1996 - 1998
“I hear a voice like mystery, blowing warm through the night.”
River of Souls ~ Dan Fogelberg
Larry Fogelberg loved Santa Fe. He would drive his wife Margaret and their three sons all the way from Peoria, Illinois during summer vacations to stay at the historic La Fonda Hotel. Dan had fond memories of those trips, and one night in particular stood out above the others.
La Plazuela, the hotel restaurant, is a large, open room, lit in the daytime by a ceiling of skylights. Most of the surrounding walls are made up of panes of colorful hand-painted glass. A wrought iron rail surrounds the landing on the second floor, and from the restaurant you can look up and see hotel guests coming and going from their rooms, occasionally stopping to look down on the diners, the fountain in the center of the room, and tall potted Ficus trees.
On the night in Dan’s memory, the chairs and tables had been carried out to make room for a traditional Hopi Indian Buffalo Dance. Dan was just a little boy and Larry and Margaret thought their youngest son might be frightened by the masks and loud drums, so they left him in the room with his grandmother, Mim, and went downstairs to watch the dance with his older brothers, Pete and Marc.
Once the chanting and drums started thundering through the hotel, though, Dan could not be contained. He cried and pleaded with Mim until she finally agreed to let him look down on the dance from outside their room on the second floor. Grasping the iron railing in his little hands, tears still wet in his eyelashes, he was thrilled by the spectacle below: the dancers twirling in their feathered costumes, the pounding of the drums, the Native American chants. It struck a chord deep inside him that would reverberate for the rest of his life.
As a grown man of forty five, he still remembered that night each time he passed the La Fonda on his walk from the rented casita on Palace Avenue to the plaza. Alone, or with his friend Kenny Passarelli, he tried new restaurants, explored the galleries and shops, and enjoyed the music that rang out from the sidewalks, the plaza, and the bars. But foremost in his mind was a desire to fill the gaping hole in his heart.
His Colorado ranch manager had Saturdays and Sundays off, so Dan drove the three hours to Pagosa Springs to oversee his 600-acre ranch on the weekends, then back to Santa Fe on Monday or Tuesday.
When he walked into Cafe Romana a week after that first night, I smiled and nodded from the mic. This time he was greeted like a regular from the staff; it seemed everyone wanted to make up for giving him the bum’s rush the first time.
Before playing each night, I would put my “Song Menus” on the tables. Offering over three hundred songs, from the 1930s on up to the current hits of the day, the menus encouraged requests and increased tips. Each sheet of letter-sized paper had two columns of song titles and was folded in half, making my Cafe Romana song menu a tall skinny booklet with eight pages. For years I’d written them up by hand and run copies on colorful paper but now I had a Macintosh Performa computer with Photoshop and fonts; I was my own advertising department.
The inside back page explained in great (too much) detail the equipment I was using to create the sounds the audience was hearing: drums, violins, horns, etc. The back of the menu had a small bio:
“I was born in St. Albans, NY, and grew up in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo, CA. I taught myself to play the guitar when I was 11 and performed in my first band when I was 17. The Temptations recorded a song I wrote called ‘Power’ and I am a BMI-affiliated songwriter. I studied acting at the Pacific Conservatory for the Performing Arts and moved to Santa Fe in 1989. I paint, sew, and have virtually no left brain.”
At the bottom was my AOL email address and a toll-free 800 number to call for my recorded weekly schedule.
People approached me between songs to make a request, or they would bring the menu up while I was singing, point to the song they wanted, and drop a dollar in my tip jar when I nodded. Sometimes they’d write notes, or mark the songs they wanted to hear, and set the menu on my amp, which meant that menu could not be reused. It was worth it though; copies were cheap and tips were important.
Now that I’d met Dan Fogelberg, I was curious to hear more of his music; something other than the few hits I knew from the radio. At the record store in the Via Linda Mall, I thumbed through the CDs. He looked different from the photos on the older CDs, and I felt a little better about not recognizing him.
When I saw the cover of No Resemblance Whatsoever I pulled it out of the rack because, despite the title, it bore the biggest resemblance to the man who had come to the cafe to hear me sing. It was his most recent CD, released only the year before, in 1995. Maybe he wasn’t on the skids after all. I also bought River of Souls, released in 1993, and took them home for a listen.
My friend Rebecca and her new husband had purchased a house together on the outskirts out of the city and her old house was on the market. I had been living in an apartment complex on Airport Road but agreed to move into her old house with my furniture so it would look homey and show well. We figured it would take a year or so to sell. It was a good plan, but the house sold in three months and now I was living among boxes again, preparing to move back to the apartments on Airport Road.
I put the River of Souls CD in my boombox to play and sat down to pay some bills. I was surprised by the variety of styles and subject matter, but when track nine, the title track, began to play I had to stop writing and sit back in my chair. The classical guitar intro gave me chills. It was one of the sexiest things I’d ever heard and it still tugs at my heart for the memories it brings back. In the years to come, if I walked by while Dan was playing guitar at home, he’d play the opening notes of the intro and give me a roguish smile, knowing it would earn him, at the very least, a kiss.
Haunting strings come from behind and wait for the bossa nova beat to take over as Dan’s deep, soft voice sings, “I take my place along the shore, and I wait for the tide.”
I played the intro over and over before allowing the rest of the track to play. As I listened, I pulled the booklet out and was stunned to see that it was Dan playing the classical guitar. I guess I’d assumed that, like many musicians, he had a lead guitar player in his band. As the song continued, I was taken with the tasty guitar licks scattered throughout the rest of the song and the synthesizer flute parts, also played by Dan. I hadn’t realized he was such an accomplished musician. There was also a love song dedicated to his wife in the booklet. Yeah, I figured.
Next, I listened to No Resemblance Whatsoever and realized I had no idea what Dan Fogelberg was about. Over the years, I’d known only the ballads. He was often labeled a “folk singer” but I was hearing jazz, bossa nova, and rock. I was surprised, and impressed, and found myself wondering how many other gems of his I’d missed throughout the years.
Cafe Romana’s general manager, Patricia, was tall and shapely, with light brown hair and a big beautiful smile. She was madly in love with her new beau and wanted everyone else to be as happy as she was. Convinced that Dan liked me, she was determined to help things along. I told her he was married and begged her not to embarrass us both, but each time he came in she would pick up a menu and lead him to whatever table was closest to me, all the while giving me a Cheshire Cat smile. I would send wide-eyed daggers back at her from behind my microphone and begin to sweat.
Dan would sit, peruse the restaurant menu, order food, and then pick up my song menu and study it. He was impressed that I knew so many songs, but he usually requested The Beatles song, “Across the Universe.”
It was customary for me to stop at tables on my breaks to chat briefly with diners. During one such chat with Dan I quoted some obscure line from the film This is Spinal Tap. There were two other women in town he was considering asking out, but the Tap quote tipped the scales in my favor.
Five weeks after his first visit to the cafe he brought his friend Kenny with him. Since his marriage had ended in such disaster, I think he wanted a second opinion before asking me out. Patricia seated them at the table in the middle of the room, eight feet in front of me. By now I knew he was separated (Santa Fe is a large city but a small town) and I started thinking that maybe Patricia was right. Maybe he did like me.
The next night he arrived alone. She seated him at the table directly in front of me then took cover behind the counter and watched, like a miner who just lit the fuse on a stick of dynamite. He was so close I could have stretched my leg out and kicked his chair. As I played, my fingers felt clumsy and stiff and sweat ran down the insides of my arms to my elbows.
When I’d finished for the night, Dan invited me to sit with him and have a glass of wine. He was wearing a cream Irish turtleneck sweater and the wine was Ruffino Chianti Classico Riserva. In the last month he’d put on weight and gotten some sun and he was looking very handsome.
We talked for a bit and he worked the conversation around to relationships and asked if I was seeing anyone. When I said I wasn’t he told me that he and his wife were in the process of getting divorced. Looking at him over my glass of wine, I realized he was more nervous than I was. It made me relax, and I liked him for it.
He asked if I wanted to go with him to guitarist John Williams’s concert at the Saint Francis Auditorium on November 7th, which was two weeks away. I said I would, and gave him my phone number.
The following Thursday and Friday he came in for dinner and helped me tear down and carry my gear to my car. After that he called every night and we would talk for a couple of hours. On Wednesday night he said he’d heard about a Halloween party happening in a few days. It was going to be at a trendy new gallery on Saturday, November 2nd, which is Todos Santos, or All Soul’s night. Kenny and his girlfriend would be going as well, and we could meet them there.
“I know it’s short notice,” he apologized, “and you probably don’t have a costume...” But I told him I did have a costume, from a previous Halloween, and I’d love to go.
The next day Tim called about helping me load boxes for my move. Even though we broke up, I still liked him and really wanted to remain friends and bandmates. Our voices were great together and I didn’t want our split to affect the band. I told him I was going on a date, and confirmed his suspicion that it was with Dan. He warned me that Dan’s recent separation meant he was on the rebound - he’d see me for a while and then end up hurting me.
When Dan called later that night I was in the bathtub. I stayed as still as I could so he wouldn't hear the water splash. After a while I was stiff and cold, so I said I should get to bed; I was moving into my new apartment the following day. He told me he'd call me tomorrow night at my new pad and said goodnight. In the silence that followed I said, “Tim says you’re on the rebound.” He breathed in to say something, paused, and released the breath through his nose in a soft laugh. Then, in that clear deep voice of his, he said, “That’s funny, it feels more like rebirth.”