A serial memoir by Jean Fogelberg

Finding Captain Nemo

When I was seven years old I was walking home after school when a Yellow Jacket landed on the plastic handle of my lunchbox. As my sweaty little girl hand closed to adjust my grip, the wasp stung me. I screamed in surprise and pain, then burst into tears as I dropped the lunchbox on the sidewalk. Out of the tight row of single-story houses, a door opened and a woman with short permed hair came out, wiping her hands on an apron. She took me inside her home and cleaned and bandaged the red welt on my palm. Then she dried my tears and sent me on my way with a cookie and a gentle pat on the head.

     In this safe suburban bubble my beliefs about people, and the world, were established. Three hours south of us, Los Angeles was in the midst of a culture war. Beach Blanket Bingo lit up theatre screens and the Watts riots lit up the streets. They might as well have been three thousand miles away for all the effect they had on my childhood in the Valley of the Flowers - we had black, asian, and hispanic friends and our clothes, cars and houses all looked alike. I heard the word “prejudiced” on the news and had to ask my mother what it meant.


    In December of 1960, Gene and Leslie Mayer arrived in Lompoc, California with their three little girls. They put $100 down and bought a three-bedroom house for $15,000 in the brand new subdivision of Mission Hills. So named because it was in the hills bordering the La Purisima Mission State Historic Park, Mission Hills was your typical middle-class California suburb. Three-bedroom houses were built twenty feet apart with attached two-car garages, a square of grass in the front yard, and one young tree in the dirt divider between the sidewalk and the street.

    Tall wood fences separated the back yards and created an illusion of privacy, even though it was easy to peek between the horizontal slats. My mother planted four fruit trees, 15 feet apart, in the small yard. We had apricots, apples, plums and peaches and, in the flower bed against the house, rhubarb and strawberries grew among the sweet peas and nasturtiums. Just outside our back door, a passion flower vine climbed up a night blooming jasmine bush and on warm nights the sweet scent drifted into our living room.

    After dinner and dishes, we would congregate around the wood console television set. Mom sat on the couch, Dad in his favorite chair, and my sisters and I laid on our stomachs on the orange shag carpet, three feet from the TV screen. Some of our favorite shows were Get Smart, Gilligan’s Island, and Bonanza. I was in grade school and still thought boys had cooties, when I fell in love with Bonanza’s Adam Cartwright. Played by Pernell Roberts, Adam was dark and handsome; serious and smart. He wore black a lot, which was usually reserved for TV bad guys, but that just made me like him more. Most of the girls at school liked Little Joe, played by Michael Landon, but I just couldn’t see it. Adam was a man; Little Joe was a kid

   Adam was being phased out of Bonanza when the 1954 Walt Disney film, 20,000 Leagues Beneath the Sea, was re-released in 1963. I was eight years old when we went to see it at the drive-in theater and, from the long back seat of our Dodge Dart, I fell hard for Captain Nemo. As played by James Mason, he was dark and handsome like Adam Cartwright, but he was also a brooding, tormented genius. With a beard. He was perfect.

    Five years later, I had a brief literary fling with Heathcliff Earnshaw. Reading Wuthering Heights, I cursed Catherine and Isabella for being such wimps. For both Captain Nemo and Heathcliff, I felt certain I was the woman whose love could have vanquished their demons and made them happy. 

I was thirteen.

In August of 1996, I was a recently-divorced, forty-year-old musician living in Santa Fe. Dan had just flown from Maine to Colorado, to try and save his marriage. 

    His wife, Anastasia, said she might consider a reconciliation, if he agreed to go into counseling. She suggested he see her friend Anna (not her real name,) who had a master’s degree in psychology from the University of Chicago. She had counseled other couples in Pagosa and Dan knew her, since she’d been to the ranch, so he agreed. He started weekly sessions, thinking it would lead to couple’s therapy. He was a few sessions in when Anastasia decided she wasn’t coming back, with or without counseling. Dan continued therapy, to help deal with the end of their marriage.

    On November 2nd, we went out on our first date. Therapy seemed pointless now, and he was going to let Anna know he was done, when two things happened. First, a strange letter from Anna just after Thanksgiving made it clear she was obsessed with him. Second, something Anastasia said made Dan realize that Anna had divulged things he’d said during his therapy sessions with her. 

    He stopped seeing Anna immediately and began asking around town about her. No one seemed to know much about her life before she came to Pagosa, other than what she’d told people. Soon, the Portrait box set and preparations for the upcoming Anniversary Tour began taking all of his time and he didn’t give much thought to Anna for a while. 


    I was tiptoeing through the tulips of love, which were growing over a minefield of Dan’s trust issues. We would have long periods of bliss and then an innocent comment would trigger a memory for him and blow up in my face.

    The “L” word was forbidden, so I had to find other ways of expressing my feelings. Sometimes, in exasperation, I took them to silly extremes:


Date: Saturday, April 26, 1997  

From: Songurl

Subject: alas!


Alas! Nature, like an angry caretaker, forces me to this corner of quiet solitude where I must express my deepest regrets at our separation. And I, my heart so filled with the praise of one held in such high regard, must cool my pallid brow and await the passing of this great revery. Lo! As eventide breezes steal drowsily into my chambers, my mutinous heart steers my thoughts of its own accord toward one for whom the pleasures of the flesh know no bounds…


     On and on it went, a long-winded way of saying “I miss you, I love you, and I’m turned on just thinking about you.” Dan enjoyed these cyber-opuses, and would print and save them. 

    Unfortunately, sometimes my writings got lost in translation. It was like he was reading the lyrics to a Joni Mitchell song, but hearing them in his head, read by Vincent Price. I did my best to address this:


Date: Tuesday, May 6, 1997  

From: Songurl

Subject: Hurt


Dan, you hurt my feelings. 

We established early on that endearments were not a good idea because you were "gun shy", so I have left feelings out of my conversations. I have limited my writing to poetic ramblings and stories to try to avoid "spooking" you, but still somehow express myself. 


Now I find that an innocent comment of mine sounds like something Anastasia said to you, and has you worried. Soon I will have nothing but sexual innuendos and silly puns left for our long distance communications.


I am a compassionate person, and believe me, I understand that you have been through hell in the last year. I understand that you will need time to heal and that it will take a very long time to learn to trust again. Take all the time you need!!!! I have never tried to push you or hurry you in any way. I have been so very happy just taking things day by day and getting to know you. I am healing as well, in part thanks to you. But please remember that I have scars of my own...


     He didn’t understand what I was trying to say; in his reply he was still attaching the personality traits of past loves to me. I attempted to make myself clear, and to lighten him up a bit:


Date: Wednesday, May 7, 1997  

From: Songurl

Subject: Apology? Accepted?


Dan, once again I wonder who you are responding to, me or Anastasia? Please take a moment to read the responses I have highlighted in red.



I am very sorry I hurt your feelings last night.I certainly had no intention of doing so. I seem to have an uncanny knack of saying the most insensitive things to you when you are at your most vulnerable….i.e. during your period. Now, don't go getting all crazy over that statement. When have I ever gotten "all crazy" you silly man? I have come to regard you as a friend. I smile, happy. Of course, when romance and sexuality get involved things get tricky. Sex with you does get tricky, it's one of the things I like about you. I honestly don't know what I want for my future at this point and am therefore very reticent about letting someone as nice as you start pinning her hopes on me. I have never "pinned my hopes" on any man. These are the 90's. We use nails now.


     My lighthearted responses in red had the desired effect; he finally heard me. Squeezed between his own words, there was no room for anyone else’s voice but mine. Dan printed the email and highlighted my answers with a yellow marker. 

We both realized that successful relationships took communication and work, and we were willing to do it. Most of the time, though, we were having a lot of fun. We kissed all the time. My face was adapting and was less stubble-scrubbed than in those first weeks.


Date: Wednesday, May 21, 1997  

From: Songurl

Subject: Good Morning.


Thanks for the call last night. I went straight up to bed afterwards and SLEPT. Sitting here at my computer, thinking about your lips again. Hello, my name is Jean and I’m a kissaholic. 





Date: 5/21/97

Re: Good Morning








Susie sent us photos from a recent night out in Santa Fe, when the four of us had ended up, hungry and goofy, at Denny’s. 


    The tour was seven days away and Dan was spending more time at the ranch, rehearsing and doing promotional interviews. He was considering coming to Santa Fe for a couple of days, but my move was only five days away and I still had a lot of packing to do, so I reluctantly discouraged the visit. I’d been so busy, I hadn’t called my mother in a couple of weeks.


Date: Tuesday, June 10, 1997  

From: Songurl

Subject: Helplessly hoping…


Good morning Dan..


Woke up at 6:00 making lists of things I need to do in the office and here at the apt. Finally decided to get up, so here I am, typing away with a cricket chirping in the living room. 


I’m looking at the Denny’s photos, wondering how I’m going to survive not being able to touch you for weeks on end while you are on tour. You sounded so sweet on the phone when I was at Nic and Rebecca’s house, and I couldn’t talk. Then when I talked to you later, you sounded a little distant, tired maybe. I hope it was fatigue and not disappointment I heard in your voice. Let’s talk about it later, see what we can work out. Were you planning on staying in the new place with me one night before you leave?


I got home to a forlorn little voice on my answering machine saying “Where are you? Where can I call to hear your voice?” so I have got to call my Mom this morning. But first, I have to go find that cricket and throw his little butt out.




Date: 6/10/97

Subj: Pre-Road Downs 


Morning. Thanks for the mail. You seem harried. Understandable. Please know that your needs certainly don't need to acquiesce to my want to see you this week. Stick to your schedule and get yourself moved (first priority).I'm very busy doing the career thing.


If I seemed a bit distant last night on the phone, it's by no means you. I always (yes, always) go through a weird period (usually two weeks) before I start a tour. I meant to mention this to you at the ranch but didn’t. I have a tendency to get rather withdrawn and uncommunicative. It takes a great deal of focus and determination to pull off these solo tours and once I start I'm usually not much fun to be around until I have 4 or 5 shows under my belt and can relax into the pace of the road. It truly is a radical adrenalin transition from the life I'm used to living at the ranch and takes a lot of mental and spiritual energy to prepare for. I need to rehearse these pieces until they are absolutely rock solid and I can perform them completely on auto - pilot. 


As you know, when you're working solo you're working without a net. So please don't think my distance has anything to do with you. Of course, I'd love to see you this week but it seems our professional commitments must unfortunately take precedence for a while. I really do need the time alone and you really should get yourself settled so you can feel more, well, settled. We've been having a wonderful time of freedom to spend as much time together as we please but freedom ain't free (as they say) and we all must pay the piper from time to time. 


I'm actually looking forward to performing again and I think it will be very good for me to remember who I am and what I do without the divorce bullshit getting always in the way. Be good for the self-esteem (or narcissism depending on who you talk to). It will be interesting to see how you relate to my professional self or if you even see much of a difference in me when I'm working . So, please do what you need to and RELAX. We'll be fine. For now, we'll just have to do the do and see each other when we can. Know that I long to hold and kiss and love on you to ridiculous excess as soon as possible.



(Rhythm guitar and vocals)


Date: 6/11/97

Subj: Just because


Good morning, beautiful. Nothing of real importance to say but it was so nice talking to you last night and I miss that lovely smile of yours. Full day of interviews and rehearsing and it’s possible I’ll even cutzeegrass (mowzeelawn)

Have a wonderful day and a nice meal with Rose tonight. Call you later.



    Moving day finally arrived and a big truck backed up to the apartment unit. One of the movers weighed 500 pounds and, in the June heat, he could only lie on the grass and watch. The other two guys wouldn’t allow me to step inside the moving truck, so I brought things out and set them by the ramp to speed things up. They charged me full price for three men and wouldn’t take a check, so I had to go get cash. It did little to dampen the day - I LOVED the new place and its location. 

    Dan had recovered from the pneumonia that followed his luge accident in Canada, but suffered from subsequent bronchial infections brought on, I think, by stress and fatigue.


Date: 6/16/97

Subj: Tender thank you’s


Jean.....I realize that you may see ME before you see this e=mail but I just wanted to welcome you to your new place and say thank you for being so nice by calling and cheering me up this weekend when I was so sick. It meant a lot to me to know that you care and were concerned. Your voice is always such a pleasure to hear and your loving sincerity did more for me than chicken soup and anti-biotics combined. Sometimes a little sympathy and understanding go a long way. I also don't know if I really thanked you for all the hard work you did last time you were here cleaning the kitchen light fixtures, dishwasher, and oven. If I didn't, I certainly intend to when next I see you. Somehow, these e-mails just don't do it. 


It must have been an exasperating move, but it’s behind you now and the sheer joy and excitement in your voice is wonderful to hear. I can't wait to see it. I loved your statement that "This place is more me than anyplace I've ever lived." Seems to me that you're more you than perhaps you've ever least with a man. Hope that made you have such a beautiful smile. 


I'm excited about the tour and at the same time dreading the grind of the road. So much dead time to fill on a solo tour. At least I know at the end of the long day there will be a stage, a lovely crowd of folks and a late night call to you. 


C'est ma vie. 

Au revoir mon cher, 




    It was true: I was more me than I’d ever been. I loved living in Santa Fe. My office manager job and my musician/entertainment manager gig made me feel competent and appreciated. At forty, many of my old insecurities were starting to fade, helped in part by Dan, who made me feel like the smartest, funniest, most beautiful woman on the planet.

    He’d been on tour for almost two weeks when he asked me to join him in Atlanta. He sounded happy to be performing again.



Date: 7/1/97

Subj: Start spreadin’ the news! (Dat kookie Big Apple)


Hi, cutie! New York! Just like I pictured it. Skyscrapers and everything. I'm on Bill's laptop and comin' at YOU from the cyber wilds. Very busy nonstop 48 hrs. about to drivetime interviews from the theatre....late dinner with K.H., Eliz., and friends after show ...big meet and greet with a ton of Sony hourlong radio show tomorrow...out to Long Island for another gig tomorrow night...back to the city....on to Syracuse following day...gig....go to airport...... fly to Atlanta...... YOUYOUYOUYOUYOUYOUYOUYOUYOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I found a restaurant for Friday night by going online this morning and perusing the restaurant guide for Atlanta. This makes me feel WAY cool. You've created a little internet monster. I don't know when I'll get back to the hotel tonight but it may be pretty late. If its not too late I'll try to call but I don't want to disturb your lovely sleeping form....I DO but not verbally. 

Have a lovely day and evening.      Think of me. 


The Chairman of the Bored 


    Dan called me his Surfer Girl after listening to the Beach Boys one night. I said I guessed that made him my Moondoggie, referring to the James Darren character in the 1959 film, Gidget.


Date: Wednesday, July 16, 1997  


Subject: Moondoggie


Moondoggie, Moondoggie, where for art thou, Moondoggie? Deny thy roadies and refuse thy autograph seekers or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my dude and I’ll no longer be a Piñon nut…


Surfer Girl


    A tour break from July 18th through the 22nd meant Dan could retreat to the ranch. While there, he hired an investigator to look into Anna’s litigation history, personal business profile, and education and industry specific licensing. He was told it could take a few months.

    Dan always liked getting a tan before a tour. With his Scandinavian skin, this took about fifteen minutes. Well, a week, anyway. On Friday the 18th, he had George cart the two chaise lounges from the back deck to the small dock on the pond. He painted “Moondoggy’s” [sic] on a piece of wood and nailed it up on a fence post next to the dock.

    I came up that night, and the following day Dan suggested we go for a swim in the pond. It was bloody hot, but I agreed hesitantly. I’d seen the mudpuppies suspended in the water around the dock and, while I enjoyed looking at them, I wasn’t keen on swimming with them. Descended from the late Jurassic period, they looked like brown spotted salamanders with long hairy gills behind their heads. They hibernated in the mud through the winter, then swam toward the sun in the warmer months. At six to eight inches long, these were relatively small as mudpuppies go, but still, euwww


    We walked down the dirt road carrying a pitcher of iced tea, glasses, towels and a boombox. Although the ranch was remote, George and others drove past the pond to get to the back 600 acres behind the house, so we both wore bathing suits. I loved the Moondoggy’s sign and laughed when I saw it.

    Cloudless afternoons seem brighter and hotter at 8,711 feet, but a breeze was making its way through the Blanco Basin that afternoon, carrying icy exhalations from the last patches of snow frozen into the jagged peaks of the San Juans. The mudpuppies gave us a wide berth when we entered the water and we swam out to the middle of the pond. 

    We floated and talked, our arms treading water that was five degrees warmer than the water our feet slowly scissored in. I let out an “Eek!” when a water snake wriggled out to us among the ripples and Dan splashed in its direction, sending it back to its home among the tall reeds and willow trees. Dragonflies and blue damselflies swooped and whizzed around us and Dan laughed when a mating pair came to rest on my head like a tiny fascinator.

    When our fingers looked like pink prunes we swam back to the dock and climbed up the old wood ladder, sending the mudpuppies diving for the murky depths. Dan popped a Beach Boys CD in the boombox and I poured iced tea. The chaise cushions felt deliciously warm after the cold pond water and we sipped tea and held hands and listened to the music, nothing on our agenda but a lazy summer day together. 

    “Good Vibrations” started playing and when the drums kicked in I jumped up and started doing The Pony, a popular dance from the 60s. I was 41 years old, lithe and tan in a lime green bikini, and drying strands of my waist-length blonde hair fanned out in the breeze. Dan lifted his Wayfarer sunglasses and gave me the smile that told me his heart was filled with delight. It had become my mission in life to put that smile on his face. 


    Dan found many ways to delight me, as well. After I’d confessed my life-long attraction to Captain Nemo, he developed a wicked James Mason impression that I was helpless to resist. It was then I realized how much he had in common with Nemo. They both lived in remote domiciles of their own design, filled with Victorian art and furniture. They were both musicians, intellectuals, divers and environmentalists who loved the sea. They were both captains with loyal crews who would follow them to the ends of the earth. They were both dark, handsome, mercurial men who looked sexy as hell in turtleneck sweaters and pea jackets.


    The next leg of the Portrait tour started on July 24th in Santa Fe, so I was able to see Dan perform again, at the Paolo Solari Amphitheater. When he got home on August 10th, the investigation report on Anna was waiting for him. The findings were worse that he’d expected: there was no record of her attending the University of Chicago, or any other university for that matter, and no license was registered by her in Illinois or Colorado. It was likely that, far from wanting to help them patch things up, she was working to pit Dan and Anastasia against each other to ensure they would not get back together. He also found out that she had stolen some demo tapes while she was at the ranch and shared them with an online fan forum. These were betrayals on so many levels it’s hard to count them all.

    The divorce was relatively quick and civilized. Lawyers went after the online forum and got the tapes back. Anna left Colorado and went on to wreak havoc in California in a bizarre online relationship scam. 


    In January of 1998, I was house/dog sitting for Rebecca and Nic in Santa Fe. Dan called me from Aspen, where he’d gone for a few days of skiing. He met up with Todd and Susie and they sent their regards. After a bit more chit chat, he told me he thought we should slow things down a bit.

    Uh oh. 

    He reminded me that when our last relationships ended, we both said we were going to play the field for a while. Instead, we leapt into an exclusive relationship together, and maybe it would be good if we stepped back and saw other people as well. As we’d originally planned. Just to be sure.

    I heard myself calmly saying that if that was what he wanted, we could do that; I wanted him to be happy. But, I told him, if he was going to be with other women, I couldn’t sleep with him. And, naturally, I would start dating other men. If he expected recriminations and anger, he didn’t get them. His voice faltered as we said our goodnights.

    As soon as I hung up, I burst into tears. I cried all night, watching the clock and knowing that I had to be up at eight to feed the dogs and open the office at nine.

    At eight o’clock on the dot, Dan called. He said he hadn’t slept a wink; he didn’t know what he’d been thinking; he didn’t want to see other people; could I just forget he’d even brought it up? I told him that I didn’t want to see anyone else either.

    He was very relieved and said he’d see me in a few days. When we hung up, I got out of bed, did a couple of the hills are alive twirls, and got ready for work. That night I went to bed early, exhausted from the previous sleepless night, and Dan went out on a date in Aspen.

    What happened: while skiing with Todd and Susie, he ran into a woman that he had met while he was married. She was nice (Dan said) a blonde bimbo with big boobs (Susie said) and an avid skier and sailor. There was a spark of attraction, they flirted, dinner was mentioned, and they arranged to meet the next evening.

    We weren’t engaged, and it was just dinner, but Dan would feel guilty if he went behind my back, so he called me and suggested we see other people. 

    The next night, they went to dinner and she was lovely, but beyond skiing and sailing, they had absolutely nothing in common. She didn’t get his film and music references or his humor, and she didn’t make him laugh. As the date went on, he missed me more and more and couldn’t wait to get back to me. He probably also couldn’t wait to get away from Susie, who kept telling him what an idiot he was to risk losing me for a blonde bimbo.

    He had to check it out, I get it. After he and Anastasia split up, he thought he’d never find another woman with the physical characteristics and offbeat sense of humor he liked. Hey presto, he did, and on the very first try. What if the world was chock full of pretty, funny women? What if you could get that package plus four-wheel drive and a ski rack? And, what if I ended up leaving him? Would he spend the rest of his life wishing he’d taken the sporty model for a spin? 


    When he told me about it later, I understood, and I was glad it had given him a new appreciation for what we had. But that phone call in the night had pierced my heart like a splinter in a hurricane and would take some time to heal.

    There would be a few more wounds over the next three years. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t have tolerated that many, but I was willing to make an exception this time. Because I’d found my Captain Nemo, and I was going to love him, and I was going to make him happy.


Posted July 25th. 2020 Copyright ©Jean Fogelberg 2020