Friday, January 12

Dear Jim,

It hasn´t been a rainy winter but it´s been a cloudy one. Last Sunday I went to Starbucks expecting the sun to come out like it did the week before. It never did. After an hour and a ten minutes I was too cold to keep sitting so I walked home in the gloom.

I felt like winter. Cold and lonely. When I got to the corner of the street I would normally turn home on, I decided not to turn. For the second Sunday in a row there were a lot of homeless guys with all their crap camped under the freeway.

It pisses me off and scares me at the same time. I don´t like seeing all the slobs in my neighborhood and I´m mad that the city doesn´t provide abandoned buildings for these guys to live in or abandoned parking lots with tents and porta potties for them to at least be put out of the way.

It scares me that so many of the homeless are young – in their twenties. I look at them sitting around and I shake, ¨Oh my God. They´re so young.¨

I worry a little about getting mugged. I worry a lot that I might become homeless if the rent goes up $100 each year. I don´t have the strength to work full time.

It must be horrible living on the street. There is nowhere to pee or poop. I wonder what kind of problems they will have with their bladder if they eventually get off the street and make it into their forties.

But still. They are slobs. The other day when I left for work I wanted to leave through the back gate and walk through the alley like I usually do. There was a homeless guy milling around under the carport. I thought, ¨This doesn´t look too good. You better go out the front.¨

So I did. When I left the building and turned up the street, the sidewalk underneath the freeway was blocked. I never saw it blocked before. The sidewalk is pretty wide – at least 12 feet. Normally 1/3 to half the sidewalk is filled with a few guys and all their crap. This time a tent blocked the rest of the sidewalk. You couldn´t see past to the street a block away. I was pissed.

I could not believe it. These are the new hobo jungles, only there is no train to catch to see the great American West and take the edge off your pain and give you hope.

At least in the old days tramps could feel solace that they got free rides through beautiful country on equipment of a system that symbolized the Industrial Revolution and the poverty or displacement it created. Theirs.

One time in Klamath Falls, when I was 21, I was walking through the rail yard. Under the overpass were three guys hanging around drinking. Two of them were in their forties. The third guy looked old, but the more I studied him the more I realized he was my age. Several of his teeth were missing.

That was the trip I took Southern Pacific up to Klamath Falls, then Western Pacific back along the Feather River. The way up was cool and cloudy. It was June. The way back was sunny and partly cloudy. Not warm.

The train I took out of Klamath Falls broke up in a little valley. I was walking around the outpost, inspired by the crisp cool air and the mountains, when right in the middle of the maintenance road was the hugest pile of human shit I had ever seen. It was fresh.

When I caught the next train it climbed into the mountains and it got cloudy and cooler. I tried moving to wherever the sun was, but that didn´t work out. Finally, the train started going downhill and along the Feather River.

It got warmer. I took off my coat and relaxed and was enjoying the scenery. Then a train passed coming from Oroville. All of a sudden I saw an empty flat car with two circles of four or five guys playing cards as the train wound up the mountain.

I was astounded. You´ve heard me tell this story. I love to tell it. I haven´t mentioned it to anybody in years. I probably never will. Who gives a shit about freight trains?

Who gives a shit about displaced people? There´s a controversy here in Sacto about homeless people sleeping along the river. The city and the county think the homeless create a health hazard with all their urine, poop, trash, and needles. So periodically the slobs are run out by the police or deputies.

The homeless advocates get mad and say the homeless need a place to stay. The river is the logical place. It is away from everything.

But people who live in the neighborhoods along the river, especially the people close to entrances to parking lots, don´t want a bunch of slobs with their shopping carts, bicycles, baby carriages, and dogs hanging around.

People who want to bicycle along the river do not feel safe. Parents don´t want to take their kids to the river to be around the druggies, boozers, and derelicts.

The progressives blame the government for everything. If we had a real wet winter and the homeless and all their junk were washed away, the progressives would blame the government for not rescuing them.

It bothers me. All the people who have empathy for the homeless look at me like I am a criminal or an evil privileged white man. The people who are wrapped up in appearing to be empathetic and socially conscious toward the disadvantaged or displaced cannot do a random act of kindness like smiling at me when I smile at them.

Remember a few letters ago when I wrote about the guy who was convicted in NYC for killing a cop? I mentioned the reaction of the cop´s mother, then compared it to the response mom and dad had to the guy who killed you.

I said mom and dad forgave him, but I was glad he hung himself in jail. I said I didn´t have empathy for his daughters.

I was thinking today that since mom and dad forgave him, I should too. I was thinking that it is too bad he hung himself in jail. He might have apologized to mom and dad.

If he hadn´t killed himself, his daughters could have visited him in prison trying to make their dad less miserable. They would have had a living father.

I hope they are okay. I hope they hope that dad, the girls, and I are okay.

Life´s a bitch Jim.

I have a helluva long way to go.



Copyright © 2021 by David Vaszko