Recently, Yahoo named the neighborhood of Benson – our little corner of Omaha – as one of the top ten emerging hipster neighborhoods in the nation. I think they call this “clickbait” and yes, I often fall for it. I am always interested in the metrics of such lists. Is the ranking based on some random count of hipsters per square mile, the ratio of coffee bars to vintage boutiques; overheard words of witty banter; or the amount of irony measured in air, soil or water? And there’s the tantalizing implication of “emerging hipsters” popping up like prairie dogs. A collective noun for prairie dogs, by the way, is “Coterie”. It kind of works for hipsters too. A Coterie of Hipsters. However, all Yahoo will cop to is that they “rounded up” these ten neighborhoods. Draw your own conclusions. I’m happy with the list.
When I moved to Nebraska in the early 1970’s, I fell in love with Benson. It wasn’t hip then. In fact it was pretty much the opposite of hip; more like a little time capsule of the 50’s — a neighborhood full of shops, the kind that got wiped out by Walmarts and KMarts and Home Depots; and the random bars and lodges and Lutheran churches. Pancoast Department Store, Haney Shoes, Ace Hardware, Benson Bakery, Jewel Box, the mysterious Metropolitan Home Building Association, the Faucet Shop, the International Order of Odd Fellows, Sprague’s Pharmacy. With its tree lined streets, heaving sidewalks, and homes dating back to the early 1900’s, I loved the contrast to the raw new suburban developments of California. There was history here. It hadn’t been invented just yesterday.
We’ve lived on the edge of Benson for more than 35 years now. Roots are down. Sometimes we feel like the oldest hipsters on the block. In fact recently, a bartender who regularly served us at Mick’s, several years back, saw us at a new venue and said “I don’t remember your name but you are “Jameson on the rocks” and he (Tim) is “Guinness Stout”. And she was right.
So the hipster neighborhood story reminded me of something I wrote about a bar in Benson and the friends we have come to love here. It unfolded on a wintry night in the year 2001, at the World Famous Frank’ s Musette.