Friday, April 20

Dear Jim,

I’m sitting outside at the coffee shop I always wrote to you from last year. Now with nice days like today, I will be coming here more.

I wonder if you would have gone to coffee shops to study theology and read poetry? I wonder if we would have met at any to philosophize?

If we did, I don’t know what you would order. You would probably get bottled water or juice. You would sit on the sunny side of the table with your visor and lotion on your nose. I would sit on the shady side wearing my ski cap and having a hot chocolate.

Neither of us wore sunglasses when we were young, but you would probably be wearing them now like I do. When I picture you in sunglasses, it doesn’t seem right. They would cover your longing eyes.

We both criticized people in sunglasses because we thought they were trying to be cool. Now I look like the people I never liked.

Coffee shops are one of the changes of the last forty years that I approve of. I definitely take advantage of them.

Usually when I come here I read the paper, then comment to you about an article. Today there was a real short one. 500 Central American immigrants are fleeing their country to come here. They are taking a freight train from Guadalajara to the United States. It didn’t say where they would end up.

It’s incredible how many people try to escape from Central America or leave Mexico to come here. They hop freight trains, but there are no open box cars or empty flat cars like when you used to ride or I used to ride.

People sit on running boards. They get knocked off by branches. They fall when they lose their balance or miss a rung.

When they leave the train they get beaten and robbed by gangs. Girls get raped. The police beat them too, then send them back to Central America.

I’m listening to an audio book in Spanish about a Honduran boy who left home to come to America to find his mother. He rode the freight train but got caught and sent back to Honduras six times. On the seventh try he made it to the U. S.

I’ve always loved the romance of America’s freight trains. I loved the freedom they gave me. But there is nothing romantic about ten or more people sitting on a running board in the sun, wind, and rain becoming ill and not having anywhere to pee or poop.

The people who survive and make it to the U. S. probably have great memories of beautiful scenery and peaceful starry nights like I do, but they were looking to become politically and economically free, while I wanted to see the country and avoid working at a soul killing job.

It’s terrifying that kids leave Central America to escape gangs, then get beaten in Mexico by Mexican gangs and Mexican police, then worry about getting arrested when they cross the border into America. I wonder what it feels like to be scared shitless all the time, then end up in this soulless country of ours? ”I went through all that for this?”

I miss you Jim. I wish you were here to take a trip with. We could go to Hungary, Prague, Poland, Russia looking for something real, looking for our roots.

I don’t know what we would find. Maybe somewhere in Russia there is still the great Russian soul.

That’s it for now.



Copyright © 2021 by David Vaszko

Wednesday, October 11

Happy Mom´s Birthday Jim,

I haven´t called dad yet. I want to sing Happy Birthday to You with him, but my mouth hurts from dental surgery on Monday.

I guess you know about the fires in Sonoma County? I did not find out about them until dad told me yesterday afternoon.

He went for a ride with the owner of the rest home to look at the damage. He was surprised at the destruction, but he didn´t tell me 1500 buildings had been destroyed.

Sis I and our cousin are in danger of losing their houses. They can´t sleep because they worry about being evacuated.

Sonoma County. God´s country. It´s not supposed to happen there. The wind picked up again last night and today is smoky.

Sis I has a great piece of property. All her hopes and memories. All our memories. How abandoned the people who lost their homes, businesses, and jobs must feel sleeping in a gym with hundreds of other people. ¨What am I doing here with all these bastards?¨

Dad said yesterday that we never know what the next day might bring. People were watching burning pieces of whatever fly over their houses. Our nephew hosed down his house before they evacuated it, but it turned out to be a false alarm. He bought the house last year.

In one area eight blocks were burned. People said it looked like a war zone. One radio
announcer´s voice trembled as she reported.

I remember the Labor Day weekend after graduating from high school. We went to Clear Lake to get plastered.

On night we watched the glow of a forest fire on the other side of the hill. It was pretty.
I´m surprised they didn´t evacuate us.

But it isn´t pretty in the day. I´ve seen two daytime fires. They terrified me.

Last night I was listening to Public Radio. I always listen to Public Radio when I am sick or real weak.

They interviewed an 87 year old American who lived in Moscow in the 1950s. He attended college there and ended up working for our government or a U. S. business there.

He talked about Kruchev. We all know that Kruchev criticized Stalin. But I didn´t know that his statements brought a loosening of the Russian police state. The cops didn´t arrest anyone who criticized Stalin and Kruchev.

There was great hope in Russia and eastern Europe, but it did not last. Kruchev invaded Hungary during its´ rebellion. He turned out to be just like Stalin.

I remember when Sis I was in high school. She was reading a paperback about the Hungarian Revolution. She came crying into the room where dad and I were. She showed dad the book and cried to him, ¨Why didn´t we help them!¨

It´s been forty-nine years since you were in Poland and Czechoslovakia. I remember the charred and mud-splattered piece of the Russian flag you brought home from Prague. It hung on the wall in my bedroom until after you died.

I remember the story you told about the Polish family you stayed with.
The kid told his dad, ¨If you don´t let me go out tonight, I will tell the authorities you have that thing in the garage you are not supposed to have.¨

That was the adventure of your life. You wanted to experience a real culture, the great Catholic and Western tradition you loved profoundly. You wanted to free yourself from the horribly anal life here in America. You slept in the snow in Poland so you could make up for the suffering you did not have to undergo in Vietnam. You wanted to prove your manhood to yourself.

You almost didn´t make it.

´67 and ´68 were the most challenging years of your life.

You went to Europe just as it was rejecting Catholicism and its´ pride in being Western.
It´s too bad you didn´t get to meet John Paul and Benedict when they were in their forties. You would have loved to hear how much they knew about The Church and European history. You would have loved to feel how much they loved The Church.

You have suffered a lot bro. I want to acknowledge it.

I love you,


Copyright © 2021 by David Vaszko

Friday, August 25

Dear Jim,

How are you? Did you watch the eclipse on Monday? I wasn´t interested.

It was cool on Sunday and very cool on Monday. Monday reminded me of being South of Market. I wonder if the eclipse was why it was so cool.

I´m sitting outside at my favorite coffee shop. It is beautiful. It´s cool but not breezy, so you don´t get colder the longer you sit here. I got here at ten to seven.

I like coming here on Friday because the staff is in their street clothes. Usually they wear black, so their bright clothes bring the place to life.

There wasn´t much in the paper this morning. There was a big fight between a catcher and a batter at a Yankee-Tiger game. The Tigers are way back and the Yankees are 5 games back.

The Giants are 39 games out. Isn´t that funny? In May they weren´t drawing very well, so I don´t know how they are drawing now.

I´ve only been to one game at their downtown stadium. It opened around 2000. I went with dad and his church group around 2005. I can´t remember. It was a beautiful night and it is a beautiful stadium. You would like it.

There is a great view of the bay. The stadium is so nice it would be a wonderful place to sit during lunch, look out on the bay, then walk back to work.

The City has changed a lot. South of Market was a skid row when you started high school. By the time I graduated it was mostly rubble. Now it´s an area of ugly modern buildings, except for the stadium.

There are a lot of expensive apartments and condos, very tall and as ugly as the new office buildings. And there are still a lot of slobs, especially at the Cal Trans station. People who have a ticket can´t sit in the sun outside the depot because all the slobs sit out there and come in to use the bathroom. It´s a disgrace.

A city council guy in Sacto wants to see if there is a way to get the homeless guys working. It sounds like something from the fifties where an employer would come to skid row, pick up a bunch of guys, then drop them off at the end of the day.

I tried to call dad the other day – three times. He has a new friend who he was talking with, so the woman who runs the place kept telling me to call back. After the third call she explained what was going on and asked me to call another day.

Dad needs all the friends he can get. So do I. So did you. It´s amazing, the isolation of the three of us. Dad had mom and has always had God. I don´t think he felt isolated when mom was alive, but he always wished he had more friends. The guy from the navy he loved died in the eighties. The other guy dad really liked got Alzheimer´s in the nineties.

You and I had each other, but that was changing when you died. I tell people we were drifting apart when you got killed, that your death could not have come at a worse time for me. I say, ¨I don´t think we would have become affectionate again.¨

It would have been wrenching if you lived. We would have had to talk things over why I am a failure. If we didn´t, or if we did and things didn´t improve, we both would have lost.

We are different. I am the eccentric. You hated the anarchistic times. You were big on authority and order. I am defiant, so I fit right in to the fuck you society.

Even though today´s America is perverted and anarchistic, it is also very conformist. You can go to the river to get buttfucked, but you are a weirdo if you sit for three hours looking at naked trees. You can scream that you have the right to say any profane thing you want to, but if you quietly say we should remove all the surveillance cameras, people feel threatened by you.

I think you felt that I should have grown up, stopped rebelling, got a career. I look at all the tattooed idiots, all the sluts, all the queers and say, ¨You guys are pretenders. You don´t know what it´s like to be different.¨

We are different Jim. That is what made our drifting apart scary and heartbreaking. I needed you for your respectability. You needed me for my free spirit. I hated the respectable world more as I got older. You felt I needed to rein in my free spirit.

That´s it for now.



Copyright © 2021 by David Vaszko