'Tis the Season

An Afternoon on 14th Street

We pass the Hollywood Department Store ("a great place for bed skirts, that's all you need to know,") and come to Party City (38 West 14th), where the breadth of graduation ephemera is staggering. "How much do we love the Graduation Greeter?" Jacobs asks no one in particular. The Greeter is a $34.99, three-foot-tall stuffed bear in a cap and gown, and Jacobs says it's soft enough to sleep with, then peeks under the robe and changes his mind—Teddy's legs turn into hard metal wires as soon as they disappear under his skirt. Party City also has "Happy Graduation" frogs ($19.99) wearing caps only, which Jacobs says might be because it's easier to dress up bears than frogs. In any case, the selection of bears is daunting. "Maybe this isn't the bear for you," he says philosophically of one fellow wearing glasses who comes stuffed in a mug, "but maybe this one is—or this one is!" When I suggest that a pack of $2.97 orange and black "Happy Graduation" napkins may in fact be hastily recycled Halloween stock, Jacobs is slightly peeved. "It's not leftover Halloween—it's more Halloween. You can't have too much Halloween. Oh, don't get me started."

Cheap thrills: tuxedo shirts, Jesus rugs, and bears, amongthe wonders of 14th Street
photos: Jorge Colombo
Cheap thrills: tuxedo shirts, Jesus rugs, and bears, amongthe wonders of 14th Street

Back in the broiling sun, Jacobs proclaims his 14th favorites a three-way tie: the Drakkar Noir, the tuxedo shirts, and the graduating bear. They are soon to be joined by a fourth contender: a Sharp boombox at Best Value Electronics (6 West 14th)—"$499! Half-price today!"—of such enormous proportions that when Jacobs asks if you can, like, put it on your shoulder, four salesmen fall on the floor laughing. Jacobs likes everything about this item: its name (the Monster), its girth, and especially the little screen flashing colors and messages. "What do you call the screen?" he asks a salesman. "Oh, that's the equalizer—it moves when you put something on." "It dances with the music," Jacobs grins, then turns to me and says he absolutely loves the Monster as much as the shirt, the bear, and cologne. "Put that on the list!"

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