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Vice Fashion - Vulture Culture

Photos by Alain Levitt
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Κείμενο Alain Levitt
1.8.07

PHOTOS BY ALAIN LEVITT

Vice: Whatcha selling here, pictures?

Ann:

Didn’t you hear? There were these two buildings here right behind me that got knocked down. Many people died, and now people come here to see it and buy pictures of the buildings and what happened.

We did hear about that. Which ones are the most popular?

People really like the picture of the new tower they’re putting up and the diagram of the planes hitting the buildings. I sell the postcard book with those two pictures most often.

Does anybody give you a hard time for peddling mementos of the tragedy that happened right behind you?

Sometimes in the evening the workers from behind the fence will be tired and sort of angry, and they’ll come and get in fights with me. It was really bad last year on the fifth anniversary. They were all really mad and I had to pack up and leave.

It must be kind of creepy working right here every day. Do you think there are any ghosts who are still in the area?

What? No, of course not.

Yoko Devereaux hat, Quiksilver shirt

Vice: How long have you been a vendor?

Alex:

I’ve been doing this on and off for five years.

And you’re always right here, a stone’s throw away from the gaping open wound of the World Trade Center?

We take it to different places on different days of the week. This is a prime spot, so we trade off with the other vendors.

But it’s got to be kind of a bummer trying to sell stuff to people who’ve just come from grieving at ground zero. Don’t the sad vibes get to you?

Sometimes, yeah. I try not to think about it.

Do you think there are any ghosts here?

That’s a real heavy question, when you get into ghosts and spirits. But aren’t we all really ghosts and spirits?

Hmm, that’s a good point. So what’s selling these days?

Everything here sells—that’s why I have it all on the table. But if you want to know what my best seller is, that would be the little rectangular guy with the whole skyline in it. It’s got a little bit of everything, including the spooky old towers.

Vintage Red shirt, Odyssey 2020 sunglasses

Vice: This seems like a pretty sweet place to set up shop—right between the waterfront and ground zero.

Tony:

I never pictured it like that, but I guess so.

Do you move the table to different places from day to day, or is this it?

We’re always in the same spot, six days a week.

Isn’t it sort of a downer sitting right next to ground zero, watching grieving and upset people pass by all day?

It affects everybody. So many people passed away in the buildings. It’s crazy.

Does anybody ever chew you out for exploiting the tragedy?

There are some people that are friendly and there are some people that are unfriendly. The unfriendly ones usually don’t yell at us or anything though. They just want to be left alone.

Brixton hat, Mishka jacket

Vice: How long have you been running this table, which is so close to the former World Trade Center I could chuck this coffee cup into the rubble if I wanted to?

Bruce:

I’ve been here for eight months. The table’s been here for years though.

This seems like it’d be some pretty prime real estate.

It varies day to day. On the weekends there are spots that are better than this, but during the week, because of the big draw for the World Trade Center, we do fairly well.

It doesn’t dampen anyone’s buying mood that they’re on their way either from or to what is basically a mass grave?

I think it has an effect on everybody. I mean, how can it not? When you think about all the devastation that happened right there, it makes you tremble.

What are folks buying these days?

The Wall Street bull figurines and the little towers sell well. And of course the crystals with the towers in them. Those are popular.

Are you going to be down here for the anniversary this year?

I hope so. I’ve never been down here on the 11th before, so I don’t know what it’s going to be like.

Brixton hat, Mishka sweater

Vice: How long have you been manning this station?

Nestor:

I’ve been down here since before the towers fell. I was right over there on Fulton Street the day it happened.

What happened to the table you had on 9/11? Were you able to pack it up in time to get out of here?

No, we left it. When the first tower fell, all that dust shot out so fast no one had time to pack their stuff up. Everybody just ran, so I lost my table. I never put in my paperwork to get paid for it either.

Why not? Because it was too difficult for you to deal with, or because you thought there were people who needed it more than you?

Eh, whenever I’d come down here to do it there were so many people in line, it’d be an all-day wait. So I said, forget about it.

Do you set up shop on September 11th each year, or is that day off-limits?

I’ve been here for all the anniversaries. At the beginning you’d make a lot of money, because there were a lot of tourists coming down here to see it. Now it’s slacked off a bit.

Do folks ever get pissed off at you for hawking wares right next to the site of the country’s biggest tragedy?

You always have a tourist or two come by your table and rattle something out like “The nerve.” But we don’t pay them no mind, because we know a lot of them are hurting and they just don’t know how to let it out. The cops were the big ones on our case for a long while.

They’d yell at you too? Would they try to shut you down?

At the beginning they wouldn’t let us sell anything. They didn’t want to see the books with the people jumping out or the plane hitting. Now they don’t bother us so much anymore.

Yoko Devereaux shirt, Stussy hat, Barking Irons scarf, Odyssey 2020 sunglasses

Vice: So this is your vending turf, eh?

Tyrone:

On the weekends I go up to the 42nd Street, Times Square area. There’s more people, better flow of income, you know? Otherwise yes. Ten years, same spot.

Then you were here selling crap when the towers came down?

Yes, but I wasn’t set up here that morning. I was selling glasses on Broadway and Dey, a block away. After the first crash I went to the end of the block and was watching the fire and next thing you know the second plane hit. Then when the buildings started rocking and collapsing in on themselves I started running.

Did you ever see those glasses again?

Actually FEMA set up a program so that you could reclaim what you lost, but you needed receipts, and the license and all my paperwork had been at the table. So what it came down to was my word against theirs, and they weren’t trying to just give out the money like that. It took me seven months to get a new table. When I got one, I came right back down here.

Do people give you grief for profiting off their sadness?

There are days I get a lot of tourists who come up to me and say, “How can you sell those crystals of the World Trade Center?” and, “That’s morbid.” Sometimes guys will try to flip the table. It’s a different atmosphere on different days.

Where do you get all the 9/11 books and postcards?

They come from the same place as the rest of the merchandise. I can’t tell you exactly where I get it from, but it all comes from the same place.

What are the biggest sellers?

The crystals and the hats. Easily. The hats with “INY” and the skyline are always popular, but the ground zero one is really a grabber.