The two guys who put the Upper West Side Street Fair from 72nd to 79th, on the downtown lanes of Broadway, are Ray and Mort. NLN, as they say in the penal biz… no last names. But they put on these things, and it's a fun show: Free. Just walk along and drink it all in.

About a dozen booths per block. Cost of a 10-foot-long frontage on the road, where approximately 40,000 people cross by on a good day, is $185, if you reserve the space two or more months beforehand. For one-month reservation, it's $210; last-minute yellers get a cram-in for $260.

Today was a good day. Sunny, hot, no rain.

There are the regulars, the T-shirts and the tie-dyed dresses, this year with some fetching hanky-point hems in three colors and a bit of gold dazzle. There are the plant guys, born and bred in Brooklyn, with palms and orchids and geraniums on display, along with elegant ceramic or celadon 6" vases.

There are all the foodies: The corn on cob people, the tortillas, the Thai food dumpling dips, the corn tortillas mixed with cheddar-grill melt folks. The long, skinny balloons in an array of colors, twisted to fit onto a child's head, and extend 3 feet into the West Side sky atop her head.

And there are the sock counters, always a good buy. The Indian and Paki rug merchants. And the 'special price' NY Times booth, with freebie tote bags in graduated sizes if you get the weekly or the weekend delivery. He had one other guy there today, which means they split the 8+ hours; not a great signal, when the Spanish and Thai franchises have the same space, and they're running their flip-flops out with serving people. The sweet potato fritters, the icy lemonade with lime rinds, for a single. The nut sellers. The dried fruit sellers.

The high-end products are languishing. The costly bags and the handmade silk or chiffon blouses. The bottle 'gowns' in satin, from China, that are gorgeous, but serve few practical goals aside from gifting someone for a supper invitation. The table runners in damask and silk.

How are the vendors doing? According to the Israeli with off-price 'name-brand' cosmetics, business is off 25% this year, ITE ('in this economy'). The Times guy and the balloon-twist people shrug-business is no better than last year. Which means it's worse, but they don't want to give themselves the evil eye. The homemade rug fellow picked a fight, looked up at the skies, and refused to give any figures, pleading "Rain in a minute, gotta pack up." But the orchid guy and his attractive Gen. Y daughter lifted their shoulders, and did a little Tevya mini-hora, "Thank Heaven-we are doing BETTER!" he smiled and explained both humbly and with joy. "Hate to brag, 'cause I know a lot of these guys aren't doin' so well…but…" Among the few benefiting from the 'stimulated' economy.

In this economy.

No matter what the market is doing, people want comfort food, comfort items, a lovely plant, a cuddly pet. A friend.





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