News from the Christmas tree vendor beat! Today in the New York Times‘ City Room blog, there’s a whole story — the second installment in a series, mind you — about a man who sells Christmas trees on the streets of New York City at holiday time. What you will learn will shock and surprise you.
Vending evergreens, it seems, is not the devil-may-care work you might think it is. But it is poetic.
Waxes the Times,
Ah, but things change for the lonely tree vendor when the crowds dwindle, the sidewalk turns cold and the trees are not selling. The whole thing — manning these Christmas tree stands from Thanksgiving until Christmas — becomes an unenviable slog. The moneyed masses come out on evenings and weekends, but on weekdays, the vendors sit and shiver and watch all the people who have warm places to go.
This is positively Dickensian! Where are the fingerless gloves and hot bowls of gruel?
The Times caught up with one vendor in particular, whom they call their “Serbian sidewalk salesman, Nikola Ivkovic, the woodsman of the Upper West Side.” As one would hope with any multi-installment series, they have found him to have highs and lows, good times and bad. During a tree-buying boom, he did not eat for 48 hours straight. Then he ate a prosciutto, cream cheese, and egg sandwich. And now, he is sick or possibly hungover.
Mr. Ivkovic clutched a bottle of Pepto-Bismol and made frequent trips to the bathroom in Loehmann’s department store on the next block, rushing downstairs and through racks of handbags and scarves to the rear restroom.
More tragic than having to use the bathroom at Loehmann’s, he only wears a thin windbreaker, and “does not even own a winter coat.”
Sales over the weekend were spurred by Mr. Ivkovic’s appearance on City Room. It helped him close a few deals, he said, and helped him get top-dollar prices.
“I told the customers, ‘Come on, didn’t you see me in the newspaper? Would I steer you wrong?’ “
We eagerly await the next installment in the series.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on December 8, 2010