Sunday, August 11, 2013
The Adventures of Rick O'Shea, pt. III - Shannon
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 at the front of the room 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, the other two were for sale and you never knew who might join you.
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. Dan and I glanced at each other with that "oh boy" look.
Shannon turned out to be good company for the evening so I asked her to go out with me later that week and she accepted. (BTW, before the evening was over, John Lee had some of the women in attendance dancing on the tables and throwing their underwear on the stage. Just thought you would like to know that.)
When the big day arrived I was at Shannon's 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 to the time I took her home 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, that she needed the break, 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 in New Mexico.
I thought to myself, "Good grief! A wacko!" and nearly took her home on the spot, but the little head, Mr. Happy, had other ideas and drove me on to the restaurant in spite of the big head saying, "You idiot. Have you lost your mind?"
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, so now I'm dealing with a wacko with a James Bond Syndrome. She barely touched her food.
After dinner, I did take her home. Enough is enough. But 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?" Again, 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 was much more relaxed and told me the whole 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 incident and the way the power company and the government blew the whole thing off as a "minor incident" and that no one need worry as the area was perfectly safe. 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 and today, incidents of cancer in the area are through the roof.
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 the specific location.
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.
Certainly, this story was as incredible as a James Bond tale, but it was also 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.