Birthday, Part 3: Whose Streets?

Birthday, Part 3: Whose Streets?

I don’t work on my birthday. It’s kind of a rule. I usually flee town, hitting the road for vegan eats and roadside attractions. But times are tight. With cash flow low, I planned to spend the day in my city, New York City, enjoying the sights on my own clock and armed with my camera. I woke up bright and early with the bright Autumn sun and headed for the Williamsburg Bridge. On the crisp, clear morning, I walked the bridge to get to Manhattan to start my adventure. I planned to do NYC things away from my usual paths: getting a knish at the landmark Yonah Schimmel on the Lower East Side and riding the dingey J-line at Bowery to check out, finally, Occupy Wall Street.

But first, a vegan chocolate chip scone from Whole Foods. This is a treat I give myself often. And this day, my birthday, was definitely an occasion to partake in treats.

Yonah Schimmel has been around since 1910. That’s over 100 years folks! As I sat on the creeky table, surrounded by photos from the past century, I thought of all the people who did the same. There are notebooks on the tables for guests to put their thoughts. Praises from loyal customers–those who travel from out of state for their nostalgic knish fix; those whose parents ate there when they were young immigrants; those, like me, who want a taste of warm potato and a bite of the Big Apple how it once was–excitedly mark up the pages.

I ordered the sweet potato knish, which they nuked and brought to my table. It was delicious. Delicious like only a huge portion of potato can be. The sweet potato knish is one of many vegan choices at Yonah Schimmel.

After about a month, I finally had time to see what’s been happening at Zucotti Park downtown. It was a bit like walking through a small civilization. It was quite mind-blowing. (from left to right) There was a huge pile of donated linens and coats for the protesters. Many sensible signs of protest. Posted guidelines for participants. A weekly schedule including feeding times, meetings and protests.

The Occupy Wall Street Library. Photocopied literature.

As Local 638 entered the park, their deep voices belting out a powerful Union song, chills ran down my back. Their mighty presence caused onlookers to applause. The community was complete with a place of worship, food centers and many tarp living quarters.

They even had a sewage system set up. Volunteers sweeping up garbage. A silkscreen station (As well as an “art gallery.”)

Protesters were surrounded by press and curious vistors, like me, walking through the shared space. I heard thoughtful conversations and felt a communal spirit I’ve never experienced outside the confines of my more idealistic epochs (I began making an antiestablisment zine in high school and was immersed in a slew of youth subculture movements in my young adulthood). Besides this, however, I also witnessed judgmental jeers directed at passing tourists by a more vocal sign-holder and patronization from another jaded man. Both snapped me back into reality.

From Wall Street, I went uptown for lunch. Peacefood Cafe. And went for a 13$ sandwich, regrettably. I think I will not soon go to Peacefood again. It was an irksome experience. It’s overpriced and the ambiance, sounding like a bustling cafeteria with waiters carrying out personal conversations from different points of the space with little regard for customers, a bit lacking.  Plus, they don’t let you order at the counter, which is confusing given its prominence.

After a long day in New York City, it was time to head to Long Island… to continue celebrating my birthday. But no longer with the inconsiderate street dwellers in the urban sprawl. Till next time NYC…