- Last Updated: 12:09 AM, May 18, 2012
- Posted: 12:09 AM, May 18, 2012
I don’t know when street fairs began. Probably with Columbus because some stuff unloaded there predates the Nina, the Pinta and those guys who built the Santa Maria.
On Ninth Avenue, I bought an Ecuadorian-made sweater bearing the flag. American flag, not the Ecuadorian one. I’m patriotic. I was proud of it. I washed it. Big mistake. Our Stars and Stripes are now red, pink and purple.
Another problem? Quality. Those sheep would’ve offered a few bucks just to get rid of the wool. Not exactly six-ply cashmere. Think hemp. You’d have to fly round trip to Quito before the rash disappears.
When I complained, the seller said: “Want better goods? Go to Bergdorf.”
Everything’s there. New photos of Pola Negri. Hats, dresses, pants, skirts, sunglasses, tie-dyed scarves, spices, mugs, junk jewelry, fold-up chairs, handicrafts that don’t break until you get them home, T-shirts that say: “Cure virginity” and “Save water. Wash With a Friend.”
Somebody should buy up all those goodies — radios, luggage, clocks, pots, key rings — and two weeks later they could open their own discount house.
A dealer swore his fakola amber was absolutely a single never-to-ever-be-found-anywhere-else genuine only one-of-a-kind 100 percent copy of a necklace that absolutely guaranteed laid on the neck of Mehmet the Conqueror.
And only because it’s me — whom he’d never laid eyes on before — it would be mine for the one time only bargain price of $7 — just because it’s me.
Mehmet’s neck must’ve been longer than a python’s because 12 more carts had the identical necklace on the same matted red string. Even eBay refused it.
If next weekend the dealer’s in Oswego, I’m going. Just to sell back what I bought.
Winter ’tis the season to be caroling. Spring ’tis the season to be hustling. Come April, every 20 minutes another thoroughfare’s dirty, crosswalks clogged and traffic so snarled that the only way you can get crosstown is to be born there.
But the smells? Heaven. It gets in your blood, your hair, your clothes. Ask not what your country can do for you or what country those spices and sauces come from.
We’re talking foods from nations so small they can’t even have revolutions. The most they can have is a housewarming.
Just shut your eyes and eat. Don’t ask, don’t tell.
We’re talking tacos, tortillas, tandooris, tamarind. Kebabs, kuftas, chutney, chili. Think meatball sliders. Marinades over squishy tomatoes. The world’s worst wurst accented with a dollop that laid next to mustard.
Veggie barbecue. Rainbow colored ices. Some foreign something scorched over charcoal. Want yogurt and blueberries — you’re out of luck. Looking for organic? Nutritious? Health food? Pesticide-free? Please. McDonald’s is better.
I showed off at a downtown festival by ordering a whole menu in Turkish. It really shook up the seller. He was Thai.
And when English is their fourth language, dealers go heavy on signs. Like this on a colorful wagon: “Seafood. All you can eat for $2.50.” For half an hour I ate bait.
Another read: “Due to the president’s order to eliminate poverty, we raised our prices.”
And don’t look for finger bowls because if you find one — trust me, before using it you’d have to wash your hands.
The only merchant that hasn’t set up shop on a Manhattan roadway is that Long Island lady. The one with the trailer whom cops busted because along with selling hot dogs she was also pushing her hot buns. I mean, talk of marketing. Slathering on a little sauerkraut, she could outsell Macy’s.
Like potholes and pollution, curbside vendors are part of New York. As the weather heats up, so do outdoor sellers. The city elbows through crowded intersections schlepping dogs, baby carriages, walkers. Standing up, dining on roadways, is a rite of passage.
A collection of germaphobes, we’re told: Wash your hands, don’t touch your face, close doors with your elbow, wear gloves, use Purell. Avoid salt, sugar, fried foods, calories.
Yeah, sure. Lotsa luck. The aroma from ethnic boulevard smorgasbord — Turkish, Spanish, Philippine-ish, Brazilian, Argentinian, Ukrainian, Chinese, Vietnamese, Burmese — is heady. I always eat at street fairs. Of course, I get sick a lot.
Some heavy-duty exotic stuff comes with the Surgeon General’s warning. I mean, breaking a tooth on gravy?
Noneaters can just look. There are belly dancers, psychics, seers, church bazaars, on every corner somebody’s shaking a can for some charity.
You can donate to everything needy except CNN.
Word is festivals began in 1884. Who knows? I mean, I wasn’t personally there at the time, and so far it’s the lone thing Obama hasn’t accused Romney of.
But maybe these open-air industrialists have the right idea because it’s the only way to operate a business. These days there’s no other way to survive. Do something wrong, you’re fined. Do something right, you’re taxed. Nothing’s left except to either own a pushcart or be CEO of a bank.Follow @PageSix