As dawn broke over Zuccotti Park, hundreds of tarps, tents and blankets fluttered in the chill wind.Wait, what? Mass demonstrations? Uh, where were those?
A Bronx couple crawled out of their makeshift home and held each other in a long, warm embrace.
A few feet away, a massage therapist from Maine sat bundled up on a sleeping bag while her brother immersed himself in a book.
Moments later, a former caregiver from Brooklyn carefully maneuvered her way through the sleeping masses offering up dry, clean socks.
"How are your feet? Are they dry?" Cindy Young, 52, asked a young woman who had stirred from her slumber.
"Sweetie, help yourself."
The Occupy Wall Street encampment has taken over a lower Manhattan park for five weeks now and sparked copycat sit-ins around the globe and mass demonstrations in the streets.
Hundreds come to the encampment each day to share their views, offer help or simply gawk, and hundreds more continue to sleep there each night.Hyper-democratic? Is that what this is? I could have sworn it was a call for the end of capitalism. Does that reflect democracy, let alone a hyper version of it? And come to think of it, these folks really do need a wakeup call, along with a reality check.
Life inside the plaza, at Broadway and Liberty St., has taken on an unorthodox routine of its own.
Committees have emerged to deal with sanitation, comfort and medical needs. There is a library, a kitchen and a spiritual area around what they call the Tree of Life. Trash is separated for recycling, discarded food goes in a compost, a daily drum circle pounds out beats.
"It's a little carnival-ish," said tourist Jerry Lazar, 57, from Santa Ana, Calif.
There is no wakeup call in this hyper-democratic community where everyone is encouraged to live and let be, but activity begins around 7 a.m.
One recent morning, the first bellow of "mic check" came at 8.30 a.m., when the sanitation team ordered all tarps picked up for a mass clean up.Conveniently the "reporter" omitted defecation.
Few listened, but a handful of dedicated protesters started to scrub and sweep the ground.
The Occupy Wall Street New Yorkers often head home by day to change, shower or even work. They open their doors to others who have traveled long distances.
But as temperatures plummet, tempers have frayed and the Kumbayah unity has been tested.
Thefts have occurred. A physical fight almost broke out near the kitchen one afternoon, and the "security team" was called to break it up.
Some protesters have also reportedly taken to using bottles - or the street - to urinate at night.
The general assembly - a loose-knit governing body - has been marred in bickering and struggles to reach consensus on issues.What are they doing, figuring ways to be even more anti-Semitic than the hundreds of examples we're already seen?
Still, each afternoon, dozens of round-table discussions spring up on an array of topics, from corporate greed to anti-Semitism.