Monday, September 05, 2005

Fireflies and Runzas

About this time of year I get homesick for Nebraska. I grew up there. It was always about this time of year that my mother, raised in Midvale and Orem, UT would heave out an audible sigh and say it was just about time the leaves would be changing on the mountains and how beautiful it was and how she was missing it and--now she wouldn't SAY this next part, but I just KNEW she was thinking it--how awful it was to be in this flat, boring, hot, humid state. I'll give her flat, hot, and humid, but as much as I love Utah, there are many reasons I love Nebraska, and always will:

Nebraskans are all very proud to be from Nebraska. If you ask a Nebraskan where they're from, they say it loudly and proudly--no cowardess or apology, or explanation of how they were born somewhere else and just live in Nebraska for the time being. Utahans are famous for this: "Yeah, I'm originally from California, but I moved here when I was 4." Guess what? You're 30, You're from Utah now. My husband, who has lived in Utah since he was a young boy, gets caught doing this all the time. When asked where he lives, where he's from, etc he says something like, "I was born in Bozeman," or "I've lived all over," or "I've lived mostly here, but also in Finland and England for a few years." Not a Nebraskan. Like my famous brother James (stop skimming), he even wore his Nebraska t-shirt to shows and on his album. Of course he did.

Nebraskans are generally easy-going. They don't over-plan an event or worry about what their neighbors think. They don't buy huge houses they can't afford or buy huge RV's. They hang out. They don't make a big production out of everything. They go for walks, go to clubs and bars to listen to cool music. There's a great music scene in Nebraska. They love to talk and claim ownership of everyone who has ever lived in Nebraska. They have Nebraska reunions (seriously, what other state does that in Utah?!)--that's how my sister met up with her now husband.

Nebraskans dress a certain way. Topher says he can spot it, even though he's only been there a few times, but he has a talent for such things. There are many stereotypes, here are my favorites: "the mom": short, sporty hair-cut, sweatshirt with a rolled turtleneck under it, gold chain dangling out, short pleated shorts, tennis shoes with socks to match the color of the sweatshirt. Classic. These women are known to wear sleeveless dress shirts and lots of gold jewelry. "the fan": you'll usually spot these types in airports and while on vacation. They wear head to toe Nebraska "Big Red" football crap--t-shirts with the hat with the blazer with the backpack. They have the vision, and Tom Osborne is their guide. "the pseudo-intellectual": I'm not talking about the sorority girls or frat boys, they have their own category, but I'm talking about the fashion-forwards. The sit-in-smokey-coffe-houses-and-talk-about-politics-and-poetry-and-music crowd. My sister, Pandy, was their leader for a while and definitely the best dressed of all time. I always wanted to be in that fashion category, but always seem to miss it by a gap jean or Target knock-off jacket. You can't mass-market a look, Lisa! I'll never learn.

Nebraska is home of "the Runza," fireflies, and Big Red football. These are a few of my favorite things. A "Runza" is a delightful pocket of meat and seasonings and cheese rolled up in a pillow of soft home-made bread. It is the ultimate hotpocket. I desperately craved them during all my pregnancies, but everyone thought I was "kidding" when I asked them to ship them, frozen, to me. As if I would kid about something that important. In college my roommate Wendy, a fellow Nebraskan, and I tried to make them. Imagine a homesick freshman eating crackery breaded lumps of bland ground beef. Is there a more pathetic image? and fireflies--is there another bug out there that you are really excited to catch? Have you ever smeared on on the sidewalk to make your name in fluorescent splendor? Could there be anything more magical? And I don't even like football, or organized sports, really, but it's like a religion in Nebraska, and everyone's routing for the same team (no blue versus red--you know what I'm talking about)--everyone in the entire state wears red on game days whether they go to the game or not, whether they like football or not. I like that idea of unifying a state like that.

Sigh (audible), I miss Nebraska at this time of the year with the huge, gorgeous trees changing colors, canopying over the street off 27th and Park Avenue. I miss going downtown to hear a friend's band in a small venue--music deafeningly loud, with the smell of cigarette smoke and beer all around as I sip my coke. I miss the smell of heavy air and the sound of cicadas as I talk to friends on my wide, stone, wrap-around porch. I've lived in Utah for 12 years now, but, you guys, I totally grew up in Nebraska.

26 comments:

Kacy said...

Nebraska sounds great. . . I mean, if James likes it. My mom makes something like a "runza" but she calls it a "hand pie." It's not clear whether she understands that the name renders it completely unappealing.

Born to hand pie, baby! I miss Nebraska too--for you.

Brdfrd11 said...

Love this blog entry. Makes a person wish he was from Nebraska ... instead of from, um, all over.

wendysue said...

AMEN, my Nebraska sista! And just so everyone else knows, you're hearing from the daughter of the woman that organizes the Nebraska reunion parties. They all get together in their red and shuck corn and chat about the good old days in Nebraska.
The cicadas are going crazy this year, I love it when it finally cools off in the evenings and you can sleep with the windows open while the cicadas lull you to sleep.
The tips of the trees are just beginning to change, I'll take some pictures and send them along when they are in their full show-off stage.
And don't forget the awesome road side farmers. The one I go to always has at least 10 people in line for the sweet corn!
Oh, and I'm sure you're Dad knows but CONGRESSMAN Tom Osborne is running for state GOVERNOR next year. Can you say a 98% win???? (Matt actually went down to the capital last weekend to be in a commercial for one of his campaign ads!)

Stephanie Aurora Clark Nielson said...

lisa,
I have to say that I am proudly from Utah...(i would NOT want to claim New Jersey, for heavens sakes!)
Got to love the fireflies!

Kactiguy said...

I'm was born and raised in Utah. I'll most likly die here. I did my short two year stint in North Carolina but I'm still a Utahn. Here is the good news. We have fireflies in Utah too. We have seen them up at the ranch. We even caught some and took them to the Bean Museum. One of the only recorded fireflies in the state. We will take you up there the next time we see some and you can smear your name on something.

~j. said...

I remember the first time my kids saw fireflies, in NY, in the yard of the home I grew up in. They thought they were fairies. I have yet to teach them how to smear them on the sidewalk and then show off the glow on the bottom of their shoes.

There's a hometown eatery/joint called Johnny's Lunch that's always the first and last place I stop when visiting. There's always a long line and still, after about 70 years, you can only work there if you're related to Johnny. Most people don't like the food there if they're not from Jamestown, but hey - more for us.

Anyone ever heard of Beef on Wick?

Lorien said...

I'm a Utahn, through and through.

Or is it "an Utahn"?

I pretend I have fireflies by putting little candles in my trees. But they don't move. I often see little non-glowing lamperidae beetles (same family as the real deal) crawling on the grass and wish they were glowers.

Christy said...

I've lived in Nebraska since June (and I'll probably be here the rest of my natural life). I've been wanting to know what the heck "Runza" is. They're all over the place!

Bek said...

L--

Runza's are like Pasties, right? We need to find you a recipie lady...

Kate said...

That's a good idea, smearing fireflies on the side walk to write your name.

I remember catching fireflies when we lived in TN but we just smeared them on our arms and face, which is much more gross come to think of it.

And I totally tell people I'm from Utah, I'm very proud of it. Even though I wasn't born in UT, I love it here. In fact at soccer camp my nickname was 'Utah' well, when they weren't calling me 'Kate the Great' that is. ;)

Valentine said...

You can only imagine the looks you get from Los Angeles hipsters when you say you are from Nebraska. I will never be a Californian. I'm going to be in Lincoln this weekend and can't WAIT for Yia Yia's pizza and the Coffee House! Yahooooo! Maybe a game of darts at Duffy's? Uh huh!

lisa v. clark said...

Pandy--will you send me some frozen Runza's when you're in Lincoln? and also, Topher wants to know if you're calling in sick. . . oh, and say hi to EJ when you see him at the Coffee House and why can't we post on your blog, what are you--too cool for school?

I've always wondered where they came up with "Runza," but so long as it's not "hand pie," it doesn't really matter, does it?

Christy, might I make a suggestion? cheese Runza combo with a vanilla shake and a side of ranch dressing (to dip the crinkle fries in, silly).

Suzie Petunia said...

Makes me sad I don't know anyone from Nebraska... except you, of course.

wendysue said...

And me, Suzie!! in a blogging world kind of way. :)

Christy, I realize I have completely failed as a welcome to Nebraska committee member, how about Runzas with our Survivor premiere night???

I always thought the name Runza was kind of unfortunate, but it's a lot better than "hand pies" and "pasties".

Christy said...

Thanks for the suggesion, Lisa! I'm sure I'll order just that on my first trip to Runza.
Wendy...sounds great to me!
All of this runza talk is making me hungry!

Christy said...

I couldn't wait another day and went out for my first Runza this evening. I blogged about it.

Hey, check out my blog about RUNZA weight loss debt control mortgage rates. :)

AzĂșcar said...

I'm proud to say I'm a Utahn. Here's the thing, I have lived in lots of places: Boston, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, that summer in Connecticut...and so, it's on that kind of authority that I can tell you, Utah is the best. I always claim it.

More specifically, I get defensive about Provo. It's like no place else. Those of you who just went to school here have no idea. I love it.

You can keep your Runzas, I'll take my 'smores and foil dinners up the canyon. Brand X burgers, El Azteca chimis, and Ream's 10 cent hot dogs on the Fourth of July.

Anonymous said...

Long time reader, first time commenter....
I loved this blog! We (husband and I) lived in Nebraska for five years for school and then work. We moved from there about 4 years ago. We were in Omaha and loved it there. Love the people, love the fireflies and cicadas and LOVED your description of game day and how a typical Nebraska mom dresses. It's right on. Two of my children were born in Nebraska, and I hope that they declare it loud and proud "born in Nebraska!" They're alternative is "I'm from Utah" since we are now in Salt Lake.... you can see the far superior choice! : )

Thanks for sharing, it brought back happy memories.

Chelle

AzĂșcar said...

I will say this for Nebraskans:
The professor I TA'd for at BYU was a native Nebraskan. Every Fall his mood would depend on how the Huskers did in their last game. He's been here for more than 20 years!

Eddy Remington said...

Kactiguy needs to spill the beans on the location of the firefly ranch in Utah. That would be a sellout! I'd love to see it. I grew up in Massachusetts and loved the fireflies there. I admit that I only sometimes say I'm from Utah. Other times it is Mass or Michigan. Guilty as charged. However, when traveling internationally it is actually kind of fun to say "I'm from Utah." It is much more fun than when I'm in the states and certainly more so than when I'm in Utah. I wonder if that's a common tendency?

christopher clark said...

I actually agree with Carina. I think Utah's sort of nerdy, but I love Provo. You have to grow up here to understand it.

Provo isn't the self-righteous bog a lot of people say it is (see every other community adjoining Provo.) But as Carina says, you sort of have to grow up here to understand that.

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AzĂșcar said...

And Chris might back me up on this...but no self-respecting Provoan would ever ever live in Orem. It's like another country.

To back Lisa up one more time (not like that!) today I was driving along 4th North and 275 West and THERE outside this little 20's bungalow, a big red flag with a big white "N" on it. I took a picture with my new cell phone. I could probably read the manual and email it, but I'm pretty sure you guys aren't going to make me prove it.

abelnap said...

Wow, that's one way to make alot of people feel like they might want to be from Nebraska. Here's one girl from Colorado--Vail, Colorado--saying right on. Be loud and be proud. Of course being proud of Vail seems a little snobby compared to the whole Nebraska thing...

Hailey said...

This blog made me homesick...for ALIAS!!!

Sorry, one-track mind right now...

But seriously, love your blogs as always!

Miss Mountaineer and Mr. Husker said...

I was in Nebraska a few weeks ago and had a Runza. It was YUM, and it made me pine for the Midwest!!