Richard Verstegan 5 a.m., March 12
- Community Blog
- TJ from PB
The OSD Chronicles (Diary of an Occupier)
OCT 8 - Got off the blue line trolley downtown and headed for City Hall. Once inside the plaza area I saw a sign that directed me to a park on 1st and G. As I strolled the several blocks to the park a trio of young men fell in behind me.
"Are you going to Occupy?" they asked me.
"Yup," I answered.
"Right on, so are we," came their reply. As we were talking, the park came into view.
The Occupy camp at Childrens Park consisted of tents, tables and placards. Lots and lots of placards. A small hill on one corner of the park was covered in hand written signs of every conceivable cause. By far the majority of the signs were protesting the disparity in wealth that cripples the development of the United States of America these days. However, other issues abounded. Free health care advocates, gay and lesbian rights activists, the socialist party, labor unions... It seemed like everybody with a gripe against Uncle Sam was here.
A media center had been set up where people sat at laptops or fiddled with cameras. The atmosphere was busy in a mellow sort of way. As I walked the entire camp a couple of times, I noticed how many people seemed to be discussing politics and the state of our nation in general. That was what stood out to me on that first day. Childrens Park in San Diego buzzed with small clusters of Americans rapping about democracy. It was a beautiful thing.
As a poli-sci junkie I dug the scene. So I looked for a good place to post up and start taking notes. This park has no benches near its reflecting pool. Just these concrete things that are most uncomfortable. I perched myself as best as I could atop one, lit a sandalwood incense that I pulled from my satchel and started taking notes. After a couple of hours I packed up and left to catch the route 30 to go to work in PB.
OCT 11 - By this time the camp had moved to Civic Center Plaza. From a political statement point of view, I felt that this was a better location. As it was between City Hall and the towering marble altars to the almighty dollar that are the banks on B street.
It was my my third visit to the new location but tonight would be the first night I slept over. On the other occasions I'd merely perused the various clusters of protestors. Not so much seeking an immediate story but rather trying to identify characters and those of character, or best of all, characters with character, amongst the crowd. people that I find interesting. Which makes me want to write about them. I would come to find that Occupy has all of the above and more.
I got off work at 9pm and arrived at the plaza a little after 10. The place was awake and active. I couldn't help but grin when I saw the theater sign on 3rd street.It advertised the musical HAIR. Some in the camp appeared to have come dressed as extras in the play. Wether colorfully attired or not, the general sense that I felt was one of positiveness. People trying to help people for the betterment of mankind. "This place is giving off some good vibes," I thought to myself.
There wasn't a lot of available space to bed down. It took me awhile before I found a spot beside one of the pillars that support the second story walkway. I didn't have a tent, sleeping bag or even a blanket. Just a jacket and a few cigarettes to keep me warm. They didn't help much and by morning I was aching pretty good from the chilly night.
That was when I got to know my neighbors. Those bedded down around me. All of us were lying near a makeshift altar that had been erected for the man who fell from the parking structure a few days earlier. Nearest the candles and flowers was a young couple. Closest to me were two homeless men who I still see to this day. One is named Kenny but I call him "General" because he reminds me of a confederate general. The other is named James but everybody calls him Elvis.
That was when I began to realize how many homeless people were within the Occupy camp. I wondered how many of these were active participants and how many were in the camp for the security it was providing. Street life can be a brutal existance. The numbers rattled me at first but I would soon come to realize that of all the shame that blots 'America's finest tourist trap' it's treatment of the homeless is the cruelest stain of all.
Within five minutes of sharing talk and tobacco with Elvis, I felt comfortable around the man. The General didn't say much. He never does. Just nods. And that was how I passed the early morning of Oct 12 2011 at the Occupy San Diego camp. Just me, Elvis and the General.
END PART ONE "Coffee's Ready, Gotta Go...!!!"