I grew up as a "Jerseydelphian", meaning that my family came from South Philadelphia, but I was born and raised in New Jersey. We went "down the shore" during the summer, and supported the Philly sports teams, not the New York teams. Trenton is considered "North Jersey", and Rocky Balboa is a real person. And like all South Philadelphia Italian families, we either had "Connected Guys" in the family, or we knew some. Most people in South Philly know someone in the Mob, or someone who pretends to be a big shot, wanting to be "connected" and to feel special. And almost everyone's grandparents at least ran numbers decades ago.
I thought it was normal to know every word of The Godfather Saga, to not trust the police (especially the FBI), and to grow up around guys with jewelry, imported shoes, and wads of cash. One memory stands out though. When I was about ten-years-old, one of my cousins had died, and my mother drove someone else's car in the funeral procession. Much of the family who still lived in Philly did not drive, so those who did divided the cars up. After the Mass, we followed the cars through the neighborhood and someone in the back seat shouted, "Hey, you know Vinnie shot someone last week at the next corner, right? Why are we driving his car here?"
My mother responded, "Oh, yeah, that's right! Kids, if you see bullets start flying, duck!"
To this day, I still don't know how we wound up with Vinnie's car, or whose bright idea it was to drive through that section of the city in the funeral. I just remember lying on the floor of the car, wondering if the window would shatter. My sister Lee was so scared by the time we reached the restaurant, she started screaming bloody murder when the valets tried to open the doors of the car to let us out. Of course, as you know if you have read my blog in the past, Lee was not the world's most refined individual, so she might not have allowed the valet to open the door even if there was no threat of violence.
Rather than bore you with details of arrests, indictments, and trials ... I'll tell you about my sister Gabby, this is one I'll never forget.
Gabby is the perfect stay-at-home-Mom. She's Betty Crocker, Donna Reed, and Martha Stewart rolled into one. But she still has that South Philly Italian Pit Bull attitude, especially when it comes to her family. She often answered her front door to the Mormon Missionaries, offering them coffee and conversation--probably cause the Mormon "elders" who come to the door are usually younger men who then go off to BYU after their missionary work. It's her maternal instinct to care for them, I think.. Although we were raised Catholic, she loves the Mormon's philosophies on family life after death.
So one day when two men knocked on the front door in white dress shirts and black suits, she exchanged pleasantries with them. They discussed her children, as the men saw the kids' bikes in the driveway. They asked about the area and neighbors, and then about her husband. After sitting them at her kitchen table for coffee, one asked where her husband was. When she told them at his place of business, (a name that phonetically sounded like the name of a NJ town), they began questioning her on other issues--which made her suspicious.
Finally she asked them, "Who are you?"
The one man identified himself, "Ma'am, we're with the FBI, and we need to speak with your husband."
Wrong answer. "The FBI? Get the hell outta my house! I thought you were my Mormon friends that stop by from time to time! You freakin' lied to me!"
The agent protested, "No, ma'am. We never lied, you never asked. Why did you think we were Mormons?"
She literally pushed the men out of the house. The FBI then put out an APB for her husband in NJ, not realizing her husband worked in Philly. Eventually the FBI caught up with my bro-in-law and interviewed him about a customer of his. It turned out that there was a guy who was involved with the IRA in Ireland, and he was running bomb materials and money back and forth to/from Ireland. It had nothing to do with the family or business, just a bad customer who had a business card on him when arrested.
After about ten minutes of discussing this with my bro-in-law, the FBI continued to question him as to why my sister thought they were Mormons. "She didn't really mean that did she?"
Her hubby responded, "Yeah, if she said it, that is what she thought."
"Why did she become so outraged when we identified ourselves?"
"Probably because she felt tricked into letting you into our house. She thought you were religious people, but you turned out to be Feds."
For another 30 minutes, they questioned him on the how the FBI could be mistaken for Mormons--apparently that was much more important than catching a terrorist and arms dealer.
Sometimes Gabby takes things to the extreme though. She gets very serious while on airplanes--she hates flying. We were once on a long flight to Vegas, and we were both sitting on the escape hatch aisle. She was dedicated in her responsibility for that hatch, read all the manuals about emergency evacuations, and watched the door closely. Halfway through the flight, a man began pacing back and forth.
Sweat built up along his brows, he fidgeted repeatedly, and he kept looking out the window. After a couple minutes, Gabby hollered, "Don't Jew be openin' dat door, man." Real classy, as her South Philly attitude came out. He explained he was jones-ing for a smoke, but that didn't matter to her. "You better go Jones somewhere else, cause you go near that door, I'm takin' you down."
All 5ft 3 and 110 pounds of her was going to tackle a six foot tall, 200 pound guy. She'd do it, too.
Hope you got a laugh from today's Short & Silly. :)