ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD

A serial memoir by Jean Fogelberg

Love & Gratitude

We began 2005 as we’d begun every new year together: with a midnight kiss, followed by smiles of love and gratitude. This was our first New Year’s Eve in Maine, and we were celebrating at a party in Brooksville, a town of five villages and approximately 900 people. Our artist friends, Gail and Rob, held the party at their home every year, inviting a small and eclectic group of sailors, artists, musicians, writers, entrepreneurs and filmmakers. 

     The house was filled with laughter, bright conversation, and the smell of Gail’s excellent cooking. We were glad to be there, among old and new friends, and, well, we were just glad to be there. When the diagnosis upended our world in June, we hadn’t known if Dan would survive the year. Six months later, we were living in our new home, coping well with treatment, making plans for the future, and, tonight, celebrating the coming year. We kissed at twelve o’clock, and this time the after-smile had an added element of victory.

     On January 2nd we drove to Boston for scans and tests. For months, I’d been calling in to get the PSA levels and relaying them to Dan on his boat. Now we got the number together, in the doctor’s office, and it had risen from 33 to 34. It was one lousy point, but it was our first increase since starting treatment, and it stung. Dr. Kaufman assured us that fluctuations were normal. He said we’d wait to see what the next blood results showed, before making a move. If the PSA continued to rise, he’d put Dan on the Casodex again. The short-term hormone-therapy drug had reduced the levels from 364 to 164 in June, so it sounded like a plan.

     We spent the night in Boston and the next day Dan flew west, to the ranch, powdery ski slopes, and his music studio. By the time he returned, the Maine house would be finished and we could start discussing landscaping.

 

On his first night back at the ranch, he made pasta for dinner and went to the basement for a bottle of wine. The cellar was a stone-walled closet at the bottom of the stairs, right next to the pool room. He selected a bottle of Italian wine and returned to the kitchen. When he pulled out the cork he was dismayed to find dark red stains up its sides, and the unmistakeable smell of mold. The cork had shrunk, allowing air into the bottle and the wine to go bad. All of the bottles in Dan’s cellar were stored on their sides, to keep the cork moist and plump, but wines are sometimes stored improperly before, or after, they reach wine shops - you can’t tell until you open them. Down to the cellar he went again, and this next bottle was corked as well. 

     With a feeling of dread, he brought more bottles up, from different vineyards and years. They were all ruined. We’d been gone for six months; what could possibly have happened to shrink the corks in bottles that should have been getting better with age? Then he remembered the night we came home from Santa Fe, to find everything in the pool room drenched in hot water dripping from burst pipes in the ceiling. After clearing the room out, the restoration company had brought in a big dehumidifier that ran for days in the doorway right next to the wine cellar.

     We’d been so distracted, we hadn’t given it a thought, and the restoration crew probably didn’t realize the narrow wood doors led to a small cellar of expensive wines. Dan was devastated, and angry with himself for having allowed this to happen. He would go to the wine shop in Pagosa in a few days, but until then there was a bottle of Absolute vodka in the freezer, sealed with a screw top and chilled to an icy syrup.

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Dan started most mornings by standing out on the bedroom balcony to see how the day was shaping up and to breathe in the views. Some days he skied the slopes at Wolf Creek; on others he stepped into his cross-country skis and made his way to the back of the property. Whether flying down a steep mountain or striding through the back country, as his Nordic ancestors had done, he felt happy and free when gliding over snow.

     In the evenings, he worked in the music studio or went through the files on his computer, emailing me anything he wanted backed up in Maine. I can picture him in his office, sitting at the little computer desk that held his blue Power Macintosh. 

 

     I’d bought the desk online one year, while shopping for his birthday. It was the only one I could find that would fit in his small office, next to the big oak roll-top desk.

     While he was in town running errands, I opened the box and laid all the parts out. Made of manufactured wood with laminate veneers, it had looked brown on the web, but was a pale peach-color in real life. It didn’t fit with the Victorian decor at all. It looked like someone had moved a giant Barbie desk into Captain Nemo’s study on the Nautilus. When he got home, I led Dan to his “big gift,” walking behind him so I wouldn’t have to see his expression. He entered slowly and sat down in his oak chair, which I had rolled in front of the new desk. 

     He pulled out the keyboard tray, which was just the right height. He opened and closed the two drawers, and thumbed through the software and storage discs in the cubbies. He wiggled the blue mouse on the desktop mousepad and woke the computer up. Then he looked at me with a big smile. “It’s great!” he said. No, it was terrible, and seeing him before it, in his vest and ski pants, it looked even more ludicrous.

     Somehow, it worked for him, though, and over the years he never once considered replacing it with something more dignified. He spent hundreds of hours in front of that silly desk, answering important business and legal emails, typing out lyrics and recipes, and watching his moderated chats with the fans unfold.

 

As he sat there now, looking through his computer for folders and files, emails and lyrics, he had plenty of time to reflect on his career. While sipping a glass of wine one night, he began reading some of the beautiful messages posted by fans at The Living Legacy website. Besides sending good wishes and prayers for his recovery, they were thanking him for the joy and comfort his music had brought them throughout the years, especially during the hard times. Now their words were comforting him, just when he needed it most. 

     Over the next few nights, he wrote a letter to his fans, quoting one of his own favorite songwriters, Joni Mitchell:

 

I heard it in the wind last night

It sounded like applause

Chilly now

End of summer

No more shiny hot nights

It was just the arbutus rustling

And the bumping of the logs

And the moon swept down black water

Like an empty spotlight ...

          “For the Roses” - Joni Mitchell

 

   My first performance without the comforting, supportive presence of a band was on a rainy, autumn night at a small campus coffee house at Illinois State University in 1968. I had told my parents that I was borrowing the car to pick up some friends and attend my high school’s Friday night football game in Peoria, Illinois -  where I was born and raised. Instead, I took my acoustic 12 - string and drove some 30 miles to Bloomington/Normal to this tiny club (the name of which I can’t even begin to recall) with a stage and an open mic and stumbled through 30 minutes of a mix of original songs and a few cover tunes. There were only three people in the entire place - the owner/server and two talkative women at a table across the room that never even took a breath long enough to look up at me or to in any way acknowledge that I was singing. A less than stellar reception to say the least, but a major personal triumph and a huge step - a step that would set me on a road that would, for the next three decades, carry me on a journey that would more than fulfill all my youthful ambitions and dreams.

 

Remember the days when you used to sit

And make up your tunes for love

And pour your simple sorrow

To the soundhole and your knee

 

On to college at the University of Illinois at Champaign and such clubs as Webster’s Last Word (Pekin), Chances R, and The Red Herring where I was discovered by my future manager/roommate/friend, Irving Azoff who had heard some of my coffee house recordings on the campus radio station. Before I knew it, we had picked up and moved to the wilds of Laurel Canyon in Los Angeles where, in a mad frenzy of auditions, music biz parties, and false starts, Irving managed to procure me a recording contract with CBS Records.

 

In an office sits a poet

And he trembles as he sings

And he asks some guy to circulate his soul around

On your mark red ribbon runner

The caressing rev of motors

Finely tuned like fancy women

In thirties evening gowns

 

I toured for several years as a solo performer in the legendary folk clubs of the 70’s - The Bitter End in New York City, The Quiet Knight in Chicago, The Troubadour in L.A., Passim’s in Cambridge, Mass., The Exit Inn in Nashville,

etc. and spent many wonderful nights on the road opening for my pals and cohorts, The Eagles, as we criss crossed America and Canada. I was always amazed that this skinny, long-haired kid with a Martin guitar could most nights get a rowdy country/rock crowd to quiet down and listen to these stories I was offering. Then came “Part of the Plan” and everything changed. Rock bands, road managers, limousines, private planes, all night partying, women galore and a whole lot of money.

 

And now you’re seen

On giant screens

And at parties for the press

And for people who have slices of you

From the company

 

Somehow, though, through all the rock and roll madness I always returned to the elegant simplicity and purity of performing solo and acoustic - all through the 70’s, the 80’s, the 90’s and into the early years of the 21st century.Tour after tour, night after night; millions of miles, thousands of stages, countless hotel rooms, innumerable faces... some nights it felt like struggling through quicksand while dragging an enormous weight and on others it felt like I was dancing on the eyelashes of God.

 

Up the charts

Off to the airport

Your name’s in the news

Everything’s first class

The lights go down

And it’s just you up there

Getting them to feel like that.

 

“Working without a net” I always called it. Six or seven beautiful guitars, a grand piano, a wooden chair, and a team of very talented and devoted technicians who always made it sound and look right.

 

From those first tentative coffeehouse gigs to colossal evenings in 20,000 seat arenas to the premier performing arts theaters and pavilions of America - it has been a wondrous experience that is difficult, if not impossible, for me to describe:

 

Magical, intimate, powerful, fulfilling, exciting, exhausting, rewarding, overwhelmingly loving and, ultimately, deeply humbling.

 

To each and every person who has followed along on this wonderful journey, so many returning year after year to hear again these familiar songs/stories - to all who have so graciously allowed me to touch their hearts and their lives with music and laughter; to all who have listened so respectfully these many long years - I give you my love, my appreciation and my deepest gratitude.

 

It has been a privilege to perform for you and one of my life’s greatest pleasures.

 

And, yes, ‘the audiences were heavenly and the traveling was hell.’

 

D.F.

January 2005

Mountain Bird Ranch

 

 

When the letter was finished, he emailed the file to me for safekeeping, not knowing if he would be around when it was sent out into the world, to close the circle of love and gratitude.

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Posted March 20th. 2021 Copyright ©Jean Fogelberg 2021

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