Last year business in the Diamond District was spotty during the high holidays of Rosh Shananah and Yom Kippur. The Hassidim disappeared to their 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 the visitors and launched 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 understanding. Their homes have lost value three years in a row. My boss Richie Boy doesn't have the patience for these rubes, but occasionally they are buyers.
I sold an Italian diamond bracelet to a Vermont couple celebrating their 60th anniversary. They lived a short distance from Richie Boy's ski shack and he warmed up to them. Selling turns him on like a drag racer on nitro and on Thursday he delivered a 31-inch diamond necklace set with GIA-certified .40 ct diamonds.
The piece was a magnificent blaze of reflected light set in platinum. His customer coined millions every day. He could shop at Harry Winston, but Richie Boy and he go back to the 80s. Both are 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. He 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 was frustrated by 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 skipped a generation with Richie Boy.
“Surfing.” richie Boy had a place on the beach out in Montauk.
"What are you doing this weekend?" Marvin, the newly-married diamond dealer across the aisle, asked him.
"I'm having a kosher pig BBQ."
"How can pig be kosher?" The balding 50 year-old wasn't glatt kosher, but neither was he a bacon Jew.
“Yes, how?” Marvin was a shrewd diamond buyer. He figured everything for 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 qualludes.
Richie Boy was his complete opposite and went for the complete wind-up.
"A special rabbi consecrates the pig before killing it according to an ancient Hebrew tradition. It predates the Torah." Richie Boy is a great salesman and Marvin admired his chutzpah as well as his ability to thrive amongst the goyim.
"Really?" Marvin was swallowing 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. We laughed at his schmielism and Richie Boy prepared for his early departure from New York. His father continued to kvetch like an old yenta. At 83 the only choice were work or death. Manny and I fought every day. 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.
"You know the reason why pork is tref?"
"It caused people to have worms in the old days." Richie Boy checked the exchange. The religious don’t have a funny bone over pig’s feet. "And don't tell me that it's because Yahweh ordered the Jews give up pork as the ultimate sacrifice."
"Little tastes better than bacon." Richie Boy and I knew each other over 30 years. We had heard each other's stories enough to give them numbers. I was still capable of catching him off-guard. "Pork is tref no matter what. Leviticus condemned pig for its cloven food, but there is such a thing as kosher pork chops. Not for the Hassidim, but it's cooked with pickle juice and kosher salt."
"Sounds as dry as an old shoe." Richie Boy possessed a better than average epicurean palate.
"Not something I'd eat, but maybe scientists can genetically modify a pig to have feet instead of hooves." I had eaten pigs' foot in Berlin. It was considered the city's signature dish. "Pigs with little toes."
"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 wished Richie boy a good weekend.
"You can come out on Saturday."
"Thanks, but I got to get ready for my trip." I was heading out to Thailand for a month. It would be the longest that I had spend with since 2008. "If there really was kosher pig I might change my mind."
"You never know."
"I know." Richie Boy and I had spent too much time together over the past years. It was time for a break.
Kosher pig or not.