Saturday, May 22, 2010

A Willowy Blonde and Three Mile Island

The Adventures of Rick O'Shea, part III

Dear readers.  I know the length of these yarns is pushing blogger etiquette but I really don't know any other way to tell them.  I hope you will bear with me but, most of all, I hope you enjoy them.

I first met Rick at a small nightspot in an older, somewhat run down area of town.  It was called AppleJacks, and it hosted some the best musical experiences of my lifetime.  To name a few:  The Howling Wolf, Doc Watson, Mose Allison, JJ Cale, Taj Mahal, John Lee Hooker, Buddy Guy, Herbie Mann, Robert Cray, Johnny Winter... 'nuff said.

It was a place that, when it wasn't hosting the above-mentioned and others I can't bring to mind, in everyday life was a pizza parlor with a couple of pool tables in the back.  The small stage was crowded by a few cafe tables and a row of booths.  It was in one of those booths that this story unfolds...

I couldn't believe it.  I was going to see the great John Lee Hooker up close and personal.  I had gotten reservations in one of the booths for myself and my brother Dan, also an avid blues fan.  We got there early so we could station ourselves on the best side of the booth and get a pizza to boot.  The booths were treated as four seats by management so if you had two seats, you never knew who might get the other two.

We couldn't believe our luck as showtime finally drew close and no one else showed up.  We had the booth to ourselves!  John Lee had just taken the stage and was going through the pre-performance routine of clearing his throat, adjusting the mics, and getting himself comfortable on his stool, when this willowy blonde, a dead ringer for Ricki Lee Jones, came up to us and announced, "Howdy boys, I'm Shannon, looks like I'll be sharing the booth with you tonight" and flopped herself down.

She turned out to be good company for the evening so I asked her to dine with me later that week and she agreed.  (BTW, before the evening was over, John Lee had the women dancing on the tables and taking off their underwear.  Just thought you might like to know that.)

When the big day arrived I was at her house right on time and looking forward to a fine evening of dinner and a movie, but even more, to a fine new relationship.

From the time I greeted her at the door she was totally distracted.  Chain smoking cigarettes.  Uninvolved conversation.  Finally, I asked her if she was alright and if she would rather go back home.  She said that she didn't want to go home and that she was really looking forward to the evening and then, reluctantly, she told me that earlier that day she had gotten word that someone had tried to kill her brother and did, in fact, kill her brother-in-law by running them off of a mountain road.

I thought, "Holy Crap!  Not another wacko!" and nearly took her home anyway.  But the little head, Mr. Happy, had other ideas and drove me on to the restaurant in spite of the big head saying, "This is a mistake."

To make matters worse, she wasn't forthcoming with any other information about the situation over dinner except to say that, essentially, it was top secret and she couldn't tell anyone.  Okay, now I'm dealing with a wacko with James Bond Syndrome.

After dinner, I did take her home.  Enough is enough.  When we pulled up in front of her house, she placed her hand on mine and said, "Thank you.  I'm sorry.  I really would like to see you again.  Do you mind if I call you in a week or two after I've had time to get over this?"

The big head thought, "No way, Jose."  but Mr. Happy immediately chimed in, "Sure.  Looking forward to it."

Two weeks later she called.  Again, we went to dinner followed by a visit to AppleJacks to catch some music.  This time however, she told me the story.

It seems her brother was a technician at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant during the meltdown.  Those of you who were around then might remember the power company and the government blowing the whole thing off as a "minor accident."  In fact, it was a full-blown meltdown and only the grace of God prevented the thing from totally breaching containment.  Radiation did, in fact, breach all of the filters and spill into the surrounding air and water even though it was denied by both the power company and the government at the time.

Her brother knew this, saw the cover-up, and blew the whistle on it in spite of pressure to keep quiet.  In the days following, he and his family got several threatening phone calls and finally, when he wouldn't shut up, one night a cross was burned in their yard and bullets fired into their home.  Afraid for the safety of his family, he packed them all up and fled to New Mexico where they had lived for the past ten years in the mountains about 50 miles outside of Taos.  No one except immediate family knew of their whereabouts, and none of them specifically.

After ten years off of the grid, they felt it was safe to see family and so the visit by his older sister and brother-in-law.  One night, while returning from shopping, their truck was forced off of the road by a hit-and-run driver, the accident killing his brother-in-law.

This story was as incredible as a James Bond tale, but it was certainly plausible and she told it with sincere conviction.

Over the next several months we became good friends, even lovers, when one day she announced that she was moving to England where she had gotten a job as a computer programmer.  And then... she was gone.


  1. Mr. C, I've paid to read stories that weren't this entertaining. I'm deeply grateful that you're sharing them with us for free.

  2. Thank you Intelli. That makes me feel so good.

  3. Thanks for the good story, Mr. C. Life is strange, ain't it?

  4. Sometimes I have to wonder if you are for real.

    No offense meant, I just find your life a bit incredible. If you are for real, you are a very interesting person who lives a very interesting life.

  5. Damn... thanks Punch I was beginning to wonder.

  6. Seeing John Lee Hooker in that setting would be freakin' awesome just all by it's self! I agree with everyone else, you've led and exceptional life Mr. Charleston. One that most would look back on with a sense of deep satisfaction.

  7. Heidi... it doesn't seem so exceptional to me. Basically all I did was hang out. Which probably accounts for why I ain't rich, except in memnories. But I can't tell you how happy it makes to share them with people who appreciate them. Thank you.

  8. I know the length of these yarns is pushing blogger etiquette but I really don't know any other way to tell them.

    This was a fantastic story and as far as length is concerned you have nothing to worry about. Mine on the hand do break all rules about being too long.

  9. Man, I love the blues, you were lucky to get to see those guys. I guess "Mr. Happy" turned out to be right.

  10. Beach Bum... Thanks for stopping by. I'm coming over to your place as soon as I can.

    Tex... You're absolutely right about my luck with music. It's been one of the greatest blessings of my life. One of the few times Mr. Happy was right.

  11. Punch, I have told you repeatedly, DO NOT TELL HIM HE IS REAL. Real or not, I have to admit I love this story. I do find it difficult to fathom why such a wild and apparent free spirit would take a job as a computer programmer. Strange. I think you were had bro.


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