Dan Gisvold at Bear Creek

Sunday, June 26, 2011

More Music

I was listening to a friend backstage tonight. She was saying how she wished her mother had come out for the California International Choral Festival. The choirs were all great and we were all having fun.

And my brain said, "I wish he was here"

He would have loved the international aspect. He would have loved the folk songs. And he would have been flattened by the talent that was on the stage.

In my mind, I can see him there.

Too tall to fit in the seats. Wearing jeans and his favorite cowboy style shirt. And hushpuppy shoes.

He would have talked to all the singers, no matter what their language.

He would have gone to every party and get together.

He would have wanted to learn as much as he could about the guys from the Philippines who actually worked in Saudi Arabia but had spent the last year or so touring in the United States.

He would have wanted to know all about the African customs that the Congo group brought with them.

Heaven forbid, he would still be there talking and learning and it is nearly midnight now.

But he would have sunk into the music, the sound, the vibration, the movement of it all. He would have become one with each and every note.

Yes, I wish he was here.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

He is at Rest

Smitty, Jeanine, Melodie and I went to the end of Harloe street in Pismo Beach this morning. It was cool and foggy. A typical June day on the Pismo Beach cliffs.

We climbed through the fence that is meant to keep people off the crumbling bluffs. We stood on the ice plant and looked down onto the receding Pacific Ocean.

We talked about Dan. I showed them where his little apartment was.

We watched the waves roll in and out. We talked. Smitty apologized for not having talked to me for 38 years. I laughed at him.

I thanked him for being my brother now.

He told us that in every conversation that he had with Dan, Melodie and I were mentioned.

I gave him the tin that held the last bit of Dan's remains. We all cracked up. It was a Christmas tin with a Santa Claus on it. Totally inappropriate for anyone else. But not for Dan.

And Smitty scattered him in the ice plant. "I know where to come visit you now" was all he said.

And then we began to tell Dan stories.

Smitty was full of them. A beat up Volkswagon looking for a blues singer in Hamburg, Germany. Driving a 1953 truck without lights, at night, in California and being stopped by the CHP in 1971.

We stood there for an hour. And then we had to go.

But Dan is there. At the end of Harloe Street. Where he and I drank sassafras tea and solved the problems of the world.

He will rest there. And Smitty and I will visit him. And talk to him. And talk about him. And remember him.

My new brother and I will remember our old brother for as long as we live.

At the end of Harloe Street.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Band of Brothers

He found out that Dan was dead because he went looking for him on the internet. He was unable to reach him by phone and he was concerned. He didn't have any other family member's numbers so he went hunting. He found this blog. And he was devastated.

He had known Dan since 1970 when they met in Germany. Dan was in the Air Force and he was in the Army. They were both from the San Joaquin Vally. Dan from Lindsay and he was from Coalinga. The closest he ever got to Lindsay, before he met Dan, was in a high school baseball game in Tulare.

But being in the service in the 70's brought them together for a lifetime. For Dan's lifetime.

This is Smitty.

Smitty and his wife Janine (hope I spelled that right)
He could not make it to Camp Nelson for the Farewell. But he came here. To San Luis Obispo. To see me. To talk to me and my family. About Dan.

And talk he did.

He talked about hitting the skunk with my mother's car and my mom making them buy cases of tomato juice and scrubbing the undercarriage of the car with it. Then making them lunch.

He talked about hanging out in Sacramento.

He talked about Dan coming to visit him in Minneapolis.

He talked about Dan's intellectual curiosity.

He talked about Dan's love of music. He talked about how Dan talked about Vocal Arts. He promised to send me links to cd's that Dan had sent him.

He talked about how Dan could make a friend out of just about anybody.

He talked about how Dan was the most intelligent, smart, articulate truck driver on the planet.

Smitty talked for a long, long time. His very best friend, his brother was gone.

Smitty is coming to the Vocal Arts Ensemble rehearsal tonight.

Smitty has a new friend. It is me.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

My Biggest Fan

I was reminded today that my brother was my biggest fan.

He once told me that I could go sell my body on a street corner if that was what I wanted to do. He might come beat the holy crap out of me but he would still be my biggest fan.

I never forgot that.

I will always know that my brother was ALWAYS there for me.

I know that he still is--in my heart and in my brain. Every morning as I still reach for the phone to call him, every night as I drive home past the stunning view of the Pacific Ocean meeting the shore at Pismo Beach.

He is always with me.

And yet, today, I miss him more than ever.

I miss his humor. I miss his wisdom. I miss his voice.

Oh, god, I miss his voice.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Keeping Safe

I was driving to work today. Minding my own business. Listening to something on the radio.

And I pass a semi-truck.

And Dan flashes in my brain.

Just a flash. Seeing him driving with his knees while he makes a turkey sandwich and talks to me on the phone. (Kinda scares ya, don't it?)

I kinda smile and go back to the minding my own business and listening to the radio. It is satellite and I have it on the Bridge or some such thing. I am more concerned with the Chevy that keeps speeding up and slowing down and the Kia that is so close to my bumper that I can tell the color of the driver's lipstick! (Back off, lady!)

And a Harley-Davidson motorcycle passes me. It is a man in full leather. Riding tall.

Dan and I on his Harley. He hadn't finished putting on his leathers.

My heart just does a little squeeze. He knew what he was doing and he was doing it well. So like Daniel.

Right behind that guy is a young guy on a small bike. No leathers. Hunched.

I am hoping his family never has to hear that he was scraped off the road.

I could hear Daniel screaming at him. Daniel was about being safe on the bike. He was about keeping everyone safe on the bike.

Somehow, even knowing that he was driving with his knees, I know he had every truck he drove safe.

Sometimes I dread driving anywhere. There are so many memories of him on the road. Every truck. Every bike.

I can't drive when I cry. So I just sorta smile.

Monday, June 6, 2011


I haven't been able to write about what I have been feeling. It is just under the surface and bubbling. It won't let go but it won't let me express it.

Some of it appears to be sadness. That makes sense. I miss my brother. I miss the time that I had with him. I miss talking to him. I miss being with him.

Some of it is hopelessness. There is a sense in me that it won't get any better. That the hole in my soul will never heal, never get smaller, never loosen its grip on me.

Part of it is joy. A true sense that I had a relationship with my brother that is rare and oh, so special. He was an individual, a one of a kind, a man with a heart and a head, a man with demons that I knew and that he helped me embrace. There is a great deal of joy that I embrace that relationship.

Part of it is anger. A real anger that there is such a thing as death. A real, honest, unbelievable anger that Dan is not coming back. Some of that anger is at myself for not doing or saying lots of things to and for Dan.

All of it makes for a crushing grief. A mixed bag of feelings and issues that I think I understand but truly don't.

The best explanation, the best way to see what it is that I feel is to look at the picture of Bill at the campfire circle at Camp Nelson.

We were trying to get snow covered wood to burn and, of course, it smoked a lot. But we all just stood our ground when it came our way. We stood and stared into the fire and kept our thoughts to ourselves

I asked Bill if the planning of the Farewell just made the hurting start all over again for him. It did.

I know he is feeling the same internal volcano that I am feeling now.

I miss my brother.