occupykiss

anarchist blog from #OWS

Category: Uncategorized

PROVIDENCE & PIZZA

‘Five days ago I wrote a post about an emergency housing situation that someone notified me about. A friend of mine had been worried that the church she was staying at was going to be shut down because of the theft of a high value item. I ended the post with no word back that things were ok, but a feeling that everything was going to be all right.

Well mine is a work-based faith and so I’ve moved into that very same church to make sure everything works out. Perched atop a balcony looking over a cavernous room half a football field in size, it’s a big space to unpack your thoughts. Occupiers sleep among the pews below like wolves in a den. Some of these wolves have pissed on crosses. Some of these wolves have damaged church artwork. Some stole the pastor’s laptop. And some of the filthiest, mangiest of the pack stole the cover too the church’s baptismal, dumping out the water in the process. Water that came from the river Jordan.

A pack of animals. Or was it animal, as in a lone wolf? I don’t know, but I have noticed a change in my demeanor and writing over the past couple days. I’m out of my funk, or at least can see the light at the end of the cave. I’m regaining my faith.

Which means I’m also back on the warpath.

By the time I finally get to sleep, I realize I don’t have a blanket. Luckily, the trusted Titans blue duffle is packed with clothes. So I layer up and bed down for the night among the yacking wolves.

Oh yeah, we had a great action yesterday, “Occupy the Courts.” Hundreds if not a thousand people marching on city hall. Only yelling and marching outside at this time of year isn”t always the best for your health, and now we have a church full of sick people.

So I go to sleep to the smell of vomit and the sounds of wretching, huddled on the floor like an animal, wondering just what I”ve gotten myself into.

“They want protesters, but they don”t want to deal with them when they get sick.” This from a sniffling occupier standing with me outside of the upper west side church we”re staying at. It”s Saturday morning and it”s snowing. There are competing holes growing in both my shoes, a pair of canvass slip-ons I picked up from the donation pile back at the park. I make a brisk, light path to the downtown subway.

It still amazes me that I lasted even two years in the army the way I inherently despise authority figures. For example, I can”t just walk into the public atrium at 60 Wall Street and clean up the miscellaneous garbage (food trays, bread bags, etc) that I know are the left over clutter from our movement using this space as our unofficial meeting grounds.

No, first I have to mess with the security guards. “Who the fuck is in charge of cleaning this place?” I demand, walking up to a group. “It looks like a shit hole.”

“That ain’t our job” one of them mutters and I stare at him like he just got himself fired.

“Get me a fucking trash bag, it takes 15 minutes, Christ.” And I storm off without waiting for a response, finding my own bags at the bottom of a trash bin across the atrium.

Fuck ”em. If they”re going to bullshit all morning in a filthy environment while they”re getting paid and I”m going to improve this space for free, I might as well call them out. As I glance across the room, one security guard is still looking for a trash bag.

There we go man, take some pride in ownership. But then, you only feel embarrassed for being called out as being lazy. You don”t feel ownership of this place, or the commons in general. You just feel the comfort of an easy job with a reliable paycheck.

I feel that my socks are wet.

The righteous man shall be provided for, I”m almost positive that”s in the bible somewhere. But then, what about the self-righteous? Aren”t they just begging for their comeuppance? Do we live in a world of plenty, where my needs will be taken care of if my intentions are pure? Or do we live in a dog eat dog, wolf eat wolf kind of world?

Catching up on the Sysiphian task of daily blog postings in J&R electronics, my faith is affirmed. A worker in the balcony cafe of the electronics store reminds me that the public computer terminals are for just 20 minutes of use, and I”ve been there for a couple hours now.

To be completely candid, I didn”t need the reminder. I kind of knew I was abusing the system, worse that I hadn”t purchased anything. Zero cash economy man, will blog for food, not really working out yet. But then I overheard a couple seated behind me discussing Occupy Wall Street. My belief in providence leaped into action.

I couldn”t help but overhear…Here”s a copy I happen to have of our declaration…of course I”d appreciate a coffee!

The worker scowls at me as I walk back to the computer terminal. He better believe his team member ass that I”m going to milk this cup of coffee for at least a couple more hours.

But trading pamphlets for coffees is not true providence. No, I need a bigger test. I have to encounter my proverbial angel to earn what Jacob earned when he was granted the name Israel: I have to wrestle my own blessing from fate. But then, didn”t Israel come away from that struggle permanently crippled?

The scene is Papa John”s Pizza in the Financial District. I asked the manager earlier, around 7pm, if he had any extra pies available. You see, I”m from occupy, we have a GA going on right now, I worked for you guys a long time ago, I know sometimes there are some orders that aren”t picked up, pies lying around. He waved his hand in what I originally took as an “I”ll take care of you” gesture but I”m starting to realize was more of a “fuck off” kind of wave.

It”s approaching 8pm. I”m not leaving without my pizza.

I”m willing this act of charity to happen. I don”t ask again and I don”t smile. I sit patiently as the customers enter and exit. I get faked out by a small cheese I think is intended for me and grin, but then it”s back to all business. I haven”t eaten all day.

It takes them the better part of an hour to finally decide to send a small cheese my way. It”s almost a Pyrrhic victory as I burn my tongue on the hot greasy goodness in my haste. I imagine my victory speech: “You own the companies but they work for us, if we”re only brave enough to ask for their help.”

I consider the gooey little disc my trophy. I imagine myself the proudest person boarding an uptown train that night.

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WHO IS AN OCCUPIER?

One of the hardest things I”ve been trying to deal with since coming to NYC is how to work within this movement full time. My first day, I did what so many other people did on their first introduction to the community: I wandered around like a lost freshman on their first day of school before finally settling into homeroom.

For Occupy Wall Street, our homeroom in Zuccotti was the Think Tank. From noon until 5pm you could always find a group of people engaged in intense discussion just east of the kitchen. There was no set agenda, or set group of people. As a new person, it was usually the most eclectic group you”d find, filled with not only your Zuccotti types but casual passer-by”s as well, and staffed by at least one facilitator.

So there I was, 6-8 hours into my first occupy day, still with my hippie beard and my natty carribean locks, taking part in my first “C.T. Butler” facilitated discussion. You didn”t just speak your peace whenever you wanted, but had to signal the facilitator to be put on “stack.” This was a revolution, similar to how I imagine a barbarian would feel who first witnesses the use of eating utensils. What a concept! A general and yet civilized discussion among strangers with topics that are actually developed as opposed to devolved into “life sucks” or “what can you do” nihilism.

People talked as if they believed they could actually DO something about how they felt. They talked like they had the power to change the world, or at least the will to try and imagine what that change could look like. After a couple timid attempts at participation, I finally worked up the courage to ask the group the question that was on my mind, totally off topic of course.

Sooo… Do you guys still need people? I mean, to stay here? Because I don”t want to intrude if there”s not enough space…

To this day I”m the only person I know who asked to occupy Zuccotti Park.

The answer was interesting. Not a resounding yes from those in the discussion who lived in the park, but not a no either. More like a polite brush off, like when you realize too late everyone”s not going straight home after the school dance.

Not everybody makes it to the after-party.

I decided to go to a friend”s house that night. It took a couple more days before I finally committed to staying in the park full time, and even then I never pitched a tent. For two weeks up until the illegal raid I either slept outside (sometimes without a sleeping bag) or walked the park with our de-escalation team. I didn’t feel right contributing to our ever-growing crowding problem, even though during my stay our population grew at least 10%. I didn’t come to Zuccotti just to pitch a tent or march or protest against corporate greed.

I’m only now realizing that I came to create a better world. I’ve held this hope inside like a wish I didn’t dare speak out loud. My experiences here have been showing me how to a voice to that wish. It is the shared dream of the people I talk to, reaching out because they look lost or not sure where the after party is either.

I talk to them in conversations that involve tears because I’m selfish. Passion inspires me, things that I discover I’m passionate about and the passion that is revealed through the sincerity of others.

Friday afternoon finds me sitting outside of a courtroom after my first hearing, the trial postponed to a future date. I’m talking to this guy next to me, a nice enough kid too smart for his own good who I know from my couple months bumming around the occupied office. He starts getting into how he can’t wait until spring, for the “dead weight” to fall off the movement. And my halcyon sense of unity, being a tribe of occupiers processed in solidarity by corrupt systems, vanishes. Or rather, the full recollection comes back. Since my first blush with this movement, I sensed an exclusionary guardedness that has no place in a populist movement.

Some of us were members of a community. Some of us were dead weight. The plight of the noble activist’s burden rears its swollen head once more.

One of the hardest things I’ve been trying to deal with since coming to NYC is how to work within this movement full time. This has nothing to do with personal finances. Sure, I started this blog finally on January 9th as a quick fix to my cash flow problem, buying a laptop with my working group money and expecting a couple posts and a donation button to pay for it all. But now it’s 2 weeks later, the laptop’s long since been returned, I damaged my credibility with our working group’s membership and I’m still broke.

But these aren’t hard things. These are good learning experiences. I never regret my foolish behavior, because the fool receives the best education. Also sometimes the most painful.

The hardest thing, my largest challenge, is working with people who don’t share my values. I’m coming to realize that OWS, as originally envisioned by myself, and as being rediscovered over the course of this so-far 2 week attempt at introspection, is a place where you don’t have to compromise your values. You step up to be worthy of them. At least, that’s what a movement means to me.

Friday night finds me at Spokes Council, listening to a proposal directed at excluding an admittedly repeatedly disrupting member of our community. Regardless the opinions in the room (mostly positive) or the veracity of the claims against this person, we’re all silenced by a beautiful silver-haired matriarch from OWS en Espanol, who rolls her wisdom with a heavy Latin inflection:

We are dragging a whole world that we are trying to leave behind.

And for that brief moment, those of us in the room are lent a mirror.

THANK YOU FOR NOT SLEEPING

Cast: Shazz, Occupier, Subway Guy, Large Homeless Man

[scene 1: New York City subway car, midnight]

Shazz: Tell me again why we’re not sleeping in the churches?

Occupier: Fuck the churches and their lists. You can go sleep in the churches if you want, I’m sleeping here on the subway.

Shazz: Have you ever slept on the subway before? You shouldn’t go it alone, especially your first time.

Occupier: How complicated can t be to sleep on a moving train? This isn’t a boxcar and we’re not hobos. It’s public transit and we’re occupiers. What could possibly go wrong?

Shazz: Razor blades.

Occupier: Razor what?!

Shazz: Razor blades. They use razor blades to cut the straps from your bag. Or cut open your pockets. While you sleep. People get robbed on the subway.

Occupier: I don’t have anything of value to steal.

Shazz: The thief doesn’t know that.

Occupier: Maybe I’ll hang a sign around my neck, already fucked over by the NYPD, nothing left.

Shazz: Or they can hit you.

Occupier: Why would they hit me?

Shazz: Some guy fresh out of Rykers, sees fresh young meat on the subway, thinks your clothes are fancy enough to hit you while you’re sleeping and run off with your shit.

Occupier: What shit?! I don’t have anything of value! You’re paranoid.

Shazz: I have a sharpie, for your sign. You want to go find some cardboard?

Occupier: I want a smoke. Let’s get off here.

[scene 2: Brooklyn street, 2am]

Shazz: Man, that building says it’s 23 degrees.

Occupier: They call this balls in your throat weather.

Shazz: I noticed.

Occupier: What?

Shazz: What?

Occupier: I’m hungry.

Shazz: I’m going to ask that store if they plan on throwing food away anytime soon.

[scene 3: subway sandwich shop, 1:15am]

Shazz: Hey man, do you have any bread you’re about to throw out? My friend and I are hungry.

Subway Guy: You can have that piece there.

Shazz: Thanks!

SG: You want any cheese on that?

Shazz: What? Sure! Awesome!

SG: Veggies? Whatever you want, just no meat.

Shazz: Aw hell yeah. Put everything on it then. Some pepperoncinis, hook up some of that chipottle sauce. Hey can you toast that?

SG: No.

Shazz: Oh…

[scene 4: New York City subway car, 2am]

Occupier: Dude, that was the best free sandwich I’ve ever had.

Shazz: I know, I’m getting pretty good at asking for stuff. See, we live in a world of plenty. All you have to do is ask. Of course, you have to be willing to share. I kind of regret you being around, I could have had a whole sandwich…

Occupier: That’s messed up.

Shazz: I’m just trying to survive. Actually, right now I’m just trying to sleep. Hey, don’t lay down like that, the cops will harass you.

Occupier: (looks around empty car) What cop? I’m just relaxing. I’m not going to sleep…

[cut to black screen with text: “2 hours later…”]

Shazz: (Wakes up looking startled. Quickly glances around subway car. Occupier across the car has been replaced by a large homeless man)

LHM: …

Shazz: Hey, uhm…Did you see where my friend went?

LHM: … What did you say?

Shazz: (Leaning in) My friend, white guy. He was sitting right, uhm, there.

LHM: I ain”t seen no one.

Shazz: …

LHM: …

Shazz: (Puts head back down and goes back to sleep)

[scene 5: 60 Wall Street, late afternoon]

Occupier: Dude!

Shazz: Dude! What the hell happened to you?! I thought you were robbed, or jumped, or eaten or something.

Occupier: I got arrested.

Shazz: (Laughs)

Occupier: Yeah, so this cop comes by and tells me I can’t be laying down on the subway.

Shazz: I told you they’d fuck with you.

Occupier: You didn’t tell me I’d get arrested.

Shazz: Damn.

Occupier: Yeah, I just got out about (looks at watch) half an hour ago.

Shazz: Damn.

Occupier: Yeah. You want to go protest Obama? I hear he’s fund raising up in Harlem.

Shazz: I would man, but I’m hitting the church. I need to get a good night’s sleep.

Occupier: Yeah…

SPENDING SPOKES ON MY BACK

As I write this I’m under a fold-out table against a wall in a large open space filled with 100 or so people. I am laying on my back with my head resting on my baby blue Titans duffle bag. I’m tired. I spent the last night in Zuccotti keeping a good guy company. He hasn’t missed a single night in the park since Dec. 1st. I promised him I’d try to help his group, Liberty 24×7, raise a diner budget so they can take an hour break from the harsh winter once a shift while they try to keep Liberty Square occupied.

Ha, I’ve been calling it Zuccotti all this time and forgot about that symbolic, historic name reference. Goes to show that I’m not one for the abstract. A park’s a park. And then, sometimes, it’s not just a park.

But these guys are doing good work and I dare anyone to stand next to them overnight. The Brookfield security force ditches before they do, and they have pictures to prove it 🙂

So anyways, I’m tired from last night, and in my mind I’m comparing the guys occupying the park in 20 degree weather right now with what the hundred or so people are doing around me in this nice borrowed (rented?) space. Which action is more effective? Well, we know which action controls the purse strings. People aren’t braving the Zuccotti cold to access funds. Well they were until the spending freeze went into effect. And when GA’s are cut down to twice weekly, as proposed, then there will be less of a reason to be in the park.

Which is good, some people say. Occupations are supposed to be short and effective, make a point and then you’re done. They aren’t supposed to be mini-intentional communities. But I take issue with this, and maybe I’m wrong but I’m pretty sure a majority of the people who lived in the park will agree. I liked our mini-intentional community. When I walked into the park, I felt like I was liberating myself from all the BS of New York. Yes, there were problems and fights and gentrification already popping up. Someday scientists will discover that the gene that helps to accumulate and horde wealth is tied to a built-in human altimeter, or this is the only reason I can give for rich people always living in high places. It’s always the hills, the best views, the cliffs, the bluffs. In our park the difference was just a matter of scale, but sure as shit the college and library folks, degree dudes, lived “uptown,” meaning a foot or two higher in gradual elevation. And towards the bottom, through “anarchist row,” the park dissolved into a jumble of tents, confusion and the vague (sometimes omnipresent) smell of ganja.

While I was trying to diffuse a situation one of those last nights I walked into a jumble of tents, tarps and pallets stacked in a corner I’d never visited. These guys were hard at work on their future “duplex,” two stories I think they were going to make it. And yes, they played music and shared their weed. Good people.

And that was the story the park over in those last days, everyone doing their own thing with no coordination, our identity fracturing. Yet the physical geography still gave us a sense of unity that we’re appreciating now more than ever, in hindsight that is. The closest thing we have are the churches, which seem to be self-destructing, and these group meetings, which were still-born. Well, GA still kindles that populist fire in me everyone now and then, when the crowd is there and it’s facilitated wisely.

So I’m under a table napping while the crowd around me sounds hostile. I grew up in a household of yelling, this feels like home. But eventually I get up (startling some girls sitting on the table) and find a guy with a guitar case. Home is a nice place to visit, but music is better for my peace of mind.

Why are these Spokes Councils so dysfunctional? Well, the way it was explained to me, Spokes Council is a democratic process of decision making where groups nominate a speaker, the “spoke,” to each join in a larger assembly, a council of spokes, to come to consensus on issues. Everyone’s not supposed to speak, only your spoke. The logic is that instead of having a body of hundreds of people shouting at each other, you now only have dozens shouting at each other.

I think we’ve accomplished this tonight and can go home. Oooh, I can hear the shouting from out here. The guy I like to call cat-burger (longish but self-explanatory story) is calling out the privilege now, and fuck you with your degrees and fuck you too with your process. Nice. Was thinking it, but someone had to say it. Which is why it’s so hard to really get mad at the disruptions of process.

For example, funny story: the night our infamous Egypt Delegation proposal was coming up, I was taking stack. That was back when I was interested in facilitation, when I thought these decision-making processes were interesting. Not that I don’t still, but I’ve grown a little more critical over the months. So there I was, bright eyed and eager, running around taking names, assuring people that yes you’ll be next up to speak, sorry we have to put her ahead of you it’s a progressive stack, oh wait you are a transgendered male who identifies as a female AND an African American with just a bad case of vitaligo and relaxed hair? Well to the top of the list then sir!

So there’s this one disruption from my side of the assembly. The nice presenters who were describing the trip to Egypt, how it was for solidarity and as a cultural exchange, how initially the price tag of $30k or however much it was sounded like a lot but it was a worthy cause, on and on she was selling us on the idea. But then this guy, probably drunkenly, shouts out ‘that would feed a lot of people. $30,000 would feed a lot of people. That’s a lot of money. That would feed a lot of people.’ And so on. Eventually the proposal was passed, only to be axed later once the raid happened and violence broke out in Egypt.

And the funny thing is, it’s becoming harder to get fed now. It’s becoming harder to find housing now. I’m probably going to sleep on the subway tonight because I don’t want to bother with the churches and their lists. I’m starting to realize that $30k IS a lot of money. Heck, I’m scrounging to find $15 for another month of hosting for this blog. I have one contact left, when I really need to see I just close my right eye. Eventually I’m going to have to see an optometrist. And a dentist. And a bartender wouldn’t hurt, you know, to round it out.

I’m starting to come to terms with the fact that we can’t be full-time occupiers, at least not on the dime of OWS and the money that was donated. That was money to help our protest camp stay in Zuccotti – I’m sorry, Liberty – the winter. Now it’s just being wasted, and now our time’s being wasted talking about it.

This whole discussion started before I showed up, something about a guy who hit another guy over a metro card. That’s the only reason I’m still sticking around, really. No, not to hit someone, although…Naw, I just need a metro card.

So now I’m asking you good reader to pony up a couple bucks so in the future I can buy my own metro cards and avoid this craziness. At first I thought we should have a proposal, Buy Out Buy In, where we split the money out amongst the occupiers to “buy them out” then ask them to buy back into the movement, attaching a physical act to a metaphorical identity building exercise. But now I’m thinking maybe we should just go to the donor community at large, in what will probably be another record breaking year for campaign fund raising, and ask people to buy what good they recognize out of the Occupy Wall St movement.

Save me and others like me. Allow us to become full time activists. And let the rest go down with the ship.

Naw, we”ll still try to figure out how to further this movement. I just really hate these fucking meetings…

LIBERTY 24×7

Freegan Laws of NYC (an ongoing series…)

#47 – The Public Transit Paradox

-Jumping turnstiles gets you a ticket by a public servant, because public services are under funded

-The subways are under funded so many stations are left unmanned

-Unmanned subway stations are the easiest to jump

#12 – The People’s Fridge

-If you pass by a store that sells food, they will probably later throw out some of this food

-If the food is individually wrapped in pre-packaged containers, even better (Starbucks, Duane Reede)

-If the weather’s below 40 degrees and you find bags of these containers on the sidewalk, you’ve just encountered the people’s fridge

I am inside a wing of Trinity Church writing these notes into my little black spiral notebook. Of course, I also have my baby blue Titan’s duffle bag at my feet. This is the historic church a block from Zuccotti that predates the United States. John Adams is supposedly buried here. Or someone.

I left my friend’s apartment last night. Since I came to New York Nov. 1st of last year, I’ve realized that there is a difference between being casually involved in this movement and being pot-committed. I’ve also realized that I’m the type of person that can only be all-in. So explaining how I appreciated the hospitality, the offers to assist in job-hunting and the concern, I left what my friend describes as the “real world” to return to our cartoon version down here on Wall Street.

Only we’re not located out of Wall Street anymore. We lost the park two months and two days ago. I calculate this anniversary as I take the subway downtown around 11pm. 60 Wall Street is closed by now. There wouldn’t be any more meetings or assemblies going on. We’re a diaspora now, we’re scattered. But maybe a good reintroduction to the community would be a pilgrimage to our holy site, the park. So to the park I went, er, pilgramaged.

The good thing about Tuesday night was that it was a warm 30-40 degrees (coming from California, that just sounds unnatural). A night like this you could walk the streets without a plan. Luckily, I didn’t need much of one. I immediately run into a couple guys who belong to a self-described Liberty Park vigil, Liberty 24×7. Their goal is to keep a constant presence in the park until spring, to prove they can. To show the establishment, Brookfield properties, ourselves, that we’re not defeated. I just found what I’m doing tonight. As I sit here in a church writing and reflecting on my all night vigil, I realize just how much of a religious act it was. Symbolism and symbolic acts are very powerful. It may seem irrational to some, but like displaced people across the globe we are fighting for our own scrap of holy land. Something about what we were creating, or even just what we believed we were creating, calls to us. Something draws us back to the source, back in time.

We all have our personal stories, our personal quests we undertook before this movement. Sometime early in 2010 I found myself in San Francisco, living out of my car. I wanted to do an anti-war action to protest and wake up the world to the ongoing genocide in Iraq. All I could think of was to walk back and forth in front of the government building downtown that housed Nancy Pelosi’s office. I did this for 3 days, 5 hours a day. I wanted to walk the distance from Iraq’s southern border to Baghdad, the path of the invasion. All I did was bruise my feet.

We all fight our personal, moral battles. The only difference now is that we’ve converged to fight together.

The first two people I saw in the park last night were a guy from OWS en Espanol and another bearded old timer I hadn’t met before. The Spanish guy I recognized from his table in the park. I hadn’t seen him since the eviction, but he still bought me a cup of coffee and a donut for offering to relieve them early. The next shift would be coming on in an hour. The old timer said he’d been there since 10am.

Soon after they left I was the only one in Zuccotti. Contrasting that moment of sterile serenity to the gypsy circus I approached my first morning in NYC was interesting.

A drunk guy wandered by for a chat, offering to buy me something from the food cart, only to realize when we walked over that he’d spent all his cash at the bar. And then another old timer, this time in Zuccotti years and not real world years, came by for a chat.

What’s up Shazz?

I’m occupying the park. These guys are keeping a constant presence through the winter and I thought I’d help tonight.

That’s awesome man!

The Park Old Timer, or POT, went on to tell me some pretty cool stories about the occupation before I arrived. He said the first day it was a cluster fuck, with union guys at one end beating the same tired labor horse. But then some guys over on the west side of the park started organizing a GA, showing people the rules and process of how to hold a General Assembly. POT says that they claimed to be anarchists but he suspected they were IWW. He described how the whole afternoon 50 or so people in the park drifted first to the GA, then to the Union speakers, and then back to the GA. They eventually all settled at the GA, got their first empowering taste of direct democracy in action and the rest is history.

History still in the making that is. Once other global revolutions saw that we were holding GA’s, they sent literature and information on how they had organized into the working group models and governing bodies. POT explained how General Assemblies and Spokes Councils were originally intended to be a part of the same decision-making process. If consensus couldn’t be reached in GA, you broke out into a Spokes Council to hash out the details then reconvened the GA to approve what came out of Spokes.

POT then articulated the one thing that summarized anarchism better than anything I have previously read: you’re supposed to try everything until something works and then claim that this is what you were going for all along.

When did our movement become so static? When did we lose our anarchist spirit? When did we stop demanding the impossible, a better world, and instead warp those demands inward and smaller in scale. When did we become self-obsessed? When did we become self-defeating?

Perhaps the answer lies with religion. Sitting here writing, I just got caught up in a communion, or whatever they call that morning prayer thing in Catholicism. People came around and they all started reading stuff. Not wanting to appear rude or particularly heathenish, I kept up best I could and came away with the following gem…

A Collect for Guidance:

Heavenly Father, in you we live and move and have our being: we humbly pray you so to guide and govern us by your Holy Spirit, that in all cares and OCCUPATIONS of our life we may not forget you, but may remember that we are ever walking in your sight: through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen. WWJD? He’d probably hang around, at least for a couple days…

EMERGENCIES & CHARITY

(Song playing: Out the Airlock by Paul Dempsey)

I walk in with $1 to my name and lay it on the counter. It’s all I got I say. I offer to maybe just get a banana, or you can hook me up. The guy laughs through his beard and starts filling up a small cup of coffee. I toss the buck into the tip jar.

You come into my Starbucks with just a dollar and expect to get a cup of coffee?” He busts my balls as he hands me the drink.

And I feel bad for not giving the dollar to the guy on the street who challenged me to a pull-up contest. Because this coffee was free. Everything is free. You just have to ask for it. The corollary of course is that you also are required to share what you have to the last penny, the last drop.

Are you one of those people who tip their heads sideways as they pour milk into their coffee, helping assist gravity with their body language? Did you give anything away today? Did you give me a look when I passed you on the street, maybe because I was singing into the snow or beat boxing to the crunch of my own feet?

What did you do today that made you smile? That made someone else’s day?

I myself was woken up around noon, or rather was kept from finally falling to sleep. I’ve been hard at work here in my refuge on the corner of Central Park trying to get these blog posts completed and online. At one point I had been writing faster than I had been posting, but I should be caught up by tonight.

Tomorrow night at the latest.

Caught up on sleep is a whole ‘nother matter. And then there’s the whole concern about not wanting to wear out my welcome.

Goodwill and charity only go so far until you have to become a productive member of the community. Is blogging a productive contribution? Time will tell, as measured by my ability to survive off these ramblings. In the meantime I checked out the local pizza shop on the way to bum this coffee.

Como se llama? Y a que hora regreso? Manana a las cuatro? Gracias bella

Speaking of bella, so this girl calls the apt around noon, a friend of mine. She informs me that we’ve (OWS) just lost West Park church as a housing option. Someone stole a high value item, she thinks it was a saboteur, yadda yadda. 100 occupiers in the streets tonight unless we find an alternative. She asks about the Woodstock Farm.

Ha ha, yeah, about that…

So I promise to make some phone calls and emails. Now I haven’t really gone to sleep yet, was hoping to catch a couple hours in the afternoon. Out of convenience for my friend here in her cramped apt I’m trying to sleep around her work schedule to be able to use her computer more. But I throw a couple feelers out there. Funny enough I get a response within minutes of posting to the spending freeze proposal page. There’s been an interesting discussion bubbling since that passed, over 60 comments and counting as of this morning, and they sound like mostly sincere folk.

This girl who messages me worked with the Park Slope church when we had occupiers crashing there. She said she might have an answer by this afternoon. I put her in touch with my friend at the church and pass out.

Now it’s half past nine. The snow’s not sure if it wants to chicken out and drizzle or tough the fluffy fall to the sidewalk, where it’s just going to melt anyways. It’s too warm for snow, but still too cold to be stuck out on the streets.

So far I haven’t gotten any emails, but then right now I don’t have a laptop with me. Just my trusty black spiral notebook and a pencil. But I have a feeling everything’s fine.

And if it’s not? Well, I’ll be headed back down to the occupation tomorrow to lend a hand. Just as soon as I catch this blog up…

Spokes Council was tonight. I’d be interested to find out what they thought of or did about this housing crisis. Interesting point of information: I don’t think the spending freeze affected them. Ah, now I think I understand. One the super-structure is in place, the foundation can be allowed to rot.

But I come from California, where an earthquake will test even the strongest of foundations. What happens when the building is not only not reinforced, but actually weakened through neglect? Well the bible talks about castles built on sand, folks talk about houses of cards and programmers talk about GIGO = garbage in garbage out.

It’s always surprising to watch how efficient people can be at avoiding the task at hand. Needs are in danger of not being met, real needs like shelter from the NYC winter. Our GA seems anemic. Let’s see if I can be a force for empowerment.

Buy Out Buy In, maybe your time has come as an emergency proposal for Tuesday’s General Assembly. Or maybe there’s a better use for my time and skill set. After all, this city still needs people to deliver its pizzas, among other things.

Martin Luther King Jr.

Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted.

A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.

All I’m saying is simply this: that all mankind is tied together; all life is interrelated, and we are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. For some strange reason I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. And you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be – this is the interrelated structure of reality. John Donne caught it years ago and placed it in graphic terms: No man is an Island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main… And then he goes on toward the end to say: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee. And by believing this, by living out this fact, we will be able to remain awake through a great revolution.

FREEZE SUCKA

$35,000 a plate.

That’s what I pondered as I ate my frosted flakes drowned in more coffee than milk. Barack Obama, our great creative visionary transformative president is having a fund raiser dinner at the White House and charging attendees $35,000. A plate.

Never mind that the White House has become an ATM for cash-and carry politicians. Let’s talk about nutrition. How much is a recommended serving of meat, 6-8 ounces? Let’s say gold is hovering at $1,500 an ounce. That’s cash for a double-serving of gold as your main entree with enough left over on the tab to afford a gold flaked side or a diamond-encrusted dessert.

But of course, people aren’t really buying dinner. They’re buying access to our president. The guy who would be my commander in chief if I was still in the military. He’d be my 2012 presidential pick if I underwent a lobotomy. Then again, I hear his canvassers get paid.

$35,000.

How do you put that type of fund raising in perspective? That’s a lot of coffee-soaked frosted flakes. That’s a lot of pastrami sandwiches. That’s about 70 prettiest pink Vaio laptops. It’s about four years living in this rent controlled apartment I’m currently crashing at on the corner of Central Park. It’s about 20 years of food for one occupier using our current rule of thumb of $5 a person a day. It could be over twice that many years board according to the $2-$6 a head that we pay local churches to house our diaspora.

Oh yeah, I don’t know if I clarified a couple posts ago when I ended with the erection of a tent in the newly liberated Zuccotti park. That lasted all of 2 minutes before the private security goons came in and tore it down.

So here we are, watching our cash reserves dwindle over the winter while the establishment politicians out there rake it in over what should be another record-breaking election. They say that well over $6 BILLION dollars might be in play this year, with Obama pulling in over $1 BILLION himself.

And meanwhile, over here at Occupy Wall Street they just passed a proposal to FREEZE spending. That’s right. Not create a comprehensive analysis of possible increases in donations, plotting past actions against donation spikes to create objective metrics that can increase our war chest. Not trying to prioritize actions even generally: those that generate press and revenue VS those that don’t multiply our dollars.

Just freeze all the cash. And to make matters worse, and this isn’t something I actually object to, they made exceptions for housing, food and metro cards.

So stop spending money on the actions that actually increase our bank account, while keeping our operating costs fixed. For example, the outreach working group, the folks tasked with getting the word out about our movement throughout the 5 boroughs and before major actions, they now have to make due without their $2,000 a week printing budget. As one member of the group told me, we’ve always got sharpie’s and cardboard.

WTF?

Why go into battle unprepared? Why use stone-age tactics when we have the ability to be as cutting edge as the opposition? Card board signs are important techniques but we did not take Zuccotti by cardboard. People gave us money to support the movement we were creating. The money’s slowed to a trickle because we’ve stagnated as an organization.

I’ve talked to the people who organized this proposal, both the well-intentioned and those I don’t trust. I’ve been flaming the proposal page on the OWS website. In the end I fear that this is a power move to push the movement towards affinity and therefore less transparent funding sources, as a first step towards eventual co-option by the establishment. In order to steer a movement, first you need to get it on the payroll.

Discussions like these don’t address our underlying issue of stagnation. We haven’t just frozen in place. Our identity’s been fractured since the park was raided and we haven’t addressed this. This has gotten so bad that now the Occupied Office received an “anonymous complain,” most likely from an inside source based on the wording, that caused it to limit access. Now our fancy Wall Street headquarters, as described on CNN, is only accepting 17 or so people at a time (happily posting the complaint online as their justification). And guess who proposals like these come from?

The office rats who occupy behind the doormen. I’m glad I ditched that place when I did, while I could still feel the stifling undemocratic atmosphere in the air. Because the endgame is to make you comfortable in other ways to the point that you no longer notice, or care, that you’ve forsaken your values for comfort, privilege. Freeze the spending, let the money run out of the General Fund, let the “dead weight” slough off during the winter, and refocus come spring. These are the types of conversations I”d overhear or call out in that office space, when people weren’t complaining in general about the selfless burdens they’d taken on.

I wonder how far Kipling’s “White Man’s Burden” fallacy can be applied to the modern institutional activist? “Hipster’s Burden?” “iPhone Burden?”

“Take up the White Man’s burden
And reap his old reward
The blame of those ye better
The hate of those ye guard”

Yes, guard us from our ignorance, cut our credit cards, ground us and scold us about fiscal responsibility. What words are associated with a spending freeze? Restrictions, responsibility, maturity, scarcity, austerity, limits, accountability, fear of vulnerability, survival. Now what about the other side, spending freely and openly in the hope that in the business we’re in, the business of public activism, action generates income: world of plenty, good will, abundance, gift economy, barter, compassion, love, hope, faith, idealism, providence.

And just who’s is supposed to provide? The people, as long as we continue to inspire them. Watching a bunch of hippies fret over their check book isn’t inspiring, it’s pathetic, and the media’s taking notice. There is big money out there, $35k a plate money, let’s go after it. Let’s not sit on our thumbs and lick our wounds as the noose of impoverishment tightens. This sounds suspiciously like the austerity measures that the global banking cartel tries to force down the throats of its victims.

Oh my God, it all makes sense now: Occupy Wall Street has been centrally banked! As soon as I get back down to Lower Manhattan I’m going to have to look into just what the fuck is going on in finance.

As an after thought, I just want to paraphrase a comment from Sub Commandante Marcos, a Zapatista revolutionary still struggling in the southern jungles of Mexico. Explaining why his movement veered off its intended trajectory, from urban intellectualism to indigenous rights, he answered something to the effect that “we came to the jungle to politicize the Indians, instead they made Indians of us.” This is the personal growth that I felt in the park, that I feel at the best of times in this movement. The homeless weren’t our problem. Money isn’t our problem. You don’t have problems when you have moral conviction, peace is your reward.

Our ability to live our values and by doing so inspire others is our challenge. Now if we can do this while planning large actions that garner attention and that big Obama/Romney money, then maybe we’ll justify calling ourselves a movement.

IF THE KING LOVES MUSIC…

…there is little wrong in the land. Or so an ancient Chinese philosopher claims. It’s close to 7pm last night and I’m glancing through the notebooks in Barnes & Nobel while I wait for a friend. There is no more pretty pink laptop and this little black spiral notebook isn’t going to hold up much longer. But I don’t have any cash. You see I was supposed to get this blog up and running before I start pushing the donations. And it’s hard to get a website up and running without dependable computer access.

I have taken to calling my notebook my Mexican computer. It’s cheaper and functional, sturdier with an amazing battery life. Only thing is that the processor is a little outdated. For example, it’s calculator function is limited to the user’s sobriety, and my facebook updates are only as fast as I can pass it around a room.

Ah, “M” has changed her status to “slightly annoyed at my constant badgering her to write in my notebook.” Maybe I should send her a friendly invitation to the “flying balled up piece of paper to the head” app, almost as fun as angry birds they say.

So there I was window shopping for blank pieces of paper that I could not afford, a both sad and romantic way to kill time. My friend had emailed me earlier asking if I wanted dinner. I figured this meant a break from the occupation for a couple days if I played my cards right, so I conceded. Little did I know I was going to be shanghaied into attending a Manhattan Democratic club meeting. And my hot pastrami wasn’t even the greasy monster you expect from a good hot pastrami, more like dry roast beef than greasy goodness. Philly might have the cheese steak, but LA definitely has the hot pastrami market cornered.

The way it’s been explained to me, New York City politics is very old school “club” oriented. Sort of how you had political bosses of old charged with turning out the vote. If you want anything to happen you have to network through the clubs, each claiming a distinct territory and identity throughout the city. I’m not really familiar with these types of party politic machines. So I sat in the back and just soaked everything up:

– “Robert”s Rules of Order” used in parliamentary process (no twinkles here)
– the appreciation this older crowd had for my friend’s involvement in the club
– the crazies jamming process in any group (as gossiped discretely by my friend)

It was all very interesting. I have to admit though, my tolerance was tested when a lady started a mini-stump speech for Obama, how he’s such a creative and remarkable leader and we really have to make sure his message is heard this year. Visit North Korea much do you? I mean, there’s a point at which a cult of personality becomes self-evident even to the most indoctrinated, or at least I’d HOPE.

Maybe these political clubs could do with a little youthful radicalism. We could wake up these Obama-trons and in return they could show us how to hold effective meetings, a win-win.

I wondered how this type of exchange would play out as I scrubbed down my friend’s stove. Well, I wondered about politics and also about how grease could get so caked onto a stove. What does she cook with, cement? But I don’t want to be a freeloader so I’m trying to contribute. If I behave myself this might turn into a couple nights of rest and relaxation. I could use a little distance from OWS. Plus, I have access to a computer here, aha! My blog can finally come to life! First order of business when I get a little cash in my pocket: hunt down a decent hot pastrami sandwich in this city.

My friend does have a great location though. The apt is modest enough, tiny two-bedroom shared by now four people. But she’s lucky in that it’s rent controlled. Apparently the city of New York both doesn’t like slum lords and doesn’t like keeping seized real estate on its books. Usually the city auctions off these properties to developers, but it took a small percentage of these properties, rehabbed them, and then gave ownership to the tenants.

And so a couple years of paperwork and remodeling later, that’s how my friend ends up with the title to her own two-bedroom apt on the corner of Central Park. Like, literally a block away.

I remember a couple years ago I spent the summer months taking in the city here. I’d smoke a joint and hang out with the fireflies in the evenings and walk the park the mornings. The rush hour traffic of bicyclists, joggers and power walkers fitting their brief self-indulgence among their hectic work schedule, me wandering around in flip-flops. One morning a crowd was camped out for Shakespeare in the Park, which makes tickets available the morning-of for sold out shows or something. Maybe they’re free. I don’t remember, just that there was a long line of people occupying for Shakespeare. Lucky for me I had a friend who helped fund raise for the theater that year, so I was set.

That was the year Pacino played the Merchant of Venice. Pop quiz: what do you do on opening night when you’re playing the title role and your mic goes out in the middle of a character-establishing monologue? Oh, and you happen to be Al Pacino.

You man the fuck up and raise your voice. You’re Al Pacino, yelling is what you do:

“I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? Fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we shall resemble you in that. If a Jew wrong a Christian, what is his humility? Revenge. If a Christian wrong a Jew, what should his sufferance be by Christian example? Why, revenge. The villainy you teach me I will execute, and it shall go hard but I will better the instruction…”

“I WILL HAVE MY BOND!!!”

That was a fun summer. This is a good place to unwind, I’ll take the break while I can. So I’ll end this post with the thought of all the reasons people camp out in public spaces, compared with all of the reasons they should…

POLITICS, POLICE & REOCCUPATION

Ha, I still don’t know whether to keep up my stoned ramblings from yesterday’s post. Back when I was in California, before my Caribbean adventures, the last book project I was trying to sell was entitled “Brown, Queer, High; Cut Back, Locked Up, Sent to Die.” Well, I was in the process of finishing it to sell it, life intervened, noticing a pattern here…

It was another non-fiction radical politics tract, similar to “The Complete American’s Guide to REVOLUTION.” But back then I hadn’t yet escalated to a call for a full-on revolution. My idea was just to advocate for organizing social identities that already existed into political voting blocs that could cross party lines to band together. So the goal was to show how undocumented immigrants, alt sexualities, stoners, students, victims of the prison industry and soldiers all share similar traits. Every one of these groups has strong social bonds while also having their dignity assaulted by the state. They all shared at the very least the moral high ground.

The idea was to interject human rights into our political discussion: the rights of an economic refuge, the right to create your own sexual identity, the right to an education, the right to freedom, the right to not be lied to regarding the mission, conned into illegal unending wars of aggression.

And of course, the right to alter your state of consciousness. Talk about HIGH ground 😉

Of course, marijuana activism has its highs and lows, the lows being confused mugshot photos. It’s one thing to write about injustice, it’s another thing to witness it firsthand. I met a lot of people and took a lot of notes over my week vacation in a for-profit corporate jail. I owe a lot of promises to the guys I met who were also locked up for non-violent drug possession.

I come from Cali, why is shit so fucked up here?
Just the way it is man.
Why don’t you organize?
Orga-who?

Just normal people who liked to smoke weed. Oh, except for the detail that they’re mostly poor minorities, Black and Latino, and make up almost half of our prison population. The only reason I got out in 7 days instead of the typical 45-60 is that I flirted with the in-processing girl, who mentioned my case specifically to the overworked public defender. They have to rack up those billable bodies when you’re a for-profit prison, so it makes sense to keep the system overburdened and understaffed.

In a way drug laws remind me of a funny detail about Stop & Frisk, New York’s idiotic, unconstitutional warrant-less search law. A cop can search you if you’re wearing clothes he deems are associated with criminal activity. Now technically, smoking weed is a crime in this state, or so they tell me. And I know a lot of potheads also dress similarly. Policies like Stop & Frisk allow cops to profile and criminalize whole segments of society which may or may not fall along racial lines but usually do fall along income lines.

To borrow from Sancho Panza of Don Quixote lore, it’s not with whom your bred but with whom your fed. Class trumps race every time, and privilege preempts objectification, not the other way around.

Now imagine if the NYPD brought in a SWAT team to Wall St and set a phalanx across Broadway, blocking off entrance to the stock exchange. Imagine if they created impromptu check points to filter out all the suits, typically white males. Imagine if instead of Stop & Frisk they performed Stop & Audit, a quick check of their financials to catch white collar crime. Maybe even looked into what corporate gangs these thugs are running with.

Oh, you trade Apple stock? I’m afraid they use child labor, sorry we’re going to have to take you in for questioning.

Oh, your company dealt in credit default swaps and bet against the great recession? Is that how you pay for all that ice? And you have the balls to walk my street? You’re gonna like walking the block over at Ryker’s, that is if they don’t break your legs first for helping to destroy low-income communities of color with this manufactured boom and bust hustle. What, you haven’t heard? The streets are getting smarter, they know what’s up. They talk mad shit about mortgage derivatives and muni-debt traps while they cook that rock.

It”s a dream anyways.

We were close to this becoming a reality on November 17th, only someone didn’t give the cops the memo that they were supposed to arrest the SUITS and not the ACTIVISTS. What do you have to do to get some love from the NYPD, donate a shit-ton of money to them or something?

Smart move Chase, well played.

Ok, so there was more to this post other than a general rant about politics, drugs and our ever-growing police state. Let’s see, actually the fences at Zuccotti were taken down earlier this week, I probably should have mentioned that. I was walking up Wall St. with some people and we heard commotion from the direction of the park up ahead. It probably shows my state of mind lately that I expected a bad scene, and not a bunch of cheerful celebrating occupiers streaming into the park.

I’d been dragging around a friend’s guitar, an attempt to try and spend at least part of the day mellowing out and feeding my creative side. The laptop and the money stuff was starting to wear on me. I returned the prettiest of pink Vaios finally and handed the cash and financial responsibilities back over to the group. If they think capital is more valuable in horded money form as opposed to a good or service that you’re really just borrowing interest-free from a corporation, then maybe these people missed their calling in life.

Or maybe I’m growing bitter from arguing about money.

So I played guitar in the newly opened park while a mic check circle formed around what I’d like to think was my positive energy but was most likely the block I was sitting on. Drums were banging, people were laughing and I was realizing just how much a small thing like an open park could lift all our spirits.

And then, crouched down in the middle of the circle, beyond the watchful glare of Brookfield Property’s private security henchmen, blocked in by cheering shouting joyful occupiers, two people started unpacking a duffle bag.

They quickly assembled poles.

They carefully slid them into the frame.

They pitched a tent.