Friday, December 15

Dear Jim,

It´s a hazy day in Sacto, like a day South of Market in San Francisco, only there is no wind. I feel like going to The City, but I don´t know what I would do. I can´t walk like I used to.

Walking in The City always gave me hope. All the great views inspiring me for the future. I thrived on hope. Everything will work out I thought.

Six years ago dad and I took a walking tour. Actually we did two. The first was along the Barbary Coast, up to the park on the edge of Chinatown, then down to the Trans America building.

We rested at the park in Chinatown. There was a great view of Coit Tower. I thought of what the view would have been like when Montgomery Street was the shoreline.

There was no view of the bay from the park because of all the buildings, but in the old days the view would have been beautiful, or at least soothing. I read that a skyscraper is planned that will block the view of Coit Tower from the park. That´s what made the park magical, somewhere to go to contemplate a landmark and to dream.

When we got to the park it was very crowded with Chinese. It was orderly and safe. There was not a lot of noise. It was the way I wish cities and neighborhoods were all the time. It reminded me of the time you and I were outside the de Young.

A Chinese child was sitting on the ledge around the pond. He was looking at the fish or something. His mother was keeping an eye on him, but not being bossy. You marveled at how well-behaved he was.

The other walk dad and I took was in the Mission where you lived when you were born. It was a Sunday, a yucky day like today. It wasn´t in the real sunny part of the Mission like Florida Street. It reminded me of the Avenues. Boring.

But dad liked it. After the official walk we went into the business next door to where you guys lived. Dad told the clerk, ¨I lived next door when I first got married in 1945. Is there still …?¨ So the guy led us out back then left. Dad looked around reminiscing and marveling.

Then we walked to one of the bars dad used to go to. I didn´t like being there. Bars scare me. You never know what can happen. Dad had a beer and I had orange juice. I didn´t like the crowd, but dad was thrilled to be there.

It was a great day for dad. He loved San Francisco back then. He loved mom and the people he met there.

It was a bummer for me. I don´t have great memories. I never loved San Francisco. I´ve met great individuals, but I have never loved a group of people or a neighborhood.

One time I did a tour before I went home to Sacto from mom´s and dad´s. It was of Market Street near the hotel mom and dad stayed in on their honeymoon.

I was cutting it close and carrying all my crap. I got to the group just as it was beginning the walk. As I hurried up, the guide said something like, ¨Look who just blew in.¨ He was laughing. I wanted to say, ¨Fuck you asshole. You don´t look so good either.¨

It ruined the walk. What he should have said was, ¨Welcome. Glad you could make it. Love to have you.¨

It was a great example of San Francisco snobbery: We´re superior to L. A.; People in L. A. are phony; People in San Jose are rubes; We´re sophisticated here in The City.

The guy thought he was hot shit. He had worked for years in one of the famous buildings we walked by. Oh boy! You´re so cool!

Remember the girl from San Jose I dated after high school? She was beautiful. Everyone I met through her had class. They weren´t at all like the rowdies I hung out with, or like the snobs from North Beach or the Marina.

It was a great experience. The rubes in San Jose made me look my San Francisco snobbery in the eyeball. But I couldn´t get beyond being less of a snob to being warmer.

Some things just ain´t gonna happen.

I wish I had your personality.



Copyright © 2021 by David Vaszko


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