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Consumer Reports

It's some snow job: Only in New York could a guy sell snowballs in a blizzard! | (KRT) MANHATTAN "Snowballs

$1.00 Each"

The sign was neatly lettered on a white cardboard box propped on a coffee cup. Ten snowballs stood in two neat rows before it on the Times Square pavement.

"One dollar, one dollar," a young man in a knit cap and sunglasses was chanting.

The young man was Gilberto Triplitt, a 28-year-old unemployed artist from Queens who attended LaGuardia High School and worked in a furniture store until it closed in the post-Sept. 11 downturn. He went into the snowball business Monday afternoon on Prince Street in SoHo. He reported selling six in 2-½ hours.

"It's really easy to sell them," he said, to a reporter's surprise.

Around 6 p.m. Monday, Triplitt discarded his remaining snowballs and headed uptown. He made 14 new ones from a mound in a Times Square traffic island and set up shop on Broadway just above W. 43rd St. He sold four more by 8 p.m.

"One, I sold for 50 cents," he now allowed to a reporter. "A small one."

His total snowball sales stood at $9.50, or $9.50 more than seemed possible in the wake of a big snowstorm. Triplitt fished his proof from his jeans pocket, a modest but indisputable wad of dollar bills.

"See?" he said.

He resumed his chant.

"One dollar, one dollar."

There remained the mystery of what would possess anyone actually to buy a snowball. Many passersby clearly found the prospect hilarious. One woman laughed so hard she might have fallen down had she not grabbed a companion.

Snowball salesman Gilberto
Triplett shows off $1
wares in Times Square

"Did you see that?" she asked.

A pink-mittened woman roared into a cell phone.

"There's a guy selling snowballs!"

A visitor from Seattle named Terry Johnson recorded the sight with his camera cell phone.

"It's one of the weirdest things I have seen in my life," Johnson said.

Music producer Gary Pickus paused just after 9 p.m. and became one of the many who took snapshots by more usual means.

"This is funny!" he said.

What could only have been the spirit of pure fun then prompted Pickus to take four quarters from his pocket and make a purchase. He continued downtown, a snowball in his bare hand, a smile on his face.

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"Too bad I don't live in a place like Hawaii," Pickus joked.

Another dozen smiles a minute appeared on the faces of the passersby who followed.

"Are those snowballs fresh?" a woman asked.

Just before 9:30 p.m., two visitors from England happened past and erupted into laughter. One, Christine Rowlatt, hooked her two shopping bags on her forearms and took a photo.

"That will make a perfect Christmas card," said the other, Margaret Rann.

The spirit of pure fun then had Rowlatt hand Triplitt a dollar.

"I've always wanted a snowball," she said.

She continued on with one of Triplitt's choicest in her hand.

"That's the best laugh I've had," said her friend Rann.

Triplitt knelt and repacked some of his remaining snowballs.

"A dollar for a snowball?" asked a young woman.

He pointed to the smallest offering.

"I'll give you that one for 50 cents," he said.

The young woman went off laughing. Triplitt looked more delighted than if he had made a sale.

"I like her laugh," he said.

During a lull, Triplitt dashed to the traffic island above West 44th Street He returned cradling eight new snowballs and discarded an old one that had started to melt. He rearranged his wares into three rows of five.

"Fresh!" he said.

Triplitt did not claim the snowball idea as his own. He had been inspired by an artist who had done much the same in Astor Place some years ago as a bit of performance art.

"Limited edition!" Triplitt now said of his wares.

On the other side of Broadway, a reminder of the continuing terrorist threat appeared in the person of two Emergency Service Unit cops with helmets, flak jackets and automatic weapons. The news zipper above them carried the latest from Iraq as well as the report "Gore to Endorse Dean," which seemed to electrify nobody. The merriment of the people still trooping past Triplitt made his snowballs suddenly seem a bargain.

"One dollar! One dollar!"

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© 2003, New York Daily News Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services