and now back to our regularly scheduled programming: food photos and book thoughts, with a side order of wide-eyed shock at what our country has become, leavened with hope and enthusiasm for a brighter future. Also cat photos.
Keith is still being held but will be out later tonight tomorrow morning we hope, though you shouldn’t worry because he’s probably sort of having fun even though jail is definitely not fun it could be a lot worse and he’s there with many other arrested OWS protesters.
“You can call bullshit on so many cultural critics for observing their world at a safe distance, or critique activists for their lousy writing, but Willis succeeded at both and let the two roles inform each other. Her thoughtfulness and thoroughness, her refusal to sacrifice nuance or discount real life experience for the sake of an argument, is something that both activists and authors could learn a lot from. Too often people get caught in their own heads, falling in love with their own arguments so much that they lose touch with reality. Willis never did that—not in her political work, not in her music criticism (collected in last spring’s Out of the Vinyl Deeps). Her refusal to subsume her personality to a movement, or to ignore the things that were important to her, remains an inspiration. Feminism should help us become the people we want to be, not the people we think we should be in order to fight the man, or to serve him.”—The n+1 Research Collective is going to continue to post stuff about Ellen Willis, so be prepared! Take this opportunity to read the Introduction to No More Nice Girls for free, and if you’re hooked, join us in being completely obsessed with this book. Her work and the example she set have never been more relevant.
We weren’t sure where they were stopping traffic so we parked near Foley Square and walked in the direction of the park. It was around 1:45 and the streets were deserted but we could hear a chopper overhead and kids on bikes were swooping past us, headed in the same direction we were. On Broadway we joined a small crowd of people on the sidewalk. Cops in riot gear, helmets and shields, stood in the street. A garbage truck was trying to make its way towards the park, presumably to haul occupiers’ things away, and the people on the sidewalk tried to stand in the street and block its path, but the cops pushed them back.
We tried to get closer to the park, standing on a short block with a bunch of other people under some scaffolding. Any description of this is going to make it seem like it was going on for longer than it actually was because it happened in seconds. We were in a crowd being pushed by people around us and suddenly it became clear that those people were being pushed by cops. But the people on the other side of us were also being pushed by cops. Each group of cops seemed unaware that it was pushing us towards the other group. “There is no need to push me!” I said, or something equally stupid, to the cop who was roughly grabbing my arm and pulling me, now, off that block and into the crosswalk. Then we were standing across the street from the scaffolding block, being told to get out of the street, and people who stepped off the sidewalk were being pushed and one guy was hit in the head by the cops. When this happened – whenever anything like this happened, for the rest of the night – people surrounded the cop who’d hurt someone with their phones and cameras clicking and flashing, taking so many photos and videos. “The whole world is watching! The whole world is watching!” we chanted. Also “Shame on you! Shame on you!” The first time I chanted this it seemed true but the second time it seemed like wishful thinking. The cops did not seem deterred by the idea that the “whole world” was watching, not at all.
We decided to backtrack a little bit and walked in the opposite direction of what seemed like the frontier of the push towards the park, and ran into some people Keith had been hanging out with as he worked on the book version of n+1’s Occupy Gazette and some other people he’s met writing about OWS, so he talked to them but I don’t know them as well and also was not really capable of making small talk at this point. It seemed weird to be acting casual when there were cops (so many cops!) in riot gear a few feet away. Maybe the people we were talking to were so used to this that it genuinely didn’t faze them. But I was scared, and for a humiliating moment I started to cry. I only realized I was crying when I chanted something and it sounded very melodramatic. I didn’t chant again til I had calmed down a little and then I acted studiously fake-normal. This was good timing because in quick succession I met a famous magazine writer and a famous musician but there was nothing really to say to them except “Hi,” and we compared notes about people we knew in common who’d been in the park and whether they were okay.
The news was going through the crowd that we were marching to Foley Square. It wasn’t clear why we were doing this but it seemed like if we stayed where we were we would definitely just get arrested, so we started marching. This initial march was the most fun. People seemed full of adrenaline and righteous anger and no one seemed frightened or sad; it didn’t feel like a march of retreat. Several people made remarks about what a stupid night Bloomberg had chosen to evict the occupation – the weather was downright summery, it was clear and the moon was out, for a minute it seemed like hanging out in quiet lower-Manhattan streets in the middle of the night, admiring the pretty buildings and the dramatic canyon views near the tip of our island, was something we should just start doing all the time. How fun to walk in a big group down the middle of the street! Then the cops caught up to us, coming from behind, and then we were made to get back on the sidewalks.
At this point some people started being dicks, knocking over traffic cones and trashcans and hurling trashbags into the street. Whenever anyone did this, someone marching behind him picked the can or bag or cone up and put it back where it belonged. “Don’t give them a reason. They will fuck you up!” a huge and reassuring older black guy kept saying when kids acted out: “Older people, look after these young kids!”
At Foley Square, three people spoke in the trademark people’s mic style, trying to create a plan. A woman with cropped gray hair and a trustworthy mien and a younger guy who was less articulate and more upset and redheaded Heywood, an organizer who I recognized from Housingworks’ Occupy panel, all put forth plans. Staying in Foley Square probably wasn’t a good option: the cops, while we repeated those three people’s words, had mostly surrounded the park. “We should find somewhere to stay that isn’t circular,” one of the guys said. “Our brothers and sisters in Zucotti are being arrested,” said the woman. “We can stay here and get arrested too.” “Or we can take a couple of hundred people,” and, I’m paraphrasing now, march up and down the streets of lower Manhattan all night to make it clear that we are not okay with what happened. Which is what we did.
Some of the cops were just doing their jobs with clinical detachment or even a vague air of apology. Some of them were violent, power-tripping sadists. Some of just them seemed like automatons: when you asked them why you now weren’t allowed to cross the street that, moments earlier, you’d been forcibly encouraged to cross, they refused to make eye contact and repeated their earlier orders. The protesters were also not all one generic type of person. “We’re fighting for your pensions! We love you!” some protesters told the cops. “Fuck you, assholes! Get a real job!” I heard another guy scream a second later.
As we got further up Broadway, the cops got more serious about dividing the protesters up into small groups and then not letting us rejoin each other; they also got better at it. “Y’all being herded like animals,” said one purple-faced guy in a suit who seemed to be on his way home from a long night at the bar. He was absolutely correct, but what could we do but give up?
Which of course we did – Keith and I did, around 4 – but many others kept marching, going around in circles all night and finally meeting at dawn in Foley Square, I know because I read this in the Times. I also read in the Times about how protesters had “scuffled” with police; most of the photos in the Times’s front-page slideshow seemed to show protesters pushing the cops, not vice versa. This is not what I saw. Over and over again, I saw cops being unnecessarily rough with peaceful protesters, refusing to let them assemble, and occasionally reaching into the crowd and fucking with someone just for the hell of it.
If it hadn’t been for Keith’s involvement (which he would probably call minimal) in OWS I definitely wouldn’t have been there last night; I would have been watching the hashtag on Twitter or watching the jumpy livestream or, likelier, sound asleep. But I was there, and along with everyone else who was there I am obligated to tell as many people as possible what I saw. I sat on the subway today and was not even tempted to reach for a book or my phone, I was just thinking about last night, trying to reorganize my memory of it into something that makes more sense, and failing, and I think I will keep doing this for a long time.
Also, come to our party on Monday, November 28 for Emily Books. Eileen is reading and she is amazing and I am sometimes tempted to have Eileen Myles read at every single event I do. And there is a free open bar for the first hour, and raffle prizes.
“When we tell the working-class story, we tell it straight, white, and male. We talk about Rocky and Rudy and the ghost of Tom Joad; about a Columbia drop-out going on the road, soaking up the authenticity of migrant farm workers, telling the whole world about how he banged a Mexican chick and “walked with every muscle aching among the lights of 27th and Welton in the Denver colored section, wishing I were a Negro.” Myles’s story is about what falls through the cracks of that narrative.”—Sady Doyle, Standing in the Goods (for Emily Books)
“Becoming a writer, in Inferno, does not mean becoming less of an outsider. It means gaining the freedom to stay outside. For Eileen, it means being able to read the books, to learn without going broke, to pursue what she loves with her whole self, and not just the worn-down, sleepy scraps designated “spare time.” It means not having to fuck men for money or advantage; it means coming out, falling in love with women, fucking women, because that’s what she wants to do. It means being able to value what she feels, and what she experiences. It means breaking through: Claiming a value for herself that is something more than economic, being a creature of thought and feeling and unfeigned, whole desire.”—
Since that post I have bought: sambal oelek, catfood and ginger at the Sunac near the Metropolitan G (what are the components of its signature not-unpleasant smell?), some meat at Greene Grape Provisions (cramped and pricey), catfood at the bodega, and bread and olives and coffee and a very small amount of cheese at We Are Not Allowed To Shop There. I also went to the farmer’s market for butternut squash and cabbage.
I have received some corrections to the post. The Brooklyn Trader Joe’s does have moisturizer and soap etc, “in the first non-refrigerated aisle on the left.” I failed to capitalized “I” and abbreviated Whole Foods, for some reason, “WH.” Also apparently We Are Allowed To Shop There, Nothing Is Disallowed Per Se, It Just Isn’t A Good Idea.
“Those “bad” decisions weren’t the self-indulgent decisions of a delusional dreamer or an elaborate display of self-sabotage. Those decisions weren’t the decisions of an idiot, they were the decisions of a writer. This has been my work. All of it! This entire life! In a way I’ve always known this to be true, but I’d never heard a woman say so with such unapologetic swagger until I discovered Eileen Myles.”—
“Although death felt remarkably possible at that moment, I didn’t think “my life is over.” I meant the way I’d been living. My ‘poem’ was over and hell had bottomed out. “I thought being an artist meant you had to do anything for the experience,” Eileen Myles writes in Inferno. That’s exactly what I’d done.
“In your twenties you just kind of chug along,” Eileen Myles says, “dredging up feelings as you go.” You “consider your behavior just art, grist for the mill.” So when I said “it’s over,” I was talking about the grist. Goodbye, mill.”—
“Eileen Myles, like some other women I know who grew up not understanding why everyone treated them like girls, has that thing men have where they pop out of the womb already feeling important and necessary. All these little boys with mouths wide open telling stories we’ve heard a hundred times before. I’m not one of those women. I knew I was a girl and so I knew why I was being treated like one. “I was thinking today that I have spent my whole life trying to be a man,” says Eileen Myles. “I’m sure you don’t understand what I mean by that.” Eileen Myles has that butch thing where she can play boys’ games and have boy attitude but her heart is so female. It’s killer. I mean she’ll just slay you. I wanna be more like Eileen Myles. I mean she devotes an entire chapter to cunnilingus, eventually.”—
“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with working toward a feminism that consciously, deliberately and actively addresses race and class. This doesn’t mean abandoning the fundamental issues that concern feminism. It means doing better job of discussing those issues in a way that takes race and class into account, in a way that doesn’t isolate huge swaths of the female population, in a way that doesn’t try to fit the female experience in a box simply because it makes our goals clearer.”—