The grass is always greener in Omaha.
If you were to ask me the one thing I hate about living in Omaha …
If I didn’t say the heat or the humidity, or the politics, or the scarcity of public transportation, I’d think I’d say the grass.
Or rather, the lawns.
I don’t understand lawns. As a concept.
The idea of covering every scrap of ground with the most innocuous, boring plant possible — and then obsessing over its length and consistency.
The fact that people spend their free time doing this. The fact that they spend even more free time talking about it. The fact that chemicals are involved.
For me, grass is the botanical equivalent of beige paint. It’s a way to make everything look neat and uniform, but also exceedingly boring.
I understand gardening. I love landscaping. But lawns? Pfft. Why bother.
(Have you ever been so glad not to live next door to someone? I should send all my neighbors fruit baskets …)
Being anti-lawn in Omaha, Nebraska, is only slightly more acceptable than being anti-Husker. (I’m pretty sure both opinions will get you searched at the airport.)
People care about their grass here — and not just in our golf-course suburbs. I challenge you to find a spot in this town where you can’t at least see a lovely patch of lawn. Even our medians are green and freshly clipped.
Travel to a different city, especially a bigger city, and one of the first things you’ll notice is the sad state of their grass.
That’s one of the first things I notice, anyway. I’ve spent much of the last two weeks in Chicago and New York City. In both places, I stayed with friends who live in trendy urban neighborhoods (Lakeview and Brooklyn, respectively).
My Chicago friends have a bit of earth in their back and front yards — enough for tulips and tomato plants, but not enough to justify even thinking about a mower.
In Brooklyn, forget about it. Their front yard is a bit of sidewalk where they put their trash. And their backyard, as my host said, “looks like a set piece from ‘Annie.’ ” It’s walled-in, paved and about the size of a public
At first this seemed marvelously freeing to me.
To imagine going all summer without ever thinking, “Bah. We have to mow the lawn.” Without ever worrying about crab grass or dandelions going to seed.
(Why should I spend my life harried by crabgrass? I resent having to care about things that I don’t really care about. It sends me to a very defensive get-off-my-lawn/not-in-my-backyard emotional space. Does this make me a Libertarian?)
Anyway, once I noticed all the missing grass, I couldn’t stop noticing it. I couldn’t stop looking for it.
In four days in New York City, I don’t think I saw even a patch of grass outside of two busy parks — Central Park, and a new park called the High Line, installed on an abandoned train platform. You have to climb two flights of stairs to see a narrow strip of green. It’s lovely, but unsettling. (New Yorkers sunbathe up there, so desperate are they for a place to stretch out in the sun.)
I started to feel like the entire city was upholstered in pavement. Like there wasn’t anywhere I could stand to feel connected to the planet.
And I started to feel sorry for all the dogs.
New York City is full of dogs. (“Oliver & Company” is true!) Nobody has a backyard, so they walk their dogs on the street.
I’m not even an animal person, but I got so melancholy imagining the life of a dog without grass. All the dogs I saw seemed happy enough, but still. If I, as indoorsy as they come, was missing the earth, think of the dogs.
Think of the kids.
Can you imagine growing up in a place where grass is a special occasion? Where you have to get on a bus to get to some real dirt?
All the kids I saw looked happy, too. I don’t want to get carried away with this …
But I also don’t think I want to move to New York City. (Even though I miss it as soon as I leave.)
I may hate Omaha’s lawn-fetish, but I need the green as much as the next Nebraskan. I need real ground to feel grounded.