By Forest Riggs
Can you believe it? Seems like in the blink of an eye, 2019 raced by — and none too soon! Sometimes I think the time has “speeded up” and science just has not figured out exactly how to prove this. Maybe the entire universe is spinning faster and faster. The Doomsday clock ticks on and, for the past several years, the little black hand creeps closer to the end while folks in high and low places pontificate on the movement of said hand.
I laughingly tell friends when I am pontificating, “The end has been awaited since man began the journey on Earth.” In the Judeo-Christian realm, “the end time is coming.” Folks have touted this thought for thousands of years and, still, it has not come. I have a theory on this and a darn good one, but that is for another time and place. Suffice that times marches on and, quite possibly, rather than marching, it has started running.
The phrase you hear most often from friends and colleagues is “2020 has got to better than 2019.” I find myself saying this each year as the New Year approaches; I guess in essence it means that every year sucks!
We simply move on to the next year, recalling all the crap we dealt with over the past 365 days and hope a better year lies ahead.
Looking back on 2019, I can honestly say it was a pretty rotten year. Aside from the atrocious politics that constantly overshadowed everything in 2019, Galveston’s tight gay community took some pretty hard hits when it came to losing friends and loved ones. No matter the situation, the losses hit hard and hearts remain broken. Resilient by nature, Galvestonians keep a stiff upper lip, facing the losses and finding great strength and comfort through the close bonds that exist on the Island.
Then there were storms and flooding. No hurricane, mind you, but the Island did get some high water, along with our friends across the causeway. Many businesses and homes on the Island sustained major water damage. All of this weather activity caused the home owner’s insurance, wind storm, and flood coverage to sail through the roof.
There was the horrible photo of Galveston police leading a detained black man through the streets of downtown, tethered by a rope and led by two officers on horseback — not a good moment for mankind and certainly not for Galveston. My phone did not stop, nor did the emails from friends around the world asking if this is the place “you love so much and brag about.” It is still that place, but has some growing to do!
With the continued growth of the cruise industry in Galveston, which is great from a financial standpoint, traffic and chaos grew on the dangerous racetrack known as Harbor Side Drive; it’s a nightmare when ships are coming and going. The need for sidewalks and walkover ramps is so great, especially since the powers-that-be just signed a multi-million dollar contract for a new cruise terminal, number three. This terminal will be on Harbor Side where currently fruit king Del Monte loads, stores, and transports their produce. I have gotten use to giant food trucks on the Harbor Side race track, but soon there will be more confused, lost, and crazed drivers aching to get on their ship and head to Paradise (or escape their Hell). With no sidewalks, it has become a Russian roulette of sorts for folks pulling and toting luggage. Beware and be cautious.
There was an awful lot of rotten stuff in 2019, some of which will undoubtedly spill over into 2020, but there was also some good stuff, too. The gay community was proud when the city allowed a rainbow to be painted at the crosswalks on 25th Street in front of City Hall. Mardi Gras was a huge success, although some infighting among the promoters, the city, and merchants happened and may well cause changes for the 2020 Mardi Gras. Dickens on the Strand was much fun; however, some complained that confining it to Strand Street made it more crowded and less open-feeling. Folks do like to stroll in their finest. See and be seen!
One of the best pieces of 2019 was all the blue water in the Gulf. The year had so many beautiful days with the clear, blue water lapping up to the Seawall. If fact, it was much much nice water that several major news programs around the country commented on it. The locals and visitors loved it.
Lastly, on the “good side,” many new friendships and relationships were born — some romantic and some just fun. Relationships, the good ones, are what make a community such as Galveston a fun place to live; there is support and caring like unseen in many gay communities. Now don’t get carried away, we still have our bitch fights and tête-à-têtes, but for the most part, when the piss and vinegar contests are over, folks shake hands and move forward.
Yes, 2020 will be better. We will make it better. Look for and dwell on the positive, remain focused, and love each other. After all, that little black hand could take a fast leap forward and then the curtain falls on us all. Sometimes as the sand in the hourglass is emptying, we need to just stop, take a deep breath, and flip the glass!
A resident of Galveston where he can be found wasting bait and searching for the meaning of life, Forest Riggs recently completed a collection of short stories about his beloved island and is working on a novel.