I should say a few words here about the curious way the protests are organized. The protesters learned in 2014 that having leaders was a weakness. Once the leadership was arrested, the heart went out of the occupy movement, and it lost momentum. So in 2019, there is no leadership at all. The protests are intentionally decentralized, using a jury-rigged combination of a popular message board, the group chat app Telegram, and in-person huddles at the protests.
This sounds like it shouldn’t possibly work, but the protesters are too young to know that it can’t work, so it works.
The protesters divide themselves into groups based on how much they can risk being arrested. The issue is not jail time, but the prospect of losing a job or being kicked out of school, now that China has shown it will crack down ferociously on companies that employ demonstrators. . . .
It is hard to believe this is the tenth week of protests. The energy and numbers are just astonishing. In spite of the relentlessness of the police, in spite of the beatings from thugs who the authorities have allowed to rough up people with impunity, every weekend Hong Kongers come out to march. . . .
We are now in the heart of the tourist district, with hotels and fancy restaurants all around us. If I came here during the day, I would be stopped and asked a dozen times if I wanted my clothes tailored. Tonight, the tailors have stayed home. The street is a sea of black-clad people in masks and hard hats. Word goes around that tear gas has already been fired two blocks away, and I fumble to get my equipment on.
The Persian poets say the nose is the outpost of the face. I am normally proud of mine. Its great bulk has preceded me into every difficult situation in my life, sniffing out both danger and opportunity.
But the mask I bought here is designed for more delicate faces than mine. When I put it on, it somehow channels the air I exhale directly into my goggles, which fog up instantly. I can only see for a few seconds at a time before the world turns into a white mist. But, I reason, not being able to see from condensation will be much better than not being able to see from tear gas. I hang goggles and mask around my neck and await developments.
I was operating the elevator when the repairman came aboard. After a lot of small talk he let me in on an industry secret: the “door close” button is not wired to anything. “It’s just a pacifier,” he said.
On a normal day I think in questions: “Should I quit my job? Why can’t I relate to people? Where am I going?” I can never answer them conclusively and only wear myself out. When I’m high in the back of a club listening to Son Seals play I only think in answers: “I’ll move to El Paso this fall. These solos are wandering into every unused space. My girlfriend is pretty good looking after all. I should see about buying a mausoleum.”
A municipal concession to human psychology: The insides of buses are lit at night because people will not sit in dark rooms with strangers.
I bought some greeting cards in a Nungessers junk shop last night. They’re not much more than twenty years old but the sentiments are already foreign. Fluff from other eras always turns my stomach. What if no one feels these feelings anymore. Do they go down in history like famous clothes?
I wonder if Jackson Pollock unconsciously designed so many of these canvases to have the same dimensions as U.S. paper currency, accidentally imbuing them with some concrete power.
Working at the museum is changing the way I look at everyday objects. Eating at an Italian restaurant, I look at the red and white gridded tablecloth and wonder that all the dishes have their owned unnamed coordinates.
All the guards are freaks. That is a fact. Wouldn’t standing alone in a corner six hours a day over many years change you?
-- Carl Sandburg, Rutabaga Stories (1922)