Dear Jim,

I´m sitting at the Sacramento River listening to the freeway and watching the water. It´s overcast but not cold, so I will be able to stay out for at least three hours.

Every time I come down to watch the water there are slobs. It´s creepy. Between the homeless, the freeway, the ugly skyline behind me and just plain rude people, it usually is not enjoyable.

But once in a while I need to see the river, especially on cloudy days like today and when the river is high in winter. I like to watch logs float down after the rain. One time there were birds standing on a log pecking at it as it floated.

When I got here today there were two slobs with their pit bull sitting where I wanted to sit. I walked until I saw a nice spot to lean on the rail to watch the water.

Just as I got comfortable putting on my ski cap and head phones, three 20 year olds passed on their bicycles. As they rode by, one of the guys patted me on my (a woman just rode by with her husband and yelled, ¨Happy Thanksgiving!¨ I turned. We waved as we looked at each other. I said, ¨Happy Thanksgiving!¨ She made me feel good) butt where my wallet was. He said something that ended in ´ay´. I don´t know if he was saying have a nice day or perceived me to be gay.

My first thought was ¨That asshole.¨ My second thought was ¨My wallet!¨, but it was there. Then I took it out to put in my front pocket. The nerve of the bastard.

I don´t know what I would have done if they wanted to beat me up or hassle me for money. I tell myself to be careful. I say stay calm and breath deep. But something like that! If they had stopped I would not have known what to do, even if I had been breathing deep.

Something like this happened on light rail four years ago. I was sitting in an aisle seat wearing my sun hat when a black kid tapped my brim – he flicked his fingers up from underneath it. I almost got up to punch him, but the light rail company probably would have blamed me.

I´ve been gone from home an hour forty-five minutes and I still do not have to pee. I was peeing all day Tuesday and yesterday.

You know the song Yesterday by The Beatles? 3,000 singers recorded it. That´s amazing.

I´ve been reading a lot. I´m still reading biographies for children in Spanish. Tuesday I read about The Beatles. Yesterday I read about Neil Armstrong – the guy who walked on the moon.

It´s good for me to read about people whose field does not interest me – Walt Disney, Einstein, Steve Jobs, Neil Armstrong. It makes me face the fact that I hate these times while they thrived on them.

Jobs, Armstrong, Disney help me put my youth in perspective. I will never like movies, but I wish something could have happened in the eighties to get me interested in computers. How much more confident and happy I would be. How much more money I would have.

When I read about Armstrong, I was fascinated by the simple diagrams of the trip to the moon. They showed the orbits and the separation of the different parts of the rocket and the rejoining of them for the return to earth. When they got to the moon Armstrong had to use his training to search for a place to land because where they expected to land was not flat.

What do you think of this? Armstrong had a speech prepared to deliver to us when he landed on the moon. He was going to say, ¨A small step for a man, but a giant leap for all mankind.¨ However, his words got garbled and what was recorded was, ¨A small step for man, a giant leap for all mankind.¨

Reading about Armstrong got me interested in flying, so I ordered a short adult book about the Wright Brothers.

My butt´s getting sore. I´ll write you when I get to another spot.

My Coffee Shop

I walked most of the way from the river to here. Boy is Sacramento eerie. It´s one thing to have weird people at the river or in parks, but it´s another to have so many one and two story ugly piece of shit concrete office buildings across from a row of beautiful old houses, and then another thing to have a ton of sterile new condos and apartments that nobody who is already here can afford.

Downtown, Midtown – it is stifling, soul-killing, phony. Remember the saying Are we having fun yet? Well, Sacramento is trying desperately to be a big city and a cultural center. Are we world class yet? Do we have soul now?

Even with all our trees we are nothing. A movie came out about the time you died – Edward Scissorhands. At the beginning was a panorama of an unbelievably sterile suburb with unreal trees. It terrified me. That´s how I feel about Sacramento. It´s unbelievably sterile.

I´m terrified of being old here. The beautiful trees in this ugly town make my bitterness worse. What happened to America?

I was reading a travel book about Russia. There was a lot of history in it. One of the things the book said was that Russia looks upon itself as female – Mother Russia.

That got me thinking about America. I can´t imagine referring to America as the motherland or the fatherland. There is no deep unfathomable American soul that I want to go down to the river on a sultry night to revel in as the water of my ancestors passes.

Wouldn´t it be nice if America had a connection to the earth and a connection to the great beyond?

We´re nothin´.

Happy Thanksgiving.



Copyright © 2021 by David Vaszko

Friday, November 10

Dear Jim,

It´s been an incredibly beautiful day. More like March than November.

I walked over to my barber. I was there for an hour and a half. When I walked in he laughed. He often says my wild look reminds him of Paul Newman in his first movie. Newman played a professional artist. Since he mentions it so often, I´m going to have to watch it.

I love going to him. He´s one of the few people I can express my political opinions to. We feel free to cut loose to each other. At work I would get fired if I said a lot of the things I say to him. He and I are not politically correct.

Today I went to Midtown, the politically correct haven, to look at apartment buildings. An acquaintance of mine lives in one building. Another acquaintance owns the other. I might have to move so I want to have some leads.

In each building you have to enter through a main entrance, then close the door and walk to your apartment. I don´t like that. I like coming through a gate and feeling the air in the courtyard as I walk to my unit.

It´s boring in Midtown – so lifeless. There´s a contradiction between Midtown trying to be a neighborhood where artists live and promote politically correct ideas, and the banners on J Street light poles promoting the Kings, who stayed in town because of a $360,000,000 bond issued by the City. That $360,000,000 could have funded a lot of affordable housing and a lot of $5,000 loans to college students or artists. The new downtown arena that was funded through the bonds has increased property values Downtown and in Midtown and ran a lot of people and artists out.

Why subsidize a team whose owner is a billionaire? It doesn´t make sense. The City Council members are eager to favor these bastards.

I think $360,000,000 in bonds would be great for housing and job training. But all these artists who want to rock the boat, who think they are shit disturbers, who hate Big Business and Capitalism, grovel to get a grant from the City. They should be ashamed of themselves.

What was great about graffiti artists in the 80´s and first half of the 90´s was that they were shit disturbers. They did not want a grant. They risked getting arrested, getting shot by a property owner, getting shot by a rival tagger, getting run over by a train, or falling off of a roof or a ladder. And their work was far more creative and skilled than what most artists do.

Midtown doesn´t have that daring do anymore. There are a lot of murals – some are really good, but most of them are fashion statements – a phony blend of sci-fi, comic books and Aztec art. Graffiti, whether you liked it or not, and whether it scared you or inspired you, was not contrived. It was art. It had conviction and meaning.

Artists always complain that the City should fund programs for the arts and give grants to artists, but they are not talking about introducing teenagers to Gregorian Chant, or teaching kids ancient Greek so kids can read The Iliad, The Bible, and Plato in that language when they are older. Artists want Native American programs and rectal intercourse programs and voices of jailbirds programs, anything that isn´t Western and anything that will make them look open-minded.

What they never talk about is funding to study the role of beauty in art or funding for a class on how to create beautiful art for our ugly times. Our times are incredibly ugly. I think artists have done a lot to make our world ugly.

I don´t mean graffiti. It´s scary. Graffiti was America´s chance to look our ugly cities in the eye, but we pussed out. We got rid of graffiti, but continued to build ugly buildings. The buildings are even uglier with cameras.

Maybe one of the reasons so many artists hate sports is because sports are filled with beauty. The beauty and violence, the tension between them, is something artists should be attracted to – ¨What a beautiful catch!¨ Crunch!

Sports are inspiring and scary. Wouldn´t I love to be able to be a pro athlete, but the career can end at any time.

That´s what I liked about graffiti. Though it was not beautiful, it was inspiring. It was also scary. Why are these kids so pissed off? But also, how come I am not on fire like they are? How come I do not take risks like they do? How come I am so afraid of these smooth-flowing bright letters?

Graffiti was a step away from beauty. Artists respected graffiti, but they would probably be afraid to say it now. They might lose their grant.

If an artist applied for a grant to paint pictures of heaven, he would be laughed out of town or hounded out of town.

But I want to keep going with beauty. Even though most people follow sports for excitement and for something to motivate them, artists should follow sports for the beautiful things the players do with their magnificent bodies. A light should be going off in an artist´s head when he sees sports – ¨Even the worst professional athlete is far more talented at what he does than we are at what we do. We should practice more. We should try to inspire people with our skill, our courage, and how much we practice.¨

Artists just don´t get it. Even though sports tickets are too expensive and pro players make too much money, the public doesn´t want to pay for a book of poems almost anybody can write. Going to a game is a better buy.

I lose either way in Midtown. I don´t care about the Kings. I would if the owner built his own arena. I would love to love the Kings, to watch them do godlike things.

I love to hate artists. They are full of bullshit. I know you hated graffiti, but I grew to love it in the middle nineties, just before the City cracked down on it.

One of my biggest heartbreaks was the murder of graffiti.



Copyright © 2021 by David Vaszko

Friday, July 7

Dear Jim,

God was is it hot today! I slept for almost two hours when I got home.

This afternoon I went to a class downtown about retirement. The teacher said that a lot of times people get fed up with their job then one day hand in their retirement papers during lunch never to return.

I like hearing stories like that. I’ve always hated work. I get tired of hearing people call me negative when I complain.

Even though people need to work for their pride and to not have the disrespect of others, there is no doubt that work is a soul killer. Just think how lousy we all look and how lifeless we are.

I walked home through midtown. Do you remember that Sunday we were walking in the heart of midtown and you said that Sacramento is the city of the walking dead?

It still is. There are blank expressions on most peoples faces. Hardly anybody smiles, nods, says hello, or looks you in the eye.

Even people with pets aren’t friendly. It used to be that pets broke down barriers between people. Now people have pets because they want them for protection.

Fear. Fear. Fear. It absolutely amazes me. A few Indian Summers ago I was walking home in the dark about 8. A woman standing in front of her house calmly said hello to me. She wasn’t afraid. I didn’t know what to say, but I managed to say hello. I was stunned. I remember telling dad about it.

There is something about this part of town – the pretentious artists, the gays, the New Agers and their progressive conspicuous consumption – “Aren’t we enlightened?” Not really asshole.

One thing has really gotten bad – the slobs. You can’t cal them bums. They are the homeless.

Under the freeway on 26th, 24th, 23rd, 18th, especially 26th and 18th, is scary. Not that anybody is going to hurt me.

It is filthy. It is incredible. It smells all the time and there is always old furniture and clothes and bicycles left. Food people give the slobs is left there.

Six or seven years ago I noticed that a dude camped on the sidewalk every night was awfully friendly to people. I said to myself, “This guy is asking for trouble.” Sure enough. Somebody killed him.

There are more slobs and more crap every day. I don’t exit through the alley near as much. There are too many guys going through the dumpsters and hanging out in the shade. I used to love alleys.

When people ask if Sacramento’s changed a lot, I say downtown was ugly and cheap when I arrived, now its ugly and expensive. I say midtown still has neat trees and houses, but it’s more Yuppie than when I got here.

I’ve always loved the light play in midtown: the old houses, the stately tree, the spaces between houses. But I’m losing my eye because I’m on the computer so much.

Our fear-filled society effects me too. Nobody is going to beat me up. But somebody might call the cops on me because I move slow and try to smell the roses, or because my eyes light up over a woman’s magnificent torso.

These are bad times Jim.



Copyright © 2021 by David Vaszko

Upper X

I wonder if slobs ever leave the dankness of their concrete jungle,
Walk down the street.
Stand in the sun watching cars on the freeway,
Palms in the landscape.
Wishing they had somewhere to go,
Could sleep under a tree,
Lie in weeds.
If they do, I never see them.
I’m lucky to be a dreamer,
A block and a half from Paradise,
A few steps from my darkness.

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.