On the bus out of Minneapolis, I met a man who had been living in a homeless shelter for three weeks. His name was Ordell. Ordell may be a product of what is referred to as "Greyhound Therapy". Social service agencies in some cities find that it's easier to just ship people out of town than to deal with their problems. So, what you end up with are buses full of wandering transients who had their bus tickets purchased by someone else.
At least Ordell had a definite destination: "I'm going back to Omaha. My old lady and I had a fight and I thought there would be some work up here in Minneapolis. But, there wasn't anything. I lived in a homeless shelter for three weeks. There wasn't nothing but schizophrenics and bipolar people. It was crazy. I had to get out. So, I'm going back to Omaha and I'm gonna try and patch things up with my old lady. (Ordell is about the 20th person I've heard use the phrase "old lady" when referring to a wife or girlfriend.)"
Ordell's story is long and sordid. He has a grown daughter he rarely sees. His daughter's mother is a lesbian in a relationship with another woman. He did 12 1/2 years in the state pen in Michigan for what he describes to be false, trumped up sexual assault charges with a girlfriend who had really rich parents. He is from Detroit but says he had to get out of there because "it ain't nothin' but crackhead whores there now". When he was 47, he married a 63 year-old woman named Dorotha. They moved to Chicago, but only lived there for 4 days because "it ain't nothin' but crackhead whores there now". Dorotha and Ordell moved to Houston where she had family. But he says that her children were insane gang bangers and, after 4 years, he needed to get out.
I asked him why he was living in Omaha. "Do you have family there? That's a long way from Detroit." "Nah, man. Here's the story. Do you remember that tv show 'Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom'?" I said, "yeah, with Marlon Perkins?" "Yeah, that's the one. I loved the theme song from that show and always thought Omaha would be a cool place to live."
I think Ordell was hoping to find Zebras and Lions in Omaha. But, he found work housekeeping in the hospital there. That's where he met Carolyn. She's a nurse. One night, he was cleaning the hospital and they started a conversation only to learn that they shared the same exact birthday: March 6, 1959. That was much more than coincidence, Ordell believed, and they began a relationship.
It's not easy because Carolyn's children are a bit of a mess. She has one son in prison. At 16, he was involved in a drive by shooting. He will get out when he's 22, but he gets furloughed on the weekends and comes to the apartment where Carolyn and Ordell live. "That boy's out of his head. He brings all of his homeboys over and they're smoking weed. I told him he's stupid 'cause if they catch him doin' that stuff, he'll go away for a long time. They kicked in the door of the apartment one night. I don't want any part of that."
I didn't get to the heart of the argument that sent Ordell to Minneapolis, but he was ready to make things right with Carolyn. Part of her problem is that Ordell hasn't started official divorce proceedings with Dorotha. So, that was first on his list when he got back to Omaha. He also said he was going to try and get a driver's license and then hopefully find a job.
Ordell drifted off to sleep for a few hours until we stopped in Marshall, Minnesota. That's where we picked up Rachel. Rachel is 29 years old and the oldest of 9 children from near Fort Worth, Texas. She is a Pentecostal that said she didn't even own a pair of pants until just a few years ago. Her mother always insisted she wear skirts and dresses.
Rachel was getting out of a four year relationship with a guy named Tyson. She said he was a deadbeat. "In the four years we were together he worked maybe a total of two months." "What kind of work did he do?" I asked her. "My dad trained him on how to repair washing machines and other appliances. But, he's lazy. He spends every penny he has on video games and clothes."
Rachel finally had enough and left him. She went on a week long bender with tequila and hooked up with a co-worker before she got out of Marshall. "Did you feel bad about doing that?" I asked her. "Not really", she said.
She was married when she was 19 but has never had any children. Her first marriage ended when she caught her 30 year old husband writing love letters to her 17 year old sister.
Tyson, her boyfriend in Marshall, impregnated another woman while he was with Rachel. But, she stuck with him and helped raise the baby. The last straw was when she caught him cheating again.
Rachel has 9 tattoos. She got them all in the course of a week's time. Her mother flipped out but Rachel didn't care. Ordell asked her, "what's the most provocative place you have a tattoo?". "Well, I've got one on my stomach that's a butterfly. The body of the butterfly is a penis", she told him. Ordell was very interested in this. He continued to ask her questions that made Rachel and me uncomfortable. "Have you ever been with a woman?" "If your boyfriend wanted you to be a stripper, would you do it?" "You have a very sexy voice. Have you ever considered being a phone sex operator?" Rachel tired of Ordell's shenanigans before too long and started to feign sleep.
He woke her up and asked, "Hey, have you ever been on the Jerry Springer show? You look like this girl I saw on there one time." Then he started chanting, "Go to the pole. Go to the pole". Rachel just leaned her head against the window and dreamt of greener pastures in Texas.
Rachel, Mike, Ordell
Rachel and Ordell