The Thrill of Subversion

Sleeping on the sidewalk as the SNL hopefuls do is perfectly legal because it’s sanctioned by the NYPD and monitored by a Rockefeller Center security guard (most often a friendly one named Luis), but sidewalk sleeping in NYC is not legal and haGiuliani Cracks Downsn’t been since the Giuliani administration. Giuliani himself said, “Streets do not exist in civilized societies for the purpose of people sleeping there… Bedrooms are for sleeping.” So for those in the line, spending a day or more on the sidewalk comes with a certain feeling of rebelliousness, which makes the experience thrilling, unique, and in the eyes of some passersby, crazy. By posting on social media during the experience and retelling the tale afterwards, participants are able to impress and shock their friends and family. This rebelliousness is what I imagine some residents of the Salton Sea, as profiled in Plagues and Pleasures on the Salton Sea, have by residing in this place that many would deem unlivable. I am reminded of the joyful man who enjoys standing nude on the side of the road. He is subverting norms (the norms in this case being wearing clothes) regularly, and it makes him happy.

Sidewalks in NYC have a long history of serving as a gathering place for people with a common goal, whether it be to get tickets for an event or to rebel against the 1%. The original Broadway production of Rent in the 1990’s and early 2000’s sold Rentdiscount tickets on the day of their shows which people would wait hours upon hours for. It got so out of hand that it sparked a new method of distributing discounted tickets to Broadway shows, the lottery, a process that theatergoers of today are quite familiar with. And then there’s public protests, which are often not officially sanctioned, landing participants in legal trouble, but similar feelings of camaraderie do arise. When people, strangers, gather for a purpose the inevitable interactions provide a “break out of rigidity” and give way to surprises and playfulness, as outlined in the “Interaction” section of Software Studies: A Lexicon.

However, many who sleep on sidewalks don’t have the luxury of the choice to sleep on the sidewalk or not: it is the only option. The homeless in New York City often express feeling safer on the sidewalks than in shelters, however it is illegal for them to reside where they prefer. On the official NYC website, New Yorkers are encouraged to file a “Homeless Person Complaint” if homeless are “blocking a sidewalk or ATM, outstretched or sleeping in a subway, on the tracks, or in another Transit District area, creating a danger to themselves or others… repeatedly [occupying] the same location or [establishing] an encampment.”

 Complaint     Deuce

Perhaps the Salton Sea is the only option for many of its residents as well, especially those at Bombay Beach. They don’t get the luxury of feeling thrill or joy at the helm of rebellion. For them it is the only option.

/*Jamie Kiliany*/

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~ by jamiekiliany on November 1, 2015.

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