Mantra for New Minds: Pillow Fight!

In New York City this past weekend, a group called New Mind Space, which says it "disseminates urban bliss," sponsored a come-one, come-all pillow fight in Union Square.

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MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

New York City has always been the kind of town where one stranger might hit another stranger over the head for no apparent reason. But these days, bricks and lead pipes are out, replaced with something softer. This weekend, hundreds of people showed up at a designated spot in Union Square Park for a massive pillow fight.

NPR's own featherweight, Robert Smith, was there - pillow and microphone in hand.

ROBERT SMITH: I got the e-mail a couple of weeks ago from a group called Newmindspace, promising that they were going to throw a New York City-wide pillow fight in Union Square. And I didn't know if it was a joke or not until I got here, and, indeed, pillows everywhere.

SEAN HARVEY: I'm Sean Harvey. I just got - I got a pillow as my striking weapon, and I'm just up like a Spartan.

SMITH: Well, you look like you got a good reach. What are your fighting stats?

HARVEY: I've never actually lost a pillow fight, which is the truth.

STEPHANIE: I'm Stephanie. People call me Fred.

SMITH: Hello, Fred.

STEPHANIE: Hi.

SMITH: What's your strategy for today?

STEPHANIE: My strategy - just lob as many people as possible.

SMITH: Really? Are you can go overhand? I saw you, like, with your hand over your head.

STEPHANIE: Oh, yeah. I don't have a very good swing. I swing like a girl, honestly, so.

SMITH: All right. Give me a hit with this. Maybe I can (unintelligible) my mike.

(SOUNDBITE OF A PUNCH)

SMITH: You know, it's not a soft as you might think. I mean...

STEPHANIE: Really?

SMITH: ...I'm just telling you.

PAT BALENJE: My name is Pat Balenje. I'm from Ann Harbor in Michigan. And so it's just all about the pillow, you know.

SMITH: Because everybody here has been talking up their skills, their training.

BALENJE: It's not that. It's not that at all. It's definitely all about the pillow. Mine is goose down, and be afraid because I'm bringing some heat.

SMITH: Although it's hard to tell, I think people who look sort of suspiciously like the organizers - one dressed up as a fairy and the other one with the small competition light pillow.

KEVIN BRAKIN: I'm Kevin Brakin.

LORRIE HAPNER: I'm Lorrie Hapner.

BRAKIN: The pillow fight is just one of our many events.

SMITH: So do I even bother asking why?

BRAKIN: We have this sort of reclaim public space ideology, but we also want to invent new ways and having fun.

SMITH: But this is a very old way of having fun, right?

HAPNER: It's true, but we've definitely multiplied the participants of the generic sort of pillow fight idea and put it in the city.

SMITH: As it gets close to 2 o'clock, the two organizers discretely pull out whistles. They're covering them up. They're looking around.

(SOUNDBITE OF WHISTLE BLOWING)

SMITH: Oh, wait a second. Oh, no. Oh, no. No. How are you doing in the fight?

Unidentified Woman #1: I'm good. How are you?

SMITH: I'm doing better.

(SOUNDBITE OF CROWD CHATTER)

SMITH: Okay. I should have seen that one coming. Here, let me work my way out of the crowd. We could say this creates some questions in the minds of noble New Yorkers who have stopped on by to see this. Describe to me what it looks like.

Unidentified Man #2: It looks like someone just grabbed a bunch of chicken together and just, you know, put a bomb right next to it, it just exploded and...

SMITH: Because of feathers flying...

Man #2: There's just feathers lying all over everywhere.

SMITH: What do you think the point is?

BLOCK: I don't know if it's to promote use of feather pillows or something or...

SMITH: You're the New Yorker, you think it have to promote something.

Unidentified Man #3: Yeah. It has to but...

SMITH: It doesn't.

Man #2: It doesn't. So - and, you know, New York can be nonsensical in that way, too.

(SOUNDBITE OF CROWD CHATTER)

SMITH: Okay. It's been about 15 minutes now since it started. And people are slowing down, but the blizzard of feathers - it's everywhere. It's covering people's hair and coats. This person like me wore black, and now you regretting it, right?

BLOCK: Yeah. I definitely I'm, you know, I'm covered in feathers.

SMITH: It's going to take days to clean this up, and clean myself up.

Robert Smith, NPR News, in the middle of the pillow in Union Square.

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