho, New Mexico, and Utah. This is really the end of the run on the continent right here. Everything to the west of these states is already legal (Ok, Hawaii is west. Just keep reading), thanks to the recent vote in Arizona. Wyoming and Idaho are most likely to be negative, despite bordering three legal states.  And good ol Utah is going to be its bad ol self and stay chaste.

Finally, the scraps. New Mexico and Hawaii. Hawaii is too chill to worry about any new laws. Hawaii, prolly not. They failed to pass decriminalization last year.[vi] A jump to full legalization may be a bridge too long.  You can get it if you really want it. New Mexico, on the other hand, could be another legislature state. They have already tried and failed. They are talking about it and throwing things at walls. Someday something will stick.

As for Federally, well, unless the democrats take the senate, there will be nothing done. The House is going to hold a floor vote on the MORE act[i] in December. It is intended to end cannabis prohibition, expunge records, and provide reinvestment to those affected. Of course, a Republican-Led Senate will never subscribe. In this scenario, the best this act can do is put pressure on President Elect Biden to embrace legalization. Then it is up to his legendary relationship with McConnell to not completely stonewall him and the country. Again, actions do all the talking here.

If the Democrats do get the senate to 50/50, then the MORE Act can possibly gain traction. It will still be an uphill climb in that geriatric senate, however. Expect more of the same. States legalize regionally. Maybe there will be enough of a plurality one day for a constitutional convention. Lots to be done still.


[i] https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/116/s2227


[1] To their credit, this year, they finally removed the confederate symbol from their state flag. https://www.clarionledger.com/story/news/politics/2020/10/19/mississippi-flag-lawmakers-work-together-remove-confederate-symbol/5909802002/


[i] https://www.providencejournal.com/article/20160602/NEWS/160609775

[ii] https://www.providencejournal.com/story/news/politics/2020/11/18/ri-lawmakers-look-marijuana-tax-hikes-big-deficit-looms/6338203002/

[iii] https://capitol.texas.gov/BillLookup/History.aspx?LegSess=87R&Bill=SB140

[iv] https://ballotpedia.org/Florida_Amendment_4,_Voting_Rights_Restoration_for_Felons_Initiative_(2018)

[v] https://www.tampabay.com/news/florida-politics/elections/2020/10/07/florida-ruled-felons-must-pay-to-vote-now-it-doesnt-know-how-many-can/

[vi] https://www.civilbeat.org/2020/11/15-states-have-now-legalized-recreational-cannabis-what-about-hawaii/

The South is Like a Burr in my Socks.

thebudblogsite

Donald Trump’s campaign started with his ad hominem birtherism attacks on Obama years ago ad nauseum. That gave him his footing in The Dixie South, which quickly became his stronghold. (Virginia was the only state in The South to vote against Trump, but they always vote blue.) He got 45% of his needed electoral votes (122) in The South.

The South sticks together, and cannabis prohibition is a component of the glue. This is the land where rum smugglers of old venerate the constant left turns of NASCAR. This land is littered with dry counties where moonshine is readily available. States’ Rights are at the tips of all of their lips, but only when buying and selling individual members of a family to work their cotton fields.

Attorney General Sessions got into the US Senate partially thanks to a different southern crop, tobacco. In fact, he had to return $2000…

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All Aboard the Cannabis Express

2015 was another rollercoaster year for the cannabis industry. The bridge from the midterms to the big Presidential Election is upon us. The fourth legal recreational state made their first cannabis sales this year. We could have had 5, but someone with too much money and ego tried to pass a turd as a gem. Some medical states cleaned up their messes to prepare for the big 2016 campaign push. More countries are linking up to science and reason as the drug war erodes abroad.

Both California and Hawaii have dealt with medical marijuana laws on the books since they legalized medical marijuana decades ago (1996 and 2000). We were fighting a different beast then. Just to have access was a big deal. The regulations never came, and the communities there struggled to get regulations for their businesses

Until this year. California’s regulations flew through to the Governors desk. In San Diego County, the first permits were issued under their highly restrictive regulations. The Hawaii regulations, however, were much more dramatic. Twelfth hour deals and a last-minute game of musical chairs led the regulators in Hawaii to finish and approve their law in time.

These new regulations that the State Legislatures passed indicate just how far we have come. The people who provide medical marijuana services now have a clear set of rules that govern compliance and access within their jurisdictions. Now, thanks to the actions of these legislators, the cannabis community can finally come together and focus on the one last strand that needs to be cut: Schedule 1 of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).

Meanwhile, Oregon brought their own axe to the CSA party when Measure 91 became law in July. Governor Kate Brown and the legislature even sharpened the blade by establishing recreational sales three months earlier than the law allowed. Tax-free, even!!!

The Oregon collectives were thanked by beating out both Colorado and Washington in first-week sales. It was a good opening week for all three states; Colorado made $5 million that week, Washington only made $2 million, while Oregon scooped $11 million into their dumptrucks that week.

Oregon was also quick to expunge pot arrests from their records.

The receipts gathered last year in Colorado showed that Colorado achieved new tax peaks in the fiscal year 2014-2015. Marijuana sales paid $70 million in taxes, which was almost double the $42 million in tax revenue Colorado received for alcohol. Because of this, Colorado was so flush with money that it gave a tax holiday and offered a tax refund to its citizens. Voters elected to give the rest of the surplus $66 million to the schools last November. This is the “the third time in four years that voters considered how to spend pot taxes…”. The previous two ballot measures each sent $40 million to the State of Colorado.

On the other hand, Ohio faced an incredibly scary initiative on the November ballot. It was so bad that the legislature placed their own initiative on the ballot that would combat the creation of an oligarchy or monopoly sneaking its way into their constitution. Legalization activists and fundamentalists rejoiced together when this initiative was heartily defeated.

Poor, poor Nebraska, however, had to suffer the cruel indignity of being the loud voice of an ignorant parent spouting off vile ideas of another time. But the “Child Protective Services” came in and protected the fledgling industry from the predators lurking.

It was just north of Nebraska, where Alex White Plume had his hemp fields robbed by George Bush’s Federal Government. Now, merely a year after the Justice Department established guidelines for First Nations People to sell recreational cannabis, the Flandreaux Santee Sioux plan to build a pot resort in the badlands. Other tribes are also looking at cannabis as an alternate to casino income.

The Justice Department submitted their opinion in the Nebraska/Oklahoma vs. Colorado lawsuit. The Supreme Court requested the opinion as a resource to to decide if the case is valid to hear under the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution. The Attorney General thinks the lawsuit should be thrown out.

The Justice Department also did some housecleaning of their own. The Northern California District Attorney, Melinda Haag, stepped down. She bullied hundreds of permitted businesses to shut down in her four-year reign of terror. In the end, Harborside Health was one dispensary too many for this attorney to swallow.

Back in D.C., The Chief of Police upheld the will of the people and confronted the wrath of Congress as she allowed the legalization initiative to come into effect. Congress seems to have two faces in this issue, however. They adopted a provision that protected “states where medical pot is legal” from federal agents raiding their retail licensed and compliant locations. Also, President Obama “banned the box”. This gives people with criminal records more opportunities to apply for a job with the Federal Government. Federal employers are now empowered to hire people based on merit and potential. The scarlet letter can stay in the back pocket a bit longer now.

Internationally, it is refreshing to see Mexico push back against the prohibitive policies that have greatly scarred their recent history. Their conservative drug laws, porous prison system, and drug-linked violence have wreaked havoc on their communities. Mexico sees how things are evolving here in the States (23 medical states, 4 rec states and two rec cities) but is still slow to change. These issues have created a dangerous element for the Mexican citizen. In light of this, The Mexican Supreme Court ruling allowed Mexican citizens to grow and consume marijuana for personal use.

In South America, Colombia added medical marijuana laws to their books. They are preparing to be the eighth country in the world to allow access to medical marijuana.

The burgeoning market has exposed potential hitches that this market carries with it. A glaring problem is the pesticide issue. The indoor grows are intended to provide ideal situations for the plants. Unfortunately, these grows also create great environments for many of natures friends as well. Because of this, many grow rooms resort to pesticide use. Not all of the pesticides they use are acceptable by the EPA; yet this is happening. Colorado regulators could do more if the EPA were able to provide guidance. But, until The CSA status for cannabis changes, there is little that the EPA can do.

Another issue is the great divide in ownership. Black and brown populations carry much of the jail time and social burden of an illegal black market in the United States. Yet, cannabis is becoming a more legitimate business every day. The black and brown populations are being left behind as record profits and robust sales occur weekly.

I remember speaking with a young man at S.D.S.U. in 2010 for the “Yes on 19” campaign. He didn’t want the herbs to be legal because his friends would lose their job to the liquor storeowner on the corner. More has to be done to till business owners in these communities that have been scarred by the drug war. Reparations are not what I mean either. These communities need a heavy investment in infrastructural guidance and some massive pardons.

Finally, the question of legal cannabis is already a part of the national primary elections. The wonderful people at the Marijuana Policy Project created a nice guide that details the positions of all of the candidates for the 2016 presidential race. Of course, the Republicans scored abysmally, while the Democrats said all the right things.

This will be rather sticky for the Republicans. Their only candidate who scored an “A” is (surprise!) the Libertarian of the bunch and a vocal supporter of legal cannabis. He even supports giving marijuana businesses access to banks. Six of the 13 candidates averaged a C. It was always the same reason that Republicans passed too. They support states rights, one of the key pillars of the Republican Party.

It was the same reason that they could have failed too. They all shout “drugs are bad”, m’kay. What’s it gonna be Republicans, smaller government, or DEA attack dogs? I am totally confused. To add to the confusion, only four of the 11 Republican candidates were absolutely against legal medical or recreational cannabis. Imagine that statement in 1984.

Two of the Democratic Candidates want to reschedule cannabis, while one is intent on burning down the entire prohibitory framework. President Obama predicted that more states would join the Cannabis Express in the coming elections.

If cannabis makes it to the soapbox in 2016, then we can be confident that the cannabis vote will play a part in electing both our next President and some members of Congress. Let’s get going on this Cannabis Express.

(CA and HI)

http://www.bizjournals.com/pacific/blog/2015/05/hawaii-lawmakers-continue-to-draft-medical.html

http://norml.org/news/2015/10/15/california-governor-signs-medical-marijuana-regulation-and-safety-act

http://www.10news.com/news/city-to-rule-whether-sdsu-prof-can-open-pot-shop

http://khon2.com/2015/05/04/lawmakers-pass-bill-for-medical-marijuana-dispensaries-in-hawaii/

Oregon and

http://www.wtsp.com/story/news/2015/10/07/oregons-first-week-recreational-pot-sales-tops-11m/73561578/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/oregon-recreational-marijuana-sales_55b7e75de4b0224d88344d2b

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/21/us/oregons-legal-sale-of-marijuana-comes-with-reprieve.html?_r=0

Ohio and

http://ballotpedia.org/Ohio_Initiated_Monopolies_Amendment,_Issue_2_(2015)

http://ballotpedia.org/Ohio_Marijuana_Legalization_Initiative,_Issue_3_(2015)

first nations and

http://www.ksfy.com/home/headlines/Flandreau-Santee-Sioux-Reservation-legalizes-marijuana-307470861.html?device=phone&c=y

http://www.keloland.com/newsdetail.cfm/attorney-general-reacts-to-reservation-marijuana/?id=181290

http://journalstar.com/news/state-and-regional/nebraska/nebraska-oklahoma-to-pursue-marijuana-lawsuit-against-colorado/article_c559305b-d1c1-54a4-8f87-cf11aba6b6f2.html

http://m.lasvegassun.com/news/2015/sep/30/tribe-in-south-dakota-to-open-nations-first-mariju/

Mexico

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/05/world/americas/mexico-supreme-court-marijuana-ruling.html?action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=first-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=0

Colombia

http://www.businessinsider.com/colombia-just-legalized-medical-marijuana-2015-12?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=referral

Congress and PRes.

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/02/28/dc-police-chief-stands-up-to-congress-over-pot.html

http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-medical-pot-20141216-story.html

http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/obama-bans-the-box

http://www.thedailychronic.net/2015/45738/harborside-health-center-outlasts-californias-us-attorney-melinda-haag-era/

Colorado Taxes

http://dailycaller.com/2015/09/15/colorado-just-became-the-first-state-in-history-to-collect-more-taxes-from-marijuana-than-alcohol/

http://www.taxrates.com/blog/2015/06/05/colorados-pot-sales-tax-holiday-september-2015/

http://money.cnn.com/2015/11/03/news/colorado-marijuana-vote/index.html

http://www.denverpost.com/election/ci_29066651/colorado-again-asks-voters-how-spend-marijuana-tax

Pesticide use

http://www.westword.com/news/denver-investigated-10-pot-grows-for-use-of-banned-pesticides-holds-plants-6654706

ownership imbalance

http://www.alternet.org/drugs/incredible-whiteness-colorado-cannabis-business

http://www.nbcnews.com/news/nbcblk/6-reasons-african-americans-cant-break-cannabis-industry-n344486

mpp Presidential candidate tracker

https://www.mpp.org/2016-presidential-candidates/

http://blog.sfgate.com/smellthetruth/2015/01/22/president-obama-predicts-more-states-will-legalize-marijuana/

I listen to the river of cars and i see the stars outside of my perch by the highway, I sit and wonder of the lightning and thunder that have passed by my days.  

Ommm…..Aha!

12-11-02

Glad You Could Make It”

“Ommm” was the only thing running through Nicks mind as his beat up old jeep rolled along highway 34. The smooth mechanics gently hummed and blended with his tires as they pulverized the pavement and pushed him towards Omaha. The cornfields flanked him on both sides and drifted off in all directions, taking his thoughts with them as they marched into the horizon. He was on his way home. Omaha was where he grew up, and it had been a long time since he had been there, since he left in a hurry. But this was just a brief stop, for he was off to meet his father, the man who ran off years ago, leaving his mother to raise him by herself.

He exiled himself to Nederland soon after he discovered the woman he loved on the kitchen floor with his best friend. While there, he became involved with a lady whose boyfriend abandoned her soon after discovering that she became pregnant. They lived off of each other’s loneliness and helped each other out. She convinced him that he needed to make peace with his father, and he convinced her that he would help her through the pregnancy, taking on her child as his.

He pulled over to a rather forlorn looking piece of land that was designated a rest area. Nick got out and stretched. He was planning to eat as the sun went down, so he walked around the area to gather kindling for his fire. Besides, it felt good to walk around; the idea of moving around was welcome after being in his car for so long. Cornfields bordered the rest area on two of its walls, and some corn made it to his rest area because there were stalks littering the ground. He smirked at the ingenuity of his fellow travelers and thought corn might make a welcome addition to his meal. So he headed towards the field. But as he was about to enter, he remembered all of the signs he had seen along the way that proudly advertised the poisons that helped the plants grow so well. Certain that he had done the right thing, he continued his survey of the land, stopping by a tree along the way to mark his territory. He sat on the picnic table and listened to the silence that occasionally rose to a roar as a semi sped by, eager to meet its deadline.

As the sun began to dip below the horizon, Nick noticed a little spot that had appeared on the highway. He wasn’t sure if it was moving, but he didn’t remember seeing it before, as he idly ate. After a few minutes, he grew confident that it was moving. His curiosity won out, and he approached the dot. A small turtle emerged as he drew closer. It was almost across the road, but at the pace it was going, it still had a long way to go.

“I have no idea where you plan to go, little buddy, ” he laughed as he squatted down. Picking it up, he walked the remaining five feet to the shoulder, “but at the speed you are going, I don’t know how easily you are going to make it.” his feet were swimming through the air, his little head trying to get a piece of Nick’s fingers. “I can’t help but wonder where you intend to go. It seems like all that you need is back there- a neat little pond, plenty of grass to crawl around in, and some might tasty cornfields. Yet, you are steady inching your way across a pretty dangerous road. You just risked your life for a little shoulder gristle and railroad tracks.“ He set the turtle down and wished it luck, as it scrambled towards the shelter of the tall grass- as fast as a turtle can go, at least. As he waited for the pickup to pass him, he couldn’t help but stifle a laugh. He remembered a story that someone had told him about Sasha. Her third grade class had a pet turtle they called Monk, because it always looked like a cool character. When it died, she was so heartbroken that the teacher excused her for the day. She took it home and buried under the elm tree in her backyard. She made her dad say a prayer, and her mom cooked her favorite meal; a bowl of cereal and some eggs.

As he jogged back across the street, she popped into his head again and lingered for a brief second. Since the entire drive was done without any music, much of his time was spent quietly thinking. He didn’t think of her the entire trip, but now she grew like a cancer. He knew he couldn’t see her again- that would be a disaster. But he was enthralled. She had saved him from himself. He knew who he was before he met her, and no matter what she did to him the simple fact that he owes her everything lingered in his mind.

The memories of the summer they met came rushing in as he casually ate the rest of his burrito. He was completely broke and was there only because he had nowhere else to be. He was at Red Rocks State Park at a concert. His friends were all inside the concert, for the show had just begun. But he lingered on the outside and tried to avoid any light. Occasionally, he would talk to some of the others who loafed outside. Some were plotting ways to sneak in, while others were the designated babysitters for the night. He was bored and disinterested in everything that everyone had to say, so he didn’t stick around anybody for too long.

She was just standing under a street light near the entrance, looking down at a puppy that sat patiently by her side. Her long brown hair shimmered in the light as it rested on her soft shoulders. She wore a thin white cotton shirt that had a little rose embroidered on each sleeve. As he walked by, the puppy wheeled around and eagerly yelped. He stepped into the ring of light behind her, and knelt down to pet the excited little creature.

“What a wonderful little pup you have here! “ Nick said, as he bent down and he tried to get control out of the chaos emitted by the animated ball of fur that yelped and yipped and whirled around before him.

“She’s not mine,” she replied, turning around. The puppy was invigorated by the prospect of a new friend, and in her excitement got her leash tangled up in Sasha’s skirt. Nick continued petting the excited little puppy as Sasha untangled herself before squatting down to join them on the ground. “The guy in the car next to me was going to leave her in the car while he went to the show, so I volunteered to take care of her; isn’t she adorable?” Her hazel eyes glittered with delight.

The puppy eagerly took advantage of all the attention she was getting, and ran in a circle between the two of them as the petted its downy fur. Her hand ended up clasped in his, and they stood up. They walked around the parking lot once before Nick led her up the mountain, where they listened to the music and talked and watched the lights of Denver shimmer under the rising full moon.

He remembered how comfortable he was talking to her- something that he hadn’t done in a long time. He was a shell of a man, just scraping by. For that brief instant he was happy.   The music was wonderfully mellow, and the air was crisp, but not too cool. “That was almost three years ago”, Nick said aloud, breaking his concentration, and snapping him back to the cornfield in front of him, their brown tassels waving in the breeze and shifting colors under the calico sky. He packed his thins up and hopped in his car and finished the rest of his trip.

******

He had already arranged to meet some people at Echoes- a hole- in- the wall that was one of his old haunts in town. It was a quaint little place that was decorated with old cloth couches and coffee tables, plush chairs that squared out round tables and draped the sunken bar that sat along the sidewall. A bookshelf lined the back wall that was full of old books and board games. Nick walked in, carrying his djembe, and was quickly swarmed with greetings and hugs from the locals that he had once been a part of. He made his way through to the front corner where a stage sat housing an interesting assortment of people.

“Hey, hey, hey, is that Grodie tearing it up on the bass?” Nick pointed and winked at Grodie, who nodded his hello as he coolly added a couple of licks to his already funky beat. “And there’s the Dogg,” he nodded to the guy in the flannel shirt who was sitting down playing the acoustic guitar. “Shaggy Drew where you are,” he howled to the saxophone player swaying on stage. He set his djembe down by the congas that Will was playing and headed up to the bar, where he took a seat.

“Yoyo, JoJo, what do you know know?” Nick laughed as he sat down.   He looked around at the energy that filled the bar. People were bouncing from table to table, sneaking outside to share a bowl, or hopping on stage, “it looks like life is good here, eh?” he commented.

“You know it, bro.’ He held out his hand, “welcome back man.”

“Thanks, it is good to be back. Although I have only been here for five minutes, they have been rather enjoyable. But, you know how quickly things can change in this town, eh?” he gave a wink. “I’m just kidding. I’m only here for a day, so it shouldn’t be so bad. I won’t have time to get sick of this place. And, after all, I’m at the flyest place in town, I know I’m gonna have a good time. You gonna get up there and hit us with one of them fly poems tonight?”

“Nah, I don’t think so, not tonight. I’ve got to keep my eyes on the bar,” he looked around to the people happily consuming beverages around him, throwing money his way. “But I will hit you with a drink, what do you want?”

They talked for a little bit before a tune grabbed Nicks ear. He grabbed his drum and hopped up on stage to join the collage of musical instruments; a pair of acoustic guitars, a bass, a saxophone, a set of congas, and a snare drum. They played together, shuffling the lead around between them. The music sped up, slowed down, and filled the room with a joyous sound. Chatter rose throughout the bar; people drummed on their tables, the goalie at the foosball table was kicking his feet around, and stories were reaching their crescendo.

And then Sasha showed up. He pictured an elf cavorting among the ferns and elm trees of some ancient forest as she glided to the bar and ordered a drink. He closed his eyes and focused on the music, and when he opened them again, they were already staring into hers. They remained locked together as the rhythm grew into a funky beat. As if by some sort of tractor beam, she was drawn towards the stage, where she began to dance, igniting the flame that spread throughout the bar. Within minutes people were grooving and jiving on the stage.

After the song was over, he set his djembe down and went over to her, “I knew there was a reason for my coming here tonight.” He gave her a hug, “how are you doing, Sasha?”

“Pretty good. I’m still in Lincoln, but I thought that I could find a nice little groove to get into here tonight,” she wiggled in his arms, “so I thought I should come down, and have a little fun.”

“Well, let me be the first to welcome you to Omaha,” he winked. “Do you wanna sit down?” he gestured towards the back of the bar.

“Sure,” she replied.
As they weaved through the bar, Nick was kicking himself for what he was doing. He didn’t mean to hug her. She was the last person he wanted to see in Omaha. “Damn fool!” he thought. He tried to remember what it was that she did that pissed him off so much that he moved to Colorado, but he just couldn’t.

She cheated on him; he knew that. He saw her with his roommate on his kitchen floor. He had a feeling she was doing this the entire two years, but she was clever. That is, until his birthday. But now, here they are, and here he is doing exactly what he promised himself he wouldn’t do. He sat there and watched her lips move, constantly fighting back the urge to touch her face.

After catching up a little bit, a wave of sadness flushed across her face. Nick caught a brief glimpse of it before it disappeared, “Are you alright?” he asked.

“Yeah, wonderful,” she stifled a smile.   “Did I tell you that I am going to Durango in two weeks and help on a ranch?”

“No, you didn’t. Why do you want to do that? Backbreaking work, long days, you’ll hate it.” Nick replied.

“Yeah, I know, that’s why I’m doing it. I think it is time for me to gain my independence.” She looked down at her shoes and continued, “This whole summer has been difficult for me.” She ran through a list of small disasters that included a car wreck, bankrupt parents, and a nightlife that convinced her to drop out of school for a while.

He tried to cheer her up by telling good stories that happened to him– like talking to his father and his new adventures that were coming up–but they didn’t work. As they talked, he began to feel guilty for what had happened to her. Although he was hundreds of miles away, he still felt some sort of guilt. “Hey, I’ve got an idea. C’mon, lets go.” He jumped up, and pulled her up with him.

“What? Where are we going?” She asked hurriedly, as she struggled to put on her shoes.

“We’re getting the heck out of this town, man! It’s a perfect night out, there is no reason for us to be hemmed up inside this box!” He mentioned the idea to a few other people in the bar and let the word spread on its own. Then they hopped in his truck and scrambled towards the interstate.

After a few blocks, he noticed a car riding his tail. “Well, I have some more bad news for you,” Nick glanced over at Sasha, who looked like she was about to have a nervous breakdown. “I think I’m going to jail. You see, I got a ticket a long time ago and I never paid it.” A flurry of lights flashed all around him as the cop turned on his lights. Nick pulled over and got his papers together.

Sasha, stone cold and pale sat there and didn’t’ say a word. Nick handed the officer his papers and tried to calm her down, but she wasn’t listening to anything.

“Could I have you step out of the car, Nick?”

“Why certainly, but first I’d like to know why you pulled me over, officer,” Nick replied. The cop said it was because he had a taillight out, and was just going to give him a give him a warning. But he had a warrant issued for him and was arrested. He informed the cop that the ticket was for a priceless pipe that a friend of his made for him on his twenty- first birthday.   After saying that, the officer got the bright idea to search Nick’s truck. Nick replied that he didn’t have any problem with that, but that he had a lot of stuff in there. He was on his was to meet his father and his truck was packed for the summer. The cop thought that he had reasonable cause to search his car. Nick was appalled, but saw that it was no use.

The officer asked Sasha if she had anything on her—he hadn’t found anything on Nick — and she said no. The cop looked under the driver’s seat and found nothing. He looked in the glove compartment and around the console for hidden spots – still nothing. He looked under the passenger seat and found a salt shaker that he pulled out and walked over to where Nick and Sasha were sitting, “Aha!”

Both Nick and Sasha assured the cop that they hadn’t seen that before. The backup car carried away Sasha, while Nick got carted off somewhere else. Nick demanded a urinalysis, and the results came back negative, while Sasha didn’t even bother to pay attention to it. She ended up getting dropped off at her parents’ home. Nick’s father ended up dying a few months later, but Nick hadn’t known because he stopped corresponding with him a few days after the arrest. He’ll get out some day; the red tape can’t last much longer, he thought.

Petey The Penguin

Page 1

 

Petey the Penguin

Lived in Panama

 

He was new to this town

He got there on a coconut that he found

 

Far from home, all alone,

He sat on the beach and stared.

 

Page 2

The golden frogs chirped away throughout the day,

And petey wanted to join them under the leaves and play.

But he was too big, and the branches broke,

Leaving petey with a lump on his head, no joke.

 

The howling monkey laughed and laughed

And laughed some more.

So much that he, too, fell to the floor.

 

Page 3

Sammy the sloth was out on his afternoon stroll

And his branch was the perfect spot for the show

He “yelled “Harry! What are you doing on the ground?

And who is this friend you have found?”

 

Page4

“Why, I don’t know, sir” the monkey replied.

“He was climbing around, and fell to the ground,

Where he sat and cried.

 

“I laughed like mad and fell to the ground too,

Where I became sad, and am now sitting in a pile of goo” L

 

Page 5

“I see,” said the sloth as he was climbing down the tree.

He had been on his way down for a while,

 

Page 6

But in typical

S l o t h

Style,

 

Page 7

It was not too fast, but veeeery eeeasy.

 

After some time, Sammy showed up

And showed a soft smile and said,

“welcome to the jungle! I’m Sammy,

And that is Harry, the monkey with a bumpy bump on his head.”

 

Page 8

Hi. Petey’s my name.

And from really far is where I came.

My land broke apart and shrank down

To nothing, and now there is no one in my town.

So here I stand, on a foreign land,

With a bunch of penguin hair in my hand.”

 

“No worries,” said Sammy

Harry is the happiest of all the howlers,

And is happy to introduce you

 

Page 9

To all our friends, from the largest beast

To the smallest creepy crawlers.

 

 

Page 10

Right, Harry?”

 

(Harry was (completely ignorant of the conversation and) doing something)

 

He stopped. “What?!?”

Harry howled.

“I was about to hang out with my friends!

He can’t even climb a tree; what good is he to me?”

 

Page 11

But the sloth was smart, and already knew what Harry would do.

So he replied, “I didn’t think there was an animal

Who could show Petey the forest better than you!

 

“Well, sir, I agree! But first, we have to go quench our thirst,”

Harry replied as he hopped up and was ready to go,

Within minutes they were running across the forest floor. (animals watching them as they go by. Some happy some puzzled, some scared)

 

Page 12

With a hop and a bound they were off,

(almost) Forgetting to say good-bye to the sloth.

Page 13

They made their way through the forest floor,

Leaping and all the way to the lake shore

Where Harry Hollared and spun in the sky,

And landed on the tree where he again sprung oh so high!

 

Page 14

He curled up like a ball

Before he began to fall

And hit the water with such a show

That it soaked Petey from head to toe.

 

It had been a while since Petey had seen the water,

And it worried him so much he thought that he aught not to

But when he got splashed, he became surprised and energized.

He dove in beak first and instantly realized

How much it pleased him to swim!
page 15

His unbending arms could indeed flap,

And under water he began to clap.

Backwards and upside down,

Whatever direction he could swim around!

He would leap in to the sky and spin.

He was a like a brand new penguin!

 

Page 16

Harry sat in his tree and

Hooted and howled with so much glee

That soon the parrots and the Bears

And animals of the forest came to see

The penguin swimming with so much agility.

 

Page 17

Petey made it look so easy that Harry

Had to have a try.

So he did a tailstand back whip

Before leaping into the sky.

 

Page 18

Like a needle he went into the water,

Where he darted around underneath.

He tried to keep up with Petey, but it wasn’t easy.

 

Through the underwater world they swam,

Before harry ran into a jam.

 

Page 19

It turns out his tail

Wasn’t meant for underwater travail.

Swimming under a branch, it got lodged,

Stopping him dead in his tracks

 

Petey, realizing his friend wasn’t in pursuit,

Stopped and turned around

He hurried to help harry

And with nary a beat he got him free.

They swam to the surface to safety.

 

 

(an actual howler monkey found off the coast of panama lost waaaay off in the ocean. He was rescued by a fisherman)

 

Page 20

On shore, Gracie the Golden Bear

(She was the nurse of the forest),

Said that he was okay and that he should take care.

For he was all better, and his up tail just got a little wetter.

 

 

 

 

I began traveling at 23 when I visited a friend in Chicago for New Years Eve. When I got back to my hometown, I knew I had to get out. But I still had business in Omaha, so I had to bide my time. So I stuck to the mantra about rolling stones, and left  Omaha at least once each month until I graduated from college and finally moved from the city that I grew up in and loved.

My strategy was that I would agree to every single travel idea that came along, knowing that not every idea would take off. Sometimes, I ended up on multiple trips because, well, I wasn’t going to be the one who fell through. I made plans with all sorts of people, helped people move to California and Oregon, as well as moved people from Colorado back to Omaha. I even took someone on an exodus that saved him from getting his ass kicked for some truly foolish and unforgivable things he did.

Early in 2001, one of my friends moved from Omaha to Seattle to be close to his father, who was very ill. His father died a few months after he got there. His birthday is Sept 11th, so 2001 was a rough year for him. While mourning, he decided to do a tour of the West Coast before he returned to Omaha and briefly to the loving arms of his girlfriend before he began the second half of his journey.

The next 6 months, he walked from Omaha to NYC, stopping at fire stations along the way and collected badges along the way that he sewed together after he arrived in NYC. With a sack on his back and a soccer ball at his feet, he hit the long street. I picked him up in Thayer Indiana, (with a care package that included a replacement soccer ball) and we proceeded to drive a 2,000 mile loop around Lake Michigan.

Our first stop was Grand Rapids, where we linked up with some friends and caravanned up to Watersmeet, MI for a rainbow gathering. A rainbow gathering is an annual event where tens of thousands of hippies, street rats, artists, musicians, and all sorts of counter culture people congregate. It always happens in a national forest somewhere in the US and is very organized. They even have a committee that scouts locations well ahead of the event.

Once the location is picked, they prep the local authorities and communities for the upcoming event. They also build up the forest to receive the multitudes. This includes using fallen trees from the forest to build bridges and kitchens for the various camps. After the event is over, they have a clean up crew disassemble the bridges, replace the downed trees, and clean the entire area from any sort of debris that may be left behind. Think about a hippie Burning Man, and you are spot on. We chose to set up in the Kickapoo Camp.

Camped right next to us was an older man who always came to these events and set up a café on the ground in front of him called “the Namaste cafe”. It was just the earth and a small fire that “Joe” used to roast the beans and boil the water for the coffee or tea that he served to his guests. He was an electrician in Detroit by trade. But for this week, he was just a guy who was willing to offer a smile and share a story. My friend spent the next four days by that fire and talked to Joe. Sometimes the energy was heavy around the fire, and others it was jovial. They say sometimes the best gift you can give someone is simply to listen. Joe listened for four days.

After the gathering was over, I dropped Marcus off back in Thayer Indiana and headed back to Omaha while he continued his walk to New York, reflecting on his week in the woods. I later realized that he walked for four months before I came and swooped him up. In the course of ten days we drove the circumference of Lake Michigan, slept on the beach of Lake Huron, spent five days in the north woods with people we will never see again (some naked) and I dropped him off with his new best friend Dia (short for Diadora, his new soccer ball) as he kicked it across the eastern plains, an amazing place to contemplate the comments and replies that came from someone old and wise.

He sewed the patches that he collected together and placed them at the base of the World Trade Center. He celebrated his 20 something birthday on Sept. 11, 2002 in New York with his mother and girlfriend on Broadway and three tickets to the Phantom of the Opera.

Cannabraska

Originally Published online May, 15, 2013 at the blog http://astersheen.blogspot.com/2013/05/cannabraska.html?q=cannabraska

I have recently returned from a ten-year stint in California, where the ganja culture is much different from here in Nebraska. I cut my teeth in the pot game in Omaha as a youth and refined my skills in San Diego as an adult. The two cultures are quite distinct, yet there are many similarities. One glaring difference, however, is the openness that people in San Diego have about the prevalence of cannabis. Of course, it has been accessible through a medical marijuana recommendation for almost 20 years, which goes a long way in establishing their laissez faire attitude there.

Although Nebraska was among the first states to decriminalize the cannabis plant in the 70’s and its ganja culture is quite healthy, Nebraskans prefer the status-quo drug war and continuing to stigmatize cannabis use. It is unfortunate that there are so many who stand to gain so much from a legal market, yet they prefer to partake of the cannabis plant discreetly and behind closed doors.

Meanwhile, legislation, citizen-led initiatives, Congressional lobbying, and the media have all begun to hack away at the legs that the drug war stands on, both at the state level and Federally. In particular, the media has picked up on the drug war narrative that is far from their tow-the-line attitude of the 1980’s. From the USA today to The New York Times to Time magazine to the Today Show and Fox News, media outlets across the political spectrum are asking probing questions about the drug war that would have been unheard of during the Reagan Administration.

This has helped the public to change their views on the war on drugs- specifically cannabis. Look, for example, at the drama that unfolded in New York last year. The legislature recently ended 30 years of a clearly racist set of statutes that are commonly called “Rockefeller Laws”. Soon after, the media noticed the massive discrepancy between colored and non-colored people affected by New York City’s stop and frisk policy. It was clearly targeting people of color, which led to the State of New York decriminalizing cannabis possession. In 2012, cannabis-related arrests fell 22% from their 2011 numbers. Moreso, The NYPD stated that they are on track to have 20% fewer arrests in 2013 than 2012.

A big factor that helped journalists change their perspective on the drug war is that there are now research centers that can look more objectively at how the cannabis plant affects people. We are no longer subject to the arbitrary scientific studies of National Institute of Drug Abuse, who influenced the scientific community by restricting research funds to a narrow field of studies that bolster their stance that “drugs are bad”.

The Center for Medical Cannabis Research out of the University of California at San Diego, the Shafer Commission Report, and many studies carried out in countries like Israel, Germany, and the Netherlands have all used the scientific method to understand the medicinal qualities of this plant. Science has shown that there is no doubt of the medicinal qualities of cannabis, contradicting the long-standing Schedule 1 Classification that Nixon brashly gave this plant in 1971.

The mounting evidence and the growing acceptance of medical cannabis as well as the tax revenues that medical marijuana states bring in have led to an upswell in state legislatures around the country submitting bills that would provide their citizens with access to medical marijuana. There are currently 19 states and the District of Columbia that have laws regulating a legal medical marijuana industry. Recently, the Maryland House (108-28) and Senate (42-4) approved a medical marijuana bill and expect Governor Martin O’malley to sign the bill into law. Nine additional states are debating medical marijuana regulations in their legislative bodies right now, including Iowa, Kansas, and Missouri.

Local politicians are learning that people are not so reactive to cannabis rhetoric today. This allows our state legislators to write their own bills and submit them to their respective governing bodies. We no longer have to stand in front of grocery stores and solicit signatures of supporters to force a vote.

In fact, people are being elected because they have made cannabis a stump issue during their campaign. I saw it firsthand in San Diego where Bob Filner became the first Democratic mayor in 20 years. He vocally supported medical marijuana access during his campaign and his reward was the seat of the mayor. Now he is doing all that he can to uphold his promises to his constituents while tussling with the DA and the Federal Government over safe access to medical marijuana there.

This is the same for hemp, which has found a strange bedfellow in Kentucky, where Mitch McConnell has carried the hemp legalization banner forward with pride. Kentucky is now among the ten states that now allow hemp production. Legislatures in 19 other states are working on different hemp bills of their own.

Nebraska’s economy would be impacted more by a legal hemp market than an individual consumption market, be it medical or recreational or both. Farmers in Western Nebraska will soon look longingly over the fence at Colorado, where the first legal hemp fields have recently been planted.

Hemp is a sturdy plant that these Western Nebraska farmers treat like a weed today. But the day is not far off when hempseed oil will be a mainstay in industrial kitchens throughout Nebraska and the United States. A legal market will drive up demand for hempseed oil in restaurants and grocery stores across the country. This will entice suppliers like Sysco to include hempseed oil in their distribution catalogue. ConAgra may even begin integrating hempseed oil into some of their products as this commodity becomes affordable enough to purchase without paying hefty import and excise taxes.

Hemp production will create an entire niche industry that will need manufacturers like John Deere to build specialized equipment for these farmers to use in the fields and throughout production. Hemp manufacturers will become relevant when hemp prices become affordable enough to compete with cotton and polyester. This market will only become viable when the playing field for hemp fiber production is leveled.

Oddly enough, the smallest impact on the economy will come from recreational cannabis. Yet, this is the market that has fragmented the cannabis debate into disjointed entities that do not associate with each other. For decades, hemp distanced itself from recreational cannabis, hoping that their denial could help them to evade the Schedule 1 classification through disassociation.

Similarly, clever activism directly challenged the Schedule 1 classification of cannabis and spawned the medical marijuana market; they are now so scrutinized that they need to be careful to never utter anything that would associate them with a recreational market. An unfortunate side effect is that Medical marijuana groups in many of these medical marijuana states want to protect their industry by keeping it the only game in town. They will do what they can to shutter a legalization initiative by actively campaigning against any legalization initiative that their states may encounter.

This leaves recreational cannabis in the closet and hidden like the child that no one wants to admit that they had. Colorado, Washington, and the City of Detroit are the first places in the United States to fully legalize cannabis for recreational use. We can finally see exactly what impact cannabis will have on society as a whole. I believe the impact will be minimal. If anything, it will expand the café scene that exploded across the United States on the coattails of Starbucks. It will carve a niche in our country where we will be able to enjoy the company of each other without getting drunk. That alone is reason enough to look at a legal marijuana market.

Daniel K was here.

Sources:

http://www.kentucky.com/2013/04/06/2589056/beshear-lets-kentucky-hemp-bill.html

http://www.votehemp.com/state.html

http://medicalmarijuana.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=000881

http://www.wisconsingazette.com/national-gaze/medical-marijuana-bill-goes-to-illinois-senate.html

http://wamc.org/post/advocates-medical-marijuana-ny-closer-ever

http://kansan.com/feature/2013/01/29/kansas-legislature-introduces-new-bill-about-medical-marijuana/

http://medicalmarijuana.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=002481#IA

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/may/1/maryland-governor-sign-medical-marijuana-bill/

http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/high_tolerance_oCJlVXzTbX3HA2b0TzuhLM

What the Pho?

The solidified snow mounds grow throughout the city as the dark night dominates the Nebraska sky and the doldrums of winter’s days wear on. The cold winds howl across the prairies, sending chills to my bones. To come inside and take off my coat and my hat and my gloves and enjoy a bowl of soup that I love cannot be beat, especially when I want and definitely need something to eat. A bowl of Pho fills that need very well for me. It is warm and spicy. Full of nutrients, it fills the belly nicely.

 

The last time I lived in Omaha (the big O), I discovered pho. Since I never elected to venture out into Omaha for my pho, my travels led me to pho in cities like Chicago, or Austin, or San Francisco, where the flashing neon sign of a bowl dispersing steam with the word “pho” into the air became a cairn that signified my direction in life was the right one. It was in San Diego, however, that I learned to really enjoy pho. I moved there after college, and lived there until I returned to Omaha in 2013. From the batch that my old roommate made for us in South Park to the Sunday morning (or afternoon, it all depends on perspective here) trip to Pho King with a friend or two, pho became a staple diet for this bachelor roaming the streets of San Diego.

 

After moving back to Omaha, I got a job working at Nebraska Furniture Mart. On my break one day, I walked over to the plaza across the way and noticed a little Vietnamese restaurant. I quickly altered my route from the nice, friendly neighborhood fast food joint, Sam and Louis, and followed the trail to the Vietnamese restaurant on 72nd and jones.

 

Because different people like different things, I should share how I like to eat Pho. The base consists of rare flank steak and small rice noodles and topped with chopped green chives. Tripe and tongue are other ways that people eat pho, but I prefer to stay away from those variations. In fact, right after I moved to SD, I accidentally ordered the tripe pho. I didn’t eat it again until years later when my roommate cooked a batch for the house. I was probably complaining about how much I disliked pho. But I digress. It should be served with fresh bean sprouts, Thai Basil, sliced jalapenos, and cilantro stacked on a side plate. A variety of sauces to choose from are necessary. Hoisin sauce and chili paste are my choices. Sriracha will do if there is no chili paste available.

 

With my mouth watering and broadly grinning, I went into The Vietnamese Restaurant. It is called Vietnamese Restaurant. Nothing more. My soup arrived and I was quite bummed to see that they were out of basil. I love basil. When I know it is in a meal, I look forward to its distinct flavor hitting my palette. It is one of those ingredients that turns a good meal into a great one. So they were not doing my tastebuds any favors by leaving it out. They were also out of peppers, which didn’t help the meal out any. It makes it hard for me to want to go back. I asked the waiter how long they had been there. Almost 30 years is a long time. I wonder if they have grown complacent. Because this was my first place, I had a pretty low view of Omaha food. Fortunately, that would change soon.

 

Every city has a downtown restaurant that is swanky. It is a requirement to feed that local politician and hotshot lawyer type of swagger. Saigon surface on 14th St serves that role well. The restaurant was quiet, but we went at around 3, so it is entirely possible that they do good business for the lunch rush. They are ideally situated to have good foot traffic. They certainly look like they know what they are doing. The 9 hour simmer they give their oxtail sounds like they know what they are doing as well.

 

I was happy to see that they served all the fixins. It showed me that I went to the wrong place to start. It just goes to show what happens when you continue to explore; you will be greatly rewarded in the end. I just got unlucky on my first trip out for quality Pho. The soup was spicy and the size was good. I gauged this one on my guest who is incredibly picky and always hungry. He finished it, no problem, and even gave the owner some compliments. It is downtown, so expect to pay a bit more for your food there. Its long, backlit lines fit right in with the sun chasing buildings that engulf it.

 

Saigon restaurant is at 12100 w center road. It has been there forever. I remember this place from years ago. Yet this may have been my first time. For starters, they had some amazing crab Rangoon. The soup came out skimpy on the jalapenos and basil even after I asked for more. Despite that, I enjoyed the soup. It was still quite spicy without the jalapenos, and I was full at the end. It came in a close second.

 

The next artistically named place to visit is called Vietnamese Restaurant on 8013 So. 83rd St in La Vista. I guess they can get away with that clever name since they are located in La Vista and not in Omaha. It was quiet and clean and the customers were quite friendly. I got into a conversation with the table next to me, and we talked about our favorite Asian cuisine. They were Pad Thai fans. They also shared with me their favorite Asian restaurants in Omaha.

 

It was in this conversation that I realized that I was going to have to limit my coverage of the pho shops in town because many of the restaurants here serve Thai, Vietnamese, and often Chinese dishes on the same menu. That exploded the list of possibilities to a much higher number than the 5 restaurants I found when I looked up strictly Vietnamese food.

 

Their portions are perfect. For the truly famished and those who are hollow of leg, there is an extra large bowl available as well. The server brought out the sides. All that was missing was the jalapeños, and she quickly brought them after they were requested. I would definitely go again.
New Gold Mountain is way out west, on 15505 Ruggles St. They were nice and very friendly. I could tell that they had been doing this for a while. The staff seemed to know everyone who walked in the door much more than other places; their familiarity gave the place a real neighborhood feel. One thing that I love about pho is the balance of sweet and spicy. The sweet rice noodles mix with the spicy basil and sliced jalapenos. The sweet hoisin sauce mixes with the zesty chili paste. Just as I was thinking of getting more spice for this particular bowl, a spoonful of the broth hit the back of my throat and I was off on a serious cough. Niether water nor ice could cure it. But that is okay, because the goal when eating spicy food is to get so taken aback by the spice that it makes you pause.

 

I got the small bowl, but do not be fooled! This is a relic of the supersized days gone by. I am happy I didn’t get the travel mug- er large bowl; I don’t think I could fit the leftovers in the fridge. Those leftovers would have been missing the basil, however. In fact, they don’t even carry it there, which means this will definitely not be my pho spot. They do have a wide range of Asian food. Chinese dishes, Vietnamese soup, and even Dim Sum are all listed on the menu. I got an order of spicy pork Dim Sum just because they had it.

 

My favorite thing about traveling is that there are so many wonderful things you can see and experience during your time there. The food contributes to the aroma of the city, and the languages spoken within these restaurants indicate the diversity and wealth of global culture that a city can provide an individual. As I get reacquainted with the city of my youth, I visited a place that a different person had written about in another article about pho in Omaha (It was under a title almost identical to the title I wanted to use but obviously did not); Kimson seafood on 333 n 78th st.

 

I came here thinking I was going somewhere else. In a review I read about the place, I was expecting it to be subpar but good. The review said there was too much sugar. When I arrived I saw that the place was no longer there. But there was a new Asian restaurant in its place, with the magic words, “pho” glowing in red neon letters.

 

I walked in a bit confused, but I soon learned that the owner has recently jumped off into the noble world of small business ownership. Their new name is the Asian grill. The name leaves the imagination starved, but there are two other words that are much more impressive: Chili paste. It does not matter that they were out of basil, because the chili paste is key. This makes it number one for me. I love the stuff. They leave oiled down, milder ones on the table, but if you ask, they will bring out the real deal that is in back that packs more of a punch. Like Thai chiles sort of punch.

 

The popular sauce, Sriracha is actually one variation on the recipe for chili paste. Since I became aware of chili paste, I look for the little cups at all Vietnamese, Thai, and Chinese restaurants that I visit. If I see it, I know I will really enjoy my meal.

 

The owner was gracious enough to come out and apologize for running out of basil. A married couple owns the Asian Grill. She is Hmong and he is Vietnamese. She said her husband likes a lot of basil in his pho, so she knew I would be sad. They also gave me ample peppers and cilantro and sprouts. She informed me that she uses no msg or sugar in her soup and in fact decided to open her own restaurant because she liked the pho made in her kitchen better than any other pho shops around. I always get excited when I hear the person cooking my meal say that.

 

They came from Sacramento, California, and we chatted and reminisced about Cali. She was thrilled when I said that this was the closest I had seen to Cali style Vietnamese pho. And I thoroughly enjoyed my pho. I had a great time here and I will go back another day, when they have some of that fresh basil.
Now there is one more pho spot that deserves a mention just because it received such high marks in reviews, Pho 382 at Offutt bldg 382. It is another genius name but it has an excuse. It is in the epicenter of word-number confabulation combinations- on base. I could not coordinate with my hosts to get on base before writing this article and had to miss it. I am sure it is good, though, and if any readers want to invite me to base, I would be happy to oblige.
It has been great to see that Omaha does have all these wonderful Vietnamese and Asian spots. Many of these restaurants also seem to minimize the spice quite a bit. Most did have the spice when I asked, though. I just wish that they would get a bit more creative with the names. I don’t know about Pho Kim Long, or Pho-shizzle, but Pho-King was the bomdizzle fo rizzle.

 

Daniel Knowtorious

Can be found at the Food and Spirits link here:

http://www.joomag.com/magazine/food-amp-spirits-magazine-16/0340576001395323346