Cities & towns like Omaha, Hutchinson, Wichita, and Kansas City are strangely feeling like home to me. As I’ve traveled the Midwest yet again with Jeff Pulver in advance of the #140Conf Detroit and #140Conf SmallTown, I’ve had the luxury of observing and being a part of communities of passionate, incredibly smart, very nice and very connected people.
All photos (c) Alan Weinkrantz – 2010 – please share
Our most recent tour involved a stop at the University of Nebraska where Jeff took part in a discussion with Jeremy Lipshutlz, Ph.D. during Omaha 10 10 10 which was positioned be a rest stop on the way to the second decade of the 21st Century.
That Special Color Brick in Omaha’s Buildings and Homes Are Telling Us A Story
In between events and MeetUps, I like to go walking in local neighborhoods with my camera. One thing I have noticed in what has now been two trips to Omaha with Jeff is that the color of the brick — particularly of the homes in Omaha has a darker and richer color red than the homes that I observed in St. Luis during our August Mid-West Road Trip.
Maybe it’s the winter that that turns to spring that turns to fall that starts the whole thing over again, but my sense is that there is something about a Nebraska winter that must chill, freeze, thaw and bake the bricks each year.
From Omaha it was on to Hutchinson, home of the #140Conf SmallTown Conference. Cody Heitschmidt was kind enough to take the better part of his day to take us to a local pharmacy for breakfast, a tour of the magnificent Fox Theater, and then a special visit to the Cosmosphere home of some amazing American and Russian space artifacts, including the original Apollo 13 and an SR71 Spyplane.
Childhood Memories of America’s Space Race
I grew up during they heyday of our Space Program, so visiting brought back many childhood memories.
I fell in love with space technology at the age of 8 and wanted to be an astronaut. I used to write to Alan Sheppard, John Glenn and even the late Gus Grissom, who actually sent me back personalized letters encouraging me to pursue my dreams.
Well, I never became an astronaut, but I have been fortunate to help introduce many new technical innovations from the start of the days of the personal computer industry’s start.
I’m still pursuing new dreams.
When I put my dreams out to the world, they often times become reality.
From the Cosmsophere, it was on to a bit of fun, to the Kansas State Fair where Jeff and I boarded a school bus and took part in a genuine school bus drag race on the tracks of the State Fair.
But it sure was fun.
Again, thank you Cody Heitshmidt for your time and showing us your amazing and thriving town.
“I Live Here Because I Choose To….”
The drive to Wichita was a delight, especially coming into the city’s twilight hours. We actually had two MeetUps in the downtown area that has been renovated into thriving urban area with very nice restaurants, theater, and office / living spaces you would think would only exist in much larger cities.
One of the themes that I am seeing in our travels throughout the Midwest, is that I keep meeting more and people who live here by choice, rather than necessity.
I’ve met many who left New York, LA, Boston, and Chicago and returned to what was once home and are thriving intellectually, spiritually and financially. I live in San Antonio, so I can related. It’s not even perceived as being as hip as Austin, a cosmopolitan as Dallas, or as wealthy as Houston. Who fucking cares? What I care about is living in a place that keeps things a bit real and away from the supposed centers of thought leadership. Guess what? Thought leadership is in your head. You just need an Internet connection to be heard. And many people in the Midwest are indeed being heard.
During out last road trip, I remember meeting Jeremie Miller at the Field of Dreams. Jeremie is very passionate about protocols and is basically responsible for the birth of distributed instant messaging – think Jabber. I asked him why he chose to live on a farm in Iowa. He told me that while he can easily live in Silicon Valley, he chose to stay in Iowa and be with people whose lives are focused on corn and cow manure.
Many have families here, childhood friends, or perhaps a brother or sister than is now married with children and they want to re-connect with their family and children. Many brought their jobs with them, and others have reinvented themselves. The cost of living is much lower, the commute much shorter and within a 200-500 mile drive you have other major cities. If you plan your travel far enough in advance, you can fly very reasonably on Southwest Airlines.
And Finally, The Big City of Kansas City.
We wound up the last phase of our trip in Kansas City with a meeting with Sprint and then to connect with members of the Social Media Club of Kansas City. It was held, no less than at Harrah’s Casino which wound up being a delightful evening of connecting and learning more about the community.
What’s missing in this post?
What’s clearly missing is a long list of amazing and nice people we met. I have only mentioned a few not out of playing favorites, but because if I mentioned one, I should mention and link to everyone. I did break my own rule by mentioning just a few.
If I left you off, it was not intentional. The message here is that communities that are being developed in the Midwest are an eclectic group from all walks of life. As an observer, photographer, writer, and listener, my take-away is that marketers should tune into this region of the country with really big ears. Aside from economic change in the air, I also sense political and spiritual change.
It’s not obvious, it’s just there. You really need to visit. And when you do , you’ll feel at home as we did.
Thank you everyone for your kind and gracious hearts.