Two years ago business in the Diamond District was almost non-existent during the high holidays of Rosh Shananah and Yom Kippur. The Hassidim disappeared to the various shetls scattered around New York and tourists entered our diamond exchange to gawk at the diamonds and jewelry. At least twice a day out-of-towners asked in complete seriousness, "Are they real?"
"Everything is real," I answered before launching into a short spiel about the value of diamonds and gold. "Years ago we told the customers that diamonds were a good investment. It was sort of true then, but now diamonds appreciate in value better than houses plus they're easier to convert into cash at times of need."
The tourists nodded with sadness. Their homes had lost value three years in a row.
"What are you wasting time on these rubes?" My boss Richie Boy doesn't have the patience for these goyim and called them tire-kickers.
"Because they sometimes buy and it's not like anyone is in the store."
Suit yourself, but they're a waste of time."
Otherwise known as WOTs, but later that day I sold an Italian diamond bracelet to a Vermont couple celebrating their 60th anniversary. Richie Boy warmed up to them after hearing they lived a few mles from his ski shack. My sale turned him on like a drag car on nitro and on the Thursday after Yom Kippur he delivered a 31-inch diamond necklace set with GIA-certified .40 ct. diamonds to a hedge fund investor.
The magnificent platinum piece blazed with a rainbow of reflected light. His customer coined millions every day. He could have shopped at Harry Winston, but Richie Boy and he went back to the 80s. Both were loyal to each other. Richie Boy returned to the store after closing and said, "That's it. I’ve had enough of Yom Kippur. I'm headed out to my surf shack."
“What about tomorrow?” his father asked from his desk. Manny would have remained open 24/7, if the exchange didn’t close at 6.
“Fridays are dead and nothing is deader than a Yom Kippur Friday.” Richie Boy needed his rest. He had rescued the firm through a series of near-miraculous sales. I had helped with a few deals out of the blue and neither of us were broke.
“What about trying to run this store like a business?” Manny hated his son’s laissez-faire attitude.
“There’s more to life than work.”
“Like what?” Manny lived for his work. His father had been the same. Somehow that relentless devotion to the grindstone had been lost on Richie Boy.
“Surfing.” Richie Boy's place in Montauk was a five minute walk from Ditch Plains.
"What are you doing this weekend?" asked Marvin, the newly-married diamond dealer across the aisle.
"I'm having a kosher pig BBQ." Richie Boy
"How can pig be kosher?" The balding 50 year-old might have been a shrewd diamond buyer, since he figured everything was worth a third of its value, but he had been the president of the glee club of a summer camp in the Jewish Alps and was as gullible as a cheerleader on quaaludes.
“Yeah how?” Richie Boy liked answering questions with questions.
Well, a special rabbi consecrates the pig before killing it in accordance with an ancient Hebrew tradition predating the Torah."
"Really?" Marvin swallowed the possibility of kosher bacon with a kvelling smile.
"100%. Come out to my BBQ and I'll introduce to the delight of kosher pork."
Marvin promised to show up at the beach BBQ and returned to his booth.
We laughed at his schmielism and Richie Boy prepared for his early departure from New York, while his father kvetched like an old yenta.
"This store closes at 5:30." At 83 Manny's only choices were work or death.
"Which is why you and the goy will close the store." Richie was ready to go. "So I can be a human."
"Manny, we could close and join him?"
"Not a chance. There's no such thing as kosher pig."
A few minutes later Richie Boy left the exchange.
Manny and I argued about closing early. We fought every day. I didn't mind, since our arguments flushed the blood through his body. I hoped that he lived to 103.
At 59 I had more in common with him than most of the people on the planet, but I convinced him it was time to go at 5.
"You know the reason why pork is tref?"
"It caused people to have worms in the old days." Manny checked the exchange. The religious don’t have a funny bone over pig’s feet.
"No, it's because Yahweh asked the Hebrews to give up something really good and there's nothing better than bacon."
"That's bullshit and I don't expect any else from a bullshitter."
"It's in Exodus. Check it in your Torah."
"I don't have a Torah."
"What about a Bible?"
"Not a chance." Manny believed in one commandment, which was 'nimmt geld' or take money. "But I don't need a book to tell me that pork is tref no matter what. Leviticus condemned pig for its cloven food, so there is such a thing as kosher pork chops. Not for the Hassidim, unless you're starving and even then I think most of them would prefer to die than eat a cloven-foot pig."
"What if scientists genetically modified a pig to have feet instead of hooves." I had eaten pigs' feet in Berlin, which was considered the city's signature dish. "Schmackhaft. "
"Stop. That's sacrilege." Manny hadn’t been to the temple in years, but once a Jew always a Jew.
"Sacrilege and heresy are my specialties." I set the alarm and I started packing for the night. It was 5:30.
"Always in a rush to leave."
"I have places to go." Actually only home since I was saving money to visit Thailand. I hadn't seen my family in the long time. "What about driving out to Montauk for the kosher pig BBQ?"
"Feh, only one thing is more tref than pig and that's driving out to Montauk on a weekend.
"I know what you mean." Nothing was worse than sitting in a car for three hours at 10 mph.
"Beside I like steak at a BBQ."
"It's not ref."
"Never was, never will be."
Manny got out of his chair with a groan.
"Let me help you pack." He glanced at the empty exchange. "Tomorrow's another day."
And about this Manny was as right as Scarlett O'Hara in GONE WITH THE WIND.
Tomorrow was another day.
Kosher pig or not.