A Fruit Vendor for 20 Minutes

Dear Diary:

Walking to dinner in Chelsea, I passed a large fruit stand. The owner stopped me: “Could you watch my cart? I really need to go to the bathroom.”

I’d often daydreamed about running a friendly roadside business, like a coffee cart, where I was known to locals, and perfectly positioned to serve as a police informant. “O.K.,” I said. He limped off toward a restaurant.

I now ran a fruit stand. Passers-by viewed me skeptically: in skinny pants, a pink top and once-jazzy yellow trainers, I didn’t quite fit the profile. But suddenly, my first customer: an Irish lady wanting bananas. She noted I had “an accent.” Three for a dollar, but she only wanted one, and I didn’t have change! I explained my circumstances, and she took three.

“What do you do normally?” she asked.

“I work for a think tank.”

Five minutes later, business was booming. I sold bananas, mangoes, oranges, even some decaying bananas, reduced and primed for banana bread. It was exhilarating. But as 15 minutes passed, I began to wonder: am I on “Candid Camera”? Another customer arrived and the thought was shelved.

Twenty minutes passed. Finally, I saw my boss limping back. He’d gone to get pizza. I told him triumphantly about my sales, my showmanship, how I’d shifted the bananas. I counted my takings for him. Nine dollars! He checked to make sure I’d sold the mangoes for the right price.

We shook hands, exchanged names and origins — England and Bangladesh — and he gave me an apple. I offered to sub for him again if I was ever passing by. “O.K.,” he said. “But business very slow.”

Not for me, buddy. Those elderly bananas sell themselves.


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Political Action From the Bike Lobby

Cycling opponents have long accused Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of answering to a power-hungry bike lobby whispering in his ear about bike lanes, bike sharing and any other policy objective on two wheels.

But this week, advocates for cycling and pedestrian safety will begin perhaps the most decisive test yet of their influence: issuing endorsements of candidates on the criteria of streetscape policy positions.

The group behind the endorsements, a political action committee called StreetsPAC, has already thrown its support behind five candidates in City Council races, with plans to wade into the mayoral election and borough presidents’ races, among other contests this year.

“We think that in some races we can be a critical part of the coalition that can make a difference,” said Glenn McAnanama, a founder of the group and a member of its endorsement committee, noting the relatively low voting totals in some Council elections.

The group, which was introduced in April, said it had received about $25,000 in donations, with $5,000 pledged. Members said a fund-raising event aimed at larger donors was expected in July. Eric McClure, a founder and treasurer of StreetsPAC, said the group plans to donate money to candidates and dispatch volunteers for petitioning and other on-the-ground work. More than 60 candidates for public office have responded to the group’s questionnaire.

So far, StreetsPAC has targeted two incumbents — Sara M. Gonzalez of Brooklyn and Inez E. Dickens of Manhattan — by supporting the challengers Carlos Menchaca and Vince Morgan. The group cited Mr. Menchaca’s commitment to extending the Brooklyn Greenway and Mr. Morgan’s criticism of “foot-dragging” by Ms. Dickens on proposed upgrades to Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard.

One incumbent, Melissa Mark-Viverito, who represents East Harlem and the South Bronx, and two candidates for open seats, Costa Constantinides of Queens and Antonio Reynoso of Brooklyn, also secured the group’s backing.

In the mayoral field, Mr. McAnanama said, Sal Albanese, a Democratic candidate and former councilman, “is probably the strongest on our issues,” though the group remains a long way from a formal endorsement.

The issue of cycling advocacy has received widespread attention in recent weeks, since the introduction of the city’s bike-sharing program. In a video on the Wall Street Journal’s Web site, Dorothy Rabinowitz, a member of the paper’s editorial board, called the bike lobby “an all-powerful enterprise” with a direct line to the “totalitarians running the government of this city.”

But StreetsPAC does not much resemble a hardened political machine. Mr. McAnanama said that before the group’s inception, some wondered if its formation was even worth the trouble.

“Earlier on, there was a discussion: Is this necessary? Is this something that’s pretty obvious?” he recalled. “But we just didn’t see the debate happening over the right issues. It seemed to be happening over side issues.”

And so a lobby formed where many assumed one had already existed.

“It’s the all-powerful bike, pedestrian safety, anyone-who-wants-to-enjoy-a-public-plaza-or-street lobby,” Mr. McAnanama said.

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