Joel Riggs teaches Aikido, plays piano, enjoys California, and reads voraciously.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Checkout Chat

It may be difficult to work and talk at the same time over at the local Safeway grocery store. I went through the line this afternoon and had this little conversation with Anne, the cashier:

- "Sir, would you like to make a donation for prostate cancer?" she asked.
- "Actually, I am against prostate cancer," I said.
- "You never know when it might sneak up on you," she said.
- "Have you had any takers?" I asked, thinking of her obligation to ask every single customer today for a donation.
- "Yes, my father had it a couple years ago," she replied.

A real head-scratcher, that one.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

California Morning Commuters

Waiting at a crosswalk near "The Hub" in downtown San Anselmo, CA, the other day, I watched the faces of drivers whizzing by, and I got the idea for this little art project. Reminds me of the movie 'Smoke', where Harvey Keitel said, "You're going too fast; you have to take time to look at each picture."

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Jerry Falwell Dies

When I was at in school at Dartmouth, I once paid one dollar to attend a speech (in the hockey rink no less) in which Jerry Falwell quoted George Gallup from Readers Digest. That was one wasted dollar! Falwell was a blowhard; he was hostile, ignorant, disconnected, and intolerant. The perfect poster boy for the regressive human instinct to form a tribe and to call down God's wrathful and destructive vengeance on one's enemies. And I think he wanted to have sex with men, too, since he talked about it so much. I am only a little ashamed to say that when I saw the headline of his demise a few minutes ago, my immediate response was an emphatic 'yessssss!'

What a weak, predictable, afraid, and insipid man he was, unable to hold contrary ideas in his head, and unable to see other people except with the desire to preach to them or kill them. Unfortunately, I am afraid that others will rise up to take his place.

Happy hosting, satan!


Tuesday, May 08, 2007

The Water Will Hold You ... But Aron Will Not

Here is some advice that I will give you for free: be wary if you ever date a writer!

Five years ago I dated Lindsey Crittenden, whom I knew to be a writer. She had had pieces published in mainstream magazines, taught creative writing at the local university extension, and was even working on a novel-length memoir about prayer and the deaths of her mother (cancer) and adopted brother (murder).

The beginning of our dating was very intense. I fell in love because -- I can say in retrospect -- I felt very seen and understood and held emotionally by her. After an initial month-long flush of infatuation, though, our relationship started promptly to fade away. I fell out of love with her because as I got to know her I did not like her as much as I originally imagined. I was not sufficiently interested in her for who she was, our sex was less than satisfying for me, and her family (father and nephew) were distant and discourteous (always a warning sign for me, a cold family). Also, I felt like a fifth wheel whenever I would hang out with her and her friends.

I was looking for a partner, I wanted to get married and start a family. So, I stopped seeing Lindsey sometime in April, and in May I met Maria, the love of my life who is now my wife of three years and who is four months pregnant!

When I first saw Lindsey's new book in the local bookstore, I turned to Maria and said, "I just hope I am not in here!" I leafed through it for about ten minutes, did not see my name or anything I recognized as being about myself, and put the book back on the shelf. I made a mental note that Lindsey would be reading and speaking at the bookstore in a couple weeks. I had always wondered how she was doing. And a part of me imagined that with enough water under the bridge we could once again recover the friendship that we had genuinely had when we first met; I have become friends over the years with several past partners.

The day of her reading, I showed up at the bookstore and sat in the back. Lindsey saw me but did not acknowledge me. During her talk and her reading, which was about her mother, her swimming in the ocean, and her experiences with her "love affair with prayer," she choked up a couple of times, but still did not smile or otherwise acknowledge me. I imagined that her reading glasses did not allow her to see me in the back of the room.

During the Q&A after the reading, the man to my right and the two women directly in front of me all asked questions, so Lindsey must have seen me there, but did not let on. "This is weird," I thought.

When the talk was over, quite a few people lined up to have their copies of her book autographed. I wandered back to the center of the store and purchased my own copy. Waiting for the line to dwindle down, I sat and leafed through the book again. Suddenly I stopped in my tracks: I saw this ex-boyfriend 'Aron' referred to toward the end of the book, and his story was not a good one. It was I, thinly veiled. Every detail she wrote about me I recognized. Uh-oh! Turns out, on my cursory reading, that Aron was something of a villain in the book!

Shocked, shaking inside, and very nervous, it was finally my turn to approach Lindsey at the signing table. "Hi, Joel," she said with very flat affect. "Hi, Lindsey. Congratulations!" "Do you want your book signed?" "Sure," I said as I set my copy in front of her. She wrote her name under the title on the title page. No dedication. She looked very angry, or maybe just irritated, as she handed the book back to me. She immediately turned to leave, without another word.

I was surprised to be treated so cooly. My only thought was that I wished I had not even come to see her at all. I took her signed book back to the counter and exchanged it for an unsigned one. Still somewhat shaky, I drove back home.

It is surprising five years later to learn that Lindsey had chonicled our times together in great detail and that she has turned them into a significant part of her new memoir. She never let me know she was writing about me, and I do not come off as a very respectable or good character. That is her view, and she has had five full years to stew over it and craft it into a story. I had not spent much of those five years thinking about her at all.

At the end of our relationship I treated her shabbily and I am sorry about that. She wrote that I manipulated her and broke a "promise" to have a life with her. The fact is, though, that as I grew disaffected with Lindsey, I had cheated on her with 'Suzie' from February on and had I lied to Lindsey's face about it. It was always difficult for me to break up with someone, and I failed miserably with Lindsey. I should have broken up with her in February instead of dragging things on for those extra eight weeks or so. Little did I know that in stumbling along the best I could manage at the time I had turned into somebody's villain.

I have been cheated on before and I know it sucks. But, in the immortal words of Garth from Wayne's World, I decided to "get over it, go out with with somebody else."

It is possible that since Lindsey was 40 and wanted children I was her last best hope for starting a family. I wanted that too, but not with her, I found out. Turns out that if I had stuck with her, then I would not have found my own wife and my own family and the happiness I have today.

I lived in San Francisco for nearly 16 years. During that time I dated a lot. My sister told me once, "I do not even want to meet your next girlfriend unless you are serious about her. I get tired of making friends and then having you break up with them!" But, my life in San Francisco was dedicated to becoming my true self and finding my true partner. Many times I was the 'Set Up King', being the last boyfriend of women before they met their one true love or husband or partner. This happened more than half a dozen times! I guess Lindsey was my Set Up Queen, and now there is a book that tells our story.

If you choose to date a writer, consider yourself warned!