After weeks of photo editing, writing text, demo books and publisher-hunting, the final product has hit the presses – my coffee table book, A Young Man Goes West, is finally out!

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Reading news makes the exercise a bit more objective, especially with the range of sources I use. The personality at the other end comes through much less, and the human connection is mostly gone. But it’s safe to say most news-watchers don’t have the same experience. A generation or two ago, journalists like Cronkite, Koppel, Russert and Murrow were some of the most revered figures in America. Today, Limbaugh, Beck, Hannity, Olbermann, Maddow, Stewart and Colbert probably reach more people than Couric, Williams, Gibson and the CNN army.

The plastic ball spins and tumbles inside the cage as someone turns the wheel until a slot pops and it rolls out. On it is a number which someone speaks into a microphone and far away in the packed hall a family jumps and screams, someone grabs a kid and tears flow. For that kid, the American Dream is still alive.

For a few years now, my life had been committed and planned, every weekday subject to a schedule, every trail previously blazed. Nurturing resumes and meeting expectations doesn’t leave much room for really losing yourself and finding your way back. When the opportunity came to take a big fat break from all that, I took it.

It was beautiful – tall, at least 20 stories I thought but it looked taller because there was nothing around it, but also big and regal – it looked like the Venetian Casino tower in Las Vegas, except this was Detroit. It was broad, at least a couple hundred feet wide and a good bit deep too. A double-floor appeared at the top, a hallmark of the original skyscrapers built in Chicago and St. Louis, housing their pumps and elevator machinery and such. I had no idea what it was, but I was drawn in and I drove closer to it.

We stood in the hot Chicago sun on a muggy Saturday in mid-August, scanning the horizon for any of the six F/A-18s lighting up the sky that afternoon. The Blue Angels were in town, the stars of the Chicago Air and Water Show.

Here was Omaha growing up, turning hip and cosmopolitan and urban, maintaining its underappreciated ethnic diversity, turning away from its endless sprawl to the west and finding its youthful pulse.