Thursday, December 20, 2012

On Omaha

          Omaha is a city that seems to have lost it's past. Some of America's greater cities have fully embraced their personal histories, but Omaha seems to want to constantly try to forget about it. Close to its founding it was the gateway to the west for pioneers. At that time it was also a wretched hive of scum and villainy, full of murderers, bars, and bordellos. The state capital was moved from Omaha to Lincoln due to a fistfight that broke out between delegates from either city while arguing over, ironically, where the capital should be. The fight convinced the committee that Omaha was too dangerous and uncivilized to be the capital.

          Omaha has taken a non-descript back-seat to the main milestones in U.S. History. During slavery we didn't have any slaves. During the civil war, we didn't have any battles. During the gold rush, we didn't have any gold. Omaha was poised to be a major hub for rail travel, until the timber industry drew its focus to Chicago. We had mobsters and smugglers in the 20s, but none evil enough to be remembered. We had race riots in the sixties, but not bad enough to be mentioned in the same breath as Birmingham or Atlanta.

          Here and now however, Omaha is a different sort of city. I like to call it the midwest's best kept secret. An oasis of culture and ethnic diversity, hidden away from the citizens on the coasts under the guise of empty farmland.

         Statistically speaking Omaha has more millionaires and restaurants per capita than any other city in the United States. It is the home to Warren Buffett, John Beasley, and the guy who currently owns the Chicago Cubs (but fuck him, he's a jerk). It is ranked as the number one city in the United States to raise a family, and also the city with the most reasonable cost of living. It is home to the College World Series, Mannheim Steamroller, and the the Henry Doorly Zoo is well on its way to becoming the most comprehensive Zoo in the world. Also the Ruben Sandwich was invented here.
Those facts have almost nothing to do with what it means to live here though. Practically speaking, Omaha has a wide variety of bars, a stupidly large selection of restaurants, and is fostering some great young artists. It always seems to be holding something back, and never lays all its cards on the table, so to speak.

         But the truth is this, Omaha is what you make it. Its perfectly possible to be miserable here. You can hate Omaha, and some do. But if you take the time to explore, get to know it a little, and have a beer at the moon, then it starts to grow on you. Soon a year goes by, then two, then a decade... and one day you'll find yourself driving home from a long road-trip, pass over the bridge from Iowa, see the skyline illuminated in the night, and realize that you're home.

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