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Fall! The first leaves are falling here on the south shore of the Long Island Sound.

Yes, that’s a real cat waiting for door service.

The fall colors are splendid –

—and so are the curbside gardens.

To tell the truth, this is the only curbside garden I’ve ever seen. Somebody went to a lot of trouble here, don’t you think?

This should win a prize for Best Something. Best Apartment Building Spirit? Best Neighbor Cooperation? Best Collaborative Fun House?

Best Big Fuzzy Giant Spider?

No, this building isn’t on Long Island (we don’t have building like this on the north shore of Long Island). I was driving past this building in Manhattan last Sunday on my way home from my visit to Occupy Wall Street Headquarters in Zucotti Park.

I have not been that far downtown in Manhattan since September 14, 2001. The last time I was in the neighborhood, the twisted steel girders from the World Trade Center were still smoldering. I used to work in a building one street over from the World Trade Center so I knew the view well; and there I was on Sept. 14 not being able to believe my eyes. I could see that the Trade Center was gone, but it just did not comprehend it. I stared and stared, and tried to understand that it was gone. All gone.

I’ve been in Tribeca and the Lower East Side many times since 9/11 (I met Top Cat at a party in the old Meat Packing District in 2003) but I haven’t been near Wall Street for a decade.

And I haven’t seen that shitty Zucotti Park for a decade either. I mentioned last week that I have never been fond of that “park” — it’s more like a very wide sidewalk than anything remotely resembling a “park”. But I wanted to see Occupy Wall Street so Top Cat and I drove in. It took us 40 minutes to find a parking space — the whole area is a huge tourist attraction now, now that it’s called “Ground Zero” (a name I loathe).

And Occupy Wall Street is a bit of a tourist attraction too — a must stop on the double decker tour bus tours of lower Manhattan.

We entered Zucotti Park down by the Faith Tree.

This is the Faith Tree, the meditation circle that is the official “quiet zone” of Occupy Wall Street. You can see that people put little totems up and sit in contemplation here. That’s a photo of John and Yoko in the center, above a Petition For World Peace. That green and purple sign says “Community Altar. Sacred Space”. There’s little American flag there, incense, potted plants, picked flowers, and candles.

The park was packed with people, occupiers and visitors. We walked up to the end of the park where some clergy people were holding an outdoor service. The lady minister wore a turquoise jacket that you can see in the background.

I liked this guy in the hard hat with the tiny American flag on the top. I did not like the minister. First of all, what anybody with a religion degree has to say about anything could not be of less interest to me. 

And secondly, when the lady minister got to the part where we were all supposed to turn to the person next to us and hold hands and repeat some bible verse is where I get the hell out of there.  If I’m going to get kumbaya with strangers it has to be at a Led Zeppelin concert in San Fransisco in 1973 and I have to be very, very, very high on lots of Purple Haze. Otherwise, no way Jose. 

You’ve probably heard that the occupiers are not allowed to have tents at Zucotti Shitty Park. But they can have cardboard boxes and tarps. Here’s an occupier chez lui:

Getting his stuff ready for the coming work week. In the detail below, you might be able to see that his sweatshirt says We Are the 99%.

And these guys must be from out of town.

Do you think they went back to Ioway with a burning desire to fight oppression?

This is the famous “grey water” purification system that the occupiers use to water the plants at Zucotti Shitty Park.

This kid was doing sign duty, eating a popcicle. I thought he was extremely cute. If that were mykid, I would be extremely proud that he was fighting oppression there at the grey water station. I would be sure that I did something right as a parent if my kid was living at Zucotti Shitty Park.

OK. I’ll stop with the Zucotti Shitty Park stuff.

I was excited to see the Press Working Committee in action –

—there were about five bloggers hammering away at lap tops, oblivious to the throng. In fact, it seemed that the occupiers were mostly oblivious to the crowds, busy doing their Sunday afternoon prep for the working week ahead.

I LOVED the Occupy Wall Street Think Tank stand:

The sign had an email address, with little arrows pointing to plastic bowls, “Deposit Ideas Here”.

And I had to get a picture of the guy holding up his iPad:

It says OTC Derivatives. That doesn’t make sense to me — is he for or against them? But this is a good place for me to mention something that I overlooked in last week’s blog: how much I am saddened by Steve Jobs’ death. I still can’t read a New Yorker obit without getting teary and I don’t really know why. I’m not a Mac fanatic, I don’t own any Apple gadgets. But he was so emblematic of the time I live in that his death is the first great loosening of the hold that my generation has on the world.

This whole Occupy Wall Street is also such a Boomer-free movement that that was one of the reasons I wanted to head down here , to show up for the kids. I was happy to see a few fellow Boomers hanging: 

I also had another two reasons for coming down to OWS in person. I wanted to give them money for food, so I found the Food Working Group at their open buffet:

It was very well organized, with lots of pizza and rice and vegetarian dishes on a long table. People waited in line with a paper plate to choose from about a dozen hot dishes (and you can see that the food servers were wearing gloves — nice!).

I stood in a short line to speak to the guy who was manning the Food Working Group desk. A woman was there, asking what she could bring for them — peanut butter? The guy showed her a box with about 20 donated jars of peanut butter (some of the jars were Jif which is the worst peanut butter out there. Please, people: bring the good  organic stuff!!!) “No, thanks,” he said; “we really don’t need peanut butter.”

I had not planned on giving peanut butter. I had planned on giving lots of money. I asked the guy, “Can I make a cash donation?” and he said  “Sure!” And he pointed to a small locked tin, into which I stuffed $100.

I was also lugging two large tote bags of books for the library. Occupy Wall Street has a lending library and I had  some very good books (Janet: I gave them the copy of Unbroken that you sent me — I think I found an excellent home for it!). I had travel books, half a dozen Calvin and Hobbes books, Christopher Hitchens and Martin Amis books.

This is the library at Occupy Wall Street:

And these are the librarians at Occupy Wall Street:

I think they were just safeguarding the sign for the Political and Electoral Reform Working Group because I talked to these librarians, and there wre serious book lovers. They were very happy with my donation — they have a system. Each book that they take into the library is marked on the top of the pages with black magic marker “OWS” with a number. They have a ledger into which the book title and number is entered, and then it’s put on the shelves and people check them out.

Yes, those are copies of my book in that photo. I gave them three copies of When Wanderers Cease to Roam and I wasn’t going to mention anything but Top Cat picked up one of my books and told the young man, “This is the book that my wife wrote!”

“Wow,” the guy said (which I thought was awfully sweet of him). “Would you autograph it for us?”

So I did, one book. I wrote:

Occupy Wall Street, October 16 2011

Occupy Everywhere! Vivian Swift

It is my dream that one day I will find that book selling on eBay for a n obscene amount of money.

We’d had enough of the crowds by then, so Top Cat and I were edging our way out of Zucotti S****y Park when we saw John Oliver from The Daily Show with a fim crew walk right past us.

And right before we exited, an occupier asked us if we would like to take home this:

Thank you, Occupy Wall Street.

7 comments to Signs of the times.

  • Janet

    Vivian, I am very happy to hear that Unbroken is now part of the quiet revolution. It can serve as my proxy — I haven’t been to a decent demonstration since marching in the streets after Kent State. Occupy Austin is ongoing here — lots of tents and sleeping bags at city hall. I haven’t stopped by yet. My quiet protest continues against cancer, an insidious bitch that moves into your house, eats everything in your refrigerator and pantry, steals your clothes and all your money, shreds your passport, disconnects your phone, tells lies to all of your friends, keeps you up night after night, wrecks your car, and spray paints your cat. Cancer and corporate greed have a lot in common: mean, ruthless and fatal if left unchecked.

  • Nadine

    Wow, those kids are organized! I’m impressed. I vow to get to OWS this weekend and make a donation, too.

    Maybe “Ground Zero” will be re-defined from where this country went off the rails (the Twin Towers) to where it got back on track (Zucotti Shitty Park).

  • Rachel

    Vivian, thank you so much for your on-the-scene reports and for caring and for showing up and participating. You are an inspiration.
    Janet, I am smiling through my tears at that incredible description. Prayers and blessings to you.

  • Deborah

    I’ve been so heartened to see that it is the young’uns who are driving OWS and so inspired by your trips there. I love that they have a library, and I think I saw they have a ‘university’ — professors come and lecture.

    The call was put out for blankets for the Occupy Louisville group (a fairly small group), so I’m heading over with the king sized down comforter that is languishing in the basement & several other blankets that are just taking up space. I thought about taking food, but definitely not peanut butter. Definitely.

    I haven’t had time to make up the sign I see in my mind, an amalgam of several chants and bumperstickers:

    The 99% solution:

    We the people
    NOT THE CORPORATIONS
    Government of the people
    NOT THE CORPORATIONS
    Government by the people
    NOT THE CORPORATIONS
    Government for the people
    NOT THE CORPORATIONS
    Power to the people
    NOT THE CORPORATIONS

    Corporations are not people
    Money is not speech

  • Tracey

    I’m very impressed you and Top Cat went and I liked the photos – I was only there at night. However, to me the two little kids looked like they came from Bensonhurst.

  • Kate

    Janet, my thoughts are with you!

  • I had no idea that this was so incredibly organized. I am very impressed at the order of it all. I’m not sure I fully understand all the issues but it gives protest a good name.

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