You didn’t ask me what I do, but I know you are curious because I could see it in your eyes as you walked past me, so I shall tell you my story, my new friend in a vintage Slayer shirt.
I study history; well, at least I took a few courses at Oberlin before I made my way to the shores of New York City and ended up a real greenhorn in Brooklyn. I was only in college for two years, but what I learned in my studies is that there was a time when things used to be so quaint and so much easier! That time, dear sir, was the 19th century, and the place was the Pale of the Settlement! Oy vey iz mir! How magical it must have been! So cozy! And the people were real and down to earth; nothing like people today. That’s why I, Sean the beard balm maker, decided that everything in my daily life should be connected to that time and place, from the food I eat to the clothes I wear.
Oh, but you want to know more about my beard balm, so I will tell you about my beard balm then. First I will say that two years ago, with a little help from my grandfather Nathan, the owner of a successful chain of gas stations — may he rest in peace — I was able to purchase a studio apartment with a small yard that I heard has quadrupled in value since I bought it. A blessing for sure, but life has not been easy for me. Yet I go on.
What is my day like, you haven’t asked but I’m sure you’re curious about? Every morning I awake before the sun rises. I spend my time usually working, studying or composing letters to my father, Reb Steve, the litigator of Scarsdale. My father is a kind and learned man who went to Columbia Law, and when he makes the journey all the way to Brooklyn, I tell you he has no problem helping me out whenever I need it — which is about once every month or so. He sees there are no lights in my home, only candles, but he makes no judgments. He understands that in my little yard I keep chickens that I raise until they’re fat enough and then I slaughter them and use every part of them for my food save for the feathers, the claws, and the head and maybe the breast because white meat? Feh! And it was my father who gave me the seed money to start Shlomo’s All Natural Beard Balm made from the finest oils and the schmaltz from my little chickens and sell for around thirty dollars for a 2 oz. tin that you can buy right here or on my Etsy store.
Of course, my dear friend, you must be thinking, Sean the beard balm maker, you live a hard life. This is true. Out here in my little village of Williamsburg, it is hard to adapt the antiquated ways of a time that isn’t my own into the 21st century; but I do. On the Sabbath, I have worked out a deal with Brian the bartender that I should have credit and pay him after the holiest day of the week because I can’t carry money with me during that time. Although I’m not religious, I find observing traditions to be important. I barter at the farmers market despite the fact that the people working there tell me the prices are set. Ah ha! That just means they truly want to haggle, and there is nothing I love more than arguing over the price of an onion or head of garlic!
Of course, there are hardships, much like the Jews of the Pale faced. For instance: I went to Michael the butcher at the local market and tried to barter two-dozen chicken necks, perhaps for some vegetables and salt. Do you know what he asked me? “What would I do with all of those necks? Who needs necks?” Can you believe that mishegas? Who doesn’t need chicken necks? I also don’t have a refrigerator, not so much because they didn’t have them in the 19th century, but because it broke and I’m just fine keeping the fish fresh by letting them swim in my bathtub until it’s time to eat them. Even my yarmulke — my kippah — that I wear on my head for reasons I’m not totally clear on was a struggle to make since I don’t like the knitted ones. Instead, I cut apart an old pair of selvedge denim jeans that I wore in what feels like another life, I brought the rags to the dry cleaner and asked them to make me a yarmulke!
I tell you, my bored looking friend, if I were a rich man I’d live so much easier! But I am living my dream to live sort of like an impoverished person from a different time, wearing heavy clothing and fur hats in the summer and freezing in the winter because the building has a faulty heating system. Even our doorman has to sit next to a space heater to keep warm. Yes, it’s a shanda on the part of the oppressive co-op board that thing isn’t fixed, but, as it is, this is the life I live here in my little Brooklyn shtetl, and it would be wonderful if you bought some of my beard balm because it’s really slow here today at the artisanal flea market where I make my living.