Déardaoin, Lúnasa 07, 2008

I Was in Omaha Some Days Back

I wondered by the riverfront for awhile until I was past the point that has recently been developed for tourists and was back to where there is just the railroad tracks, cement factories, death trap streets,gravel paths to nowhere. It is somehow a great comfort to know that Nebraska's gateway to the East is still a profoundly ugly one. Railroads and cement factories are necessary, but old hat, not superficially progressive enough.

I wondered upon the Amtrak station at 9th and Pacific. It would be closed for several more hours before they started taking tickets for the one train from Chicago to the Bay Area. I used the stations parking lot as a portal to trespass onto the track that cross the river immediately to the east and gradually loop through town to Ralston and Sarpy and eventually Lincoln to the west. Here one will find the original three-block long boarding platform for the old Burlington station. The side of the station that faces the street has been kept up and still looks impressive. The side facing the tracks consists of windows broken decades ago and unwashed graffiti. The interior consists of nothing but dust, odd junk, and one can imagine more than a few rats. There is an awning at the rear of the platform leading to a long rotted-out staircase into the building. Still the place looks better than the glass box Amtrak station, and I see it's being developed into condos. "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burlington_Station" Well, good luck with that. They're definitely going to have to do something about the railroad front.

The platform was covered with rusted metal and glass. It was humid and I was dressed in shorts and sandals. I was a bit concerned for myself. But I was looking for a quick way into downtown and was a bit curious as to what was along this track in the southern midtown area, so I continued to walk southwest. I was looking for a break in the fences to get back to the street grid and there were none. Eventually I came to the overpass over 13th street. There was something of a foot path leading down to the street, presumably made by hobos and random weirdos like myself. By grabbing the branches of a strategic tree I was able to overcome my sandals' lack of traction and make it down to the pavement without tumbling onto it. Than I had lunch at a gyro place a few blocks further south.

It seems that higher gas prices are driving many to lower themselves to the decadent European level and ride the train cross-country "http://omaha.com/index.php?u_page=2798&u_sid=10397453" Of course the problems with Amtrak are well-known. Trains are typically obscenely late, still contacted to ride along meandering Burlington/Santa Fe routes despite B/SF being bought out by Union Pacific some years ago, still forced to yield to freight trains, still carrying standard engines so that they cross the landscape at about the same speed as a modern car retracing a 1920's auto-trail.

But I am a naive and hedonistic leftest, and the truth is that I am so out of touch with my own Godly culture that I really despise driving for more than an hour at a time. Amtrak is shit. This is perfectly clear. But the fact of the matter is that there is no way to travel long-distance that isn't painful. Only Americans would believe that there's something magical or ecstatic about stuffing oneself in some manner of moving box and traveling two thousand miles in one day. Only Americans would think that we are supposed to believe such a thing. The thrill of the open road. Utter horse shit.

So I'm not willing to give up on shoveling tax money into Amtrak. I've ridden the Zephyr and could see with my own eyes that it clearly isn't that much. Let's get faster trains, like they have ion the coastal strips, nationwide. Or how about a north/south line for the Red and Missouri valleys? Fargo to Sioux Falls to Omaha to Kansas City and than on to the cities of Texas. Light rails to Lincoln and Fremont and Blair. You hate your car. Admit it. It's okay. None of your friends can see you now. You can trust the silence of your confessor.

I remember seeing a video once in which Joseph Alioto, mayor of San Francisco in the early seventies, was testifying before a Senate committee and getting berated by Roman Hruska, our own late, great, proudly ignorant, Bohunk jackass, for having the audacity to not cover his city with freeways. Those of us who have been to Frisco, who have seen how beautiful, delicate, and densely packed of a city it is, should know that a full American-style freeway system would ruin the place. Never mind. Spending half a billion tax dollars on a freeway is the American capitalist way of doing things. Spending half a billion tax dollars on public transportation is socialist.
This is the American way. We are God's children and we decide what is and is not normal. That which is normal is good because what is good is normal. The private automobile is the symbol or one's worth and value. The fact that my car is bigger than yours is proof that I am more willing to feed my children than you are. I can't count the number of times when grown men, of reasonable intelligence, and with total sincerity, equated the modern automobile with a cowboy's horse, implying a sacred bond between you and your collection of glass and metal tubes. I cannot count the number of times when I was walking and mocked by random passerby for walking. I might as well have been sitting on the corner with my cardboard sign. It's always the people and the shittiest rusted-bondo cars who mock with the most relish, just as poor whites tend to be more virulently racist than the rich and educated.

And a car-based culture does serve its uses. The core of Omaha, the part that facces the Missouri, is nearly as densely populated as the largest cities, and as beautiful in many parts as well, particularly in Little Italy. But real Americans aspire to be aristocrats, measuring our worth by the size of our steed and our amount of land, and sometimes this takes some encouragement. Build a freeway through the densest part of Omaha. Build the 480 and the North Freeway to continue the long-term work of choking off North Omaha from downtown. Do everything you can to make living in the city core as undesirable as possible. Than we can become a city for the worthy ones, the real Americans, the Red Robin's, and the Von Muir's and the streets named after John Galt. Anyone who tries to walk through the neighborhoods of the worthies is bound to get killed. So much the better.

The truth is that our society achieved hegemony too young, while we were still filled with juvenile delusions and our ideal of liberty was restricted to the right to gain the material, the physical, the easy to grasp, the easy to think about. Now we carry on like Ludwig II, using our power to legitimize the nonsense and lunacy that drowns us. I'm not fond of denigrating my own country in particular, we are not at all unusual in this. But it is damned depressing, how stupid the whole lot of us are.


Anonymous said...

ahh josh this kicks total ass


Joshua Beran said...

Thank you Paul, it warms the heart.