Scenes from a New York street fair
Grandma didn’t pick up the phone. That awful automated man came on her receiver instead, and I kept walking and noticed there was a street fair on 8th Avenue. They have them every summer in New York. Gyro stands with skewered meat and onions, pickle huts hawking small wasabis—“just one and you’re done!”—smoothie stalls covered in cups of giant pineapple spears, banners tempting those greasy cheesy Frisbees known as MozzArepas. Foot traffic was slow. I ducked into the Salvation Army because there’s always at least one good book there. An old Milton Bradley board game called Bermuda Triangle caught my eye. (“The ocean that swallows ships whole!”) It was $2.99 and in nice shape. The book shelves contained some decent titles, but only a Beryl Markham biography seemed worth the $1.84 that the man with the BLAH BLAH BLAH baseball cap took from me. Outside it was drizzling and when I stopped to take a photo a girl wearing red pants crossed in front of my iPhone (see below).
Five blocks in and stalls were repeating their wares—iPhone cases, quesadillas, more hot pickles, soap and soup (sold separately), Thai for $1, calzones, fried Oreos—but the hand-scrawled “Best Cannoli” sign stopped me. These little guys were "imported from Brooklyn" from the Fortunato Brothers shop. One for $3 or two for $5. Easiest decision I’ll make all day. Vanilla and chocolate chip. The man selling them wore rings on every finger and those hemp bracelets, you know the ones. I liked the way he snapped open the white paper bag in the air, cellophaned my treats, and told me to have a nice walk. I did.
Strange that this avenue I’ve walked a hundred times could now remind me of the markets in London, only this weather was shit and there wasn’t a single Scotch egg to be found. And the people wandering here had a harder look on their faces. But everyone was chewing on something. One short man took a chocolate chip cookie out of his bag and put the whole thing in his two front teeth, balling up the bag in the same motion. Excited kids ignored the guy selling what few people wanted—cotton candy. He swirled a single pink cloud around before snuffing it into a plastic bag. Bugs Bunny was painted on the side of his car. I wanted to know how he made cotton candy. For how long. And why. But instead I looked at him and kept walking. Why is it so hard to talk to strangers? We protect each other’s space only to our own detriment. What can we learn from one another?
The cannoli were burning a hole in my purse. On my way home I passed a guy with owl eyes and tortoiseshell glasses, and my man who sells me bananas four for a dollar on the corner of 14th Street and 8th Avenue. A blaring ambulance was nudging through the intersection but the street fair stopped everyone from moving out of the way. Eventually the ambulance turned off its siren. I hoped another was on its way.