This morning, Irina and I decided to walk
the forty blocks from our downtown hotel to Penn Station. Along the way
we were tempted by all kinds of goodies for sale on the streets of Manhattan.
We started at the WTC site, where big signs proclaimed "to preserve
the dignity of this location, please do not buy anything from street
vendors". When a guy came by with "you wanna buy some pictures
and souveniers?", and I pointed to the sign, he said, "that
sign is a fake, man".
We headed into Chinatown. Women walked up to us, pulling watches from
their pockets. Men shoved picture catalogs of "hot purses" under
our noses. Tables on the sidewalks were overflowing with fruit and vegetables
and fish and mushrooms.
I bought some Chinese coins - six for two dollars. I have no idea what
kind of coins they are, but they look cool, and besides, I saw more
of them for sale later at a buck each, so they must have been worth
One lady had a big box of DVDs. Casting furtive glances over her shoulders,
she whispered "four dollar each, and three for ten dollar".
How could we resist? We bought seven movies for eighteen dollars. The
latest movies, too. What a deal!
Another lady in Chinatown asked us, "you like that flying pig?
Come inside for more". But when a policeman walked up behind me
and said to her, "excuse me, I'm from the fifth precinct, can we
talk?", she shook her head. He asked, "do you speak English?",
and she shook her head. "Of course you don't", he said, and
walked back to his cruiser. "You still want the flying pig?" she
asked us once he was gone.
Up in Little Italy, most street vendors were hawking ties and scarves
and handbags. Next was Noho - this was mostly clothes. Nobody was pushy
here - and there weren't any crowds.
We stopped at the Strand, where we bought five used books for two bucks.
Back outside, a guy with a lilting Irish voice was selling clear consciences. "Give
your change to the homeless. Just a dime would help - yes ladies and
gentlemen, the price of a stick of chewing gum. Instead of buying your
stick of gum today, donate that dime to help the homeless".
The last area was a black neighborhood. One table was covered with
necklaces. "Yo, stolen gold here. Five bucks each necklace. Stolen
gold - who cares if it's stolen? You can't beat five bucks for stolen
gold". That table had a big crowd around it.
DVD vendors here were selling the same movies we bought from the Chinese
lady, but these guys were saying, "five dollars each, and five
for twenty". We felt pretty smug with the deal we got. But maybe
it was the extra selections that commanded the increase: porn with titles
like "Black Booty Call", "Chocolate Kisses", and "Big
Bad Black Asses".
We got on the train, fired up the laptop, inserted one of the DVDs,
and it was just like being in the theatre - complete with a guy's head
blocking the bottom part of the screen, and the audience laughing. Somebody
had sat through the movie, taped it, and made the DVD. We had the privilege
to watch the movie through their eyes. Every time they moved, the screen
tilted. The head in front of the camera moved around, and we couldn't
shift for a better view. At one point, the camera fell, and we saw the
arrest scene sideways. What a treat. To top it off, the movie stopped
90 minutes into it, and we missed the ending.
Irina asked what lesson I learned from our wasted DVD purchase. I said, "next
time we should only buy the porn, and we won't care how it ends".