Even though the hometown team
was in the Super Bowl this year, I didn't watch more than a couple of
minutes of the big game on Sunday.
But then again ... I didn't
really have to.
I knew when the game was
starting: even with all my windows closed and the computer running and
nice teeth-rattling Alice In Chains on the stereo, I could still hear
Celine *Retirement Is Over-Rated, Anyway* Dion
screeching at me from a hundred neighboring television sets.
I knew when Oakland scored its
first touchdown: the entire complex erupted into wild, raucous,
foot-stomping/back-slapping/brew-pounding cheers of jubilation. I knew
when the million dollar commercials were funny (riotous laughter) and
when the halftime entertainment fizzled (everyone went outside to smoke
a cigarette and light the charcoal). I knew when the Raiders were in
trouble: when silence descended across the complex, like coastal fog
creeping over the Berkeley Hills, and then lingered there for the rest
of the afternoon.
And I definitely knew when the
Super Bowl was over. That's when the sirens started.
* * * * * *
"They're rioting in Oakland,"
David announced, as he walked through the door on Sunday night.
He'd spent the day watching the
Super Bowl over at his parents' house in Walnut Creek ... a chivalrous
gesture designed to 1.) give me a little football-free Alone Time, and
2.) ensure that he actually got to WATCH some of the game. As he drove
home, he passed through the central section of downtown Oakland.
"Jack London Square is
completely blocked off," he said. A row of police cars were lined up,
four across, beneath the overpass outside of Jack London Square. No one
could get into or out of the waterfront area.
"I've never seen anything like
it," he said, shaking his head in amazement.
I told David that the sirens
had started the minute the game was over. A handful of City of Alameda
emergency vehicles screeched past our bedroom window -- "Five or six
squad cars, a couple of fire trucks, at least one ambulance," I said,
ticking down the list -- but most of the battle noise was coming from
the Oakland side of the estuary. "It was like listening to war
starting," I said.
We flipped on the TV to see
exactly how bad it was.
All of the local stations were
carrying live broadcasts of the mayhem, of course. Lots of nervous,
third-string newspuppets standing around under street lamps, clutching
microphones and ear pieces. Lots of murky video and muffled audio:
glass breaking, sirens wailing, cars burning, the ubiquitous packs of
inebriated young men in baggy pants, roaming up and down International
Boulevard. As we watched the KTVU newscast, one particularly rabid
group of thugs lobbed rocks through the windows of an Oakland paint
store, then reached through the broken glass and helped themselves to
cans of semi-gloss (which they promptly dumped on top of cars and
parking meters and hapless passersby). Whenever they saw the television
cameras pointed in their direction, they jumped up and down and waved
at the cameras and hurled gleeful obscenities at the television
Their mothers must be so
* * * * * *
The good news -- if there is
any 'good news' to be found here -- is that the vandalism didn't reach
the Dirt Company offices, this time around.
the Raiders won the
playoff game, a couple of weekends ago, the violent post-game
'celebration' spilled over from the Oakland Coliseum, next door to our
office building, and into our parking lot and the other office
buildings in the vicinity. We all came to work that Monday morning to a
sea of broken liquor bottles, empty beer cans, garbage, graffiti,
smashed car windows, used drug paraphernalia, spent fireworks, puddles
of vomit. One of the environmental techs found what appeared to be a
used condom, hanging from the doorknob of the first floor lab.
There was none of that stuff
this time around, thank god ... primarily because the Super Bowl didn't
take place at the Coliseum. The rioters appear to have contained their
revelry to downtown Oakland on Super Bowl night: they never made it to
the Coliseum area.
In the meantime, Mayor Jerry Brown is
busily trying to undo some of the damage to Oakland's already suspect
reputation. This morning's Yahoo Newsblurb had him "... out
talking to people along the street Monday, [where] has spent years
trying to bring business and investment to the city. He said it was
important to remember that the vandalism did not lead to worse.
'You look today, it's
calm," Brown said. "We're putting things back to normal.' "
That may be true. Things were
pretty quiet today. Still ... it's going to be a few days before I feel
safe walking alone to the BART station, or waiting for David in the
parking lot, or going across the street for a Hegen Burger. I feel like
I've been living uncomfortably close to a war zone the past couple of
I don't want to feel that way
again anytime soon, if I can possibly help it.