I am a native New Yorker. Six words I do not utter with hesitance, words that come out of my mouth with a distinctive pride most would utilize to pronounce their surname or their family’s nationality. By virtue of being born to Gotham it is safe to say that I have seen my fair share of senseless bloodshed, riots, protests, moments of great unity and joint defiance. Most happen so quickly that the resonant emotions of surrealism still linger deep within the inner workings of my mind, others with a distinct methodology that provides observers the ability to dissect, and disseminate what is transpiring before our eyes. Historical events both profound and miniscule dictate the rhythm of our lives, the path of our nation. They affect the very fabric of our society globally, nationally, and locally. They have the power to remind us that we are all connected.
The 17th of September 2011, was a rather chilly, drab day, with an over cast that besieged the skies with the constant threat of and periodic show of rain, a near prompt start to autumn in New York after the tropical invasion that was Irene. I attended a wedding that evening of two dear friends, employees of Goldman Sachs, it was a small intimate affair tucked away in Westchester County just a stones-throw away from the storied village of Sleepy Hallow. The calm, serenity of the environment Stone Barn provided for its’ guests that night spoke volumes to the purity of the occasion. Just forty minutes away on the island of Manhattan, where silence is greeted by its’ residents with fear of the strike of tragedy and noise and calamity is embraced with open arms, men and women made camp for the night at Zuccotti Park. There were no wine pairings, no digestifs or apéritifs, just the cold air running off of the Hudson estuary, wet clothing and a goal to be fulfilled for that small group now known as Occupy Wall Street, the inspiration to a nation-wide socio-political phenomenon.
It was just another day for The Big Apple, who could blame the media for judging it as insignificant; the media has missed far greater an opportunity to inform the public and to be frank there normally is not much to discuss or rather energy needed to be wasted discussing when two groups of people from different ends of the spectrum share the same space in Manhattan as they did in the Financial District that Saturday.
Before that day, if I heard the name Zuccotti I would have politely corrected the person speaking with a hot batch of ignorance “No, it’s pronounced zucchini.” However, now that almost a month has passed and other occupations have taken shape beyond New York City the name Zuccotti is on the tip of my tongue, (it is on the tip many a tongue) the location of the park pops out profoundly, more prevalent on my mental map of the five boroughs than the colossal Empire State Building. Like brail rises against the finger-tips of the blind, this location speaks to a nation, albeit without a coalesced message.
Over time I have found myself immersed in fact finding, showing a little more gumption in developing answers on the matter. I have seen what magazines and other media outlets provide, simple answers to weighted questions “Who are the men and women of Occupy Wall Street?”, “What is it they want?”, “Where is this going?”, “When will it be over?” and “How will it end?”. Unfortunately many of their pieces have only skimmed the surface. The media’s feigned early interest on the subject; exposed by their printed mini profiles of individuals, and results of one hundred people sampled for a questionnaire, sells short our ability to take in and digest information, as if understanding the answers to these quandaries and inquiries is only for the esoteric.
The Obamaville, known as Occupy Wall Street, which has sprung up in the middle of the metropolis’ historic Financial District; a neighborhood symbolic in its existence for one of many reasons, it is the birth place of our nation’s Bill of Rights, however, as of late the effigy of its once grand image is utilized oh to often for political jib jabbing across swing states by news pundits, and candidates running for public office than a true epicenter of commerce, is a thirty three thousand square foot urban camp ground for a diverse cross section of life that has fallen on hard times here in America. As someone one who prior to this event has often walked by the privately owned “sanctuary” of cold, brown granite benches, tables and sidewalk, its’ sick excuse for flora, trees suffocated at the roots by concrete bricks, diesel exhaust polluted air from nearby construction, and noise pollution accentuated by round the clock drilling, honking, sirens, and the unprecedented amounts of double decker bus traffic and coach buses barreling through the classically narrow streets of New Amsterdam, dropping off and picking up every imaginable and unthinkable stereotype of human life to the hallowed grounds of Lower Manhattan, I can firmly say that the demonstrators have put more use to the land, then these eyes have ever witnessed. Surely though after the last demonstrators vacate the location, tourists in the not so distant future will look at the land the same way I did when I was a child and saw “Plymouth Rock” and think with a sardonic attitude “Really this is it? Really…New Yorkers call this a park?” That hypothetical reaction is rather presumptuous though, as it implies there being rather more to this subject then what various individuals have expressed to be a “crass” display of spoiled youth angst.
As I scoured the scene from the perimeters of the park for what I thought would be a hipster rebellion of skinny jeans and the antithetical adorning fashion of ski caps in unseasonably temperate weather, I overheard two men who were walking in front of me conversing and in jest one said to the other “They occupied Williamsburg, now they want Wall St.” (Williamsburg a neighborhood located on the East River in the borough of Brooklyn has most recently become the “it” place for bohemians and artists to live in, those who best represent contemporary pop counter culture). Later another male voice off in the distance screamed “Get a job!” as he probably walked over to dinner at The Capital or drinks at Ulysses’ Tavern, immediately there-after a woman equally aptly dressed as the other males were, walked up next to me and spoke rather shrewdly, in an unmistakable, distinctively New York matter of fact tone “Don’t they know Woodstock is up-state?” I had found the crass spoiled attitude discussed in the news and amongst my own peers, however, it derived from a different source, from the employed, well dressed thirty and forty-somethings of “The Street”.