PART I

1996 - 1998

Sliding on Ice

As I drove to Colorado for my first Christmas at the ranch, the scenery was picture postcard gorgeous. We were really looking forward to spending an uninterrupted two weeks together. More than any other time of the year, Dan loved Christmas. When I got there, he had decorated the house with garlands, Victorian Santas, angels, and stockings on the mantle. A fresh tree sat in the corner of the living room between the greenhouse and fireplace, covered in tinsel, bulbs, and the ornaments Dan had collected over many years. There were presents under the tree, and I added a few of my own. A wide selection of Christmas CDs were playing, from Johnny Mathis to Gregorian Chants.

      On Christmas morning we took our mugs to the living room. Dan sat on the couch and I sat on the floor with Buckaroo. Dan pointed out a large box to me “From Santa,” and said, “Open that one.” It was beautifully wrapped and inside was a gorgeous rust-colored velvet dress with stamped batik patterns and a matching top. The next box he pointed out was wrapped in the same paper. It contained three long strands of tiny brown and burgundy beads that complimented the dress perfectly. While in Los Angeles recording “Don’t Lose Heart,” he’d found time to shop for me at a boutique in Beverly Hills. The dress was his second gift to me and, once I tried it on, it was undeniably perfect. 

      I handed him a big box labeled “To Dan, from Santa.” I had made him a red wool winter jacket with a black suede collar. The label inside read, “Handmade for you by Jean.” We took our time with the other gifts, mostly books and handy kitchen utensils. Buckaroo loved playing with the discarded paper and batting at his reflection in low swinging bulbs on the tree.

      The following week Dan had friends over for a New Year’s Day party. He was close to Todd and Susie, who drove down from Pueblo, Colorado. They would arrive on New Year’s Eve and stay for a few days. Todd was tall and handsome, with thick, jet black hair, perfect for his Elvis impersonations. He was very funny and one of the few people who could best Dan on the ski slopes. Susie was a bubbly, beautiful little blonde who had a successful portrait studio in Pueblo.  They were childhood friends who had been in a romantic relationship for six years. Susie always had a compact camera handy for parties and events, and most of the photos we had of us as a couple were taken by her. Dan had been telling them about me for a couple of months. Now he wanted them to meet me for themselves and give him their opinions. Was I the real deal? Did he get it right this time? He needn’t have worried; we all hit it off immediately and had a fun and relaxing few days. 

      The road to the house was steep, narrow and gently winding - perfect for sledding in the winter. The plow left a berm on either side and, depending on how much snow had come down recently, it could be two to four feet tall; great for keeping sleds and bodies on the track. The day before any winter party, Dan would ask George to get the old-fashioned, wooden Flexible Flyer sleds from the hay barn and make any necessary repairs to the metal runners. Luminarias (brown paper lunch bags with sand and votive candles inside) were set along the berm and the candles lit just before the sledding commenced, to light the way down the road. 

      There were eight of us for the New Year’s Day party and, after a sumptuous dinner, everyone changed into their warmest clothes. We prepared for the cold night air with shots of Schnapps, then congregated on the road near the hay barn to get our sleds. It wasn’t a race - the object was to get as far down the road as you could. Most people rode down on their stomachs, sometimes with someone on top of them for added weight and speed, and tried to make it to the gate, which was left open in case someone made it that far. When everyone had gone down, George would follow in the Jeep and give them rides back up. Now and then Dan would drive, to let George sled.

       Dan laid down on a Flyer and called for me to get on top of him. I was dubious: the last time I’d piled onto a sled, four of us had ended up in a painful heap. I got on though, and he grabbed the cross-piece to steer us and pushed off with his feet. We flew down the course, laughing like crazy people all the way. Speeding past the gate, we crossed over the creek and coasted to a stop just past Ron and Janelle’s driveway. We got up and high-fived, the new ranch record holders.

      It was a wonderful party, and I enjoyed getting to know Susie and Todd for a couple of days afterward. Dan and Todd were hilarious together and at night, while they watched football, Susie and I sat outside in the hot tub and talked. It was snowing hard and, after a couple of hours, we looked like good witches in a bubbling caldron, wearing white pointed hats made of snow.

The new record holders!

That winter I went downhill skiing for the first time. Dan took me to Wolf Creek Ski Area, a 45-minute drive from the ranch, and rented boots and skis for me. While I practiced “snow plowing” on the bunny slope in my jeans and down jacket, he skied the black diamond runs. 

     Dan attended a couple of celebrity fundraising ski events every year, competing  in downhill and slalom races against other athletic celebrities like Christopher Reeve, Richard Dean Anderson and Clint Eastwood. He skied and partied with “the Austrians,” World Cup holders Franz Weber and Franz Klammer, and hat-maker Murray Merkley. 

      Eventually I would accompany Dan to events in Beaver Creek, Vail, Aspen, Santa Fe, Banff and Lake Tahoe. I got to meet a diverse range of fascinating people like Christopher and Dana Reeve, Rene Russo, Rob Morrow, Minnie Driver, Patty Hearst, Gerald Ford, Jane Seymour, and Buzz and Lois Aldrin. It was pretty heady stuff for a girl from Lompoc. Each event had the same kind of competitions, but the cast of characters varied. However, most nights ended with shots of Aquavit with the two Franz’s and laughter - lots and lots of laughter.

      Dan asked me to go with him to Canada for the Banff Springs Celebrity Ski Invitational, January 16th through the 19th. Although winter sports weren’t my thing (I was always cold) I wanted to get good at skiing to please Dan. He loved all winter sports: downhill skiing, cross country skiing, skating, sledding, luging, everything. He once told me, “I’m Swedish. I like sliding on ice.”  

      He had given me a few lessons at Wolf Creek, but said it wasn’t good for guys to instruct their girlfriends, so he arranged for me to have ski lessons in Banff. We dressed up each evening, which gave me a chance to wear my new Christmas dress. The dinners included speeches, auctions and presentations by the non-profit the event was benefitting. We were always holding hands and sharing quick kisses and one night an event waitress told us that the staff had voted us “Most Romantic Couple.” We were as pleased with this honor as we would have been with any award.     

Most Romantic Couple / Christmas dress

On the last day of competitions, the organizers were looking for volunteers for the “Dual Slalom.” Two luge sleds would race at the same time, side by side down a steep ski run with tall berms on either side. Most of the celebrities took one look at that icy track and wisely passed. Dan and Murray Merkley signed up, though, laughing and egging each other on, saying it was for charity.

      I went up the mountain for my ski lesson. Skiers and snowboarders were whizzing past me on all sides, which was un-nerving to a beginner, and the macho instructor was talking to me like I was a child. Relieved when the lesson was over, I headed for the lodge at the bottom of the hill to get a cup of hot chocolate. 

      Making my way slowly past trees, events and people, I saw an explosion of snow shoot into the air to my left. I didn’t realize I was passing the Dual Slalom run. The berms obscured my view, so I was mercifully spared from seeing Dan and Murray careening down the icy slope, feet first on their sleds. Side by side, they quickly gained momentum and in seconds they were hurtling like human bullets. Dan lost control of his sled toward the bottom and slammed into the wall of ice. He flew into the air and then fell back down, landing on the edge of his sled and breaking three ribs.

      He got up, waved to everyone that he was okay, and walked off with Murray. The Dual Slalom was cancelled. Unaware that any of this had happened, I located Dan and Murray sitting outside the lodge. Dan told me he had crashed his sled. He was okay, he said, just disappointed that he’d lost the race. I sang, “I’m a luger,” to the melody of the Beatles’ song “I’m a loser,” and Dan groaned and told Murray I wouldn’t cut him any slack.

      Murray kept asking Dan if he was sure he was okay and Dan kept saying he was. Then Dan showed me the place on his side, where the sled had torn through his suit, and it was my turn to start asking if he was sure he was okay. Later on, watching someone’s video of the crash, I understood Murray's concern: the explosion of snow I’d seen had been Dan’s body breaking big chunks of ice from the frozen berm. 

      It took about an hour, but when the pain came on, it came on fast. The Canadians were all over it. They radioed for a van to meet us at the bottom of the mountain and alerted each lift station operator. As we walked to the gondola, Dan put his hand over his right side and said it felt like something mushy was moving inside “like Jello.” 

      Lowering him to the gondola seat took a few tries, he was in so much pain now. As we passed through each station on our way down the huge mountain, the attendants ran out and steadied the car so it wouldn’t swing and jostle Dan too much. I was filled with gratitude for this act of professional kindness. The van took us to the hospital and I helped Dan walk over the slushy sidewalk in his ski boots. My feet were bare, but for thick wool socks, I can’t remember why; something to do with when and where I’d had to return my rented skis and boots at the last minute.

      It seemed like we were in the emergency waiting area for a long time, but eventually we were led into a small examination room in the back. It hurt Dan to breathe. After waiting there for half an hour, I was frantic. I heard voices in the room across the hall. A nurse was saying, “And how long has she had a stomach ache?” I stormed (as well as one can storm in wet socks) to the nurses’ desk and demanded that someone see my boyfriend, who had internal injuries, NOW

      A doctor arrived and when he raised Dan’s arm to feel his ribs, Dan almost passed out. The doctor gave him a shot of morphine and, ten minutes later, the arm was lifted easily and Dan would have given him a kidney if he’d asked. They got the top of the ski suit down and the doctor felt around and told Dan he’d broken his ribs and he would have to rest so they could heal. For now, the doctor would write him a prescription for pain meds and we could pick it up out front. I helped Dan get his arms back into his suit and jacket and led him to the nurses’ desk.

      I filled out a form, got the prescription, and turned to go. Dan was gone. I caught a glimpse of him wandering back toward the examination room and ran to catch up with him. He was high, and looking for the doctor. “I’m going to need some more of this stuff,” he said, “A lot more.” I steered him back out to the van as he was smiling and singing, “I’m a luger…”

      The driver of the van took us to the nearest pharmacy and I ran across another slushy sidewalk in my socks. Back at the hotel, I got Dan into bed and then stood in the tub for a while to thaw my feet. I called work that night to say I would have to stay with Dan for a few more days until he was fit to fly. 

      At the awards dinner and charity auction that night, word of Dan’s accident spread among the event attendees. Rene Russo sent a big stack of magazines to the room with a lovely note. She had brought her whole brood to the resort with her and I was always amazed at how beautiful and down to earth she was. Watching her talk to her kids at their table, she could easily have been at a cub scouts meeting instead of a star-studded celebrity fundraiser. 

      While Dan slept and rested, there wasn’t much to do but read the magazines. I wandered into the village the next day and bought some juices for the fridge in our room. When I got back, Dan was guiltily smoking a cigarette.

 

A month earlier, on a blustery night in Santa Fe, he had sworn he was quitting. We were at his rented casita and he’d slipped outside, ostensibly to get some wood for the fire, but really it was so he could sneak a cigarette. As he stood there, shivering in the snow, he wondered what in the world he was doing. “Are you crazy?” he asked himself, “You’re freezing your ass off out here while a beautiful blonde is waiting for you in a warm bed!” That’s when he said, “I quit,” and he mostly had, until now. 

 

If three broken ribs weren’t excuse enough for a smoke, I didn’t know what was, and I told him so. It was the only cigarette he ever smoked in front of me because he knew I had detested the smell since childhood.

      The next day I took him downstairs to the hotel’s indoor hot springs. With the exception of two women in the pool and Buzz Aldrin in one of the smaller hot tubs, we had the place to ourselves. I helped Dan down the steps into the huge, round spring-fed pool and led him around and around in warm, weightless laps, thirty feet away from the second man to walk on the moon. “I sure know how to show a girl a good time, don’t I?” he said. And, indeed, it was our first international trip together and there hadn’t been a dull moment.

 

Dan had promised to do a United Way celebrity ski event in Santa Fe in February so he went, but he let them know he wouldn’t be able to ski, or play and sing. The guitar against his ribs would hurt and he still couldn’t take a deep breath. Instead, he served on a panel and mingled with attendees.

    His road manager, Charlie, and his wife Suzie had come to Santa Fe for the event and, again, Dan wanted their input about me. I was working at the Piñon Group every day, so I only got to see them for dinner, but I liked Charlie and Suzie a lot and they felt the same. It’s funny: the three women Dan loved like sisters were Suzy, Suzie and Susie, and I would end up being life-long friends with all of them. Suzie tells the story about the time she called the ranch to talk to me, and Dan answered. “Hi Dan, it’s Suzie,” she said. “Which Suzie?” he teased.

      Two months later, he invited me to go to a Paul Mitchell Celebrity Ski Classic event in Beaver Creek, starting on March 6th. I asked if it was maybe too soon, with his ribs, but he was bored out of his mind and promised he’d take it easy, and no luging. Todd and Susie would be there too, and it sounded like fun. I decided I’d better have the proper attire. I went to a used sporting goods store and bought a pair of baby blue overalls and a hot yellow turtleneck. For the nighttime events, I packed a purple turtleneck dress from Victoria’s Secret, and the beautiful new dress and beads Dan had bought me in Beverly Hills.

      That first morning at Beaver Creek I quickly realized that my new bib overalls weren’t made for skiing. The legs were too thin to fit over the boots so they sat, all scrunched up, on top of them. From my knees down, my legs looked like blue dryer-vent hoses. My jacket wasn’t nearly warm enough, so Dan let me wear the new ski jacket he got for attending the event. Nothing went together and my whole outfit was a disaster, but Dan introduced me to everyone like I was the best-dressed celebrity at the event. I still felt self-conscious and out of place, but having Susie and Todd there gave me a comforting sense of tribe. Dan competed by day and danced by night and no one would have guessed he was nursing three broken ribs.

Blue dryer-vent hoses above the boots.

Dan in Perry Ellis, me in Victoria's Secret (with Beverly Hills beads.)

A comforting little tribe.

When we got back from Beaver Creek we went skiing in Santa Fe one day. I was still struggling with making smooth turns. Dan was getting to know how my mind worked so, instead of just telling me to “lean into it,” as the instructor had, he explained that when you lean, the curve of the ski catches the snow and pulls the ski in that direction. That made sense to me and, from then on, my turns vastly improved.

      Dan had probably done too much, too soon, because he developed pneumonia, which is sometimes a complication of broken ribs. He still had a ranch to run, so he returned to Colorado to convalesce. When we talked at night it freaked me out to hear his deep, painful coughing. I’d almost died of pneumonia in my twenties. Dan was in his forties and had started smoking cigarettes in his teens, right after he saw the Beatles smoking  in “A Hard Day’s Night.” His mother’s brother, Adam Daniel, had died of emphysema, smoking to the end, while on oxygen, and that image was the last straw for Dan. He was finally done with nicotine, and he wouldn’t be the kind of ex-smoker who savors second-hand smoke; he came to abhor the smell even more than I did.

      The rib injuries sure changed the way we watched action movies. 

 

A cowboy lies in bed, sweating and grimacing in pain, his torso wrapped in bandages. The doctor closes his medical bag and tells the cowboy’s wife, “He’s got some broken ribs. You make sure he gets plenty of bed rest, let them ribs heal.” An hour later, the cowboy’s brother rushes in and says, “The outlaws took Ma and Pa!” The cowboy gets a hard, determined look on his face and gets out of bed, grunting slightly as he heads toward his clothes and holster. In the next scene, the two men are galloping across the desert... 

 

      By now, Dan and I would be laughing hysterically, overdubbing the curses and screams of pain that would surely stem from riding a horse with newly broken ribs. 

He took his recuperation seriously this time and began to heal. We emailed during the weekdays and talked on the phone at night until I came up on the weekends. He had a PC laptop he hated, so I helped him shop for a Power Macintosh online and, with so much time on his hands, he was surfing the web in no time. 

      I was at the ranch one weekend, helping him set up his new AOL email account, and we were talking about his address name. He figured he’d just use his last name, but I encouraged him to make up something cool; something that would protect his privacy. For someone who could come up with a fabulous cat name at the drop of a hat, he was having a hard time inventing a nom de plume. Just put “Fogelberg,” he said finally. I was typing too fast and, instead of writing “foge,” I started: “gofe.” Dan immediately said, “gopherhead!” and started to laugh. “That’s my email address!” 

      My hard drive crashed one day, wiping out two years of emails but, thankfully, Dan printed some of his email correspondence and kept them. (I’ve left the new-keyboard typos intact, but deleted the naughty bits.)

 

Date: Wednesday, April 23, 1997 9:13:59 PM

From: Gopherhead

Subj: Rainy Day Wish

To: Songurl 

 

Raining in the mountains. continue to heal slowly. This stuff is pretty tenacious but then so am I, or so I'm told.Been surfing and ordering books, CD's ,software etc. Found a couple other good sites at AOL online Shopping store{Barnes and Noble for books and Tower Records for CD's.Finally found the George Harrison Live In Japan CD all the record stores said didn't exist.Bah! Art galleries,photography chat groups (even inquired about a used Nikon F4 titanium by e mail--have heard nothing back)

Hoping you had a good day at work,

that this e-mail actually reaches you, and that I'll hear your voice in my ear soon'

Dan

 

Date: Thursday, April 24, 1997 4:40:42 PM

From: Gopherhead

Subj: No Subject

To: Songurl 

 

What a gorgeous morning!lt snowed a couple of inches last night and all is wondrous and magical...as if the world has been frosted in God's own favorite confection.Mojo is out frolicking but Boone is not convinced.Rilly seems confused(for a change).How lovely to get to experience one more snapshot of winter before summer inexorably settles in.Memories of Wolf Creek,Santa Fe Banff,and Beaver Creek.Have I told you how proud I am of how quickly and well you've taken to skiing?More switchbacks,please!

Well,I'm off to hang as many as I can on this new-found cyber adventure. Hope your day was great and that you'll seriously give some thuoght to a mountain retreat this weekend I miss you.

Dan

 

 

It was time for me to move out of the apartment on Airport Road. The two guys in the unit above mine were actually pretty quiet - it wasn’t their fault that every scraped chair and closed cabinet door reverberated in the hollow space between their floor and my ceiling, but the constant noise was making me nuts. 

      I started watching the classifieds for a single story unit close to town. A listing came up for a casita duplex on East Houghton, a tree-lined street within walking distance of the plaza. I went and met the landlord, a nice woman who lived behind the duplex, and filled out an application. I told Dan about the casita that night, and about the bright yellow bikini I‘d bought online at Victoria’s Secret. He had a doctor’s appointment to check his progress and was going stir crazy, calling at all hours and emailing me at work.

 

To: [unknown] JeanMayer@compuserve.com 

From: INTERNET: Gopherhead@aol.com

Date: 5/9/97 2:42 PM

Re: I’m Back!

 

We at Corn Police Station #69 here in the beautiful (albeit foggy) Lompoc Valley wish to inform you that your e-mail was indeed received and, as usual, badly misinterpreted. There has been quite a buzz around the ol’ precinct house concerning our favorite Flower Festival Queen and an alleged well-fitting yellow bikini. Please accept our congratulations and lustful intentions and don’t forget Sunday is Mother’s Day.

 

Sgt. Dan-on-the-cob (ret.)

To: [unknown] JeanMayer@compuserve.com 

From: INTERNET: Gopherhead@aol.com

Date: 5/12/97 4:42 PM

Re: I’m Back!

I’m back! ! Online and grooving hard with my own bad Macintosh self .Do you have good news about house?Hope  so.Doc said to behave…what else is new. If you get this ,fire back.If not ,I’ll call later .Missing you and all that suggests.

Mr. Pylon

To: [unknown] JeanMayer@compuserve.com 

From: INTERNET: Gopherhead@aol.com

Date: 5/13/97 9:37 AM

Re: Summer? 

 

Good morning! Well, it appears summer is finally making a move to establish itself as the season of choice for caring young adults such as ourselves. I for one couldn't be more pleased. Sorry to have awakened you last night, but this foolish little webcrawler lost track of his time and 

forgot the rules. Still, it was so fine to hear your very sleepy and very sexy voice before hurling myself into oblivion.

I had a strange dream about this new house of yours. It looked (and actually was) in Peoria ,was more or less a bus station stop over for senior citizens, had linoleum floors and the kitchen was a Seven Eleven next door. We thought...how weirdly charming. Jeannie, say it ain't so!!! As we all know, you can take the boy out of Peoria...etc.etc. Having said all that, I really it hope the place comes through today...it sounds perfect. Let me know what happens. I miss you and send my best to those odiferous dogs you seem to prefer to my company. Work! Work!Work!

Sgt. Pylon

of the Corn Police

 

 

I got the casita on Houghton Street, and loved it. I could walk to the restaurants, shops, and galleries that radiated from the plaza. Best of all, Canyon Road was only ten minutes away. A walk up the historic, gallery-lined road always sent me hurrying home with a head full of colors and ideas. 

      Dan liked the new place too, so he gave up the Palace Avenue casita and stayed with me when he was in town. He offered to contribute to the rent, but I felt it was too soon in our relationship for a financial commitment. I told him I’d pay the rent and he could continue to pay for dinner when we went out, which was often, so he agreed. Those early days were a time of cautious elation for us; it all felt too good to be true. But the more we got to know each other, the more perfectly we seemed to fit together; our differences working for us as well as our similarities.

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Posted June 12th. 2020 Copyright ©Jean Fogelberg 2020

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