Thursday, November 3, 2011

Occupy L.A.: One month on

We took supplies to the protest on its one-month anniversary. At night, downtown's famously empty, even with 30,000 hipsters, artists, and/or professionals having moved down there the past decade. Some of them undoubtably were watching the dancers, lit in white, as drums pounded, on the south side of City Hall. Peripherally, I noted them, but my wife and I, and later my younger son on our return visit that same evening, were more intent on weaving through the onlookers in the dimly-lit dusk all around the shadowy crowd, pressed onto the patio's uneven Spanish tiles by the crush of tents (30 on October 1st, two weeks later estimated at 350, and now...500?) that covers whatever grass had grown here in the pocket park--and which threatens the historic fig trees.

The first jaunt took my two dozen mint-condition books, mainly practical ones. I now lamented having sent hundreds of books to the thrift store a few months back on a summer cleansing campaign commanded by my wife, so not much remained that I judged of even slightly wide appeal. However, perhaps some diligent tent-dwellers may benefit from two copies of a great public speaking textbook, two more of a pair of fine rhetoric-grammars, one on multicultural communication with a testbank and instructor's guide included for a slightly out-of-date Business Communication set, so no harm done!. Perhaps a pristine literary anthology nearly a thousand pages, or odd reads gleaned from the garage. I hoped those books under a plastic sheet would be safe from the rain which would come soon, if the camp endured. My wife promised to come twice weekly with supplies "as long as it lasted."

The shelves were nearly full. Nobody around. It was hazy. As I crouched and found spots for my haul, I glanced up at Catherine Cookson and Jodi Picoult romances, Marxist tracts, a blur of furrowed colored spines of mass-market offerings in the unlit nook. However, I noted on the ground at the lending library in its tarped gloom a prominently placed paperback of Elias Canetti's "Crowds and Power."

At the First Aid tent, I noted how animated my wife looked. She found out they had, I suppose, enough condoms now, and maybe toothpaste--two earlier needs filled? Hairbrushes, festooned with Dora the Explorer, and combs and mouthwash were earlier ferried down there by her when she found out what was desired. Now, it was gauze--a sign maybe of the harsher conditions after the initial revelry?

We passed a few officers from the LAPD, standing and walking up the recessed steps off Main Street, at the back of City Hall. The photo above shows how tall this icon, on a cop's badge if you recall from "Dragnet" or "Adam-12," stands, even if dwarfed now by skyscrapers and L.A. Live a few miles south. These Blade Runner shapes prove a municipal harbinger with its $248 million in tax breaks to billionaire builders of Farmer's (as in Insurance) Field, about to be approved for the NFL team which apparently our city cannot flourish without, fast-tracked free of "job-killing" environmental (or traffic mitigation it appears) impact reports. Not publicized are the 40 digital billboards that will surround said stadium, visible from one of the most congested interchanges in an already gridlocked (even at night often) downtown, if not the blocks around City Hall.

Nearer the historic downtown core across the 101 Freeway--and adjacent practically to Skid Row--City Hall, diminished on the skyline downtown, is post-1960 off the beaten track, compared to where tourists strut and fans flock. That massive stadium's approved by the same city council and mayor who are wooed and wined by these tycoons in the municipal chambers, I suppose, above where now the main entrance (at least after hours) is cordoned off with signs directing you to the side where the LAPD waits. The protester in the photo above was three weeks ago, before I suppose the wide handsome steps off Spring Street were blocked off to us, as residents, visitors, donators, supplicants, voters, dwellers (it's technically illegal to be in a park after 10:30 p.m., but the officials have overlooked this for now), and/or citizens.

The Food Tent was in the center of the south part of the park, hard to get to as the tiled paths are the only way into the middle. Tents take up all the surrounding ground. An articulate young woman as its staffer told my wife she used Twitter; my wife scoffed and said the old fogies used Facebook. As we unloaded a shopping cart full of granola bars and Special K cereal, "Deirdre" told us that tap water was not available and that they'd run out of bottled water or jugs full of it. Cooking being prohibited, she informed us that bananas and oranges were favorites, and that peanut butter had run out. I smelled marijuana nearby.

We went to get our son from his theater rehearsal, bought four boxes of bottled water, some gauze, and drove back--he and I unloaded the water while my wife circled the block--you cannot park around this area. A line of white trucks with satellite dishes filled the spots in front of the county courthouse. My wife asked me why they were there, and I figured they were waiting in case something happened. (LAT's sample coverage on the site's lapse into slovenly bickering and how malt liquor's plentiful while nothing's donated for breakfast.) It only occurred to me after we got home why the press had lined up across the street from City Hall. Around the block from that very newspaper, grabbing more headlines, Michael Jackson's doctor's on trial for murder.

A black man in what seemed an orange Native American get-up (?) welcomed those who passed his prominent place facing Main at the front of the tiled path leading to the drum circle. I think he was selling votive candles. No other evidence of commerce could be found, even if the Green Party had a table and I saw discarded the inevitable evidence of any non-mainstream political rally, LaRouche flyers.

A woman was speaking when we had returned, wrapping up the day with announcements after the dance. In the shadows, just the other side of the dancing and drumming, the way to the Food Tent was gloomy, as if taken from some wartime footage, and I couldn't make out the back of the tent, so crepuscular its depths. It was if a refugee settlement emerged. The demographic tilted half my age. For all of its bustle, it was but a tiny encampment, limited to its little fringe of flat around a tall building, hemmed in by big buildings, pavement, concrete, laws, and cops.

Is this extremism from the left, wannabee hippies, our era's silent majority, a lot of malcontents lining up for grub? Growing pains of democracy, for all its mocked gawkiness? No Central Committee, no logo (I hear OWS wants a trademark, however), no buttons, no t-shirts--yet? Meanwhile, look at these downloadable posters here!

How dreamers, the downsized, deadbeats and Deadheads could move the powers that be to change seems sobering, so utopian. (See here for one skeptic's fine account of her conversion, in Oakland. Compare a sympathetic skeptic on OWS  and a third Awl blogger reporting on Occupy L.A.'s inability to agree on banning pot from the park. Video of OLA. [Update: attempted march on Financial District 11-17 Live stream video.] Today's news: Obama spends a $100 million of PAC money against Romney in digital attack ads. Our mayor in this eternally Democrat city had handed out ponchos on one day of sudden rain last month. After an initial welcome, the City Council debates whether to move the restive camp.

My stance, despite--and amidst--spirited bickering pro-con over at my fellow Angeleno and political commentator John W. Smart's eponymous blog, has been to wait and see, and cautiously hope for reform outside the bipartisan system, pledged to and seduced by the capitalists. Many there criticized even my hesitant support, but many more join me (see Noam Chomsky's speech: he and Chris Hedges [after I wrote this, he was arrested at OWS protesting GoldmanSachs] are slated to appear at OLA on Guy Fawkes Day the 5th) in insisting that after bemoaning so much corruption and collusion among the corporatocracy that rules our nation and world, change must come, even if we are not able to control it the way we might judge most pragmatic.

I passed a man in an Anonymous-V for Vendetta Guy Fawkes mask. He held a smartphone up to his hidden gaze as he crouched on the pavement, interviewing it seemed a young woman in front of him, squatting, unmasked. We walked past so many signs, some scrawled and left on the dirt, some attached to tents, some overturned. "The First Amendment is our permit" stood out most.

Most of the small tents were shut tight on the hard soil against the chill. Which one was that three-person model we'd sent via the Occupy L.A. Amazon Registry and UPS a few weeks ago, I wondered? On my way out, I saw a silhouette behind a plastic sheet of a standing man reaching out to embrace another figure.

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