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Flatbush Flashback

Personal Faves: Volume I

As the third anniversary celebration of The Daily Beaver continues, I'd like to now share some of some of my personal favorite blog posts. The pieces below were selected at random. They're stories I’ve written over the years, most of which I haven't looked at since the day I wrote them. But reading them today, I think they still stand up, and they give a good sense of the type of material I've been covering here and will continue to cover.

'72 (Sept. 29, 2011)
My report from Zuccotti Park (which I call "Liberty Square") in the early days of Occupy Wall Street, on Rosh Hashanah, the first day of Jewish New Year, 5772.

The Writer as Performer (March 27, 2012)
What does it take to get a book published in America these days? Good looks, primarily.

The Lou Perretta 20-Point Plan for Demoralizing Employees: A Guide for Postmodern Office Management (Feb. 1, 2012)
How bad was it to work in a Paramus porno factory? This satirical guide explains.

What’s the Matter with Jersey? (March 21, 2012)
I was subjected to a surprising amount of criticism for writing about my former boss Lou Perretta, the abysmal working conditions at his company, and his campaign contributions to Tea Party congressman Scott Garrett. This is my response.

Blog’s in Your Court, Ms. Breslin (Oct. 19, 2011)
A spirited online debate about blogging, criticism, and books about pornography.

Tomorrow, Volume II Read More 
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Occupy Wall Street Update

I went down to Zuccotti Park yesterday to again take the temperature of the Occupy Wall Street demonstration. Here's my report:

The reason Eric Cantor is calling the demonstrators a "mob" is because they're screaming for the blood of politicians like Eric Cantor, who defend the wealthy at the expense of everybody else--the 99% that the demonstrators keep referring to.

If I were an investment banker, my blood would have run cold when I heard the flag-waving, drum-pounding demonstrators chanting, “Banks got bailed out! We got sold out!” as they marched from the statue of the Wall Street Bull, adjacent to Beaver Street, to Zuccotti Park.

The demonstrators are really fucking angry, and anybody who can’t understand why is willfully ignorant. Most of them are students or recent graduates whose education left them with a crushing debt that they’re unable to even think about paying off because there are no decent jobs.

In Zuccotti Park, now surrounded by police and media, the Spirit of the 60s has been reborn in all its ragged, funky glory.

I’d have been really insulted if Beaver Street hadn’t been checked out of the Occupy Wall Street Free Library. Read More 
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Temperature Rising

Liberty Park (aka Zuccotti Park), where three weeks ago the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators set up camp, is about a mile from where I live. I've been dropping by there on a regular basis, usually in the late afternoon, to take the temperature, so to speak.

The temperature is rising.
The energy remains peaceful, cooperative.
The free food provided makes the atmosphere seem almost Woodstockian.
The drum circle continues to provide the heartbeat.
There is an edge.

It occurred to me that it wouldn’t take much of a spark to set off something more confrontational, and possibly ugly, as police encircle the park.

At least one liberal New York Times columnist, Charles Blow, disagrees. He said that the occupation “feels like a spark set down on wet grass: It’s just hard to see how it truly catches fire.” In a front-page article, a protester was quoted as saying that the occupation will end when the temperature drops below 50 degrees.

The Times, which depends on companies like Tiffany’s, and real estate brokers selling $5-million condos, for advertising revenue, is never going to endorse the occupation.

I think that when the occupation continues into the dead of winter, the media will begin to draw analogies with Valley Forge. And, if they’re smart, companies like Marmot and The North Face will donate winter clothing, and local stores, like Paragon, will donate camping gear.

I stopped by again on Sunday and donated a copy of Beaver Street to the free library. The librarian—yes, they have a librarian—graciously accepted my donation. I departed with a free copy of The Occupied Wall Street Journal.

A few blocks to the south, near Beaver Street, the Wall Street Bull is now surrounded by a phalanx of bodyguards. He needs them.

You can follow the occupation on their website or on TwitterRead More 
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Today, Rosh Hashanah, the first day of Jewish New Year, 5772, is one of the two Jewish holidays I acknowledge. My wife and I will go down to the Hudson River with some stale bread and, according to tradition, cast our sins upon the water. Usually the seagulls eat the bread. "What a relief," I'll then say. "They didn’t turn black." The birds, that is.

I like the Jewish New Year because I feel as if I’m getting a second chance to re-live the year designated in the last two digits—’72 in this case. Yes, it’s the ’70s again, and 1972 was an especially interesting year. The energy of the ’60s was still very much alive, and having recently transformed myself into a radical hippie, I’d become an editor on Observation Post, the “alternative” student newspaper at the City College of New York, where the remnants of the SDS and Weather Underground had fused with an emerging punk sensibility.

It’s been a long time since I’ve felt that kind of energy. But I felt it yesterday when I went down to Liberty Square, where the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators have set up camp. Galvanized by both ridicule in the mainstream media and a cop’s unprovoked pepper-spray attack on a woman demonstrator the other day, the motley gathering veritably exuded the Spirit of 1968 (5729). “There’s something happening here/What it is ain’t exactly clear…” is the way Buffalo Springfield put it in those electrifying days.

The demonstrators’ energy was focused around a tribal drum circle on the Broadway side of the park. People were pounding out an infectious rhythm on drums, cymbals, and garbage cans. They were playing tubas, trumpets, and washboards. And they were dancing, while a few yards away, on Broadway, a chorus line of demonstrators held up signs demanding economic and social justice. It was uplifting, hopeful, and magical in a way that’s difficult to quantify, but obvious to anybody who was there.

And take my word for it—these people aren’t going anywhere. Because most of them have nothing to lose and nowhere better to go. They’re serious, angry, unemployed, and dug in for the long haul. Ignore them at your peril.

Happy New Year, Wall Street. Read More 
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