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Counselor Senior Editor Michele Bell's slanted view of the world.

Imaho in Omaha

Filed under: ASI Shows, Fun

Well, now that I have your attention, hi from Nebraska! 

Thanks to all of you who are reading my blog, which I can tell from the many e-mails I’ve received. First, yes, I do have the most fun job ever and second, yes, there really were two awesome gay bars in Des Moines. The consensus among my Merry Band of Revelers is that no one remembers the name of the first bar, but the second one was called “Blazing Saddles.” It was a blast, and if you’re ever in Des Moines I highly recommend it!

Second, I don’t know how many of you have ever worked or attended a road show, but I have a whole new respect for the suppliers who exhibit and the people behind the scenes like the ASI Show’s Nick DiNicola, who keep it all running smoothly. Suppliers get to a city, set up their booths, eat on the fly and conduct their regular business that they’re missing by not being in the office. Then, they wake up early, do the show for four hours, pack up their booths at lightening speed, try to find time to grab food and then head back on the bus so they can drive an average of three hours to do it all over again. It’s exhausting and you really lose track of time, which city you’re in and at which hotel you’re staying. Last night I couldn’t get into my hotel room and called down to the front desk. The problem? My Embassy Suites key card wouldn’t work. Why? Because we were now at a Holiday Inn. What’s amazing is how personable, fun and gregarious they all are, and the sense of camaraderie — even among competitors — is awesome. Nick DiNicola is kind of a hybrid camp counselor and cruise director, with some Dr. Phil thrown in for good measure. He never looses his cool and has one of the most even-keel personalities I’ve ever come across. One can only assume it’s because Nick’s Dad was a musician and when Nick was a child, he got to experience completely surreal moments — like Trick or Treating with Jimi Hendrix (Nick was Spiderman; Hendrix was in drag. Seriously). Clearly, once you’ve hung out with legendary, eccentric rock stars, some rowdy promotional products suppliers are a walk in the park.  


So a whole group of us went out last night in downtown Omaha to a restaurant called M’s Pub, which was great. From there, we headed over to the Upstream Brewery where we took over the jukebox and sampled the locally-brewed beer. Things were going well right up until we were ready to leave at about midnight. Because this is Omaha, there aren’t cabs readily available as there are in NYC or Philly. Consequently, we had to call for a cab. Because there were six of us, Eddie Roth (henceforth known as “E”) and I called another cab and waited. And waited. And waited. At this point it’s like 1:00 a.m. and there is NO ONE on the streets and not a cab in sight. Now, a little background on E: He’s a New York City firefighter in addition to handling sales for Aunt Beth’s Cookie Keepers and one of the funniest people with the sharpest wit I’ve met in a while. He is street smart to say the least, so it’s not as though we were freaked out about being on a desolate street in the middle of Omaha at 1:00 a.m. We were just tired and wanted to get back to the hotel. E finally saw a cab and flagged it down for us, which was great — until we realized that the driver was a psycho lunatic from hell who forbade us from talking at all, and threatened to pull over and dump us out on the side of the road if we spoke. And no, I’m not kidding. E and I just sat in the back, dumbstruck, because we were really at this guy’s mercy. At one point E leaned over and asked me how much money I had on me to ascertain if we had enough for the fare. Our driver, crazy Travis Bickle, slams on the brakes and pulls off to the shoulder of the highway we were on demanding that we leave his cab. “I told you there was no talking allowed and now I want you out of my cab!,” he shrieked at us. Again, we’re now on a highway, at 1:15 a.m., in OMAHA. E and I pleaded with him to just take us to the hotel, which he did. When we got to the Holiday Inn and paid him, he threw the money back at us and demanded that we leave his cab. The kicker? The name of the cab company was “Happy Cabs,” which is irony at its most wicked. So my advice from Omaha? Order the pulled chicken sandwich at M’s Pub, the beer sampler from the Upstream Brewery and bring a tranq gun with blow darts for the deranged cab drivers.

On another note, there was a blonde girl at the bar last night whose hair absolutely fascinated me. It was like an electric twinkie. I think I finally get why blondes have more fun… they’re easier to find in the dark. ; )

More tomorrow from Kansas City. I decided to give my pals on the party bus a rest from my antics. I’m in the car with Mark Bruk, vice president of business development of CFS Promotions for Now, who nicely offered to let me ride with him to Kansas City. These may be the longest three hours of Mark’s life.


— Michele

PS: Another great day at the Advantages Roadshow — 154 attendees in Omaha!!!

Daniel Townes (the kinder, gentler Townes), Nick DiNicola and Eddie Roth outside the Holiday Inn in Omaha, Nebraska. Eddie (henceforth known as “E”) pointed out that Nick resembles Eric Estrada’s character from “CHIPs”; Nick countered that E bears a striking resemblance to “Heat Miser” from “The Year Without a Santa.”

In effort to remain physically fit and healthy while on the road (and to show you all that we’re not all drunken degenerates) Mike Contreras from Perfect Line led an exercise and self-defense class in the Holiday Inn’s ballroom last night. Not owning shoes that aren’t stilettos, I watched rather than participated.

Mike Contreras, myself and E at M’s Pub in the Olde Town section of Omaha. The food was great, the wine was fabulous and the company was even better.

Bryan Daley, with the Better Life Line, and Dreama McDaniel discuss the finer points of Pinot Grigio.

The whole crowd at dinner… I am LOVING getting to hang out with these people!

Fields Manufacturing’s Stacie Livingston, Mike Contreras and Teddy Scott from AZX Sports enjoy the beer sampler at Upstream Brewery in Omaha. Stacie does all 18 weeks of the Advantages road show and is quite the trooper. Hopefully, by the end of the week she will share her secrets with me as to how to avoid looking like something that collects in a sink drain.

Having polished off one tray of beer samplers, Mike is ready for a second round!

E and I right before our night took a wacky left turn and we were at the mercy of the nastiest cab driver ever.


  1. dan townes Says:

    so now that seinfeld is in re-runs, i guess the soup nazi drives a cab. wow, you not talking is akin to hannibal lecter becoming a vegan.

    Wednesday March 12, 2008
  2. Michele Bell Says:

    Your sons and I decided that had you been with me in the cab ride from hell, we’d still be in Omaha, sitting in a jail cell. ; ) Wish you were here — my liver is quivering….

    Wednesday March 12, 2008
  3. Bob Hechler Says:

    Is Mark OK. I looked at the obits and didn’t see his name so I assume he survived the car ride!

    Thursday March 13, 2008
  4. Eric Johnson Says:

    You made it to Omaha? WOW! I’m impressed. You know, in the self defense class the heels would help…

    Thursday March 13, 2008
  5. Michele Bell Says:

    Hey Bob — Yes, Mark lives!!! He is a great driving companion and talking with him made the three hour trip fly by. Now, if you would be a love and reserve me a suite at Betty Ford, that would be peachy. ; )

    Thursday March 13, 2008
  6. Michele Bell Says:

    Hey Eric — I’m shocked I made it OUT of Omaha! You know me, it is not in my nature to keep my mouth shut and it was torturous not to verbally filet the crazy cab driver. Craig Nadel sent me a message that he loves Omaha, but that’s only because he has a total man crush on Warren Buffet! ; ) Hi to Connie!

    Thursday March 13, 2008
  7. sandrar Says:

    Hi! I was surfing and found your blog post… nice! I love your blog. :) Cheers! Sandra. R.

    Thursday September 10, 2009
  8. Michele Bell Says:

    Thanks so much for taking the time to read and post a comment, Sandra! — M

    Friday September 11, 2009

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