I have not been in lower 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 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.
The new Freedom Tower that is ring up in place of the Trade Center looks like it will be a beautiful building:
The reason I was in lower Manhattan is because 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).
We entered Zucotti Park down by the Faith Tree.
The Faith Tree is a 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.
You’ve probably heard that the occupiers are not allowed to have tents at Zucotti Park. But they can have cardboard boxes and tarps. Here’s an occupier at home in his cardboard abode:
Getting his sign ready for the next march.
This is the famous “grey water” purification system that the Occupiers use to water the plants at Zucotti Park.
This kid was doing his Holding Up The Sign For Tourists duty, eating a popcicle. I thought he was extremely cute. If that were my kid, I would be extremely proud that he was fighting oppression there at the grey water station.
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 Protest thingy:
It says OTC Derivatives. I don’t get it.
This whole Occupy Wall Street is such a Baby Boomer-free movement — that that was one of the reasons I wanted to head down here , to show up for the nest generation. But I was happy to see a few fellow Boomers hanging out with the kids:
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 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 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 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 (lower left corner. 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 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 an 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 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.