Friday, June 18, 2010

Smells Like Omaha

The sights and smells of summer in Omaha have returned like sandhill cranes to fill my Midwestern senses and comfort me that life does go on.

A daisy-yellow backhoe, it's lanky arm moving with a flamingo's grace, picks up fat chunks of my street and feeds them into the upturned bin of stained dump truck, as a robin pukes into the eager mouth of her young.

Tanned, fit men in hard yellow bonnets scurry to and fro with dirt in their shovels, picnic ants building brown hills here and carting them away there. They sow rows of sewer pipe to carry away the fresh spring rains and toilet flushes, secret veins pulsing under the skin of our city.

The trees, bushes, grass and cars are dressed in silver-gray gossamer dust as giant circular saws squawk and grind new cement into squares as neat as Grandmother's brownies.

My old routine is freshened by surprising new sights as traffic diverts me and a hundred other drivers away from the steaming, oily new asphalt of Leanvenworth Street into the intimate neighborhood streets filled with darting children and three-wheeled cars. Like geese, we naturally navigate our surroundings, seeking the original four-land road that is forward progress.

I welcome the arrival of baseball visitors who signal a left turn, then turn right from the center lane. As sure as a mating dance they execute their native Texas 12-point parallel parking, coming to final rest in a pose of acute angle. They hatch from their mighty SUV, resplendent in bright new plumage of Hawaiian shirts, cargo shorts and flip-flop sandals on their white feet as they creep across our sunny city, waddling into our elegant restaurants, sweetly unaware of the local custom to remove one's ballcap.

I await Jazz on the Green, free outdoor concerts and arts festivals, where we gather thick as pigeons on a field-sized quilt of sun-bleached blankets and blue plastic tarps joined end-to-end to protect us from the young green grass.

It is God's grace that the furious winter past is a fading memory. We cannot dream of it now, but as sure as the Earth spins, winter will return with its blanket of snow, which spring will tool to freeze and thaw today's new cement into manageable chunks which will vanish under the tires of trucks carrying bread and beer and furniture, leaving potholes, natural predators that swallow annoying Smart cars. Then the men in their yellow bonnets and trucks and cranes will return, the summer cycle of the city to blossom all over again.

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