It's the holiday season, and we sent writer John Kuhner out to investigate who's hawking Christmas trees to the city's residents. In this series of posts you'll meet some of the more intriguing vendors—everyone from that guy in the red Porsche... to that guy who hasn't showered in weeks. Previously: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

What insights do Christmas tree sellers get about New York City from spending a month continuously on the streets? “I think perhaps I see more than you New Yorkers do,” says one particularly philosophical treeseller, whom we’ll call “Pierre.” “Because I’m an outsider, a stranger, you know?”

“Like the way you treat the Mexicans… they’re like a subrace here, you give them all the worst jobs. We don’t have anything like that in Canada, it’s very striking when you come here. And New York, you think it’s a very progressive city. One year I had a black man working for me. It’s a shame because I really try to give people equal opportunity. But it didn’t work out. We do deliveries, you know, we deliver the trees, we bring them to people’s apartments. And you could see that people were afraid. Our numbers were down when he was around.”

“After 10 p.m. it changes around here,” says another seller, from Serbia. “I can’t understand it, this must be one of the most expensive neighborhoods, in the—in the world, really. But after 10 p.m. it’s all bums, crazy people, crackheads, hookers…” Hookers? On the Upper West Side? “They’re not going around asking you for work, but you can tell... they’re going somewhere, someone’s apartment or something.”

Conspicuous consumption is an aspect of the culture too. “I don’t have any here,” said one Queens seller, “but a top-quality Canaan fir”—a rare subspecies now considered the best tree on the market—“can go for $900 in Manhattan. You can’t believe it.” The Broadway stands are supposedly quite profitable. “It’s Broadway or No-way,” said one particularly businesslike seller. “I’m not going back to the boroughs.” Some Manhattan sellers will not only deliver the tree, but decorate it too: “It’s a thing for some people, to have their tree professionally decorated. You know, to impress the guests at dinner parties.” To me, that sounds like hiring someone to chew your food for you, but then again, I’m not rich.

“The most interesting part is going into people’s homes,” says another seller. “You see that people are not what they appear to be on the streets. On the streets, they are so closed, so sad… they walk by all day, it’s cold, it can be very depressing. But then you go into their homes, and they open up, they are warm… they give you tea.”