In some ways Occupy Wall Street looks like a Sixties lovefest—men, women, and a bunch of sleeping bags all thrown together in one big mosh pit. But is anyone actually getting lucky? As the protest movement moved into its fifth week in Manhattan, it seemed a good time to head into the crowds for a night to find out.
Tim Weldon, who had traveled from Connecticut to man the “think tank” desk—where people submit ideas for reform into Tupperware containers—loomed as a good start. He was engaged in passionate conversation with a pretty girl—but quickly told me sex is not what this movement is about. “No one is here looking for that,” he said. It’s more that people “are hooking up on an intellectual level.”
He added, however, that the possibility of meeting someone was “in the back of my mind”—and all the more so because of “all the beautiful women here.”
Andy, a curly-haired member of the “facilitation group,” remarked that, “Of course people are meeting each other here—the best people in the world are here.” But the real thrill, he said, was to be among an entire community of like-minded peers. Andy, like others, seemed to be gratifying a generalized craving for interaction, to be somewhere, physically, with people, the togetherness acting like an antidote to Internet-induced solitude.
A trio of men newly arrived from Vermont noted their surprise at the “asexual” vibe in the air. “Plus, it’s sober,” one of them lamented.
But Daniel Levine, a young man in a paper-boy cap working the information desk, wasn’t having an “asexual” week. “I got a job and a date out of this,” he said. The job is with an Iranian television station to which he’ll be supplying weekly OWS updates. The date? With a woman he used to know but hadn’t seen in three years. She wandered right up to the information desk. Now, he says, he’s planning to take her out to the Freedom Tunnel, the Amtrak tunnel under Manhattan’s Riverside Park.
By 10 p.m. there was a down-shifting of gears. People—several of them bare-footed—were wearing flannel pajamas, puttering around in the chilly weather, preparing for bed.
Brian Camarillo, husky and handsome, in his early twenties, sat alone, serenely munching on snacks. He’s been here since the second day—originally with a “buddy,” but then stayed on, forming a new group of sleeping mates, who share the same little area every night, under a tarp when necessary, jammed up next to each other, and with several dogs as well. Asked if Zuccotti Park is a big hooking-up culture, Brian said it really wasn’t like that. It’s more “relaxed,” he said. “I’ve never been so comfortable with strangers so quickly in my life.”
Yet he’s met someone—and he laughed a little uncertainly in explaining that she is, more or less, just like a friend, but sometimes they do other kinds of “stuff. “
Well after 10 p.m., an apparition floated onto the periphery: a 60-something white guy, his white hair and trench coat flapping in the breeze, wearing shiny loafers, with New York Times rolled up and tucked under his arm. He slowed down to study the scene. A trial lawyer named Mark Zauderer, he has an office across the street, and has been watching the movement organize and grow. What surprises him, he said, is the seriousness, the earnestness. It wasn’t at all like “the hippies and yippies throwing things,” having sex and being wild—activities he recalls from the protests of his youth.
Seriousness aside, the prospect of Occupy Wall Street has not failed to light the sexual imaginations of New Yorkers. Many have been posting madly on Craig’s List.
One such post begins:
Wall Streeter Wants to Bang Occupy Wall Streeter-m4w-40
“Yes, I see you everyday protesting, which I realize is you just craving the attention that I will give you. Why sleep on the cold streets, whining about money that you don’t have, when with one simple click of your mouse and email you can have all you desire. Its that simple.”
Occupy me.- w4m-28 (Financial District)
“Gorgeous, sexy female trader seeks a hot and bothered 99%’er to occupy her all night long. Let yourself be exploited through deeply taxing work. Resist passionately until your voice is hoarse. Succumb and fall asleep wrapped in my Sferra 1,000 thread count sheets, then make me espresso at 6am before I leave to master the universe. Repeat. Welcome to the 1%. Occupy me.”
In the park’s darkness, however, the mood remained peaceful, soporific, until suddenly, around 11 p.m, a rallying cry came: “mic check! mic check!” The call for a microphone check began with one person, but soon everyone was chanting in unison. It seemed something was going down near the southwest corner of the park. Protesters emerged from sleeping bags and tarp tents. Everyone rushed to the corner, to discover that the police were asking that the first-aid tent be taken down, because tents in the park technically are illegal.
One impromptu leader—a blond boy in a yellow scarf—leapt onto a platform to suggest to his fellow protesters that they take down the tent now, but put it back up later. His partisans merely crossed their arms against their chests, in a gesture signifying block.
Within minutes the tension eased. The Rev. Jesse Jackson had appeared as if out of nowhere. Calm as ever, bathed in the glow of television cameras, he spoke to the cops, then to the crowd. Everything was going to be okay.
In the midst of the throng, Rachel Colette, a college student in from Vermont, looked blissed-out and beatific in the arms of her new boyfriend, Jesse, a blond, blue-eyed guy from Wisconsin. They met each other here. This is Jesse’s first time in New York. He stays at the park all week, day and night, but Rachel must come and go, returning to Vermont for her classes. She wishes she could just stay here, she told me. “It’s so amazing, but I probably should keep going to class, keep getting myself deeper into debt.”
Both Rachel and her Jesse were barefoot.
It was midnight when a small group of dissenters charged up the sidewalk adjacent to the park. They were being led by a girl who, just 30 minutes earlier, had been sobbing with frustration during the face-off with the cops. Now she was beaming ear to ear, leading helming her squad. “You guys suck at protesting,” she yelled into the park. “Revolution has no bedtime!”