1996 - 1998
I'm Famous, You Know
"And it feels like the first time, like it never did before
Feels like the first time, like we've opened up the door
Feels like the first time, like it never will again, never again."
Feels Like the First Time ~ Foreigner
Besides playing at Cafe Romana three nights a week, I was working full-time as the office manager for The Piñon Group, Rebecca and Nic’s Global Management consulting firm. I liked my job, and I was making more money than I’d ever earned as a musician, plus benefits, but it could be stressful. I did the filing, answered the phones, kept the computers running smoothly, and created unique graphics for the program materials that were tailor-made for the household-name companies they worked with. Once the materials were approved, they had to be printed, compiled, packaged, and sent to the Piñon Group consultants so they could make their presentations wherever they were in the world.
I was working two jobs, I had just moved, and I was starting a new relationship. It was all good stuff, but it was a perfect storm of stress that converged right in the middle of cold and flu season. The Sunday after our Halloween date, I woke up with a tender red lump on my lower lip that grew into a huge, painful cold sore on Monday. Good Gussie, not now!
Dan had returned to the ranch for a couple of days and called me each night. On Monday night I told him about the cold sore, exaggerating its severity so it would seem smaller when he saw me. He wasn’t concerned, though, and said it would pass.
The John Williams concert was going to be on Thursday, a work night for me, so I traded nights with another musician at the cafe and played on the Wednesday before. Dan met me at the cafe that night and responded to my embarrassed smile with, “It’s not that bad.” He helped me carry my equipment in, then sat down for dinner. He was a regular now and the staff greeted him as one. He was always seated where he could see me, and the table was his for as long as he wanted it. If any of the other diners recognized him, they did a great job of hiding it.
When I was finished, we loaded my gear back into my car and walked down Palace Avenue to the Eldorado Hotel. We sat in the bar area of the large event room and listened to Ruben Romero playing his Spanish guitar. As we talked, Dan’s eyes never once strayed to the cold sore.
In the course of our conversation, I mentioned that my father’s nickname for me was Meem. Dan told me that his Scottish grandmother, Agnes Meekle Leckie, was also called “Mim,” and God help the man who ever called her Agnes. He seemed delighted by this bit of serendipity.
We stayed until closing, and then he walked me up San Francisco Street to my car. As we were passing the old Lensic Theater he put his arm around my shoulder for the first time. I reached up and put my hand over his. He had the most beautiful hands of any man I’d ever seen: strong and veinless, with long, graceful fingers. I loved his thick round fingertips, calloused from so many years of playing guitar. It was cold out, but his hand was so warm I could feel it through my clothes. That’s when I thought, “If his lips are anything like his hands, I’m in big trouble.” His lips were beautiful as well: full, but not too full, and a little chapped. They looked pliant and warm and I wanted to kiss them in the worst way, but that stupid cold sore meant it would have to wait for a while.
I ate, drank, and applied anything that was supposed to cure them, but on the night of the John Williams concert the cold sore was gnarly. I was mortified, and did my best to hide it, but again, Dan hardly seem to notice. We had dinner with Kenny and Janelle and they were very kind as well, commiserating and then ignoring it. After dinner the four of us walked over to the Saint Francis Auditorium.
This was my first time in the performance hall and I was immediately transfixed by the beautiful murals that had been painted on the walls in 1918. I especially loved the one behind the stage, “The Apotheosis of Saint Francis.” The depiction of Santa Fe’s patron saint was so like the paintings by my favorite Pre Raphaelite artist, John William Waterhouse.
We sat on one of the long wooden pews and I swiveled to take in the rest of the magnificent room, with its massive McNary pipe organ, carved wooden doors, and the hand-hewn vigas and herringbone latillas on the ceiling. Then the lights were lowered and the concert began.
John Williams’ fingers flew over the gut strings and the audience applauded each song enthusiastically. Dan took my hand, and my heart soared. I would have been happy to sit in the forgiving darkness all night, feeling my hand enveloped in his.
It seemed like that cold sore lasted for weeks, but it was actually gone in twelve days, just in time for my birthday on November 19th. Dan had made reservations at Paul’s, our favorite restaurant, and I was looking forward to it.
I wore the same short black turtleneck dress I’d worn in the photo on the Cafe Romana poster, with the extra-long sleeves I’d made to cover my bony wrists. Dinner was delicious and romantic, just the two of us at a small candle-lit table. After we ordered dessert Dan reached into his jacket pocket and brought out a pale blue suede pouch. He handed it to me, saying “Happy Birthday, Jeanie.”
Pulling open the drawstring top, I saw a beautiful necklace coiled inside. The chain looked like a twisted silver rope and the small silver pendant held my birthstone, a blue topaz, surrounded by a circle of gold. It was a one-of-a-kind piece, created by an artisan whose work was featured at Ornament, the fabulous jewelry store on San Francisco Street, near Cafe Romana. It was the first of many gifts Dan would give me that I wouldn’t have chosen for myself, but which, once worn, were undeniably perfect for me. It looked beautiful against my black dress and I loved it.
After dinner we went to Dan’s rented casita on Palace Avenue. We sat on the couch and played our guitars, me playing rhythm guitar and Dan improvising riffs; my first Dan Fogelberg concert. At one point I went into the kitchen to make a cup of tea. As I reached into the cabinet for a mug, my dress rose up a bit and my straight blonde hair fell below my waist. Dan later recalled watching me and thinking, “What have I gotten myself into?”
He drove me home and, as always, walked me to the door. I stepped inside and we said goodnight but, this time, he leaned in and gave me four light kisses, as if counting out the beat to a ballad: one, two, three, four. As he pulled away he smiled and said, “See you tomorrow.” I don’t know what I said back; once again, neural fuses were blowing like fireworks in my head.
I closed the door and leaned against it, like some weak-kneed ingenue in a Sandra Dee movie. I had been so right about those lips! I turned forty-one that day, but I felt like a girl of sixteen who had just been kissed for the very first time. I’m not sure how long I stood there, replaying the feeling of his lips on mine. When I licked them there was a lingering taste of Berry Balm Blistex.
We went to my apartment after work the following night and I invited Dan in. Our lips were like magnets. We kissed until my face was stubble-scrubbed and red. But we stopped there - AIDS was the leading cause of death among people our age. The CDC had recently changed the name, Gay-Related Immune Deficiency (GRID), to Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS), when it became clear that hemophiliacs, women, babies, and patients who had received blood transfusions were contracting it as well. It was everywhere on the news and a big topic in Santa Fe, with its large gay community.
Even without the fear of AIDS, though, we were both two-time-losers who desperately wanted to get it right, so we took it slow and enjoyed our delicious winter courtship.
Delicious is maybe the wrong word. Decadent; indulgent; shameless - those words may better describe our courtship in Santa Fe. We were like a couple of two-year-olds in a room full of adults; drawn to each other and fascinated to the exclusion of all else.
On the nights I performed, we’d stow my gear in my car when I was done and walk to the Eldorado to talk and kiss until eleven thirty. I have never been ashamed to display a little public affection, but I was always aware of other people, not wanting to offend or embarrass anyone. For the first time in my life, I didn’t care what other people thought.
On the nights I wasn’t performing, Dan would pick me up at seven and we’d go have dinner. Afterward we’d head back to my apartment to talk and kiss until midnight, because I absolutely had to be up at seven thirty to get ready for work the next day. He would later recall the extreme physical discomfort of walking out to his car and driving away after all the kissing.
Sometimes when he was staring into my eyes I could almost hear him wondering, “Are you for real?” I was wondering the same thing. He was too good to be true; our budding relationship too perfect.
We had both been with people who would say whatever they thought you wanted to hear, just to be with you; it’s one of the hazards of being a performer. Those relationships started like a dream come true, but they always ended in disaster because the person was playing a part; they weren’t being real, and no one can maintain that for long.
I had no problem being myself, and disagreeing with Dan. If he asked what I thought, I would tell him. He was smart, well-read, informed, and opinionated - he couldn’t have been submissive if he tried. Even while defending his views he seemed to draw comfort from our differences of opinion. He enjoyed verbal sparring and quickly became bored around people who always agreed with him.
Our interests and core values were very similar and when we did disagree about something, it usually had to do with a male vs. female perspective of life. Those were interesting discussions because, although girls had been frustrating him and breaking his heart since high school, he was still fascinated. Even after all the love songs, he was just a guy trying to unlock the mysteries of women.
One night he told me a story about how he and his first wife, Maggie, had gone camping for a few days. He drove to town for something and stopped in at a bar for a quick drink. He ended up meeting a writer he admired and they had talked until the bar closed. When he got back to the campsite, Maggie was furious. She made him take her home and she wouldn’t speak to him for three days.
In his mind, this was a funny story about the night he had closed a bar down with one of his idols. I could just hear his buddies laughing and saying, “Oh man, she must have been pissed!” When he saw that I was looking at him with a perplexed smile, he asked, “What?” I said, “You left the woman you loved, alone in the wilderness without a car or phone, to spend the night getting drunk with some famous guy in a bar, and she wasn’t supposed to be mad?” He was quiet, processing this and looking at it from Maggie’s point of view. I added that it would certainly make me think twice about going camping with him, and that put a more immediate spin on it.
In the end he agreed that it had been a really shitty thing to do to Maggie, but he had to admit he was still glad he had come away with the memory of hanging out with the author.
Dan had never dated musicians. It was actually a rule with him: “No chick singers.” He’d seen too many performer/performer relationships crash and burn. Now he was breaking that rule. I almost always dated musicians, for reasons both romantic and practical (they kept the same vampire hours.)
Our relationship had started out exactly opposite from the way he was used to: I was the performing musician and he was my admiring fan in the audience. I had never seen him in concert and, since he was in between tours, I wouldn’t have that chance for some time. He was used to people telling him they knew all his songs; had all his albums; I played three of his songs and owned two brand new CDs. I really hadn’t had time to become a fan.
He couldn’t even impress me with his rock star mansion, three hours away in Colorado. On the face of it, he was a cute guy with a truck, living in a rented casita. Sometimes, in those early days, he would say, only half-joking, “I’m famous, you know. I really am.”
Now and then he caught a break, though.
Santa Fe has more than its share of movie stars and musicians, and the locals usually play it cool around them. But every once in a while I was amazed at how easily his fans recognized him, especially after that first night at Cafe Romana, when no one had recognized him.
We were walking down Alameda Street one afternoon and Dan was wearing Wayfarer sunglasses and a ball cap. Really, all you could see was his nose and chin. Crossing Don Gaspar, we saw a van idling at the stop sign with a woman and a little boy in the front seats. As we passed in front of them the driver shifted into park, opened her door, and stood on the running board. Leaning over the open door, she shouted, “Dan, I named my son after you!” He grinned and gave a little wave as we stepped up on the sidewalk and ducked into the corner bar. I was amazed. “How in the world did she recognize you?!” I asked. He just shook his head and smiled with resignation, but I’m sure he was pleased to have had his celebrity status verified. It happened just often enough that we developed a little routine.
One night, while sitting at a table in the Eldorado bar, we became aware of a large man, about our age, standing near the hotel lobby and staring at us. When he started making his way across the room toward us, we both thought, “Okay, here we go,” knowing how this would go down.
He would apologize for intruding, then tell Dan he was a big fan and ask for an autograph. I would dig in my purse for a pen and Dan would sign a napkin while asking the man his name, then they’d have a brief discussion about where he was from, what he was doing in Santa Fe, music, etc. Then the man would walk away, thrilled to have met Dan, and looking forward to telling his friends the story.
I already had the pen in my hand when he stopped at our table and said, “Excuse me, I don’t mean to intrude but, you’re Jean Marie, aren’t you?” It was a moment right out of Spinal Tap that Dan would tell and re-tell.
By now, the idea of dating anyone else was unthinkable for us both. We went out every weekday evening and any place we were together was sparkling and perfect and magical. Each night would end with Dan saying, “What are you doing tomorrow night?”
During one of my weekly phone calls with my parents, I told them I was dating someone new. I said he was a famous musician and his name was Dan Fogelberg. Dad quietly pondered the familiar-sounding name but Mom exclaimed, “Oh honey, not another musician!”