Dan Gisvold at Bear Creek

Monday, February 28, 2011

Back to Bakersfield

I drove back to Bakersfield tonight. And every time I get on a highway and see a semi-truck I think of Dan. My mind imagines him in the cab with his foot on the dash, making a sandwich from his cooler while rolling down the road at 65 miles an hour!

I can see him even though I never rode in the cab with him.

He wanted me to do just that. He wanted me to take a trip with him to Los Angeles. A day trip is what he called it. God, that would have been fun.

Then I unpacked tonight and in the side pocket I found a postcard from Missoula, Montana. It was just a picture of the ice cream store. He hadn't written on it. But I don't think I will ever get rid of it.

Dan just keeps hanging around.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Hairdresser

About 15 years ago I started to lose the bright blond hair color that I had always had naturally. So, I started to color it.

I  finally figured out that I couldn't stay a bright blond forever. So, my hairdresser and I decided to let it go to its natural color (whatever that was) and give it a few highlights.

We have been doing that for about a year.

Yesterday I went in to have my hair done. We didn't do any highlights. We talked about Dan. My natural color is the same as my brother's. It is now auburn. It stunned us both. I have no gray.

We cried a little and laughed a lot. Amy had cut Dan's hair when he was in town. She misses his grin and his stories. She touches my hair and remembers him.

It is hard sometimes just to comb my hair. Other times, I just laugh.

Friday, February 25, 2011


The stars seemed to align today. I got my first blog hit from Canada and someone posted a You Tube film of Vocal Arts Ensemble singing in the Notre Dame Basilica in Montreal last summer. I had asked Dan to go with us but he was in no position to do so.

So instead I sent him pictures of all the churches and basilicas where we sang and a lot of the touristy places that we explored. He was complaining that he had way to may church pictures in his phone. He kept saying that the phone would explode if he got any more!

He would have loved this clip. It starts with my son-in-law as the soloist. I had just called Dan and told him where we were and that the tour group in England forgot to tell the church folk that we were coming to sing so we did not get a chance to rehearse or even warm up. He was laughing saying that we were good enough to go on cold. We sound better on the film than I thought we did at the time but our choreography, simple as it was, needed a bit of help. Right, left, right, left.....

It was another of the things that Dan would fall out of his chair laughing about. A bunch of singers who don't miss a beat in song can't stay in rhythm to walk down an aisle. He would watch us walk around and around a room trying to stay in step with the music that we were singing without accompaniment.

He would find this clip a scream. Do enjoy it. He would have.


I wish he could have been there.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Boots

We got a letter yesterday from a cigar company. That's not unusual in our house as Mel smokes cigars and pipes. It was about the boots.

Mel had replied to an offer for a free pair of cowboy boots from this company. He ordered them for Dan. He got a color that Dan liked and in Dan's size. They were suppose to arrive in 6 weeks.

Dan was gone in four weeks.

They were suppose to be a surprise.

The boots never came. Mel mentioned it once but I didn't want to think about it and I am sure he didn't either.

So we ignored it.

Then I found the copy of Mel's reply to the offer in my office. I still didn't want to think about it. I didn't want to think about looking at boots that Dan would never wear. I didn't want to think about boots that Mel and I would never trip over because Dan left in the middle of the room. I didn't want to think about boots that I would threaten to throw at him if he didn't stop teasing me.

Then we got the letter. They were really sorry but the boots had been delayed because of overwhelming response to the offer.

I had really hoped that they would never come. That I wouldn't have to look at them or think about what to do with them.

I thought I would give them to the homeless shelter where Dan had volunteered. Then Melodie had a brilliant idea. "take them to Camp Nelson. Dan can have them there."

So, when they come that is where they will go. I am sure he is there somewhere.

Monday, February 21, 2011

6 Degrees of Separation? Maybe less

I drove back from the Monterey Death Penalty Conference today. My brain was crammed with information and my emotions strained with the synergy of 1500 criminal defense attorneys from all over the United States who fight the death penalty. I was clearly emotionally exhausted but certainly not morally bankrupt as I drove past Soledad prison with its backdrop of green, fragrant fields that feed all of us.

I was philosophical and angry and hopeful and empowered and tired.

Melodie slept beside me. She had seen and heard things that she did not know existed. She had found three new topics for her law school papers. She had spoken to experts in fields that, before this weekend, she didn't know existed. I watched her grow into being a lawyer in four short days. But, driving past Soledad, she slept.

Soon we are in San Luis Obispo and she goes home and I go to the office. Checking email and messages.

And there is a call. A young woman has had some trouble and her uncle is searching for help. He has lost his brother and he is charged with caring for his niece. Can I take good care of his treasure?

And I realize that Dan has been with us this whole weekend. Like the writer's conference. I watched his curiosity in my daughter's questions, in her eagerness to learn, her willingness to explore new ideas. So like Daniel.

Yes, I will take good care of the man's treasure. Dan would demand it.

Saturday, February 19, 2011


I am sitting in a hotel room, fire in the fireplace, rain on the roof, stuffed with a recently eaten English pastie trying to remember when Dan was here in Monterey. The last time that I remember being here with him was near Bill's wedding to Kathy. We were at the house in Carmel and we went walking on the beach. Dogs everywhere and just ahead was the 10th green at Pebble Beach. Gorgeous.

Mostly, though, Dan came here on his own. He talked about the beach house and how he liked to sit on the back deck and watch the sun go down as he listened to the waves on the beach below. It was the same sound he had at his apartment in Pismo Beach where we would drink tea.

I come to Monterey every year to the California Attorneys for Criminal Justice-California Public Defenders Association Death Penalty Seminar. Four days of intense workshops and lectures on how to do my job better. Dan kept saying that one year he would come with me.

He would have enjoyed the intellectual discussions, the passionate pleas, the dedication and plain stubbornness of the people who give these lectures. He would have liked the hotel room with the fireplace, too.

Thursday, February 17, 2011


I am really excited. I checked my "audience" today and found that someone from Sweden had checked out the blog. I hope they see this post because the Vocal Arts Ensemble is touring Sweden and Norway in 2012!

I bring this up here because Dan has been to Scandinavia. While he was in the Army in the late 60's-early 70's he was stationed in Germany. Mom and Dad took their first international trip and went to Germany to visit Dan. They took the opportunity to visit the home of Dad's forefathers (and mothers) in Scandinavia. I still have mom's reindeer boots.

Dan told me that when they visited Trondheim, a second or third cousin told the story of how Dad's grandfather (how can I clean this up) left three "fiances" behind. Each, apparently, was left with child and this all occurred (according to legend) on the night that grandfather left. (Hopefully, I was unclear enough to make the situation clear)

You see, Dad had contacted people that he thought might be relatives and, sure enough, they were. And what was more impressive is that each and every one of them opened their homes to Dad, Mom and Dan. Dan said he was embarrassed that his use of the English language was not as good as his Norwegian and Swedish cousins! He was also impressed by the effortless hospitality, the easy acceptance of others.

I am looking forward to the hospitality and, maybe, a relative or two.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Saving Boston

On one of the family trips back East, we stopped in Boston and stayed at a hotel near the Boston Commons. I don't remember much about Boston. I do remember the Commons and the people around the Commons.
Please remember, we were from a very small town. Our drunks were relegated to Sweet Briar Ave down near the railroad tracks and the bars near there. I wasn't allowed in that area of town.

So when I saw a real city drunk in a doorway of a public building, I thought he was sick. So did Bill and Dan. They were allowed to go out by themselves and this is where they met the poor man in the doorway.
They try to wake him up. They try to find out where he lived (we didn't know homeless) They find out that the man is hungry. So up they come to the room.

"Dad, we need some money" to buy some food for this guy. Or something along this line. My dad started to laugh and my mom started to cry. She was afraid that they had contracted some disease. Dad just thought they were learning.

My brothers didn't know they were being taken for a ride. They thought they were helping. They thought they were saving this guy in Boston.

Dan kept on trying to save guys for the rest of his life.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Day

Dan was not big on VD. He was of the opinion that it was a Hallmark day and only added to the corporate greed. So he didn't give presents or acknowledge the holiday. Or at least that is what he told me.

But he was a romantic. In that regard he was very like his father. A nice dinner, a walk, things like that. This I know because he would talk about how father taught him. Back then it an impressive dinner at the Vintage Press in Visalia was the Gisvold trademark.

I was just his baby sister so I wasn't the one he shared  details with but I knew some of the women he dated and married through his life. He enjoyed being with women and many women that he dated became life long friends. Many women that he knew were just his friends. Some became my friends as well.

Happy Valentine's day.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Our Trip to Minneapolis

Our mother died of ovarian cancer on June 30, 1982. I started law school in Sacramento that August. The following summer our dad wanted to visit his mother and sister and other relatives.

So after my last final, Dad picked up Melodie and I and we drove to Polson, Montana. We picked up Dan, Dianna, and her children, headed to Whitefish, Montana where we boarded a train for Minneapolis, Minnesota. The ride was beautiful, long and tedious.

I remember that Dan got no sleep during that 24 hours because he didn't fit any of the chairs. The only comfortable chairs were in the lounge which was the smoking car.

I smoked then and even for my four pack a day habit, that car was BAD. The windows were coated in tar and god knows what other substances. The air visibly moved as you walked through it. Dan refused to go there. He refused to sit near me if I had been in there!

When we got to Gramma's house we found that we all got to sleep in the rec room in the basement. That included our father who was a champion snorer. None of us (except Dad) got any sleep.

This all came up because Dianna sent me some pictures that Dan had taken while we were there. Dan isn't in any of them, of course. But they brought back memories.

As I looked at them I realized that many of the people there were now with Dan. Or Dan is now with them. My gramma is gone. She lived well into her 90's. My aunt Lois is gone. She died of lung cancer two years ago. My cousin Paul is gone. My father is gone.

So tonight I am melancholic. I grieve over Daniel still but I miss the other members of my family as well. I laughed at some of the memories in those pictures. They showed our father dealing with his grief by being with his family.

I think there is a lesson there.

I think I will give my other brother a call.

Hey, Bill, howya doin'?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Big Cases

It's been a long couple of days. I had a real heavy case going in court that required a lot of work and concentration. On days like these Dan would always call from where ever he was just to make sure that I got my brain out of the particular case I was working on at the time. He would talk about the weather (complaints about snow, ice, rain were the general topics) or his daily drive or his load. When Kilisha was young he would talk about her dancing or Pat's long distance riding. He would talk about the most recent radio program he had heard or the latest book.

He just would talk to distract me. He didn't care that I didn't answer a lot. He knew how I worked. He knew I immersed myself in a case, especially the big ones.

He knew this because of Willie Harris.

The day that the jury, despite all my work and all my arguments, said that my client, Willie Harris, should die at the hands of the government of California , I left the state of California. My spouse put me on a plane to Montana.

I don't remember much about getting there.

I do remember sitting on Dan's porch in a rocking chair.

View from Dan's porch in Montana
I remember watching grass grow and horses eating that grass.

And I remember Dan being there.

And I remember that after about a week I could actually form sentences.

I remember telling him what I felt when the words "We recommend Death" washed over me. He was the first person to listen to me.

He really is the only one that will ever know what I have locked inside about those cases.

He also knows why I still do it.

Monday, February 7, 2011

I Told You He Was Good!

Dianna, Dan's first wife, has been taking a journey back in time and space. She has revisited some very interesting times with Dan. She has shared some with me. This story I knew about but from the viewpoint of learning to ride on the back of a bike. Dan used to tell me that I should be a piece of luggage back there. He said the best piece of luggage was Dianna because she saved them from becoming grease spots on the highway. Here is that story from Dianna's point of view.

"When Daniel and I finally got together the second time in 1976, after 6 years of no contact, he had a motorcycle.  It was an old Triumph with extended front forks and a trident sissy bar.  It was actually a piece of junk, but to him it was wonderful.  He had some friends who were real Harley Hard Boy bikers, and that period was the most fun I've ever had.  I think I was finally experiencing adolescence in my mid-30s.  We would take evening rides along the river road in Sacramento in the summertime to beat the heat.  His friends joked that someone needed to ride behind him with a big net to catch the parts that fell off!  

One summer early evening we were powering up an on-ramp to the freeway into traffic when the back tire blew out.  I never rode with my arms around him as you see some people do; at most I hooked my index fingers thru his belt loops and lightly leaned against the sissy bar.  Neither of us knew how he held that front end as the back swung 90 degrees to the right, then to the left.  He was able to bring the bike into the median and stop.  We got off, sat down in the median, and breathed as the traffic whizzed past us.  This was in the days of no helmets, and we never felt so lucky to be alive.  Parts may fall off your bike, but decent tires are pretty important.  A very intense learning experience!! 

The bike had no place in our move to Montana so was left behind.  I knew he would ride again some day, and Montana has some world-class bike roads.  I'm sure he rode all he could and is riding still."
Dan giving his bike a bath
I am sure that if he isn't fishing he is riding. And that bike is REALLY LOUD!!!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Super Bowl

For all the football we played in the backyard, I was the only sibling bitten by the professional football bug. I love it. I use to watch it with our father. I knew all the football rules and some of the plays. As a result, I was really obnoxious as the high school mascot. I wanted to watch the game and cheer the team appropriately (a first and ten cheer when the team was third and fifteen was rather inappropriate).

Bill is into high school and college ball and Dan was rather indifferent. Unless it was the Super Bowl. Then Dan enjoyed the game IF the teams were competitive. Most of the time he was on the road and got the game on the internet after he stopped for the night.

Dan didn't play football. He was not exactly built for the sport. He was too tall and too skinny. And if truth be known, he was a bit of a klutz. Even if he played end he had to be able to run and catch at the same time. Not Dan. He could fix anything mechanical but he would trip over his feet walking across the room.
So playing football was out. Watching football was in.

He, of course, rooted for Minnesota Vikings. (Dad was born and raised in Minneapolis- we rooted for the Golden Gophers and the Vikings or missed dinner!) Once Dan met Dad Mueller he rooted for the San Diego Chargers.

So in today's game, I can be sure that he would have rooted for Green Bay. Small town, close to Minnesota, sixth place seed, etc. He would have liked the game, too. He would have hated the turnovers.

Today I could almost hear him. Sitting on my couch. Grousing about calls, cheering great catches. Yeah, I can hear him.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Writer's Conference

 Dan, as I have said before, was an intellectual trucker. He read everything and retained more than any man should have a right to do. He actually was a very good writer but he hated to write. That came from, I think, his lousy handwriting. And his handwriting was awful. Worse than mine! And I have the excuse of being a "professional" so I am suppose to have bad handwriting and a worse signature. Believe me, I do.

But Dan should have been a writer. Bill tried to get him to go back to school to hone that skill but Dan hated school more than he hated traffic jams. So Bill, being Bill, invited Dan to his condo in Sun Valley, Idaho at the same time that the Sun Valley Writer's Conference was happening. Bill can be sneaky....

Of course, Dan didn't have an admission tag. Bill did and Bill's wife, Kathy did, but Dan didn't. And those little plastic thingys were expensive. Plus they weren't selling anymore of them. But Dan wanted to go to some of the lectures and workshops.

Sooooo......I have been told by a party who shall remain nameless that one of my siblings  someone "accidentally" stepped on the foot of the volunteer guarding the door at one of the lectures. The poor thing was so distracted by the profuse apologies being made to her by this the handsome Viking  that some other people were able to enter the room before they were checked for the proper credentials. This, of course, is complete and total hearsay. I know nothing.....

To say that Dan was hooked on the Writer's Conference would be an understatement. Being in the same room with accomplished writers of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, of great literature of all kinds made him feel like he was over the moon. He would talk with them, share his thoughts and be taken seriously. Dan, the truck driver. Taken seriously by serious people. Walking in tall cotton, as our father would say.
He planned to go again this year.

This is the link to this years Sun Valley Writer's Conference. Enjoy.  http://www.svwc.com/

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Motorcycle

Dan's favorite mode of transportation was NOT his truck. It was his motorcycle. He would ride it whenever he could. He and Pat would take vacations on it. A day ride would turn into a couple of days or a week depending on his work schedule. He even rode out to California from Montana on that thing one time. Almost roasted himself in Nevada and froze in the Sierras!

He loved the freedom and openness of the bike. Riding along Highway 1 at the edge of the ocean or taking the twists and turns of Highway 190 in the Sierras was a thrill. I remember him telling me that he could drive by Pierpont Falls on the way to Camp Nelson and truly see the falls. Something you couldn't do from inside a car.

When I visited Montana last year he took me everywhere on the bike.I could smell the water in the Bitterroot and the hay in the fields. It was a totally different experience.  He wanted to take me to Camp Nelson on it but Mel was a bit concerned for my safety. I was not. Dan was an exceptional driver and I felt safer on his bike then I did in most people's cars!
Dan and me on his Harley
I am posting this picture of Dan and me on the bike because it shows the size of the thing and it is a good picture of Dan without his helmet on!

Just a week or so before he died we took the bike up to the Harley shop to be worked on. It needed an oil change etc. and the Harley shop was in Atascadero. We walked into the shop and he immediately started pointing out bikes I could "handle". I was scared to death to drive one of them. He could never figure out how he was the only one in the family with the bike bug.

After he died, I contacted the Harley store to see if they could sell the bike. They didn't do consignment sales but they remembered Dan and his bike. We had been there once and they knew who he was. It made that kind of an impression on people.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

End of the Trail

When we were growing up our parents would take us to Mooney Grove in Visalia. It was a big day for me as Visalia was a CITY to me. It had BIG streets and street lights and lots of cars and stores where people didn't know your name. The park was bigger than our neighborhood!

Dan, as was his spirit, would climb anything that "needed" climbing. And there, at the entrance to Mooney Grove, stood "End of the Trail"

The original plaster sculpture stood in Mooney Park after the San Francisco Expo until 1968. It was swapped out for a bronze one with the Cowboy Museum back east. They restored the plaster one and the bronze one remains in Visalia.

But every time we went, Dan climbed it. Mom and Dad would yell at him every time. And the next time he would climb it.

It was, I believe, this statue that caused both Dan and I to look at the Native American history and learn what had been deleted from our history books. We both felt that the Native American was not at an end and that there was much to learn from their history. But Dan especially felt it after he moved to Montana and lived with the Native Americans there. His feelings were complicated and I can't presume to know them all.

I just know that they started when he first climbed "End of the Trail".

Just an Aside

I was looking at my "dashboard" this morning. That is the thingamabob that tells me all this neat stuff about the blog. One of the cool things it tells me is where the people are that read the blog.

I am stunned! There are readers from United Kingdom, Malaysia, Slovenia, France, Denmark and Russia!

To think that someone in each of those countries now knows a little bit about Dan is astounding. Whoever you are and where ever you are, THANK YOU! Dan would be very happy to know that he is circling the world.

Now there are physical parts of Dan in people and emotional/spiritual parts of Dan everywhere.

Pretty mind boggling....

Please leave a comment and let me know where you are from. I really appreciate your readership.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Thinker

Dan at Zion National Parks
This is how I remember Dan. Almost a part of the earth. Apart from other people but together with the world. As I look at this picture I can almost hear his mind whirring. Thinking thoughts that you and I would never dream of thinking. He thought about the world and how it worked. Not in terms of physics but in terms of the emotional, the logical, the words that explained the things he saw and heard.

He would tell me about these experiences. Of the times that he would sit and think. Maybe you could call it meditation but it was far more active than that. He actively would chase down a thought. Follow it through its permutations until it hit its own illogical or impractical end. Then he would be off on the next thought.

To think that the special brain that was Dan exploded within him somehow makes sense. Kind of like driving a car when the oil is too high. Or the electrical system is giving off too much energy. Maybe there was a genetic flaw, like an electrical short, that caused his brain to bleed into the one area that he treasured and used the most. The area of communication and thought.

This picture, sent by his granddaughter, Kilisha, gives me great peace. I see Dan at peace. Thinking.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Long Hauling

Dan loved sunshine. He loved to sit at the end of the road in Pismo, overlooking the beach and the ocean and soak in the sunshine. I had given him one of those outdoor, reclining, gravity chairs so that he could relax out there and let the ocean winds cool him off on a warm, sunshiny day.

The problem was that once he started working full time at a trucking job, he had no time to sit in the sunshine. He was always in the cab of his truck going somewhere. He use to love trucking. He loved driving alone with his thoughts, his music and , god forbid, his cell phone. He would blow that thing up talking to people everywhere. Even me. But that was when he had a route that took him from Missoula to Seattle and back. One way on one day. One way on the next. He would spend the night in a motel that the company had reservations at for its drivers.

But this job was a long haul gig. Leave San Luis Obispo for Orange County, then to Los Angeles, then to Orange County again, then to Nevada, over to Sacramento, up to Washington, down to Portland, up to Washington, etc, etc, etc. He slept in his truck and ate at truck stops. He didn't have a chance to make friends or have a social life. The company would push him. He had to argue with the dispatcher to get his mandatory 10 hours of rest. He had to argue for days off.

It made him angry and irritable. All he wanted was a job that would pay the bills, let him go to Camp Nelson and let him lay in the sun. What he was doing wasn't it.

 The last night that I saw him he was eating dinner at my place. Just beans and hotdogs. But he really liked it because it wasn't a truck stop. He had driven the truck to a turn out on the street below ours. I had picked him up there and after he ate, I drove him back to the truck.

He started to get out of the car and he turned to me and said, "Here I go again." I told him to be careful. He just smiled.

He always smiled.