By James Altucher
I was lonely and I wanted money. I was living in a one bedroom apartment in Astoria, Queens, NYC in 1995. I knew nobody in the area. I would write my phone number on two dollar bills and tip waitresses with them. Nobody called me. Everyone in Astoria is Greek. And they pretty much stick to themselves.
Nobody would talk to me. I would walk for miles in Astoria hoping that just one person would talk to me.
Weekends were the worst. I missed my friends at work. The Museum of the Moving Image was down the street so I would go there to watch various indie movies. Two things: the Hal Hartley retrospective was great. And the collection of Bill Cosby sweaters that he wore in his 80s show was prominently on display. The woman taking the tickets didn’t like me because I always flashed my HBO ID to get in free.
I had about $20 in the bank and lived paycheck to paycheck. I would walk around every part of Manhattan and think to myself, “who are the millions of people who can afford to live here but I can’t?”
Adrian called me. “I have to do this diamond website, can you help?” We went over to Shlomo’s on 47th Street. Shlomo told me that all the diamonds on 47th Street get smuggled into the US to avoid taxes.
I asked him how they get smuggled. He said, “I will tell you a joke
“Two jews are coming back from Russia. One keeps squirming the whole plane ride. The other jew finally asks him, ‘Moishe, why all the squirming?
“Moishe says, ‘Because I’m sorting the inventory!’ ”
Shlomo laughed. Adrian laughed. I thought to myself, I am never going to buy a diamond.
Shlomo wanted to put online his wholesale business which he used to sell to all the diamond dealers on 47th Street (known in NYC as the diamond district. If you walk down 47th Street its all tourists and Hasidic Jews) and sell direct to the consumer. “I don’t want my name anywhere on this! If anyone on the street knew I was doing this they would kill me.” Arguably this would be the first diamond site on the Internet. Before Blue Nile, before Tiffany’s went online. Before anything.
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