A Chapter From “Occupied: The Time We Shared”
I was going from quickly helping one occupier after another, when a guy holding some sheets of paper in one hand suddenly comes into the comfort tent and starts sorting through the coats on our rack, which we are supposed to do for them to keep our work station from becoming immersed in chaos, as if we even needed any help with that, he turns to me and says, “I need a custom jacket, only Armani, top of the line, fur even.” I said “your joking, right,” “of course I’m fucking joking” he replied. I was relieved, in part because of the type of day it had been, in part because every day was like this. “Listen, you got a second” he asks. “Sure”, I said. He hands me a copy of the sheets he had been holding in his hands as if they were really important documents, like court documents or custody dispute papers, but I can now see are music sheets with reprinted lyrics, one by Nina Simone, one by Joni Mitchell. “Do you know who Annie Lennox is?” he asked me, “of course” “Well,” he continues “The corporate world constantly tries to diminish her message, which is political revolution, most people don’t know, but Annie Lennox is fucking punk rock as hell, and she’s a tiny woman,
so men think they can diminish her, not happening, she did a song, that the music exec’s wouldn’t allow to see the light of day, but I heard her sing it once, it’s a song of absolute revolt and human freedom, and I’m going to sing it to you, okay?” I wasn’t quite sure the question was open to debate, but I actually wanted to hear it, i was exhausted, “sure” I said. I sat down in the only chair we had behind comfort which was usually occupied, literally, by one or other of the comfort team who never did any work if it consisted of more effort you would have to expend, than what could be in reach from turning the swivel office chair around, and then saying “we don’t have it” when we almost always did. So I sat, my legs sore from standing all day, and he began to sing. I’ll be honest, I don’t remember the words he sang, but I do remember, after such a hard cold day, with a lot of fights and threats of fights and just all around psychotic shit happening, this was the most beautiful thing that i could be doing, in this moment. In the lower end of downtown Manhattan, in an urban camping commune, I sat in my black swivel chair stained by everything it could be stained by, under a roof of sky blue tarp tied between the park trees, and listened to this guy serenade me with a rare Annie Lennox song you would have thought he smuggled out of Russia. He snapped his fingers as he gave his rendition, and out of the corner of my eye, to the left of me, I could see the comfort transgender street kids dancing to Rianna with our donated scarves in an array of colors around their neck, and the whole moment, quite honestly, was imbued with such an awesome tapestry of forms, that, I know, even now as I am writing it down, I can’t come close to the feeling and sight of what was happening. A certain kind of smile crept onto my face, a certain kind, because, in this November, my face felt too frozen cold to actually be able to smile, and yet, my heart knew it had to, and so it moved up from that place, and found the muscles of my jaw, doing what it could, it was probably barely noticeable. He finished his song, and then said “Thanks for letting me sing that to you. Are you gonna be here tomorrow?” He asked. “Yes,” I replied. “Well, you can keep that sheet of music, and I’m going to be back tomorrow, I’ve got some more Annie Lennox songs I’m gonna bring you, but that one there has got a good one by Nina Simone, a revolutionary love song, really, try to share it with everybody. Well, thanks for your time.” And with that he was gone. He didn’t even end up leaving with a coat or anything else from comfort, it appeared he just needed to share a song with me, a certain type of song, an Annie Lennox song. I never saw him again, and as it turned, he never came back the next day.