I was reading the Chicago Times Sunday Supplement, scanning for upcoming events. I spotted an ad for a folk music club Jess and I went to on occasion for some acoustic music and obscure but talented singer-songwriters. There was a San Francisco based folk trio called The Stealth Movers appearing for a three night run in two weeks. The name caught my eye and I read the description of the group made up of singer/songwriter Hannah Morse, Russell Henderson, guitar, mandolin, and vocals, and Miguel (Mick) Espinoza on bass and vocals.
I reread it several times, wondering. No, no way. It can’t be him. I had heard through my attorney that he had left the city and moved back to Iowa but had heard nothing more for almost two years. Jess was down at the gallery catching up on a few things. I went to my laptop and did a search for The Stealth Movers and found their website along with several other sites of reviews and some uTube videos. I watched two of the videos and, yup, there he was, playing music with a very talented female singer and a tall Mexican man on bass. This Russell had long hair and tanned features, dressed in blue jeans and an untucked loose fit button shirt open at the neck with rolled up sleeves, and with some sort of choker necklace. He looked healthier than I could ever remembered him being. And he was good on both guitar and mandolin. My god, this is the anal retentive jerk I married . . . and divorced? Unbelievable. I was rewatching the videos again when Jess came in.
“Hey who’s that? They sound really good.”
I stammered, “You won’t fucking believe this. Fucking unbelievable. Just fucking unbelievable. Take a look.”
“My god. It’s him? What the hell? They’re really good. We have got to go see them. I’ll get tickets for the first night, maybe all three nights. This is crazy weird from all you ever told me about him. What happened to the geeky guy you divorced?”
I was speechless, feeling like I was in some sort of time warp. This man who was a complete Type A jerk was playing in a folk trio. Finally I said, “I have no idea. Absolutely no idea. He looks so different. He actually looks like he’s having fun. And look at his hair. This is all very strange.”
We got tickets for all three nights. I didn’t care, if we needed to, we could always give them away, but I needed to experience all that I could of whatever had happened to this guy.
The two weeks of waiting for night of the first show seemed to never come. I was beside myself with trying understand what had happened to him. Jess and I crowded into the dark club, the seating of which consisted of small tables that sat four. It was a small intimate venue that seated less than 150 people. Wine, beer, coffee, and munchies were available and Jess and I each ordered a glass of wine and sat back and waited. The place filled up and another couple joined us right at 7:30 when a voice came over the sound system announcing, The Stealth Movers. The three of them walked onto the stage and there he was, Russell Henderson, in the flesh, long hair, untucked shirt, khaki shorts, running shoes, tanned arms and legs and all.
They jumped into their first song. I immediately fell in love with the woman singer. Her voice was beautiful. The instrumentation was perfect and Russell was, I don’t know . . . interesting? I looked over the crowd and I spotted his sister Karen? What was she doing there? Maybe came in from Iowa to see them but she looked busy as she shuffled around and then disappeared behind the stage.
The first set flew by and I was already happy we had gotten tickets for the next nights. These folks were good. Most of their music was original with a few covers thrown in. The original tunes, I guessed, were written by the woman, Hanna. Her lyrics of love, loss, times and places struck a chord in me and I found myself choking up with emotion several times. We ordered another wine and waited for the next set.
Another long set and two encore songs, and, after they announced that their three CDs and T-shirts would be for sale in the lobby and they were done. We ordered another wine and waited for crowd to thin out. After things settled, we went towards the lobby and there was Karen sitting behind the merch table selling t-shirts and CDs as fast as she could.
“Hello, Karen,” I said as I stood in front of her. She was busy sorting cash and when she looked up, her mouth dropped open and her eyes about popped out.
She was finally able to stammer, “Oh-my-god, Dana. You came, you actually came to see these guys, to see Russell? Oh-my-god . . . never expected you to show up. Holy crap. Wait ’til Russell sees you. Oh-my-god.”
I smiled at her, “How are you Karen? It’s truly nice to see you. This is Jess.”
She looked over, smiled and offered her hand. Jess took it and smiled back, “Nice to meet you, Karen.”
I sort of blurted out, “What are you doing here with them? You’re married and have those two little boys, bigger now after a few years?”
“Oh Dana, so much has happened, so much. My husband left me right after you and Russell, well, after your divorce. I’m with Mick, the bass player, and am sort of the group manager: booking agent, website guru, T-shirt designer, and so on. I’ve never had so much fun in all my life as traveling around with those three crazies.”
“Crazies? With all due respect, Russell was one of the most uptight people I ever knew. Crazy wasn’t in his vocabulary.”
“I’ll let him explain. Here they come now.”
And there they were, Hannah and Russell, holding hands, and Mick. I thought Russell’s jaw was going to hit the floor and his eyes were going to pop out of their sockets.
“Holy shit, Dana. What are you doing here?”
“We came to hear some good music. You three are amazing. We have tickets for all three nights and plan on being here. Hi, Hannah, I love your voice and your music. All of you were great.”
She looked at me for a moment, smiled with a twinkle, “So you’re Dana? Nice to meet you,” offering her hand.
And then Mick said, “So you’re the ex. Cool. Good to see you. Thanks for coming.”
And I said, “And this is Jess, my partner.” Right then there was enough awkward to go around for the next few years. All six of us stood there for what seemed like an eternity when Russell finally broke the silence.
“Dana, it’s really great to see you. You look great. And, Jess, it’s nice to meet you. SInce we’re in town for the next few days, would you have lunch or something, Dana? I’d love to catch up with you and your life. How about tomorrow, it’s Saturday and hopefully you’re not working?” all said with a huge smile.
It was my turn for my jaw to drop. This did not seem to be the same sullen, self absorbed, non-caring man I was once married to. I glanced at Hannah who was smiling and nodding approval. I looked at Jess who gave me a ‘sure, go ahead’. I nodded and said, “How about 11:30 at Julio’s?’ trying not to sound as stunned as I felt, “It’ll be slow at noon on a Saturday. Will that work for?”
“Sounds great. I’ll see you then. Right now, all I want is to hit the sack.” He looked at Hannah and gave her a kiss on the cheek. She gave a coy smile and rolled her eyes.
We said our good-nights and parted. In the cab on our way home, Jess asked, “Are you okay? That was pretty weird from what you told me about him. Are you sure that’s the same guy?”
“Hard to believe, but it was certainly Russell Henderson. It was him but not the same guy I was married to. Not the same at all. Apparently he’s more than just a backup for this Hannah. Very interesting.” I lay awake a long time before my mind was quiet enough for sleep to finally come.
I got to Julio’s the next day about 11:45 and there he was waiting in a booth. He saw me and waved me over.