Tuesday, March 29, 2016

"Nebraska of the Mind" & a visit to (my) state #49

Call it a "bucket list" objective, but I've set a goal to visit all 50 states (airports do not count).

The last few have taken a while and a variety of shenanigans and assists (North Dakota #45 in 2008 incl. a hot tub at minus 6 degreesMichigan #46 in 2008, #47 Oregon in 2010, #48 Alaska in 2011) and today, I was able to knock off #49....

Welcome to Nebraska!

In our family, we have a concept that my dad and brother, Asher, invented called "PLACE of the mind."

Originally, it came about when they were in Norway, "Norway of the Mind," but it now applies to any place you visit.

It reflects an effort to immerse yourself in the people, places, culture, and philosophy of any location in order to better understand it.

So, while technically my objective of visiting Nebraska was complete once we had lunch with the Paul Haskell (the only known Sprinklr employee who lives in Omaha (to my knowledge), that wasn't going to get it done for us.

We had to achieve a "Nebraska of the Mind."

To this end, after talking a bit of shop with Paul, my dad and I began to ask this native Nebraskan what it meant to be Nebraskan.  We subsequently had the good fortune, while going out for ice cream, to meet two of his friends--also native Nebraskans, one of whom is a direct marketer at Omaha Steaks and one is a surgery resident at Creighton University (both iconic Nebraskan organizations)-the same questions.

What did the say?

Nebraskans are:

  • hearty (you have to be to survive the harsh climate in summer and winter)
  • hard-working, roll up your sleeve types
  • accepting of outsiders (there's a large immigrant/refugee community here, particularly from Somalia and Myanmar)
  • focused on family (both Paul and his friends' families go back generations)
  • appreciative of the relatively slow pace and family-friendly atmosphere
  • "Nebraska Nice," a term that means people will always be friendly and courteous to you...even if they don't really like you. Certainly good when some Type-A East Coasters come to town! ;-)
So, that was a good start, but we weren't done yet.

Of course, no visit to Omaha (at least in my book) without a visit to Warren Buffet. Ok, well, his house...which we drove past. I pinged him on Twitter, but he never got back.  Amazingly enough, he just lives in a regular neighborhood (security cameras and a fence), but if you didn't know it, you wouldn't think the house was so remarkable.

We left Omaha and headed to Lincoln, the state capital as well as the home of the University of Nebraska.

The capital building is really, genuinely impressive. It was built during the Great Depression at a cost of $10million dollars and is rightfully a source of pride for the state.  

Unlike other capital buildings, it's not a straightforward dome. It's a domed tower, filled will great art and murals that depict different parts of Nebraska history, as well as busts of some of the members of the Nebraska Hall of Fame, including Father Flanagan (Boys' Town), Will Bill Cody, Willa Cather, and General John J. Pershing.

 Interestingly enough, Nebraska is the ONLY state in the US with a unicameral legislature. No Senate & House. Just one legislative body.

The idea is that it saves time, taxpayer money, and gets more effective outcomes more efficiently. While we were there, the legislature was in session and we had the chance to hear a debate on...something...we're not 100% sure what it was.

Even better, in the elevator which takes you to the 14th floor observation deck, my dad had the presence of mind to ask the other person with us, "are you involved in state government?"

That's how we had the chance to chat with State Senator Joni Craighead of Omaha (our new favorite Cornhusker legislator). I even got her autograph in our Guide to the Nebraska statehouse book!

To the right, she is pictured with my dad. We actually had a 10 minute or so conversation with her....that really got us into Nebraska of the Mind.

Our final stop in Lincoln was the University where, as a sports fan, we needed to visit Memorial Stadium, home to the Cornhusker football team and the ongoing NCAA record for most consecutive home sellouts (currently at 311, I believe). It was locked, but homage was duly paid.

And this was all done in about 4 hours before our 2 hour drive to Kearney (the speed limit was 75mph) where we are staying overnight to do what should be one of the highlights of the trip, a visit to the Rowe Audubon Sanctuary  where, at this time of  year, 80% of the world's crane population converge on the Platte River Valley and 60,000 cranes (roughly) are there every day as part of their annual migration northward.  We're going to go see that, which should be a moment of natural awe.

More on that tomorrow.

Before I close, I should make a special mention. This trip is a celebration of my dad's 80th year.  As part of his year-long celebration, he decided that he wanted to visit many of his old friends and, if he could, take 1:1 trips with each of his kids.

He asked me where I wanted to go...which is how I settled on Nebraska.

So, in reality, the point of this trip is both visit my 49th state and, more importantly, spend quality time with my dad, being part of this great milestone and all he's accomplished and taught me over the years.

Everything else is just bonus...we just happen to be in a Nebraska of the Mind way.

For those keeping track...Hawaii is #50. Seems appropriate.
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