Last Tuesday was May Day. I spent part of the morning dancing with the Statue of Liberty in Bryant Park in New York City. Let me explain.
The evening before I chauffeured a group of Wesleyan activist undergraduates down to the New Haven train station. We joined another group of students and rode the rails to Grand Central Station. There we walked over to Bryant Park and talked with some of the locals about what they thought might happen the next day, May Day, in the park and other places around the city for the May Day Strike activities. On the way to the park I joshed around with some construction workers, one of whom was a pretty good stand-up comic. He and his friend gave me a Philly Flyers hat when I told my Michael Vick joke about how Vick had the wrong animals fighting. If he'd had trial lawyers fighting and biting each other, he'd have gotten an award from the SPCA and not a jail sentence.
We then took a subway downtown. I'm not sure where we were as I was just going with the flow and not paying attention to our exact location. Our group was about 15 people and half of us decided we'd like to sleep outside on a sidewalk. The others walked over to NYU and stayed with friends in the dorms there.
So the rest of us met a guy in a park, maybe it was Zucotti Park where the Occupy Wall Street people had been evicted, who was about 30 or so and said he was a skateboarder. I also found out he's a surfer. He had that blonde California surfer-dude's look and relaxed vibe. He was very helpful in explaining to us that a federal court order a few years ago held that homeless people have a right to sleep on the sidewalks in New York City and he walked us a few blocks away from the park to a place under some scaffolding where we settled in for the night. It was raining on and off so it was nice to be underneath a kind of roof for the night. Some in our group, 5 men and 1 woman, found discarded cardboard we put our sleeping bags on. There were no bathroom facilities so we had to do the best we could and find darkened corners near the old buildings to take a pee. That's just the way homeless people have to live but we were only playing at being homeless for the night and then we'd go back to being somewhere a lot higher up in the 99% group.
The night was most interesting. It was fairly well lit in the area under the scaffolding. There was a couple on one side of us who were in the same sleeping bag. He looked about 35 and she appeared to be about 19. They were nuzzling each other and smokig cigarettes and, later, pot. He had a very heavy southern accent, very black hair, an earring in his left ear, and a very bad sunburned face. I told him he looked a lot like a member of Bono's U-2 singing group. He liked that comparison, as did the young girl in his sleeping bag.
One of our group was Vic Lancia, a 70-year-old rabid Socialist with a very bald head and bad hearing. He's a very energetic, enthusiastic man and fun to hang-out with. The young people love him and are very protective of him. They wanted to make sure he was okay because he has diabetes and kept saying he wanted a cup of coffee, even though we were supposed to be trying to get some sleep before the morning's May Day Strike activities. Vic had been very excited before the trip and on the way down to the city about the prospect that demonstrators were planning to shut bridges into the city down the next morning. Just think, hundreds of human beings, locked arm-in-arm, chanting who knows what political slogans, blocking traffic on the Throgs Neck, George Washington, and Brooklyn Bridges. Police cracking heads with batons and spraying protesters with pepper spray. Let the revolution begin!
A gentle hippie with dirty blond hair stopped by, squatted down with us and said he wanted to share some prayers with us. I wondered if he might be a con-man but actually he was a member of the B'hai faith, peaceful, and genuinely interested in keeping everybody calm and relaxed.
A black woman came along on a bicycle and I talked at length with her. I didn't know until deep into the conversation that she was a lesbian, or at least she had a girlfriend, or had HAD a girlfriend. Her girlfriend apparently recently left her for a much older man. Go figure. It's the 21st Century. Get with the times or the revolution will happen without you. And then what?
Eventually I was able to get an hour or so of interrupted sleep and then it was time to get some breakfast. Even though we were all there to protest the big bad corporations, thank God the McDonalds Corporation is always at the ready to provide us revolutionaries a hot breakfast and cheap cup of non-fair traded coffee. Later, at Bryant Park I joked with several strangers I met that we all wanted to shut down McDonalds except for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a late-night ice cream sundae. Long live the revolution.
After breakfast at McDonalds we joined up with the rest of our group, the Soft Revolutionaries (soft, because they wanted all the comforts of their home dorms for sleeping; the rest of us were the Hard Revolutionaries; hard, because we braved the elements and the Felini-like cast of characters who haunt the streets of the city at night and entertain transiently homeless writers like me) in Bryant Park.
Bryant Park is a fascintating place. It's behind the New York Public Library. It's a very large park, four blocks square, with a lovely green lawn in the center which nobody is allowed to trammel with human soles or souls. There's an outdoor Bryant Park Reading Room where you can browse the day's newspapers and read books on loan for the day. Another section is chess players, many of them quite serious. There's the Ping Pong Area, filled with some of New York's finest table tennis smashers and ball-spinners. I've never seen black and Puerto Rican Americans putting so much English on a ping pong ball. I was, frankly, dazzled at their ability and agility.
There's an area where circus performers practice juggling and other circus skills. Another where men play the French game of Boule, ball, in which you throw, underhanded, a metal ball at your opponents' metal balls and try to knock them away from the smaller wooden ball and your own metal balls closer. Typical male game with that name and all that focus on big balls, metal balls, and the feared tiny little wooden ball. And there's only one of the small wooden ones to boot. Horrors!
There are also some very elegant restaurants and outside bars right in back of the library. On the east side of the park the Revolutionaries gathered in the early morning to meet up with each other, talk, show off their costumes and interesting hair-dos and face paints, and talk very PC thoughts about society, male-female relations, and society. There were reporters from all the major TV networks, Occupy Wall Street TV reporters, radio reporters, and an actor who interviewed me at length about my life and said he'd like to work up a play about me. I of course agreed and signed off with the necessary legal releases which he just happened to have with him.
And then something magical and unexpected happened. Spontaneous bands started coming together and playing loud music. Many drummers, guitarists, and trumpeters. This was my siren song and the end of my interest in the Revolution. I just got in the center of all the bands and..........what else? I danced-danced-danced. There were others who joined in with the dancing but none who danced using the Jay-Z move I've expropriated for my own form of comedic dancing which I do in all the dance clubs---the brush it off motion with my hands and fingers, mainly on my shoulders. Soon there were hundreds of I-phones and digital cameras filming me and the other dancers. I quickly realized that I'm more uninhibited than most people, not only in Klearly Konventional Konnecticut but also in Klearly Krazy New York City.
After several hours of dancing, my Wesleyan comrades all left Bryant Park for other demonstrations around the city. We never met up again. I later texted the leader of their group and told him when I was planning to leave the city, on the 9 p.m. train to New Haven, but none of them seemed concerned about finding rides from New Haven back to Middletown, so I became a free agent. I spent the rest of the day in Bryant Park.
I did see a group of demonstrators leave the park and march up 41st Street, towards 5th Avenue. A large group of them were wearing Dodgers baseball uniforms and carrying baseball bats over their shoulders. I heard on the radio the next day that these are the "Tax Dodgers," who dress like that to protest the low taxes which are paid by so many of the 1%-ers.
Around lunch time, a young dark-haired man with a foreign accent came up to me and we began talking. He is Dennis Greenberg from Berlin. Age 20. He's a photographer and film-maker. His girlfriend is from Russia and Lituania. He was carrying a large digital camera, SLR-type, and told me he'd taken some photos of me. I texted him my contact information.
Yesterday, I took a break from mowing the lawn at the old house where I'm living in Middletown and called a few people on my cell phone. Nobody was answering so I left a bunch of voicemails. One happened to be to Dennis Greenberg (his actual German first name is Denik) and he later emailed me some pictures of my dancing in Bryant Park. I called him back and talked to him for a while. I plan to go to New York to hang out with Dennis and his girlfriend in some of the dance clubs down in the city to see how my moves are received in the New York clubs.
Here are the three photos Dennis emailed me. They each show me with the Statue of Liberty puppet which came into one of the drumming and music circles about mid-morning on May Day. The photos with my white tee-shirt slightly off my shoulder shows what I do when a woman is in the area I'm dancing in and had an off-the-shoulder top. I pull my shirt slightly off-shoulder and do the brush-it-off movement. They all seem to love it. So I do it. And I did it that day in Bryant Park.
Dennis Greenberg is an excellent photographer, as you can see for yourself in these photographs. He also is a talented filmmaker. Here's his website if you want to see and learn more about this up-and-coming bright light in the photography and film world: http://denikov.tumblr.com/
Here are three of the photos Dennis took:
Long Live the Revolution! Or not. Whatever. Back to ordinary life. It was fun. Being a revolutionary for a day, that is.