Radical Ritual In Trump Tower

Our Radical Ritual at Trump Tower is free writing gatherings on the 5th floor where the city mandated a public garden. We express our intimate privacy in the shadow of Evil. This may be the seed of all change, of revolutionary change. Emma Goldman reminds us that just a few people sitting and talking begin the process of basic change.

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Reverend Billy In Secret Meeting At Trump Tower

trump_savi_stare.jpgWe’re in a strange place, a garden inside Trump Tower.  We are facing blank pages with our pens.  There are 15 of us. Savitri D and myself and singers from the Stop Shopping Choir and friends who heard about it. We’re waiting for the timekeeper to say “Write.”  We will write nonstop for 45 minutes. 
 
The Trump Company is required to let us sit here under this 700 feet high slab of gold-tinted glass.  Years ago, Trump agreed with the city to keep this garden open to the public, in exchange for 24 extra floors.  This is Donald Trump’s business headquarters and sometimes home, with body-armored men at the door with submachine guns.
 
Being inside Trumplandia can be unnerving.  For the New Yorkers who join us in the tower garden, Trump has been the city’s unsavory clown for decades.  We encountered the gold lettering of his name everywhere and we glimpsed posturings with hair in the distance.  When we take the five flights of gold-plated escalators up to the garden, we suffer a full-body immersion.  The gold mirrors make a dim, almost soupy light.  God it’s ugly.
 
“Write!”  We all start scrawling. What we write might be called secrets, first-thoughts, recovered memories, streams of consciousness.  I say “secrets” because we don’t share our writing with one another.  Not yet, anyway.  Now in our fifth week, we haven’t read our work out loud or handed off the journals.
 
We’re focused on pre-Gutenberg writing.  We use the older technology of longhand-and- paper. We’re spending time on the nearside of pixels, streaming, virtual reality. This home-made culture of our little band of citizens, at the site of world-wide piracy and hokum and treason – assumes that something has gone radically wrong in our basic social communicating. But it is inside the sentences that you and I speak all day long, let’s admit it.
 
To borrow from science fiction, there a space-time rip in our language. The Trump tweets, Russian hacks, and Koch trolls seem more like symptoms than causes. Our failure is more devastating than Donald Trump. As a nation, and as a species, we don’t know how to communicate with ourselves. Our town crier function is silenced. The attack-noise of products and law enforcement and fear – make our public media conceal more than reveal.
 
Otherwise we would have written or spoken something in public about the racism, compelling enough to Out The Hate. Why haven’t we shown that families must be protected? How can our defense of life itself be demoted to “issues” and “policy” and “write your congressperson?” This 700 foot wall is crawling with Devils!
 
We don’t need to be great writers. We need to say something. Where is the art of effective protest, the howl, the arts as a starting-over point, or call it just plain I-don’t- buy-it independence. Freedom of expression has become as irrelevant as White House press conferences. 
 
This is why we are turning inward for awhile. Margaret Meade said that revolutions start with a few people talking at a table. We’re in the thoughtful inhale before the talk. The stakes are so high and the hour is so late. We’ll spend some time tilling the soil of silence.
 
There are little weeds in the cracks of the pink granite floor of this so-called garden. There is moss and mold along the walls. We talk to the weeds at the end of our 45 minutes. We ask the weeds to remember us as they dismantle this modernist slab. Can we be super-weeds in your forest?
 
Culture starts from inside, quietly under the surface, like a seed in the soil.  The first breath of a thought, before the socializing starts, is the protest that will grow to bury this wall.We sit together at tables in the garden, the police and the tourists eyeing us from the edges of the gold decor.
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My Preaching Heart

19787252_10154541031195974_9162927819115128198_o.jpgFive days ago my ticker began tocking when she should be ticking. Instead of the reggae beat I was born with, with the beat "one TWO three FOUR" the beat converted to "ONE two THREE four" and pumped 25% less blood. This is called fibrillation or heart arrhythmia. 

In my life I've been preaching on street-corners and in bank lobbies, trying to find the evil and shout back at it. I made my voice louder by working with an opera singer, vibrating my heart with the rest of my body. He taught me to make my whole body a big woofer and my volume doubled. I did this because the police kept taking my bullhorn. My cardiologist says I have to learn to carry some kind of stress-reducing walking yoga into those "contested spaces"... 

Last February I had a real episode, with a jolting in my chest. I took the bus to the local hospital and the busdriver took the whole bus to the front door of the ER. She said her father had a bad heart. I spent a miserable three days and nights in the cardiac ward, getting the "fix", with needles in the back of my hands at 4 AM, pills and bad food. Hospitals!

I suddenly knew I had to leave. It was the middle of the night. I walked out. They threatened me, "If you die outside the door we can't be responsible!" I walked home in the dark with my heart tossing and turning. When I got home I was dizzy. I crawled in with the warm, dreaming Savi and Lena. When I woke up my heart was beating, no - I was beating - on the reggae beat I was born with.

And this morning I'm back on the beat again. This time I cut out the hospital part. This picture near my desk, with the smiling heart, is Lena's.

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