Sunday, July 9

Dear Jim,

It’s a hot morning in Sacramento. I just got through studying Spanish for two hours at a picnic table in the park. Now I’m in the sun on a bench.

It will probably get too hot, or I will have to go to the bathroom, so I’ll finish this letter at home.

One of the horrible things about Sacto is there is nowhere to pee. The City of Trees, but no toilets. I wonder what the homeless guys do and how much pain they have.

It’s convenient for the people who live around the park that there are no bath rooms in it. That means fewer cars on the street and fewer people in the neighborhood. Property values stay high. Their dogs piss on the lawn so I smell it when I lie down, but they are happy as hell that people like me who love and need the park cannot stay very long.

I need to be outside. I lust to be outside. You did too. Remember all our bicycling and walking? Especially you on your bike. You were in great shape and so passionate and obsessed. I was a tenacious rider, but I never had a goal like you did.

I haven’t ridden in at least 25 years. Even if bicycles were cheap, I wouldn’t buy one. I’d be worried about falling off because my reflexes aren’t what they used to be. I’d also be worried about getting the bike stolen. There was so much stealing when I was in high school that I’ve become jaded. Besides, nowadays, if you beat the shit out of someone stealing your bike, you’ll get arrested for assault.

You went to high school at a good time. America was still great. I went to high school at a bad time. I tell people that my high school class was the first class to receive a lousy education all the way through.

I still can’t believe the stealing. It makes sense, low academic standards and lots of stealing. Not to mention the drugs and drinking. Even though guys your age received a good high school education, the hippies did everything they could to lower the standards for everything.

One time at work a guy 15 years younger than I am asked about my catholic education. I started to get mad. I told him, “We hardly ever went to Mass. We didn’t read The Bible. We didn’t study the history of the Church. A history of the popes would have been great. They should have been proud of our tradition, but they rejected it.” He didn’t agree with me, but he kept his mouth shut.

Remember that wonderful woman I dated in the 80’s? We’re still in touch, not a lot though.

She was raised Catholic too. I was complaining to her about the betrayal of the Catholic tradition by the schools in the 70’s. I told her Christ, they didn’t have us read anything about the Church, but as freshmen we read the famous book about religions by Huston Smith. She said, “Well, they were trying to be politically correct.” They sure were.

The brother who taught the class was old. He had a grandfatherly way about him. Too bad he didn’t teach The New Testament. He could have told us the importance of combining love with defiance, and the importance of being willing to pay the price for you convictions like Jesus did and the apostles did after him. But no – “Buddha man.”

There was another brother, a guy your age, who knew European art and history like the back of his hand. I don’t know what he was doing at our school.

He didn’t have a way with us like the older brother did. We laughed at him. We did not give a shit. But he was brilliant. I regret that he could not relate to kids and that I wasn’t blessed with what he had to offer.

I have thought of looking him up, of telling him I am thankful for what he had to offer, and how sorry I am for myself and for him that I wasn’t interested in his great knowledge and passion.

That’s it for now Jim.

One of the great things about you is you loved the classics and tried to help me when I asked questions. You always encouraged me to keep reading and keep struggling.



Copyright © 2021 by David Vaszko

Wednesday, July 5

Dear Jim,

It’s been a great day. I got lots of things done and paced myself well.

This morning I went to a park to study Spanish. Now I’m in a different park in the evening to tell you about what happened this morning.

I was sitting studying a Spanish phrase book when two young religious guys said hello to me as they approached. They wore white shirts and ties and each young man had a denominational ID with his last name on it.

I said to myself “Oh shit!”, then politely told them I’m Catholic and don’t want to talk. I forget what the lead guy said but it wasn’t confrontational or corny. They asked me if I believed in Jesus Christ. I said I believe in God the Father and the Holy Spirit. I said Jesus was a smart ass, no wonder they killed him.

The two young guys were surprised. They wanted to hear more. I said he loved to piss off the elders and attorneys. Every time I read the gospels I cringe – This guy’s obnoxious, always imposing himself on people.

One of them said, “Give me an example.”

“When they went to the other side of the lake they ran into the nutcase in the graveyard. Jesus almost met his match. He had to touch the guy twice to get rid of his demons.
“But he cast the demons into a herd of pigs. Then the pigs ran off the cliff into the water and drowned. The villagers came and told Jesus to get his ass out of there and not come back.
“Jesus destroyed part of the village food supply just to show how powerful he was.”

They let me roll.

I said I love the Old Testament and Acts. “You mean Acts of the Apostles?”

“Yeah. The apostles were like young guys who just discovered the truth and put their hearts and souls into preaching it.
“They pussed out when they were in the garden, but after Jesus died they had great courage. Peter stood up and let the words come to him just like Jesus said they would.”

Then they said something about Jesus and the gospels and I said that I can’t stand John, where Jesus says that you know the Father through me and me through the father. I said that I don’t want to hear that crap. If I want philosophy I’ll read philosophy.

They never interrupted me.

I said, “It’s scary. I love God, but if you take the New Testament seriously, you have to wonder about Jesus. You have to doubt.”

They agreed. One of them said yeah, but Jesus is the spark, the connection. He connects us to God. That’s why we have faith in him.

I told them about being Catholic, how I hate having political opinions presented to me at Mass, that the people at Mass are there for psychological purposes, not because they love God.

They knew what I meant. They said the focus of their church is to help each other get closer to God.

I said it’s hard. They said yes it is hard.

One of them saw the title of my book then said, “Are you mastering Spanish? My colleague speaks Spanish.” So we spoke in Spanish.

It was time to go. I said, “You guys know how to listen. You didn’t interrupt me.”

We shook hands. Then, like Mexicans do, it took a while to say goodbye. We shook hands two more times.

You have to admire guys like that Jim. I don’t have the courage to approach people to become Catholics. I told the young guys that Catholics do not have the confidence to do what those two do.

It’s a shitty time to be Catholic. But those guys have me thinking about trying to go back.

I’ll write again.



Copyright © 2021 by David Vaszko