Day 28 – The Pothole Hotline

So with the exception of missing New York deep in my bones, I really enjoy living in Lincoln. I love its character, its history. It’s safe, affordable, and a really great place to raise kids. It’s a great little city, a fun college town.

But with all of that greatness comes a dark side, a lurking evil that threatens to destroy every man, woman, and vehicle–the curse of the potholes.

You know they joke in New York about the never-ending road construction, how there are always cones scattered around and lanes closed for repairs. But honestly, in a city like New York it makes sense. Take the amount of people, cars, trucks, busses, overall traffic in a city that large constantly punishing the roads and yeah, you’re going to need steady maintenance and repairs. But somehow, it all makes sense. There is noticeable progress. Things eventually get fixed, and stay fixed for a reasonable amount of time.

In Lincoln, it makes no sense, ever. At any given time, you’ll find numerous main roads closed for repair, often all at once, which means you have to get seriously creative cutting through residential neighborhoods to get where you need to go in a reasonable amount of time.

And don’t even get me started on the roundabouts. Someone who has been given way too much decision-making power in this town has a serious fetish with roundabouts. They’re ridiculous and they’re everywhere and we keep hearing about this double-decker roundabout they’re planning to build in the southwest part of town. I found this little video online to show how it’s intended to work…

And all I want to know is how much traffic do they honestly think we have in this town that warrants an elevated roundabout to keep things under control? Hell, people can’t even figure out how to navigate the “No Right on Red” signs at certain intersections, so they sit there, blaring their horns and cursing out the people in front of them who are simply trying to get to work on time while obeying the clearly posted traffic laws.

But all of that has nothing on the potholes. I don’t know what this city did when it paved the streets, but holy hell, you’ve never seen a pothole until you’ve seen a Lincoln pothole. I don’t know if there’s a Guinness Book of World Records category, or some sort of Extreme Home Makeover-style contest we can enter, but we’re definitely overdue.

And I’ve got a theory. I think it’s the beet juice brine. The city has been touting this magical formula of beet juice and salt (which they believe is so amazing they actually hired a lawyer to pursue a patent). They mix batches of the stuff and spray it to “pre-treat” the roads for snow and ice. I think the brine is directly responsible for the monster potholes that materialize in the wake of every winter storm–seeping down into the cracks in the concrete, freezing and destroying the structural integrity of the roads.

Prove me wrong.

It’s gotten so bad, the city of Lincoln has a Pothole Hotline. You heard me. They actually built an app called UpLNK that lets you report things like potholes, icy roads, parking violations, downed trees, and dead squirrels flung into the street by neighbors.

Check this out. Here are a few screenshots of the app with my favorite feature, the Issues Map.

You can upload a report and alert the city to issues that need to be resolved. But the best part? You can add a photo.

A photo.

A photo of the pothole you want fixed.

Of course I downloaded the app, and started testing the functionality, but I see one major flaw. The city didn’t really give any sort of rating system for the potholes. I mean, how are they supposed to prioritize if they don’t have any idea of the severity of the issue at hand. Stevie and I did a little brainstorming and we would like to suggest the following become standard Pothole Reporting Procedure:

STEP 1 – Take a clear photo of the pothole. Be sure to insert yourself into the photo or include a friend in the shot for scale.

I’m thinking, something along the lines of this image captured in 2015 in South L.A. would be most appropriate:

But if we really want to get serious, we have to implement a clear pothole rating system, which leads us to…

STEP 2 – Rate the pothole and provide a clear description of the size, location, and severity. Here are the proposed categories:

* – The CD Skipper – A small pothole that you don’t even see coming, but if you still happen to be rocking a CD player in your car, you’re going to skip a track and get annoyed.

** – The Tongue Biter – You might have noticed this pothole right before you hit it, and it was big enough for you to bite our tongue and spill a bit of coffee on your pants. Annoying, but no lasting damage.

*** – The Tire Popper – You saw this one coming, and if you were lucky enough to avoid it, you might be able to go about the rest of your day in peace. If not, you might have to pop the trunk and change a tire because yours just got shredded.

**** – The Axle Buster – You spotted this one a mile away, but if you’re boxed in with traffic, you might not be able to avoid it. Hope you’ve got the mechanic on speed dial, because you’re probably going to need a little work to fix that shimmy.

***** – The Transmission Drop (AKA The Fender Bender) – You saw it. You braced for it. And then you realized you were likely going to total your car, so you tried to pull some sweet evasive maneuver at the last minute. There’s no chance you or your car are making it out of this one without some permanent damage and emotional distress.

STEP 3 – Get your friends to download the app, and repeat. 

The only way things are going to get better is if we all work together. Let’s do this people. And go!

Day 15 – Something fun is brewing

I’m not going to say much just yet (because quite frankly, I don’t want to speak too soon and jinx it), but something fun is brewing. Send us some positive vibes and I’ll post an update when the plans take shape. Until then, there’s this…

Day 10 – Like coming home

I spend a lot of time reflecting on my college days, partly because I spend my days working with college students and partly because I tend to start feeling a little sentimental every time Stevie and I have been away from New York too long and I start itching to spend time with the people I miss every moment of every single day since we left the east coast ten-and-a-half years ago.

It’s hard to explain the connection I feel to this place without sounding overly nostalgic, but I always feel the need to try. I guess that’s just the writer in me–unable to deny that urge to try and put the giant surge of emotions down on paper and arrange the words in a way that might explain the way this place calls to me and why I remain so firmly tethered to the people we met and the connections I made there.

Going to college was my first step (a giant 1,500-mile step) away from my family and out on my own, and with that heady rush of newfound freedom and adventure came an almost paralyzing sense of self-doubt and isolation. Yet the first time I ever stepped foot on Concordia’s campus, I got the distinct feeling that I was coming home.

The families we come from are our default. They teach us how to love, how to fight, how to forgive. They give us our first sense of the world–its beauty and its chaos. The families we leave when we set out on our own will always be with us. They will always be part of us. But it’s the families we create for ourselves that truly reflect who we are and give shape to who we will become. The people we connect with, the people we return to and invest our time in are the people who reflect the very best of who we are, the very best of who we hope to be.

People matter. Connections matter. Kindness matters. Honesty matters. Love matters.

Everything else is just noise.

Day 5 – The best pizza in Lincoln

There were a lot of compromises when Stevie and I made the decision to leave New York. We left Stevie’s family, some of our best friends and most trusted mentors, and a whole lot of amazing food.

Every spot on the globe has something all its own when it comes to food–some signature dish or cuisine that is uniquely local and difficult to replicate. I think the one thing that differentiates New York is that the flavors of the world have quite literally migrated and established themselves in restaurants and bakeries and sidewalk stands and food trucks throughout the city. You could taste the world without ever leaving the five boroughs.

One of the things Stevie and I miss the most is the variety. After we started dating, we had a habit of hopping in the car and driving to Manhattan every Friday night for dinner. We had a favorite sushi restaurant, Yoko, in the West Village where we ate so often that we didn’t even need to order. The chefs knew our tastes and favorites, and would begin sending beautiful plates you couldn’t find on the menu over to our table as soon as we sat down. Other nights, we would just pick a flavor or type of cuisine, look up the name of some random restaurant that served it, and go.

We were never disappointed.

We haven’t been able to settle into quite the same routine since we left New York. Now that the kids are getting a little older (and Henry is finally entering the reasonable phase that follows the fit-throwing insanity of the two’s and early three’s), we’re hoping to get back to being adventurous. Sure, there aren’t nearly as many options here in Lincoln, but there is some really great food in this town and a lot of places we haven’t even had a chance to try yet.

The one food we have thoroughly tried here though (and have been thoroughly disappointed with) is the pizza.

Nobody does pizza like New York.

We tried every pizza place in Lincoln since moving here in 2011. Every. Single. One.

Lazzari’s was our frontrunner there for six months or so back in 2011-2012. Crust was almost true NY-style and the sauce was decent. Then one day the sauce started tasting a little too sweet. (Hear this now people, sauce should NEVER be sweet! You add pinches of sugar to cut the acidity of the tomatoes. That’s it. If it’s sweet AT ALL, you’re doing it wrong!) We tried again a few weeks later, sauce was still sweet and the crust was burned. One more try a few months after that and we had too-sweet sauce, overdone crust, and so much extra cheese piled on that the pizza slices were drooping in our hands even folded in half. Strike three. We’ve never gone back.

Yia Yia’s gets a pass because it’s unique, and they have some delicious flavor combinations. We dig it, but the ultra-thin cracker-like crust keeps us from classifying it as traditional pizza. It’s good, but we stick to small doses.

MoMo Pizzeria & Ristorante is the only place we will actually endorse. The pizzas you’ll find on the menu are Neopolitan style and wood-fired, and there are some really incredible flavors. Stevie has always been a fan of plain cheese pizza, but even he enjoyed sampling some of the unique toppings like Lobster & Shrimp Hollandaise and Prosciutto & Egg. One day, by chance, Stevie found that by asking the server if we could have just a plain cheese pizza for Cadence that he could get a smaller version of the closest to true NY-style pizza we’d found since leaving New York. Major props to MoMo (for both the pizza and for having hands down some of the finest food in Lincoln).

Still, because we just couldn’t seem to find any true NY-style pizza, I made it my mission to figure it out. And I did, back in 2015. You can CLICK HERE to read all about it. Since then, we haven’t bothered to order to eat a pizza anywhere but in our own kitchen, and we don’t have a desire to.

Well…unless we hope a plane and head back to New York. In that case, we might have to make an exception.

Tonight, it was homemade pizza for dinner, and I couldn’t have been any prouder than the moment I looked across the table and saw my kids’ New York come out. Henry had a slice in each hand and was eating it almost as fast as I could make it, and Cadence was folding slices in half like a pro.

What can we say? We’ve taught them well.

Nine Years and Nine Months

Nine years ago there was a massive rainstorm, a flooded apartment, a frenzied move, and an impromptu wedding in Pastor Schenkel’s office on Long Island. Stevie wore shorts and his blue flame Converse. I wore jeans and my flowered Doc Martens. We celebrated at the Candlelight Inn with hot wings and beer.

Grand Central Station

The best place I ever found to write was in New York City’s Grand Central Station. Seems strange, I know, but I spent countless hours during my college years, sitting on the cool marble floor of that beautiful building, back pressed against the wall, writing page after page as the bustling crowds passed by and never even seemed to notice me.

The thing about writing in Grand Central Station is that there is never an uninspired moment. Trains arrive and depart, crowds swell and taper, announcements echo through the speakers. An endless parade of potential characters plays out an impromptu performance that moves and changes with a life of its own.

There, in that space, I never seemed to have trouble tapping into something greater than myself. Call it God, the Universe, a muse, or even just inspiration—whatever name you want to give it, that’s where I found it, my own tiny corner of calm in the chaos. It was there that I lost myself, that I found myself. It was there that I found the courage to keep going.

New York will always be the city that saved my life.

There, on that dirty floor of the train station, my pen would fly across the empty pages on its own, filling the void with words and ideas from a place that I never even knew existed.

I’ve never found another sacred space to write quite like it. These days, I try to find space to write everywhere I can. It doesn’t always work, but when it does, it’s magic.

And now that I’m finally feeling like the dust has begun to settle in my life, I’ve been able to create that space I need, that space that has been void from my life for too long as I focused WAY too much time and energy on everything but my writing and my family and myself.

I wrote pages today–pages–filling in one of the many holes that has been gaping in my memoir for far too long.

And it felt so fucking good.

And I’m finally starting to believe that it’s true–maybe God has to slam a door shut on us every now an then, because He knows it’s one we will never shut ourselves whether we’re too afraid, or too distracted, or we feel like we’ve already gone so far and we’re too invested.

So He trips you up and kicks your legs out from beneath you and He slams the door and locks it. And He makes you pick yourself up and dust yourself off and breathe as you gaze around in confusion and wonder at all the possibilities and opportunities that were right there in front of you the whole time, things you never would have taken the time to notice because you were too busy sprinting for that door with your blinders on, ignoring all the whistles and sirens and red flag warnings as you blew right on by them.

But all is right with the world again, and I’m excited for this new chapter because I know something really amazing is going to come out of it. I’ve got a story to write and a pen in my hand and when I close my eyes I’m channeling Grand Central Station. And I’ll keep writing, keep writing, keep writing because that’s what I do, and it’s never failed me.

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