Photo courtesy of Mr. You from Japan with his lovely old Leica
With the birth of the #Occupy movement in New York on September 15th the world began to re-imagine what it means to be without a home and create a community that reaches from the top 1% to the bottom 1%. Along with the gathering at Zuccotti Park came a plethora of foreign journalists, ever interested in America's latest craze - protest and occupation. "What took you so long?", they all said, referencing the people's protests in Egypt, Spain and other countries in need of reformation of government and finance.
In recent days I have come to see my time at Zuccotti as magical, life changing - even life affirming. But the true measure of what we experienced and created comes in my emails every day - the photos from the event, impressions,, actions and resolutions of a revolution. We have been described recently by a journalist from Croatia as "contemporary desperados" and whilst I love the idea of being somehow at odds with the law, the truth of the matter is, is that we are totally within it - the embodiment of constitutional warriors, fighting for our/your rights, the same as those who fought for our original freedom from England.
In this post I want to share some of my impressions and the impressions of others shared with me - a stream of subconsciousness impressions if you will. Every day I think I am somehow lucky to have been chosen to be in the position I am in. Rather than feel what a sorry f*cking life I have because it's not like everyone else's, I feel awfully good most days. I may not have a job, but I certainly have an occupation - and a circle of people who feel exactly as I do. Here are the comments of You, a Japanese visitor to our little #OWS utopia in Zuccotti park:
"I am the Japanese guy who visited Ducatti park one day and photographed you in a lovely box with my old Leica. You asked me to send pictures and gave me your mail address. Hope you remember it.
Anyway, the moment I had at the park, surrounded by millions of tents and people staying, was something very special for me. I felt like I went back to 1970s. As a photographer, I fell in love with the atmosphere indeed. Although now is the age and here is the city which we seem to be able to get food, clothes, information, and even relationship by just pressing a button, you guys were doing everything by your own hands, face to face, friendlily, and they are always interactive, never be one-way. To be honest, I would like to tell you that what you have done showed me the essence of human being and the possibility of our future.
I attached some of your pictures, hope you enjoy it. Thank you very much again.
And then there are the people who don't talk to me anymore. My sisters and my father, Marsha, an old friend, and others whom I may have thought to have been friends There is a syndrome sometimes associated with homelessness or hard times that seems to go against the grain of what families and friends should be all about. Rather than support you and try to have an understanding of your circumstance, they abandon you. Throughout my life I have talked often of being adopted and somehow feeling a bit out of body when it comes to my adopted family - but it doesn't seem to have anything to do with adoption at all. Tolstoy saw it this way: " Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. " And so my family acts out in its own way - by not talking to me at all. My sister recently commented on a YouTube video of me, but won't contact me directly. Go figure.
At our church and residence Terry, an under-employed union worker says one daughter wouldn't talk to him because he lived in a tent at Zuccotti park - but another daughter calls him a hero and a patriot. This dichotomy seems to be everywhere. For every guy who calls you a looser there seem to be more who cheer you on and thank you for the work you're doing. "Support your local occupier" is a feeling I've been hearing.
Personally, I think I'm getting New York at it fullest - better than I would have gotten if I had had a lot of money. I ride the subway, I sell art at 14th street, I see places I never would have seen. I am learning the art of alternative ways. I am reading the plaques on statues (Why is the statue of Carl Schurz in Morningside Park instead oft Carl Schurz Park?) - but most importantly, I am learning - and that means I am alive.
The Russians at the Heartland Brewery order the largest shots of Tequila I have ever seen. I have made a little money in the park today and enough to have two beers and watch a little football. It's important to have the little things in life sometimes.
We have a Rabbi as an occupier at our Methodist church. I call him the radical Rabbi. He calls himself 'embattled' referring to the way some press has described him. He may be one of those people who believes his own press. As an occupier, one has to watch that. One girl this morning said she had been called "The most eligible bachelorette" in OWS. And they may be right, but will she adapt to that description and suddenly become a b*tch? Stay tuned...
At a meeting for the Direct Action group a proposal is made to get $500 for 'squid stuff'. OWS is not poor. The idea is to show up at Goldman Sachs and do something with 'squid stuff' (#Squidding). This is funny as are many of the protest ideas. Wonder what will happen?
Sleeping in a church with 70 other occupiers is also funny. I have said that if I didn't wake up to some disturbance or domestic squabble, I would be suspicious - something would be wrong. Other more quiet discussions outline various people's mental issues. It is generally concurred amongst the group that there any number of people with any number of issues. If you could tell the bi-polars from the multiple personality traits, from the merely depressed occupiers that might be a helpful social skill - but it's difficult. There must be 50 different kinds of psychosis at work at any one time and we don't really have a shrink on staff - so what I do, is simply compare those people and situations to ones I see in daily life.
There is a 400lb man who inhabits my local Starbucks and sits in front of the 6 station electrical outlet and then complains when people ask him to move to plug in their computers. This is normal. Our mayor has deployed hundreds of police and a minimum 12 vehicles + a telescopic crowd viewing pod to Zuccotti park to monitor what at times could be six protesters. This is normal. At another Starbucks a woman proudly declares that she will be sharing my table (for which there is room for only 1 laptop) and then asks (no, declares) that I move my laptop so that she can use hers. She is unapologetic and feeling very entitled to this. This is normal.
Whenever I see odd activity, selfish behavior, short tempers, domestic squabbles, finance troubles, thefts, addiction issues, LGBT issues, misguided romances, homelessness or the Peter Principle at work at OWS, I realize that these are exactly the same things I dealt with at advertising agencies (one writer friend of mine slept in his car for a time) or the real world - the difference is that in #OWS these issues are approached openly, whereas in the real world they are buried, masked and ignored.
I've had many, many people say to me over the last few months that they have seen me happy, engaged, challenged and involved in my activities at #OWS. And what I know is that I am homeless no more. "Maybe you have found your calling", I have heard. Maybe I have.