What with the occupation of wall street and connected occupations in other cities around the country going on currently I've been thinking a lot about occupation, what it means to occupy a space. While I have a lot of thoughts on the current large scale protest occupations going on I wanted to share a story of another, much smaller, occupation.
Recently, a home disappeared. There's a highway overpass that I ride my bike under at least twice a day. It's common to see piles of trash underr there, heaps of scrap wood, burst garbage bags of fast food wrappers, and couches missing their cushions. Often a mattress or box-spring sits on the sidewalk there, propped up at an awkward angle for weeks before it's removed. About a month ago some one (or a few someones) saw it as an opportunity to make a home.
One day I ronde my bike past and noticed that the latest abandoned mattress had been laid flat and someone was sleeping on it. Good, I thought, so much nicer than cardboard, I hope it doesn't have bed bugs. A few days later the mattress had sheets; not just any sheets mind you, but red, silk sheets, and I smiled.
I continued to smile every time I passed through, the day they added a blue and white gingham comforter, pillows, a patchwork quilt. Soon there was not only a bed, things began to appear. A small rag gug, a broom, a box full of purses, clothes. The last day it was there even a poster had been pasted up on the highway trestle behind the bed, an image of a shopping cart grown wings, flying with a flock of birds. Every time I rode by and the place got nicer, homier, I grinned and hoped they could stay. Some days there were people, shapes beneath the silk sheets and patchwork quilt, or guys sitting on top of the gingham comforter talking and laughing. Until one day I bike past and it was gone, no more bed, no more rugs or boxes, even the poster had been painted over like art of so many others who had tried to leave their mark under the bridge.
So while my heart goes out to the 700 people arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge yesterday, it also goes out to those folks who for a few weeks made themselves a home.