Friday, May 18

Dear Jim,

Hace buen tiempo as they say in Spanish.

I’m sitting outside at my favorite coffee shop. There’s no wind. It’s not hot. There aren’t too many people.

I just read the New York Times. I enjoyed it. There was a good report about the City of New York’s efforts to find apartments for its’ 60,000 homeless, and the opposition that the city receives. The opposition especially does not want shelters for men in its’ neighborhoods.

I can’t blame them, but most of the homeless are men, at least here in Sacto. What is America going to do? Our city council just approved a 16-20 bed facility for terminally ill homeless people. That is a great idea.

Also in the NYT were letters in response to an article about a college student who committed suicide. Of course the university gets blamed for the death.

People say that professors should say something to a student who has started to behave strangely. But what is a professor supposed to do?

He would say that he isn’t a mental health professional, that he would be stepping out of his domain. He might also say his students’ problems are none of his business. If a courageous and empathetic professor approached a student who seemed to be on the edge, the student might curse him, or sue him for being nosy.

We complain about the invasion of privacy by the government and business, but we want universities to keep tabs on their students’ mental health.

It would scare me as a college student if I knew that the software that reads my papers for class sends a report to the dean when I write: I am lonely.; They should throw the scum in jail.; I get plastered every weekend. It’s a gas.; If somebody breaks into your apartment you should be allowed to kill him.; There’s nothing wrong with spanking your child.

The more we try to monitor people’s mental health, the more mentally unhealthy we become. Who can I trust if any negative, angry, lust-filled, profane statement might be interpreted by the authorities to mean that I need help – forced prescribed drugs or required counselling?

It’s a double whammy for people who are on the edge. You don’t want to tell your family and friends you are suicidal because you don’t want to burden them.

Yet you can’t trust the mental health profession. It keeps an electronic record of all your appointments and what you revealed about yourself. That’s scary because all your information can be sent to insurance companies, hospitals, and police departments with the click of a button.

So We’re here to help, but Our neighbors are watching you. And We report all suspicious persons to the police. And Smile. You’re on camera.

I think I said this before – no wonder people don’t seek help. We are trained to be afraid. If we were not a police state there would be good mental health. There would be more trust – of yourself and of others.

Remember last year when I wrote to you about the new building for the natural foods co-op? I told you it made me feel good because of the natural light, healthy electric light, and a great view of the sky from the outdoor eating area upstairs. What I was saying was that it was good for my mental health. I really needed the shot-in-the-arm.

But now I hate it. Like one of my friends said, “It’s so yuppie.” Now they want to sell hard liquor, just like all the stores they think they are different from.

We keep talking organic in America, but we are so full of fear and alienation and anality that we are light years away from an organic state of mind. However we might get an organic police state.

You will have a view of the mountains and eat organic beans and rice when you are in jail for something you didn’t do. The mountains and organic food will help your healing process.

I feel like I am in jail. Crazy people feel trapped. We are exiled in our own country.

Sorry to bitch Jim.



Copyright © 2021 by David Vaszko

Friday, November 17

Dear Jim,

How are you? I´ve been weak since last Saturday. I stayed home for two days, then yesterday I got a helluva headache at work. It was so bad that when a customer asked me a difficult question, I went to get somebody else to answer it. I would have gotten sick if I had tried to help her.

My headache was an allergy headache. I took the wrong kind of painkiller after lunch. I wish I had taken something different. I almost didn´t make it until the end of the day.

You got a lot of headaches in high school. They had something to do with your glasses or needing glasses. When you returned from Seattle in your twenties, you got lots of headaches. I remember you refused to take aspirin.

All of us kids get lots of headaches. Sis I only gets them during allergy season. I used to get a lot of headaches like the one I had yesterday. One of the reasons I don´t get as many now is because I do not eat as much bread, cereal, soy milk, and pastries. I have more energy too.

Remember how your hands used to turn purple in the cold? I think that kept you out of Vietnam. I had really cold feet and hands for a long time, especially my feet, but in the last few weeks with the start of the cool season, they haven´t been as cold.

I think it has to do with eating more salt. I read a review of a book on salt in September. The review said that many people today do not eat enough salt, and that even more people eat too much sugar. It said that salt is essential and people should eat more. I knew I wasn´t eating properly, that I had to cut down on sugar, eat more protein, and increase the variety of foods I ate. So I went out and bought some classy salt.

Wow. It tasted great and I felt better. I felt lighter.

When the book about salt arrived for me at the library, I read it intensely. A lot of it was too hard to understand. But when I read the list of symptoms of possible salt deficiency, I felt good when I saw ¨cold appendages¨.

I´ll see how it goes the rest of the winter. I wonder if your hands were cold and purple because of a salt deficiency. I laugh thinking about your story of asking the guy in the mountains to go into your pocket to take out the car keys and open the door for you because your hands were so cold you could not feel.

I talked with dad today. He sounded really good and he felt really good. It is interesting to hear him struggle to be articulate. He´ll ask me what I ´ve been doing. I´ll say, ¨I just got back from the store. I wanted to go before it rains.¨ He will hesitate then say firmly, ¨You never know when a big storm will blow in.¨

I feel sorry for him. He also reminds me of myself and my struggle with speech.

I have been telling myself and others for years that I do not have enough people to talk with and that I desperately need to talk. When I go to work it is difficult to talk because, like I told you, most people are not interested in talking with me.

My talk at work is like the speech of a desperate man. I struggle to speak and sometimes I make no sense. I feel like I am an old man lost in the world he is no longer part of and that does not want to recognize him.

The other day I was working on a project with a guy. As we were finishing, a woman walks in and hears me sigh then say OK as I walked over to do something. She said, ¨People say ´OK´ a lot around here. Always talking to themselves.¨

Then two more people came into the room. She said, ¨I hear ´Allright´ a lot too.¨ I said ¨I say ´allright´ a lot.¨ Somebody laughed. ¨Yeah you do.¨ Then I gestured with my arm and fist – ¨Allright! Right on!¨ – and everybody laughed.

We bantered about more expressions from the 60´s and 70´s. I said, ¨My generation is easy to make fun of – ´Far out man!´¨

I don´t laugh much at work, but I did that day. I cut loose too – but that can be dangerous at work.

The problem at work is I need the people there to provide me with the conversation I do not have outside of work. It´s like people would rather give money to a successful man than a homeless man, so people would rather talk with somebody with a lot of friends than somebody with hardly any friends.

I´m worried about my mental health. I do not know what to do to have people to talk with like you and I used to talk, and the guy I used to play music with talked, and the way my friend who I met on the quad at Sac State talked, and the way I talked with some of my girl friends.

They say you´ve gotta grab the bull by the horns. Everything I have tried to do to embrace the world and meet people hasn´t worked.

I remember you telling me about a Scandanavian woman you met. She told you that friends in her country had long intimate conversations. You contrasted that with the horseshit relationships people have here.

I don´t move quickly. It would take a lot of time to make intimate friends, but I´m running out of time. Help me to think of something, and to have the courage to do it.



Copyright © 2021 by David Vaszko