The con men

When poets proudly said fuck you in this city, they betrayed its’ sacredness
and beauty as a place of hope, as the place to come to purify yourself,
scale the heights, face your darkness in this divine and intense light.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Against the elders’ claim any fool can be a drunk, a sex hound, poets
screeched drunks and sex hounds have a right and duty to be profane, to
lead San Francisco’s youth away from demanding vision, to create heights
as selfish and false as skyscrapers to come.

Copyright © 2022 by David Vaszko

The philosopher

Chadwick thought baseball would get the nation outside,
Help those who play it develop manly pride,
Playing a game for boys that would challenge them to be men,
Learning to control that temper which rises again and again.

When you use your power and test your skill,
Things don’t always go your way.
You often want to kill.
Henry C was saying that along with passion their must be good will.
Whether you win or lose you must be king of your spiritual hill.

Copyright © 2021 by David Vaszko

Friday, June 29

Dear Jim,

It’s a hot morning in Sacto. I’m writing to you at my favorite coffee shop where I’ve written to you so many times in the last year.

I need the place. I’m lucky it’s here for me to regroup, or to smile on the world when I’m inspired.

That’s the way I feel about you. You were there when I was down. You were proud of me when I was up.

A guy just sat down at my table. He has an 8” x 5” x 11” bible. We looked at each other. I said hi. He didn’t. I’m sure he feels he is on a spiritual path.

I’m trying to be on one, to be the passionate truth seeker I was as a kid, to be born again, this time without arrogance.

So I’ve sought you with these letters. I needed you to help me make changes I ache to make, to feel great before I die.

It’s been an incredible year. I don’t know what I would have done if I hadn’t written to you.

I’m scared. Next year I have to make it on my own. If I become great, you won’t be here to laugh with as we sit on the lawn in the back of Sis I’s breathing the country air.

It will be sad for me. It will be sadder for you. You always admired me – your younger brother with unforgettable passion.

There’s lots of regrets. With all our pain, I wish I had prayed for you, for us, for me.

Dave

Copyright © 2021 by David Vaszko

Friday, May 4

Dear Jim,

It’s a sleepy afternoon in Sacto. I think it’s going to start being warm. It’s about time.

Elections are coming up. I was thinking of going to the debate for my City Council District, but I already told the incumbent I will not vote for him. At least he knocked on my door.

The woman I want to vote for hasn’t knocked on my door yet. If she doesn’t, I will vote for the guy who doesn’t have a chance.

I would like to go to the debates. But they aren’t raucous. The people who attend have to write questions for the candidates on a piece of paper, then hope the old ladies who host the debate are not offended by your question.

So if you write, ”There are an increasing number of the homeless population, what proposals do you have to improve the situation,” the question will probably be presented to the candidates. But if you write, ”Are you going to get the slobs out of the alleys,” your question won’t get asked. Too emotional. Too direct.

That doesn’t mean I don’t squirm or get uncomfortable when I’m at a City Council meeting or something. I do. My discomfort at a lively and angry meeting or march is good for me. I have to ask why I am afraid of the people I don’t like and their opinions.

But these wimpy ass genteel debates don’t challenge my fears. It’s not that the candidates don’t get mad at each other. It’s that there won’t be any passion between the listeners – no fuck yous, no potential fist fights – nothing that challenges me to keep my composure and be an adult. I want to scream, ”How come I don’t get to ask a surprising uncomfortable question? This is too easy on the women and too safe for the candidates!”

Now for the state. Governor Moonbeam is in the last year of his second term. What a great career! Two eight year stints as governor at least twenty years apart, plus mayor of a famous city, and attorney general of the state.

I don’t like him, but I respect him. What skill it takes to wear so many hats.

The leading candidate for governor is Mayor Slimeball from San Francisco. His hair looks like the hair of those guys in the Vitalis commercials when we were young – That greasy kid’s stuff. He makes me ill.

Well Jim, it’s a nice day. I’m going to put my pencil from the art supply store down and enjoy the peace.

Love,

Dave

Copyright © 2021 by David Vaszko

Sunday, March 18

Dear Jim,

It’s funny weather – overcast. It reminds me of The City.

I’ve been thinking a lot about The City. I want to go there so bad, but it scares me.

Yesterday I looked at a San Francisco travel guide. I wrote down the names of the major streets between Van Ness, Market, and the bay. I want to walk all the ones running north to south.

The other way, Sacramento Street, would be daunting even if I were young. So I won’t try to walk many of the east to west streets. It would be stupid to try to do it now. If I did, I probably would not be able to walk again.

We Vaszko’s are walkers. Mom and I are the weakest. You and I did the most walking, then dad when he retired. Walking was part of your identity and mine. I had a great walk, but now I don’t wobble or waddle or whatever I did as much as I used to.

I think the reason I want to walk in The City is to feel like I accomplished something and went somewhere. When I walk in Sacramento I keep track of how far I walk, but that is only to make sure I don’t get too far out of shape. I usually don’t feel like I accomplished anything, and I don’t feel like I have gone anywhere, unless I walk to the river after a big storm in a rainy winter to watch the logs float down and to gawk at how wide the river has gotten.

Walking is as much a part of my identity as a car is to the identity of people who drive. If and when they lose their car or their license, they feel like they are not free, that they are not a man anymore.

When my legs go out, I will not be free. I will feel very small, like life isn’t worth living anymore, that God has destroyed the legs that carried my incredible passion for him.

God I love to walk. Being confined here in Sacramento, I need the vistas and rhythm of San Francisco. Up one hill, stop, a great view. Up another hill, a different view. Go down a hill, a different rhythm. I need to do something great like this while I still can, to be inspired not just by a great view in a great city, but because I struggled up a hill and feel proud.

I can see where San Francisco gets it’s air of superiority. If you can walk up all those cold windy hills, you are tough and you can toot your horn. But just because you walk up all the hills with great views doesn’t mean you can act as if you are the one who created them. But that’s human nature.

One of the attractions of walking in downtown San Francisco is that north of Market, the streets have names not numbers. You see the early heroes – Washington, Jackson, Clay and the later heroes – Polk, Taylor, Grant. Plus Geary and Green – the local heroes.

San Francisco had the imagination and patriotism to name it’s streets after great men. It had a sense of destiny about itself and the nation. Sacramento wasn’t a city of dreamers and did not feel a sense of destiny about itself. It was very patriotic, but naming all it’s downtown streets by letters and numbers didn’t give magic to the city.

The guy who was a dreamer was Sutter. He was in Sacto before it was a city but he failed in his dream. Even so, there’s a hospital, middle school, and gentlemens club named after him.

He was a great dreamer and a great failure. He helped others get started on their dream, so he was a great inspirer. He got old young, like a lot of us have.

A very human man. Sacramento should have named one of it’s major streets after him, honoring him as the original dreamer who got thousands of other dreamers to come to California. Only rather than get old young like Sutter did, thousands died young from chasing their foolish dream.

Sutter was a man of great selfishness, vision, foolishness, and generosity. So he is great for young people to study. How could he refuse to support his family but help hundreds of strangers? Do you lie to get what you want? Will you abuse your power? Will your dream make for a better world like Sutter thought his would?

Sutter took advantage of Indians. Will you invest in 3rd World sweatshops? How do you think Sutter felt having his land stolen and swindled from him? If you fail in your dream, what will you do? If you succeed, will you be happy?

Remember when we went to Sutter’s Fort in the eighties and we were full of wonder? I remember you saying it must have smelled terrible when all the dirty travelers slept in the same room passing gas.

I don’t think Sutter fills too many people with wonder. The focus is on destroying Sutter by calling him a racist. So if there is ever a time when people want to rename the hospital or middle school, I will fight it. He helped a lot of people and was such an extraordinary man, he should be remembered not forgotten.

I’m glad San Francisco named a street after him. It appreciated his daring-do. He was by nature more of a San Franciscan than a Sacramentan.

One of the reasons I haven’t gone to visit The City since dad has been in a rest home is because it would not be fair to him. I hardly ever visit him so I shouldn’t be going to San Francisco unless I visit him all the time. You would probably go every week, even without a car.

Another reason I haven’t gone to walk in The City is I’m not sure my legs will hold up. It would shame me knowing I can’t do it anymore – all this beauty but I can’t glory in it. I want to make peace with the city I never felt part of, even though it is beautiful. But if I can’t walk in it, I will have to make peace with myself in a different way.

You know how when we talked about religion you often talked about forgiveness? Well, I was thinking about forgiving San Francisco for it’s pretension, for it’s refusal to make an eccentric like me feel welcome in a city that used to be known for great characters, but since the fifties is known for people making a spectacle of themselves.

I will stand at Powell and California, then walk up to the hotels. I’ll look over the city Tony Bennett loved. I’ll try to forgive The City, then I’ll beg it, ”Let me feel like you are mine.”

I have always wondered why there was so much drinking in San Francisco. Why do you need to get loaded in a city that should make you naturally high?

I think most of our lives are bitter disappointments. You walk up a hill and see a great view of the bay, then shiver thinking how unbeautiful your life is, how the grand dreams never came true. You failed in all this beauty. You’re in the city of dreamers but you let yourself down, or life let you down. So you drink.

Well Jim. You are nine years older than I am. You might not be able to walk now. That’s a scary thought.

I hope my legs hold up until after dad dies.

Love,

Dave

Copyright © 2021 by David Vaszko