A serial memoir by Jean Fogelberg

Countless Ways

I was bursting with “I love you’s,” but managed to release them sparingly. I didn’t want Dan to feel he had to respond each time with, “I love you too.” Every day, in countless ways, he showed me that he was falling more in love with me. However, as Pee-wee Herman said, “Everyone I know has a big BUT.”

     Dan was falling in love, BUT he believed that, given time, people will reveal their true natures and disappoint you. He wanted very much to believe that I was who I appeared to be, BUT he was reserving a part of himself, and waiting to see.

    It’s sad to think of the years he spent theorizing that his ex-wives had fallen out of love with him, or hadn’t loved him at all. He wasn’t taking into account the huge changes his own life had undergone in those years. 

    When he met Maggie, he was an up and coming musician and Nashville country boy who could sit in a bar and have a beer with a fan. Once he became famous, and his career more demanding, he built a beautiful fortress in the Colorado mountains where he could have the time, space, and privacy to create. Maggie hadn’t signed up for the fortress and ended up spending more and more time in Boulder. 

    When he met Anastasia, he was a rock star and cowboy, riding horses into the mountains for days on end. After his favorite horse died of one of those terrible illnesses that can strike a horse out of nowhere, he became more involved with sailing. Boats were also beautiful and exciting, but they wouldn’t break your heart. Anastasia hadn’t signed up for Maine and boats. She had adapted to the isolation of the ranch by bringing more and more people there (which dismayed Dan) but she loved horses and still wanted to be with a cowboy, so she left him for one.

    When he met me, his career was waning and he was starting to make plans for retirement. The ranch was more time-consuming and expensive than he could ever have imagined, and he was slowly beginning the process of disconnecting from it. He wanted to get back into painting and photography in Santa Fe, and spend more time sailing in Maine. He was looking at a life that was actually more in tune with mine.

    I loved living in Santa Fe. I could envision us taking long drives into the desert with our cameras; painting in our studio, then going to the Friday night gallery openings; meeting friends for dinner at our favorite restaurants. It sounded perfect.

Dan in Santa Fe

    A year after I moved in, we went to Maine and stayed onboard Dan’s boat, Minstrel, for three days, during Hurricane Floyd. She was safely docked at Robinhood Marina and it turned out to be a great way for my body to adjust to the movement of the boat while below deck, in the cabin. Once the hurricane passed by and we were out on the open sea, I noticed an improvement in my motion sickness.

    For the next few seasons, we stayed on Minstrel for a couple of days, letting my inner ear get used to the gentle rocking of a slip or mooring, before heading for deep waters. With each passing season I got better. Then one season, I was able to secure myself below with the galley strap and make sandwiches while we were underway, even in fairly high seas. As long as I could look out the porthole now and then for a horizon fix, I was fine for a good twenty minutes before feeling a twinge. And when I started getting into digital photography, extended periods on the boat were more fun for me because I had something to do.

     So, our long-term chances were looking good. But Dan kept reminding me that he was never getting married again. I always answered that I was fine with that, and I was. After two failed marriages, I knew the certificate was no guarantee of a happy ending. Then, on a flight to join Dan somewhere, I found myself sitting next to Leslie Nielsen’s wife, Barbaree. We got to talking about our guys and she asked if Dan and I were going to get married. I said I really doubted it. She said, “Oh you will; he’s the marrying kind.” She said this with great conviction, and it made me happy. I realized that, although I didn’t need the piece of paper; I did need the acknowledgement that he believed in me; that he had finally overcome his big BUTS.


    Establishing our terms of endearment took a while. My parents called each other “honey,” and I had carried that tradition into my previous relationships. It was second nature to call my nieces and nephews Honey as well, but it didn’t fit Dan; didn’t fit us. By now, Dan was calling me “My love,” and “Darling,” which was his parent’s term of endearment. My love came naturally for me, but Darling felt like I was absconding with a family heirloom.

    We both loved black and white films from the 30s and 40s. Everyone called each other “Darling” ten minutes into their first date, and flirting was “making love.” “Are you making love to me?” Bette Davis asks Humphrey Bogart, in the 1939 classic, Dark Victory. 

    In the film, Bette Davis is an aloof socialite who is diagnosed with an incurable brain tumor. She marries her doctor, played by George Brett, and they move to a cottage in New England. In the time left to her, she finds love and happiness and makes peace with her imminent death. At the end of the film I was in tears. Dan put his arm around me and, in a terrible Bette Davis impression, I said, “Oh, darling! It’s too, too sad!” “There, now, darling, there, there,” he said, impersonating George Brett.

    From that night on, “darling” felt okay, like we’d made it ours. In the beginning I hammed it up: “daaaling,” just goofing around. But as it became a part of our personal lexicon, my delivery took on a British or lilting French accent and Dan’s sometimes acquired a hard “D,” and a silent “R,” making him sound like Cary Grant: “Oh, Da-ling.” (You can hear this in the wedding video when we’re cutting the cake.)

    Dan rarely called me “Jean.” He was a pet name kind of guy, and “Jeanie” appealed to his Scots/Irish roots. I called him “Dan,” and “Daniel.” No one in his close inner circle ever called him “Danny,” not just because he didn’t like it, but because it didn’t suit him, and hadn’t since he’d left his twenties.


There was a book in Dan’s library called Getting The Love You Want: A Guide For Couples by Harville Hendrix, Ph.D. At the beginning of our relationship he’d suggested I read it. The book was very informative but, even more revealing than the printed words were the underlined passages. The things Dan found relevant are underlined in blue pen; extra important sections have large asterisks drawn next to them as well. The things Anastasia found useful are marked in faint pencil; important sections marked with five-pointed stars. 

    It was like following a couple’s footprints in the snow, seeing where they diverged and came together again as they struggled to find their way. Rather than muddy their path with my own tracks, I marked the passages I liked with green Post-It tabs.

    A favorite exercise of mine is called “Mirroring.” One person makes a statement then the other person repeats the statement, but in their own words. Men and women think differently, so it often takes a few back and forth’s to get to the original statement’s intent.

    One day I said something that Dan completely misinterpreted. When his anger flared up it shocked me, so innocent was my remark. I tried talking to him, but he shut me out. Since he wasn’t willing to talk, mirroring wouldn’t work; I would have to follow Dr. Hendrix’s advice about writing my thoughts down. 

    I had the flu at the time, so I was sleeping in the guest bedroom. I got a pad of paper, went up to bed, and spent an hour writing a clear and tender letter, explaining exactly what had been in my head and heart when I’d made the comment. I reminded him to hear my voice in his head, not a voice from the past.

    When I finished the letter I took it downstairs, where Dan was watching TV. He didn’t even look up, so I laid it on the arm of the couch and went back to bed. Half an hour later, he came upstairs and leaned against the guest room door frame, looking chagrined. He thanked me for writing the letter and apologized, both for laying his trip on me, and for closing down and not listening. 

    He was learning that, just because I wasn’t crying and shouting, it didn’t mean I wasn’t hurt. I was learning that, when he shut me out, he was usually focusing on a battle being waged within himself, and it was up to me to find the trojan horse that would get me inside.


Dan was hired to perform at a party the owner of the San Diego Chargers football team was throwing on a yacht. Also at the party was Stephen Stills. Dan had been a big fan since Buffalo Springfield, and he stood at the back of the room, reverently watching Stills perform. 

    When it came time for Dan to play, some people were standing at the back of the room talking (which, of course, seemed very rude to me, so I gave them the evil eye.) Stephen Stills was one of the people talking, but when Dan started to play slide guitar, he stopped mid-sentence and walked to where he could watch and listen, undisturbed. I told Dan about it later, and he was pleased, and flattered.

    After the party, we traveled north to Santa Barbara and stayed overnight at San Ysidro Ranch, near Santa Barbara. The following morning, we rented a Mercedes convertible and drove up the coast. Dan wanted to see where I grew up; where I’d lived and played in bands, and I wanted to introduce him to my tree. So, we got on U.S. Route 101; the Pacific Coast Highway, which starts in Los Angeles and winds up the west coast until it ends in Washington state. It was a perfect day for cruising, and Dan said this was a boyhood dream come true: driving a convertible up the west coast with a California girl at his side. 


    I showed him Refugio and Gaviota, the beaches where I swam as a child. My sisters and I would float on a big black inner tube and body surf for hours in the cold Pacific waters. When we finally emerged, half-frozen, there were dime-sized patches of tar on our bathing suits, skin and hair, from the off-shore oil rigs.

    Back at home, we would rub margarine into the tar to soften it to the consistency of molasses, then wash it off with soap and shampoo. This was one of the California rituals we grew up with, like conserving water or standing in a doorway when the earth shook. Dan was enthralled, inquisitive, and a little jealous.


    When we got to Buellton, we took Hwy 246 west to Lompoc, then turned right on Rucker Road to Mission Hills. We drove past the house I grew up in, so different from his family's home. Parking at the end of the block, we crossed the street and entered the 2,000 acre La Purisima Mission State Park.

    From an early age, these woods were my refuge. I would walk through the forest to a tall pine that I considered “my tree.” It was a great climbing tree, and from the top I could see all the way to the valley. Sometimes I’d take my guitar with me and sit against the base of its thick trunk. I liked the sound of the strings in the big open space, and the small birds singing as they flitted from branch to branch above me. I grew to be a starry-eyed, daydreaming teenager, and one day I made a romantic, hormone-fueled promise to my tree: if I ever found my one true love, I would bring him there to meet it. 

    Twenty years had passed since my last walk in the state park. As Dan and I made our way through the woods on a brown carpet of pine needles, I was crushed to see that droughts and bark beetle infestations had killed half of the trees. I took a couple of wrong turns before finding my tree, but it was still standing, green and strong. Touching the rough bark and looking up at the thick limbs, perfectly spaced for little-girl arms and legs, I said, “Hello, tree. I found him.” I looked at Dan, afraid he might be finding this all very silly, but he looked profoundly moved. And he never forgot it. In the years to come he would say, apropos of nothing, “You introduced me to your tree.”


    We got back in the convertible and thirty minutes later we were back on Hwy 101 in Santa Maria. As we passed Main Street, I pointed out the Denny’s where I worked while attending Allan Hancock Junior College.

    Before registering for classes in the Fall of 1973, I had taken a portfolio of my drawings to show Nat Fast, the Fine Art teacher. He was impressed with my work and suggested I skip the Beginning Life Drawing class and enroll in Advanced Life Drawing instead.

    On the first day of school I walked into the classroom and saw a small stage. Chairs and easels were arranged around it and students were propping large paper pads on easels. Mr. Fast gave me a list of supplies and I walked quickly to the campus book store and bought everything on the list. 

    By the time I got back to the classroom the overhead lights had been dimmed slightly and a spotlight shone on a handsome young man standing on the stage. 

    He had no clothes on. 

    Oh. Life Drawing. I’d been thinking Still Life Drawing, I guess. 

    This was the first time I’d seen a naked man, and I tried to look nonchalant as I made my way carefully to the last available chair in the circle. Setting my pad on the easel, I looked past it to the stage. Our model was a reedy young actor from PCPA (the Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts) who would go on to appear in supporting roles on stage, television, and in films. To this day I can’t see him without, um, seeing him.


I loved working the graveyard shift at Denny’s. The customers were wired after a play, a movie, or a night of dancing, or they were weary truckers looking for a cup of our good coffee and a piece of pie. Often, they were loners with no one waiting at home or no place better to be. The loners sat in my section at the long, wraparound bar and left me notes and sweet, sad poems. 


     I got off work just as the street lights were flickering out along East Main and Broadway. I loved driving my little VW down the big deserted streets at dawn; seeing the stop lights lined up ahead of me, green as far as I could see. When I got to the tiny apartment I shared with another girl, I put my tips in the Folgers coffee can in the bookcase headboard of my twin bed and slept as long as I could before getting up and heading for my first class of the day. Ah, youth! No wonder we think we’ll live forever at that age.

    I quickly became friends with the two Denny’s graveyard shift cooks, Gilbert and Ronnie. Our conversations paused and resumed as they slid plates of food to me through the order window; a wide-screen, chrome television set that was always tuned to the Gilbert & Ronnie Show. 

    They were both in their late twenties or early thirties. Gilbert was tall, lanky and super mellow, and Ronnie was short, skinny and wired. Imagine a tall, stoned Jimi Hendrix standing next to a short, emaciated Cheech Marin on speed. Now imagine them wearing traditional chef hats. They played off of each other like a comedy team and made me laugh all night long. If I said something funny, Gilbert’s face would break into a big, slow smile and he’d lift his head in a single upward nod and laugh softly, while Ronnie bounced on his feet and laughed his hyper heh heh heh.

    Gilbert played electric guitar and Ronnie played drums. When they found out I sang, they suggested I join them one night at Merrill’s Steak House, where a duo called “Salt & Pepper” played. Gilbert and Ronnie sat in (played a few songs on stage) with them once a week, and said they’d introduce me. Salt & Pepper were a white guy on the keyboards and a black dude on the drums, and when they invited me to come up and sing a song, I was really scared. But it went well and they told me to come back any time.

    I started meeting Gilbert and Ronnie almost every Friday night at Merrills. It was a gentle introduction to the bar scene and helped me get comfortable on stage. After performing, we hurried to Denny’s to change into our uniforms and clock in.

    We were sitting in at Merrill’s one night during my second year of college and I had just finished singing “Tell Me Something Good” by Rufus and Chaka Kahn. When I came off the stage, a handsome guy with long, thick sideburns approached me and introduced himself as Scott. He’d been sitting at a table with two other guys and he said they were musicians in a band in San Luis Obispo. They had been looking for a female vocalist for a while, and figured they’d just found her.


    I quit college and Denny’s, and started singing five nights a week in a seedy bar in a strip mall. What the band really wanted was a pretty go-go dancer who could sing harmonies and work for almost nothing. I didn’t mind; it was all a grand adventure to me. They let me sing four songs; the rest of the time I harmonized behind the lead singer, Lyle, who was known for his Elvis and Gordon Lightfoot impersonations. 

    My mother became concerned about my fifty-minute, late-night commute from the bar in San Luis Obispo to the apartment in Santa Maria. Both of my parents liked my boyfriend, Mike, and he had offered to share his Avila Beach trailer with me. Avila Beach was a fifteen minute drive from the bar, so I moved in with him. 

    I paid my dues in that bar for almost a year before getting a gig as lead singer with Stevie’s Goodtime Band at The Outrigger in Shell Beach. The Outrigger was a ten minute drive from Avila, and it had a buffet where you could grill your own steaks and dress your own baked potato. We played six nights a week, including a Wednesday night 50’s show and I sang most of the songs. I was in heaven.


Dan loved hearing about my California bar band days, they were so different from his Peoria bands and Red Herring days. And now I would finally get to show him the hippie trailer park, half a block from the beach in Avila, the funky little coastal town I called home for four years.

    The best thing about the trailer park was the parties. A lot of the kids were Cal Poly students, as well as divers and surfers, and in the afternoon the guys dove the breakwater for abalone, which were plentiful then. At night a fire was started in the big old cast iron grill and, when it was ready, the grate was raised and chicken, thick hamburger patties, and long loaves of french bread were placed on it. When browned, the bread was dipped in a pan of melted butter, sprinkled with garlic salt, then wrapped in foil and set on the side of the grate to be kept warm. 

    Everyone mingled in the lane between the trailers, watching the turning of the meat on the grill and talking and laughing. The guys drank beer and the girls drank cheap wine, and all their faces glowed with youth and vigor in the warm light coming from the trailer windows.

    Inside, we pounded the abalone steaks until they were flat and tender, then dipped them in egg, pressed them in crushed cracker crumbs, and fried them in a pan, to be served with mayonnaise. Just before everything was done, corn on the cob went into boiling water.

    Sometimes the party moved to a bonfire on the beach and we stood around it, wearing Hang Ten tees and sweatshirts with surf shop logos, and singing along to Beach Boys cassette tapes. Some guy with too many beers in him would try to reach a Brian Wilson high note and everyone would laugh, exhaling pot or cigarette smoke into the night air like young dragons.

    Dan and I walked down Front Street to where The Sun Shoppe used to be. The tiny beach-front shop had been packed with "Everything for the beach:” bikinis, Sea and Ski suntan lotion, coconut oil, puka shell necklaces, and Rainbow Sandals. Everyone wore the comfy wedge sandals, made of layers of colorful rubber with a nylon between-the-toe strap. 

    We crossed the street to the beach, divided in half by a small pier, and I told him about the day Mike left me to go to medical school. When I got off work that night, I wasn’t ready to walk into the empty trailer so I parked at the beach, deserted at 2 am. I walked to the end of the pier in my long, ivory satin halter dress, crying silently and eating a whole bag of Brach’s Jelly Beans.


    Turning back toward Santa Barbara, we headed south on 101, stopping at Shell Beach so I could show Dan where The Outrigger had been. We sat on a cliffside bench overlooking the the sea and held hands. I was so happy with Dan, but revisiting the sacred places of my youth had filled my heart with a deep longing. I felt momentarily suspended between the past and present. 

    I had known old hippies in the trailer park who’d arrived in their twenties and never left. I remembered Joan Leonard, playing jazz six nights a week in the piano bar at the Spyglass Inn, in her ‘70s. In my youthful arrogance, I had pitied them all for being “stuck.” 

    Now, with sudden clarity, I understood. They had recognized paradise when they found it, and knew they needed to look no further for home.

    I used to play Sunday Brunch at the Spyglass Inn on my day off. When Joan Leonard retired, I could have taken her place; had all my friends come and sit in; taken requests from my regulars. I could have bought a little house on the hill overlooking Avila Beach and walked down to the water every day wearing a Puka shell necklace and Rainbow Sandals, and smelling like Sea and Ski lotion. I was only 43; I could still do it.

     But I looked at the complicated, funny, beautiful man sitting next to me, and I thought of the countless ways he showed his love for me. He just spent the whole day reliving my past with me. And no other man I knew would have considered it such an honor to meet my tree. He was my paradise, and any place we were together was home.


Posted August 15th. 2020 Copyright ©Jean Fogelberg 2020