MELISSA BLOCK, Host:
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.
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...
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: Unidentified Woman #1: I'm good. How are you?
SMITH: I'm doing better.
(SOUNDBITE OF CROWD CHATTER)
SMITH: 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: Unidentified 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: Unidentified Man #3: Yeah. It has to but...
SMITH: Unidentified 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: Robert Smith, NPR News, in the middle of the pillow in Union Square.
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