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Around the World in 80 Days

Day 69: 2 December

Michael Palin - Around the World in 80 Days7.45. Rosy-fingered dawn over the mid-west. The topmost points of leafless trees see the sun first and burn a light red. Fifteen minutes later at Omaha, Nebraska. Big railway centre. At one time supported nine railroads. The Union Stockyards, a huge cattle-shipping centre established in 1884. This is all culled from my excellent Amtrak Route Guide, something which British Rail could well introduce. It has a lot more practical value than any 'Inter-City' magazine.

I like small town America. I'm not entirely sure why, because I've little practical experience of it beyond films and writers like Garrison Keillor and Nabokov and Updike. I fear it may be the curse of nostalgia. Nostalgia for a 1950s world culled from the pages of the National Geographic.

Today as we cross into Iowa, 'the land beyond', it's all there in the hard bright sun and it doesn't seem to have changed. Small, clean, white-painted clapboard settlements, bordered by woods and barns and ponds, focused around a steepled church. Modest and tidy, set in an easy rural landscape of low hills and tree-fringed streams. Only the ubiquitous presence of satellite dishes distinguishes them from the dreams that filled my schoolboy years in Sheffield.

'Are you meatless?' a waiter screams at me at breakfast. 'I've been called many things in my time,' I'm about to reply when he jabs his pen toward the bacon and sausage section of my order which I've omitted to fill in.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Around the World in 80 Days
  • Day: 69
  • Date: 2 December
  • Country/sea: USA
  • Place: Omaha - Nebraska
  • Book page no: 230

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