Omaha, NE -- August 2, 2007

I always find it awkward arriving somewhere in the early hours of the morning when I’m not quite with it.

A woman at the Kansas City bus terminal, who was returning home to Omaha after visiting her sister in Texas, suggested I get off at the first Omaha stop and offered to draw me a map of the area we’d be disembarking at 5:30am-- the Old Market, a quaint part of town with cobbled brick streets. The bus terminal was in another part of town a few blocks away.

I couldn’t bear to get off at the Old Market and deal with real "outside the bus" people who expect "normal". I needed a little time between the hours of night and day to become a "normal" again. I needed the Greyhound station—sink, toilet, place to spill out my pack to put the guidebook on top, consolidate papers, stuff back the long underwear, gloves, hat, and sweatshirt that I needed for the air conditioned bus.

As we pulled away from the first Omaha stop, with me still trying to open my eyes, my friend, a few rows up, pointed at my map. “It’s okay,” she said, “I drew you two. One for each place.” I love people.

About a month and a day earlier, at my sticky note the a map of the United States dinner, before most of the guests arrived, my friend Jenny had bound my head up so I couldn’t see, turned me in circles, handed me a sticky note and faced me in front of the map. The sticky went on Omaha.

That morning, between stop one and stop two, as the bus groaned through in its geared down, beginning to rev up pace through the giant streets, spaced out big buildings that this country is full of, and I imagined a giant thumb descending onto the streets, sticking on a mammoth, fluttery yellow sticky note.

But there was no thumb-print spiral or sticky note showing me where to go to lay my head, even with my beautiful maps. I'd forgotten to ask my friend where to stay! After finding the cheapest hotel in the area--an Econo Lodge with an early check-in (which actually would have been full if I'd waited any longer--American Idol was in town), I took a hot shower, set my alarm for noon, when my friend said I'd be most likely to find readers, and conked out in the queen sized bed. Luxury. I hadn't slept horizontally since the night of the 28th.

I spent most of my time in Omaha in the Old Market area, barely making it to downtown, and didn't even get close to the Barnes and Nobles where the front desk clerk at the Econo Lodge told me I'd be sure to find readers. I just found the neighborhood comforting and I was trying to relax. Here's a picture of me (above) with a woman I found kinship with. I'm guessing, though that, Greyhound is more comfortable.


Paula said...

Found you - at least for a moment. I read 'Old Man's War' so far this summer and I'm studying Spanish. Dipping into 'the New diary' from time to time. It's about journaling, which is like blogging, only private. There is a difference. I like these vignettes of readers. More more more!

Karen Olson said...

Omaha is home of a fabulous small mystery conference called Mayhem in the Midlands, usually Memorial Day weekend. It's sponsored by the city's library system and Sisters in Crime. This was my first year to the conference, which was held at the Embassy Suites, just a block up from Old Market. I had never been to Omaha before, but it was really charming with a lot of great restaurants and shops in that area. And if you like mysteries, the conference can't be beat!