Obviously, it didn’t happen that way. About as soon as we actually started looking at houses in the Omaha area (even just online), we realized that the real estate market here was quite different from that in the Sylva/Cullowhee area. Things move VERY quickly here. I don’t know the local unemployment rate, but all types of businesses seem to be hiring constantly and it’s not uncommon for houses to turn over within a few days to a week.
So, when we came out to visit Maggi right after the end of the school year in 2014, we figured that it might make sense to do a little “house-looking.” We quickly discovered that at least half of the houses we had wanted to look at had sold before we got here, so the “looking” became a bit more serious rather quickly. But there was still no GREAT pressure to make a decision, especially since we had some rather firm “must-haves” on our list of what we wanted. For example, (knowing that we are getting older) we wanted a ranch or a “story and a half” so we COULD just live on the main floor, if necessary, but really wanted space for each of us to have an “office” and for Bonnie to have space to work on sewing and other craft stuff. I wanted space for my books (fiction and academic), as I am still interested in theatre, generally, and Shakespeare related, specifically. And I have a long-standing interest in mysteries, especially Sherlock Holmes, although I read a lot of mystery authors, especially now that I have a good-sized public library system and (probably more importantly) time to do that. I digress, however.
Having looked at a fair number of houses in a short, few days, we finally got to see one which seemed pretty close to ideal. It looks like -
I confess that I’m still not completely sold on the paint color (it hasn’t been repainted yet), but it’s not a bad choice, and I haven’t come up with a color scheme I like better (besides, I’d have to convince Bonnie). The house faces East, so the winter snow tends to melt fairly quickly (we really wanted a house which faced South, but that was not to be). The Master (with bath) is behind the window on the right, the formal dining room (not used too often) is beyond the front porch (where Bonnie sits in the early morning when the weather is nice) and the guest bedroom is above the front porch. The living room (with fireplace) overlooks the back yard and the kitchen is large with good space for an “everyday” table and chairs.
Bonnie has a couple of smallish bedrooms upstairs which are her office and craft room and I have a sizable part of the finished basement as my office and most of the rest of the finished space is a sort of family room (although it’s mostly used by us as a place to watch “special” TV shows or the occasional movie). Finally, there is a smaller room which serves as the “audio/video stacks,” and a big alcove for my books. All things considered, a really nice place. It’s probably bigger than it should be, but it feels comfortable, if you know what I mean.
Bonnie and I are both “urban babies,” of course, having grown up in the Chicago suburbs, so it was nice to get back into an environment which feels somewhat more “normal” than Jackson County ever did, although we had a lot of good years there. There are no views of mountainsides, of course, although Omaha is much more rolling than I had thought it was and it is nice to see the open sky. I do miss the mountains some, but I’m enjoying the longer view of the sky. Besides, the cats enjoy watching the squirrels and birds on the back deck.
There is, obviously, more traffic in Omaha than in Sylva (the Sylva “rush minute” is more like a real “rush hour” here, but then, there’s more places to go to, this being a city of about 410 thousand (in the city proper according to the census of 2010). That’s (roughly) a quarter of the population of the entire state! Quite a change from Sylva/Cullowhee!
There seem to be a lot more Catholics and Lutherans (percentage-wise) here than other Christian denominations, although most major religions are represented in the Omaha area (various Christian groups, Unitarian/Universalist, Sikh, Muslim, Jewish, various Pagan groups and on, and on). What I have learned, however, is that the TRUE religion of Nebraskans is Husker Football. Maybe it was growing up thinking about Northwestern (not, at least in those days, a powerhouse football school), attending Indiana (another non-powerhouse football school, most of the time), then working at Western for 43 years where football fans were a lot like Chicago Cubs fans (…just wait until next year! Well, okay, this year may be a Cubs year again!), but I’m not used to absolutely rabid fan support and expectations of a season which brings not just a victory, (or two, if you are lucky), but a heavily winning season. Championships are simply a matter of expectation.
The best time to go shopping (in the fall) is during game time, as there tend to be fewer people in the stores than any other time during the week. Many, perhaps MOST, people wear “Husker Red” on game days, so one really stands out in a crowd if you don’t. The largest cities in Nebraska are Omaha (about 410,000), Lincoln (about 250,000) and Bellevue (about 50,000), followed by Grand Island (about 48,500) EXCEPT on home game days, when Memorial Stadium (official seating capacity just over 86,000 thousand, actual capacity ≈ 90,000) becomes the third largest city in the state because the stadium sells out for every home game and has since 1962! Now that’s probably just a fluke of being a mostly rural state without too many big towns, but it did surprise me a bit when I first heard it, so I did some checking, and it’s true.
There’s undoubtedly more crime in Omaha than in Sylva, but that shouldn’t surprise anyone. Still, it’s not what I’d call a major problem, at least where we live. Like most urban areas, there are places where one needs to be a bit careful, especially after dark, but that was true in parts of Evanston when I was growing up in the 1950s.
Being the biggest city around has some major advantages, too. There are three local TV stations, a good art museum, a GREAT zoo, a good general museum, a very attractive botanical garden, lots of theatrical opportunities, a symphony orchestra, a lot of road shows and concerts (serious and pop), several universities, with all that they bring to a cultural scene, and a myriad of children’s opportunities.
All things considered, I can’t really find any big reason not to like it here, at least for us at this stage of our lives. Yes, winters can be pretty cold and summers can be pretty hot, but those can be managed, and much of the year it’s pretty pleasant. There’s even a breeze most days (occasionally a real blow, but not too often). So, even the weather isn’t too bad, especially when you don’t really HAVE to go out in it, if you don’t want to.
All things considered, while the move was quicker than I expected it to be (more time would, perhaps, have been beneficial), I’m not sorry that we were able to move here while we are still in good enough health to enjoy it for a while. And when our health declines (as it, eventually, will), the University of Nebraska Medial Center is here, as are a wealth of other medical facilities serving the surrounding area, so medical care is really quite good. That can wait, however (knock wood). Our health is holding up pretty well (for “old folks”), so other than fairly routine stuff, we haven’t needed a lot of medical care and hope not to any time soon.
Basically, while I think we could be happy in many locales, Omaha is a nice place to be, especially since our daughter, Maggi, live just across town, so we can see her fairly often. All things considered, I recommend it!