No thing can compare
Not who, what or where
No direction given
No dreams, not driven
Walking without wonder
Standing, watching, waiting. Not waiting.
Taking in, all that was on that street.
This was completely different from the walking I’d been so very happy doing that day of true hitchhiking not so long ago. Just six months ago in August of 1978. I was so very happy to have been walking away from “The Great Mr. George Heaton”. So very happy to be walking towards a dream of excitement and adventure with “The Cool Fred Berdine”. I had walked and walked on that open road. Feeling completely free.
This was completely different.
I wasn’t afraid (like I had been of George) and I wasn’t walking away from something ugly (as I’d done from that strip club in Kansas). As I walked these Omaha streets I felt nothing. I was once again quietly observing. Only now, I had put on more than a mask. I had the full costume. I was a big hairy dark man, in a big, dark, hooded coat. A dark specter, walking through the dark streets. Quietly observing the night “life”.
What I saw didn’t look very alive though. I saw more and more toxic lifestyles, appearing to me to be leading toxic non-life-like lives.
I went downtown where only a few months ago, Fred had taken me and Maria to the strip clubs. Where Candy had told me I could have her for a hundred and seven dollars.
That had been in the early evening though. It was now very late at night. There was almost no one around. Or… no one who wasn’t part of this night non-life. I guess I was automatically seen as part of it because no one responded to me. No one seemed to even see me.
I guess my big, hairy, dark specter costume was working the way I needed it to.
My costume worked the way I needed it to so well, I found myself walking downtown almost every night. I became a creature of this part of Omaha’s night non-life. I slept during the day in my dingy little dungeon of a room and walked nearly all night. I don’t remember which streets I walked on. Sometimes, I walked in other directions for a while but I always ended up downtown. I never went into any clubs. They were usually closed anyway, since I did my downtown walking very very late.
Each night I walked passed various scenes of the city at night. Scenes of empty streets and buildings. Dark office buildings and closed shops. Random dark figures like me. We avoided each other. Everyone walking those streets avoided each other in that city at night. The dark city that for me… walking… had now become just one long, dark night.
I clearly remember walking passed some alley and seeing at least a dozen men sitting with their backs against the brick wall of an old, abandoned building. Or perhaps it was just a closed old shop of some kind. The men were sitting there, on the filthy pavement. They had needles in their arms and they were all looking up. Looking up, up and away from their dark non-lives.
There was only one place I went during those walks in which I’d actually go inside. It was an all night diner and although I had no money, the staff there didn’t seem to mind me going in and sitting down. Again, my costume was making me just another part of the scene.
This scene was interesting to me because it seemed to be where all the hookers had their breakfast. I would sit at a table near the door and watch. I was far enough away so even when some man came in to talk with one of them (perhaps her pimp) I was left completely alone. As far as I could tell, I was not noticed.
But what I noticed here, was not “non-life”. These women were very much alive. They were alive and living vibrant lives. Their lives may have also been caught in a toxic life style but what I saw were women who did not behave as if that were so. Perhaps they were in survival mode. Perhaps they had found masks that worked for them in this toxic environment, and perhaps this diner was a place of distraction that also worked for them.
One night as I walked “home”. Back towards my dingy little basement dungeon of a room. It was early. Just before midnight. I was beginning to feel like my walks were not all that useful anymore. So on this night, after once again watching those women in the diner the night before, I found myself not going downtown at all. I was looking for something else.
It came to me as the muffled sounds of laughter and music. A large crowd of people singing and laughing together. So out of place in the dark city streets I’d been walking.
Oh yes… I had to follow this sound.
And what I found, was very much alive.
To be continued…