Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Who Done It / BET ON CRAZY

Two years ago the Diamond District on 47th Street was dead on the high holiday of Sukkot. None of the Hasidim had shown up to work and Gabriel our broker had left us ten big diamonds. I had put them in the window. A half-hour later an over-weight gypsy in Versace suits came in the store and asked, "How much for the big stone?"

"It ain't for sale." I had never sold to a gypsy. They were a WOT or a waste of time. Worse was the possibility that they might rob you. Gippos had a bad reputation. It was well-deserved. "But the price is 40K."

"$40K for a 6-carat F SI3?" The man was top of the line Roma. I had seen him around the block. His name was Tony. "Would you take 20K for it?"

"Thanks but no thanks." Gabriel had given it to us for $35,000.

"I have the money." He brandished a roll of hundreds thick enough to be 20K, unless the center was all $1 bills.

"Sorry, the price remains 40K. Gypsy price. No haggling either."

I sat at my desk and the gypsy exited from the exchange. Tony had other marks on his list. Maybe he would get lucky.

Around noon the girls wanted to order lobster rolls from the new take-out. Coming from Maine I was eager to try the lunch special. Richie Boy signaled that he was in too. Lobster is tref or unclean and unfit for consumption according to Jewish tradition, however only one member of our staff was religious. The rest were bacon Jews.

Lunch came, we ate, and then discussed the lobster rolls. Cindy thought it was good. She had gone to UMass. Richie Boy was unimpressed. He was nursing a hangover. I had eaten better in Maine, but Lincolnville was an eight-hour drive from 47nd Street. A hand slapped the window.


The Hassidic bum.

His hand was twitching for money.

"Fuck him." Richie Boy had little patience for Lenny. The 53-year-old was a drunken bum. His mouth was a volcano of insults. The fat man called Richie Boy a country-club Jew. Lenny was no Don Rickles, but he made me laugh. I put down my lobster roll and went outside.

"Lenny, you're messing up the window." His hand imprint was scattered on the glass like prehistoric paintings. "I have to clean it."

"Sorry, Damian." Lenny is a slob in his filthy tee-shirt and ripped flannel trouser with sodden sneakers shaped like melted cheese. He has been living on the street for more than 20 years, but I had seen the fat bum deposit over $200 at the bank. Some people say that this lunacy is an act. His glassy eyes tell the truth.

"No worries." I liked that he called me 'Damian'. The name smacked of THE OMEN and the Son of Satan.

"You know that the president of Iran said that Israel was behind the 9/11 attacks. He's stupid, but there are still questions that no one has ever asked about that day. Like how the 3rd building collapsed or how there are no black boxes or how the police found Mohammad Atta's passport intact or the 15 Saudis. None of them pilots." Lenny's rant was punctuated by occasional assaults from his unwashed body.

"That's all old news." Something was missing from his rant.

"You want names?"

NYPD had installed CCTV on the street. Every words was live. A story like this could lead to dead. Lenny had lived in every homeless shelter on Manhattan. Fear was a stranger and he named names from the past and present. His trajectory revealed a keen intellect dependent on studious reading. "And we bombed the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, because their radio operators were running the war from a supposed safe haven."


"Bill Clinton showed chutzpah that day."


"You really think a band of fanatics could have executed 9/11. A military operation. Could have been anyone?"

"Even the Israelis." I whispered the word, for any criticism of the Holy Land was off-limits on 47th Street. My pay check was more important than politics. I had four loving children on my back.

"The Chinese are deeply involved in numbers." Lenny was on the verge of launching into a primal reverie about cardinal numbers. He actually understood Georg Cantor's set theory. I should have grasped how one-to-one correspondences referred to equality of sets, but I must have slept through that class in high school.

I had been a math major, but today I had to make a little money to buy a 3-liter box of wine to last the rest of the week.

"Lenny, I got to go back to work."

"You got a dollar for the holiday?"

I handed him two bills. He wished me luck and called for a blessing on my kids in Thailand. Sokkot was a festival to commemorate the wandering the desert. "May you get home soon."

"Thanks." Seeing my kids was my greatest wish.

That and an old motorcycle.

I went back inside the diamond exchange hoping to close a deal in the final hours of Sukkot.

Stranger things have happened.

It wasn't too much to ask from life.

Not in 2010.

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