The Death Of A Blue Monday Listener

During Blue Monday, June 30, 1986 a woman called me and we talked for a long time. She was from Dallas and was staying at the Ramada Inn at the intersection of Interstate 35 and Riverside Drive. She was in Austin for a few days to talk with some friends of her son, William Mark Dennison, before leaving the country for an extended time. William, 33, had died May 12 while riding his motorcycle on IH-35 near the intersection of Riverside Drive. That was why she had chosen that particular location to stay in Austin. It was her way to say goodbye to her son, and perhaps to understand his death a little better. She had asked his friends why he was out riding his motorcycle at nearly midnight that night. They had told her that he really loved a radio program called Blue Monday and every Monday night he would ride away on his motorcycle at about eight o'clock with the show blasting out of the powerful stereo system he had on the bike. He would ride out along the twisting FM 2222 that winds through the hill country west of Austin, and ride around the lakes in that area and be gone until around midnight. His friends told his mother that he always did that on Monday nights, and on one of those Blue Monday nights he had been riding south on IH-35 when a wheel broke loose from a boat trailor in front of him and rolled into his lane. He hit the runaway wheel and was thrown from his bike. Another car hit him and he was dead on the scene. The motorist driving the Cadillac pulling the trailor stopped, unhooked the boat and sped off. He was never caught.

The mother of the victim felt like talking to me since her son had loved the program so much that he went out of his way to listen to it in the most exhilerating way available to him. She had tuned in Blue Monday and listened for a while before she called. She was not being blameful when she told me her story. In fact, she said she had wanted to talk with me mainly because I had given her son so much pleasure with the program. She was still distressed because the hit and run driver had not been found, but seemed to have found some peace as a result of talking to me.

My peace was shattered, though. At midnight I went across the street to the Hole In The Wall, where Tom Shaka was singing the blues, and drank far more Johnny Walker Black than was good for me. Carolyn Caffrey was the waitress, and she knew I was troubled. I usually have a couple of Coronas a night, and hardly ever drink hard liquor, so the scotch was a clear tipoff to a concientious bar maid. I told her the story I'd just heard, and she understood why I was drinking scotch. She kept an eye on me in the short time I was there and made sure I was ready to tackle the journey home when I left. I told Carolyn that I would be careful and go straight home, which I did.