And so I gave Matt and Dan a call at around 9:30 last night and asked them if they wanted to go to Westroads, which of course they did. This is, fundamentally, what we do, who we are.
"How could this happen in Omaha" "You would never think it could happen here" variations of this, over and over again. It's still shocking, the number of people who truly believe that the place they happen to live is special. All you have to do is sleep with the homeless, or drink with the conquered, or smoke crack with the guy who invited himself to the party, and you will know that your comfortable home is built on a moldering foundation. Detroit, Compton, and Khartoum are all here in Nebraska for anyone who cares to look.
Coming off of I-680 it was easy to see why The Boy from Sarpy County had picked the Von Maur at Westroads. It stands like a Temple when you first come onto West Dodge, giving the illusion of a fortress hub among the haphazardly placed box stores and parking lots. Now this temple has been defiled, desanctified. they can leave the Christmas lights glowing through whatever hell or hazard may befall them but they can never get the blood out. And it was This Boy, this high school dropout, with his absurd phony Omaha scene-kid look; This Boy who had no hope of ever getting more han five miles away from home, for whom the faux-aura of a Van Maur he would never shop in was very real, who performed the defilement, killed the aura, killed the it can't happen here; whether Hawkins was trying to make any sort of "statement" or not, he was surely at least dimly aware of this, and found some satisfaction.
We had been in a Von Maur before, the one in the south suburbs of Lincoln. It was a purgatory; cardinal directions written in a pseudo-classical style over all of the doors, the chess board sitting there for anyone to play. The pianist, in her smart moderately upscale Von Maur black dress, conversations even a few feet away reduced to a background hum by the instrument, playing something vaguely classical or light-jazzish.
The New York Times says that the pianist in Omaha kept playing throughout the massacre, perhaps this is just a rumor, but I hope it's true, it would be her duty, the only appropriate thing to do.
We eventually found our way to the loop that goes around the mall and found crime scene tape around the entire parking lot with police guarding every driveway. this was to be expected. We stood behind the news vans in a strip mall parking lot while the police glared at us.
"I knew I probably wouldn't see any dead bodies but..."
"Were you hoping they would just be stacked in front of the front door?"
"Like so much cord wood."
Von Maur looked just as imposing from the east side; holiday lights in a tasteful solid white pattern surrounding the overhang.
There was talk of cruising through North Omaha or going to the casinos in Council Bluffs but it was a weeknight and cold. So we made our way back towards the interstate on 72nd. I had heard that Hawkins had worked at the MacDonald's at either 36th and Hwy. 370 or 84th and Hwy. 370, and since we were heading back to Lincoln anyways.
Even those of us who know Omaha can still be amazed by how worm-eaten it is, the amount of space needlessly occupied, 72nd street is marked by large weedfields and empty industrial buildings and shady gas stations that fill up the space until the appropriate amount of space between one Wal-Mart and the other, about three or four miles, has been taken up.
Matt took us to his childhood home in LaVista, a most unsuburban suburb, just one of a handful of independent entities in this part of the metro meant to distinguish middle-class whites from South O.
We were nervous when we got to the 84th and 370 MacDonalds. I was starting to feel vestigial pangs of decency, and if we angered them, we might not get our food, so it was Dan who asked if Robbie Hawkins had worked here.
"Honey please, you know that motherfucker's dead."
He worked at the place on 36th, as it turns out.
It didn't matter. We already knew that this trip was just another failed attempt to break out of the self, Nothing to do now but turn the car towards Lincoln, light another joint, and ponder the obvious racial inferiority of Iowans.