Legal Quandary

Saturday, July 16, 2005

A PSA On Behalf Of My Hometown

I was talking with one of my Omaha friends, the ever-fabulous Mrs. Gorilla, and she mentioned that she’d recently visited San Antonio for a conference. She had the following conversation (or one similar to it). I truly believe every Omaha native has had a version of the following:

Other Conference Attendee: So, where are you from?

Mrs. Gorilla: Omaha.

OCA: Oh! So you live on a farm?

MG: (Snort!) No, Omaha is a city. (And if you knew Mrs. G, you’d know this was an inherently silly question.)

OCA: Right, but you raise livestock, don’t you?

MG: No…it’s a city. Unless cats or children count, our family is pretty much livestock-free.

So…notice to the rest of the United States: your ignorance is showing. Now granted, Omaha is not a *big* city, but it is a city nonetheless. A few notes to straighten out any misconceptions you might have:

1. People in Omaha do not (typically) live on farms. While there is farmland on the outskirts of town, when someone tells you they are from Omaha, they probably live in a suburban house, with just your standard backyard. Maybe a hot tub or a trampoline. Possibly a couple of pets. We also always had a garden when I was growing up with at least 2 kinds of tomatoes, 3 kinds of peppers, beans, snow peas, zucchini, kohlrabi, beets, corn and green onions. The whole thing was maybe 12x20, which hardly constitutes "living off the land."

2. No one (or almost no one) raises cattle or chickens within the city limits, though I did go to school with a guy who had a pet duck. Although Omaha has strong historical ties to the livestock industry, it has mostly died out, and the stockyards have been bulldozed to make way for buildings…with actual indoor plumbing and air conditioning, y’all!

3. Despite the lack of livestock, Omaha boasts the world-class Henry Doorly Zoo. It is usually ranked about third in the country after San Diego and maybe one other. They take on a major project nearly every year, so HD Zoo could be ranked higher than the last time I checked. In addition to all the usual zoo stuff, it has an IMAX, an aviary, and a rain forest. There’s also a drive-through wildlife park affiliated with it. Because Omaha IS a city, and there wasn’t enough land available (the zoo is right next to both Rosenblatt stadium and I-80,) the wildlife park is near Gretna, Nebraska, very close to the Strategic Air Command (SAC) museum.

4. The SAC museum is also well worth seeing. It’s a beautiful, huge space with lots of airplanes, including an SR-71 suspended in the entryway. (AMAZING - and not in a Corn Palace kind of way.) Curtis Lemay is featured prominently throughout the museum, as you would expect.

5. Omaha boasts a symphony, Opera and ballet companies, as well as a vibrant Community theater.

6. The Western Heritage Museum, located in the beautiful old Burlington train station, is affiliated with the Smithsonian, and currently has a portion of the First Ladies exhibit on display. It also has an old fashioned soda counter, which makes my kids very happy. My dad would take EC to visit almost every time she was in town – it’s probably her best memory of him.

7. Rosenblatt Stadium has hosted the College World Series for over 50 years. See…

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8. There are several large shopping malls. Clearly, Omaha is no New York, Chicago, or Los Angeles, but it’s perfectly possible to drive 10-15 minutes (and you can’t say that in any of the above cities) and be able to buy designer clothing and shoes.

9. The guy who does battle with Bill Gates for the title of richest American (or at least used to), Warren Buffett, calls Omaha home. If you don’t know who he is, think Berkshire Hathaway. If you don’t know what that is, it is the holding company which owns Geico insurance, large amounts of Coca Cola, See’s Candies, Nebraska Furniture Mart, and several other brands you probably recognize (as well as some you don’t). BH stock is unique in that it has never split, and is worth over $10K per share.

10. Prior to Ken Lay and his cohorts (may they burn in hell) robbing their investors and employees blind, Omaha was home to a company known as Northern Natural Gas. It bought out a struggling little company named Enron in the mid-1980s, took on a new name, and moved the headquarters to Houston. The rest is history.

11. Omaha is home to two medical schools (Creighton and Nebraska), and one law school (Creighton).

12. There are at least 3 actual Starbucks (not including those inside grocery stores or Barnes and Noble.) That’s more than you can say for just about anywhere in Wyoming, Montana, or South Dakota. Not that this is any true measure of civilization, but it makes me happier, and generally more sane.

13. Union Pacific, ConAgra, and several large insurance companies – all headquartered in Omaha.

14. Omaha is the birthplace of the only US president not to be elected either as president or vice-president. (A dubious distinction, I know. And no, I’m not talking about George W. Bush.)

Though I no longer call Omaha “home,” I still get a little defensive when people make fun of it. It will never be a Chicago, Seattle, LA, or DC, but I’m not entirely sure that’s a bad thing.

I've never confused Omaha with farmland, but you told me a lot about it I never knew. Interesting.
You think it's bad for Omaha, it's at least as bad for Lincoln (where I grew up)... what do we have:
1) The capital
2) University of Nebraska-Lincoln... which is mostly just known for football
Um... 3) a state pennitentiary

That's about it. (OK, that's an exageration... the Lied Center for the Performing Arts is pretty nice). I'm affraid it's just something you learn to deal with (as I'm sure you know). The fact is Omaha (and even Lincoln) are really great places to live, but all people want to know about are the cows and the corn.
Thank you. The next time some asks me if I have indoor plumbing (while I stand in front of them with my Franco Marco shoes and Hilfiger handbag), I will TRY to direct them here, instead of smacking them with my laptop.
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