Friday, February 16

Dear Jim,

I’ve got two Fuji’s in the window to finish ripening. Somehow I remember you used to have bowls of fruit on your table. I think you meditated on them. You loved the still life’s of fruit of the old European guys that we saw in museums.

I don’t meditate on the Fuji’s, but I love to glance at them. There is nothing rich or subtle in the appearance of most apples. I remember you telling me that an orchard man in Wenatchee said that when he was a kid, his dad grew apples to taste good; but nowadays he doesn’t carry on his dad’s tradition. He grows apples to look good so they will sell. But that’s just it, they don’t look good. They look flashy. They look phony.

Even though I don’t meditate, I am becoming more centered. When I am doing something, I look at my hand or I look at the door knob as I turn it. I want to get to where I naturally meditate. Just have Fuji’s sitting around so I can contemplate them.

In the seventies or early eighties there was an article in Harper’s. It was about a guy in Vermont who lived in the mountains with his wife and kids. The guy would contemplate for two hours at a time.

Dad used to do that every morning before Mass for an hour. What a great combination – meditating then going to Mass. And of course he prayed before meditating.

I’ve thought of taking a yoga class or doing Tai Chi, but it doesn’t feel right. I would like to go to a meditation group where the leader doesn’t talk about peace and tranquility and all that Eastern shit, but says ”Contemplate Justice, Truth, Beauty, Freedom, Love, Lust, Hate, Fear, Confidence, Youth, the peak of your powers, falling apart.”

You are going to find peace and tranquility whatever you meditate on. It always amazes me that the chic seekers of Eastern wisdom don’t give the slightest shit about Western values. Except Prosperity.

Wednesday was Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday. What an interesting combination.

I didn’t get ashes. I hardly ever have. Dad can’t remember if he got them this year or not. I think getting ashes is an admittance that you are a sinner.

I’m usually self-conscious so I do not get them. Maybe next year I’ll swallow my self-consciousness and do it. It’s a way to acknowledge we are a bunch of sinners without getting hysterical or saying ”I was a…” But we are still sinners even if we don’t have our old bad habits.

Then there is St. Blaise Day. I used to like getting my throat blessed. In these disgusting times, it would be good to get my throat blessed as I ask God to help me not to speak profanely or with hate.

The other day I got together with my friend I lived with for eleven years. She is going through a very difficult time.

She’s a year older than I am but is always sick. Her sister is 73, an invalid. But as pale and stressed as she looked, there was something good I noticed: ”Your eyes look great. The colored parts are real luminous and your whites are really clear.”

She prays and meditates. She prays to St. Anne. She did yoga every day for at least fifteen years, but hasn’t done it lately. She listened to the same yoga tape every day. It broke after I moved out.

February is her favorite month. She loves camellias. They are looking good this year.

February has always been my least favorite month. This year, even with all the sun and wind, I have not gotten as many headaches or been as down as I usually am.

I remember a lot of times coming home in the daytime in February to go to bed because I felt so bad. Do you remember, I guess it was the late eighties, when a friend of mine moved from Sacto to the Marina? You and I and her spent a sunny drought year Sunday afternoon in February on the Marina Green.

I felt like shit. I had a sinus headache all day. I couldn’t eat. When the outing was over, you and I went to mom’s and dad’s. I was in bed the rest of that day and at least all of the next. I wondered what dad thought of me.

Tonight is the crescent moon. I’ll have to step outside to watch it.

I’ve been thinking a lot the last few years about our cousin who committed suicide. It’s something I struggle with. I was too self-important to attend his funeral. After mom died and I was grieving for her by writing her letters, I decided to write to each of our dead family members. I wrote to him. I assume I apologized to him for missing his funeral.

He was a gem like you. Everybody loved him. I’ve told some of the family that the two best of our generation died young.

Mom thought he was gay. She thought he might have killed himself because of it. When I think of him, I remember thinking that something wasn’t right, even though he was a great guy and full of goodness. I wonder if he was pissed off at our aunt and uncle and our cousins.

That was a tragedy. If I ever see our cousins, I will apologize for not being there for them.

That’s it for now Jim.

Thanks for letting me get this off of my chest.



Copyright © 2021 by David Vaszko

Friday, July 21

Dear Jim,

Another tiring Friday morning. When I got home last night I wound down by winding myself up reading a used book that arrived for me.

I ordered it a week ago. It’s about art. It came in a ripped package and is signed by the author for a guy she knew. She wrote it in 2014.

She says that contemporary painting and sculpture are horseshit, that the successful promotion of abstract art and skillless art has been a great con job. You would agree.

We went to look at art a lot. I usually did not like it. You often explained it to me.

What I remember more than anything are the photographs of the Nazi parades at the S.F. Museum of Art when it was on Van Ness. The photographs were terrifying – thousands of people watching in silent fear as the hot shots walked up the aisle in silence with their uniforms and medals. Those photos gave me a better understanding of the Nazis than any photo of the holocaust or any book, and I’ve read two great ones, about the Nazis.

Another great trip was when we went to the new cathedral right after it was built. There was a sculpture of three of the Church Fathers. They weren’t walking or running, but there was an incredible sense of motion in it.

You thought so too, and there was Gregorian Chant coming from downstairs. Remember? Then we walked to the big window with a view of the Mission and you commented that the architect captured the purpose of The Church – to watch over the city.

That’s interesting because several years ago the parish where Sis2 lives tore down the old church and built a new one as modern for today as the cathedral was for the seventies. The problem is that it doesn’t feel like a church – it feels like a performance center. It’s great to be in. It would be great as an office or to see an acoustic band. But it doesn’t feel awe inspiring or otherworldly.

The old churches had stained glass windows that when the sun shone through them gave a glimpse of what heaven must be like.

The cathedral had a vista of the city we ask forgiveness from, Yo confesio antes Dios todopoderoso, y antes ustedes hermanos…, while we pray to God for the courage to tolerate and embrace the city so we can save ourselves in it.

But Sis2’s church. Well, the priest prances out from the side of the altar, walks across the altar (the stage), smiles and says “Hi everybody!” “Hi Father!” Then he begins a Mass that I can’t take seriously because he doesn’t take his function as a priest and the purpose of the Mass seriously. During the sermon he hopes his favorite team wins the game this afternoon.

Two or three miles from the inspiring cathedral is the church on 24th and Florida one of our uncles used to go to. The neighborhood and parish are Mexican. There’s a famous alley near the church full of Mexican schlock which all the artists claim is highly skilled and profound work.

The church! Christ. The church is painted showing the slaughter of the Aztecs by the conquistadors. It’s terrifying. I wonder why the archbishop allowed the painting. Did he not have the balls to say you guys are nuts; our parishes are meant to welcome anybody, not just Mexicans?

It doesn’t bother the white artists though. Six years ago when dad could still walk pretty good, I said let’s go downtown to see this art exhibit. Dad said sure so we went.

We walked up Powell from Market to the gallery. It was showing paintings by a famous San Franciscan.

The paintings were okay. What I really liked was the old building. I always like old buildings the galleries are in more than the art. The buildings have character but not the art. I would rather talk to the architect about architecture than the artist about art.

When we were done the owner or manager or docent or whatever he was talked to us about the art then asked us to make a donation. Then he gave us some literature and told us the gallery of white artists was raising money for the young non-white artists in the Mission. I thought, “These guys can’t wait to destroy us.”

I know now most white artists want to destroy the European tradition. Just let it flow man. I can’t remember whether we gave money to the gallery.

I remember the rest of the walk. We went a few blocks up, over to the Ritz Carlton, down into the Stockton Tunnel and then to Union Square.

I kept looking at the huge photos of NFL players at one of the stores. They filled me with wonder more than the crap in the gallery.

It was the best memory I have of dad. He enjoyed the gallery. We enjoyed each other.

I usually don’t feel comfortable in San Francisco. It’s really better when I’m with somebody.

That’s it for now.



Copyright © 2021 by David Vaszko