Wednesday, November 23, 2011

When you bring the Occupation home.

An aluminum pan of hard rolls.

The boiler has arrived and is ready to be installed. Only awaiting Department of Building approval. Councilmember Brewer says that she is on the case. 
Danielle and I working on overwhelming number of issues related to the gala, to the boiler, to operating funds.  It’s a tense time, even with Thanksgiving approaching. 
Two men come in, one who used to live in the neighborhood and a historian. Actually, he tells me, an agrictultural historian, but one who loves history nonetheless.  I take them into the sanctuary, review the social and architectural history, show them Norm’s historic display. They wonder at the ruin and the beauty.

Deacon James walks in for the first time in weeks. He's been struggling with the effects of chemo. But is reporting for duty and doesn't want anyone taking his job. 
Off to meet Jane at Starbucks and review yesterday’s negotiations.   
I meet Pat and her husband Larry on the street along wiht her charge, a young girl in a baby carriage. I tell her about our housing Occupiers.  We talk about Occupy, the controlled coverage of the press, the stories ignored, hidden. Like last Thursday’s march of 35,000 over the Brooklyn Bridge. She talks of her sister, the investigative journalist who has been going with her to Zucotti. But where can she run her story? And I talk about the power of blogs. 
Pat wants to know why Obama doesn’t stop it. I look at her. Who’s the President? I ask. Has he sold out, buckled under? she asks. Long ago, I say. 
 Late at night, I come back. Around twenty Occupiers, soaked, loaded down with backpacks and food, are waiting under the scaffolding, ready for shelter for the night.  I am greeted by Sheila, a sixtyish social worker who is in charge. And Ron, a union organizer sent for security. 
I bring them all inside, go through the history of the church, how it reates to Occupy, Then I lay out the groundrules. There are questions. One asks about the Christian flag. Another wants to know if there’s an open laundramat.  Ron wants to know where he can buy supplies. I ask if anyone’s going home for Thanksgiving. Nobody is. 
We’re in the movement, says one young African-American man, perhaps a bit too cheerily. We’re here to occupy.
Sheila and I go back to my office. I’m a veteran, she says, been in this for years. She’s got that slightly worn activist look about her. It’s kind of thirds, you know? I look at her puzzled. You know, one third idealistic students, one third lost soul hangers on, one third hard core homeless. And yes, I do know. 
It’s all too easy to romanticize. I think of the old (hell, my age) lefties at WBAI happily saying to each other, We’ve waited a long time for this, and Never thought it would take this long. 
But when you bring the Occupation home, you know. It’s not all bread and roses. There are edges, always. And I remember what we called the Sixties. The lost, the wounded, the violent who joined our hippie peace and love circles. I remember the crazy cast of characters who crashed on the floor of our off campus apartment every night during the days of hitchike nation. From serious filmmakers and artists to drifters and scam artists, all part of those days. Always like that when the lid of Pandora’s box gets pried open.
You know, says Sheila, they tried real hard, to welcome the homeless and broken, to treat them with dignity, equality, bring them into the circle. Heal them with democracy. They’re so young. But they did try. They never turned away.
Look, I say, we read in the Daily News how the NYPD was pushing all the park people, homeless, crazies, drug sellers to Zucotti. Then using it against the Occupation as an excuse to raid and evict. It’s so cynical. It’s not Occupy’s fault that the city pushes people to the margins and leaves them there. 
She goes through the story of the city’s converting the thousands of sro’s into private condos and euro hotels. Where do the people go, she asks, where? She shrugs her shoulders, We do our best, you know?
 I thank her for what she’s doing. No one could --or would-- host without the Sheilas of this movement.
Outside on the steps, our homeless guests have gathered for the night. One I don’t recognize. Pedro with his shopping cart of bottles and cans. 
Bloomberg, beware, Zucotti Park is everywhere. 

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