NEW YORK – The one time I visited the occupation in the park, I also wandered down to the exchange and was struck by its pillars crumbling. On Christmas Eve day I visited 60 Wall for the first time. It was absolutely freezing. A woman with a baby was standing on a nearby corner, asking for change. I was taking something to the potluck I read about online. I knew that was happening, so I told her about it and we started talking. It turned out she was homeless, just stopped in to shelter in the Occupy atrium, and hadn’t eaten for three days. She pointed me to the door of the lobby that wasn’t broken.
I wandered in and stood around for just a minute before a young guy sitting pretty far away, all bundled and hooded for the cold snap, spoke up with “Happy New Year’s Eve,” flashing a huge grin. He was hanging out with a guy playing guitar and a bunch of people listening, typing, blowing on their hands. I walked over and when the song ended, started talking to the guy still smiling. Maybe you know him? A super sweet kid named Frankie. He’s just 21 and joined the occupy movement when he was sitting at home watching the march over the Brooklyn Bridge on the news. He said he nudged his little brother, said “Watch this,” then ran out of the house to join.
Frankie and I talked for a while in the atrium. I ended up giving him the food I brought and he took it over to where people were gathering. We hung out for a few hours, first looking up numbers for shelters (and WIC and other assistance) for the woman outside, then we went for a walk so he could show me other OWS sites. We went to SIS–Shipping, Inventory, and Storage. I was a little self-conscious about blundering through OWS admin work or whatever, but it being Christmas Eve and Frankie being so warm and winning, it felt like a minor worry. We met some other people just walking around and then made it to SIS where he introduced me to Nick and Nick. I ended up hanging out with them a little, hearing their stories of getting to New York. One of the Nicks was a Marine vet who’d been passing through on his bicycle and decided to stay. Really nice guys. There was a lot of talk about family and Christmas and a little talk about the frustrations they had with the OWS protocols — mostly telling stories about big personalities that broke rules / caused problems.
After they closed SIS, they took me for pbr at Charlie’s Place, I think it was called. It was a short walk, but very, very good to get out of the cold again. At 60 Wall St. earlier, Frankie and I had taken turns closing the doors on either side of the atrium because the cops kept propping them open. Fucking annoying. I was exhausted at the end of a few hours and can’t even imagine how people who are also staying in shelters, like Frankie, feel — but even with all of the short, antagonistic bickering I saw, one still peeled off to join for the beer; and one of the Nick’s offered food to another right after a confrontation. The coolest thing was hearing each of them talk, warmed up by beer, about still being deeply committed to the whole, no matter how stupid the problems. I really can’t wait to see these people again.