((The Omaha Gambit) (November 1967))

“Come on,” said Jerry Hino, it was morning and we needed to get an apartment, there was a light layer of snow on the ground, it was November 1967 and this was my second big trip. The anxiety and dilemma of the night we drove through Milwaukee had passed, we had driven from Minnesota, to Milwaukee, to Madison, Wisconsin, and here we were in Omaha, Nebraska. In Milwaukee we almost got shot. Anyway, we had left Milwaukee for Omaha.

I was a bit disappointed with the city; It didn’t look like much, I spotted Dodge Street right away, and we walked back and forth looking for an apartment. Jerry was on the run from his girlfriend Nancy from him, and I was on an adventure of my own, my second one to be exact.

I looked at the huddled assemblage of rough-housing buildings, duplexes, and grocery stores on the corners, scattered around what I called Upper Dodge Street, and a branch here and there (Dodge was the main branch of the tree).

On my adventure in Seattle, I ended up with Jeff’s wife coming over, and here again I have a friend who had left a lovesick woman, for affairs, and hoped she wouldn’t show up on the scene, and until now. right. Anyway, we found a Rathole of an apartment right off of Dodge Street, and the duplex was right next to each other, so our neighbors were closer than the white of rice. I didn’t really have a plan ‘B’ here if things didn’t work out, I just hoped they would between me and Jerry, and apparently they did. He, like me, liked us to drink, and maybe he was a little overweight, since he was about my height, five feet eight inches wide and two hundred and forty pounds, I was kidding, he was very overweight.

The duplex was gray, and I guess it was built in the ’80s, and it was like I said, 1967, I mean 1880. We paid two weeks rent, that was all we could afford at the moment, it cost us $65 dollars, and that was a highway robbery if you ask me i mean it was raw and meager lodging. Surely he was not unknown to me at the time, during those years anyway.

Jerry seemed to speak for both of us, and being the older one, I didn’t take that as an insult, I often listened intently during those drinking days, we had our stories to tell, and we told them, and we laughed half the night. We must have gotten drunk every night we were in Omaha. And in the middle I looked for a job, Jerry didn’t do it, he slept all day, while I looked; I think that was one of the reasons he and Nancy fell out; He could be wrong. Anyway, I went to the Omaha State Employment Office and they asked me where I had come from and why I was there trying to take jobs away from the good people of Omaha who needed more work than I did. he replied that, “I didn’t realize he was stepping on forbidden ground”, he didn’t like my comments and he told me to go back the way I came and stop taking jobs from other good people. I know what I wanted to tell him, but I just shook my head and left the vulture with his cornfields.

I found a job across the bridge in Iowa, I felt like good people there, working for Howard Johnson, as a dishwasher. It paid well, the work wasn’t hard, and I got a great discount on the food, and they usually gave me an extra portion, and I’d bring it to Jerry, I think they thought I’d be late. late night dinner, but dinner for me was beer, not food.

Well a few weeks went by and Jerry sent his mom a letter, telling her how he was, he wasn’t sure why he did it at first, I mean, I never did, I didn’t feel the need to, we’d just been through a few weeks, not months or years. Anyway, our address was on it, this now took the secret out of where we were and of course Nancy got hold of the address, unsurprisingly. It was inevitable now, she would one day show up at our doors, but of course I didn’t know all of this at the time. But it didn’t take long, and yes, she was there one night when I got back from work, and again I was flummoxed, but not as much as when Jeff’s wife showed up out of nowhere wanting to come with us. to Seattle. I thought at the time: what’s wrong with these guys? They don’t have any problem staying away from their goats, the ones they’re on the run from, the ones they can’t live with or deal with? I also had old girlfriends, and I was glad to get away from them, and the further away the better, and the longer the better. In fact, I never went back to one I left, or anyone who left me, so once the bond is broken, it’s broken, as my mother used to say: get off the bus and find another one.

Maybe I was his shadow for the next two weeks; I think we spent anywhere from a month to six weeks in that Rathole. I went alone, visited the museum, which had many Indian artifacts, and we all got drunk at night, as usual.

But to make this story more interesting and flesh out the plot a little bit, but not much, because it’s really the end of the story, we just went back to Minnesota, I lived with them for six weeks, they asked me to leave afterward. that, ever since they had kids, and I was sleeping on the couch, and you know, that gets old. Anyway, I remember the Jewish Store, down the block in our Omaha neighborhood. I spent some time down there, talking to the old red-haired Jew. Gold teeth, not in bad shape for a fifty year old, she had very nice curves and I, of course, matured at nineteen. Her place was also a Rathole, but I guess she was going with the neighborhood. The store had high ceilings, you could see the wooden beams, and there was humidity in the place, disorder, and everything looked old, cans with rust. Maybe she was a drug dealer and this was her forehead, but she couldn’t have imagined it at the time. I liked him, and he allowed me to go in and out and not buy anything, and hang around.

5-17-2008

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