ALL DAY ALL WEEK
For my first three months there, I never ventured out of the small area between Zuccotti Park, the Occupy storage area and the UPS store, which were all pretty much along Broadway (except when I left the city altogether, which I did several times). It wasn’t until New Year’s Day, when the storage area was closed and I had nothing else to do, that I wandered down to the South Street Seaport. After that I explored the area regularly, and was really astounded at how that little area around Broadway (including upper Wall Street) is really a canyon. The buildings block out the sun for all but one or two hours each day, which you can easily miss if you don’t go out at the right time. It’s loud, grim, tense, dull and grey. But a five minute walk down off the canyon and it’s sunny and clear, with a fresh breeze off the river. And if you go over to the seaport, you’re at the confluence of the East and Hudson rivers, at the very bottom of Manhattan island, looking out toward Brooklyn and Staten Island beyond. Boats, international tourists, lounging in the sun on the wooden steps. I got in several conversations with people from around the world while sitting there, and likely would have talked with more had I showered or shaved within the past week. Walking from OWS down to the pier was walking from a world which was politically vital, a center of world attention, exciting, tense, unpleasant and often hostile, to a place which was warm, relaxing, idyllic, friendly, international, politically completely irrelevant, and after a while, dull.
But it’s really amazing how much I could totally alter my environment with such little effort. I think most people around Wall Street seldom do this. And I had the sense that some of the detachment, the “evil” of Wall Street, might result from this simple environmental factor, that the people engaging in these transactions are trapped in darkness and can’t see the sun. Over time I came to identify with the Wall Street financial workers as well as the Afghani guys who worked the food trucks and everyone else who worked in the canyon. In the same sense, maybe, that soldiers in a war identify even with the enemy soldiers, more than they might with their own countrymen back home– because they were in the same battles, in the same place, understood the same conditions, in a way people back home could never. So I felt a sense of pride, hand in hand with the misery, that like the cops and the brokers, the clerks and the beggars, I was one of the people who, for better or worse, slogged it out in the canyon.