A serial memoir by Jean Fogelberg


After Cafe Romana closed I started looking around for a new gig. My first thought was the Eldorado lounge, where Dan and I had gone so often after packing up my gear at the cafe. I’d been there often enough to know that the age of the average customer was between 40 and 65. These were my people; my song menus were full of their music. I called the hotel and was put through to a manager. She said I could come in and audition for her on Monday night, when the hotel was quiet and there was no scheduled entertainment.
    Auditions are torture. I was lucky: in my twenty-five years in music, I probably only did six, and two of them were with bands. When I was performing solo, usually a club owner would see me playing elsewhere then offer me a job. Band auditions weren’t too awful - there was strength in numbers. If I’d done more of them, I probably would have been better at it.


    I’d spend an hour lugging in my guitar, amp, speakers, speaker stands, synthesizer, and the sturdy gym bag that held my microphone, cords, pedals, and smaller components. The amp weighed 50 pounds. My speakers weren’t huge, as speakers go, but they weighed 60 pounds each, so carrying them in and getting them up on the four-foot steel stands took some effort. I had a guitar synthesizer that transformed the sound from the strings into trumpets, violins, cellos, and even human voices. I also had a drum machine, which I’d programmed hundreds of beats into. Everything had to be unpacked and plugged in.
    After all that labor, I had just a few songs in which to prove myself while one or more managers stared silently and inscrutably at me. Just before starting a song, all the blood in my body would race to my freaked-out heart and internal organs, leaving my hands cold and stiff. Rubbing them together, I would start sweating and then my mouth would go dry. I usually relaxed once I got started, but if I was still nervous after starting a song that had fast finger picking or high notes, I’d find myself considering a clumsy segue into “Kumbaya” in C. It’s a wonder I made it through a single audition.

    The Eldorado lounge is a big room - you could fit nine Cafe Romana’s in it and stack them three high. Once I was finished setting up, I put my song menus on all the tables and I was ready to play. Since I didn’t know the manager by sight, I’d just keep playing until she approached me. Hopefully, by the time she came in I’d have my settings dialed in for the big room and some drinking customers.
     An hour later I had a nice crowd built up. They were buying drinks, requesting songs from the menus, applauding and tipping. I was relaxed and in good voice. I ended up playing four full, 45-minute sets to an appreciative audience. I thanked them and said goodnight, then I started to pack up my equipment, expecting the manager to approach me. Instead, the twenty-something bartender came up to me as I was wrapping cords. He said the manager hadn’t been able to make it, but she called and told him to decide whether I would be hired. This immediately struck me as odd, that she left it to a kid to decide the music for a lounge with a much older audience.
    Puffed up with his newly-acquired authority, he informed me that I didn’t get the gig. I looked out at the tables, where a good number of customers still lingered with their drinks, and at my full tip jar, then back at him, flummoxed.
    “It sounds too much like a record,” he said, as if this was so obvious, he shouldn’t even have to explain it to me. In all my years of performing in Top 40 cover bands and as a solo act, “You sound just like the record!” was the highest compliment someone could offer; now it was the reason I wasn’t going to be hired. Confused, I didn’t know whether to thank him for the compliment or curse him for allowing me to play all night before having the guts to approach me. Later, I heard from other musicians that the manager was notorious for not showing up for auditions, and she never hired women.
    It was off-season and gigs were scarce. Eventually I decided to take a break from performing for a while. I was making great money managing the office for Rebecca and Nic, so I could relax and spend my nights reading or painting.



One Friday night I arrived at the ranch to the usual yummy smells from the kitchen, a welcoming kiss, and Buckaroo hopping up on the edge of the counter to be acknowledged. During dinner Dan expressed some concern about Rilly - she’d gone outside that morning and hadn’t come back yet. She normally stayed close to the house and came in after a few hours, but she was nowhere to be found and there had been a lot of coyotes around lately. She didn’t show up on Saturday either, and we tried calling for her, to no avail.
    Rilly was skittish and unpredictable. She could be on your lap, purring contentedly, then suddenly she’d turn and look at you, like your face had just appeared on the TV as the FBI’s Most Wanted serial killer. Off she’d leap, leaving long scratches, to disappear in the house for hours. Mojo was a typical young male cat: always busy doing his own thing.

      Buckaroo and I were becoming closer with each passing weekend. I’d missed having a cat, and I lavished him with affection. Coon Cats tend to be independent, but Boone was eleven now and the years were mellowing him. He was still Dan’s little buddy, but he was my baby boy. Dan pretended to disapprove, telling me in his Marshall Dan voice that I was making Deputy Boone “soft.”
    By late afternoon on Sunday, Rilly still hadn’t returned. Dan was really worried now. I loaded up my car and we went outside and called again, “Rilly, kitty kitty!” A light wind was making it hard to hear anything over the whisper of the woods bordering the back lawn. He said, “It’s okay, I know you have to get going.” I started to reply but stopped. “Do you hear that?” He listened, but didn’t hear anything. The loudest sound I’d ever heard Rilly make was a little “Mek,” so I thought it was probably a bird. The phone started ringing in the kitchen, so Dan went to answer it.
    I entered the woods and called again. There. I could swear I heard a plaintive meow. Now I was pumped. Climbing over downed trees and fallen limbs, I headed deep into the woods, calling then listening. There was nothing for a while, then, a faint yowl. Now each time I stopped and called, she answered. I finally located her, thirty feet up a lodgepole pine. “How did you get way up there?!” I asked. She meowed and circled the tree, walking on the branches. Around and around she went, unable to move downward. I’m a tree climber from way back, but those branches started up higher than I could jump.
    I went back to the house and told Dan I’d found Rilly. He followed me into the woods and when we got to the tree, he forgot about her for a minute. Slightly out of breath from the hike, he told me how impressed he was; not just that I’d heard her faint cries, but that I’d found my way back to the tree so easily. The way he was looking at me, I felt like Pocafrigginhontas. Anyone who loved Dan will tell you, there was nothing quite like the feeling you got when you’d impressed him, or made him laugh. It felt like the sun had turned and looked right at you, then smiled.
     We called and coaxed and kiss-kissed, but, as much as she wanted to, she couldn’t figure out how to get down. Dan said when George came up to work the next morning, they’d bring a tall ladder and get her. He was just glad she was alive and in a safe place. He reasoned a coyote must have chased her through the woods and up that tree.
    I drove home to Santa Fe, reliving my moment in the sun the whole way. The next morning, I got an email from Dan, clearly written after he’d had a cup of coffee:

To: [unknown] JeanMayer
Date: 5/19/97 11:06 AM
Re: She’s down!!!

You'll be pleased to know that Ril was waiting at the backdoor for me when I got up. I'm so proud of her.... she's not a complete idiot! HOORAY! Thanks so much for going to the trouble of tracking her down last night so I could rest easy. You (and Ril) are my sweetheart. Hope you got some good sleep (at last) and are currently wreaking havoc on the management consultant world. Take no prisoners, Jeannie. I am at present attempting to prepare to make myself available to my management and record company and leap back into the breach of public life. Show bidness is my life (hot cha cha cha cha!) Thanks for a lovely weekend (specially Sunday morning). As far as Nic and Rebecca are concerned it is really up to them. I have no problem with either weekend. I am entirely at their (and your) disposal (more trash talk.) Whoops !that set off the alarm so I better sign off before the corn police trace this e-mail.


Meet me in the spirit of the homestead.


    I can’t remember what the invitation from Rebecca and Nic was; probably a dinner party in Santa Fe. “The homestead” was code. By the time I first came to the ranch, the ancient house near the hay barn was falling down. One night I dreamt that we walked over that way and found the old house, still standing and in beautiful condition. We went inside and made love. Dan’s cryptic mention of the dream meant he was having “warm thoughts” about me.

Colorado summers in the mountains are glorious. In the morning, we’d make coffee and tea then walk around the house with our mugs. Pushing open the kitchen screen door, we’d let Buckaroo bound out ahead of us on to the breezeway. We’d walk down the south-facing wooden stairs in our bare feet, then up the railroad tie steps to the big lawn, where we’d sit on the grass and soak up the sun. It was so silent you could hear the whoosh whoosh of the raven’s wings as they left their perches in the trees to fly over us and into the basin.

breezeway stairs

South breezeway stairs

steps to yard and woods

Railroad tie steps to lawn and woods

      Buckaroo got hot in the sun with his thick Coon Cat coat, so he would sit behind one of us, hiding in our shade, until we were ready to get up. Then he’d run around the lawn, batting at Dandelion puff balls, as we slowly made our way around the house. At the northwest corner there was a blue spruce surrounded by a low rock wall. Buckaroo would leap up on the big rocks and we’d join him there, sitting on the large boulders and taking in the spectacular mountain peaks and cobalt blue skies. When our bottoms got stone cold, we’d continue on to the north-side stairs and up to the breezeway to complete the loop.


Northwest corner Blue Spruce and rock wall


Buckaroo on big rocks


Columbines - Colorado State flower


North breezeway stairs and Columbine garden under kitchen turret

One brilliant morning in mid-summer, we’d paused before heading up the stairs. I was wearing a yellow cotton sun dress and was holding it up, away from the wet grass. We were standing near the small Columbine garden beneath the kitchen turret, talking, when I felt warm liquid running down the side of my shin. I looked down, and there was Buckaroo, tail quivering, spraying me. 
    “Hey…!” I said, looking up at Dan, who burst out laughing. “Well, the Coon Cat wants to keep you, and that’s good enough for me.”
    I’d passed the audition.


Posted July 4th. 2020 Copyright ©Jean Fogelberg 2020