Man O Manischewitz by Peter Nolan Smith

Fort Greene is a friendly neighborhood.

Unlike Manhattan Brooklynites say hello to each other. I usually smile a greeting, glad to be here in a ‘we’ world.

This rainy afternoon I exited from the Fort Greene Observatory. It was an off day from my usual struggles to get cash, since I had worked the weekend selling diamonds on 47th Street.

Across the street my neighbor Ginny was struggling to drag her cart loaded with plastic soda bottles onto the sidewalk. The older Trinidadian woman collected beer cans and bottles for the deposit money. I gave her all my empties, at least ten a week. At five cents a can my annual contribution adds up to $25. Her daily efforts financed a yearly visit to the nearest casino. She loved the slots.

“Wait there,” I shouted and walked over to help maneuver her load to safety.

“Thank you, sweetie.” The old lady smiled with a doll’s graciousness and scurried into her basement apartment, “I have something for you. Watch my things.”

“Sure.” I estimated that she had collected over two hundred bottles this morning or $10 for her battle with the one-armed bandits of Aqueduct.

Thirty seconds later she emerged from her flat with a plastic bag.

“This is for you.” Ginny handed me a bottle of Manischewitz Concord Grape Wine, which was 100% kosher for Passover, unless it contained a kitniyot grain such as corn syrup.

“Thank you.” I took the bottle with sublime gratitude. No one had yet to give me a Christmas gift. “I’ll drink a toast to you with my landlord AP.”

“He is such a good man. And those children are lovely.”

“Yes, they are.” I pointed to her cart. “You need any help with that?”

“No, I’m going down to Pathway to redeem the money. I think I might hit the casino on New Year’s Day.”

“Then I wish you luck.”

I returned to AP’s brownstone and showed my friend the bottle.

“Man O Manischewitz.” AP made a face. He was used to better wines.

“I can’t remember the last time I drank it. It must have been back in the Zapple and Boone’s Farm years.” I examined the bottle for percentage of alcohol. “It says 11%. Care for a glass?”

“Not right now.” We had eaten pasta with clams for lunch, which called for white wine and certainly not glatt kosher wine.

“Later?” I hated drinking alone.

“Much later.”

I had no reason to wait and cracked open the bottle in my top-floor apartment. The bouquet was pure sweetness. I poured a glass and brought it to my lips. A simple sip renditioned me back to 1966.

Man O Manischewitz.

Some things in life never change and one of them is that kosher wine is no good, but I drank it anyway, because there’s nothing better than getting a little schitzkah on your day off.

Man O Manischewitz.

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