OMAHA'S OLD MARKET: AS SEEN IN ELEANOR & PARK

I'm infatuated with Rainbow Rowell.

Okay, fine. So I'm not infatuated with Rainbow Rowell herself. But I am head over heels for her books, her voice, her stories, and the fact that her stories are set in Omaha



Omaha.

The city where, growing up, I'd spend Sunday afternoons with my family. We'd go to church and then head downtown to eat at Spaghetti Works. Omaha was the city where I learned to love baseball and got disastrously sunburned, two years in a row, at the College World Series. And, while attending community college, it was in Omaha's Old Market that I would spend a free hour or two, before I had to recross the river and go back to class. 

I didn't grow up in Omaha, no. But it was always nearby, a flat nineteen miles from my hometown. When I moved to Indiana years later, and when people would ask me, "Where in Iowa are you from?" I'd always answer, "Just across the river from Omaha." 

So, really, it's no surprise that I practically swooned when Rowell talked about the Old Market in Eleanor & Park, a YA novel about two misfits and "one extraordinary love." 

     "Do we have to go somewhere?" [Eleanor] asked.
     "Well, we have to go somewhere ..." Park said.
     "But do we have to do something?"
     "What do you mean?"
     "Can't we just go somewhere and be together? Where do people go to be together? I don't even care if we get out of the car. ..."
     He looked over at her, then looked back, nervously, at the road. "Okay," he said. "Yeah. Yeah, just let me ..." 
     He pulled into a parking lot and turned around. 
     "We'll go downtown." [1]

On Memorial Day, Ty and I also went to downtown Omaha. We spent the afternoon in the Old Market, a historic district that was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. There, the streets--brick-paved and slightly buckled--are as they were at the turn of the century. The old warehouses, also made of brick, have been converted into apartments and condos. This is a neighborhood with used bookstores and cafes, coffee shops and trinket stores and trendy boutiques. It's upscale. It's bohemian. You see mohawks and gauged ears, high heels and tight skirts, suits and ties, and street performers. And there are covered sidewalks, too, and in the summer, flowers and vines cascade from the planter boxes on their eaves. 

     Once they were downtown, Park wanted to show Eleanor Drastic Plastic and the Antiquarium and all the other record stores. She'd never even been to the Old Market, which was practically the only place to go in Omaha. 
     There were a bunch of other kids hanging out downtown, a lot of them looking much weirder than Eleanor. Park took her to his favorite pizza place. And then his favorite ice cream place. And his third-favorite comic book shop. [2]







Ty and I went to Jackson Street Booksellers, one of my more common haunts. And we went into antique stores. And a candy store. And I took him to Tannenbaum, the year-round Christmas shop. We pointed and poked at the tiny snow villages, and Ty caught me as I tripped over myself, nearly shattering glass ornaments and garland. Back outside, we walked hand in hand. 

"Oh, I need to show you something," I said, dragging him past Billy Froggs. "Some people don't even know it's here." I opened a discreet door that faced Howard Street and gestured for Ty to move inside. "It's called 'The Passageway,' and it's basically just a little nook with extra restaurants and shops and galleries." 

Ty nodded with approval. "I like it." 

"I thought you would. Lots of light. Lots of plants. Lots of old brick." We snaked our way down the corridor and to the opposite end. "Look!" I said, pointing up at a skylight. "Look at the silly pigeon. Look at it go." 

From below, we watched the bird's shadow, its narrow feet waddling back and forth, back and forth. It was amusing, in a simple way. 

Ty chuckled. "Birds are goofy." 

"You're goofy." 

"You're weird."

"Let's go back outside."

"Okay." 


     They ended up at Central Park. Omaha's version. Eleanor had never been here before either, and even though it was wet and muddy and still kind of cold, she kept saying how nice it was.
     ... They sat on one of the park benches and watched the geese settle in on the bank of the man-made lake. Park put his arm around Eleanor and felt her lean against him.
     "Let keep doing this," he said. 
     "What?"
     "Going out." [3]

[1] Rowell, Rainbow. Eleanor & Park. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2013. Print. Page 268.
[2] ---. Page 268.
[3] ---. Page 269.

3 comments:

  1. i've never heard of rainbow rowell before.

    this place looks divine!!!!! gosh, i know that i could spend the entire day wandering around there.

    ReplyDelete
  2. lovely blog :)
    http://saltskinned.blogspot.com.au

    ReplyDelete
  3. I would love to spend a day shopping here. The Passageway is beautiful!

    ReplyDelete

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