Sunday, March 11

Dear Jim,

It’s daylight Savings Time. Last night, instead of hurriedly setting my clock ahead before I went to bed, I calmly set it ahead as soon as I got home. Then I relaxed and went to bed at 10:00. (11:00)

Today I feel great! I listened to a half hour of The Psalms and a half hour of church hymns on the Christian station I told you about.

I love The Psalms. The Psalm writers are pissed off like I am. They are suffering a lot too. You talked about suffering – how it can make you take yourself less seriously, become empathetic or more empathetic toward others, and get you on the path toward God.

I remember when that woman you loved dearly broke your heart. You said to me, “For the first time in my life I have truly suffered.” It was wrenching for you. The Psalms are wrenching.

I needed to keep going on the religious theme, so after the church hymns I turned to Radio Vaticano. I love the narrator’s Italian accent as she speaks Spanish.

After she got through giving the news and reporting upcoming events, she interviewed a woman who just published a book about women in The Church and their quest for power. The interview was hard to follow because they were talking so fast. The writer spoke different Spanish than I’m used to and the one being interviewed usually doesn’t speak as clearly as the interviewer.

I needed to be still, so I didn’t get up to try to write her name or the title of the book. I will try to look it up.

As far as I can tell, The Church has two big problems. Women are pissed off and men don’t give a shit. Sounds like the country.

Then I listened to the sage priest in Sacramento who grew up in Mexico. He talks every Sunday about the three readings from Mass.

The theme today was light versus darkness. He said we call ourselves Catholics, but we embrace the selfish aspects of our culture like pornography and violence.

He said really, we are not Catholics because we do not accept that Jesus died for our sins, died to bring us the light. He said we must dump our egos, admit to ourselves that everything about us – our money, job, title, property, talent is because of God, because Jesus paid the price to bring the world out of darkness – if we so choose.

He said we better so choose because the barbarians are at our gates just like barbarians burned Jerusalem before the Jews were sent into exile. Like the Jews who lived a life of debauchery before their fall, we are doing the same thing. He said America has fallen apart because we Catholics have accepted contemporary paganism just like Jews accepted the paganism of their times.

There were a couple of other things too. He said the Mexican devotion to Maria is horseshit if Mexicans believe in abortion. He said presidential candidates need to speak against abortion, because if I understand him right, abortion is a great evil or our time and an example of paganism at its’ worst.

While he was talking he made the distinction between being in the darkness like America and Western Catholics are, and stepping into Jesus’ light to reclaim ourselves, our church, our country, and our Western tradition.

That got me thinking about The Psalms I listened to an hour before him. In The Psalms the psalmist is protected by God’s shadow. He can either walk in it or seek shelter in it. He can be good knowing he is protected by God.

In the New Testament, people are challenged to walk in Jesus’ light, step out of their darkness and into the world’s darkness to do good, to try to get others to trust in the Lord like they do.

A lot of people trust in the universe. That is good because if you listen to the universe you sing your own song. It might be painful. If it doesn’t bring you peace it will cause you to stand your ground, say I’m going to live my truth no matter what.

The problem with the universe is what do you do if you end up on the street? I’ve had homeless guys say ”Jesus loves you” and ”God bless you” to me, but I’ve never had a homeless guy tell me “Trust in the universe.”

If I were homeless it would be terrifying for me to say to somebody, “Trust in the universe,” since the universe hadn’t gotten me money or a place to live.

But if I say “God bless you” or ”Jesus loves you,” I’m acknowledging not commanding. I’m hoping that he will thank me or say ”God bless you too.” But even if he doesn’t, Jesus said don’t expect to be rewarded. Until later. I would be trusting in the Lord.

Trusting in the universe is attractive. It’s becoming more popular. It’s drawing a lot of young people away from the Lord, away from The Church. And with the powerful technology that we have, you can communicate with the universe instantly.

The reason I bring this up is because young people, with the new technology that anyone can afford, are creating political movements intended to take our streets back from the police and our neighborhoods back from the real estate industry. Even though the groups I am aware of are not religious, are not Christian, they are putting into practice the Gospels.

In addition to visiting prisoners, they are trying to close prisons. In addition to giving food to the homeless, they are tying to pass rent control laws so people do not end up on the street.

If these things happen, what wonderful cities we will have. The love of Jesus will have taken over the world. We won’t need a savior. People will raise their kids to ”Trust in the universe. It will give you everything you need. If you aren’t greedy.”

So Jim, maybe what’s going on today will usher in some great changes for the better. Before Jesus there was God the Father. For two thousand years we have had God the Son. Maybe we’ll have an Age of the Holy Spirit, the Age of Aquarius, and Jesus’ work will be over.

That’s it for now.

Love,

Dave

Copyright © 2021 by David Vaszko

Sunday, October 22

Dear Jim,

It´s the Dodgers v. s. Astros in the World Series. I´m glad eastern teams are not in it. Houston plays in a dome. It isn´t going to be cold or rainy in L. A.

The season is already too long. I don´t want a rain delay.

Today I was telling dad the Astros used to be the Colt 45´s. How Texan. I don´t know if the name was changed to be modern or because of political correctness.

It´s been a stressful week. My mouth is still recuperating from gum surgery.

I was going through all my papers and cupboards to see what I can throw away. I made four trips to the donation store with my day pack full. I threw out a kettle, toaster, waffle iron, a card table. I will be throwing out a big pitcher, a crock pot, and a 4 inch pile of notes I took.

I am worried the landlord will raise the rent or evict us. He hired a property manager because he cannot do as much work here as he used to. He´s 80. So, I want to be ready to move quickly and easily.

It´s amazing. I have only kept a few books: a bible in Spanish, two Spanish poetry books, a small Spanish verb book, a Spanish/English dictionary, a small English dictionary, a Ty Cobb book, and the family bible. I love the family bible. So does Sis II. I think we all loved it.

Remember all the books you had? They were in dad´s garage until at least 2000. I brought Why Catholics Can´t Sing back to Sacramento. I loved it. I underlined in it. I kept it until last year.

A friend of mine joined the choir at his church. He can´t sing either, but at least he sings in key. I would love to be in a choir. I wonder how often a choir feels like one – like they are experiencing God.

Love,

Dave

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.

Love,

Dave

Copyright © 2021 by David Vaszko

Wednesday, July 5

Dear Jim,

It’s been a great day. I got lots of things done and paced myself well.

This morning I went to a park to study Spanish. Now I’m in a different park in the evening to tell you about what happened this morning.

I was sitting studying a Spanish phrase book when two young religious guys said hello to me as they approached. They wore white shirts and ties and each young man had a denominational ID with his last name on it.

I said to myself “Oh shit!”, then politely told them I’m Catholic and don’t want to talk. I forget what the lead guy said but it wasn’t confrontational or corny. They asked me if I believed in Jesus Christ. I said I believe in God the Father and the Holy Spirit. I said Jesus was a smart ass, no wonder they killed him.

The two young guys were surprised. They wanted to hear more. I said he loved to piss off the elders and attorneys. Every time I read the gospels I cringe – This guy’s obnoxious, always imposing himself on people.

One of them said, “Give me an example.”

“When they went to the other side of the lake they ran into the nutcase in the graveyard. Jesus almost met his match. He had to touch the guy twice to get rid of his demons.
“But he cast the demons into a herd of pigs. Then the pigs ran off the cliff into the water and drowned. The villagers came and told Jesus to get his ass out of there and not come back.
“Jesus destroyed part of the village food supply just to show how powerful he was.”

They let me roll.

I said I love the Old Testament and Acts. “You mean Acts of the Apostles?”

“Yeah. The apostles were like young guys who just discovered the truth and put their hearts and souls into preaching it.
“They pussed out when they were in the garden, but after Jesus died they had great courage. Peter stood up and let the words come to him just like Jesus said they would.”

Then they said something about Jesus and the gospels and I said that I can’t stand John, where Jesus says that you know the Father through me and me through the father. I said that I don’t want to hear that crap. If I want philosophy I’ll read philosophy.

They never interrupted me.

I said, “It’s scary. I love God, but if you take the New Testament seriously, you have to wonder about Jesus. You have to doubt.”

They agreed. One of them said yeah, but Jesus is the spark, the connection. He connects us to God. That’s why we have faith in him.

I told them about being Catholic, how I hate having political opinions presented to me at Mass, that the people at Mass are there for psychological purposes, not because they love God.

They knew what I meant. They said the focus of their church is to help each other get closer to God.

I said it’s hard. They said yes it is hard.

One of them saw the title of my book then said, “Are you mastering Spanish? My colleague speaks Spanish.” So we spoke in Spanish.

It was time to go. I said, “You guys know how to listen. You didn’t interrupt me.”

We shook hands. Then, like Mexicans do, it took a while to say goodbye. We shook hands two more times.

You have to admire guys like that Jim. I don’t have the courage to approach people to become Catholics. I told the young guys that Catholics do not have the confidence to do what those two do.

It’s a shitty time to be Catholic. But those guys have me thinking about trying to go back.

I’ll write again.

Love,

Dave

Copyright © 2021 by David Vaszko

Face the Tabernacle

Went to Mass one Saturday in Midtown celebrated by two or three priests.
I don’t know the occasion.

It was fast-moving, passionate, executed perfectly.
I wondered why I didn’t have what the priests had.
Everyone was overwhelmed.

For years it troubled me – a performance more than a ritual.
Instead of making me awe the Mystical Body of Christ,
I was in awe of the priests’ ability to put on a show,
Facing the audience,
Just like in their beloved theater.