ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD

A serial memoir by Jean Fogelberg

Hello, Goodbye

The Summer 2001 solo tour was a relatively short one: fourteen venues in the month of July. Houston, Texas was our first stop; the last would be Napa, California. Our European vacation had been good for Dan. He was in rare form; enjoying performing and greeting the audiences like long-lost friends. Between songs he was positively chatty.

    We had seven concerts behind us when, in Colorado Springs, I developed an infection in my left eye. We were staying at the Broadmoor Resort and they recommended a doctor who prescribed drops for the infection, swelling and pain. I stayed in our room that night, too self conscious to attend the concert or the Meet and Greet with Dan. The next day we traveled to Denver, then on to Indiana and Michigan. By the time we were in Interlochen, Michigan the eye was still tender but the redness and swelling were almost gone. Just in time for the last performance, at Mondavi Winery in Napa Valley. 

    The weather was perfect for an outdoor concert amid the lush vineyards of Napa. An opening act played through the sunset and the stars were coming out as Dan went on. His college friend, Suzy Drell, had driven up from San Francisco and she and I stood offstage and watched the sold out concert together. Dan came out and said hello, thanks for coming, then he sat down and began to play guitar.

    Regular attendees of the Mondavi concert series had arrived early and were sitting on blankets on the grass. They’d started drinking during the opening act, and were a bit too noisy for the fans who had driven a long way to see Dan and were seated or standing in the back. Dan was in a great mood, though, so he played to his fans and overlooked the chatter. It was a beautiful night, the last concert of the Summer, and he was looking forward to sailing in Maine in a few weeks. 

    He opened with “Nexus,” then went on to “Go Down Easy” and “Hard to Say.”  He told the audience that this would be his last concert before turning 50, which he found terrifying. He added that, when he was a young man, if anyone had told him he’d live past 30, he wouldn’t have believed them. He sipped his Throat Coat tea then said he hoped he had inherited his mother’s genes, as the women in her family vastly outlived the men. His Scottish mother, Margaret, had just turned 80, and her mother was 107. “If I got a sex change, I might live forever,” he added, and the crowd loved that one.

    As their laughter died, he began to play “Forefathers.” 

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Forefathers

 

They came from Scandinavia, the land of midnight sun 

And crossed the North Atlantic when this century was young 

They'd heard that in America every man was free 

To live the way he chose to live and be who he could be 

 

Some of them were farmers there and tilled the frozen soil 

But all they got was poverty for all their earnest toil 

They say one was a sailor who sailed the wide world round 

Made home port, got drunk one night, walked off the pier and drowned 

 

My mother was of Scottish blood, it's there that she was born 

They brought her to America in 1924 

They left behind the highlands and the heather-covered hills 

And came to find America with broad expectant dreams and iron wills 

 

My granddad worked the steel mills of central Illinois 

His daughter was his jewel, his son was just his boy 

For thirty years he worked the mills and stoked the coke-fed fires 

And looked toward the day when he'd at last turn 65 and could retire 

 

(Chorus) 

And the sons become the fathers and their daughters will be wives 

As the torch is passed from hand to hand 

And we struggle through our lives 

Though the generations wander, the lineage survives 

And all of us, from dust to dust, we all become forefathers by and by 

 

The woman and the man were wed just after the war 

And they settled in this river town and three fine sons she bore 

One became a lawyer and one fine pictures drew 

And one became this lonely soul who sits here now 

And sings this song to you 

 

(Chorus) 

By and by, by and by...

    He crossed the stage to the piano and played ”Beggar’s Game,” “Paris Nocturne,” and then “Don’t Lose Heart,” which was new to some fans, since it was only on the box set, “Portrait,” and didn’t get airplay.

    Moving back to his chair for some guitar songs, he set up “Make Love Stay” as he often did, by saying it was the only song in the English language to use the word “exhumed.” Many of the fans had heard this one before but they chuckled anyway, as they would for their Uncle Joe’s old jokes at the annual Thanksgiving family gathering.

    I had heard Dan's anecdotes and one-liners numerous times by now, in varying renditions. Starting with the first concert of the tour, he would fine-tune his between-songs banter, repeating the ones the audiences liked the most and perfecting them along the way. Some fans would see two or three concerts in a row, and a few of them would complain in the forums about how Dan repeated these seemingly offhand comments. The vast majority of the audience was seeing the show for the first and last time though, and Dan would no more deny them a funny story than a song from the setlist.

    Blues legend John Lee Hooker had died recently, on June 21st, and Dan dedicated his next song, “The Road Beneath My Wheels” to him. He played the instrumental, “Lazy Susan,” and then dedicated “Buckaroo’s Midnight Ramble,” to Chet Atkins, who had died just nine days after John Lee Hooker.

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    During the solo tours, Dan almost always played his acoustic guitar songs while sitting on an old wooden chair the fans had come to recognize over the years. The “Royal Chair,” as the crew called it, was an antique oak Schoolhouse Chair, originally from a Lutheran Church in Indianapolis. Sound engineer George Strakis found it among his auctioneer father’s stock, and took it to the gig one night in the late ‘70s. It had a straight back, no arms, and the seat was at a comfortable height for Dan’s legs. It made everyone’s lives much easier - no more scouring each venue for a solid or folding chair that would work for that night. Dan liked it, and by 1980 it was a permanent part of the stage setup.

    Then, disaster struck. Some time in the late ‘80s/early ‘90s, the equipment truck was unloaded before a gig and…no chair. Stage manager John “Slice” Vanderslice and some of the crew scoured whatever city they were in and found an identical chair, same distressed finish and color, saddled seat, mortise and tenon construction, and steam-bent braces. They set it on the stage that night and held their collective breaths. Dan sat down and…..played the set. BIG sighs of relief.

    This time, it was numbered and added to the equipment inventory, and it would need to be labeled. Guitar technician John “Jage” Jackson taped black gaffer’s tape on the back of the chair and painted “Ye Olde Sensitive Seat” on it. Slice explains Jage’s choice of words this way: "Balancing the fine line of standard crew irreverence, sarcasm, and artist humbling, with keeping our jobs.” Apparently, sensitive was a crew "term of endearment,” referring to Dan’s acoustic sets/shows (Electric vs Sensitive.) Or so they say. 

    Anyway, Dan never noticed it was a different chair, and no one ever told him.

 

MSN Online Chat 2000

RenoRed Asks: On the Fogelberg main page, they make reference to a "signature acoustic wooden chair"... Does that mean something???

Dan: No, the chair I use on stage has no significance. My sound guy got that from his dad one night when I needed a chair. Somehow it got on the truck and it's been there ever since. I’ve been thinking about changing to a La-Z-Boy Recliner.

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    Dan returned to the piano for  “Run For the Roses,” then moved back to the chair for “Morning Sky,” “Longer,” and “Leader of the Band.” He said goodnight and played “Part of the Plan.” The audience gave him a standing ovation and he came back out and played “Same Old Lang Syne” on the piano. After another ovation, he thanked the crew for their good work on the tour and ended with “Along the Road,” on guitar.

    When it was time to leave, I followed Suzy into the long limo then scooted over on the long back seat. As Dan was getting in, I looked up at him and a gust of wind blew sand into my eye. The pain was instantaneous and excruciating. It had been a good tour, and Dan was tired but happy, so I tried to downplay the agony I was in.

    Saline flushing and drops didn’t help, and whenever I blinked it felt like my cornea was being sliced. We flew home and I started using the prescription drops again and taped the eye shut at the ranch. In a few weeks we’d be traveling to Maine and I wanted to be completely healed by then.

    After three days of constant pain, I couldn’t take it any more. In the master bedroom I sterilized a sewing needle with a match and rubbing alcohol, then went to my magnifying makeup mirror. Bending the lid back, I could see what looked like a tiny white pearl growing in the raw red flesh. I scraped it out with the needle and the relief was immediate. I went downstairs and told Dan what I’d done. When I showed him the pearl he looked at me with a mixture of horror and admiration, and hugged me, almost as relieved as I was. We joked for a while about what kind of setting would be nice for the pearl. I was so happy that I would be able to relax and enjoy our time in Maine.

    On the 11th of September we had just settled in with our morning tea and coffee on the back porch of the old Captain’s house in Maine, when my father called to tell us that a plane had hit the north tower of the World Trade Center in New York. He knew we didn’t have a TV, and he thought we should know. After hanging up, we both envisioned a private passenger plane losing control and accidentally veering off-course. We wondered how much damage a plane that size could do, clipping such a large building. Surely, not a lot?

    Twenty minutes later, Dad called again, sounding uncharacteristically distressed, to say a second plane had hit the south tower. It was a passenger jet, he said. Dan and I were two people with exceptional imaginations, but, try as we might, we could not conceive of how that could happen, or what it would look like. We were used to hearing about hijackings; since the ‘70s, it seemed like there had been one every other month. But the hijackers usually demanded money and safe passage to Cuba - they didn’t crash the planes. 

    Abandoning our peaceful Autumn morning on Eggemoggin Reach, we picked up our mugs and went inside to turn on the radio. In the sky over Pennsylvania, the brave passengers of flight 93 were fighting for control of their aircraft.

    Tuning in to NPR on our boombox radio, we heard that a plane had just crashed into the Pentagon. We followed the unimaginable news while speculations progressed from an explosion to faulty radar systems to terrorism. All air traffic was grounded and the White House was evacuated. After Flight 93 crashed into a field in Pennsylvania, it was clear this was a coordinated act of terrorism. 

    As we sat by the radio, hanging on each new update, I thought of the people who had unwittingly tuned in to Orson Wells’ 1938 radio drama The War Of The Worlds. The idea of martians landing in Manhattan and releasing toxic smoke from their space ships was less horrifying to me than the dawning realization that human beings with hate in their hearts had done this to other human beings.

    The response was predictable: fear, anger, grief, and more hate. It spread like an infection to every corner of the world and, like any act of hatred, affected the innocent more than the guilty.

    Three days later Mom and Dad called to tell me that my cousin Gary had been in the north tower when it was hit, and was presumed dead. 

    Gary Bird flew from Tempe, Arizona to New York, for two days of meetings after accepting a top position at the Phoenix branch of a risk management company. He arrived on time for his 8:15 am meeting on the 99th floor of the north tower. At 8:46 am, Flight 11 crashed into floors 93 to 99 and exploded. 

    We didn’t know his wife, Donna, and their kids, but when I heard the news, my heart broke for my cousin Tommy and my Aunt Joan. I hadn’t seen Gary in many years, but memories flooded back.

 

    My sisters and I loved our older cousins, Gary and Tommy, and looked forward to summer vacations at their family’s farm in Pea Green, Colorado. I remember we five, along with Mom, Dad, Uncle Dan, and Aunt Joan, seated around the long breakfast table in the old stone house. 

    Morning light streams in the high windows of the bright country kitchen as Nat King Cole sings “Ramblin’ Rose” from a transistor radio on the window ledge. Smells of bacon and pancakes, clatter of metal utensils on plates, talk and laughter. Young boys Gary and Tommy, teasing us and making us giggle.

    Fifteen-year-old Gary, running up the dirt road to the house with my little sister under one arm during a sudden, violent lightning storm. A huge tree, split down the middle, smoldering behind them.

    The big side doors of the barn are wide open and the summer sun warms the hay on the dirt floor. Seventeen-year-old Gary sits on a stool, resting his smiling face against the soft, hairy side of a spotted cow. He pulls milk from her teats into the bucket beneath them as she waits patiently, drowsy from the sun and loosely tied to the plank of a nearby stall. He patiently shows us how, and praises our clumsy attempts before resuming the milking. Now and then he aims a teat sideways and shoots a stream of milk at the kittens and cats perched nearby on bales of hay. Peals of laughter from us as we watch them lick the warm, creamy liquid from their faces.

    There’s nothing casual about the casualties of war.

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    A week later, Dan and I made our way back home to Colorado. Horrifying images of the attacks were in constant rotation on airport terminal televisions, and the security presence, bomb sniffing dogs, and new screening measures were unnerving. The world, as we had known it, had changed forever.

    It was good to be home, in the middle of the San Juan Mountains. The Fall tour was cancelled, as were the tours of many other musicians across the country. Domestic flight reservations fell drastically and several airlines went bankrupt. Clear Channel, the biggest radio station owner in the United States, sent out a list of more than 165 songs it considered lyrically questionable to its radio stations, including “Learn To Fly” by the Foo Fighters; “Crash Into Me” by the Dave Matthews Band; "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” by the Beatles; “Stairway to Heaven” by Led Zeppelin, and, oddly, “Imagine” by John Lennon and Yoko Ono, “Na Na Hey Hey, Kiss Him Goodbye” by Steam, “When Will I See You Again” by The Three Degrees, and “She’s Not There” by the Zombies. 

    Buckaroo had just turned fifteen, so some lethargy was to be expected, but over the next four months he started losing his appetite and looking unwell. A visit to the local vet yielded nothing conclusive other than old age. Dan went to town especially for crab legs, and cooked and cooled them. We fed Boone by hand; anything to please him and bring him back to health. 

    His previous, long-time veterinarian, “Dr. Dan” Parkinson, had moved to Durango and set up Riverview Veterinary. It was an hour’s drive, but by February we were concerned enough that we wanted someone we knew and trusted to look at Buckaroo. When Dr. Dan showed us the X-rays, our hearts sank; his lungs were full of liquid. I didn’t hear much after that, except that it was amazing he was still able to walk, and, he would drown in own fluids soon, possibly even on the drive home. That cut through quite clearly.

    I asked Dr. Dan if we should euthanize Boone, and he said that would be the most humane thing. Dan agreed, but it was clearly killing him. Everything was happening so fast, and I know he wanted to take Buckaroo home, and have more time with him, but the thought of the Coon Cat slowly drowning was more than I could bear. I vaguely remember Dr. Dan giving us a moment alone with Buckaroo while he went to get the drugs and implements. 

    As our grief filled the room, we fought hard to keep it together so Buckaroo wouldn’t sense our distress. We were standing side by side, loving on him when Dr. Dan returned. As he prepared to inject the needle, I laid my head down on the table in front Buckaroo’s face. Dan continued stroking his fur, but he was incapable of otherwise moving or speaking.

    I told Boone he was the best cat in the whole world and we would always love him. As the second needle was injected into the rubber tube, the pain in my throat that was making it hard to breathe but I told him that we would see him again one day. His beautiful golden eyes never left mine, and when the light went out of them we stayed there a while longer, until Dr. Dan said he was gone.

    We thanked Dr. Dan for his kindness and help, and he gave us his condolences and said they would send Buckaroo’s ashes along to us as soon as they were ready. We walked out into the sunshine together, holding on and holding up. We probably looked as shell-shocked as every other pet parent who’s had to say goodbye to a beloved animal child, but as our feet crunched on the snowy parking lot, our grief was unique, and ours alone.

    Dan drove, steering by rote, and we both stared out the windows, seeing nothing. We were maybe twenty minutes outside of Durango when I thought of what Dr. Dan had said about being surprised Buckaroo could even walk. Just the night before, when Dan and I were sitting on the couch in front of the fireplace, Buckaroo had weakly jumped into my lap and curled up.

    The memory stabbed my heart and I began to sob. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Dan glance at me and I felt his surprise. He had never seen me weep before. Watery eyes during emotional moments; tears running down my cheeks during a good movie, but even during our three almost-breakups, I hid my sobs. I'd given him my heart, but I’d never shared the most vulnerable part of it. He’d never seen me grieve.

    I felt ashamed. Dan had loved Buckaroo for much longer than I had; I should be comforting him, not making him feel worse. But the heart doesn’t measure love in years, it measures in moments. It doesn’t hear the ticking of a clock, it hears the scritch-scritching of claws on Mexican tiles, and the “Waaaaa” at the end of a Burt Bacharach song. I wanted to be strong, but I felt helpless. Dan reached out and took my hand, and a new bond was formed between us.

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Remington Buckaroo Boone

August 20, 1986  - February 5th, 2002

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Posted November 14th. 2020 Copyright ©Jean Fogelberg 2020

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