Sleepless Walking Down O, P, and Q

More thoughts on moving mental furniture:

By the time I was seven, I was spending lots of mental energy fighting off sleep by visualizing the route from Lincoln to Pierce, Nebraska. I would imagine walking the 120 miles from my house to Grandma's, by way of Seward, Columbus, Madison, Norfolk, and Hadar ("Hello Hadar, See Ya Later!"). I would visualize the Blue Boot shoe store signs and windmills along the two-lane highways just in case I ever had to run away from home, or perhaps be called upon to assume the role of my parents just like Bert Park's description of the duties of Miss America's runner-up.

What are my little preschoolers visualizing to keep from surrendering to a nice afternoon nap? What mental furniture are they rearranging? What routes are they reviewing? Why do they fight so hard against the after-lunch siesta cherished by everyone from college freshman to senior citizen? It's the sort of thing that makes me lose my marbles...

We all have things we fret about to ward off sleep or to retrieve sleep at two a.m. I review the Seven Dwarfs, the Seven Deadly Sins, the strange names of the Goss sisters (Loy, Billy, Vin, Effa Dale, and Alice June), the three members of the superband Cream (I forget Jack Bruce). "The whole nine yards" refers to machine gun ammo. It was Bobby Gentry who sang "Ode to Billy Joe". Igneous, sedimentary, metamorphic. Divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived. The Greek alphabet--pi rho sigma tau upsilon phi chi psi omega won't ya go to sleep!

Yesterday at the post office after writing out the Express Mail and customs forms to mail the camera battery charger to Italy, I couldn't remember the four number PIN for my debit card. Yet I can blurt out the fourteen numbers of my library card with ease.

My dad and I have tried mental strolling down the main street of Pierce from the 1920s through the 1970s. Other times I contemplate the shimmering, revolving Hamm's beer sign with the bear in the canoe I saw walking into the package store in Columbus, Nebraska, that time when the public restrooms in the park along the river were locked. Must have been my first time in a tavern, as I can still see it clearly over forty years later. Maybe 1963... Hamms the beer refreshing...Hamms the beer refreshing...

I've lost the ability to name the counties of Nebraska by their assigned car license plate numbers based on population. Yes, Lancaster was 2, Douglas 1, Sarpy 3, Hall 8, and Platte 10. I've forgotten the rest, even Red Willow County. Colfax? That's something to worry about at two or three a.m.

Some nights I attempt an imaginary 1974 university pub crawl. These sleepless icy sidewalk treks begin at 13th and Q Streets inside the Hong Kong Pizza King, the spiritual home of ham fried rice. They head west to Casey's at about 11th and P with the chili dogs, then across the street to the tavern that had dime draws. What was its name? Across P again past Der Loaf Und Stein, the Greek hangout, which was later transformed into a quiche/french onion soup/spinach salad/fern bar. Then down the alley from 13th to 14th, from O to P to Barrymore's.

Barrymore's was my favorite space. The bar was in the backstage area of the old Stuart Theater. What could be finer than sipping a bourbon sour while staring up into the catwalks? Maybe having a sandwich of cream cheese, walnut, pimentos, and olives on rye?

Back into the icy alley toward 14th and the Zoo Bar. Paying the cover charge for live blues from Chicago. Or maybe a stop at The Watering Hole where the decor was peanut shells and lost car keys nailed on the wooden beams?

Do rabbits contemplate their fortune cookies after lights out? I've been dreaming that Norton, the class rabbit, got loose in the Walgreens where my sons used to work. The bunny would be better off picking up take-out from Hong Kong Pizza King and planning his next escape up Highway 81 through Humphrey and David City.

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder


Elizabeth said...

Hi! I was just doing the dishes and singing the Hong Kong Pizza King song my cohorts made up at UNL in "76." I'm so glad your blog popped up! I'll try to go back and fill in the other spots I worked at or went to... I always wanted to walk from Lincoln to Omaha- I never did, but walking was big back then!

DukeofNYA#1 said...

I moved from NYC to Lincoln in the summer of '72...one of the first places I stumbled on..with a fellow New Yawka..was HKPK..we figured we try it..we looked at the menue, and saw on the list..."Ho-Ho bun"...thought it was prolly a "cha siu bao" or "pork bun" which we ate all the time in NYC..so we ordered a bunch, and took 'em home. I can't even begin to describe how bad it was. We still talk about it 40 years later. Emjoyed your blog....


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