All Good Things…

I have a problem.  It’s not necessarily a big deal problem, it’s just a problem.  I get bored.  I get bored pretty easily.  I don’t have ADD or ADHD or AED or any other acronym you might think of.  I can sit on my ass for hours watching TV or movies.  If I’m reading, I’ll stop because I can’t keep my eyes open before I stop because I’m bored.  It’s other stuff.

Those of you who visit this blog with any regularity have surely noticed that the posts have tapered off.  It’s because I’m bored.  Well, maybe bored isn’t the right term.  I’m… dissatisfied.

I started blogging last June.  I started my first blog here on WordPress two days before my 33rd birthday and had big plans.  I called the blog “Started Living” because I wanted to get out there and start living my life, something I hadn’t really been doing previously.  I created the blog on somewhat of a whim because I had something I wanted to say and I needed to get it out there.  I searched for a title that said what I wanted to convey and that hadn’t already been taken.  It’s amazing how I’m always behind the times on certain things.  I searched for “Life Starts Now”.  Somebody had it.  They hadn’t updated it in a long time, but they owned it.  I searched for “Starting Life Now”.  Same story.  “Starting Life”, “Starting Living”, “Life Starting”?  Second verse, same as the first!  Finally, I punched in “Started Living” and I got the glorious “this title is available” message.  I ran with it.

“Started Living” didn’t feel especially catchy to me.  I was frustrated with the lack of cleverness or even any real meaning behind it.  In the early days I reported some big events.  Part of my motivation behind the blog was to live more openly about my sexuality and to have a focal point and a reason to get out and start living.  I came out to a few people and I documented it on the blog.  I attended a smattering of events that happened to be taking place outside the four walls of my own apartment.  But all in all, I did not Start Living and so I started feeling unauthentic with the blog title.  I published my final post on “Started Living” on November 6, 2008.  At that point I had posted 81 articles and had 32 comments.  I’d had over 3000 hits.  But I didn’t like the direction the blog was going and I wasn’t happy with the name and so with my November 6, 2008 post “Started Living Didn’t, Finds a new Home”, I said good-bye to my unauthentic existence as a guy who hadn’t started living and hello to my truly unauthentic existence as “A Drunk in a Hard Place.”

“A Drunk in a Hard Place” was a tongue in cheek, unfunny reference to my life.  The reality is I’m not an alcoholic.  I do drink and like so many other people, I occasionally drink more than perhaps I should.  On one particular occasion, I drank much more than I should have and paid a very high price for that poor judgment.  But as a matter of course, I don’t drink a great deal and it wasn’t meant to be taken seriously.  For a time I was reading a blog called “The Drunken Housewife” and I found her writing humorous.  So “A Drunk in a Hard Place” was meant to be a humorous reference to the fact that I do drink, sometimes a lot; the fact that at times my life is really hard (isn’t everyone’s?); and, I hoped obviously, a play on “A Rock and a Hard Place”.  It was meant as a joke, and I think for the most part, it was taken that way, but I became uncomfortable with it.  I left things alone for six months because I hadn’t thought of anything better.  Then one day, finally, inspiration struck!

I spent the last almost three years in therapy, only having taken a hiatus in the last four months to try and get my finances under better control.  I am not, by any means, “done” with therapy.  Insightful Therapist said, “you’re in the middle” during our last (I was going to say “final”, but I hope it wasn’t) session, and I think she’s right, which is why it’s important for me to get back as soon as I can.  Anyway, I have come a long way in the time I have been in therapy and I’m a much happier, better person now.  I feel like I’ve benefited a lot from therapy and I feel like I’ve got something I can share with others and so I’ve started something new.

From today, those of you who read my blog with regularity and desire to deliberately follow me can find my writing at http://riggledo.wordpress.com.  I will not delete this blog and cannot say I will never post here again, but from this moment my focus and my energy will be put into Riggledo.  So, let me tell you about it!

The title is a play on my own name.  I hope it’s something that will be catchy.  In my wildest dreams I hope it’ll become something of a household name, so to speak, along the lines of “Dooce” or “Amalah“.  I’m neither a woman or a mommy so I don’t expect to fall into their league, but it is my hope, that at some point, I will have a following of readers who are as committed as these ladies have and that “Riggledo” will be as much of a “household name” as these ladies.  Perhaps that will never happen but I can certainly give it a shot!

Riggledo is a conglomeration of my last name, Riggs, and what is part of the focus of the blog, to help my readers to remember that they’re “OK” just the way they are.  In other words, my name is Kevin Riggs, and I’ll do just fine just the way I am!  Riggledo (and so will you.)

OK.  End of the shameless self promotion!  And I hope this is not a “good-bye”, but rather a “follow me”.  I’m headed over to Riggledo and I hope you’ll come along!  See you there!

Being of Sound Mind and Body

forever-stampsOn a recent trip to Costco, while standing at the check-stand, I saw a small sign stating that they sell stamps and recalled that I needed a book of stamps.

Now if you’re anything like me you’re wondering what I needed with A book of stamps.  I mean doesn’t everyone pay their bills on-line and use e-mail instead of snail mail to communicate with friends?  Well the answer is simple.  I mail my rent check to my Landlady.  I need exactly one stamp exactly once a month so a book of stamps lasts me a long time.

“Oh you know what, I need some stamps,” I said to the pimply faced young man running the cash register.  The cashier added the stamps to my tab and sent me on my way.  It wasn’t until I got home that I went to take the stamps out of the cellophane package he had handed me to put them in my wallet.  There I stood, in my bedroom, in front of my dresser, on top of which resides all items that go into my pockets when I leave the house.  I tore the cellophane wrapper open and pulled on that sheet of stamps and that’s when it hit me.  This sheet of stamps feels rather thick. I pulled the sheet out of the packaging and slid my fingers in opposite directions like you do when you’re separating two sheets of paper and sure enough, I didn’t get some stamps!  I didn’t get one sheet of stamps!  I got five!  Five Sheets of stamps.  A veritable shit load of stamps!  I didn’t get just 20 stamps, oh no, I got 100 stamps!

“Shit!” I said to myself.  “I didn’t want all these stamps!  What was I thinking buying stamps at Costco! I can’t believe I didn’t realize I was buying so damn many stamps!”  And then I started to think.  At least they’re forever stamps, and with 100 stamps I’ll have stamps till I die! I’ll have to leave them to someone in my will:

“To my brother I leave my 37” LCD TV, to my Sister I leave my cedar chest and to my Nieces, I leave my Tickle Me Elmo and the remainder of my collection of Forever Stamps.

Hell, they’ll probably have to leave some of them to their own kids!

My anguish and dismay were quickly abated a week later when I learned that the Postal Service would again be raising the price of stamps from $.42 to $.44.  Suckers!  I’ve got 98 stamps I only paid $.42 a piece for.  Keep raising the price!  I don’t care!  I have my lifetime supply of forever stamps!

Well, Either You’re Closing Your Eyes to a Situation You Do Not Wish to Acknowledge, or You Are Not Aware of the Caliber of Disaster Indicated. Ya Got Trouble, My Friend, Right Here, I Say, Trouble Right Here in River City.

In case you haven’t heard, times are very tough.

unemploymentMillions of people have been laid off from their jobs and the national unemployment rate is 7.6 percent as of January.  In California where I live it’s higher, at 9.3 percent.

The state of California is broke with a $42 billion budget deficit and it’s only getting worse by the day as the state legislature can’t seem to come to an agreement on the budget.

Can we all agree that times are tough?

I’ve known this all along but somehow I guess I didn’t really get it.  I’ve been suffering from “not me” syndrome.  “Yeah, it sucks.  Yeah people are hurting and I wish I could do something, but at least it won’t happen to me.”

Before anybody get’s too worried about me, no, it hasn’t happened to me… not yet, anyway.  For weeks, maybe even months, Douche Bag has been saying that we have to tighten our belts and cut back on spending, but he’s also been saying that we were not going to be facing any lay-offs.  “Senior Leadership” has stated that it won’t benefit The Company that Created the HMO to lay people off because after you pay severance packages you don’t realize any cost savings for at least a year if not longer.

Last week an e-mail went out from the President of Operations addressing the current economic crisis.  The e-mail said that we were facing some lean times.  It said that in an attempt to deal with these lean times they were taking certain measures to ready ourselves for the tough times ahead.  Among those measures was freezing the salaries of the top 500 employees.  This is a good move.  It proves that they are not just out for themselves and that they are trying to take care of their employees.  The e-mail went on to say that while The Company that Created the HMO was still going to give merit increases, they were reducing the overall budget for the increases by 1%.  Normally, my region’s budget is 3% so this year it would be 2%.  Not great news but livable.  In addition they were still going to give out the annual bonuses that we traditionally get in March.

Honestly, I had full expected to get absolutely nothing this year.  Not an idea I enjoy but not surprising, so it didn’t come as a huge surprise when the follow up e-mail came today.  While The Company that Created the HMO as a whole is following those measures, it has been determined that some regions will need to take additional measures, determined by the market they serve.  Northern California is one of those regions.  Not only will the top 500 Executives have their salaries frozen, but not a single one of the Northern California non-union employees receive a raise before fourth quarter when they will re-evaluate our financial status.  (Read, probably not then either.)  We will still receive our bonuses, which comes as a surprise to me but, raises will not be happening.  And then the big shocker, the e-mail stated that it will not be sufficient to maintain our 2008 staffing levels.  We must reduce the number of full time employees.  There’s no other way to read that, there will be lay-offs.  I think, perhaps, it would have been good if they’d included in that information when and how many they are planning, but at least now we know that it’s going to happen.

I’ve given a lot of thought over the last few weeks, as rumors started flying, about how I could see this playing out and there are a number of scenarios that could play out that would leave me vulnerable.  I have the most seniority in the department, besides Douche Bag, and my function is somewhat unique, in that no one else in the department does what I do.  It could be that the seniority will save me, but on the other and it could be that the seniority also makes me too expensive to keep around.  It could be that the uniqueness of my position will save me, but then again I do have a counterpart in another building that does the same thing and there was a time when our jobs were a one man operation for all of Downtown Oakland.  There has already been a proposition that the functions I currently perform should be consolidated to this other person leaving me free to take on other responsibilities.

I see three possible scenarios with that as well:

  1. Captain Oblivious will approve the proposal to consolidate the function to my counterpart and I’ll continue working here fulfilling other responsibilities – and potentially finding a way to like my job again;
  2. Captain Oblivious will deny the proposal with concern that doing this would leave me vulnerable to being laid-off;
  3. Captain Oblivious will approve the proposal and instruct that I be laid-off.

I have a peace about this.  There’s nothing I can do to change how things will play out.  I go to work everyday and do the best job I can do (when I’m not reading or writing blog entries or Tweeting) and wait to see what happens.  In the end there’s not much more I can do besides leave it in God’s hands.  I trust that he will lead me through it.

Yes, times are tough, but things will turn around.  They always do

One Down, Two to Go

Stop me if you’ve heard this. I thought I’d told this story but I’m not finding it in my archives.

When I was about seven years old, Scornful Mother asked her boss if she could do the Janitorial work for her office of about 35 people for extra income.  Now, for SM this amounted to coming straight home after work and picking up the three of us kids, taking us out to eat at our then favorite restaurant, Bill Knapp’s, and then taking us back to her office where she put us to work.   She sat at her desk at the front and did who knows what while we cleaned.  I won’t go into all the crap feelings that surround that topic, but what I want to say is that even from a young age, I have always felt like it was stupid that she took us out to eat before taking us to “her second job”, effectively canceling out the additional income with the additional expense.

Dead Beat Dad, who was raised by parents who did seem to think that how other people in their lives spent money was somehow their business never hesitated to express his own judgment at Scornful Mother’s penchant for taking us out to eat and then complaining about not having enough money.  It’s funny how, despite my own feelings on the subject, I have the inherent need to defend her.  “She was raising three kids on a secretaries salary.”  “She worked all day and had to feed three kids, at night.  Who wouldn’t rather go out to eat than have to come home and cook after that?”

There was a disconnect in the story for me.  I remember Scornful Mother taking us to the grocery store.  We had to walk around in a single file line behind her and not touch anything, including each other.  I remember the grocery cart being filled to the top.  What was happening to all this food if we were eating out all the time.

A couple years ago, I happened to be in the same place with Dead Beat Dad and CPA Sis, and somehow this topic came up.  CPA Sis told him, “What you don’t know is that she’d have panic attacks about writing such a big check, spending so much money all at once.  She’d get to the front with her full cart and she’d experience anxiety about it and have to leave the cart behind, without buying any of the groceries.”

I never knew this.  From a rational perspective this seems ridiculous to me.  I know it’s not good money management, and yet I can understand it…

credit-card-debtIt is my goal for 2009 to pay off my credit cards and have no debt aside from my car payment which I do want to pay ahead on and get completely out of debt ASAP.  I received a very large income tax refund this year.  Not enough to completely pay off my debt, but a large amount all the same.

I’ve already written a check to Green M&M to pay off all the money that I know I owe her.  (Over the years there have been lots of loans which will never be repaid.)  I’m just waiting for the check to go through the bank.  Part of my “new leaf” has meant keeping close track of my expenditures, how much I’ve spent, when I spent it and when it comes through, and how much I have left to spend.

I just went on to the website for the credit card with the highest balance (and interest).  The balance on the account was $887.05.  I knew I needed to pay it off.  I knew it was a financially sound decision.  I knew I had to do it… And still, my finger hovered over the mouse button for several seconds before I clicked “submit”, with thoughts going through my head like, “But this is 65% of the money I have to spend.”  and “I won’t have any money left after I pay these off.”  Suddenly, I had a flash of understanding about what it must have been like for Scornful Mother at the prospect of writing those “big” checks at the grocery store.

I’m proud to say, I clicked the submit button, and in that one move, I wiped out a third of my credit card debt!  Yay, me!

Now, If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to cuddle up in the corner and wait for my pulse to return to normal and cry it out!

Prayers for A Drunk

Today has been a bit of a mixed bag of feelings and somehow I don’t think it’s done yet.

As a part of my efforts to reclaim control of my life I made the conscious decision to go to bed at “a reasonable time” (is 11:30 a reasonable time?) last night so that I could get up at “a reasonable time” (is 7:30 a reasonable time?) this morning.  My routine tardiness at work has not gone unnoticed and has gotten quite a bit worse in recent months as my general motivation to attend has been dismal at best.  Part of the problem, I realized is that I have a hard time getting up early enough in the mornings.  So I thought it wise to attempt to adhere to the recommendations of so many “experts” and try stick to a regular sleep schedule, even on the weekends.  Now, I’ll grant you that sleeping from 11:30 to 7:30 is probably not the best sleep schedule to have when you work a theoretically 8-5 job, but since I’ve been getting out of bed between 7:30 and 8:00 for the last few weeks it seems wise to start rolling that schedule back at a gradual pace.

At any rate, I was feeling pretty good about myself and my decision to work on my sleep schedule and when my second alarm, on the other side of the room went off at 7:00 this morning, I only snoozed it three separate times before I forced myself not to get back in bed when I turned it off.  I put on my robe, (it’s much too cold for my not at all uncommon state of undress that often meets my mornings) and went for my morning pee, after which I went into the kitchen to feed a very demanding Scared Kitty.  He still had a bit of food in his bowl from last night but if you ever needed a lesson in how to act as if you’re starving, Scared Kitty would be an excellent coach. grand-marnier After feeding his royal highness, I went on to make myself a pot of coffee and sort out breakfast.  I finally decided on the Gladware bowl of orange segments I had in the refrigerator.  The segments are lefter over after using the peels to start my own batch of homemade Grand Marnier last weekend, for which I found a recipe a few weeks back.  It takes seven weeks and I’m not really all that optimistic about the outcome but I thought it would be fun to give it a shot,  you should pardon the pun.

I brought my carafe of coffee and my bowl of orange pieces into the living room, sat down in my recliner, threw a blanket over my legs and propped my feet up to watch some television.  My DVR tends to build up during the week and I try to clear it back out on the weekends so I don’t get too far behind.  Three episodes of the much maligned and barely watched General Hospital, one episode of Ghost Whisperer, five episodes of The Click List: Best in Short Film, and a misnamed movie all awaited my attention.

Natalia Livingston

Natalia Livingston

Tyler Christopher

Tyler Christopher

I actually just started recording General Hospital again this week after many months of freedom because Green M&M told me there’s some weird event happening at the beginning of each episode that I wanted to investigate and because I read that Natalia Livingston, who played Emily Quartermaine for several years until she was murdered about a year ago in a “very dramatic” story line, has returned to the show but supposedly not as Emily Quartermaine.  Her character has not really been explained yet, but whoever she is, she does seem to have a considerable fascination with Nikolas Cassadine, played by Tyler Christopher, not that I can blame her.

Since I’m on the subject, while looking for a good picture of Tyler to include here, I happened across this rather unexpected gem:

tyler-christopher-nekked-02

Anyway, I don’t watch very much of General Hospital because I’m really not all that interested in most of the characters and I don’t want to get sucked back in, therefore I was able to watch all three episodes pretty quickly.

Jennifeir Love Hewitt

Jennifer Love Hewitt

Then it was on to Ghost Whisperer.  I enjoy this show and I have been a fan of Jennifer Love Big Tits– er, Hewitt since she first showed up on Party of Five.  I’m a bit tired of the current, on-going story line, since they killed Jim off and his spirit is now inhabiting the body of another man who died and crossed over.  But I’m still watching… for now.

The Click List: Best in Short Film doesn’t show episode descriptions in the on-screen guide and I think I may have seen all of the current shorts, but I record it anyway, just in case something new comes across.  I “watch” that on four times fast forward and there was nothing new so I was done with that in five minutes.  And that left me with just the misnamed movie.

The play list in my DVR said the movie was called “The Killer Condom”, but the movie that was actually aired in that time slot turned out to be “Dead Serious.”  If you haven’t seen it, I strongly encourage you not to.  It’s about vampires and it’s lame as all get out, but had a sexy hero so I watched it anyway.  Two hours of my life I’ll never get back.

When the movie was over it was only 11:00 and I decided to go out and get my shopping done early.  I made a list of things I needed and wanted from Target and the grocery.  I also needed cat food and gasoline.  With my list made, I hopped in the shower and then got dressed to head out.  I decided to take a second look at my finances before I left and it’s a good thing I did.  I just got paid yesterday but I have to pay my rent and car insurance and after those things happen I only have about $185.00 for the next two weeks.

So much for my positive feelings about myself and my new leaf of better money management.  Yes, I’m essentially up to date with my bills and my rent and car insurance are important, but I was starting to feel like I had things more under control and I wasn’t gong to be hurting for money and then this realization.  I went back over the list and eliminated everything I didn’t need and pared my trip down to just the grocery store.  I forgot about the gas station and the cat food and now those will have to wait for another day, but I spent $90.00 at the grocery and put $40.00 walking around money in my pocket (I only had $5.00 before that.)

I also sent a text message to Green M&M and canceled our plans to go into San Francisco tomorrow.  Wheeler Dealer Landlady lives in The Haight and I have a couple pieces of mail for her so I thought I’d go in and drop those off along with my February rent check and then we could go and play after.  Now I realize I do not have any money for that and it reminds me that I’m not really so well off after all.  Now I’m going to have to spend the next two weeks trying not to spend any money.  I’ve got $50.00 left in the bank that isn’t already spent on paper, and I have to get food for Scared Kitty and gas for the vehicle with that.  I may have to use a credit card (which I’m trying to pay off) for one or both of those things and I hate that idea, but I guess it’s better than having my account overdrawn again.

As soon as I hit publish on this post, I’m going to put the computer down and watch the Lifetime movie Prayers for Bobby.  I made up my mind to watch this movie after I read an article about it in the most recent issue of The Advocate, however, I suspect, unfortunately, that this movie will be difficult for me to watch as, from what I already know about it, I would expect to be able to relate to it pretty closely.  I too, am the son of a “devout” woman who is convinced that to be gay is to be damned.  It’s an issue that is very difficult for me and it wouldn’t really surprise me to find that the movie is a hard pill to swallow.  I guess it’s time to find out.

Better Left Forgotten

Today is an anniversary of sorts. Not one that I’m proud of by any means, but one that is somehow unavoidable and unforgettable.

Five years ago this morning, I walked into my managers office, very nervous about what was going to come of our conversation.

The previous Saturday, Green M&M and I had gone to a club in San Francisco to meet up with some friends. There was some sort of event that was supposed to be happening there. I can’t remember the name of the club now but it was some sort of arctic theme which was tremendously ironic to me, because it was hotter than hell in there. Green and I had a couple drinks while we surveyed the crowd trying to find the group of people who were supposed to be meeting there. Forty-five minutes later, when we still hadn’t found anyone we knew, we decided to bail and go to another club we knew of that was likely to be less crowded and not so hot.

We spent four hours at the other club, closing the place down and then it was time to go home. When it was time to go, I did something, for which I remain completely ashamed and disgusted with myself and would give anything to undo.

The club was in San Francisco and Green M&M and I lived in Richmond, California, roughly 20 miles drive. The club was also in the South of Market (SoMa)/Mission Districts and while not a terribly frightening place to be, it was not a place I felt great about leaving my car over night, either. Plus a cab ride home would have cost a considerable amount of money.

I believed that I was fine to drive home and opted not to leave my car behind to be vandalized and broken into. At first it was no big deal. I used to subscribe to the old, “I drive better when I’ve been drinking” philosophy. I now know that the only reason why anyone can say that is because they know they’ve drunk more than they should and they’re afraid, and therefore are far more focused and “present” while behind the wheel… Sometimes.

The problem was, that as I was driving on the highway, and across the Bay Bridge I became increasingly drowsy and was having difficulty staying awake. I was on the bridge though and had no way of pulling over or exiting the highway. And then, for just the briefest of moments, I fell asleep. Fortunately, I was driving in the far left lane of the one way bridge and my car drifted to the left until my wheels hit the curb shocking me back to awareness and causing a surge of adrenaline that woke me up. Sadly, it’s likely that, had there not been any intervention, I probably really could have made it the rest of the way home safely on the adrenaline that was coursing through my veins.

Fortunately, there was intervention. The ruckus that was caused when I drifted into the curb was enough to attract the attention of the highway patrolman that I had passed a few minutes earlier and when I looked up again there were flashing lights behind me.

I was asked a number of questions I couldn’t possibly repeat. I did the “usual” tests. I’m not sure that I failed most of the tests. I never have been able to walk in a straight line, even when stone sober. No one can say the alphabet backwards. But I had no problem touching my nose. After going through all that I was given a breathalyzer test (which I kinda thought they shoulda done first). I blew a BAC of .18 (later lowered to .17 by a blood test) and was hauled off to jail.

I spent five and one half hours in a jail cell before being released “on my own recognizance” on the streets of downtown Oakland, without my wallet or cell phone, both of which went home with Green M&M who was not driving and therefore not arrested. I had to call Green from a pay phone and waited inside the front door of a local movie theater for her to pick me up.

The following Monday morning, I told Douche Bag as little as I had to and still feel like I was being honest. I had no idea what the outcome of the situation was going to be. I didn’t know if it was grounds for termination, but I knew it would be worse for me if he found out some other way. I also, didn’t know what was going to happen with me legally. I was terrified I was going to go to jail.

I didn’t lose my job (dammit) and I didn’t go to jail. I’m tempted to say that everything turned out alright but that’s taking things too lightly. This was a trying and difficult time for me and it has definitely not been worth it.

When I appeared for my court date, I was sentenced to “2 days in jail with time served.” The 5 hours I spent in jail after being arrested counted as one day. The second day was commuted to Community Service, which amounted to six hours on a municipal work crew. I had to pay a $1750.00 fine. And my automobile insurance skyrocketed. Before the DUI, I had an impeccable driving record. I had the very best rating possible with my insurance company, “E”, and after the DUI my insurance rating was “7”, the absolute worst rating. Every July, my record is reviewed by the underwriters and every year that I have no additional blemishes on my record that number decreases. Currently, my rating is “3”. Thankfully, my insurance has gotten far less expensive, but the blow to my pocketbook at the time was substantial.

Five years is a long time, and much of the time, it has felt as though the DUI was a lifetime ago. I’ve become accustomed to the insurance rates, and am only grateful when my rates go down each year. I have done my community service. I have paid my fine. Until last year when I applied to be a Big Brother, I had mostly put it out of my mind. Big Brothers and Big Sisters requires that you not have had a DUI within the last five years, and only have had one in your life. That’s when I did the math and realized it had only been four years.

So today, it is with mixed feelings, that I tick off the five year anniversary since my DUI. I’ll be paying for the damage to my record, by way of my increased car insurance premiums for three more years, but as I stated, I’m accustomed to that. Otherwise, I can finally put this thing behind me. There’s nothing left to stand in my way. I’ve learned my lesson. I know better than to take the risk. I’m glad it’s over.

Maybe now this anniversary can be forgotten after all.

There Was Vengeance in their Eyes as their Voices Pierced the Silence, The City Smelled of Chaos and the News Reported Riot (Riot Riot Riot!)

I have started to write this post a few times now, but every time I deleted it, unpublished because I thought, “I am not qualified to comment on these events.”  Somehow, today, I feel compelled to comment for just that reason.  I am not qualified.  And more than likely, neither are you.  And most assuredly, They were not.

I’m referring to the riots that occurred last Wednesday, in Oakland, CA, in response to the fatal shooting of a man, which took place in the very early hours of New Year’s Day, on the platform of the Fruitvale BART station.  I’m not qualified to comment on these events because I wasn’t there.  I didn’t see what happened first hand, in fact I’ve only seen one grainy cell phone video.  I haven’t gone through any kind of police training.  I’m not qualified to comment.

Here’s what I do know from news reports and media coverage.  The victim and several other “men” were riding BART home after celebrating New Year’s Eve in San Francisco when an argument erupted on the train.  One eye witness account I read said, “There was a lot of verbal arguing, jockeying between the two groups of men.”  BART Police removed the men from the train (as they should do) to deal with the situation.  The video I saw had no audio, but it shows three or four young men “cuffed” and sitting on the floor on the edge of the platform.  Despite being cuffed they still are seen being physically confrontational and do appear to be speaking vehemently to the officers.  And at some point, one of the men, Oscar Grant, was lying face down on the platform and one of the officers shot him, in the back at close range.

What I know is, this is a terrible thing.  It’s tragic for Mr. Grant’s family, for his young daughter who will grow up without a father.  It is also, very likely, tragic for the officer who shot him, who by witness’s accounts was visibly shaken after the fact.  If, as I think is likely, this shooting was an accident, the officer will have to live with the guilt of having taken another man’s life, for the rest of his existence.  And if it was not an accident, he’ll have to live with the shame as well.

What I know is, there are investigations underway.  BART is conducting an investigation as is the Alameda County District Attorney’s office.

What I know is, you never comment on an on-going investigation.

What I know is, demonstrating and protesting and least of all, rioting, will not bring Mr. Grant back to life.

I have observed in the days since the riots that just about everyone has something to say, some sort of an opinion on the subject.  Many of the people have had considerable anger and contempt in their voices as they make their opinions known, as if somehow these events have been a personal affront to them, some kind of personal attack on their lives and their families.  I find this vitriol suspect.  I find it unreasonable and unwarranted.

I am just as saddened as the next person by the events that took place on the platform that night.  And I want justice to be served, just as much as the next guy.  I guess the difference is, I am mature enough, to admit that at this moment, I do not know what justice would be.  I may never know what justice would be.  I admit to my ignorance, and knowing I have such ignorance on the subject, I leave it in the hands of the legal officials to determine what should happen next.

I believe that there was a lot going on that night.  I know that there was stuff happening before the one grainy cell phone video began that no one will ever know about.  I find it easy to believe that Mr. Grant and his friends were being disruptive and difficult.  And I believe that there are any number of explanations as to what happened and why.  I do not suggest that it is OK.  I do not suggest that the whole thing be swept under the rug and forgotten about, but I do not think it is up to the general public to make a determination about what did happen that night, or what should happen next.

And so, when I heard about the rioting that happened, I can’t help but question (and yes, maybe judge).  What was the point?  What did you hope to accomplish?  What DID you accomplish?  Now that you’ve done this, how are you any better than the boys on the train that night or the cop who shot one of them?

What was the point? Can anyone actually answer this?  The event started out as a “Peaceful Protest” at the BART station where the shooting took place.  Certainly a “Peaceful Protest” is better than an all out riot, but really, what was it going to accomplish?  Unfortunately, the man is dead and your “Peaceful Protest” isn’t going to bring him back.  Unsvelt Girl Who Runs told me, “They were protesting the way the investigation is being handled.”  OK, so now we, the random citizens of the city know better than the legal officials how this thing should be handled?  I think not.  If I knew so much on that subject, I’d be in that job.  What was the point?

What did you hope to accomplish? Did you expect to have an impact on the investigation?  Did you expect there to be a change in the circumstances because you waved a sign?  Was anyone even listening?  Whether you were part of a “Peaceful Protest” or part of the rioters, their is only one reason that I can come up with for the event, to attempt to turn the tide on this investigation.  To try and bully or intimidate someone, somewhere into doing more to the officer who pulled the trigger than “investigate”.  There is a word that is used to refer to people who try to use fear and intimidation to get what they want.  We call them Terrorists, and each and every one of you who participated in the events of last Wednesday night are just that.  Terrorists.  So again I ask, what did you hope to accomplish?

What DID you accomplish? You clearly didn’t intimidate anyone…  Not anyone who can get you what you want anyway.  You probably intimidated the people whose cars you set on fire.  You probably intimidated the business owners of whose shops and restaurants you smashed the windows.  I don’t really imagine those people can further your cause though, and I seriously doubt that you’ve “won them over.”  So what did you accomplish?  Destruction of private property.  Unlawful assembly.  For many of you, resisting arrest.  That’s at least three laws you’ve broken right there.  They maybe lesser violations than murder or even manslaughter but violations they are, nonetheless.  So, what did you accomplish?

And finally, Now that you’ve done this, how are you any better than the boys on the train that night, or the cop who shot one of them? You’ve broken the law, you’ve created a civil disturbance, you’ve damaged other peoples property, and let’s just hope that those business owners had insurance to pay for what you’ve done, because if they don’t and they have to repair the damages out of pocket, well…. In these difficult financial times, you may have set them back much more than just the cost of a broken window.  So, Now that you’ve done this, how are you any better than the boys on the train that night, or the cop who shot one of them?

Now, I have entertained the idea that somehow you’ve done us a favor.  Wouldn’t it be nice if, somehow, as a result of your actions, the economy turns around?  The significant out lay of cash to repair the damage you caused, then trickles down, to the workers doing the repairs, who then need to eat lunch, who then go to the restaurants where they repaired the windows and the owners then do increased business and, etc., etc., etc.

Of course we know that is not likely, however there is one good thing that did come out of this.  On Thursday morning, the BART Board of Directors had a meeting at the BART headquarters which happens to be a block away from my office.  In fact there is no other structure, just a park, between my office window and that building and I can see it clearly.  What I can also see clearly is the park below.  The BART Board of Directors, in all their wisdom, decided to invite the public to come and voice their opinions at this meeting.

It started at around 10:00 with the sound of police sirens out side.  I looked out my window in time to see nine police vehicles fly up the street toward the building where the BART headquarters are housed.  No noticeable results came of that and soon they had moved on.  Half an hour after that I looked outside again to notice that the intersections all around the BART building were closed and officers were redirecting traffic.  And then I looked down at the street closer to my office to see that there was a parade of police vehicles congregating on the street outside my building.  At the time that I looked, I counted no less than thirty-two motorcycles, black and whites, unmarked cars and SUVs lined up along the street with the officers poised and ready for trouble.

At 12:30, the one good thing to come out of all this happened.  At 12:30, word came down from “Senior Leadership” that we were encouraged to go home.

So, for that at least, I thank you, you wacked out, ignorant, ne’erdowells.  From the bottom of my cold, dead heart, I thank you!