Archive for the ‘Union Square’ category

Ankling through Greenwich Village in the rain

September 22, 2007

The weather has been so good for so long that I barely check the weather anymore.  A few days ago I had seen the all clear for another beautiful weekend…and got surprised.

I initially went down to Union Square and found the usual artists and farmers markets in full bloom, but nothing else of any particular interest.  One artist’s work caught my eye and that of others.  He was painting a nice depiction of Union Square.

Although in a wheelchair, he stood up a moment later and did some moving around.  I don’t know if he uses it as a medical necessity or just to cart his stuff around.  I suspect the latter.  And…if I were really cynical I could make a further guess.  I won’t…at this time.

Anyway, I wandered off to Greenwich Village (AKA West Village, AKA the Village) just to do some wandering.  Okay, right now the purists are shouting that “Greenwich Village” is the whole area east to west.  True in definition but not really in practice.  If you want to talk about the East Village, you say “the East Village”, but if you’re talking about the West Village, you can use any term you want.

The Village was, as always, wonderfully calm and cool (in all the senses).  The best part of the area is how weird the streets are laid out.  If you know NYC, you know that avenues go north-south and streets go east west.  So how do you get an intersection of 10 Street and 4th Street?  I’m not even going to try to explain the layout.

As I was wandering, it started to rain.  At first, lightly.  Later it grew to moderate size.  I found myself at the corner of Charles Street and Hudson Street under some scaffolding (it does come in handy sometimes even though it usually annoys me).  For a long time it was just me, a little traffic on the car and sidewalk, and a teenage candy vendor trying to sell his wares to passersby.  Very, very relaxing.

It seemed that only about 60% of the pedestrians were using umbrellas.  A lot of them had abandoned themselves to a wet fate.

After a while, I decided to get my own umbrella and then did some more wandering.  Here’s Waverly Street.

And, of course, now that I had my umbrella, the rain lessened.  It did kick up now and then, but no problem.

12th Street is one of those streets in the Village and SoHo that have the old paving.  It has to be a pain for the streets department, but it is very cool.

So, my wanderings around and about the Village were cut a bit short, but it was pleasant and I have to admit after last weekend’s wall-to-wall events, it was nice to stop and just watch a pleasant rainfall.

-H

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Union Square Food Exhibition

September 10, 2007

On 9/8, there was something going on at Union Square (remember “something’s always going on at Union Square”) and I decided to take a look.

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There were the normal artists and farmers’ market, but this time there was a second sort of farmers market going on.  It was actually an exhibit by a number of diverse food groups.  And there was music.  Pretty good music, if I say so myself.

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The style started off as straight-out bluegrass.  They did a version of Hank Williams’ “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” in an upbeat bluegrass style that I thought was terrific.  And, amazingly enough, they then launched into some Brazilian folk tunes.  (Hey, Brazil Day was last week!)  It was great.

And I wasn’t alone in thinking it.  A number of people were up and dancing.

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Yes, haybales in Manhattan.

I did some wandering around looking at the exhibits and was initially pretty mystified.

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What the heck does NYC have to do with farming, aside from consuming their produce and hosting marketplaces?  Historically, NYC had a lot of farming, but that’s gone, ain’t it?

Actually, no.  You don’t have regular farms in NYC anymore (that I’m aware of – NYC’s pretty big so who knows), but there are a lot of community gardens where people do grow produce.  Well, that’s not going to feed more than a very small number of families in total.  But, it does beautify the neighborhoods.  I don’t know whether there’s any direct need of farm bills for NYC residents, but the goal of this group was to get people thinking small and locally.  Hey, I’ll still eat my produce from Flordia, Peru, California, and Chile, but I’ve got nothing against those who are trying the 100-mile idea.  (Maybe the lower demand will lower the prices on some of the stuff I buy.)

At first I was a little more skeptical, but then I found one group that was promoting the growth of herb gardens.  Not a bad thing, I thought.  And then I ran into this guy.

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He was great.  A nice guy and an actual beekeeper in the Bronx.  I wonder if he considers the bees his “livestock”?  Why not?

And then there was a group called “Just Food”, who were promoting “food and justice for all”.  Who’d oppose either of those (although I’d insist that “all” buy their own food).  Their main exhibit was under their table.

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But I have to admit that I’m opposed to chicken-keeping in city limits.

-H

Tax Protest at Union Square

September 9, 2007

Well, on September 1 there was a tax protest at Union Square.

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So, I saw Black Americans protesting income taxes, big deal.  I’ve heard about the idea that some Blacks believe that the tax laws don’t apply to them because there is some sort of exception for Blacks or because it is a reparations issue.  So, I decided to figure out what it was about.  They brought lots of documentation that seemed to support the idea that the issue was oriented toward Blacks, simply because of their use of the word “slave” in a number of their documents.

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But that theory was exploded early.  Apparently, they’re being black and using the word “slave” were ancillary to their point.  I just wish I understood their point… 

I talked with one of them.  He was very earnest and determined to prove his point.  He said the income tax process wasn’t legal.  I mentioned there was a Constitutional amendment.  He pulled out a copy of the Constitution and read the sixteenth amendment to me (kudos to him).  He then said that the amendment only gave the government the power to levy taxes.  It wasn’t a law.  I was extremely puzzled.  I had expected some sort of statement about it being unjust or inapplicable but to say there was the power and authority to tax and that Congress has neglected to pass a law to levy tax simply boggled me.  But that’s what he said.

I don’t know the code references, but I did say that every few years, Congress passes a new set of tax laws changing levels and changing exemptions.  He became very animated by this and told me that it wasn’t….I don’t know.  He didn’t say it wasn’t applicable.  He said something about how it didn’t apply to individuals, but that was an aside.  He handed me a written document that accuses unnamed IRS and government authorities of high crimes and misdemeaners.  It also says that one of these crimes is “…should have known of the non-existence of a law made in pursuance of the Sixteenth Amendment…”.

Twice I heard them cite corporations as paying no taxes and how unjust it is.  Which is kind of a strange complaint if they don’t believe there’s any law for any taxes. 

While I was there, I saw one of the members engaged in a relatively lengthy conversation.  Maybe they have no relationship, but they seemed friendly.

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The guy on the right spent a while talking with them.  Once again, I have no idea if he’s a comrade in their struggle, a rabid supporter, or a rabid opponent.  But the guy on the right is a regular Union Square guy that I think of as “Prison Planet Guy” because he has this weird shirt that has unreadable messages written all over it, with a “www dot prisonplanet dot com” address quite legible.  That site is very strange and I hesitate to give it any sort of political assignment.  It seems to be on its own.  I will say that there doesn’t seem to have a conspiracy theory that it doesn’t ascribe to.

Well, I’m all in favor of the non-enforcement of non-existent laws.  But I have a sneaking suspicion that there are tax laws so I’ll be filing my taxes the same way I do every year….reluctantly but on time.

-H

Brazilian Martial Arts and Dance at Union Square

September 3, 2007

Hey, it was a Brazilian sort of time in Manhattan over Labor Day Weekend.

On Saturday, I showed up at Union Square, mostly from boredom and hoped to find something interesting.  Remember, something is always happening in Union Square.  (Maybe that should be a sub-heading for this blog.)

Well, there was a lot of stuff going on in Union Square.  There were tax protestors, artists, farmer markets, crowds, more crowds, and a group of….dancers?  Fighters?  I heard some Carribean-sounding music and went over to see what was going on.  I was confronted with a small circle of people surrounding two men who were fighting in slow motion.

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I didn’t know what it was, but it was obviously a friendly demonstration.  All done to music and chants from the surrounding members who would occasionally switch out with one another.

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The style is actually called “Capoeira” and is reputed to be created by Brazil’s African slaves during the 1800’s and was disguised as a dance to assuage any concern by the slaveholders.  It definitely looked more dance than martial art.  I never saw a fast move or a strong contact between any of the participants.  No grappling holds either.  Just fluid motion that had the appearance of both martial art and dance. 

It was also obvious that the moves were more-or-less spontaneous and not part of a choreographed routine.

If you saw Jackie Chan’s “drunken master” style in one of his movies, it seemed to have that sort of disjointed, but floating movement.  I saw the movie once in the mid-1990s so I don’t know if capoeira really does resemble the style (which, in the movie, was extremely exaggerated), but when I was watching the demonstration, it certainly seemed to have some sort of parallel.

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The women also participated.  Their movements were definitely more dance-like, but they certainly enjoyed themselves.

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Sunday was Brazil Day in Manhattan.  I’ll be posting on it soon, but I found this one very interesting and wanted to put it up quickly.  (Oh yeah, I’ll also post on the other happenings in Union Square.  Especially the tax protest.  It was…odd and not what I expected.)

-H