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

Tuesday, July 4

Happy 4th of July Jim,

They’re starting to set off fireworks. I’m curious to see how loud it gets. There weren’t as many booths selling firecrackers this year and I didn’t see a lot of customers at them.

Do you remember the 4th of July that you came to Sacto and we were at the bike trail on the river near Cal Expo? There was a crescent moon over Venus. You mentioned The Star of the Sea. Then you said that nobody notices something as beautiful as that, but they can’t wait for all the silly fireworks. We agreed how superficial Americans are.

I was thinking about the poster you had in your apartment to celebrate the bi-centennial. There were four guys on it. I know Thomas Paine was one of them. Washington too. I can’t remember the others.

The country is as superficial as when you died, but there is a lot less freedom. There are cameras everywhere. Everybody is afraid. The more cameras there are the more afraid people are.

This evening I walked around a couple of blocks of government buildings. There were nice flowers and bushes, and picnic tables for the staff to eat in the shade. A lot of the places were tucked away.

But I didn’t want to linger and smell the flowers, or make plans to bring a book for three hours on a Sunday to enjoy the solitude. I was afraid.

I didn’t want to be asked to leave. It feels weird knowing somebody is watching me. I said happy 4th of July to a couple of people, but I only said it to bring myself up and to make them feel good.

I wish America was great and there was something to celebrate. We Americans are terrified of each other. Land of the free and home of the brave my ass.

Several years ago I heard a decorated veteran give a patriotic speech. It was great. One of the things he said was that people do not take God seriously anymore.

I could not stay for the end so I asked somebody at the pamphlet table for his name and address. I wrote to him.

I agreed we are Godless. Then I commented on what he said about war and patriotism. I said there are security guards and cameras all over town. I said all a woman has to do is pick up the phone and say a man raped me. She is taken at her word and the man is destroyed. I said I worry about being arrested all the time and I feel more unfree every day.

He didn’t write back.

One time one of our nephews told me that he called ‘grandpa’ on Memorial Day to thank him for fighting in World War II. Dad appreciated it. I would like to thank dad and all the soldiers for keeping America free, but we live in a police state.

I wonder how many vets cry when they realize we’re being spied on all the time and you can’t even have a beer and a cigarette in the park.

The firecrackers have been steady, but it has not been dramatic.

Well Jim. Thanks for listening.

Love,

Dave

Copyright © 2021 by David Vaszko