A serial memoir by Jean Fogelberg

Greetings From the West

On Tuesday, May 15th, we met with Dr. Kaufman, who agreed that Dan was fit for travel. On Wednesday we planned to fly to New Mexico, spend two days in Santa Fe, then drive to the ranch on the 18th. We were giving ourselves two weeks to sort and organize paper and computer files, and to box up things we wanted to send to the house in Maine.

    I was nervous about the trip; I didn’t want Dan picking up a cold or flu bug during our travels. Also, sitting for long periods of time exacerbated the pain in his lower back. A big storm on the east coast delayed us a full day, but on Thursday afternoon we finally arrived in Albuquerque and hurried to pick up our rental car.

    We crested the last ridge on I-25 North and, as always, I felt a surge of pleasure at that first distant sighting of Santa Fe. Golden desert sands stretched out below us, lush with sage, tall pale grasses and squat Piñon trees, until meeting the rugged Sangre de Cristo mountains. Santa Fe sat at the base of the mountains and radiated out in a dwindling constellation of flat-roofed adobe homes. The wide, flat terrain left a huge expanse above it, and the big skies spilled over the horizons in multiple shades of Cerulean Blue.


    We drove straight to Diego’s Cafe, in the DeVargas Mall, and binged on the Mexican food we’d been craving for years. It was even better than we’d remembered. Afterward, we checked in at the Inn of the Anasazi, a stone’s throw from the famous plaza. We walked through the plaza and down Palace Avenue, looking in the windows of our favorite galleries. Turning down Burro Alley, we stopped in front of the space Cafe Romana had once occupied, now a restaurant and bakery. Peeking in the front windows, we could see it had been redecorated. We debated going in, but in the end we walked away, our memories unsullied. For two days we wandered and ate with friends, creating some new memories in the City Different.

    On Sunday we drove north to Colorado on Highway 84. The drive from Santa Fe to Pagosa Springs was only three hours, but the terrain changed drastically along the way. 


Late spring at the ranch was glorious; warm, green and bursting with life. Snow dusted the mountain tops even as rain fell in the basin below. Later, the setting sun turned the snow-covered western peaks a brilliant orange.

    On Monday we met Don, the new ranch manager, and his wife Vickie. Like the previous manager, they were friends of George’s from his church. We were apprehensive, knowing that George’s hiring criteria were based, not on experience, but on need. (The need of the applicant, for a job, that is.) But they seemed like very stable, responsible people, and we had high hopes they would last.

    I had been worried about Dan getting sick, but he was fine. I was the one who came down with a cold the day after we arrived home. That, combined with the effects of being at 8,700 feet, after living at sea level for three years, knocked me down. I kept my germs as far from Dan as possible, sleeping in the guest room and boxing up supplies in the art studio, until I was well.

    After a few days I felt well enough to write an email to our friends and family:



May 24, 2007

A letter from the Rocky Mountains


Greetings from the West! We're back at the ranch, got in Sunday night. Had an interesting travel day on the 16th, what with the big weather front that moved across the east coast that day. We sat on the plane in Boston for 2 1/2 hours before they let us take off (after two delays and an hour of sitting, Dan and I got off the plane, but they wouldn't let us retrieve our luggage since they had just announced the third of what would be many announced takeoffs, and our travel agent sagely advised “It's United! Stay with the luggage!!” so we got back on and waited another hour and a half.) We found out later that we had taken off just minutes before they shut the airport down.


When we landed at Dulles the captain (who sounded like an excellent candidate for Prozac) said “We want to thank you all for your patience and understanding, and your continued loyalty to United Airlines, which, quite frankly, mystifies us.” (Seriously, that's what he said.) When we got to Dulles there were no more flights to Albuquerque (airports everywhere were in chaos) so we resigned ourselves to staying the night....and went to retrieve our luggage. Ah, hahahahahahahaha! The woman (a “Mrs. Wilcox”) at United's “customer service” office told Dan that if we were traveling out of the country we could have our luggage, otherwise, it would continue on to Albuquerque as planned. Dan did his best, smiling disarmingly: “Well, uh, we were going to..........uh.........Paris, yeah, that's right, we're flying to Paris!”


She said it would take 2 -3 hours to bring our bags “up.” An hour later, we watched the couple who had been seated right across the aisle from us walk away with their luggage, supposedly bound for Rome. Three hours later, my turn, this time a man at customer service said the computer showed no record of anyone looking for the luggage or even being asked to look for the luggage. I half expected him to tell me the sad story of the customer service representative who was murdered by a frustrated customer in 1972: “…and to this day, she still haunts the terminal and assures customers that she will see to it that they get their lost luggage....and her name was.....wooooo......Mrs. Wilcox.” He assured me that THIS time, he would make sure the BEST person “down there” was on it (“If anyone can find it, she can.”) I was beginning to wonder what kind of luggage hell existed “down” there below the terminal, and what the heat would do to the lipstick in my cosmetic case before it was brought “up” to me?


We waited until midnight, then wearily hailed a pumpkin (did you know that sitting under fluorescent lights for six hours can cause hallucinations?) to the nearest Four Seasons hotel (civilization, at last!) where they sweetly tisk-tisked and very kindly gave us travel toothbrush kits. We each implemented our own versions of traveler's therapy: I took a hot bath and Dan went down to the bar for a few martinis. Seven hours of sleep, and a pot of tea later, we were ready for anything else the Travel Gods wanted to throw at us. Back to Dulles, and two American Airlines flights later we landed in Albuquerque. Amazingly, our luggage was waiting there for us at the United Airlines office (it must have been the bellman we sacrificed at the hotel), and we picked up the keys to our Budget Escape (if you've ever driven in Santa Fe, you know better than to rent anything less substantial than a Panzer tank) and headed for Santa Fe.


We didn't even go to the hotel first, we left our hard-won, battle-scarred luggage in the car and headed straight for paradise: “Diego's Cafe.” We sat down and ordered everything we'd been craving for over two years: blue corn enchiladas, chile rellenos, sopapillas, chips, salsa, guacamole, and margaritas. I called my folks on my cell phone, to gloat, and my father answered.“Hello?"   

“I'm sitting in a booth at Diego's."   

“I don't want to hear this."


The whole time we were eating, we were looking at each other with these huge, ridiculous grins on our faces. We waddled out of there, two smiling, happy, mojo-filled gringos. We had two fun-filled days in Santa Fe eating, laughing, wandering, and eating, with friends. On Sunday we stopped at Diego's again for lunch, picked up some groceries, and headed for Colorado.


I seem to have picked up a cold along the way, but thankfully Dan hasn't caught it (I'm holed up in the guest room until I'm well.) I'm slowly recovering with the help of NyQuil and Dan’s  homemade chicken soup. It's so lush and green here, it rained yesterday and we could see it was snowing at the tops of the peaks surrounding the basin. I can't wait to get out and do some picture taking (the attached picture was taken three hours ago from the bedroom balcony).


I've made a good deal of headway in the computer room, copying disks and sorting through software manuals and website design books, (the town library will finally be forced to dedicate that wing to me.) Lots to do still and the art studio, oh boy oh boy.......lots to do. My best painting must have been sitting under the skylight in the art studio when they repaired it last year. It looks like some plaster dripped on the painting (an Indian in a robe looking through an archway) then someone wiped the wet plaster with a towel, which smeared it over a good portion of the robe. But, on the bright side, they didn't punch any holes in the canvas, and robes are easier to repair than faces (true in life as well, I might add, and you can quote me.)


As you can see from the photo, the ranch is in a very remote location, and it's very peaceful. But as wonderful as it is, I have to say, I miss the sounds, smells, and sights of the island: ah, yes, the whine of the noble, bloodthirsty Maine mosquito as he dives through a swarm of fanged black flies, the continuous fart of the dirt bikes and ATV's in their unending quest for a muffler, the screech of pickup truck tires and the smell of burning rubber/testosterone on the peaceful rural roads........oh dear, I'm making myself homesick. Seriously though, we miss you all, and look forward to getting back to the sea and the garden and the kitties. Well, I must return to my sorting now, it will be so interesting to get back to Maine and open these boxes to see what I packed in my NyQuil-induced euphoria.





    On Dan’s desk, a letter from his first wife was mixed in with a pile of fan mail. Maggie had written to wish him well and to let him know she was thinking of him. It was a beautiful letter, and after reading it a few times, he threw it away, like he did with most personal correspondence. Later, he told me, “I should have kept that letter from Maggie.” This was highly unusual, and it showed how deeply her gesture had touched him. If any lingering resentments had remained after their breakup, they'd been laid to rest.

    He’d received a post-diagnosis letter from his second wife, Anastasia, as well. She had written to him a few times since their divorce, often including newspaper clippings of horse-related causes she was involved in. Their breakup had been unexpected and painful, but he had put it behind him. “What does she want?” he asked, “Why can’t she just get on with her life?”

    “I don’t know,” I said, “maybe she regrets her decision. Or, maybe she just wants you to not be mad at her anymore.”

    Within the breakups I’d been through, I much preferred being the jilted lover, left behind with a broken heart. I could still look back on those days with fondness, remembering them as a rite of passage into womanhood. But there were no fond memories of the wounds I had inflicted on past lovers, however gentle or justified my leave-taking had been.

    I suggested Dan reply to Anastasia, saying, basically, “I’m glad you’re doing well, I’m happy too, have a good life.” I told him about the day I ran into my ex, on the plaza in Santa Fe. I’d ended our marriage six years earlier, still loving him, but knowing the relationship was doomed, despite two attempts to revive it. He was hurt and angry at the time of our divorce, but now we spent fifteen minutes on the sidewalk, catching up on the lives of various family members. Not long after our divorce was final, he had married someone much better suited to him, and they were very happy.  As we parted, I turned to go. I’d taken a few steps when he called out, “Hey!” When I looked back, he said, “You made some good decisions for us.” An immense surge of relief and happiness brought tears to my eyes.

    I was pretty sure Anastasia was hoping for something similar from Dan; some vindication for being the one with the strength to walk away from a marriage that, by all accounts, had become toxic for them both. But, her letter went unanswered.


    Two weeks later, there was still a lot that needed sorting, packing, and doing. After checking with Pauline, who was cat sitting for us, we decided to stay for another week and a half. Instead of returning to Maine, as we’d originally planned, we would fly back to Boston in time for our next MGH appointment.


    While going through old files and letters in his music room, Dan came across a letter from his literary hero, Jim Harrison. After reading every book Harrison ever wrote, Dan actually met him, in a hotel bar in Los Angeles in 1995. They drank and smoked and talked for hours, then met up again the following night; two fiercely private, hard-drinking philosophers who admired the other’s method of expression. It was a high-water mark in Dan’s life; a wondrous gift from the universe that he remembered with reverence and gratitude.


Mar 95


Dear Dan


    Was thinking of you in LA at the haunted penthouse (Sonia Braga was there once etc), then heard you on the radio, then read galleys of Dave Petersen’s Ghost Grizzlies about yr neighborhood. You’d probably like the book.

    Hope to run into you again. Dummish memory of swapping books + music, but then one should hate to quit Everything. Please leave me my beverages. Hope you have a good spring.





In the same file cabinet, Dan rediscovered a letter from his father. Sent after “Leader of the Band” was released, it was written on both sides of a sheet of stationary from the City of Pekin, Illinois.


Sept. 22, 1981


Dear Dan,

     As you know I have won many honors in my field and also have received many National Awards, but none can equal the honor and thrill you gave me with the “Leader of the Band”. The lyrics are so accurate and every word thrills me and also shakes me up completely.

    Thank you so much for this honor and I am so proud of you.

    Every album gets better. Your lyrics are so mature and flowing. Everything fits and shows great thought. I am so glad you acknowledged your Mother’s ability for words. That is really a gift to have that talent.

    The album is so much better musically.

    I like “Only The Heart May Know” the best. It is a classic. I think it should be a single. Mom feels the same way. (After “Leader of The Band” of course.)

    Thank you again for the honor and believe me I was deeply moved and always will remember the thrill and complete break-up I experienced when I first heard “Leader of The Band”. Your lyrics were definitely a perfect script for “This Is Your Life”.

    With Love,

    Leader of The Band.

Leader Of The Band
00:00 / 04:17

 Leader of the Band


An only child alone and wild, a cabinet maker's son 
His hands were meant for different work 
And his heart was known to none 
He left his home and went his lone and solitary way 
And he gave to me a gift I know I never can repay 
A quiet man of music denied a simpler fate 
He tried to be a soldier once, but his music wouldn't wait 
He earned his love through discipline-- a thundering, velvet hand 
His gentle means of sculpting souls took me years to understand 
The leader of the band is tired and his eyes are growing old 
But his blood runs through my instrument and his song is in my soul 
My life has been a poor attempt to imitate the man 
I'm just a living legacy to the leader of the band 
My brothers' lives were different for they heard another call 
One went to Chicago and the other to St Paul 
And I'm in Colorado when I'm not in some hotel 
Living out this life I've chose and have come to know so well 
I thank you for the music and your stories of the road 
I thank you for the freedom when it came my time to go 
I thank you for the kindness and the times when you got tough 
And, papa, I don't think I said "I love you" near enough 
I am a living legacy to the leader of the band 


In his younger days, Lawrence Fogelberg performed on USO tours with big Hollywood stars, playing multiple instruments. I wish I could have known him, but he died years before Dan and I met. Whenever the subject of Larry came up, Dan would say, "Oh, Dad would have liked you."


After we returned to Maine, he gave me the Leader of the Band letter and asked me to scan both sides and save it in multiple places. I backed up the jpeg files on two computers, two CDs, and three portable hard drives, then I printed a copy.

    A few weeks later, Dan was sitting on the couch in his study, sipping wine and staring into a fine fire he’d built in the brick fireplace. Abbie was curled up next to him and classical music was playing on the radio. In his hands, he held the letter from his father. After reading the words one last time, he got up and gently placed  them in the flames.  


Posted May 15th, 2021 Copyright ©Jean Fogelberg 2021