Dec 28

Since finding myself living in Nebraska, I’ve felt a touch of compassionate empathy for those poor folks involved in the tourism industry in Nebraska.  I mean, we are a world in search of adventure.  Nebraska is no grand adventure.

Life is actually usually pretty boring, if we sit back and think about it.  I remember, after going to see the latest installment in the Spider-Man big screen adaptation behemoth, my teen-aged son saying to me, “Man, being Spider-Man would be cool, huh?  I mean, after watching Spider-Man, real life seems kind of boring.”   Yes, boy, I thought, real life seems kind of boring.  And he is a teenager.  Just wait until you are an adult, with bills and responsibilities and a job, which if you are like 70% (and I believe this percentage may be a little low) of the population, you will hate. That’s why people get lost in television series about zombies and movie franchises about vampires and book series about young wizards, that’s why people get all tied up in “a galaxy far, far away” — because real life is boring.  That’s why grown men and women lose themselves in the utter ridiculousness of “sport fandom” — because our lives are pretty boring, so we need to live vicariously through people who we view as having “exciting lives.”  So, when we go to spend our hard-earned and hard-saved  vacation money (or rack up credit card bills we have no intention of actually paying off in our lifetimes), we are searching for some relaxation, some adventure, and getting away from our boring lives. Why would anyone in his or her right mind search out wind, allergens, the smell of feedlots, and the miles and miles of mind-numbing cornfields of Nebraska as a place to spend their vacation dollars?  Nebraska is a place you pass through on your way to somewhere that has something to offer.   No one in his or her right mind…

My thoughts are often with those poor folks who have jobs that require the promotion of Nebraska as a tourist destination.  Talk about some of the hardest jobs in America.  I’m actually surprised that Dirty Jobs hasn’t featured Nebraska Tourism in its spotlight…

Mike Rowe walks into the State Tourism office in Lincoln.  He is immediately greeted by a weary young woman who welcomes him with a weak, sweaty handshake.

Mike: Well, this looks like an office job.  It can’t be that bad.

Woman: Yeah, it’s an office job.

Mike: So, what do you guys and gals do here?

Woman: We try to convince people to spend their vacation dollars in Nebraska.

Mike (rolling up his sleeves): Well, Nebraska can’t be that bad.  What are some of the things in the state that people would want to come see?

Woman: … Kool-Aid was invented here…

Mike: Okay, that’s a start.  And we have a museum for that?

Woman: Well, no.  There is a display for Kool-Aid in a museum in Hastings, but no stand-alone museum.

Mike: … okay… what else we got!

Woman: We have corn, and cows.  Growing is big here.  We grow corn and meat and beans and stuff.

Mike (hamming it up, winking at the camera): How about pot?  Could we promote pot?  Some states are legalizing it!

Woman: The state is about 99.7% Republican…

Mike (coughing): … okay… uh… celebrities?  Any living celebrities people would want to visit the home towns of?

Woman: … Larry the Cable Guy…

Mike (tearing off his microphone and yelling at his producer): Nebraska?  Who in the hells idea was this?  They are FIRED!  We are out of here…

Woman (weeping): … Oh please, God, don’t leave me!  Are you hiring… anything… somebody has to wash the crap off your clothes after you crawl out of the sewers… I’ll do that…

Okay, Nebraska tourism might be too much for even Dirty Jobs.

Now, with Nebraska tourism being on my mind more than not, I am constantly looking for ways to help those poor folks involved in the industry.  So, when I came across a small article in the local Star-Herald newspaper, my grand plan began to formulate.  Nebraska might not be the logical choice for people in their right minds… but what about nutjobs and whackos?  We might be the place for those folks, and there are a lot of those folks… and they have money too.

The article in the Star-Herald was about a vampire in Serbia.  Now, you may be asking yourself why a small newspaper in Scottsbluff, Nebraska is carrying a story about a vampire in Serbia.  Well, it’s Nebraska.  Not much happens here, but there are pages to fill.  Now, from what I could glean from the story, the locals don’t really believe there is a vampire on the loose in Serbia.  The locals are just playing up the sensational story for — you guessed it — potential tourism dollars.  The residents of Zarozje, Serbia, want the nutjobs and the whackos to come spend their hard-earned vacation money in search of the elusive vampire.  This will probably work.  People go to Transylvania because of Dracula.  People visit the Loch Ness in hopes of spying the monster.  Weirdos and psychos head to the Pacific Northwest with the intend of snapping a picture of Bigfoot.  Now, if only the good folks of Nebraska had something freakish going for them… other than the freakishly boring everyday stuff…

Now, I’m thumbing through another edition of the Star-Herald and I see a piece on Stephen King giving a speech at the University of Massachusetts… and the Golden Tourism plan is devised for the great state of Nebraska!

Stephen King has used Nebraska in a few of his stories.  Children of the Corn takes place in and around the fictitious town of Gatlin, which would be somewhere in the western part of the state near the real-life Hemingford.  The real-life Hemingford is the namesake for Stephen King’s Hemingford Home, which was the residence of  Abigail Freeman in The Stand.  Hemingford Home is also where Wilfred James killed and was haunted by his wife in 1922.  Stephen King doesn’t seem to have a problem imagining strange things transpiring in Nebraska.  We should SELL THAT!  Screw vampires!  Screw hairy guys with big feet!  We’re talking killer children in the cornfields!  All of a sudden, those stupid cornfields seem to be more than a source for allergy issues.  Guys murder their wifes and bury them in old wells around here, folks: come and SEE IT!  Come to Nebraska and try not to get caught up in the ultimate battle between good and evil!  Try to keep your SOUL!

Oh man, this is tourism gold.  I mean, you walk into the local Walmart at an hour of any given day and about half of the dudes walking around look like they could have potentially buried their wives in wells.  Nebraska could be the freak-out capital of the world.  Farmers could have mazes going through their cornfields and hire some of the local illegals to chase tourist with machetes.  There could be bloody body parts scattered along the trails. The whole state could become like the worlds largest haunted house!  People would come from near and far to be freaked-out in Nebraska.  Oh sure, the new breed of tourist this campaign would bring in might not be the most mentally sound of people, but money all burns the same, right?

And I even have the new state slogan.  Screw “The Good Life”, because we don’t want to mislead people with false advertising.  Our new slogan would be:

Nebraska:  Something’s Just Not Quite Right…

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