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

Friday, December 22

Dear Jim,

The days are getting longer.

I am trying to get in the Christmas spirit. On Wednesday I finally took out the battery-operated Christmas tree that mom gave me. I love it. She received it from two swingers at church who bought it at Gumps.

I remember you bought somebody a present at Gumps, but I can´t remember what it was. The old lady across the street from us when I graduated from high school had a friend twenty years younger than her who had a great position there. I still know his name but never met him.

It´s a struggle this year. I took out the tree, but left the Silent Night chimes in the closet. I definitely do not feel the peace of Christmas.

On Sunday I´m going to Sis II´s. I don´t think there will be a lot of people. I want to relax, so I hope not. I really want and need to talk with Sis II. Dad´s mind is shot, so she is all I have in the family.

Speaking of family, I was reading the New York Times the other day and thought of you. Two years ago a 25 year old New York City cop was murdered on duty. The other day after the trial but before the verdict:

¨the officer´s mother addressed the courtroom in an emotional plea for the maximum
sentence for her son´s killer, whom she refused to look at. She spoke of Mr. ____´s
lovable personality and living with the knowledge that she would never dance with
him at his wedding or see him become a father. ´This is my life sentence, without
parole,´ she said.¨

A totally different perspective than what mom and dad had toward your murderer. Mom and dad forgave him and prayed for him. If you had read the article you would have said the family of the murderer suffered too.

When the guy who killed you hung himself in jail, I wonder if his kids were happy for us because either he evened the score, or because we were spared the trial and all the questions people would have asked us, ¨Do you hope he gets the death penalty man?¨ I wonder if they were relieved for themselves for not having to go through the stress of the trial or having to visit their father in San Quentin.

I was glad he hung himself. I didn´t give the slightest shit about his kids.

One time when dad was driving you, mom, and I somewhere, you were talking about something that happened in the Bay Area in the 1950´s. A guy was sent to prison for arson. He claimed that he did not do it. He told the prosecutor something like, ¨You´ll pay for this.¨ When the guy got out of prison, he looked up the prosecutor then killed him.

My reaction was ¨Good!¨ ¨What balls!¨ ¨Serves the career-building attorney right!¨ Your comment was that the guy in jail could have tried to make peace with himself in jail, to learn forgiveness, to not waste all those years cultivating vengeance.

I wonder what the two families thought. Did the prosecutor´s family say, ¨Yes. Well even though that was 15 years ago, our dad/brother did ruin someone´s life. We don´t like what happened, but we cannot complain.¨? Did the family of the murderer say, ¨If he had broken out of jail the first week and killed him, that would have been OK, but now we lose our father/brother a second time. We wanted him back.¨?

Well Jim, Merry Christmas.

Thanks for praying for me.



Copyright © 2021 by David Vaszko

Friday, October 27

Dear Jim,

Happy dad´s and mom´s anniversary. Today is number 72. I told dad it was number 62. Do you think I am getting Alzheimer´s?

When dad and I talked at the beginning of October, he was already remembering his anniversary. He remembered the Blue Angels flying over his and mom´s 50th celebration at the fancy club in the Presidio.

It was a great party. Indian Summer in The City. Mom and Dad looked great and were in their glory. Everyone from everywhere was there. People were very happy for them and told me how much they respected mom and dad.

But it wasn´t so great for me. On the way to the party with dad and mom and our relatives from Ohiuh, mom made fun of the sun hat I was wearing, the one I wore when I was gardening and felt unique in.

It hurt my feelings because it was true. I didn´t look good in it.

It also hurt my feelings because I knew I would not be able to continue gardening for very long, but I did not know what I was going to do. All the effort I was putting into gardening, but I was failing. All the pride I had in being independent, but it wasn´t making me money. All my lust to be outside living my truth working with my body, but it was going to have to end.

When I talked with all the solid accomplished people at the party, I was very uncomfortable. I had to pretend I was confident and that things were going well. I shoveled shit a few times to make myself look good.

Another reason the party brought me down was the place it was in. It was beautiful.
How come I do not have a place like this? How come I´m not a hot shot like the pilots in the Blue Angels? How come I´m not prestigious like the officers who drink here? How come I do not like to wear a suit and tie like other men? Oh I wish things were going will so I could glory too.

The party was so good people talked about it for years. Some people asked dad and mom to have one for their 60th.

So they did. It was at the church hall, which I never liked. But at least the celebration was in the afternoon when the hall is sunny.

The party was very good, but nobody took pictures. Mom was mad after. It hurt her. There should have been a designated photographer.

I think the reason none of the parishioners took photos of mom and dad was because as much as they wanted to support a church member, they were envious of their great marriage, they didn´t like mom´s outspokenness, and they felt threatened by dad´s humble silent goodness.

I liked the party. I was not comparing myself to anybody and I sure as hell would not want to own the church hall. What I remember about the party was the priest who said the blessing.

He was ten years younger than dad and mom. He looked like a man sure of his place in the world. We listened.

He said that mom and dad were truly a great couple who had an exemplary marriage. The greatest testament to Charles and Dolores, he said, was how they handled the murder of their son. It was truly remarkable, the forgiveness they granted the man.

Jim, you´re the product of dad´s and mom´s wedding night.




Copyright © 2021 by David Vaszko