Somewhere in middle America
Get right to the heart of matters
It’s the heart that matters more
I think you’d better turn your ticket in
And get your money back at the door
—— Adam Duritz
I’ve been looking at Google maps and Wikipedia entries. Trying to find the house we moved into once we got to Omaha.
My memory is a bit scattered but I’m pretty sure it was around North 30th and Cuming. I see Izard Street and that sounds really close to (if not exactly) the street our house was on. But I look at the street view now (isn’t this technology great?) and it seems way different than I remember so… I can’t be sure.
Granted, it’s been forty years. Many of the houses that were there in midtown at the time, may very well have disappeared and/or been replaced or changed dramatically by now. Probably have.
Omaha would be the last stop on this particular road for me. The city where my naive, nineteen-year-old good-boy self, would be changed forever. Not by any one event. There was no single “Ah HA!” moment of self-awareness or clarity. No. Omaha simply added frequency, variety and intensity to my experience. My “Ah HA!” was more of an “Ahhhh… so this is what it might look like” to my growing sense of how life could be for me should I keep walking in this direction.
Omaha turned me around.
A lot happened between my arrival sometime near the end of September of 1978, and my return to the von Ahsen family home north of Rochester, Minnesota that following spring.
I left Fred, Maria and the kids and got my own dingy little basement dungeon of a room, got evicted, slept on couches and walked the streets at night. I also made some new friends… with a small gang of street urchins, an off duty cop (briefly) and my new “best” friend “Crazy Allen”.
Within that short period of time, I was hired as a scab for a large, Omaha-based industrial roofing company, got chased off the roof of a building at the Kansas State Mental Hospital by union thugs with clubs, laid up with frostbite, blown away by angel dust, survived on SOS (“shit on a shingle”) and Salvation Army donated food, became a seemingly invisible kind of downtown street creature and paid for the couch I was sleeping on by bringing home food I stole from the small, family-owned Italian restaurant where I worked as a prep cook.
I encountered the fun, party crowd of the Rocky Horror Picture Show, the dangerous Hell’s Angels next door to Fred, Maria and the kids’s new place, the scary, crushing crowd at an Alice Cooper concert, hookers, strippers, pimps, junkies, a spoiled, rich white kid from the suburbs… and a racist dog.
To my credit, I assisted Maria in ridding herself of that parasite of a predatory scammer (you know… Fred), saved a young woman who’d passed out at the Alice Cooper concert, helped facilitate the gang of street urchins to enjoy being just kids again (even if it was for just one sweet moment) and by example, encouraged “Crazy Allen” to see what it looked like to be a person who did NOT want to “do those crimes”.
Even if that never stuck.
These adventures, encounters, ordeals… they changed me. My adult self would like to think they affirmed me, and possibly even facilitated some of my growth towards who and what I am today.
Perhaps you (my dear reader) will see them differently. Perhaps not. At the very least, these experiences brought some awareness to my naive, nineteen-year-old, midwestern, good boy self. Awareness of a world I would have never known otherwise. A world I’d been sheltered from. That had been there since forever. I was new blood in this old world and I was finally coming of age. My initiation was well under way.
Either way, it’s now time to get back to the story. Let’s see now…
That blood stain in the middle of the living room floor.