Wednesday, October 26, 2011

I wrote a piece for called Morning at Zuccotti Park about the Occupy Wall Street movement. I edited some of the video footage I got to the tune of Anisette, a song I of mine from when I was in a band called The Habit. The music is circa 2000 and features Alexander Torres on vocals and bass, Joshua Robinson on drums and me on guitar. The guy who does most of the talking is Michael Angelo Bosch, an activist with a very informative website, Below is an excerpt from the article. To see the whole thing go to (it should be up soon):

"So what is happening in this country that we need to change? As I understand journalism, a blog entry is an opinion piece, so here are a few ranting paragraphs filled with my own opinion (it’s a sort of a landslide so brace yourselves):

A man in a Guy Fawkes mask held up a sign by the entrance at the lowest point of Zuccotti Park, by the Freedom Tower site. It read: “What is our Demand? Better Health Care, Decent Wages, Stop High Mortgages, No More Rent Hikes, Racial and Sexual Equality, Leaders that Represent the People, No More Useless Wars, Balance the F**king Budget, Education + More.” I would have easily dismissed such a list of demands as too general, a “sludge” of “every left-wing cause,” as Fox News producer Jesse Watters said on the O’Rilley Factor. I would have rationalized that it’s not so simple, although having no training in economics none of this can possibly be simple to me. It would have been easy to do that if a few of these topics did not incidentally drop into my life around this time:

Rent Hikes. I left the ghetto a year ago even though our landlord offered us a lease without an increase. I didn’t realize how “gracious” this was until this year, though even if I had I still wouldn’t have put up with death-threats from our drunk neighbors who were simply drowning their disappointments in their own way... This year our rent went up. My salary did not. It hasn’t in almost four years. I’m young, so this was the first time I realized how important a cost of living yearly increase is. We asked for a raise at work and were told that because of the economy, nobody is getting one. I did the research, and as far as our income bracket was concerned, they were right. “Decent Wages” - check.

I called the landlord and told her this, and she said that it’s not up to them. The Rent Control Board has authorized the rent hike. I guess it seemed obvious to her that she would increase the rent as much as she could, and although she took ten dollars off upon my phone call, it still went up. So here is a government commission authorizing owners to increase rent every year regardless of the economy and the interests of those affected by it. “Leadership that Represents the People” - check.

New York has a constant flow of wide-eyed youngsters who are willing to pay too much to get to live here, until they realize in a year that they can’t afford to, so the market is flooded. Much like the New York tour-bus industry, of which I was a part of, landlords don’t need to provide good customer service - the hype of the city itself assures anyone who has the capital to get into that kind of industry can do what they want. So much for the free market’s self regulation. And speaking of raises, the very employees we bailed out with our taxes, bank CEOs, are getting bonuses again. Phew. Enough about the issues. Back to the magic of Occupy Wall Street."

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Yogi on Life, the Universe and who lives on Wall Street.

So I'm walking to work last night and a mature gentleman in a leather jacket asks me if I can buy him sugar and butter. He's holding up DVDs in exchange. "I have oatmeal," he says. "You can't have oatmeal without butter and sugar." He has salt and pepper Afro-curls showing under his leather cap and a huge grin revealing no upper teeth. "I know it's embarrassing," he says, smiling, "but I have no teeth and oatmeal is all I can eat..." "It's not embarrassing," I say and immediately think "I don't think he meant embarrassing for me", proceeding to help him with his sugar and butter problem. I tell him he can keep the DVDs. Then I hear the sounds of a trumpet. I have my camera with me. There is a woman across the street dressed in high class, see-and-be-seen white night-club dress with high black boots and is walking a dog. "Strange attire for dog-walking," I think, and consider filming her, but I turn back on 39th Street and go film Yogi, the trumpet playing prophet on Seventh Avenue. He has a talent for putting everything in a nut shell. Besides, he exerts a certain gravitational field with his trumpet sound...

Monday, October 17, 2011

Reaching for the Obelisk (Occupy Wall Street at the foot of One Liberty Plaza)

It may not be there after today,” my colleague said when I told him I haven’t been to the occupation downtown. At first I had assumed it was just something to keep those same activists busy who perpetuate that never-ending avalanche of emails my tiny donations seem to have attracted to my inbox. After gay marriage was legalized I started to see subject lines that had to do with whales again, so I figured it was about time for the new big thing... Rent went up, my crew asked for a raise, and nothing evaporates nonchalance and cynicism faster than rejection. By then corporate greed did not seem like such a general slogan anymore. Having gotten into the habit of ignoring emails from activists, I had to go check out the occupation for myself, only I was being told that they may be tricked into leaving Zucotti Park under the pretext that it had to be cleaned. “3,000 people are waiting for the cops to kick them out,” my colleague said. I suppose no matter how long the cleaning got postponed, as long as the 3,000 were there that fact wouldn’t change.

The first paragraph is bullshit. There were two reasons why I did not check out the demonstrations when they first happened. One was that I couldn’t picture myself getting into the atmosphere without drugs. I’ve been sober for going on six years, and I still don’t know if I can handle excitement in such a large group of people without them. The other reason was that footage of deputy-inspector Anthony Bologna, a.k.a. Tony Baloney as Jon Stewart called him, pepper spraying some women demonstrators. When my wife said she wanted to go check it out with some coworkers of hers I told her I’d be worried sick, so she didn’t go. Once I got some other people’s impressions I decided that it might not be that exciting or that dangerous.

It was on the outskirts of the demonstration, on Broadway, across the street from the signs, next to Isamu Noguchi’s red cube, facing the black block alien obelisk of a building that is One Liberty Plaza, where chaotic feeling seemed to be concentrated. People who perhaps had planned to just be spectators were milling around, unsure, police officers in clusters, speeding police vehicles, bloggers conducting interviews with their tiny digital cameras. Some tourist-looking youngsters were noncommittally sitting on the sidewalk by the cube. I had planned to be a by-stander when I headed down there, but when I saw the dangerous charge surrounding the wishy washiness of those milling about, and when I felt the sort of serene decisiveness down the hill, across the street in the park, I decided against it. Something simple but important had been waiting for me down there. A reminder of something. I had started to feel it as soon as the subway passed Canal Street.

A short young South American had crossed just far enough into my personal space for me to notice it, and then proceeded to douse her hands in sanitizer. Despite the fact that there were empty spaces in the albeit crowded subway, the people were clustered and slightly smiling. Later the girl found a seat and I’m pretty sure started to speak to a random stranger. The short middle-aged guy with the bald spot and blue shirt seemed ready to do the same. It was like Bulgaria in ‘91. No, there are no subways in the sea-side city of Varna, but the crackling of pure potential was audible in the buses, on the marble plaza by the fountain in front of city hall, at the rallies - of course, all of that ended with a whimper. Corruption maintained its status quo in Bulgaria and fighting it had to be done in much more subtle ways... I wonder if enough of the people on Broadway that day had decided that America has run out of subtle ways, as far the majority of us, the consumers of dreams and education, are concerned. That fact hadn’t dawned on me until I crossed the street and entered the park through an opening in the police barricade.