Kathleen Massara reminisces about growing up in Nebraska’s biggest city (although, as in New York, the capital lies strangely elsewhere). As an Omaha native who moved to the East Coast at the age of nine but then spent four additional years in the suburbs of Chicago later on, I can confirm the validity of her observations about the Void:
Which brings up the point: to grow up in Omaha is an exercise in confronting the void. The Void should be capitalized, though, because it is a big deal. Here, the buildings are stout, the streets are wide, and there are twice as many bars as there probably should be for a mid-sized city. In the winter, when the surrounding farmland lies fallow, the only thing in your rearview mirror will be sky—ominous, gray-streaked winter sky with giant clouds hanging low. It reminds you of your insignificance, of how fucked you would be if your car broke down.
It is a city bifurcated by I-80, the interstate running from San Francisco to Teaneck, New Jersey, which means that you can coast along at 60-plus miles per hour to get from downtown to more residential areas in a matter of minutes. It also makes it easy to enter and exit the city without stopping. Omaha is a rest stop, a short break on your way to more exciting places. We all know this, and we resent you for it…
I left Omaha because the Void frightened me. The landscape was too large for my reptilian brain to handle, and I wanted to see a world outside of insurance agencies and tight military haircuts. It turned out, though, that I had stupidly underestimated the intelligence of Omaha’s good-natured citizens, and every time I come home I find my curiosity growing. When we’re not catering to the needs of those aging Americans who still order things over the phone, we’re figuring out what to do about Iran, or how to keep China in line. The people planning our geopolitical strategy and acting in the interests of national defense are living in a place you’ve probably never taken seriously. Welcome to The Good Life.