Yesterday I was in Washington Square Park along with hundreds of other Occupy Wall Streets supporters.
Let me come clean, I would like to say that I was there for the demonstration, holding a witty, anti-establishment placard, but I was actually just passing by to meet my friend and fellow writer, Dan Wakefield, to commiserate on the writer’s life.
We weren’t the only peripheral people there. Right near the arch, there was a mandala being created from huge ziplock bags full of colored sand. The artist would step in and leave his shoe print in the art as he sprinkled colored sand like powdered sugar on the cement.
I loved the colors. And it was amazing that in this square crowded full of protesters, families and college students, there could be sacred art on the ground. No one stepped in it, except the artist.
It seems everyone respects art — much more than they respect the greed of corporate America. Times are a’changing. Let me get my placard and come up with some witty words.
How did Washington Square Park get so pretty and manicured? It wasn’t like that when I went to college there in the mid ’80s.
At the front of the auditorium stage, President John Sexton sat on the floor and talked about his passion for NYU and New York City.
Here’s some of what he said:
“If you wanna lie on the grass and not smell pot, you should go to Columbia.”
Sexton said he was “good at noticing things, good at storytelling, good at inspiring people of high intelligence, good at coaching people to be a team.”
“We’ve got this wonderful locational endowment, structural endowment, and attidunal endowment.” By attidunal Sexton meant, “Forty percent of New Yorkers are immigrants, born in other countries. And we don’t believe in a Golden Age. We believe the best is yet to come… And these immigrants all identify themselves as New Yorkers. The city is a genuine community of communities.”
Sexton did harken back to the Good Old Days of his Brooklyn Catholic upbringing during the time of the Vatican Council and ecumenism. “There is much richness to be gained — not to look at the world through a single window, but to see the many facets in a diamond.”
When asked about the NYU Abu Dhabi and Shanghai campuses, Sexton got defensive. He bragged about the elite core of students in Abu Dhabi and defended their freedoms. He said the construction workers are housed as well as soldiers in US Army barracks (which actually doesn’t sound that good to me).
One older gent pushed Sexton on NYU’s choice of locating a school in the MidEast, asking Sexton to consider this: instead of making NYU so global, how about making it less expensive for the middle class? (The gent got applause.)
As part of his defense, Sexton said he sneaks away just about every weekend for a 14-hour flight to teach a class at the campus there. (That doesn’t sound that fun to me either.)
I drifted out of Sexton’s lecture to get to my next class, leaving NYU’s president and my fellow alumni to hash out the situation. Perfect. NYU, like NYC, is “a complex and cacophonous world,” as Sexton said.
Outside the lecture hall, these guys (and one woman) were playing pétanque. So cool. I felt like I was not in New York City at all, but in the South of France. Even though I love and live on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, life is much more exotic and European in the Village.