Black Tree Sandwich Shop: NYC’s New Sloppy, Saucy, Farm-Fresh Joint

When two guys from Brooklyn asked themselves what they would do if they won the lottery, their answer catapulted them into opening a sandwich shop that has, within a year, expanded from a nook behind a Crown Heights inn, to its own neon-and-brick den on the Lower East Side. NYC, shake hands with new-kid-on-the-block Black Tree, where every single ingredient – from the cheesy, pork-filled sandwiches to the lilac, celery, & mint cocktails – is from Union Square’s Greenmarket and farms upstate. 

But let’s face it: local, seasonal, farm-to-table, blah blah blah is everywhere now in New York, so what makes Black Tree worth packing? "The cost," says co-owner Sandy Hall. "We use all the same fresh ingredients as the most high-end places, but keep it affordable by having just us two work at the shop, and not making the dishes look pretty by just sticking it all on a sandwich."

However, these sandwiches are actually very, very good looking. With mushrooms the size of mini lightbulbs bursting from oozing fried eggs, and brown butter apple sauce, duck, and braised pork belly tucked into ciabatta bread from Carroll Gardens’ Caputo’s Fine Foods – it’s basically eye-candy foreplay for your churning, yearning stomach. 

The only thing that isn’t pretty: the mess you make when you eat ’em. They’re sloppy, they’re sauced, the broccoli rabe and rosemary garlic slip like Slinkies onto the wooden plate. The pork belly melt off the bread like a vanilla sundae. So come here wearing a bib and get ready for the mess brigade to follow. 

But is it worth it? Yes. In fact, I walked out of that woody spot with a stain on my t-shirt after downing their creamy bacon-and-bread-pudding (see below), and I’m gonna wear that shirt stain like a badge of honor. Probably wear it to their weekend brunch. Yep, that’s what I’ll do. VIVA Black Tree.

Black Tree

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Num Pang Opens Today In Chelsea Market, Already Packed With Hungry People

You know those chili-mayo-and-cilantro-soaked banh mi sandwiches – full of glazed pork belly, coconut tiger shrimp, and spiced honey pork – tucked into crunchy, baked baguettes? The ones from Num Pang, that packed Cambodian spot off Union Square, Madison Square, and Grand Central? Well today marks the opening of its fourth location in what is basically NYC’s Asian-Vegan-Seafood-Italian culinary Epcot known as Chelsea Market. And as you can see from the photo, not only does Num Pang "welcome friends & fam" with a very loving, chalk-written welcome sign, but Num Pang’s opening has already been sniffed out by tons of NYers who know a good Asian sandwich when they taste it, and tourists who know a good buzz when they see it.

And unlike all other Num Pang locations, you can only find their new roast beef and coriander sandwich, and chicken salad with spicy cashew sandwich at this new Chelsea Market location – none others. But don’t worry, their five-spiced glazed pork belly, BBQ brisket, and watermelon juice are still there. Always there for you.

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Peacefood Cafe: The New & Healthy Option For Semi-Obligatory Dinners

In NYC, there’s a push to be social. Of the five days of work, there’s a good three days (at least) of semi-obligatory, drinks/dinner time, where we sit, wistfully staring out the window of a trendy, mediocre, exposed-brick spot, dreaming about a date with Netflix and that still-unfinished spiritual book about living a fulfilling life. And yet – there’s a compromise: peacefood cafe, aka A Little Ray of Healthfulness and Sunshine Right By Union Square.

After the phenomenal success of its Upper West Side location, the vegan café and bakery – started by an antiques dealer and interior designer – expanded six weeks ago to a downtown location, amid yoga shops, vitamin stores, and $1 greasy pizza joints. But unlike most expansions to downtown, this expansion was also in actual size: the Union Square peacefood is a good 3x bigger than its UWS counterpart – all three floors-worth – which is basically unheard of unless you’re opening on a shrub-lined, side street in Topeka, Kansas.

But why is peacefood such a success? Why are people gobbling up quinoa, pumpkin, mushrooms, and walnut pate like they’re cherry pie? It’s all in the ingredients of such hit, unusual dishes like chickpea fries (trick: dip them in agave nectar), fluffy quinoa salad, a submarine-sized roasted squash dish with mushroom gravy, and a rich and raw cocao mousse pie saddled in a walnut-date-coconut crust.

I’m not even vegan, but when I finished this meal last night (after downing a frothy banana-coconut-date-cardamon shake), I felt like I had finally found my weekday, kindred spirit. A place to dine out with friends that doesn’t leave me waking up in the morning bloated, my conscience shaking her head, and the better part of me wondering, “Man, what did I eat last night?”

I know what I ate. Clean, invigorating, healthy food that doesn’t have that generic healthy taste, loved by carnivores and pescatarians, and has a soothing, ocean-inspired, blue and cream interior that makes me think of seashells and sand castles. Peace is exactly what you get here – peace from food-guilt, fried temptations, and your Netflix dreams.

Get the scoop on peacefood, and follow Bonnie on Twitter here

Photo: newyork.seriouseats.com

The Most Inoffensive Fro-Yo Opens In Union Square Today

The famously offensive-to-no-one frozen yogurt company Off the Wall opens its third location in Union Square today, marking the true commencement of spring and nightly fro-yo consumption. Low-calorie, self-serve, and Kosher-certified, Off the Wall’s new spot offers 16 flavors on tap, including their hit signatures, such as blueberry muffin, sea salt caramel, and peanut butter blast. Though the prices may be off-the-wall (most commonly due to the inevitable piling of brownie bites from the topping station), the taste is too in the best way, so deal. 

And while this is all well and good, the big news is actually the FREE frozen yogurt giveaway happening on Wednesday, April 3rd, from 6:30pm 8:30pm, during the shop’s grand opening. This giveaway is equal opportunity, meaning every person who stops by Off the Wall will – regardless of sex, race, gender, haircut – receive FREE fro-yo. 

This is U.S. liberty at its finest. Come one, come all. 

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Do You Suffer From MGOOMFA This Oscar Season?

Does watching The Oscars in your living room sound a bit dull? Do you crave that surge of communal disappointment and celebration upon the announcement of the winners? Do you like chicken tenders? If you’ve said yes to any of these questions, chances are you have a case of the MGOOMFA: Must Get Out Of My F@#$ing Apartment syndrome commonly associated with freezing climates and 4+ hours browsing Hulu daily. And with The Oscars coming up this Sunday, the perfect opportunity is upon you to get out of your apartment, and communicate with fellow NYers at official Oscars viewing parties across the city. Here is where to go:

SideBAR: Upscale sportsbar. Optional two-hour Bud Light & well-cocktail open bar at 7pm. Oscars ballot competition with $50 gift certificate for the winner. Personal bucket of pigs-in-a-blanket and tater tots. $10 entry, $50 with open bar. Chicken tenders.

The Windsor: High-end sportsbar.Free house-made gourmet popcorn. Free first glass of bubbly. Truffle grilled cheese. Starts 5pm. No entry fee. No chicken tenders.

The Bell House: Brooklyn’s wackiest events venue. Hosted by (my favorite) comedian & (erotic short story) writer Dave Hill. Raunchy, thought-provoking  analysis during commercials. $8 cocktail specials. No food/chicken tenders.

Brooklyn Winery: The sophisticated celebration. Oscar-themed sparkling cocktails. Seth MacFarlane hosts. Oscar ballots. First come, first-served seating. Starts 7pm. Get gussied up. Obviously no chicken tenders.

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In a Blaze of Teriyaki Glory, Glaze Opens in Union Square

No longer do you teriyaki junkies have to travel all the way to Midtown to feast on Glaze Teriyaki Grill’s chicken thighs, fresh organic salmon, and soy marinated tofu. Today, owner Paul Krug opens a second location, bringing his Seattle-style teriyaki to a 750 square-foot space in Union Square, a neighborhood he has lived in, and loved, since he moved here from Seattle 10 years ago.

“I hope the downtown people will appreciate an affordable Asian restaurant with a focus on great ingredients,” said Krug, who opened his first teriyaki shop in Midtown in 2010. “With Glaze, we spruced up the food a bit by using fresh quality, all natural ingredients, and make everything from scratch—while trying to remain true to the teriyaki cuisine.”

That means their fish is fresh, never frozen, they use antibiotic-free chicken and pork, and they go organic and local as much as possible. Chef Dennis Lake oversees the kitchenand their signature teriyaki plates have a smoky, caramel-like flavor to them, with a subtle hint spicy ginger and garlic. They let you tailor your heat levels with three different hot sauces, and also give customers gluten-free options. None of the dishes cost more than $10, which makes Glaze a great place to pick up a quick, inexpensive lunch. The best part, if you don’t want to go back to the office or school, there is still time to enjoy summer and your food outside in the nearby park.

But what is Seattle-style teriyaki you may ask? Krug said in his hometown, “there is a Korean flavor profile in the teriyaki sauce.” He added that, though Seattleites are able to chow on good teriyaki at Japanese restaurants here, it just didn’t have the same taste as the stuff he got in Washington State. Does anyone else concur?

Mira Sorvino Blends Comedy and Pathos in ‘Union Square’

In the beginning of Nancy Savoca’s Union Square, Mira Sorvino flits around the park alternatingly crying and screaming into a cell phone. Her character, Lucy, a manic storm of a human, fights with her boyfriend, who she has unexpectedly come to the city to visit. When she is rejected, she finds the second-best option: to show up at the apartment of her estranged sister Jenny, played by Tammy Blanchard. Drama ensues as a sibling rivalry—as well as dark family secrets—rises to the surface. The role is perfect for the Oscar-winning actress, who is able to match her comedic chops with an endearing hopelessness. I saw down with Sorvino earlier this week (along with Blanchard—you can read my interview with her here) to talk about the making of the film, the luxuries and set-backs of working on a low-budget film, and how Union Square is a quintessential New York film.

I associate you as a comedic actress, and this character is really funny and I think you’re really funny in the role. But it also has this added layer of sadness and just insanity that I rarely see, especially on such a small scale. Is that what drew you to the role?
I love the mix of comedic possibilities and the wildly funny lines she has as well the incredible depth and story that was there, and a story that is really versatile. Men can really relate to this story; it’s not a chick flick, even though the two main characters are female. It’s a universal story about family. You can’t live with them, you can’t shoot them; you love them, you have to make it work somehow, and you have to resolve your problems somehow so that you don’t lose what could be the most important people in your life. It’s such a tragic thing when siblings or parents and children don’t talk for years and these old hurts become like petrified wood; they harden and you don’t even remember why the rift happened and then the gulf ever widens. When my character, Lucy, comes in at the beginning, she says to Jenny, “Whatever it was, whatever there is, we’ve got to stop and forget all that.” In one second, she’s ready to forget, and Jenny’s just like, “Oh boy, what just blew into my front door?”

What I think was so great about the film is that it requires the audience to read between the lines of dialogue. That so rarely happens in film these days.
It’s like an unfolding mystery: just when you think you know these girls, new stuff comes out. They’re both lying all the time, either to themselves or to other people. The one who seems to be in the right flips with the other one and flips again. You’ll think you have them pegged, and then it changes again.

It’s something you can watch more than once and find other, smaller details. You’ll see something that foreshadows something later, but you could completely miss it the first time you watch it.
There’s a lot of layers in there. It’s almost like an emotional whodunit: you can watch for clues.

My office is in Union Square, and I walk through that farmers market almost every day. I know how insane it is. Was that really fun to be out there shooting with regular New Yorkers?
Yeah, it was great. The camera was so small and light that people didn’t even know we were making a movie. People would comment on my unfolding Greek tragedy. I was just crying my eyes out, screaming into the phone, and some people were very sympathetic. They’d scream, “Get rid of him! He’s not worth it.” Or they’d wolf-whistle at my outfit, and I’d tell them to, you know, go fuck themselves. But it was great, because it was like a live crowd instead of a staged bunch of zombie-like extras. Then when we had the scene where we were shooting the farmers market, we were literally interacting with all of the real vendors there, then getting their approval later. Shoot first, ask questions later. I have a little argument with the guy at the honey stand where I asked, “Do you have any chia seeds?” And he was like, “No, we sell honey, look at my sign.” “What kind of a popsicle stand is this?” I yelled. These were very prideful, organic sellers in New York. [Laughs]

It’s like a very highbrow Jackass.
We tried really hard to find the real Free Hugs guy, but he wasn’t around that day, so then we had one of the set guys walk around with a sign for Free Hugs.

I’m surprised there’s only one of them out there. Did the vendors respond well when you asked them for permission?
Well, I wasn’t the one asking, so I don’t actually know, but the fact that they’re in the movie means they must have been okay with it.

I guess if anything, it’s free publicity for their organic honey. Have you done other such small-scale shoots before?
I think this was the lowest-budget movie I have ever been on. Even my first film, Amongst Friends…we started with $60,000, ran out of money, spent three weeks raising more money, finished the film, and then put a lot of money into post-production. The budget for this was $90,000; that was it. Also, we made Amongst Friends in 1993, so think about twenty years’ worth of inflation. It’s a miracle that Nancy was able to operate in this way that she do, and I think she liked it because it made it just about the work. It was just about getting the best damn little story caught on camera that you could. It was shot sequentially, in the order of the scenes, and that way Nancy was able to gauge what was happening and modify certain scenes and get rid of them or rewrite them as we went along. She also let me improvise a lot, so it really complemented my character to be able to just go off, and that helped make her into this crazy little tornado. All of this was made possible by going in order, so if something changed the way things went by being unexpected earlier, you could navigate the rest of it based on that, rather than say, “Oh, you can’t do that, because we already shot that scene.” So there was just an organic nature to it. Both to the market and to us.

It’s sort of representative of a new wave of independent film. In the ‘90s, “indie” became its own thing. An indie movie could still be considered as such with a multi-million dollar budget. I interviewed Whit Stillman a few months ago, and he talked about how the mumblecore movement made him realize how to finance a movie in this current climate. As someone who’s worked with ranging budgets and sizes, do you hope that there’s more stuff like this? Do you want to go back and forth?
I have to go back and forth, otherwise I would not be able to afford to drive my kids to school, much less put them in a school that costs any money whatsoever. I had to pay my nanny twice my daily salary to work on this movie. This is a problem for actors. It’s great for filmmakers, and great that really good actors will involve themselves with low-budget films because they want to do good work. But it’s really hard to survive on it, and that’s why you see all these film actors in television now, because they’re still paying high prices. Because acting work is sporadic; you have to be paid more than the average bear per week, because then you might spend thirty weeks off and that money has to stretch out. If you’re getting paid ninety dollars a day, you’re going to have to go back to waiter work. It’s a tough call, but there’s a great deal of freedom when you don’t need that much money. It’s almost like a political candidate; you don’t have so many cooks in the kitchen when you don’t owe much money to anybody or you don’t have to answer to anybody.

The other thing I found interesting was the concept of the Bronx being so separate from Manhattan; it reminded me, as someone who lives in New York, that there’s more to the city than I’m familiar with. And you’re also from the greater New York area, right?
I was born in Manhattan and lived here until I was three. Then a homeless man almost fell on me in a sandbox in Riverside Park—a park that I’ve taken my own kids to, but this was pre-Giuliani, obviously—and my parents decided to move out of the city. So I really grew up in a bucolic suburb called Tenafly in New Jersey.

I was going to comment on how even now, when you quote lines from the movie, you slip into that Greater New York accent.
I did not have an accent as a child. In Tenafly, people don’t really have the Jersey accent. I grew up hearing it, though. I have Brooklyn relatives, I have Jersey City relatives—all these people have stronger regional accents.

This really is a New York movie. I still can’t get over the idea of strangers asking if you were OK in the park. It seems so atypical of a New Yorker to do that.
People were worried. A woman came up to me and asked, “Are you okay?” And that was really nice. The other day my husband was running in Malibu and fell on the beach in the Colony—this little gated community, very chichi—and he cut himself and was bleeding all over his arm. He sprained his ankle and had to crawl up this guy’s beach stairs to get to the street. You’re not supposed to do that. The guy comes out, and m husband’s covered with blood and limping, and he says, “Sorry,” and the guy just looks at him and turns around and go back inside. Like, what? Sometimes I think New Yorkers are more compassionate than other people, but it’s surprising because we feel like we’re hardened and we’re always walking past people when they’re in trouble on the streets and maybe people don’t respond. I think it is rare to see someone completely crying on the streets of New York. Sometimes you’ll see someone with tears in their eyes, but she’s losing it. But maybe it’s just something we all relate to and know how to deal with. 

Tammy Blanchard Disappears Into ‘Union Square’

In Union Square, a new film co-written and directed by acclaimed director Nancy Savoca, Mira Sorvino and Tammy Blanchard star as two estranged sisters who unexpectedly reunite over Thanksgiving in the Union Square of New York. As Bronx resident Lucy, Sorvino shines in a performance that blends the comic moments she’s known for in such films like Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion and Mighty Aphrodite (for which she won an Academy Award) with a surprising and effective desperation. Blanchard’s uptight, perfectionist Jenny, on the other hand, is a wound-up ball of stress, thrown into a tailspin at the sudden reappearance of her sister in her life.

Filmed in sequence over a span of two weeks and a micro-budget, Union Square is a return to the independent films of the latter part of the last century in which storytelling and performances took precedence. I sat down with both Mira Sorvino and Tammy Blanchard this week to discuss the film.

Blanchard, whose career has included stints on Broadway in Gypsy and, most recently, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (two performances for which she was nominated for a Tony), films like Rabbit Hole and The Good Shepherd, and an Emmy-winning performance as a young Judy Garland in Life with Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows, completely disappears into her role as Jenny. In real life, the glamorous New Jersey native is bubbly and charming, the complete opposite of her most recent film appearance. We chatted about working on the film, the emotional byproduct of a small-budget film, and how she learned how to act from watching the best in the industry.

I overheard you when you came in—you were kind of joking about the clothes you had to wear in this film. Which is funny, because you came down the hall and I didn’t recognize you at all, because the two roles I know you the most from are this and Rabbit Hole, which are very dour, unflattering…
Oh, and twenty pounds heavier!

So, to begin: do you think the clothes helped you create the character a little bit? Getting you into that stuffy… Well, maybe not stuffy, but…
I’d say a little uptight—a little plain Jane, trying to keep everything together and organized. But when I watched it this last time, I was thinking, “Why did I let them put me in those pajamas in the streets of New York City?” What was I thinking? And the shoes! But usually I go into roles and I don’t really know who I am until they put the clothes on me.

And it makes easier to disappear into that, too?
Yes, definitely.

What I loved about the movie is that it felt very much like a John Cassavetes film. It was very natural in the sense of the dialogue and the interactions between the actors. It felt like a filmed play, in a sense, because it only had a few settings. How much of it was scripted? Was there any improvisation between the two of you, or was it totally just following the book?
It’s funny, because I was just doing an interview with Mira, and she was like, “No, it was improv!” and I said, “No, I’m pretty sure we stuck to the script!” I don’t really remember improvising anything. Maybe if there was a line we had to cut or change or something like that. Sometimes a director will just keep the camera rolling and you’ll start going into other feelings and changing things and just improvise your emotions right in the moment. I don’t remember any of that at all; we were very much sticking to the script and getting it done as fast as we can. I was in such a daze making this film, because it was two weeks of 16-hour days. You’re waking up, you’re living with it, you’re going to sleep with it. My character was so uptight and so unhappy about her sister being there that I really don’t remember feeling anything else. At one point, I grabbed Nancy’s hands in between takes and said, “Is this real? Is this real or is this fake? Do I really hate Mira, or am I being crazy? I hate Lucy, right? Because I’m losing my mind!” I go into it. And shooting in sequence for such a short amount of time and doing three scenes a day… There was no escape from this imaginary world we were creating. And for me, it was painful.

So it was different from other work you’ve done where you got to let go a little bit?
Yes, especially on bigger films where you’ll sit for a half hour, you’ll get back to your trailer and make phone calls to your family and friends, and then you’ll shoot one scene and you’ll just carry one emotion for the day. With this, it was just non-stop living in it.

I love the scene where you go to Union Square and walk through the farmers market. When you were interacting with other people, did anyone recognize the two of you and that you were filming a movie? Obviously people must have realized that something was going on, because there was a camera following you.
But it’s a little camera.

So it really was a small-scale production.
It wasn’t a big deal. I think New Yorkers are used to people filming on the streets. They just don’t care; they just aren’t star-struck people. You can live here and be a star and walk down the streets. Recently, I saw Kevin Bacon just walking down the street. That’s what’s so great about New York and what’s so great about the film: we captured the essence of New York. There’s the fight at the farmers market that we really had with a guy selling things in his booth; he really got pissed off. When Mira was crying, one person asked if she was okay. One person told her, “Fuck him, you don’t need him.”

That’s pretty surprising to hear, as someone who lives in New York.
I love it. That’s what’s so great about this film, too, and I love that it’s coming out at the Angelika, because that’s the first theater I ever saw a movie at in New York. I saw Trainspotting there. Love that theater.

It’s interesting that the sisters are from the Bronx, which is in New York but feels so separate. Your character even refers to Lucy coming into the city. And you’re from Jersey, so you’re sort of from the larger area of New York, as well. Do you have a connection to New York, coming here when you were growing up, and now seeing it differently?
As soon as I had my license at 16, I was driving over here, going to auditions. I was ten minutes away through the Holland Tunnel. This was the place where my dreams existed, this was where I had to come, and this was where I could make my dreams come true. It’s so much energy, it’s non-stop. People don’t stop here, the streets are never empty. I like to go back to New Jersey and sit on my porch, lay out on my yard, enjoy the silence, and to have both of those worlds at my feet. I’m really blessed. I don’t think I could live in the city. I’m a bit spoiled with my own space and my own peace and quiet and privacy. It’s also very expensive.

So you don’t live here full time?
I don’t live in New York. I lived here when I was in Gypsy. And compared to Jenny, I am a totally loyal person to my family and my friends. I want to see them every day. I want to know that if anything happens, I’m two blocks away. When I moved to the city, nobody came to visit. If you’re in the city, it’s like Hawaii: you are unreachable. I become nonexistent in their world, and I can’t take that. I need my family. I need my friends.

Do you have a sister?
No, I have two brothers, so it’s always hard for me to find a woman that I can connect with as a friend because I’m not really good communicating with women. I’ll always hang out with the boys because I get them, I understand them. I wish I had a sister, though.

Another thing I liked about your character was that as the movie goes on, her Bronx accent comes out more. It’s funny to hear you in real life, because you speak like you’re from Jersey. Did you kind of incorporate that, or create a whole new voice for the character?
That just naturally happened through the process of hanging out with Mira, who [puts on a heavy Italian accent] was talking like this and saying that. Through the process, I wanted to be as tight and as far away from where the character was from as I could be. That was definitely a natural process that started seeping out, and I realized that it happened when I saw it. I think I really go into alternate universes when I do these things, because sometimes people say things that happen, and I’m like, “I don’t remember.” I really think that I throw Tammy aside and I dive into whoever I’m playing at that moment and whatever I’m dealing with becomes reality for me, and when it’s over, I’m like, “What just happened?”

How close was this to when you were in How to Succeed?
I had already auditioned, and I was talking to Nancy about How to Succeed and asked, “Should I do it? Should I do it?” My representation was like, “It’s a small role, it’s never been nominated for a Tony…” but I really thought there was something special about this it. Nancy said, “Do it! Absolutely!” And then I ended up doing it in a way that no one else had done before, and it got a lot of attention and the Tony nomination, and I spent sixteen months on Broadway. Sixteen months on Broadway is like jail time—you come out clean. Daniel Radcliffe was in it for a year, Darren Criss came in for three weeks, then Nick Jonas. Every time I heard who else was taking over the lead role, I was like, “I can’t get away. I have to work with these people. I want to stay!”

Did you work at all with Patty LuPone, who plays Lucy and Jenny’s mother?
No, I think the powers that be are saving that moment for something special.

But you have worked with an amazing group of actors in your career.
Yeah! Jessica Lange, Nicole Kidman, Matt Damon. Just people who are great at what they do. I’ve never taken an acting course in my life. I’ve learned just by doing it. To be able to work with people who know what they’re doing, being directed by Sam Mendes, spending a year on Broadway with Bernadette Peters—these are the people who taught me and groomed me. People ask, “You never took a dramatic class?” I did; I worked with the best of the best.

Tom Morello Starts a ‘Guitarmy’, Thousands March On May Day in New York City

It only took about fifteen minutes tops – five blocks south of Bryant Park – before the “illegal” Occupy Wall Street and “Guitarmy” march to Union Square broke through the tight NYPD formation corralling protestors to the sidewalk along 5th Avenue in New York City. Across the country 135 cities planned similar May Day related action.

The formation had been meant to keep the swelling ranks of protesters to the sidewalk. Cries of, “c’mon, we’ve got the numbers, let’s take the streets!” pierced through the sound of whistles, chants and drums, as small groups of enthusiastic occupiers broke through and encouraged their comrades to follow them into the middle of the broad avenue as generations of rabble-rousers have.

The cops fought back with shoves, shouts and even a few baton thrusts, but they couldn’t stem the tide and by the time the march crossed 33rd Street, 5th Avenue belonged to the protesters. Jay Manzetti, a self-described AFL-CIO member from “Occupy Long Island” who had been talking-up breaking the NYPD cordon since before the march started was one of the first to bust through. “Fuck yeah, I want the whole fucking city taken!” he cheered.

Smack in the middle of this chaos, wearing a cap marking his membership in the stately old I.W.W (Industrial Workers of the World) and coolly strumming an acoustic guitar, Tom Morello—frontman of socially-conscious headbangers, Rage Against the Machine, and longtime OWS supporter—chanted: “this occupation is not leaving,” and, “these are our streets.” 

As he readied to run through a quick rehearsal with his “new band” of what he described in a slight exaggeration as “10,000 guitarists,” a short while earlier, Morello shared his ideas on the respective significance of International Workers’ Day—a May 1st holiday for progressives and organized labor since the late 1800s—during the current economic crisis and OWS.

Morello, a Harvard graduate descending from an impressive transcontinental leftist pedigree, speaks with a perspective markedly more global—and critical of U.S. foreign policy—both economic and military, than the average OWS denizen, who mostly worries about the shrinking middle class and corporate money in politics. Answering a question about his patriotism, Morello says that America is not a “homogeneous” block. “There’s an America of the Napalmers and the lynchers; that sends missiles to kill civilians oversees and forecloses on farms,” he says. “Than there’s the America that fights back against it that’s the country I’m proud of.”  

But even the most parochially minded OWS supporter nodded along with Morello when he said that the most pressing message for Americans to take away from Occupy is that “gross economic inequality” is not just an accident of market forces, as the consensus-oriented media and our moderate politicians would have them believe, but the result of a massive theft of wealth from the middle-class by “criminals who should be prosecuted,” in the very top-economic tier. Once people know the score, he added, “the genie can’t be put back in the bottle.”

As the protest moved downtown, gaining steam, white-collar workers watched from office windows above. At one point when a gap in the march grew too long, the group out front called a “sit-in.” Despite of all the smart technology in attendance and concomitant social media it was left to a runner to be dispatched to find out how far behind the next clump of protesters was.

People chanted and waved banners, some obviously dusted off from last fall, but there were new ones as well. (A memorable one juxtaposed a headshot of NYPD police commissioner Ray Kelly with that of notorious southern racist sheriff Bull Conner.)  A few handed out flowers, but there would be no photographs of lilacs gingerly placed into the barrel of NYPD guns. One flower giver, 26-year-old Emily Hosmer-Dillard of Brooklyn, said her offerings were decidedly not for the boys in blue. Like many others who were marching yesterday, Hosmer-Dillard still remembered the mass-arrests, late-night evictions and all-around authoritarian tactics that marked the NYPD’s treatment of OWS last fall. Laughing at such a “60s type image” she said, “I’m not here to make the cops’ job easier.”

While nothing approaching the anger directed at millionaires, bankers, the GOP Congress or the NYPD, several OWS supporters had harsh words for the “mainstream media,” (but especially Fox News), which they felt deceived the majority of middle class Americans against the movement even though they shared common interests. Sitting on a bicycle Fred Gates, a 39 year-old “self-employed web designer,” was arguing civilly with Phil—a middle-aged “auditor” who would not give his last name but works near Union Square and was for the moment at least stuck in his car—who told him that if someone’s unemployed he should be “looking in himself and looking for a job,” instead of out marching.

Effectively summing up the grumbling heard that day directed towards the fourth estate, Gates told Phil that they’d be on the same side if it wasn’t for the  “media coverage,” which back in October “started making us look like dirty hippies with nothing substantive to say.” Indeed the two certainly agreed on one important idea, that as Phil the auditor put it, “the economic pie is shrinking and we’re getting squeezed up down and sideways.” 

By the time the “Solidarity Rally” (featuring Tom Morello and Das Racist) started after 4pm, the sun was shining and Union Square was filled with thousands of activists and onlookers (video below). With free food, a “free store,” a library and representatives of a different far-left political party thrusting literature in your face every time you turned around the scene had strong echoes of the Liberty Plaza occupation. But there was a stronger union showing, especially of domestic workers, and a more international vibe.

Morello climbed the makeshift stage with his acoustic guitar and “guitarmy” comrades and kicked off into “Rebel Songs.” Looking around at the crowd and flags flying from every color of the rainbow (but especially red), one couldn’t help but think that minus the NYPD helicopter circling low overhead and the ubiquitous smartphones, this could have been May Day during the Great Depression. As if on cue, Morello announced that this year would have been Woody Guthrie’s 100th birthday and that he would end his short set on a song that “we all learned in school,” except for the fact that we were taught it wrong. Then Morello played a version of “This Land is Your Land,” with a last verse about the speaker seeing “[his] people, as they stood there hungry,” waiting for government relief. This angrier version with its raw “censored” last verse ends with a plaintive question, rather than a patriotic statement. “Is this land made for you and me?”