Criminally Gifted Family Members and Chinese ItaliansA Story by Slim Pikkens
A continuation to Pep Talks and Casaba Melons. Humorous memoirs.
My family comes from a long line of artisans. As long as you qualify criminal activity as an art form. Musicians, painters, writers, seamstresses, the list goes on.
They never got rich doing it... This is where the criminal activity part comes in.
I had a few uncles who were criminally gifted. They robbed a J.C. Penney, (And may I ask who does that anyway? Isn't that what 7-elevens are for?) they then decided to flush the loot down the toilet. Okay, criminal, yes. But gifted?
Great grandma was from Michoacan Mexico. Great grandpa was a cook for the army. After he died, Mom said all they ate were rice, beans and tortillas because great grandma didn't really know how to cook. After he died, she kept telling everyone she didn't want to live anymore. 40 or 50 years later, at the age of 93, she finally did.
She was gifted too. She could make herself pass out to win an argument. She rolled around in a wheel chair for many years in public, but walked at home. She said things like, "I discover America!" in a thick Spanish accent. She watched the Flintstones, wrestling, and drank beer.
Oddly enough, I was watching the Flintstones not too long ago, the one where the Flintstones and Jetsons go back and forth in time. They're on the Santa Maria with Columbus, and Wilma says, "Well, look at that, Fred, I discovered America." Then Columbus gets all mad and says in a Spanish accent, "No, I discover America."
That was the light bulb moment of the century for me, because we finally figured out where that came from.
Before all that, she raised over half a dozen kids, including my mom. And as I reflect on this today, I'm pretty sure that's why she took to drinking.
Marissa, my mom's mom had four children, and died at 35 of heart failure. My mom was 11.
Uncle Jr. became a career criminal, rarely ever saw the family. And the last we heard of him was when he stole money from one of the great aunts.
Aunt Shelly became a pathological liar, with a husband and a son my age. Last we heard, she told the family she had cancer. She even shaved her head to make the fake kimo treatments look real.
Aunt Jackie, my favorite non-psycho family member, lives in Little Rock, California, with her husband of nearly 40 years. She has two kids, and four grandchildren. She's also one of the most talented people I know. (In non-criminal terms)
And then there's Mom, married over 25 years to Dad, the pair of them being the greatest team since peanut and butter... She's not a criminal, but she thinks like one.
We have way too many conversations where she starts out with the words "Now, if I wasn't an honest person..."
Some fond memories for Mom, so she says, was of sitting with Jackie in their shared room, drawing and painting while grandma got drunk or uncle Tony had drug parties in the living room.
I suppose it's just one of those things you don't realize how serious things could have gotten, till you're looking back. In the moment you just went with it, because that was the thing to do.
It's kind of like going to a Maroon 5 concert, and suddenly Dr. Phil shows up, singles you out, (You're in the front row, because you knew where to get the tickets early, before all the fanatics got there first...) and he starts asking you about your childhood experiences with... bears or something, and how that affects your present day relationship with your co-workers.
"Okay?" You went along with it, because apparently that's the thing to do in a situation like that...
My parents would try to freak me out when I was little, to instill the "Stranger Danger" fear in me, which I still don't get...
Apparently, it's true because I say things like "Why of course I'll help you find your puppy, Mister." and "Jeepers."
Some parents tell their kids the most outlandish things ever uttered. Steven Tyler, who says things like "Well, slap a baby and call me Christmas," has got nothing on some soccer moms out there.
For example a woman will take her son to the aquarium, and she'll say, "I want you to stick by me, this is a big place with a lot of people. I don't want to lose you." This makes sense. "And don't lean into the pools, you might get your eye poked out by a swordfish." Wait a minute! Where did THAT come from? Swordfish? Really? At least my parents scared me with things that could actually happen.
"You could have been killed by the sociopath ax murderer down the street!" Or "You could have dropped that hot chocolate all over yourself!" Thank goodness for familywatchdog.us, and Tide To Go.
Anyway, fast forward to the days when we have an honest-to-goodness Mom and Pop business. I'll spare you the details on our beginnings and the nonessential details, like what we actually do...
Well, alright, we make games. Classic games, the kind folks played in the old days if the TV was broken. Or while listening to the radio. This was so that they wouldn't have to stare at the radio while they waited for the TV to be invented.
Dad crafts them with tools and wood, Mom paints them with her skills... and paint. I watch. Or did for a long time till I started making side attractions for the booth. Novelties and trinkets like yo-yo's and pens made on a lathe. But we'll get to that later.
Come summer, we travel a circuit in Nevada and Califorina, doing different art shows and farmer's markets.
Our booth is inspired of the Italian Reniassance, and old world maps. We've got floor to ceiling blacks, golds, and burgundies to complement our products, and it works for us.
So we've got an Italian-esque booth, and an Olive-Garden-Italian-looking individual manning the booth (that's me). But each show, I have at least two people ask if the games are imported from China, because apparently they missed the gigantic sign overhead that says "Hand Made Locally".
If I looked Chinese, they'd ask if the games were from Italy.
If I were Chinese Italian, they'd ask if they were imported from India.
And if I were an Indian Chinese Italian with a thick Spanish accent, they wouldn't ask anything
A): because they'd take one look at my folks and think I was adopted,
And 2): because they probably wouldn't understand me anyway.
Then they'd figure out the games are American made because they'd finally look up at the sign.
To which my great grandma would reply: "Mira! I discover America!"
© 2012 Slim Pikkens