Monday, October 05, 2009

Outside Merrill Lynch

I found myself outside Merrill Lynch on Friday with my painting of Ken Lewis. I enjoyed myself less than I usually do, although Alix Steel at TheStreet.com did a nice piece on me...

Go here.

Apparently you can't embed TheStreet videos. I thought my hair looked good.

Anyway, my day started with one of the World Financial Center security guys coming up to me and telling me I couldn't do what I was doing. I told him I could. He told me he would call the cops. I told him I would be happy to have a police officer visit the site and that I was sure that, post-visit, I would still be standing right where I was standing, doing what I was doing.

He suggested that he had his doubts, then called the cops.

The cops came, chatted, assured the security guy that I was simply exercising my constitutional rights to:

a--display my painting on public property provided I'm not impeding pedestrian traffic
b--carry an open bottle of liquor in my car but not drink from it, provided I am operating the vehicle in a place called Texas
c--arrive at an event featuring the President of the United States with an assault rifle and a racially charged image glued to a stick.

You pick one.
Given that it's a relatively short document, the Constitution certainly covers a lot of ground.
Yes it does.
Anyway, it must be said that after the cop cleared me of all wrong-doing, the local security people became quite friendly; would stop by and read a comment or two, etc. So that was good.

Look at this picture:



Everything you need to know is here: Four World Financial Center is the address ... The ML sign is displayed prominently ... There's my painting ... There's a person looking at my painting.

My problem (well, part of my problem) is that this is exemplary of the highest level of foot traffic I encountered at any one time. Namely, virtually zero.

For those of you not in the know, Merrill Lynch is located, in some significant part, at 250 Vesey Street--part of the business and residential development known as Battery Park City and the World Financial Center. It lies just to the west of the West Side Highway (which means it might as well be in Ohio) and can only be reached by one of the ugliest public structures I have ever seen--the Vesey St. pedestrian overpass.



It was stunningly ugly when built and, I'm here to report, has aged poorly. See those weird slats on the sides? It looks like an Amtrak train had somehow lodged itself in the air above the highway in the mid-Eighties and now, twenty-some years later, was simply decomposing. I've driven under it hundreds of times and each time, I promise you, I've been amazed at just how unattractive it is.

And the World Financial Center felt like a scene from one of those nuclear disaster movies where the buildings remain but everybody is gone. I mean, where was everybody?

Anyway, to make a long story shorter, at around 3pm the Merrill Lynch security guy emerges. He, it must be said, is different from the building's security people. He tells me I'm welcome to show my painting but that I have to move away from the entrance (which I am not, it should be noted, blocking. I'm situated cat-a-corner from the entrance, if that's how you spell it).

I tell him I was thinking about leaving shortly (my strategy was to throw him a bone in the interest of sharing the love) but that until I did I wouldn't be moving. I felt a little like Michael Moore trying to arrest the board of AIG. He told me I'd better move or he'd call the cops. And he said it in such an unpleasant way that I returned fire somewhat harshly. He stepped away, called somebody while standing in front of the building, spoke in an animated fashion for a couple of minutes, hung up and walked back inside.

What? No goodbye?

Me? I was planning on repairing to the Peter McManus Cafe for a cold beer and the warm embrace of friendship. Instead I hung out for another hour and fifteen minutes, just to piss the guy off.

Does that make me a bad person?

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