Saturday, August 28, 2010

Day 8: Omaha

Did you know we have Nebraska to thank for Arbor Day? Thank you, Nebraska!

For about five years, from when he was about 2 years old to when he was 7, Mark and his family lived in Omaha, NE. There's the house he lived in, the house down the block where his first girlfriend lived, the park where he used to play, and Stella's, this hamburger joint where his mom used to take him. Our Omaha event at Bookworm wasn't until 6:45, so after we bid a fond farewell to Sonia, Michael, and Bear, we drove straight from Des Moines to Stella's for a hamburger.

Atticus inspects Bear.

We leave Des Moines.

I can't remember the last time that I had a hamburger, but I'm going to assume it was some time in the mid 1990s. In 1997 I became a vegetarian, and in 2001 I became what Mark calls "a chickafishaterian." Neither of us eat red meat, but we were in Omaha, home of Omaha Steaks, and at Stella's, and dagnabit, when in Rome... (which is funny, because when we were in Rome we ate prosciutto).

Mark remembered Stella's as a real hole-in-the-wall where the hamburgers were served on napkins. When we got to the restaurant it was difficult to find parking and there was an actual line out the door of people waiting to be seated. When we finally got inside we could see that the place had clearly been overhauled a few times since Mark was there on the day that Reagan was shot. There were even a veggie burger option on the menu. But I was in Omaha, and I'd been hearing about "the best hamburgers ever" for a few years now, so I ordered myself a cheeseburger. It did come on a napkin, and it was enormous.

Stella's.

Real dive bars don't sell tee shirts.

My burger was intimidating, but not quite so large as this one.

About halfway through the tasty burger, I began to sweat a little, but I muscled through and ate the entire thing (and then pumped my fists in the air as a kind of a victory salute, but no one else at the bar seemed to think that eating an entire hamburger was fist-pump worthy). After lunch we drove around Mark's old neighborhood and he pointed out the sites to me.

"So that's my old house," he said.

"Beef!" I said.

"And that's where I went to kinder-care."

"Beef!!"

"Turn left here. That's the hill that my friends and I used to jump down."

"BEEF!!!"

My tasty hamburger had entered my digestive system. "And what do we have here?" My bewildered intestines asked.

"I AM BEEF!" The hamburger said.

My intestines pondered this for awhile. "How interesting," they finally said.

"I AM BEEF! BEEFY BEEFY BEEF! BEEEEEEEEEF!"

The intestines, accustomed to mild Poultry and gentle Fish, had no idea what to do with this assertive newcomer, and I spent the next few hours cramping up and emitting some truly horrific-smelling gas. I would like to publicly apologize to all the people who were at the Durham Museum in Omaha yesterday. I blame beef.

This museum is now a Superfund site.

After the museum we headed to the Old Market area of Omaha. I may have been locked in an internal battle with my lunch, but I could still appreciate how neat the city is. I like traveling.

A restaurant that Mark and his family used to go to on special occasions.

Omaha keeps it shady.

Betcha didn't know how pretty Omaha is. I didn't. It's so pretty!

Finally we headed over to Bookworm, where, for the fourth and probably last time on the trip, we ran into the Wimpy Kid van. It had been five hours since my hamburger and I felt that my stomach could handle a delicious popsicle. That's right, I finally got my popsicle.

Finally! Delicious.

Amy Ignatow, Attorney at Law.

The event went well--I did my talk and signed some books, including two for a friend of my aunt's who lives in Omaha but wasn't able to make the event (sorry Marti! next time). And then...back on the road.

Today we head to our furthest point west, Evergreen, CO, outside of Denver, where we will see my brother and his family and go to a wedding. Here's hoping the hamburger leaves my system before Sunday...

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