I just got back from Omaha. I was there on business – my first “business trip,” a trip that I took with my darling wife and my even more darling daughter. Which made it Sierra’s first “business trip” as well. Her first trip altogether, I guess.
While sitting in the lobby of the Magnolia this morning, I paged through the Omaha World-Herald – the largest employee-owned daily newspaper in the United States – and came to a sudden (though not surprising) realization.
I really like Omaha.
I get this way about cities. I love maps, I love cities, I love roads – I love everything that makes a location a location, from the infrastructure to the city plan. I should have been a geographer of some sort. I get giddy when I’m taking in the city experience, when I’m breathing in the traffic flow and the side streets and the unique sights and smells and quirks. I get nostalgic when I’m gone. I find the positive points of the cities I visit and parlay them into an inconsolable love.
And today, I realized that Omaha has everything I love about a city.
Don’t get me wrong – I love Sioux Falls. I’ll live here for a long time. My roots are deeply entrenched here. It has [em]almost[/em] everything I love about a city.
Omaha, though, has [em]everything[/em] I could want – more than any city I’ve ever been in. It has a great newspaper. It’s easy to get around, and the side streets off of E. Dodge are filled with some great houses – a McKennan Park district multiplied by 1000. It’s big enough to be filled with great culture – superb architecture, a blossoming independent rock scene (including some of my absolute favorite bands) and enough events to satiate even the pickiest night owl – without being too big.
It has a Whole Foods. It has a Borders. It has great shopping overall – and while I’m no shopper, it’s nice to have options. It has a great zoo. A love of sports and the facilities to prove it. A bevy of parks and green space.
It has what seems like hundreds of pizza parlors, great restaurants and quirky out of the way dive bars. It’s filled with Midwestern hospitality. It’s a college culture mixed with an upper class medical culture – an intelligent mix that seems as though it could support more than one independent bookstore.
I can’t handle the big city for longer than a weekend, but Omaha isn’t a big city – it’s a moderate city, twice the size of Sioux Falls but only a fraction of the size of Minneapolis, or Kansas City. But when I need a big city, there’s one close by. KC’s right there, right where I need it, about three hours away.
It sounds lame. No one dreams of living in Omaha. They dream of living someplace more exotic. They dream of New York City, or Los Angeles, or some other trendy hot spot. But I don’t. I like a little quietude. I’d take a historic 700 square foot home over any new development. I enjoy mixing a little plains mentality with my city experience. And Omaha’s a Midwestern not-quite-yuppie’s dream. Lame yes, but I’m a fan.
I know. I’m glossing over all of the things I don’t see while simply visiting. According to a report I heard on public radio today, Omaha has the 3rd highest poverty rate for black households and the highest poverty rate for black children. The ghettos are really ghettos. The crime is a little more serious than in Sioux Falls. I’m sure the usual city problems all exist, but as a visitor, I don’t have to worry about them.
Why haven’t I packed up and moved? Why haven’t I abandoned Sioux Falls for Omaha – for a taste of the city I dream of living in?
It comes down to history.
I haven’t just lived in Sioux Falls. I’ve grown up in Sioux Falls. I’m a part of Sioux Falls, and Sioux Falls is a part of me. There’s something special about the city – something that makes me want to exclaim its positives to the world and creates an immense sense of pride. I’m a hometown boy, and I have a comfort level that I could never recreate in Omaha – or anywhere.
For me, it’ll always be Sioux Falls. Even if I move, I’ll certainly consider Sioux Falls my true home – the place I was born, the place that contains nearly every single personal monument and nearly every single memory. Sioux Falls is it – maybe not forever, but for as long as I live.
Of course, if there was no Sioux Falls, you know where I’d go.
I’d be moving to Omaha.