The Mountain Should Crumble To the Sea

I’m worried.

This afternoon, weather forced the closing of the family stores 35 miles from Zuccotti Park. Yesterday, the protest’s generators were seized by the fire department. Today, wet snows cracked branches of the tall trees we live under. Pete went outside to look up at the spot where a large branch had fallen from, heard another crack and beat a hasty retreat. Where he had been standing, a tiny avalanche fell and a cascade of branches followed. Fortunately, I was on the phone with the police at the time so no one was surprised when I babbled about what was dangling from the electrical lines and blocking the street.

Not enough power to warm; too much for the FDNY.

I saw that generator on Thursday. It looked so small and inoffensive. I guess anything that smells like hope or biodiesel is a threat to someone.

If the protesters can hang on for one more day, better weather will come. One more day.

My Eyes Make Me Wise

It’s raining tonight. It rained all day. At 10 this morning, Marion walked up the train station steps, hugged me and rummaged through her giant purse. She bought a ticket and we went out to the platform to wait for the train to Newark Penn Station, where we walked picked up the PATH train to the World Trade Center. Even with directions in my pocket, I turned the wrong way every time. Marion, a native New Yorker, steered us around the Trade Center construction and the tourists taking pictures of buildings now disappearing into rain clouds. Almost by accident, our destination appeared right in front of us: Zuccotti Park. We’d come to see Occupy Wall Street.

A friend who wanted to meet me there never did, but that turned out not to be important. The camp, just before noon, was slow to rouse. The park was much smaller than I had imagined and filled with tents large and small, manufactured and improvised, many with blue tarps draped over them to keep out as much rain as possible, but everything looked wet. Everyone we met looked damp and rough around the edges. Marion mentioned she’d come three weeks ago, so I took off and walked the camp, to see what I could see.

Over, under, in between, around, behind, outside: the park sits on a very small, rectangular block on a noticeable incline. Walking the perimeter takes a few minutes at most. Along Broadway, which forms the narrow, high end of the park, a line of police officers stood with backs to the street and faces to the camp. The protesters there had flags, printed brochures, tables and chairs; they were interested in communicating a handsome and dizzying variety of political perspectives. At one end, a man stumped for an independent Puerto Rico and at the other, two motionless people held a banner describing Chinese-made products as slave labor. At the opposite corner of the block, messaging was much more casual as very young campers appeared more interested sorting out scattered belongings than in the tourists photographing them like shivering statues. At this end of the park, the police were both more sparse and more active.

Along Trinity Street, the best view of the camp may have been from the other side of the street, since the tents, including the first aid stations were packed close together and to an impressive height. All the action, though, was along the length of Liberty Street, where the cops looked nervous and would not make eye contact. I kept coming around to this side of the camp. On one of these laps, our path was blocked by a group of well-rehearsed singers, sheet music in hand, performing a complex, original vocal piece for whoever happened by with a video camera. It was at that point I decided the whole thing was positively fucking awesome.

It is possible to walk through the camp half a dozen times and see new things every time and they’re things you should see. Incredibly healthy-looking people walk around with deeply damaged friends, young and old, well-nourished and gaunt. The determination it took to stay in the camp through raw rainy days and nights must have been tremendous. I was dressed warmly and in a cyclist’s rain gear and I was more or less comfortable. The protesters looked like they were engaged in a fateful struggle with time and the elements. At the comfort station, I left three pair of socks and two scarves. At the food tent, I left a bag of gingery oatmeal cookies. It was all I could carry and still the least I could do.

Nothing – not the election of Obama, not massive anti-war protests, not the passage of a health insurance bill – has stopped the Overton Window’s sailing rightward with increasing speed until now and this. This messy campsite and these people, for all their failures and mistakes, are it. I owe these people for doing what no one else has. If you’re honest with yourself, we all owe them.

You can get on a train and offer support in person or you can contribute money or materials.

The cold, raw weather forced me out of the park and into a coffee shop. Marion, the president of my union, made last minute arrangements to travel to the swearing-in of a judge in Newark. I struggled with the idea of traveling homeward, but staying in the coffee shop was just silly, so we went back to the park and did more laps in and around and through the camp. Everyone had a camera. Everyone seemed to be taking pictures and video all the time. I’d brought a camera but didn’t take a single picture. Once I was there, it seemed invasive. We were aware that the camp had a livestream and we would certainly turn up on it and that hundreds of other visitors must also be tromping around the camp. This idea gave me great pause.

So please go see it for yourself. Please bring things the protesters need. Please don’t do anything stupid.

My back is kind of killing me. Everything I learned today was totally worth it.

A Short Skirt And A Long Jacket

Dear Catsitter:

Thank you for moving into our house temporarily to provide company and services to our feline friends. You’ve met them. That’s hunky-dory. Their schedule:

6:30-7 a.m. Fill bowls with dry food. Topaz’s bowl goes on the table next to her water. Drusy sometimes eats out of this bowl, but if you see Sweetpea there, please discourage her. Sweetpea will guard the other bowl, so if you see Drusy nudged away from the bowl, please give her a small handful of dry food anywhere she happens to be standing and issuing orders. The water bowls will need cleaning and refilling.

7:30 Give the outside cats 1 pint of dry food. They never tip. Count indoor cats.

Afternoon: Scoop the cat boxes. In the place I pointed out, you will find protest poop. It’s nothing personal. Disinfectant tools sit right next to the location where you will find the protest poop.

Dinnertime: You eat. You tidy up. Then you divide a can of cat food in thirds, place these bowls where the cats can get at them. Count your fingers.

Evening: The cats will tell you all about the boys in their French classes. At least in the beginning, Topaz will refuse to talk about anything and say, “You wouldn’t understand” about everything. She’ll come around.

Bedtime: Place dry food bowls on top of the fridge. Give each cat a small handful of treats.

Because of the bowl-guarding, the recent pancreatitis and Topaz’s oral infection, we have to watch each of the cats eat every day. In the morning, we watch Sweetpea. At dinnertime, we watch Topaz and at bedtime, we watch Drusy.

Cat yak is a normal occurrence. Puddles of yellow or green cat yak constitute an emergency. If you find puddles of yellow or green cat yak, please call the vet, stuff Sweetpea into a cat carrier and convey her immediately to the vet’s office.

Our housemate/tenant is extremely employed. If he’s sleeping, please make every effort to let him sleep.

On a fairly regular basis, please count cats. Please be very, very careful when entering and leaving the house. Do not be surprised if Topaz shouts, “PAPILLON!” and takes a flying leap at the door, especially in the kitchen. On two occasions, she’s ducked out under my feet, so even having too many things in your hands can cause unintended, time-consuming and unnerving cat drama. Likewise, please do not let the cats get into the basement. It contains many sharp things and chemical stuffs and rotating devices, which sounds like DisneyWorld but is in fact just as dangerous.

Our neighbor/tenant is a crazy person. She will not speak to you. In an emergency, you can shout her name and the emergency at her open kitchen door and she will act quickly, but there will be no apr├ęs-emergency pitcher of margaritas unless you make it yourself and drink that. I don’t recommend it.

Please do not discuss our absence with the people next door. Our relationship is polite. They would call 911 if our house were on fire. Even so, we do not trust the guy you’ll see in the driveway all the time. Yes, the large land mammal with the cellphone glued to his ear. He’s not quite right.

The doorbell is broken. We’re not all torn up about it. Happy Halloween!

Please park in the driveway, close to the house.

You’ll find a list of contact numbers on the fridge, including my sisters’. My sisters live right around the corner and work in town. Please do not let them into our basement, as they will certainly steal the tomato sauce we jarred this summer. They are wily and will say things like, “Our St. Bernard was skunked by an entire family of skunks and needs a bath in gallons of organic, homemade tomato sauce. We saw this remedy on Dr. Phil,” when in real life they do not watch Dr. Phil and at least one of them is allergic to dogs and authority figures. In fact, don’t talk to them at all. The broken doorbell may be a big help with this.

If you count cats and one is missing, you may have to go from room to room opening doors. If Topaz is present, she will tell you where the missing pussycat is. Ask her. She’ll tell you. If however Topaz is the missing cat, the other two will look at you and ask, “Who?”

Thank you again for staying in our house with our cats. We’ve left wine and bonbons where you’re sure to find them.

Tata & Pete

To Go Around the Long Way

The co-worker I refer to as My Cellmate and I go for walks every day around lunchtime. She sits right on the other side of the cubicle wall, so close I can tell by her Mmm Hmm whether or not her daughter made the doctor appointment. My Cellmate is from a hamlet across the river but local enough that it’s strange she doesn’t know her way around town.

Yesterday, we walked out of the library and across the street, then on to one of the city’s main drags, where we turn and headed toward the park. She pointed across the street.

MC: Is that St. Peter’s Hospital?
Tata: It is.
MC: I was born there! It didn’t look like this then. You can hardly see the old buildings.
Tata: There were three houses in pastel colors they tore down to make room for the new wings. We lived in one of them. My mother walked next door to have my sister Daria.
MC: Do they do abortions here?

I sit next to this woman five days a week and I thought That question could go either way.

Tata: It’s a Catholic hospital. For an abortion, you would go to the other hospital up the street.

I did not say Or that office three blocks up, where I got mine. My Cellmate is not churched-up by any means anymore, but she went to Catholic schools, asks questions about the Catholic high school Dad attended and knows well the church on Somerset Street. Her question could mean a number of things and I gently closed the door on all of them. Unless someone comes at me directly, I’m not going to fight this out in my office. This, however, should be dragged right to the front door of St. Peter’s Basilica.

After months of requests from the BBC, the Spanish government finally put forward Angel Nunez from the justice ministry to talk to me about Spain’s stolen children.

Asked if babies were stolen, Mr Nunez replied: “Without a doubt”.

“How many?” I asked.

“I don’t dare to come up with figures,” he answered carefully. “But from the volume of official investigations I dare to say there were many.”

Lawyers believe that up to 300,000 babies were taken.

The practice of removing children from parents deemed “undesirable” and placing them with “approved” families, began in the 1930s under the dictator General Francisco Franco.

At that time, the motivation may have been ideological. But years later, it seemed to change – babies began to be taken from parents considered morally – or economically – deficient. It became a money-spinner, too.

The scandal is closely linked to the Catholic Church, which under Franco assumed a prominent role in Spain’s social services including hospitals, schools and children’s homes.

Nuns and priests compiled waiting lists of would-be adoptive parents, while doctors were said to have lied to mothers about the fate of their children.

Yes. You read that right. Imagine living this nightmare:

In 1971 Manoli, who was 23 at the time and not long married, gave birth to what she was told was a healthy baby boy, but he was immediately taken away for what were called routine tests.

Nine interminable hours passed. “Then, a nun, who was also a nurse, coldly informed me that my baby had died,” she says.

They would not let her have her son’s body, nor would they tell her when the funeral would be.

Did she not think to question the hospital staff?

“Doctors, nuns?” she says, almost in horror. “I couldn’t accuse them of lying. This was Franco’s Spain. A dictatorship. Even now we Spaniards tend not to question authority.”

The scale of the baby trafficking was unknown until this year, when two men – Antonio Barroso and Juan Luis Moreno, childhood friends from a seaside town near Barcelona – discovered that they had been bought from a nun. Their parents weren’t their real parents, and their life had been built on a lie.

Juan Luis Moreno discovered the truth when the man he had been brought to call “father” was on his deathbed.
Antonio Barroso and Juan Luis Moreno Antonio Barroso and Juan Luis Moreno took their story to the papers – and opened the floodgates

“He said, ‘I bought you from a priest in Zaragoza’. He said that Antonio had been bought as well.”

The pair were hurt and angry. They say they felt like two dogs that had been bought at a pet shop. An adoption lawyer they turned to for advice said he came across cases like theirs all the time.

How can justice include the church in Spain going on in peace – again?