I get up early, because I need at least one hour and a half to make it there.
My bags are carefully prepared, exactly what I need, no more, because if I loose something I don’t want to loose it all.
Depending on the timing I will need two or three different trains. N-Judah, jump in and jump out at embarcadero; Bart train one, jump in and jump out at 19th avenue; Bart train two, jump in and jump out once I get there. At this point I am so used to the transitions and the timings that I can almost jump from one train to the other like locals do.
“Ashby station,” I’m getting close… “El Cerrito del Norte,” I’m in the neighborhood… “Richmond station, this train is now out of service,” I’m here.
I step out to a clean and solitary Bart station in the heart of the city.
Little has changed since I first came here three months ago… The Jehovah’s witnesses are still there, still displaying their small books in the cold cement bench inside the station.
There’s always representation of the homeless/drug addict community, but I must confessed I never saw the 32-cents lady again. Maybe she got her cash an fled the city.
The Spanish sounds mixed with the mispronunciation of English is also there.
Again, it feels like home, but after so many visits in only 15 weeks, it has turned into a new home.
Despite the feeling of familiarity, this new home is different because it has gone and it is going through a lot that is new for me.
When you think about it, Richmond is not that big. It only has 100,000 inhabitants and even though it looked really big on the map, I have discovered that with one hour between appointments I can actually walk from one corner to the other (there is no better gym)
But this small city has the problems of a metropolis: wealthy industry mixed with extreme poverty; violence mixed with faith and church; black mixed with white, mixed with brown, mix with yellow.
Reporting about this city has been a wonderfully challenging experience.
The challenge of telling stories with words has always been there, but doing so about Richmond has been wonderful because it gave me the opportunity to use my bilingual skills, it kept me close to the issues I care to report about, and it pushed my sixth sense to develop even more, always asking myself, where’s the story? Where’s the danger? Where’s the Bart station again?
I have met amazing people in the process. From my editor at the Pulse, Malcolm Marshall, who’s been an unconditional supporter, to former drug-dealing young men that are trying to make their life a more productive one, for them and their city.
There are so many people in this city doing good that I think is really sad how only the bad some people do gets out to the world.
But I also got to see the consequences of the bad by reporting about the Grisby Case.
It is so sad to see two young lives wasted: Gene Grisby died at 16-years-old just because he was born in a particular neighborhood and that day he walked to the gym. Tyris Franklin was found guilty of first degree murder and on May 25 he will hear his sentence, which could go from 50 years to a life in prison.
Lately I met six people that shine. They have been giving without reserve to the city for many years and the city wanted to honor them for it, they are the winners of the 2012 Distinguished Service Awards.
Allow me to introduce you…
Reporting from and about Richmond in the past 16 weeks improved my hearing and note taking skills, it exercised my capacity to see and dig for stories and it reminded me that no matter where you come from and where you are going to, humans are humans, and we all share the same desires, the same hopes, the same fears and the same needs, whether we externalize them in Spanish or English.
Richmond has help me become a better journalist, a decent writer and a more compassionate person.
Oh! and it also help me gain a couple of pounds! The Mexican food was amazing!