Friday, September 4, 2009

Outsourcing worry

Stanley Auster (b. 1928) is the grandson of Louis Auster, the man oral historian Jeff Kisseloff describes as “the patriarch of the Lower East Side’s first family of egg creams.” Stanley’s father Julius was also in the business:

He always smoked a lot of cigars. Typically, you would see him behind the counter with his foot up on a low shelf, puffing away, completely satisfied. He was always completely free of worry. Honestly, he never seemed to be preoccupied with anything. I was just the opposite. I was always worried about everything. One day when I was about ten, I asked him about it.

“Daddy, why don’t you ever worry?”

He thought for a moment, and then he said, “If I tell you, do you promise not to tell anybody?”


“I have someone who worries for me.”

“What do you mean?”

He had a friend, little Ike. They both loved cigars and they were inseparable. They didn’t talk much, but they liked being together. Ikey was out of work most of the time, but somehow he could afford those cigars.

My father explained it to me. “Little Ike and I have an understanding. Anytime something bothers me, I tell it to Little Ike, and he says he will worry about it. I tell him these things, and the moment I tell him, it’s over. I wipe it out of my mind, and Ike takes care of it.”

He was serious. He then suggested that when I get older I should find someone. “It’s worth it. I pay him for it.”

He actually paid Little Ike to worry for him, and that was how Ike could afford his cigars. It was what you call a symbiotic relationship.

Jeff Kisseloff, You Must Remember This: An Oral History of Manhattan from the 1890s to World War II (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1999), 64–65.
Outsourcing worry! I wish I’d thought of it. But whom to hire? How much to pay? And how to be sure the job would get done?

[Note: A comment from Howard Henner on a 2008 New York Times egg-cream story states that Louis Auster’s original recipe for chocolate syrup is known now only to Henner and his cousin Stanley Auster. Stanley Auster, I take it, is still with us. I wish I knew where I learned about Jeff Kisseloff’s book, a few months ago.

Now I know: at Tom the Piper’s Son.]

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