View Full Version : The Sacred and the Tacky, Inseparable

May 6th, 2003, 04:04 PM
From the New York Times

May 6, 2003

The Sacred and the Tacky, Inseparable


The Instamatic Brigades of rubbernecking tourists were out in force over the weekend at the World Trade Center site.

So were the Schlock Brigades, the street vendors with their rows and rows of 9/11 knickknacks: snow domes of the twin towers, photos of the New York skyline before the terrorist attack, baseball caps bearing N.Y.P.D. and F.D.N.Y. logos, T-shirts vowing never to forget. You've seen them all, many times no doubt.

Also on sale were familiar items that had nothing to do with Sept. 11, 2001, from hot dogs to pretzels, from Mets caps to NYC sweatshirts. And, inevitably at any location popular with tourists, there were the immigrants selling knockoff watches and sunglasses out of identical attaché cases.

If the city has its way, those peddlers would be banished from Church, Vesey, West and Liberty Streets, all bordering the huge construction site known as ground zero. For legal and technical reasons, Albany must give its O.K., and so a bill endorsed by City Hall is now before the State Legislature.

A prohibition on vendors is needed because of sidewalk congestion at ground zero, the proposed legislation says. Something must be done, it says, "in recognition of the sanctity of the site" and "in order to preserve the dignity that visitors to the site expect and to which they are entitled."

It is no coincidence that relatives of the World Trade Center victims want such a ban. "There is, in fact, a legitimate plea from families and survivors of 9/11," said Gretchen Dykstra, the city's consumer affairs commissioner.

That the lineup of sidewalk peddlers at ground zero brings a certain tackiness would seem indisputable. But frankly, it was hard to tell on a busy weekend day what qualified as the dignity said to be the tourists' due.

Plenty of people stopped to shop for the right twin towers T-shirt or N.Y.P.D. cap to take home to Mom. No vendor had to reach out to grab them. Many also seemed delighted to have a hot dog stand and a cold soda within easy reach.

As for sanctity — one dictionary definition being "the fact of being sacred or inviolable" — the reality is that it has long gone hand in hand with commerce, here and elsewhere. Have you not seen vendors on the streets next to St. Patrick's Cathedral, which surely qualifies as sacred?

Every day, people hawk trinkets at the foot of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. They sell sodas near the Western Wall in Jerusalem. Souvenir shops line the streets leading to Buddhist temples across Japan. The commercialism in Lourdes, the French town of miracles, is indescribable.

Memory here returns to a long-ago Good Friday in the Philippines, where every year men are nailed to crosses to re-enact the Crucifixion. On this particular Good Friday, north of Manila, a man hung from the cross while vendors were at his feet selling ice cream and soft drinks to the crowd.

Did they violate the sanctity of a solemn day? No one there seemed to think so. Some even speculated that similar activity may have taken place 2,000 years ago.

To return to New York, if the trade center site is hallowed ground, as many believe, how far do we take the concept?

IN the warm months ahead, you can count on many tourists walking around town in what could be mistaken for their underwear. "You can't legislate taste, and you can't legislate sensitivity," Ms. Dykstra said, sensibly enough. Nonetheless, many holy places have dress codes. Should there be one as well for respectful visits to ground zero?

And if it is wrong to sell low-priced caps and T-shirts on Church Street, why is it all right for the Century 21 department store to sell more expensive clothing on that same stretch of street?

Next door to Century 21 is the Millenium Hilton Hotel, which was formally reopened yesterday in a ceremony that included the governor and the mayor. The hotel, across Church Street from ground zero, similarly exists for the primary purpose of making money (as, for that matter, did that temple of commerce, the World Trade Center).

It may be worth noting that the Republican Party will hold its national convention next year in New York, ending it barely a week before the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. Visits to ground zero by office holders and seekers are certain. So are countless cameras and microphones.

No one, though, has proposed banning this sort of activity as perhaps violating "the sanctity of the site."

Then again, the politicians aren't selling anything. Except themselves, of course.

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

May 6th, 2003, 04:11 PM
More belly-aching and crying about everything. *People in this country seem to want everything to resemble a museum - quiet, orderly, preserved for all time. * Sadly, so many times they seem to get their way.

Lightning Homer
May 6th, 2003, 04:23 PM
NOT everything off-course, but AT LEAST such locations like Ground Zero or Pearl Harbor. We have plenty of place -thanks God, America isn't small- for tourists and merchants. If you, tourist, you want to remember, to pray, to light a candle, you're welcome. But if your purpose is just to take a look "for fun", to buy some T-shirt or crappy watch, I think you oughta go somewhere else. There's no lack of choice, especially in NYC. :angry:

(Edited by Lightning Homer at 4:27 pm on May 6, 2003)

May 6th, 2003, 04:26 PM
You can't regulate bad taste.

Lightning Homer
May 6th, 2003, 04:30 PM
If you think like that, you can't regulate crime either...
I don't believe in fatalism. Let's give fines to those people !
Sometimes, it's my anger that I can't regulate, sorry ! :(

(Edited by Lightning Homer at 4:30 pm on May 6, 2003)

May 6th, 2003, 05:36 PM
I can't see why they shouldn't be allowed on Church St. especially. I mean 3 office towers and inumerable shops are going up across the street, not a museum.

When the site is complete they should be kept out of the memorial area itself and probably away from the peremiters of it from where people will be able to look down into the memorial. The same rule should apply today. Keep them off the north side of Liberty St. and east side of West St. that will abutt the memorial. Otherwise they should be allowed on Church and Vesey.

May 6th, 2003, 05:43 PM
Quote: from Lightning Homer on 4:30 pm on May 6, 2003
If you think like that, you can't regulate crime either...
I don't believe in fatalism. Let's give fines to those people !
Sometimes, it's my anger that I can't regulate, sorry ! :(

I wish you were right. *If you ask me, bad taste is one of the most serious problems in American society today. *I'm not kidding.

Lightning Homer
May 7th, 2003, 07:29 AM
I don't know what you call bad taste. To me, it's not a problem of bad taste but a question of respect.
However, you can not pretend to force people to have "good taste", I would call that dictature, for I do enjoy a *good greasy burger with sum oily fries sometimes... and I don't think someones suffers from my bad taste, especially my doctor... ;)

If you do have good taste, just enjoy !
But, please, don't tell people what they have to do, 'til it doesn't really matter you.

"This ain't Russia" (A.Cooper)

For today, I would think to some other *countries, useless to say...

May 7th, 2003, 12:56 PM
Do these vendors actually contribute money to any charities or the like?

TLOZ Link5
May 7th, 2003, 08:17 PM
Some claim to do so, at least.

May 8th, 2003, 09:53 AM
I've seen on more than one occasion some vendors quickly dismantling their table and splitting when the authorities appear. Obviously many are doing it illegally, far from charity.

Lightning Homer
May 8th, 2003, 11:03 AM
To Phxmania : ya kiddin' ? :biggrin:

May 8th, 2003, 11:25 AM
They would have to show that on their income tax, right?

May 8th, 2003, 07:37 PM
Quote: from Lightning Homer on 11:03 am on May 8, 2003
To Phxmania : ya kiddin' ? :biggrin:

LOL Maybe I'm just too hopeful in that regard.

If they're gonna work those corners, they should be made to contribute. Unfourtunately, that'll never happen.

May 8th, 2003, 10:03 PM
Its a matter of respect, profitting from the terrible events...

May 8th, 2003, 11:08 PM
Quote: from Stern on 10:03 pm on May 8, 2003
Its a matter of respect, profitting from the terrible events...

My feelings exactly...

Lightning Homer
May 9th, 2003, 12:07 AM
"Then Jesus came into the Temple, and He saw the merchants..."