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Personal Essay

It’s Sunday night and as the sun sets on San Francisco and the day draws to a close, I plop down on my couch in my apartment in Cathedral Hill, pour myself a glass of red wine and find the latest episode of hoarders on my on demand.  To my despair, I found I’d seen all the episodes (pathetic, I know but I love hoarders).  So, instead of hoarders I turned to A&E’s other disorder-oriented show, Intervention.

 

Intervention centers around people struggling with addiction. The show showcases the subject at his or her highs or lows. Then the family members of the addict stage an intervention to break through to he one suffering about their addiction.

 

No addiction is too taboo for the program. From crack cocaine to eating disorders, they’re all covered.

 

The episode I chose involved a mother and son, both of whom were suffering from alcoholism. Anthony and his mother, who did not give her name in the episode, have been battling alcoholism for years. Anthony’s mother supplies him because he is only 20, and she herself drinks heavily.  Anthony himself polishes off a gallon of vodka a day.

 

I spent an hour of my life bearing witness to the downward spiral of these two people. With each passing minute both people grew worse and worse. Anthony spent his days in a vodka-induced haze, and was not even coherent enough to spend time with his daughter, whom he is only allowed to see once a week. His mother was usually too drunk to even help her son off the floor after he passed out.

 

As Anthony’s condition persisted, is mother only helped to further his despair by fueling his addiction. She would go to 24-hour markets to pick up alcohol in the middle of the night for both him and her. She believes that her problems are not an issue because her son is so out of control. As long as he’s the issue, she is safe from scrutiny.

 

Near the end of the episode, both Anthony and his mother agree to get help. They are sent to separate institutions and the show ends with both of them being sober for several weeks. Just before the episode ends, it is stated that both Anthony and his mother have relapsed.

 

While this episode was unnerving, I couldn’t stop thinking about the fact that I had been drinking throughout the entire episode. In fact, I have a glass of wine nightly. As I pondered this, paranoia began to set in.

 

It doesn’t help matters that alcoholism runs rampant in my family. My mother, father, grandmother and I suspect my grandfather as well were all alcoholics throughout their lives. My grandmother died of cancer after beating the disease, but the other members of my family weren’t so lucky.  My mother, father and grandfather died while still being affected by the disease.

 

I remember telling myself as a child that when I grew up I wouldn’t make the same mistakes. I wouldn’t mask my feelings under a paper thin veil of intoxication. I would steer clear of alcohol. I obviously did not live up to that statement. But, am I an alcoholic?

 

So, I decided to do my homework. Symptoms of alcoholism include withdrawal from people, inability to control drinking habits, loss of interests, anxiety and depression.  My mother had all of these. I remember as a child watching her drink and play records at all hours of the night. I would got up to my room and lock the door, with Nickelodeon blaring on my television to drown out the noise, praying for her to fall asleep so I could shut off Jefferson Starship’s “We Built this City.” Being drunk clearly does not account for taste.

 

I still remember those nights and the anxiety that came with them. While this re-affirmed the fact that my family suffered from this disease, my question remained unanswered.

 

One of the other facts about alcoholism is that it is carried throughout the family. This can be through genetics or through learned behavioral patterns.

 

This was the atom bomb.

 

My anxiety erupted. I began to recall all the times I’ve had too much to drink and like clockwork they came flushing into my mind.  I began to speculate. Am I an alcoholic? Has it been affecting people in my life? And if so, would I be able to fix it, or would it consume my life like it has so many other people in my family?

 

I never used to drink. In high school, I would carry around a cup in my hands and gradually pretend to be drunk at parties so as to fit in with my peers. I’d slur my words and laugh and spout off stupid remarks, and I did it well due to my years of experience with alcoholics. But I never actually drank. My avoidance of alcohol can not only be attributed to the fact that I lived in the middle of nowhere and was scared to death of being pulled over by police, but also because I didn’t have a taste for it.

 

The first time I drank was with my mother. I was 16, and she had bought a handle of Captain Morgan’s Spiced Rum, Grenadine and lemon juice. We made what she appropriately titled “rum sunrises.” By the time we finished drinking the handle was done, and I was expelling the alcohol and whatever was left in my stomach into the toilet. I remember waking up felling the worst I had ever felt – my fist hangover. I thought to myself, “why would anyone want to drink if it makes them feel this way?” I vowed never to drink again.

 

That vow was broken in college. From about 19-22 I went on a rampage. I ended up working at a bar and drinking heavily. Let’s face it – being drunk is fun.  But after the bar closed, I found other work and my drinking reduced. So, I’m not an alcoholic, right?

 

Yet, I continue to drink almost nightly. While I definitely do not drink to the extent that I used to, I still have a glass of wine or two to relax after a strenuous day.  But is this drink vital?

 

Among the websites I visited on the topic, one asked some questions that struck a chord. Among them was the website for Alcoholics Anonymous. I thought this might be a bit of an overkill to visit, but they’ve been dealing with this for over 40 years, and my mother frequented them for a while, so why not?  Of everything the site informed me on, these four questions were the only ones that could quench my thirst for answers: “Is alcohol one of the most important things in your life?” “Can you go a day without it?” “Can you have one or two drinks a stop, or do you need to drink more?” “Do you drink alone?’

 

I thought about these for a while. While I like alcohol and drinking, I can safely say that no, alcohol is not the most important thing in my life- the people I love are. I go several days without drinking and don’t even think about it.  Usually, when I drink I only have one or two drinks and save the bottle for later, and I never drink alone.

 

Intervention may have aroused my suspicions and anxieties, but I can breathe a sigh of relief and safely say that, according to what I know, I am not an alcoholic.

 

However, my entire family has been ravaged by this illness, and I am still aware of my genetic predisposition. This fact will linger in my mind long after this piece is finished.

 

I will continue to walk a fine line, appearing functional yet remaining paranoid that I will loose control one day and end up like the woman who created me, sad and alone in her room on an old couch listening to old music with a bottle of Cooks Brut champagne and reminiscing about a time when she was fulfilled and happy.

 

I think it’s safe to say that from here on out I’ll sure as hell be drinking with caution.

 

 

On November 2, when California voters will pass judgment on Proposition 23, what they will really be deciding on is whether the road ahead will be paved with jobs in the fossil fuel sector or green energy sector.

The proposition will save an estimated 3 million blue-collar jobs, according to a study done by UC Berkeley’s Center for Research and Education. Although it saves these jobs now, oil is bound to run out. This should not be the industry that California relies on in the years to come.

Those who are for Proposition 23: ValeroTesoroFlint Hills Resources and the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association. The tie that binds these backers is that they are all out of state, oil companies, none of which offer jobs in California.

Gov. SchwarzeneggerMeg Whitman and Pacific Gas and Electric Company are only a few of the big names that are against Proposition 23. They have acknowledged that green alternatives can beneficial to the environment, health and the economy.

 

The state of California should not continue to rely on one of the most polluting sources of energy to rest underneath the umbrella of job creation. Rather, it should look for new cleaner, longer lasting, sustainable means of employment that will last long after the oil wells run dry.

 

Noon 23spokesperson Steven Maviglio said Proposition 23 would “kill” solar and wind energy, increase pollution and that California clean technology companies and employees would suffer. According to the passed resolution, “500,000 employees work in clean technology or green jobs in California.” Those 500,000 employees would potentially be out of a job until the unemployment rate in California lowers to 5.5 percent.

 

In voting no on Prop. 23, California will be one step ahead of rest of the US, in a time when California has been near the bottom of every other list. What lies ahead is green energy, and by voting “no” on this legislation, California will be embracing the future, instead of living in the past.

 

I remember getting into a fight with one of my classmates over the last piece of pizza at the student store after school. This fight turned ugly. When the dust settled, both my classmate and I were left bloody, crying and without the piece of pizza, which had fallen on the floor during the scuffle. When teachers were alerted of the fight, they immediately ran over and took action. I remember my teacher, Ms. Wellner, sitting me down and asking me, “Do you really think that was the best way to fix your problem?” I shook my head no. She said “Then don’t do that. You know that’s wrong, so don’t act that way. Now no one gets the pizza. It’s a waste.” While I felt angry and sad at the confrontation, her words resonated with me, and I felt I had learned more that day then anything I learned in my classes.

On August 26 in Fremont, a 15-year-old boy stabbed his brother in the neck with a pair of scissors. The boy committed this crime because voices in his head told him to, according to police officials.  In a similarly unnerving case, a 12-year-old girl was arrested in San Francisco on September 13 for stabbing her mother after an argument had ensued about her staying out too late.

While these stories appear to have nothing in common, the tie that binds them is how young these children were.

Child violence is on the rise in the United States since 1994, increasing around 4% annually according to a report conducted by the Children’s Defense Fund.

Many people, including myself, believe that children are not being properly supervised after school or in their communities. Dr. Velma Lapoint, a Human Development Professor at Howard University, says “There are after-school hours where children are not supervised. Children in some instances are supervising themselves. You don’t have people around saying, `No, that is not appropriate.

The National Youth Violence Prevention Center found that children who do not participate in after-school activities are 49% more likely to experiment with drugs and 37% ore likely to have a child before their 20s. The organization also cited that after-school hours are prime hours for drug use and violence to occur.

I remember being quite a bully as a child. On the playground, I was the child who would steal a seat on the swings, take advantage of the younger kids at cards and threaten violence if anyone tried to take the spot I had reserved at four-square. I eventually curbed this aggressive behavior, but only after repeatedly being told that was the wrong thing to do. I had several positive influences to guide me in this, most of which I learned through the clubs I joined after school.

The problems facing children today is a lack of resources. When the recession hit, the first thing to go were social programs, such as after school activities and extra curricular activities. These keep children preoccupied and give them a creative outlet for their energy. Without them, it’s easy to see how their energies can be directed in such horrible ways.

The crunch on after school programs is a fact. The New York Times reported in August 2007 that the federal government cut $30 million in funds from New York’s public education system. Most of the funding that was cut was from after school programs and extra curricular activities. President Obama proposed less than $1 billion for the fiscal year 2010 budget for education, $1 billion less than the previous year.

I remember that as a child, I had plenty of activities to do. I’d play sports, cards, whatever was happening. I never was bored and there was always a teacher nearby. The point was I was never left alone.

The culprit then in this instance is the government. As they continue to pull money away from education, more and more children will find themselves on the streets instead of in sports fields, classrooms, and playgrounds.

 

After-school programs helped to shape me into the person that I am today. I know that if I had not had the programs to reinforce values and etiquette in me, I might still be the bratty child I was back then. I shudder to think of an environment where I was left on the street after classes were over to fend for myself back then, and I know not providing the same options to the children of today will only result in disaster.

 

One of the oldest theatres in San Francisco will close its doors on Saturday. The Clay Theatre has been entertaining people for 100 years, since it opened as a nickelodeon in 1910.

It would be nice to say this is an isolated incident, but unfortunately this occurrence is becoming increasingly common. The Clay Theatre just happens to be the latest landmark of its kind to go under. Over 15 classic single frame theaters have closed down across the city in the past decade.

These small, vintage venues, which typically only boast one or two screens, are finding it impossible to compete against gigantic multiplex theaters like AMC Lowe’s Metreon.

It’s ironic that closing these theatres is so prevalent in a city that prides itself on preserving and retaining its historic buildings and landmarks. The New Mission Theatre remains vacant today and has been stuck in litigation ever since it was purchased by a developer in 2004. The Richmond district’s Alexandria Theatre was once a vibrant and beautiful place to see a film, but now lies dormant since it’s 2004 closure. Its large space collects dust and its originally attractive sign is now an eyesore to Geary Street passerby.

The Apollo Theatre (formerly the Amazon), a staple within the Mission District community, was shut down and converted into a Walgreen’s. The Coronet, which once entertained the Inner Richmond District was demolished in 2005 and The Institute on Aging now sits in its place.

The problem is not a lack of community support, but rather inadequate funding for much needed basic upkeep. Preservation and restoration projects are funded solely by private patrons and donations. Organizations like the San Francisco Neighborhood Theater Foundation and the San Francisco Film Society have made many valiant attempts to save these institutions, having success with a few, but unfortunately not all.

Organizations like these suffer from the same problem the theatres do; lack of funding and volunteers. It’s not that people are uninterested in the cause, it’s that these concerned individuals lack adequate resources to prevent the landmarks from closing.
The movie theatre used to be a place where people could see a film in a refined setting characterized by ornate scenery and elegant architecture. The movie theatre was not just a place to see a film, it was an experience.

With megaplexes being constructed across the country, it seems those days are numbered. The sterile, uniform environment of the new theater model is taking over, and the opulence of the theatres of yore is in grave danger of becoming nothing more than a distant memory.

The new iPhone 4 has been praised for its many useful applications, such as the ability to video chat, an unparalleled screen and a GPS tracking system.

Amateur criminal Horatio Toure learned this fact the hard way in a case of sheer irony.

While a woman was giving a demonstration on the benefits of the GPS application, Toure biked alongside her and snatched the iPhone from her hands.

What he didn’t know was that the woman worked for a communications technology company and was field testing their latest application, Alert and Respond, which tracks the location of the device in real time.

Because the application had been activated, police were able to track the thief and found him less than a half-mile away, only fifteen minutes later.

While this is a hilarious example of criminal stupidity and karma, we must realize what this means. With applications like GPS tracking and real time activation, your exact location can be tracked at any time, by virtually anyone.

In this instance, it served as a benefit. It only takes a minute to think of how many different ways this could be used to cause harm.

Tracking and surveillance was given the green light in the wake of the terrorist attacks of 2001 with the passage of the Patriot Act.

The bill gives the government the right to monitor people under the guise of national security.

The general public has only recently gained access to this technology, but the government has had it for years.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the government was justified in planting a tracking device on the car of Juan Pineda-Moreno, an Oregon native who was suspected of selling marijuana, which was parked in his parking lot.

Not only is this appalling and borderline schizophrenic, it also sets a dangerous precedent. This ruling basically says that it is alright for the government to track you whenever they feel like it. You may not know it, but you’re probably not alone.

Where will this technology take us? Now that the government has the go-ahead to track people with almost no cause and this same technology is readily available to civilians with nearly no regulation, are we headed toward an age of paranoia?

Is the bleak and unnerving world of George Orwell’s 1984 turning into more than science fiction?

Are your movements being tracked? Are people watching you? Would boring life as a college student really be worth monitoring?

The truth is you’ll probably never know.

Tracking: Paranoia in Real-Time

The new iPhone has been praised for its many useful applications, such as the ability to video chat with other users, an unparalleled screen and a GPS tracking system. Amateur criminal Horatio Toure learned this fact the hard way in a case of sheer irony.

While a woman was giving a demonstration of the benefits of the GPS application of the iPhone, Toure rode alongside her on his bike and took the iPhone from the woman’s hands. What he did not know was that the woman worked for a communications technology company and was field testing their latest application called Alert and Respond, which tracks the location of the device in real time. Since the application had been activated, police were able to track the thief and found him no more than a half a mile away fifteen minutes later.

While this story may sound (and truly is) a hilarious example of criminal stupidity and karma, one must realize what this signals. With applications like GPS tracking and real time activation, your exact location can be tracked at any time, by virtually anyone. In this instance, it served as a benefit. It only takes a minute to think of how many different ways this could be used to cause harm.

Tracking and surveillance was given the green light in the wake of the terrorist attacks of 2001, with the passage of the Patriot Act. Both sides of Congress passed this bill, which virtually gives the government the right to monitor people under the guise of national security. While this may have seemed to be the proper course of actions in the eyes of the American people at the time, this act tipped the pot over for the issue of tracking to spill right onto the people’s laps.

The everyday person may have only recently had access to this technology, but the government has had it for years. The disturbing part is someone actually declared this blatant invasion of privacy legal. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers much of the western United States, ruled that the government was valid in panting a tracking device on the car of Juan Pineda-Moreno, an Oregon native who was suspected of selling marijuana, which was parked in his parking lot. Not only is this appalling and borderline schizophrenic, it also sets a dangerous precedent. This ruling basically says that it is alright for the government to track you whenever they feel like it. You may not know it, but you’re probably not alone.

Where will this technology take us? Now that the government have the go-ahead to track people with almost no just cause, and this same technology is readily available to civilians with almost no regulation, are we headed towards an age of paranoia? Is the bleak and unnerving world George Orwell wrote about in his novel 1984 in danger of turning into more than science fiction? Are people truly that scared of each other that we need to know where they are at any given moment? Will the time come when our every move will be calculated and logged as if on a schedule?

With advents in technology such as the cell phone and wireless internet people already are in constant contact with each other, so instantly knowing where people are would be the next logical step right? I suppose then that knowing one’s sexual orientation, medical history and credit information would also be the next logical upgrade, right?

Before reading this article, I recently noticed my Samsung Flight had a GPS tracking device on it as an application. This tweaked my paranoia. I generally pride myself on being a pretty level-headed person. When my emotions take ahold of me, I take a step back, breathe in deeply, and listen to the logical side of my brain. However, while waiting for the bus to come on Van Ness and Geary streets that day, my mind began to speculate. While I have never used the application, it made me wonder… Are my movements being tracked? Are people watching me? Would my boring life as a college student really be worth monitoring? The unnerving truth is I’ll probably never now, and as this technology advances, neither will any of us.

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