8 March 2021

The Lonely Bull

With his creator no longer with this world, The Charging Bull of Wall Street grows lonelier with each day that passes.  Arturo di Modica, the Italian sculptor who created The Bull, has protected the creature since he placed it in lower Manhattan in 1989.  But Arturo, sadly, passed away in February, 2021, after a years long battle with cancer, and The Bull no longer knows who will advocate on his behalf.  

The Bull is nervous for his future—he spent the last summer covered in tarp and monitored by police during the protests in response to the murder of George Floyd.  The New York City Department of Transportation, concerned about terrorist attacks, debated with other local government agencies about whether to evict The Bull from his home on Bowling Green, where he has lived for thirty-one years.  He could stay for now.  

Following a harsh winter and amid an even harsher pandemic, The Bull entertains a mere fraction of the visitors—who traditionally rub his nether regions for good luck—that he would have normally enjoyed in years past.  Even on a sunny, spring morning, with the end of the pandemic in sight, The Bull’s testicles hang frigidly—largely untouched by the tourists who dared travel to the necropolis that is New York City.

The Bull stands eleven feet tall and weighs 7,100 pounds.  Frequently climbed by pre-ideological toddlers, The Bull has his head lowered and is ready to gore any oncoming competition.  Placed in front of the New York Stock Exchange by Arturo in 1989—two years after the stock market crash of 1987—The Bull was moved two weeks later to his current home, two blocks south, on Bowling Green.  There, The Bull has become a symbol of New York City (for tourists), financial inequality (for New Yorkers), the aggressive nature of capitalism, and the infinitely upward moving market trend that Wall Street aspires for.

In a normal year, The Bull stands proudly on his corner of Bowling Green, receiving warm touches and smiles from scores of tourists every hour.  The Bull, in return, poses for photographs and proves that the tourists really were in New York City.  To The Bull’s left there is a Planet Fitness for those leaving the New York Stock Exchange with an excess of adrenaline, a TGI Fridays for the tourists who bumble in and out of the bustling streets, and a Subway sandwich shop for the omnipresent army of construction workers who change the face of lower Manhattan on a daily basis.  

Those times have passed.  The Planet Fitness is functioning at partial capacity while the financial world works from home, and, with no tourists to feed, the TGI Fridays is closed until further notice. The Subway—serving footlongs to the men in neon vests and sweatshirts who populate the streets more densely than those in suits and ‘I Love NY’ shirts—operates just as before albeit with COVID precautions. Yes, The Bull continues to have visitors, but he is no longer the golden calf that he once was.  The Bull, barricaded by metal roadblocks, stands under an American flag that flies at half-mast.  

“In the summertime they sell well,” says Tula, a street vendor who hawks miniature replicas of The Bull.  During the COVID-19 pandemic, he says the replicas have sold “slowly.  Very slowly.”  Jesús and Elizabeth, a middle aged couple visiting the city from Utah, say they came to visit The Bull because they heard that rubbing it’s testicles provides one with good luck.  Everybody needs good luck after 2020.  Yakob, a young hasidic boy who, alongside his younger brother, Mendel, was helping Jewish men perform mitzvahs, said, “ I’m kind of confused about this bull.”  Upon being informed it represents financial prosperity and the ‘bull market’ that is Wall Street, Mendel, said “I’ve never had any thoughts about Wall Street.”

While The Bull’s visitors are ambivalent to his greater significance, he lives in a city with few friends.  New Yorkers see The Bull as a memorial to the rising housing prices of the city, the unequal distribution of wealth in city planning, racist policing tactics, and unequal education for people of color.  The Bull faces towards the New York Stock Exchange, where finely suited and soft handed men got rich while working families lost their homes in 2008.   Just down the block from the New York Stock Exchange, at 74 Wall Street, is the original site of New York City’s slave market.  Though long gone before The Bull’s arrival, American wealth and prosperity was built on the backs of the enslaved, so The Bull unknowingly represents that place too.  

Aside from Arturo and his clients, The Bull had but one dear friend.  The Bull missed the Fearless Girl who stood defiantly in front of him for a whole year, though Arturo disdained her and unsuccessfully petitioned for her to be moved.  Now all that remained were her footprints for The Bull to think about.  The Fearless Girl now stands directly in front of the Stock Exchange—The Bull’s first home—where young women pose for photographs by her side, strongly mimicking the Fearless Girl’s stance.  

While some had their criticisms of the Fearless Girl, she, at her most basic level, represented the idea of progress, for which The Bull was jealous.  He lives in the old world and he knows it.  Nevertheless, The Bull still misses the Fearless Girl because her presence gave him a new relevance.  With the Fearless Girl nearby, The Bull, frozen in place, was no longer charging his opponents but rather falling before the Fearless Girl’s feet.  With Arturo gone, no Fearless Girl, no tourists, and a city who hates him, The Bull, lonelier than ever, wonders what he will come to represent during the ‘new normal’.

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