Washington Square Park. New York City. Summer 1970. 2 AM . Nineteen and barefoot. Ripped Jeans, Long frizzed hair. Love beads. A copy of Le Petite Prince in my jeweled purple velvet sac. Guitar music. Drums. Peace signs. Pot smoke. Cheap wine. Deep conversations about Waiting for Godot and the I Ching. About the Vietnam War and where you were when John, Martin and Bobby were killed.
Oscar Grant Plaza. Oakland. Autumn 2011. 2 AM. Sixty with blistered feet in worn out Earth Shoes. Black yoga pants. A wrinkled orange scarf shields my face. Eighteen dollar readers and a useless Droid. I walk up Broadway towards 16th and Telegraph. Violin music. Drums. Pot smoke. Tear gas. Angry protestors cursing out and taunting police officers. Young twenty-somethings sitting on the ground, drinking wine. Occasional shout outs of 'We love you. We love you. You are not our enemy."
I guess I am really old. I look around at the people remaining and I feel like I am at a freak show. Surrounded by a hundred or so actors who are relishing the opportunity to play center stage. To feel an adrenalin rush. To push things to the brink. TO feel ALIVE!
And I am so angry. I've been here since 3. I participated in the closure of the Port. I walked the two mile trek back solo at dusk, my eyesight clouded with tears of joy, listening to a costumed cyclist's recording of "We are the world, we are the people ..." as thousands streamed into the port. Smiling. Dancing. Moms with kids in strollers. Dogs. Young people standing atop huge trucks. Families picnicing on the railroad tracks as the sun set behind the Bay Bridge and a half moon rose over the city ...
I walk into the middle of the street and start talking with another man about my age. (There are about ten of us on site; we kinda huddle together, catch up with each other. One of us is on alert for just when the police are going to totally cut off any hope of exit).
Why are they doing this? Why don't they just leave? But we are so conflicted. We all agree that we have such hope for the Occupy Movement. And we all feel that this war scene is the result of some out of control, off message instigators whipping up the crowd.
I find myself unable to resist asking a large young man who is strutting the DMZ between the police officers, shouting in their face his own particular version of venom "Why are you doing this? Why are you taunting them?" He leaves his position and comes over to shout me down instead. I'm terrified but I am so damn angry. This doesn't have to happen. One of my little posse takes my arm and tells me the police are moving down onto Clay Street. I look over and notice a large number of cops have broken out from behind the standoff near Telegraph and are running through what appears to be a back alleyway.
I head back towards 14th and turn towards Clay Street just as a series of powerful loud bombs shake the ground. Hundreds of people run in terror past me. Someone grabs my arm. Asks if I'm okay. Offers me water. Someone else leads me into the camp to find a face mask. A man is rushed into the camp cradled on a stretcher of human arms. He has been shot in the leg by a rubber bullet. Camp medics calmly clear away the curious. Someone calls an ambulance. The people inside the camp are business-like. Calm.
This is exactly where I was early this morning.
I spend the night in Oakland at a friends and return home early this afternoon. Home to the ridiculously cushioned world of Marin County. There's a different kind of vapor here, let me tell you. It's the vacuous vapor which shields entitled people from feeling grit in their eyes or recognizing the righteousness of rage against a system that's done others wrong. It's the world of the 1%. It's where I live!
I don't know what's going on anymore. Anywhere. I don't know where I belong anymore. All I know is that yesterday evening I felt so alive and hopeful, part of this enormous birthing. It's how I feel when I go to OccupySF. When I attend rallies in Oakland against the TarSands Pipeline. When I write about environmental justice.
Today? I realize I know nothing.
PhotoCredits: The first two fuzzy ones are mine. The video is by cyclist