I took my normally teetotaler mother to the bar. At the Nebraska Furniture Mart, aka NFM.
There we were on a recent weekday afternoon, just a couple of ladies with wine. I guzzled a smooth pinot. She gamely sipped a moscato.
We toasted under the bright lights of the wall-mounted TVs inside the "bar," which doubles as a Subway sandwich dining area.
To our left, inside this Nebraska Furniture Mart annex, was Home Office. To our right was Electronics.
We weren't stuck there. If we wanted to walk around and sip wine while picking out washing machines or gaming systems, we could. Currently, consumption is OK in the Appliances and Electronics Building.
The other patrons of the hour included an older man with a motorized cart and a weary woman who handed her phone over to her toddler. La Buvette, this was not.
However, the latest Mart addition — a bar serving wine, beer and local Hardy Coffee Co. joe — could be the smartest move the Mart has made since Mrs. B. used her birthday as a sales gimmick.
How many times had past Mart customers longed for a little liquid courage to pull the trigger on a couch, a stove, a too-smart TV understandable only to NASA scientists?
How many marriages could have been saved by this breather before picking out a sectional that might not fit through the front door?
The Mart is not the first alt-bar. Whole Foods has a bar and lets you sip and shop (taking the edge off that grocery tab). Some HyVees offer sit-down bar areas. If there are others, let me know so I can plan my errands accordingly.
The Mart's new coffee/wine bar opened two days before Thanksgiving. It's called Base Kamp.
It's owned by Bradley and Traci Krauth, who own some Subway stores in Nebraska, including the one inside the Mart. The bar name reflects the couple's love of the outdoors and is a nod to a trip they made to Mount Everest. Base Kamp features a nice selection that includes pastries.
The bartender/barista picked a red for me: Le Grande pinot noir ($9). A glass of Barefoot moscato that retails for about $6 a bottle at the grocery store was $6 at Base Kamp.
Add a cinnamon roll and muffin (a microwave is coming, apologized the bartender/barista who couldn't warm them up yet). Throw in a medium-sized black coffee and the tab without tip was $27.
We didn't mind the wine tasting in a fast-food booth. We didn't mind the plastic cups, except when they were empty. There was no recycling option. (Mart spokesman Andy Shefsky said he'd consider adding that.)
Mom thought the lights could have been dimmed. I thought a little jazz would have been nice.
Then again, Base Kamp is not a destination per se. It is, as its name suggests, a place you refuel before the sometimes exhilarating, sometimes treacherous shopping climb ahead.
The lotions and potions stand at attention inside the newly refurbished Merle Norman beauty shop that reopens Monday in Dundee.
New owner Mimina Peters has spent the past two months redoing the place she and husband Mark bought from the prior owner.
A couple of weeks ago, I'd stood inside the Buchanan's gas station shop kitty-corner on 50th and Dodge speculating, with mechanic Karl Larsen, that the mainstay makeup store in Dundee was closing. (A second Merle Norman Cosmetics exists at Westroads Mall.) After I wrote that in my Dec. 2 column, Mark Peters, a veterinarian who makes house calls, invited me to make a house call there.
The newly refurbished Merle Norman was not yet open when I knocked on the locked door recently.
Fortunately, Mimina graciously let me in, invited me to sit at the mirrored makeup table and gave me the rundown: How she's from Los Angeles where the late Merle Nethercutt Norman (1887-1972) started her beauty empire in 1931 with $150 and some chemistry and medical classes under her belt. How Mimina worked for 25 years for the beauty supply chain, which is still owned by the Nethercutt family. How Mimina is a big believer in the skin care regimen, some of which still uses the original Depression-era recipe. Mimina also said she can't believe that at age 60, she's a newlywed (Miminamet Mark via the Internet, and they tied the knot last year), an Iowa resident (they live outside Council Bluffs now) and a new business owner.
Mimina had set out to get a job at Merle Norman and, finding the Dundee door locked earlier this fall, stuck her résumé through a mail slot on the business door.
The then-owner, Anne McKnight, had been trying for two years to find a buyer. She'd hoped to sell to someone who treasured the brand as she had and would keep it on that corner, where it had been for 55 years. (McKnight has owned it for 22.)
Mark suggested that the couple buy it. Mimina thought he was nuts.
"'Are you crazy? We just got married!'" she recalls telling her betrothed.
They bought the studio Oct. 1 and have spent the past two months making updates, including doubling the size of the restroom. Though Monday is official opening day, Mimina unofficially was already Merle Normaning.
"I already have someone coming," she said, "for a facial."
I got @SpartanJessica on the phone, and we started talking as humans don't do these days: voice to voice.
I "knew" of the 41-year-old through that candy shop/cess pool that is Twitter. I'd written a column about loneliness that has resonated with readers. Jessica Freedman, whose Twitter handle is @SpartanJessica, piped up in a tweet of my column that anyone reading this was welcome to come to her next "Tweet Meet," which was held Tuesday at Casual Pint in Countryside Village.
Jessica organizes such in-person meetups about once a month at various Omaha watering holes. Her goal is to help locals who "know" each other online to meet offline, in the flesh, and build an actual human connection while supporting a local business. She's been doing it almost four years.
"Social media can make you connected and very isolated," said Jessica, who has sent some 22,500 tweets in six years.
The meetups can be intimidating to some who like the separation of social media or, as @ AsianJoeEvans says, are digital extroverts but social introverts. It's like a group blind date.
But Jessica is warm, friendly and comes with name tags (using Twitter handles) and sometimes home-baked treats. People are on their own for drinks. The meetups are typically scheduled on weeknights in hopes of catching people on their way home from work.
They last only two hours. Jessica, who is a vice president at Ticket Express, takes June and July off.
The most recent Tweet Meet drew about 30 people, including a lot of newcomers.
This event grew organically. Someone in Jessica's Twitter circle tweeted that he'd been at California Taco in midtown. Others chimed in: Wish I'd have known! Would have met you there! So, they organized a lunch there on a Saturday in March 2016. A tradition was born.
Tweeters have become friends. @Jim_Phillips1, a meteorologist, gives @SpartanJessica hour-byhour forecasts on her trips back to Michigan. @AtomicCyclist once fixed @SpartanJessica's car.
Joe Evans, AKA @AsianJoeEvans, is a 37-year-old who works in marketing and communications for Nebraska Medicine. He was part of that first meetup and has stuck around because he finds the meetups easy, fun and important. Joe is from Valley, Nebraska, worked in Waverly and is trying to grow roots here.
"I've met some of my best friends through Twitter and the TweetMeets," he told me ... via Twitter.
Jim Phillips, 52, who has lived in Omaha for 12 years, said the meetups offer a chance to chat with a wide array of people you might not otherwise have had the chance to know. On Tuesday, for example, he talked with a corporate attorney.
"I loved having a few beers with him and hearing his take on various legal issues," Jim said. "Outside of Twitter, there is no way I would have met him."
Anyone on Twitter knows the platform has dangers: trolls, lies, tar pits of distraction. But like the delightful Baby Yoda memes spreading joy, there are sincere seekers trying to find meaning. Jessica hopes to be a guide.
"I don't want anybody to be lonely," she said.