A serial memoir by Jean Fogelberg

Traveling & Unraveling

In the summer of 1997 we were eight months into our relationship. I had just moved from my noisy studio apartment on the outskirts of Santa Fe to a sweet little casita a few blocks from the city plaza. 
    Dan was out on the road with his Anniversary Tour, celebrating 25 years since his first album, Home Free, and the recent release of the retrospective box set, Portrait. The tour ran from June through August, then for the month of October. I missed him terribly. He called nightly from his hotel room and we talked for hours.
    One night he asked me to come join him. He was going to be playing Chastain Park in Atlanta on Sunday, July 6th. Saturday the 5th was a day off so we could have a whole day together. It sounded wonderful, and I would finally get to see him perform in concert. I said “Yes!” and his travel agent, Janet, booked my flights. 
    I flew out of Albuquerque airport, nervous and excited. I’d only flown twice before, and this was my first time flying alone. I can’t remember which city the plane landed in, but I thought “one stop” meant the plane would stop, once, and then continue on to Atlanta. So, when everyone deplaned, I stayed in my seat and waited for the crew and passengers to re-board.
    After what seemed like a very long time, a nice flight attendant approached me and asked to see my tickets. I was horrified to learn that I was supposed to get on a different plane for the second leg of the journey. I ran as fast as I could to the designated gate, but the plane had just left. In a panic, I called Dan and told him that I’d missed my flight. As usual, he was unfazed and said he’d call Janet. She was able to book me another flight and I arrived in Atlanta a few hours late, exhausted and mortified. Dan didn’t ask what happened, he was just glad I was there, and I was happy I wouldn’t have to admit my rookie mistake. Someone had already retrieved my luggage, so we headed to the hotel.
    We woke late on Saturday and had a sweet, relaxing day culminating with dinner at Ruth’s Chris Steak House. The next day I had my first taste of what went on behind the scenes at Dan’s concerts.

Portrait Itinerary

    Before each tour, a six-by-nine-inch spiral bound notebook was put together and given to everyone involved. It had the tour schedule and a personnel page listing the artist, band members, tour manager, engineers, technicians, bus and truck drivers, and pilots. 
    The next section had contact information for every office anyone might need to contact in case something went wrong with anything: artist management, booking agency, accountants, travel agent, sound company, lighting company, bus company, merchandising and on and on. Calendars came next, and then each day of the tour had its own page, with hotels, venues, schedules, and relevant phone numbers.

    On Sunday, the sound check was at 4:30. Dan and tour manager Bill Thompson agreed on a time to meet in the hotel lobby and a limo took the three of us to Chastain Park, which had a capacity of 7,000. Seven thousand people! To Dan, it was an average sized venue, but to me it was gigantic.
    He introduced me to some of the crew I would get to know on future tours: production manager John “Slice” Vanderslice, guitar tech Steve McDonald, house engineer George Strakis, monitor engineer Gregg “Fish” Salmon, and lighting designer Phey MacMahon. Everyone was busy perfecting the stage, lights, and sound, and I did my best to stay out of the way.
    After sound check, we went to the dressing room and hung out. I had a mild case of butterflies in my stomach and was grateful it wouldn’t be me going on stage in front of all those people. Dan needed his dressing room to himself a half hour before showtime, to warm up, so I stood backstage with Bill Thompson. I liked Bill; with his big brown mustache he reminded me of a young Teddy Roosevelt. He offered to lead me to my seat, but I wanted to wait until Dan came out of the dressing room. There were a lot of people out there and he might need a reassuring hug before going on. That was ridiculous, of course; Dan was like a racehorse and this was a familiar track for him. When it was time, Dan strode right past us, focused on the starting gate. 
    Bill led me through the seats to the Front of House consoles at the back of the amphitheater. I felt conspicuous walking in front of the rows of people, with my laminated pass. Bill found me a stool to sit on behind the consoles then returned to his post backstage.
    Dan had watched me perform on so many nights - at last it was my turn. When he walked out on stage it made me think of a male peacock revealing his glorious iridescent plumage; the audience applauded and cheered, transfixed. 
    He was performing solo - just him with a piano and some guitars, and he was amazing. It’s one thing to hear the sounds coming from a recording, quite another to witness the agile maneuvering it takes to create those sounds. Dan made it look easy. He had the most amazing fingertip callouses; he could play for hours, even on a twelve-string guitar. Also, he could pick with his fingertips, which impressed me no end. I worked hard to maintain strong nails on my right hand for fingerpicking; I never could have picked with my bare fingers. His voice was strong and sure, and I made mental notes of songs I hadn’t heard before.
    While the audience listened and Dan performed, in the background many hands were silently tuning, turning, tilting, dialing, sliding and lifting. I was enjoying my behind-the-scenes perspective immensely. George made adjustments to the sound the audience was hearing, while Phey ran the lights and backdrops. Just offstage, Fish adjusted the sound Dan was hearing in the monitors on the stage. He and Dan had worked together for years and all Dan had to do was tilt his head or lift his chin and Fish would know exactly what Dan wanted.
    As I watched him, secure in his domain under the spotlights, I was filled with a jumble of feelings: I was happy for him; I envied him; I was proud of him; I wanted, to paraphrase Heart, to go crazy on him. 
    After the concert I met him backstage. When we had a moment to ourselves, I whispered, “You’re famous!” and he laughed. He was still Dan, and I was so glad I’d had the chance to get to know him before seeing him in the spotlights. I’d had guys fall in love with me from the audience - the stage is a powerful and alluring pedestal. In the beginning they had stars in their eyes but, in the end, they would wake up with a small town girl and glitter on their pillowcases.

    I was always attracted to guitar players. In my experience, drummers were usually nice guys with a wife, kids, and a steady day job. Keyboard players were off in their own little world and had a wife or girlfriend with a good job. Bass players were almost always the most laid-back guys in the band, with a stoner girlfriend and an ex-wife and kids. Rhythm guitar players were broke and single. But the lead guitar players were the wild card in the deck, the only similarity being that they usually had the biggest ego in the band. And its size rarely corresponded with the quality of their playing.
    When I was performing in a band in San Luis Obispo county, I went to a club with a friend one night to hear a rock band from Los Angeles. We got a table near the dance floor and ordered drinks. In the middle of a rock ballad, the lanky blonde guitar player started a flashy lead and then leapt off the stage. Sliding across the dance floor on his knees, he stopped right in front of me. Leaning back over his feet, he picked and stretched the strings on the 1¾ inches of wood and polyurethane between his hands and his crotch. As he finished his lead, he gave me a wicked smile then jumped straight up and ran back to the stage. It wasn’t a very good lead, but I was young enough to be impressed by the gymnastics. We started dating and I learned very quickly that, like his playing, he was all flash and no flair.
    I’ve known musicians who could write a ballad that would make your knees weak, but when it came to romance, they didn’t have a clue. It was all just pretty words, written to win you and then win you back again. They didn’t realize it’s what happens in between the love songs that makes a girl want to stick around.

    Men were always thanking Dan for his ballads: they’d played them on a stereo, or on their own guitars, to win the heart of the woman they loved. But Dan’s songs were much more than incantations that could turn a geek into a babe magnet; they touched people’s hearts because they had substance.
    When he wrote, he was spilling his guts about something that had happened to him. Interviewers always referred to him as “intensely private,” and yet the whole time he was sharing the deepest parts of himself.
    Writing was his way of working things out and, intent on self-improvement, he learned from his mistakes and got better with age. I don’t know that I would have lasted any longer than his first two wives; those peak career years must have been insane. I only know that by the time I met him he was everything I’d ever hoped for.

The first corporate event I attended with Dan was an annual convention of Toyota dealers at a casino, I can’t remember where. These smaller concerts pay very well, so musicians do them in between their tours. I was “the new girlfriend” amongst the management and crew, and I wanted to make a good impression. 
    Once Dan began playing I was on my own in a large, open area behind the stage. I couldn’t figure out why I had a full-blown case of stage-fright. It was weird: I hadn’t felt it when I was a part of the audience at Chastain, but now that I was on the other side of the curtain I was a bundle of nerves.
    There was a table in the dressing room with fruit, cheese, crackers, water, beer and red wine. I poured myself a glass of wine. I was hungry, and considered eating something, but I thought we’d jump in the limo after the performance and get a late dinner at the hotel, so I decided to wait. That was a mistake. 
    I rarely drink more than half a glass of red wine; it goes right to my head. But I was all wound up and, with nothing to do, I just kept sipping.
    After a concert there is sometimes a Meet and Greet, where the artist socializes with Backstage Pass holders in a private room at the venue. I had no idea this was even a thing. The show went great and Dan was happy and relaxed as he put his arm around me and led me to the Meet and Greet. I was happy and relaxed too: I was hammered.
    The room began filling with Toyota executives and their wives; it was a fun group and someone was wandering around with a camcorder, filming the whole thing. One of the executives introduced himself to Dan then took my hand and said, “And this must be Anastasia!” 
    Things get a little hazy here.

    Dan introduces me; the executive is embarrassed and apologizes, then asks his camcorder friend to film him with us so he could show it to his wife back home. The friend films the three of us standing together and smiling at the camera and then, to give the man a hard time about the ex-wife gaffe, I take his arm and tell him in a loud, nasal voice that I want to go back up to our (his and my) room now. He laughs, Dan laughs, laughter all around and then, mercifully, the film in my head runs out: flap flap flap…

    The next morning I was ashamed, and apologized to Dan for my behavior after the show. I could see him mentally rewinding the previous night; then his forehead cleared and he smiled and shook his head, saying I had nothing to apologize for, he’d seen much, much, worse. In the years to come we’d be at a concert venue and he’d tell me a story about something that went down there. Like the time a band member fresh from the shower danced naked in front of a Canadian hotel window he (mistakenly) thought was one-way glass; or the time the band handcuffed a certain stoned bass player to the pipes under a bathroom sink to keep him from wandering off before the bus left. To me, the most intriguing part of this story was that someone in the band just happened to have a pair of handcuffs with him.


Dan had September off from the tour and he wanted me to see his cottage in Maine. I took a week off from work and we flew to Bangor. I hadn’t had a twinge of motion sickness since Dan sold the Antichrist, but he hired a limo to take us from Bangor airport to the house. The trip there was a labyrinth of small winding roads lined by trees that blocked the horizons. To make things worse, the solid partition was up, so I couldn’t see when we were approaching a curve. As he pointed out gorgeous views and his favorite landmarks, I did my best to seem enthusiastic. I was still too embarrassed to say anything, but he could tell I was sick. By the time we reached the long straight road to his house, I was done for. Once again, I would see one of his most sacred places for the first time and want to throw up.

    When Dan and his first wife, Maggie, were returning from Europe, she told him he really should see Maine. It was his kind of place: remote and rugged, and dotted with more than 4,000 islands. He loved it immediately. A realtor showed him the yellow cottage between the trees and the sea and Dan said, “Will you take a check?” It became the place where he could hide from the business world and recharge his batteries.


    The old captain’s house was the quintessential New England cottage, with three distinct construction eras ranging from the late 1800s to 1986, when Dan bought it and had some work done. Over the front door there was a small broken oar that had been painted white. Dan’s artist friend Penny had painted “Reach Haven” on it in black Celtic lettering. 
    The window above the kitchen sink looked out on woods and grass that sloped down to Eggemoggin Reach. Just off the kitchen there was a bathroom the size of a broom closet. It was hard to wash your hair in the shower without bumping your elbows on the formica walls. Dan used to joke that the advantage of such a small bathroom was that you could wash your hands while sitting on the toilet.     
    He kept a gut string guitar in Maine and some great songs were written on the old navy-blue couch in the living room.  An antique wooden trunk served as a coffee table and writing desk. A rocking chair sat in front of a cast iron wood-burning Jotul stove - the only heat source in the house.    
    A few feet from the Jotul was a narrow stairway that led up to a medium-sized bedroom with floral wallpaper. Beyond that was a blue bedroom so small it had only two feet of floor space beside the twin bed, and a spare room set up as an art studio.
    Strictly a summer retreat, it wasn’t winterized - you could see the grass under the house through gaps in the floorboards. The slope in the dining room was very pronounced. While reading on the couch one night, I watched a tiny field mouse emerge from a hole under the refrigerator and scurry to the small bookcase on the other side of a partial wall. Each time it appeared it had an acorn in its mouth. Leaping up on the books on the bottom shelf, it would disappear for a moment and I would hear the nut drop at the back of the bookcase. Back and forth it went, adding to its winter hoard as I watched, silent and captivated. During one leap, the mouse dropped the acorn and it went rolling down the floor halfway across the room, where it was retrieved under the dining table.
    The newest addition to the house was a “TV room” with a small couch and an antique ironing board for a coffee table. There was no cable; the television was just for watching rental videos. 
    Three white Adirondack chairs faced the sea on a back porch worn smooth and shiny under decades of gray paint. It was charming, funky, and Dan’s special getaway place between summer and fall tours. For that reason, the only phone was in a box somewhere upstairs.
    A couple of years after buying the property, Dan was invited along on a day sail with Steve White, owner of Brooklin Boat Yard. Dan revered Steve’s father, boatbuilder Joel White and his grandfather, writer E.B. White. Steve talked Dan into taking the wheel for a while and he was immediately hooked. He bought an old wooden sloop from Steve and named it Minstrel. As with anything that interested him, he set about mastering sailing. He read books on seamanship, safety, navigation, knots and equipment, and learned to read nautical charts so he could avoid the thousands of hidden ledges and rocks surrounding the islands off Maine. 


    On our third night in Maine, we were sitting in the living room after dinner, reading. Dan was in the rocking chair in front of the fire and I was sitting on the couch. Out of nowhere, he started talking about what an important part of his life sailing was and, what with my motion sickness, maybe we weren’t right for each other. His words stung, but his delivery, cold and emotionless, was devastating.
    I was stunned. It was so unexpected; I thought we’d been having a grand time. I tried talking to him, but he wouldn’t even look at me, he just kept staring into the fire. Many things can make me cry: movies, music, ASPCA commercials, but I have a hard time crying tears of hurt in front of others so, when I felt them welling up, I said I was going for a walk.
    Making my way around the cove in the dark, I found a big smooth rock and sat down to think. I felt so lost. I was thousands of miles from home with no car, no friends, no phone, and no place to go for the night. I wasn’t crying now - it was all too confusing and unreal to absorb.
    The lamps in the windows and smoke coming from the chimney made the cottage look deceptively serene. I kept hoping Dan would step into the light outside the front door and call my name. He’d had time to reflect on what he’d said; surely he would feel some remorse and become worried about me. But as the minutes ticked by and the temperature dropped, I realized I’d have to go back. I would just have to get through the night, and tomorrow morning Dan could arrange my return to Santa Fe.
    With a plan of action, I felt calm. The tide had gone out quite a bit, so I cut straight across the cove toward the house, unaware that at low tide the mud flats are like quicksand. With every step I was fighting to keep my shoes on my feet. I turned away from the water and finally made it to the beach, muddy, sweating, and out of breath. 
    When I got to the house Dan was still sitting in the rocking chair, his back to the front door and a fresh drink in his hand. I left my mud-caked shoes by the door and went to take a shower. When I came out he still wouldn’t talk to me, so I went upstairs to the queen bed. If he wanted to, he could sleep in the little blue room. He came up after a while and when he climbed into bed, I pretended to be sleeping. He turned out the light and within ten minutes he was sound asleep. That pissed me off more than anything else.
    It took some time for me to understand that his unraveling that night had nothing to do with me; it was all about baggage, and some ghosts from the past. Starting with Donna, the women Dan had loved the most had left him feeling rejected and scarred. Maggie suggested Maine in the first place, then she chose Boulder over Maine, the ranch, and him. Just over a year ago, Anastasia was moving in with her new love as Dan sat in that very rocking chair, expecting her to join him on his birthday. Now he‘d brought me there, and in a few years I would probably desert him as well.
    He’d underestimated the depth of his wounds. He should have skipped Maine for a year and given his heart more time to heal.


    I woke before Dan and went downstairs to make tea. I was standing at the kitchen window, looking out at the Reach with a mug in my hands when I heard him coming down the stairs. I couldn’t help it; my heart gave the little leap it always did at his approach, then it plummeted in dread of what was to come. He walked into the kitchen and said “Morning.” I said “Morning,” over my shoulder then looked back out the window. He came up behind me and, putting his arms around me, he said, “It’s going to be okay. We’ll work it out.”
    There was no apology, no explanation for his sullen brooding the night before, just “We’ll work it out.” I’d gone to sleep with Jim Morrison and woken up with Paul McCartney.
    For the next few days we drove along the Maine coast, exploring antique stores and restaurants. Dan seemed to be having a good time, but I couldn’t help thinking he was just making the best of a bad situation and we’d break up when we got home. I was determined to enjoy these last few vacation days with him.
    Many grocery stores in Maine have big fish tanks with live lobsters for sale. One day while shopping on the island, we were astounded to see a beautiful, bright blue lobster in the tank by the butcher's counter. The thought of that gorgeous creature being cooked and eaten was too awful, so we decided to buy it and set it free. After talking to the butcher, we were relieved to learn that blue lobsters are rare and it’s considered bad luck to kill one. So they aren’t sold, but sent off to aquariums around the country instead.
    When we got back to Santa Fe everything was fine. Better than fine, it was like that terrible night had never happened. In fact, if it weren’t for the mud embedded in every little crevice of my shoes, I might have convinced myself that the whole thing had been a bad dream. 
    I couldn’t get that blue lobster out of my head. I looked it up, and the likelihood of catching a blue lobster was estimated to be as high as 1-in-200 million. I set my easel up behind the couch in the little casita and started a painting called “The Blue Lobster.”


    As a teenager, Dan would watch shows like Where the Action Is and fantasize about meeting a California girl, so I painted myself standing on a sandy beach under some orange trees. A few yucca plants represent Santa Fe. A message in a bottle floats offshore with the Cafe Romana poster that caught Dan’s attention. I’m wearing the velvet dress he gave me for our first Christmas together, over the black turtleneck dress I wore the night of our first kiss. I have a cat nose and ears from our first date at the Halloween party and Dan holds the red rose he gave me that night. He was my knight in shining armor and he's wearing the Scottish tartan of the Clan MacGregor. There’s a rip in the tartan over his heart, dripping blood from a fresh wound. He entered my life from the charred remains of his marriage, looking for love, and our guardian angels surely led him to me. The blue lobster suns itself on the warm sand.

    We returned to Maine the following year and asked after that lobster. The butcher told us that it had “retired” to the aquarium in Niagara Falls. Since lobsters can live for a hundred years, it could still be there, dazzling visitors with its uncommon beauty. I like to think so.


Posted July 18th. 2020 Copyright ©Jean Fogelberg 2020