FOUR DAYS WITH THE SIGN IN ITS KINKO’S BAG leaning against the wall with nowhere to go. You’re supposed to like days off. I used to love a snow day. Now I find myself missing standing on Chambers Street with the sign. It was good to catch the 6 train downtown this morning.
Monday, November 21, 2016
IT WAS COLD ON CHAMBERS STREET this morning. The wind was blowing harder downtown than where I live and there were a couple times I had to laugh to myself when the sign almost flew out of my hands while I was adjusting the knit cap I wear on cold mornings. I laughed because I must have looked funny standing there in the wind to the folks crawling by in their warm cars in the morning crush of traffic.
Some of them beep to let me know they agree with the sign. Some roll down their windows and give me a thumbs-up or quick take a picture of the sign with their phones. Now and then someone will ask out their window what my deal is, but I can’t really make out what they’re saying because they’re doing big construction work on a building across the street and that drowns out the exchange. I grin and nod back at them.
One guy walking by me today said, because it was so cold and windy, ‘That’s dedication!’ That I could hear. It makes me feel good to hear that. Not because it’s about me, in the normal sense of me. But because it corroborates this rewarding feeling of being useful which I’ve had since the message of the sign came to me.
Saturday, November 19, 2016
ON SUNDAY AT THE AGNES MARTIN EXHIBIT at the Guggenheim my middle daughter had a cynical post-election Hillary pin on and a long face--still. She's that way. A die-hard for Hillary. She wasn't even sure she'd be up for the museum, much as she wanted to see my sister in from out of town. Inside the Guggenheim I noticed her on her own looking closely at the art. She was deep into it, like she can be. I don't know what it said to her, but it certainly spoke to her. I could see that.
Today I met a friend in from Cleveland for breakfast near Lincoln Center. I happened to pass by a Trump building a few blocks from there. It was cordoned off. I always hated the look of his buidlings. I'm not just saying that now. It was good to get to Lincoln Center and all the impressive, artful buildngs there.
Art will save us now, if we let it. But we have to go to it.
Thursday, November 17, 2016
NOT EVERYBODY GETS THE SIGN. Some don’t want to. You can see it on their faces. Who are you to be holding that sign? We don’t need you to tell us. Don’t remind us.
Maurice gets it. Gets it as much anyone maybe. He stopped yesterday. Skinny black guy. Probably not my age. Silk baseball jacket on. Matching baseball cap. Both with the logo of the security company he works for. He was heading to work. He tapped my sign right in the center to let me know that the message was at the core of what’s needed. He said that the young kids do wild things because they’re frustrated. He said frustration is the root of all the problems. He tapped the sign again and said that would keep them from being so frustrated. He re-emphasized that notion, and said the sign was a good thing, keep up the fight. And headed off to work.
Then he turned and came back and fist bumped me, asked me my name and told me his.
Tuesday, November 15, 2016
I HAVE AN ALMOST-50-YEAR-OLD LONDON FOG LIGHT-TAN RAINCOAT that my mother sent me money to buy in the campus store in South Bend, Indiana that I wear when it’s just sprinkling and I want to hold my sign to show the people it matters more than enough--as in, I think it could change the world--to get a little wet. Part of my street cred with the sign comes from my consistency. ‘Man, you’re here every day.’
It was raining too hard though today. Not too hard for me. I’ve got that raincoat and a couple different baseball caps I could wear. But the sign could get ruined if it’s sopping rain.
I never want to miss a day, which is a pretty powerful sign of its own. Today especially I wanted to be there, to stand as mindfully as I could for Gwen Ifill.
Monday, November 14, 2016
THIS MORNING THERE WAS A BIG DELIVERY TRUCK parked with one leg up on the sidewalk right by where I stand with my sign. When that happens—and it’s happened more than a few times—I think I’m just adding to the narrowing of the sidewalk space for people heading to work or school. I think about going home. I think about going to the diner for breakfast lately. Since the election, I think about eggs and toast and, hash browns and ketchup a lot. The hash browns mostly. I must crave some comfort from the warmth and texture. After 9/11 I found myself craving Jameson Irish whiskey. I’d go up to a bar near me in the East Village every night that first week and order a shot of Jameson with my first pint, which was not the normal schedule. Sometimes two shots. A couple weeks later I read somewhere that bars noticed how many more shots they poured after 9/11.
I stayed my hour today. The truck was there the whole time. I’m glad I stayed. I sense from the faces, that since Wednesday, the sign is maybe some people’s Jameson, some people’s warm breakfast.
Wednesday, November 9, 2016
I WENT TO SLEEP LAST NIGHT with the election outcome in doubt. I knew I had to get up at 6:00 to get ready to go out with my sign. I hoped what would happen was that I’d wake up at like 4:00 in the morning and reach for my phone and find that my team had won on a walk-off home run. That’s happened to me more than a few times. I was counting on it happening this morning. But the phone had a CNN alert on the screen that led with the words Donald Trump. No joy in Mudville.
Downtown where I hold my sign for an hour each morning in front of the Dept. Of Education Building, I knew that some of the people who I see every day would think I’d have some special take on the election results. Some walked by me with exaggerated faces of sadness thinking I’d reflect a similar look back at them. They think I’m Mr. Activist because I’m there with my sign. Some flash me peace signs. Some raise a black power fist, which says to me how few people are activists anymore, that I get mistaken for a radical, which I’m not, at least by my historical definition.
A few people stopped and wanted to talk about last night. If I had been in a bar and I still drank, I’d have talked all day about it. But all I said was, I’m not going to give him my day.
I stood there today especially focused on why I was there and on what my sign said. Sometimes my mind wanders for a minute and I bring it back and set my feet and hold my sign straight. Today because I’d just read J.D. Salinger’s Franny and Zooey, I thought about Seymour, and I held it for the Fat Lady.