The 100th Anniversary of the Wall Street Bombing

At 12:01 pm on September 16, 1920, a bomb exploded in the financial district of Manhattan in New York City. 30 people died instantly with 8 more deaths to follow. 143 additional people were injured. It was the deadliest terror attack on American soil up to that point.

According to Wikipedia, this crime was never solved, but it is suspected that it was carried out by Italian anarchists. It had to do with postwar social unrest, labor struggles, and anti-capitalist agitation. (Sound familiar?)

The bomb rolled up on a horse drawn carriage, times being what they were. It consisted of 100 pounds of dynamite and 500 pounds of shrapnel. Given that there was a timer, you’d think the terrorist would have had the decency to save the horse, but no. The driver escaped, though. Of course.

The explosion mostly took out young, lower level employees; messengers, clerks and the like. That hardly seems fair. But of course none of this was fair.

It also caused 2 million dollars in property damage, which would be worth nearly 26 million today. It was no accident that this happened at lunch hour at the busiest intersection of Wall Street. You can still see remnants of the damage to this day.

Needless to say, trading on the New York Stock Exchange was suspended immediately. James Saul, aged 17, took a car and spent a good deal of time transporting 30 people to hospital. I bet he turned out to be an amazing person. Unfortunately, that information seems to be lost to history.

So anxious were they to get back to business as usual that they cleaned the area up that night, destroying a lot of evidence. But flyers were found that said, “ Free the political prisoners, or it will be sure death for all of you. American Anarchist Fighters.” It is now assumed that the political prisoners referred to were Sacco and Vanzetti, two Italian anarchists who were erroneously arrested (and later electrocuted) for murdering two people.

So there you have it. A bit of history to enjoy while eating your corn flakes this morning. You’re welcome.

Not a good day to be on Wall Street.

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Okay, this is fascinating. I’ve been passing under Eruvin all my life, often multiple times a day, and I never knew they existed. That is most likely the case for you, too. The only reason I know about Eruvin now is that I stumbled across an article entitled, “There’s a Wire Above Manhattan That You’ve Probably Never Noticed. It’s 18 miles long.”

That got my attention. How can there be something that’s 18 miles long that goes unnoticed by people in such a densely populated city? I had to learn more.

It turns out that an eruv (which is the singular for eruvin) is a symbolic, ritual enclosure that one encounters in some Orthodox Jewish communities. These enclosures once consisted of walls or fences. Now they’re usually a wire or string between posts to create imaginary walls. In essence, they religiously enclose an area.

If you are inside this enclosure, there are things that you can do on Shabbat that are usually prohibited. This includes carrying things, which is considered work on the Sabbath. Imagine how difficult it would be to avoid carrying groceries or house keys or medication or children in public places one day a week. Imagine if you couldn’t use strollers or walkers or canes if you needed them.

So an eruv converts public places into private holy spaces. A Rabbi is tasked with inspecting these eruv every Thursday to make sure there are no gaps. It turns out that over 200 eruvin currently exist in the United States.

The Manhattan eruv, the largest, most expensive one in the world, costs 100,000 dollars a year to maintain. But it is worth it to the devout if it allows them increased functionality without fear of breaking Jewish law.

If you’re interested in seeing if there’s an eruv in your city, check out the list here. You can also see these eruvin on Google Maps. There are several in my city of Seattle.

I plan to look up more often to see if I can spot one. They frequently utilize utility poles, but the wires have to go across the top of a post (which sometimes requires a post to be attached to a pole) to be considered legitimate. It’s fascinating to think these eruvin have been hiding in plain sight all along.

By the way, I am not Jewish, so please accept my apologies for any inaccuracies in this post. It is not my intention to offend or mislead anyone. I just happen to find this subject interesting.


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Coming Out on Tops

The other day I learned about an amazing woman named Moira Johnston who is an advocate for women’s rights and human rights. One of her latest acts is walking topless through Manhattan. Because she can. It’s legal in New York State to do so, you know. Here’s a direct quote from her website: “It is legal for women to go topless anywhere men may do the same in the entire state of New York, since 1992.” Needless to say she draws quite a lot of attention and raises quite a lot of, uh…awareness about this double standard. People stop and take pictures. Some drive the wrong way down one way streets.

I was quite surprised at my own inner turmoil when I first heard about Moira the other day. Part of me thought, “Good for her! Why not?” but another part of me was shocked. So I had to ask myself why. It really is rather silly, this “thing” we have about women’s breasts. What’s the difference? Just a little bit of topography, really. I think the reason women’s breasts are so sexualized in the first place is because we keep them so hidden. The taboo is what turns people on.

We often make fun of cultures that keep their women entirely covered up, because we think it’s as simple as thinking that men can’t control themselves otherwise. Clearly the issue is much more complex than that. We keep ourselves covered, too. It’s so pervasive we don’t even realize it. There’s this unspoken social pressure. Would I have the courage to go topless in Manhattan? No.

And the more I think about it, the more I resent it. Once, when I was 19, I was hiking in the Swiss Alps. It was a warm summer day. The view was spectacular, and there was no one for miles around. All you could hear was the cowbells on the other end of the valley. I decided to hike topless. And I will never forget the feeling of freedom. I haven’t been topless in public since then, and I miss that feeling so much. I take exception to the societal norms that restrict me.

So thank you, Moira, for what you’re doing. I wish I could say it will make a difference. I want it to. But I have my doubts.


Fantasy Island

I just got through reading an article on the NPR website entitled, “Pacific Island, Bigger Than Manhattan, Vanishes.” I assumed it was going to be about global warming, and that maybe it had sunk below the rising sea level, but no. Based upon studies of the sea floor, this island never existed in the first place. Apparently this “island” has been on maps and charts since around 1772. And now they’re looking at other questionable islands in other parts of the world in order to update maps.

fantasy_island_by_tessig-d4w7qz5 (Credit:

Can we just take a second to absorb this? In this day and age, with all our global whosawhatsis, how does this happen? It makes you realize how vast the world is, and how much we want to believe what we’re told. But I still find it vaguely unsettling. If we can’t count on our geography, what can we count on?

Here’s the thing. When my mother died when I was 26, I felt as though there was no longer any solid foundation beneath my feet, as though everything that I counted on had suddenly vanished and I was adrift. It took me a long time to get over that. A very long time. I will never forget that feeling.

Without getting into a debate about quantum physics, we count on things to be solid, to have substance. And we expect islands the size of Manhattan to stick around. This is why I could never live in an earthquake zone. To have something solid suddenly start rippling like water? I’d have a nervous breakdown.

There has to be some fundamental…thing that you can hang your hat on, and build from there. Without that, how do you know what’s real? It reminds me of a quote from the Spanish dramatist Pedro Calderón de la Barca, which translates as, “Life is a dream, and even the dreams are dreams.”