Street Pedlar Diary:
Up at 5:30 a.m. Lucky I'm an early riser, although it has thrown the cat for a loop. He needs to know everything that's going on, but it's too early for the bad boy, so he's watching me from a curled up position with half-closed eyes.
5:37 a.m. I remember some last minute things I forgot such as little stickers to put the prices on larger items. I have been told that tourists are suspicious - Americans esp. if you don't have the price on clearly displayed.
5:39 a.m. I'm cursing myself that I bought such a large canvas browsing bin. My bad. I ordered it online and didn't fully appreciate that it was so wide. Oh well. My rig consists of a bunch of white wire kitchen shelving grids that I plan to put together into a sort of pyramid. My neighbor came by and lifted it the other day saying it was still too heavy. But it is much lighter than what I brought last time. He always has ideas about how to improve things - but so far I haven't taken any of his advice. Last idea he came up with was to bring a laptop.
5:41 First decision to be made is whether to lug the rig to the Indian Deli to buy breakfast and stuff for lunch or to just stop at 2nd Avenue and toss the stuff into a cab. If I do that then I'm stuck buying breakfast near the museum which is expensive.
5: 45 Morning ablutions taken care of. Cat meowing because I've thrown his hectic sleep schedule off. He hops up on my lap while I'm typing. I've decided to dress better than the last time out - my good black pants. Cat doesn't like sitting on my lap and hops up higher to sit on the drum machine (which is turned off). Sometimes he likes to hit the high hat a couple of times with his right paw. He may have been a drummer in a previous life. He watches me typing this for a while and then curls up again between the drum machine and the synth.
Each time I do this - I start with a feeling that I'm going to do well. I make my adjustments to the display, decide what pictures to take. Today I'm leaving the really big stuff, the 20 x 24's at home, and sticking with 16 x 20 as the largest mat which makes the lugging easier. I plan to be out there by 7 a.m. So I still have time to kill. What did I forget? I always forget something. I wrote out a checklist the other day but I lost it. The news is on in the background - lots of stuff about Belmont and Smarty Jones. They are now predicting heavy rain. Is Smarty Jones a mudder - do you remember the great Abbott & Costello routine - he's a mudder - a mudder - how can he be a father and a mudder etc.
My mind wanders - to the movie All About Eve. "She'd try to take Abbott from Costello..." Bette Davis.
I'm planning on going out to Belmont tomorrow... I have some images in mind before getting there... And they don't have anything to do with the horse -- which I could care less about... It's just the atmosphere that has potential -- but not like the old days when Andy and I would try out some new system at the track. What was that system he had? Oh yeah - I would stand on line and try to time it so that I would get to the betting window about 1 minute before the race and he'd be jotting down these numbers on a pad looking for big drops in the odds - the theory being that when the big money went in, they knew what was really going to happen and you just had to watch for the drop and have someone make the bet at the last minute...
Oh right... The track... the field of crazy get-rich-quick schemes. You looked around and saw all the losers, the ripped up tickets, the vomit in the men's room - no this was just a place where for every moment of elation there were ten moments of horrible heart-sinking depression. A place where half the people looked like they had just stepped out of a police line-up. Or as Marlon Brando might have said - oh, the glamour... the glamour...
6 a.m. Back to reality.
- - -
I took notes while I was out there, the following are exactly as they happened:
6:30 a.m. I am the first here. I hope the museum isn't closed or something. I'll take the best spot.
6:45 a.m. I'm setup. I like this display. I feel pretty hopeful. Other vendors arrive. I spend some time with Boris who is demonstrating the new Canon Powershot something or other he just bought: 8 megapixels. He is telling me how large a print he can make with it and says something like 32 x 45 inches. I tell him that's incredible. He hands it over for me to look at and I look through the viewfinder. I'm surprised that it's one of those video viewfinders though he is quick to point out that there is a very good LCD display. I can't get used to the video flickering. He says it's great. Then he realizes he's got to get back to his car and runs off.
7:42 My display is setup. I like it. But I'm really sleepy. They've put this facade against the Met. and when I sit on the bench it picks up the vibrations of the trucks going by. Can't sleep.
8:41 People walk by on their way to work. A couple of people stop to look at display and go on. The Tibetan guy stops by, always smiling. He walks over to my display and tries to shake it. Looks pleased and says it is very sturdy. I ask him how long he's been selling here and he says about three years and we chat for a while.
10:03 Lot's of people coming by now. No sales yet but I still feel hopeful. The museum has just opened. It's a beautiful day.
11:07 I'm beginning to doubt whether the display is any good at all. No one is stopping. I have a lot of the big pictures out, maybe that's a mistake. Maybe I should put the smaller ones out and just keep the larger stuff in the bin. Maybe it doesn't matter.
12:00 The morning went fast. Not a single sale so far. The place is packed with vendors.
12:24 A woman stops by and picks up a copy of FDR At Night (5 x 7) and simply says she wants it. I ask her if she's from New York and she says: "I guess I should tell you why I bought this. My mother-in-law just passed away. She was from that area. I was looking for something symbolic to give to her husband..." One sale for $20.
I don't like the sound of that. A pall of death has been circling around.
1:10 p.m. Two men, both wearing fedoras stop by. They look at every single picture. The taller one asks me if I'm the photographer. I tell him that I am. "Beautiful work," he says - and then moves on. I watch the two of them circle around through some other displays and then they return. The other one now looks through every picture. He picks up a small print of Paris Wedding and after staring at it for a few minutes says, "This one -- this one is fantastic. You really caught something."
I say, "thank you." He places it back in the bin and then the two gentleman from Verona move on.
1:15 p.m A woman thumbs through some photographs -- picks up the one of the Paradise Theatre in the Bronx. She tells me that she was born in the Bronx and that her husband was a State Senator. I don't say anything. She is holding the picture in her hand and says - this is a great shot, but what would I do with it?
I have no answer for that and she walks off.
2:42 Still only one sale. I'm going to try moving things around again on the display. I guess today may turn out to be the worst day yet. I don't know why since I have my strongest work out today, and I think this is the best display. People stop by, they seem to have emotional reactions to some of the pictures, laughing, talking about them, and then moving off. I have been asked at least 20 times whether "these are yours?"
3:40 Two ambulances come by. Perfect. I think this is a deadly day. I ask the Tibetan guy what happened and he says some lady dropped dead behind the stands. I take my camera and go to investigate. She wasn't dead, but was on a stretcher surround by medics. She is conscious, and has an oxygen mask on. The medics are trying to get the stretcher through between the art displays - and I take a couple of pictures as they wheel her by. Death and Art all in one picture. Perfect for the way I'm feeling.
4:30 So that's like ten, eleven hours - and still I've only sold the one picture. You know what - I'm going to leave at 5. That's it. I'm beat.
4:45 A couple comes by. The man looks like either he's had a stroke or is going to have a stroke, and both he and his wife are eating double-scoop ice-cream cones and walking a dog. I'm convinced that either the dog is going to piss on my work, or they are both going to topple over and spill ice-cream on me. Maybe the commonotion would help sales. They make it past me okay, but the dog does try to urinate on the Tibetan guys stuff - but misses.
And that was it. Ten hours. $20. And this time, I can't say what if anything I learned. On the way back I complain to the taxi driver. But of course this sets him off and he begins to tell me about his day and how bad it was. I don't understand much of what he's ranting about - he's Indian or Pakastani - but he is irate about two customers who tried to stiff him with the tip and some other things that are beyond my comprehension. I don't even get a chance to finish my griping.
So there you have it fans. Oh - one woman stopped by and took a card, saying she was interested in redecorating her house, but and would look me up on the web - but who knows.