photo 4 (2)When the 3 train is not running, the 4 train goes on the 3 train track, and stops at the 3 train stops.  You might think it was the 3 train, but there is that number 4 and it is in a green circle instead of a red one.   It is a 4 train behaving like a 3 train.  See.

Yesterday I happened to be downtown.  As I got off the subway, I was hoping no one bombed Wall Street,  There is much security there, and, what with my disgruntlement with capitalism, it would be too much irony for me to be caught in anti-capitalist action.  I don’t like capitalism!  I’ve never been good at it!

I went to one of my favorite spots down there, Fraunces Tavern.  You can have a drink where George Washington drank.  You can wonder if you should order madeira or American whiskey or what, and just get a nice Malbec instead.  Every other time I’ve been there it’s been past closing time for their museum.  Yesterday I finally got up there.

photo 3 (4)They have a piece of Washington’s tooth (well, his dentures), a lock of his hair, the room where he gave his farewell retirement speech that wasn’t really a retirement speech because he came back to be president.  You can’t take photos in that room, oddly.   There was a nice video about the various important colonial meetings held there, and the buildings rehab in the early 20th century.  It’s about as old as museums get. They have a lot of maps, of The New World, of the West Indies, of the Philippines.   I wish maps were more useful.

photo 5 (3)I went on to Federal Hall, just around the corner.   Washington took the oath of office on that spot.  The building is a different one, but they have the cracked piece of marble he stood on.  And part of the railing.  And the Bible he used to be sworn in.  And a big ol’ statue of him for people to take pictures in front of.

After Washington was sworn in, he went to pray at St. Paul’s.  I had been confused about the two old churches downtown.  Trinity Church is stained glass and good darkness and some side altars and chapel.  St. Paul’s is actually older.  Trinity burned down and had to be rebuilt.  So Washington had to go to Trinity after he was sworn in.  Trinity Church now is pink and blue and lots of displays about September 11th.  It was the place a lot of rescue workers were fed and housed.

George Washington.  Jefferson is smart sexy, Adams is nutty sexy, Lincoln is king of brooding suffering (super sexy), but there’s nothing sexy about George Washington.  Indeed a Founding Father.  It isn’t just the weird teeth.

At the Smithsonian they have a giant sculpture of George Washington as a Roman god, in a toga and all.  It seems people didn’t know what to do with this guy who was both bold and conservative and careful.  Ballsy enough to join a revolution and lead its forces, conservative in approaching the job of president, in giving it up after two terms.

Lower Manhattan was heavy before September 11th.  I didn’t spend a lot of time down there, but I know the air was heavier with history, the streets were heavier, the buildings were heavier, streets narrower, the fog was heavier, and remains so.   All the bankers make things heavier.  They wear heavy suits, and money is heavy.  And September 11th it got heavier.

George Washington is the only Founding Father I can’t imagine as a lawyer buying me drinks and getting handsy with me at Fraunces Tavern.  Blame Paul Giamatti.  Everyone does.

I really like the heaviness.  Notre Dame is also heavy.  Might be the heaviest place I’ve ever been.  I never wanted to leave.  Much heavier than St. Peter’s, way heavier than St. Paul’s.

People go take their photo with the bull.  That day, there was a snowman in front of the bull.  I don’t know what that was about.

‘There’s that word again: heavy.  Why are things so heavy in the future?  Is there a problem with the earth’s gravitational pull?”

I took the real 4 train home.

You know you are pulled to certain places certain times?  Earlier in the week I had gone to Trinity Church.  I had had an awful day, and I knew that church was both open and on the way home.  I sat on the back steps and talked to a friend on the phone.  There was still snow on the ground, but it was so warm I could be out there in the well, not fresh, exactly, but outside air.

I went inside the church and sat a long time.  A choir was practicing in the sanctuary.  I sat in the side chapel where they have a Christ looking a little clean for my taste.  He is holding the whole world in his hands.

I sat for a while and felt awful and wondered why things happened I had to wrestle with and puzzle out, so much effort in figuring things out, deliberating, when there is so much just straight-up work work to do, in the world, in my life.  But it’s necessary to try to figure shit out.  Why things happen, what people mean, what you can affect and not affect, what was your fault, what you should have done, and what wasn’t your fault and could not have been steered around.  And the Jesus looking like he had it all under control, maybe he did.  I’m more a fan of the “don’t worry about it” style Jesus.  More “I’ve got this” like “I’ve got your emotional problems, but not necessarily The Middle East or Cancer.”

Across the street from Trinity Church is the real 4 train, the real one on the green circle, that goes near my house but not closest to it, anyway, it gets there faster.

Notes from the Occupation

What is it?  The 99% Occupy thing consists of: hippies (wearing sandals, playing catch), libertarians (fun to drink with, but rather standoffish), conspiracy theorists (shiver), lefties who finally have some people to hang with and satisfy their collectivist longings (cute), union folk (with their union ball caps), and a lot of dogs.  The dogs seemed to be having the most fun.

I went by the Kansas City site last night.  I missed the march.  I just Occupied until the speakers started.  An old guy set his lawn chair next to me, and asked when the speakers started.  “I don’t know,” I said.  “I just got here.  Did you not march, either?”

“I can’t,” he said.  “I have nerve damage in my feet from Vietnam.”

“Oh,” I said.

“I was at the first one of these, you know.”


“In Selma, Alabama.”

“Wow,” I said.

One guy had a sign, “Lenin 2012,” which I found adorable.  I have always had a romantic attachment to the old-school, means of production, Emma Goldman kiss my ass left.  I’m an extremist at heart and a pragmatist in action.

Of course there was a drum circle of sorts, and a folding table full of books with suspiciously plain covers.  There was a beautifully organized committee chart.  The guy manning that station was giving a radio interview as I walked by.  There was the woman with the button table.  Unfortunately, I didn’t fall in love with any of the buttons.

First, the artist John Salvest, who created the IOU/USA monument out of shipping containers, spoke.  He thanked the crowd for bringing the piece out into the world.  Sadly, we were sitting facing the IOU side.  I like the colors of the containers, and the varied patterns on their sides, the occasional white numbers or brand names.

There were some speakers from an urban environmental group, and they talked about how the crowd was lacking faces of color because a lot of people of color had given up.  Also, I thought, a lot of people are at work, even on Sunday evening, picking up every dollar they can, or spending their only day off with family.

Another speaker last night was an economics professor at UMKC.  I was delighted for him.  How often does an economics professor get to address an enthusiastic crowd?  He talked down the notion of abolishing the Federal Reserve, insisting that it was a symptom, not the problem.  The other professor who spoke read a list of demands, including health care and free (fully government-funded) education.  I was cool with almost all of them.

But: I can never get on board with the “Americans are the best workers in the world” business.  You know what they call people who think they are born better than everyone else?  Nazis.  We don’t have to be better than everyone else to have self-respect.

I also don’t understand how the government is supposed to force companies to keep jobs in the U.S.  Even for me, the leftist, that sounds like a huge, complex, and potentially dangerous kind of government intervention.  Globalism seems to have as many benefits as risks.  And I don’t think you can put the genie back in the bottle.  Maybe they could stop subsidizing gasoline so much, so transportation isn’t so artificially cheap, but the government can’t tell businesses where to do their business.  I just don’t see that working.

That said, political movements like Occupy do work.  The political activism of the ’60s and the socialist movement in the United States (we used to have a real one) accomplished a great deal.  We have racial integration and we got out of Vietnam.  We have unions, even if they’re weakened.  We have Social Security and Medicaid and Medicare.  Leftists movements haven’t made this a leftist country (it’s still quite conservative), but they have pushed us that direction.  They have made real changes, and this one might, as well.

(Photo is from facebook, posted under  “everyone is welcome to use.”  I only sketched.)