I recently finished a draft of the opening to my book, Give Me Seltzer, and I am excited to be sharing it, for the first time, this Thursday, at an online book reading. I will leave up the video of the reading, and the full text, for one week.
If you would like to attend, and get more information, please RSVP here. I hope you can join us and offer me your feedback.
Until then, let me tease you with the opening lines:
I think most who meet him would be inclined to agree: Eli is a myth-making machine. He greets one client, “Hi Sweetheart. How ya doing?” before explaining my presence: “This is the Daily Forward. He’s doing a story about me, about my clients.” He speaks with a crisp Brooklyn accent, with each word highly articulated, as if performing a radio show. “He’s gonna ask you questions about me. Ya tell him I’m a living legend.” To which the husband responds, with a smile, “At least in his own mind.” But after 50 years delivering seltzer, door-to-door, Eli Miller has well earned the right to tell it like he sees it. He’s one of perhaps a dozen active seltzer men (and a few women) in the country. In fact, at 77 years, and with two heart stints, he’s most likely also the oldest. Eli still has over a hundred and fifty clients to whom he regularly delivers seventy pounds of siphon-filled wooden cases, across Brooklyn and occasionally into Manhattan. I had the good fortune of being present at the first delivery for a new client, a young mother in a fashionable sundress with white wedge heels. “I’ve been wanting it for a long, long time,” she tells me. “I love seltzer.” Eli interrupts her from behind me, maneuvering his hand-truck. “I’m the product. It’s not the seltzer,” he jokes. “It’s all about Eli.” It was her first day, but she’d already learned the routine. “It’s all about Eli,” she repeats, “Sorry.” But then, to me, in all sincerity, “The man is renowned in Brooklyn. When I met him, I felt like an angel came.” The day I met Eli was during his slow season, what he described as “the tail end of August.” When Eli spins stories about his life as a seltzer man, he’s speaking on behalf of an entire industry approaching its own tail end. He speaks to the work of bottlers who carbonate the water, the desires of housewives and other clients that cause it to flow, and the back-breaking labor of delivery men like himself who weave invisible webs connecting them all. When Eli talks himself up he’s claiming a space in our collective consciousness for a dying profession. When he quips, “I’m an anachronism, what can I tell ya?” it feels like he’s almost pleading, “Remember us, for soon we’ll be gone.”