Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Unified Chaos: Occupy Wall Street, From the Loud Comfort of a Found Arm Chair

Manhattan’s Wall Street is under siege. Barricades have seized this quadrant of the city; every block has barricaded sidewalks quelling foot traffic. On my way from the Subway and walking along Broadway to Zuccotti Park, home of New York City’s Occupy Wall Street encampment, I overheard a tour guide complaining that barricades would be barring them from uncomplicated sightseeing.

Occupy Wall Street: Manhattan's Zuccotti Park. 10/12/11 Photo: Nancy J.Parisi
I write this seated in an armchair a few feet behind the sprawling onsite jam band facing outwards toward Trinity Place on the park’s steps. Straight ahead are musicians, flag wavers, dancers, and beyond them the barricaded onlookers, photographers, passersby, and First Responders.

The band is mainly drummers with someone on a full drum kit, various people on other drums and buckets, and a wizened sax player, who at this moment has stopped playing to outstretch his arms toward his audience while shouting “Freedom!”

The armchair is faded floral and was probably found curbside on some nearby partially-residential street. I had an artist friend who had a live-work space on nearby Beaver Street: this is not the most livable of Manhattan neighborhoods. And, as everyone knows, not too far away is Ground Zero.

Moments ago a man, perhaps pleased with my recording of the goings-on with my camera around my neck, and laptop on my lap, came up and gave me a big kiss on the cheek. I can still feel where his stubble brushed my face. Where are all these encampers shaving, and bathing?

There are hundreds of placards (held aloft, and at rest on top of dozens of electric blue tarps that cover clumps of personal possessions. I watched a woman enthusiastically create two anti-greed/government placards from two sides of a pizza box. People donate food, and pizza is a popular item: food is free and I watched the peaceful chow line where people could make a PBJ, eat some pizza or other donated food.

This is all very organized. Live music faces Liberty Place, just across the street from Brooks Brothers and the sky-high NYPD surveillance box, replete with video cameras, and, for some reason, devices to measure wind velocity and direction. A chalkboard announces when organized marches will be taking place, and where they will be headed to.

Just now the band went a bit more up-tempo, inspiring me to write faster: this entire collaborative voiced action in this park is powerful, and is being noticed around the world. Hopefully those high above this park in offices, are realizing that their own actions must change. It's idealistic, and as one of the placards read, it's organized chaos. But it feels - and sounds - good.