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Metropolis and Me
Feb 10, 2015
Most of the people who know me are aware of my fondness for Star Trek in all its many guises. What they don’t know is that part of me — a microscopic, infinitesimally small part — is actually ashamed of how much I know about the series. I can curse in both Klingon and Romulan. Seriously.
If you don’t understand those references count yourself lucky. On the nerd scale, from 1 to 100, knowing the name of an extraterrestrial species rates a 75. Knowing their language adds 20 points to that woeful total. I am on razor thin ice, dignity-wise: the only way for me to fall further, to actually peg the nerdometer, would be to don a costume and attend a sci-fi convention.
Which I … well, never mind.
Time travel is a recurring theme in Star Trek, and no matter how ridiculous or illogical the plots, I find those episodes endlessly fascinating because they spur my imagination. I would love to journey backwards in time and discover how they transported those great stones to Stonehenge, or forward a century to see what kinds of junk food they eat in the future.
I ask you, dear readers, even if you find such speculation ludicrous, to fire up your imaginations and visit me in early November of last year. I’m sitting in front of my computer. I’ve just written, “I’m sitting in front of my computer …” and wondering what will come next. Now I’m scratching my ear. Now I’m staring at a dark spot on the ceiling and wondering if it’s a bug, which I have done at least a hundred times. Now I’m wondering what we’re having for supper. Now I’m remembering it’s probably going to be leftover chili. Now I’m happy because I think chili always tastes better the second day. Now I’m wondering why.
Time travel, as you can see, isn’t all about witnessing noteworthy historical events. It’s often boring and always confusing. To wit: at this moment in your temporal journey — which is back then for you now when you’re reading this but now for me back then — you know things I will know when it is now for me. For both of us, I mean. Are you following this?
Among the many things I don’t know in back then now is how the 2010 high school football playoffs will end. All I do know is that the big schools’ champion will be from Sioux Falls, because the four semi-finalists are all from that city.
“Is this a joke?” you snort. “You pretend violated the laws of physics and got my thens and nows mixed up just to talk about some stupid football games? I don’t believe you! I’m going back to January! In my head, I mean, because I always was in … AARRRGGGHHHH!”
Wait! Don’t turn the page! No more fake time travel, I promise. Give me a minute to explain why those games were a big stinking deal and what that portends for the future of Sioux Falls and South Dakota.
Here’s the deal. I am an admitted football fanatic, yet my attitude was, “Who cares? Not me, that’s for sure!” Why such petulance, you ask? It was a simple case of sour grapes. It’s petty and it’s poor sportsmanship and I hate to admit it, but gee whiz! Sioux Falls seems to be winning everything these days!
Before I go on, let me emphasize that I harbor no ill will for the good people of Sioux Falls. I love you guys like Moe loves Curly! Think of my pique as an inevitable consequence of the growth of your city. Technically speaking, you are still within the four square boundaries of South Dakota, but your relationship with the rest of us is changing.
Let me illustrate my theory by using the example of our sister state to the south. Nebraska has lots of farms and small towns, and many of the people who live in them think of such places as the “real” Nebraska. Their relationship with the “other” Nebraska, Omaha, is complicated. When their children grow up and want to wear suits to work instead of seed caps they are glad so many kinds of Big City careers are available in the O, yet the grandkids are only a day trip away. They are also, in a very real sense, as proud as the city’s residents that so many possibilities and amenities can be found so close to home.
At the same time, there is an uneasy “nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there” attitude in the wide open spaces beyond Dodge Street. Every step removed from the way things are done in a small town is seized upon and exaggerated; parallels are drawn to Sodom and Gomorrah. When a son decides to move there, mothers sigh and light a candle. If a daughter gets a job in the city fathers start forwarding them e-mails with subject lines of “Top Ten Tips for Surviving in a Godless Metropolis,” like always look through the peephole before you open your apartment door and never leave home without mace in your purse. They envy the city for its advantages and resent its successes. What galls most of all is that so many young people would rather visit and shop and live there than in the “real” Nebraska.
Okay, perhaps I’m exaggerating. A little. Besides, Sioux Falls and the rest of South Dakota aren’t quite to that stage in their relationship yet.
But if you step into my time machine …
Editor’s Note: This column is revised from the January/February 2011 issue of South Dakota Magazine. To order a copy or to subscribe, call (800) 456-5117.