Omaha Motivations #3

My adult self can’t help but feel that I’m very lucky Fred talked me into leaving my job in Norfolk that weekend. 

Yea… that’s what I said.

Fred had no idea… but he might have been saving my life. When he said whatever it was he said after putting that money in my hand (I don’t even remember what it was he said) after I lost my wallet, after he talked me down from my frantic tizzy and joined me in that other dimension. In that other dimension where I stayed while we all rolled into Omaha sometime that following week. 

Fred certainly had said something.

What I know Fred didn’t say, was how the new work site 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, I remember my hair and shoulders getting covered by small chunks and dust from all that… asbestos.

Yep, that nasty carcinogenic stuff was all over me. Something 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 he said… I don’t remember.

But 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 they 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 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.

That desire to be “anywhere but here” was back in force. The mode to move that got me on this road in the first place. It had had me all along.

Fred still had me too. The promise of a rock n roll fantasy (I’m pretty sure he didn’t try and bring that one up again) was no longer enough. The promise of money and stability the Norfolk job had got me was now gone, so that no longer held me. Now Fred was the one who had the money (that he’d just stolen from me!) and (irony upon ironies) he’d just given me some.

Somehow Fred convinced me that getting my ID replaced would be easier in Omaha. He also told me that it would be easier to get jobs there, for him anyway. Fred may have been able to make it seem to be about me when he needed to, but of course it was always about him.

My cool friend Fred.

Rock band or no rock band, I trusted him. Despite the freedom I felt on the road, I also valued the company of this man who I saw as a friend. I honestly liked him.

Fred 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.

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 feelings 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…

To become.