Courage to shine

In this age of fear,
Rise to the occasion.
Smile at strangers.
Put terror in the hearts of fascists who hate to see you loose, free, trusting, fearless.

Incite those who hate good will.
Say If you don’t smile at me, don’t lust for strangers’ eyes – you ain’t free. Do not destroy my shine.

You don’t shine Sacramento.
The great flag above our glorious capitol flies in vain.
You fear yourself, your neighbor, everyone, everything.

All the monuments in this park Sacramento. You disgrace them.
Those guys didn’t die so you could cower.

Get pissed off.
Say you are ill from having everything beautiful in you destroyed.
Say you realize the damage you do to the hearts of your fellow citizens when you fear them,
When you let them know their freedom and good will is not welcome.

Think about it Sactoh!
We destroy each others’s hearts.
It’s all on film –
Secure little you walking through huge solid doors at the capitol.
Little men, little women failing to attain greatness,
Eagerly saying oh yes we can’t be too scrutinized,
Afraid to say this is neither a great nation, a great state, a great city, or a great people.

What do you dream about?
I’ve never heard anyone say freedom is more important than money.
I’ve never seen anyone on the west steps in the sun reading Whitman, vowing to be godlike.
I’ve never heard anyone updating Thomas Paine saying
It’s unnatural to have security cameras everywhere. They must come down.
Those who put them up must be deposed. Are you with me!

You are filed with shame but for the wrong reasons.
You are meant to be beautiful America!
Sacramento! With your weather, your rivers, this grand capitol, these inspiring grounds
You should lead this nation on its’ path to being beautiful and free,
Of having the greatest men and greatest women that ever walked the earth.

We are an extraordinarily ugly people.
I dare you to be free.
Walk around the park.

Salivate over oranges and tangerines golden and sweet, with no edges.
Isn’t that a combination to strive for?

Sit on a bench under these magnolias, lusting over their sensuous roots,
Going mad with passion,
Promising to restore everything that’s been lost when you get home.

You need help. Go to Father Serra. Kneel. Confess your cowardice, your selfishness,
Your refusal to be true to America. Ask father to bless you,
So you dare to risk yourself to be free like he risked himself for others’ salvation.

Stop at the bathroom. Smell the disgusting homeless. Look at how ugly they are.
They personify the hearts of the people who run this country,
The people who love to see you weak and fearful. When you piss,
Tell yourself you’re releasing all the fear that makes you a little man.

After peeing, stop at the olive tree. It used to be the greatest tree in the park;
Just like we used to be the greatest nation and the greatest state.

See the bamboo. Watch its’ soothing light. Imagine how beautiful the jungle is.
How magnificent a jungle night must sound with crickets and all its’ tropical birds.

When you get to the Vietnam Memorial, think of young men screaming in quick sand,
reaching for their buddies hand; all so you could satisfy every selfish desire,
And give unquestioning assent to more cops and more jails.
Are you embarrassed? Ashamed? Have you ever told a young person patriotism is horseshit,
That if he can go to another country to murder,
He can’t complain when someone rapes his mother or girlfriend?

Peace. This is your greatest challenge! There are soothing black benches in this oasis from glory.
Feel their curve as fountain’s water soothes you and the overwhelming capitol imposes itself on you.
Make peace with yourself. Invite your former friends, telling them you apologize;
Begging them to apologize. Invite your friends. Tell them to ponder the noble white capitol,
The beauty and peace of these roses. Look at them.
Tell them you plan to make yourself free and beautiful,
To inspire other people to pull themselves and the nation out of darkness.
Tell them you love America, but this is no country for lovers and it kills you.
Smell roses with them. Ask them if they cry more as they get older.

As you wander to your next station, stop and look at the hydrangeas on 14th.
A great place to read in seclusion,
Arming yourself with courage to face the onslaught of conformity that makes America shameful.

Now you’re at the Korean War Memorial; the most profound of our monuments;
The cracked obelisk symbolizing the crack that began America’s decline.
But instead of photographs of the soldiers, imagine photographs of America’s prisons and prisoners,
Our lobbies filled with security guards, malls filled with bored kids,
Scared women hurrying white-faced to their car,
You looking at the ground because you fear to look at people because they worry you’re a
criminal, a rapist, and a pervert.
America hates crime but loves to live in fear.
You haven’t done a thing but you feel like shit don’t you?
All the space that this monument takes up used to be beautiful.

While you’re here and since it’s winter, look toward L Street.
You’ve got a clear view of the firefighter’s monument,
Our heroes who would hose you down the street if you questioned the Patriot Act.

Good thing there’s a God. Across the street is the Presbyterian church. Sit on the lawn.
Look at the palm trees. Ask yourself what God thinks of you.
All God wants is for you to feel free or godly or to suffer trying to be one or the other.
You suffer but you aren’t noble.

Look at those pigeons on the roof of the church. You feel peace when they whoosh away.
Wouldn’t you love to instill the same feeling in others as you move along the street
reflecting God’s beauty?

Be proud and humble. Stroll to the shiny white capitol.
Let yourself be stunned by its’ unembarrassed glorification of perfection.

Have the courage Socrates and Jesus did to believe in perfection; to be godly at work,
At home, and with strangers.

Kneel again. Ask God to help you be as great as your talent allows; so when you die,
You rise to heaven on grand clouds above the capitol, escorted by pigeons.

For now, walk to the west steps, your knees muddy. Take off your shoes,
Walk on the concrete. When your colleagues pass,
Force them to look at you after they turned away.
Tell them you never knew the burden of freedom that it means to be an American until today.
When they scoff, allow yourself to cry.
Think of how many times Socrates and Jesus cried over the corruption of their nation’s principles.

You’re almost finished. Go to 10th Street. Turn around. Look at the capitol in silence.
Now go to 9th Street and look at it. In front of you is a huge fountain.
On each side is a proud building.
One building has an inscription – Into the highlands of the mind let me go.
The other inscription reads – Send me men to match my mountains.

Put your shoes on.

It’s time to shine.

Even if it kills you.

Copyright © 2021 by David Vaszko

Friday, June 15

Dear Jim,

How are you? I’m sitting outside at my favorite coffee shop. I just said hi to a young Asian women who sat down across from me. I was looking at her sleek expensive computer that is as attractive for a computer as she is for a woman. She was amused by my gaze at her PC. We made good eye contact.

There was another young woman sitting at the table to my right. She was tall and white. She was wearing shorts and sandals and had backed her chair away from the table to face my table. Her legs were stretched out and her feet up on the seat of the chair in front of her.

When I glanced at her feet, her toenails had horrible baby blue polish. I thought ”Oh Christ!”. It’s the shade of the season, so for the rest of the Summer I’ll be seeing toenails of women who have no sense of color.

Before the Asian woman sat down, two cute 18 year olds stood across from me. They were talking.

You know how we used to wear worn out jeans? We wore through the denim so that white threads of the material were visible. The more knee there was the longer the white threads of material were.

Well, one girl had really short shorts. The front covering her pockets was so worn and the threads so long, that you could see the whites of the pockets. I could have peeked at her undies if I wanted, and if she was 28 I would have. But 18. I cringed.

Remember the term root huggers? It always cracked me up.

What was great about the Asian women was that she was dressed modestly not sexually. I could have looked at her all day.

There’s been sad news in the world of famous people. A week and a half ago a celebrity writer and a celebrity fashionista killed themselves. They were boomers.

The media is talking about depression and getting help, about staying connected to your family and friends and neighborhood. But nobody has mentioned that these two were boomers.

We boomers took ourselves too seriously. We still do. We isolated ourselves even further from our stifling Godless culture when we claimed to know all the answers and to have the right to do anything we want.

When I saw the news I thought ”What’s wrong with us boomers?” I wonder how many people made the connection?

You should have seen the photos of the writer. He was very striking, very handsome. He looked like a man of the world- sophisticated and successful, somebody who would attract attention as soon as he walked into a room; somebody you would look to for wisdom; somebody who made you wonder how come you aren’t like that.

I was afraid when I saw the news. I had envied his success – a cook who became a great and famous writer. Now he’s dead. Am I supposed to be happy?

Another thing the media hasn’t mentioned is that boomers have contributed to the destruction of America and Western Civilization. So you can say it serves the boomers who kill themselves right, for boomers have insisted on destroying western culture. Or you can say the boomers have led the nation into the sewer, but they are not mature enough to face their shit so they kill themselves.

Ten years ago I read the beginning of his most famous book. He was working in a restaurant in the seventies. He talks about how the staff used to steal from the owner.

He told a story about the time the crew was cooking for a wedding reception in the dining room. The bride came into the kitchen, said something to or looked at the chef, then they went outside. The chef pulled up his apron, pulled down his pants, then fucked her against the dumpster.

I put the book down. I was disgusted. Like I wrote to you in July, “My generation!!”

Sunday is Father’s Day.



Copyright © 2021 by David Vaszko

Friday, February 2

Dear Jim,

It’s going to be 70° today. That’s too hot. I’m sitting at Starbucks under an umbrella. My head is covered, but the table and my arms are in the sun.

This Starbucks doesn’t seem as busy as it used to be. I don’t know if there is too much competition or what.

It must be a horrible company to work for because the staff turns over a lot. I would think the managers get tired of interviewing people.

The other day I was sitting in a window at a different Starbucks. I saw two freight trains within twenty minutes pass by Sac State. It was great to have a vista of them and the trees in the distance.

I could sit there all day gawking. It always amazes me how little curiosity or awe people have. Hardly anybody looks out the window.

While I was sitting, a college guy came over to ask me if I would watch his stuff while he went to his car. I didn’t want to, but I said yes. So I put my book down and my eyes on his laptop, drink, jacket, and bag.

After two songs he still was not back. I turned around a few times to see if he was coming.

Ten minutes and he was still gone. I thought maybe he was part of an experiment by a Psychology or Sociology Department to see how long people would continue to watch someone else’s stuff. So I stopped watching and started reading. Finally he came back.

Then a staff member about my age came over to me. He was relaxed and could talk with anybody. He made me feel good and he made me aware that I don’t have that easy-going non-threatening manner that would be helpful to have in these crazy fear filled times.

He asked me what I was reading. I showed him the cover. It was in Spanish. He said the simple title perfectly. I was embarrassed that my accent is not as good as his, then he said he speaks Portuguese but not Spanish.

He was impressed I was reading Spanish. I told him I read it pretty well, but I usually need a dictionary. I said for this book though, I’m not using the dictionary because I pretty much understand it. I said at home I’m reading a story about contemporary Mexico, but there is so much slang a paper dictionary is not enough. I told him I use an online dictionary, but sometimes that does not work so I Google the word or phrase.

He impressed me. He wasn’t hurried or worried. When I work I usually hurry and worry. I’m trying to be calm and not worry, but the more improvement I make, the more overwhelmed I become because there is a lot of tightness inside that can’t wait to get out.

We are a tight society. Don’t you think? I was thinking of all the nice coffee shops there are. The companies try to make the shops fashionable. The staff tries to be cool. But everybody sits in tightness on their computer, never talking to the guy next to him or looking out the window at the sky or trees or the stranger passing. I’m tight too, but at least I look out the window and make eye contact.

There is always music on at the coffee shops I go to. But even though it’s supposed to make people feel good, it distracts them from what’s going on inside and it encourages people not to look at or talk to the people next to them.

If a woman came in with her kids and started dancing with them, or a young guy came in with his girlfriend and they started dancing, the manager would tell them to stop. That’s what I mean by a tight society. “We might get sued if you fall.” “We don’t have a dance permit.”

Last night was a full moon. I could see it through the blinds, but I was too agitated to open them or go outside to watch.

After noticing it a few more times I finally said, you’ve got to calm down and look at it. So I opened the blinds to look. It was incredible. I could see the face of the man in the moon. All the craters and mountains.

It was peaceful and beautiful. I realized how disconnected I am from what is important. I didn’t look two minutes, but it was important for my soul and my mind that I did.

I’ll never forget the time we were walking down the big street in your neighborhood. The moon was out and so were a lot of people. I said ”Look at the moon,” but you had already seen it. You said it always amazes you that when you walk when the moon is out, that you are the only one looking at it.

The other night I was going to my Spanish meet-up group. I hadn’t been in a long time. The full moon was up and the air was cool with no wind. It was incredible. I kept turning my head to look at it. I wanted to stop and watch. The weather was so good I could have sat in the park I was passing by for two hours. But I wanted to get to the group.

The meeting wasn’t so great. I understood more than I ever did, but I still have a hard time speaking, especially when I am tired like I usually am when I go.

I told dad I regretted not watching the moon. It was a Summer night in January. If this was thirty years ago, I would have raved about the moon to the group. But I didn’t even think of it.

One night when I lived in the South Area I got home from a dance. It was Summer and there was a full moon. It was incredibly beautiful. I was incredibly lonely. It was too beautiful to go to bed so I sat in the driveway watching it, wishing I had a woman.

It would have been great to sit on the lawn with a woman I loved and not say anything, then go inside later to fuck. It’s too bad our society does not have public service messages on the night of the full moon, telling men now’s the time to hammer your wife, and telling women it’s a great night to be pounded.

Well Jim, I wish I were married so I had someone to share my lunacy with. I wish you had had someone who saw God in the crescent moon like you did.



Copyright © 2021 by David Vaszko

Sunday, August 13

Dear Jim,

It’s early. The sun isn’t up. I feel like sitting outside, but its cold so I’m in the kitchen with the window open.

Last night I didn’t eat much. I feel light. I’m trying to eat less at dinner, but I’m also trying to eat more each day.

I’ve gotten thin. In high school I weighed 173. Twenty – five years ago I weighed 155 -160. Now I weigh 135. Eight more pounds than you weighed all your life.

A lot of people say I’m too thin and look shitty. I think one of the reasons I’ve gotten thin is I’m trying to be like you. I’ve never been able to move on from your death so I cling to you by trying to look like you.

Like dad used to say, “Life is a vale of tears.”

Tuesday is the anniversary of when dad proposed to mom – the Feast of the Assumption. I didn’t know that until dad told me a few years ago. I call him every year to acknowledge it. I won’t be able to this year, so I will call him tomorrow. He appreciates it.

Poor dad. Some men from his retreat group were supposed to visit him on Friday. I called him that day at 4:30 and said, “How’d it go?” He said, “They didn’t come.”

He was really disappointed. I felt sad. He was excited that they were coming. He needed the company.

Dad tried to be stoic. He said something like – things don’t always go as you hope they will. When we hung up he said, “Call me tomorrow.” I said, “I will.”

I didn’t want to. I had to come home to call when I really need to stay out late on Saturdays. I said to myself, “Christ Dave, dad would do it for you. He’d visit you all the time if you were an invalid.”

Today is Sunday the 13th. Thirteen is considered an unlucky number, but somebody said to me that thirteen is a great number – the twelve apostles and Jesus. I thought that was profound. Maybe that’s too New Age for you.

I was attracted to the New Age for a long time because I knew something was very wrong with our society. Astrology, numerology, color, sound, vibration, and the voice spoke to me. They provided me with passion and soul the way blues did before my New Age stage.

But the New Age is mainly about prosperity – getting rich. Nobody in the New Age is saying walk everywhere you go and don’t spend a lot of money. Leaders of the New Age are as evangelical as television preachers, only New Agers don’t have the balls, the common sense, or the vision to believe in God, or the passion to kill or die for what they believe in, or the passion to inspire others to kill or die for their own beliefs.

Our society is dead Jim. I think of the vitality that has gone out of me. I think of how terrified people are of one another. Won’t look at one another.

The other day as I was going through articles I had cut out and poems I had cut out so that I could get rid of the ones that didn’t mean anything anymore. I threw a lot out. Some of them smelled.

There was one I wanted to keep but it was musty. I went online to see if it was there. It was, so I threw it out.

It was about the deadness of our society. I read it in 1998 when my friends were getting rid of old books.I don’t know when it was written, but I guess the guy was 25 when he wrote it.

He approaches our dead society by writing about jail. He says we grow up in cribs and high chairs and car seats. We sit in classrooms, work in offices, travel in cars. All our life we are confined.

He says we are afraid to say what we feel because speaking about what we feel is not socially acceptable. We fear what’s locked up inside us and we fear others because we don’t trust ourselves.

He says that because more and more people are in jail, we are now a prison society and we accept our prison society. He is right. There is no shame or embarrassment about going to jail. People love having security guards and security cameras everywhere because they are afraid.

That’s interesting. Criminals have no fear of going to jail or preying upon people. Law-abiding people are willing to be treated like criminals with cops everywhere and cameras everywhere, but nobody feels safer. I wish people would get courageous and say, “FTS. We are tired of being treated like criminals you are supposed to protect us from.”

But we Americans don’t have the pride or ego to do it. It outrages me when I think that the outstanding quality of Americans isn’t Yankee ingenuity, American know-how, the can do society or, as they used to say about San Francisco, the city that knows how. It’s fear. We are scared shitless.

So am I. I am incredibly stifled. There is no sense of freedom when I walk. Everyone is either afraid or in their little world. Houses have bars or burglar alarms or cameras. There are motion detectors and killer dogs. Businesses have cameras and there are cameras at major intersections.

When I look someone in the eye their eye seldom has a sparkle – usually a glare. If I smile at a woman or a kid, I have to worry about a dirty look or having the cops called on me. I am afraid to look people in the eye. That’s what America has come to .

Well Jim. When I was young I was described as a free spirit. Now I feel like a weirdo.

Pray for me.



Copyright © 2021 by David Vaszko