Chelsea hats, crazy wigs, and Serigne, New Year's 2009

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I passed the stand set up on the corner of 7th Avenue and 23rd Street. It was late last evening, windy and bitterly cold. The two vendors were selling New Year's Eve party hats, light wands, and noise makers. I had already passed them by when I stopped to think about checking out the merchandise. My arms however were already juggling several heavy bags of food, so I decided I'd go back today to pick up something for a occasion to whose observance I've never been indifferent.

I've saved stuff from past years when I thought something was a little more special than most of the ephemera manufactured for this ancient holiday; I could recycle the old tin horns and such, but I probably needed some fresh party streamers. Then I asked myself, should I also get two pairs of 2010 spectacles? I'd never worn the silly things before, but this just might be the very last year for that classic template.

Aside from satisfying my needs, or encouraging last-minute buying impulses, I was looking forward to seeing what I expected would be a colorful array of merchandise (bring the camera!). It hadn't occurred to me that the market experience, the bargaining between customer and seller would itself have been a powerful draw.

I didn't see any streamers, and I didn't spring for the glasses, but Serigne gave me a good price on two outrageous tinsel "wigs" (I might have some work in persuading Barry to wear his). I had already asked Serigne if I might take a few pictures of his table display, and he was kind enough to ascent - even without the condition that I make a purchase, although he encouraged me to do so. I heard him talking to the woman he was with, who later told me he was her son, and I was mesmerized by the cadences of their speech. I asked what language they were speaking, and they told me it was Wolof, that they were Wolof, from Senegal.

Serigne suggested I take a picture of his hat. It was one of the many models arrayed accross the table, but I doubt it could ever look as good as it does on his own handsome head.


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