Fred needed to discredit the idea of staying in Norfolk, and he had to nip the trust I was developing for my new boss in the bud. And nip it quick.
I’m really lucky Fred talked me into leaving that job in Norfolk.
Yea… thats what I said. Of course Fred had no idea that he might have been saving my life when he did whatever it was he did. I don’t even remember what it was. All I CAN remember is that Saturday, I lost my wallet (yes, Fred stole it) and he talked me down from my frantic tizzy. Then sometime the following week we all rolled into Omaha. Simple as that. Fred certainly did something.
What I know Fred didn’t do, was to warn me that the new job my boss had just put me on after we’d finished the shopping mall floor tile job, was badly exposing me to asbestos in a very dangerous way. Of course it’s unlikely Fred (or my boss) could have known of the danger. Asbestos had only recently been classified as a dangerous air pollutant by the EPA and in 1978, it was still being produced for industrial use. Including the spray-on insulation I was handling.
Our company was installing a new suspended ceiling in an old auto shop. The ceiling of the shop was very high and we had to be up on ladders and scaffolding the whole time we worked. The entire thing was coated with crumbly old, spray-on asbestos insulation and we had to scrape off all the areas where we would be hanging the ceiling tile hanger wires and securing the wall molding.
I clearly remember standing up on the scaffolding with my arms above my head for hours. High up in there in the upper reaches of that hot, HOT auto shop. Scraping away big clumps of the grimy old insulation. My hair and shoulders being covered by small chunks and dust from all that… asbestos.
Yep, that nasty carcinogenic stuff was all over me. Another thing I don’t remember is ever wearing a mask while doing that job.
I’m sure that Fred would have loved to know of the danger my boss was exposing me and his other workers to, so he could better convince me to leave. But I guess he didn’t have to. Like I said, whatever it was, whatever he said or did… it worked.
Somehow, Fred convinced me that I would be better off in Omaha with him and Maria and the kids. It’s possible he simply said that we were going, and I had to choose right away. That my connection with him (wavering as it may have started to be) was at the very least enough for me to follow. I can’t be sure. The total freedom I’d felt just three weeks before, on the road to Norfolk from Enid was still there in a way. Perhaps I saw my decision to stay with Fred as part of that freedom.
Perhaps Fred had played into my desire for excitement. He may have just started in with stories of the exciting cities he’d lived in. I’d been to some pretty exciting places too. After all, it had only been two years since my grand European tour as part of America’s Youth in Concert. But I’d never stayed long in any of the few places I’d been to so far. The idea of moving to the “big city” (heh… in 1978 Omaha had a population of about 300,000) and living there, was pretty enticing.
The travel bug still had me.
Sure… and Fred still had me too. He was now the one who had the money (that he’d just stolen from me!) and (irony upon ironies) he’d just given me some. No doubt he convinced me that getting my ID replaced would somehow be easier in Omaha and I KNOW he told me that it would be easier to get jobs there. For him anyway. He may have been able to make it seem to be about me when he needed to, but of course it was always about Fred.
Still… rock band or no rock band, I trusted Fred. Despite the freedom I felt on the road, I also valued the company of this man who I saw as a friend. He had welcomed me into “his” apartment after my brief ordeal with the crazy guy with the gun, and had just reassured me that I was not alone after “loosing” all my money and my ID. He had welcomed me into this little family he’d acquired with Maria and the kids.
It could also be that I was beginning to feel some kind of bond with Maria. That she and I had something in common. Fred had us both after all, I guess. It could also be that Maria had given me some indication that she wanted me to join them. I never heard any conversation about that between them. Even in the pretty close quarters we had in the Norfolk apartment. But that certainly changed once we got to Omaha.
A BUNCH of things changed when we got there. They changed quickly too. My relationship with these people, my feeliings of freedom and adventure, my job situation and how I saw myself in the world in general.
One might call them adventures or one might call them ordeals. Wild rides or scary slides… Omaha was a whole new place for this naive nineteen-year-old good boy from Rochester, Minnesota.
To be, and perhaps…