First we take Manhattan

I’d forgotten all about this prescient song till it was the first up on my iPod today(thanks again, Steve). I could listen to Leonard Cohen all day long – I heard him at the Academy of Music a few years ago where he performed just after this London concert (on tour to pay off his debts, appropriately enough). Best concert I’ve ever been to.

My son lives on Wall Street, right near the bull, and so I first heard about the Occupy Wall Street protests about a month ago when, he told me, a policeman stopped him and asked for proof he really lived there. (He only lives there; doesn’t work there – he’s not that kind of guy.) His license has his old Brooklyn address, so ever since then he’s had to carry his lease around in his pocket to get back in his building.

They want to occupy Wall Street, he said, but they weren’t getting very far. And the drums were scaring the horses and the horses were pooping all in front of his building and generally it was a real pain. Lots of weird characters and homeless people and drunks and demands that weren’t all that clear; and he was getting really sick of carrying his lease around.

I think it’s great, I told him. I’ve been wondering (ever since 2000, actually) where all the outrage is. I missed the protest movements of the sixties – graduating from college just a year too early; living overseas in the military while kids here demonstrated against the war my husband was forced to join (or cut off a toe or go to Canada, options we actually considered).

When Bush invaded Iraq people protested, but no one paid much attention – or maybe the media just didn’t cover it, with all the flags and flag pins and preening patriotism we were subjected to.

Now, all of a sudden, people seem to be listening to this guy with the sign. And it’s spreading – to here in Philadelphia, and even to Berlin! But what’s it all about?

Money. The protesters don’t have enough of it because they don’t have jobs. Our political system is broken because there’s too much of it – and this goes for Democrats as well as Republicans, Obama just as much as all the Republican ciphers yelling at each other on stage last night. Everyone is beholden to someone: the more money, the more beholden.

How to fix this? It’s a lot harder than withdrawing from Vietnam. It’s as impenetrable to me as the lyrics of Leonard’s song:

They sentenced me to twenty years of boredom
For trying to change the system from within
I’m coming now, I’m coming to reward them
First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin

I’m guided by a signal in the heavens
I’m guided by this birthmark on my skin
I’m guided by the beauty of our weapons
First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin

I’d really like to live beside you, baby
I love your body and your spirit and your clothes
But you see that line there moving through the station?
I told you, I told you, told you, I was one of those

Ah you loved me as a loser, but now you’re worried that I just might win
You know the way to stop me, but you don’t have the discipline
How many nights I prayed for this, to let my work begin
First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin

I don’t like your fashion business mister
And I don’t like these drugs that keep you thin
I don’t like what happened to my sister
First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin

I’d really like to live beside you, baby …

And I thank you for those items that you sent me
The monkey and the plywood violin
I’ve practiced every night, now I’m ready
First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin

I am guided

Ah remember me, I used to live for music
Remember me, I brought your groceries in
Well it’s Father’s Day and everybody’s wounded
First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin

But at least we’re done with the twenty years of boredom.



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2 Responses to First we take Manhattan

  1. Tina says:

    love little synchronicities…last night I came across Jennifer Warnes’ version of this last night, had not heard it for years, was startled to see it appear again in your post

    love Leonard Cohen…
    love those people in the street…
    we even had a little one here in the small community of Yucca Valley

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