One of our famous neighborhood ‘stories’ was the story of Eugene. Every neighborhood has them. You move into a new place and one of the neighbors will go ‘pssttt come here’ and they will tell you some story about the neighborhood sort of sharing the joys and sorrows welcoming you to the family. Most of the time, there is just a shred of truth to the story depending on how long ago the event happened. The older the story the bigger the lie.
In the case of Eugene, it was fairly recent, at least when I moved to the neighborhood it was. But I often felt the whole thing was a big whopper. Eugene was a salesman, vacuum cleaners to be exact. His territory was the West side, which included my neighborhood. It was a large territory if you were selling Avon, or had one of those trucks full of sides of beef and whole chickens, even an ice cream truck would have fared better, I mean how many vacuums can a person use. But Eugene was no quitter, and rumor had it he was a successful salesman.
He drove a custom Benz, with a huge pounding stereo pumping out some loud hip hop, the hub caps spinning even when the car was not in motion. The car was dark blue and the custom plate simply said ‘Big G’. At work he was Gene but after hours, he was ‘Big G’ because he was a G. A rich G, a G who made his money square, and spent his off hours at the club, being a G and attracting the ladies. I mean he was a typical G. The swagger, never a hair out of place, smelling like they just walked out of an old spice factory, big smile, kinda short, little bit cocky; they were all the same and that was Eugene or Gene or Big G.
His epic sales skills were what supported his flashly life style. He sold these high power vacuums. It was told this vacuum could suck a bowling ball throw a garden hose. Gene, with his big cheesy ’70’s stash; he wore as a reminder of his father, a Pizza maker from the old country (New York City) would demonstrate this cool feature of his vacuum. “This vacuum,” Gene would announce, “Will suck dirt from under your foundation! This vacuum will suck the filth from your house.”
Even with a great product like a high powered vacuum, sales is a hard job, people might like it and might desire it but most times they won’t trade green for it. But Gene sold them like the ice cream man sold cones out of the back of his truck. People bought three four, eight, two or three times a week, every time Gene came round they were buying. Who knows what they did with them because apparently they lasted a life time and beyond, as a matter of fact the vacuum Gene demonstrated with was his grandmother’s grandmother’s.
It didn’t matter because no one in the neighborhood actually owned one now. Anyway, the story went that one day Gene was demonstrating a vacuum cleaner at someone’s home although no one actually knew which home. He had just sucked up a bunch of rat traps showing how they could be sucked up without being sprung. I am not sure why anyone would need to do that but Gene was the man. Big G! His tie somehow got stuck in the hose. He began to yell and scream but he hadn’t yet got to the part of how to power the thing on and off, nor how to unplug it, and it happened so quick Gene was in the tank in a flash. The buyers could hear the traps going off and Gene yelling. Unfortunately, the vacuum had this cool feature of never having to empty it, as a matter of fact you couldn’t open it. And it was indestructible.
They said Gene the Ghost haunted our neighborhood. Moving in with a family for a few weeks and moving in with someone else. Big G they called him. I didn’t believe a word of it.
One day I came home from work and Annie, Duh-Wayne, Asa, Annie Jr. and Rov were sitting playing poker with this ghost, a kinda short guy with a swagger shuffle, dressed up hair slicked back…”Hey, I am Gene. Big G they call me. I told Annie, Slam is gonna love me. I’m her new salesman for the junk yard. She said I could use your bed.” Then he gave me this huge hug, his scent was over whelming, I sneezed. “It’s called Tally Ho. My dad wore it in the old country. NYC baby.” Then he started rapping, “My name is Gene and I’ll tell ya why when I was born mom was married to a guy. The name of the guy was Eugene…that’s why she named me Guh-guh-ene. Guh-guh-ene.” Rov joined in on his guitar and Annie on her fiddle. Annie Jr. tooted a horn and Duh-Wayne played a juice harp. Asa played the bones.
Big G was wrong about me loving him, I can’t even say I totally liked him. Oh he had his moments. He really loved his sales job, he always aspired to sell bedding. Sales were high when Big G arrived on the scene and they picked up even more, it seemed we always had a crowd in the back yard. Plus Gene gave inside deals to everyone 90% higher than the list price and people ate it up.
I think though it had more to do with Big G, and his stories, all about him often repeating the same ones each time it becoming bigger and better with new details, also his famous hot dog paninis. Honestly, his kitchen skills were quite creative, he could make lasagna out of canned pork and beans, a bottle of ketchup, and some canned cheese. Sales had been so good in fact, they were only open for business one half hour a day.
That left a lot of time for a group of rambunctious hooligans. Annie and her gang of cohorts, were seen leaving the house one afternoon, each with a big pink bag slung over their shoulders.
“Annie, what do you have in the bag?” I asked, I didn’t trust them lately. The day before they had an egg tossing contest inside the house.
“Balls,” Annie replied. “We all have ball bags.”
“Where are you going to do with them?”
“Bounce them,” Annie said. “To the left and to the right. It’s my belief that my big balls should be thrown at each other every night.”
“Mom-mom said we are going to play Rear end Jack!” Annie Jr. yelled trying to drag his big bag of balls across the floor.
“Rear end Jack?” I asked.
“Yes, you do dumb stuff. Mom-mom and me watched it with Big G and Big D,” then he whispered to me, “Mom-Mom is Big A. And we watched that show funny grandfather and Annie says when you finally kick the bucket me and grandfather are going on a road trip and you get ta ride in the trunk and go swimming at the end. I wish I was the one who gets to shart on the wall, Grandfather is so lucky!”
Then it dawned on me what Annie Jr. was talking about. I had been after Annie Jr. about referring to donkey’s by the a-word. And referring to his rear end by the a-word.
“You are way too young to be watching that.” I said. “So is Mom-mom!” I glared at Annie.
“Big G says that cats age faster, so I am old enough and Mom-mom is 180.”
“I am not Annie Jr.! I am the same age as Big D, I think!”
“Ghosties never age,” Annie Jr. said jumping up and down, “Asa is well I can’t count that high. His room-a-tiz bothers him and his ‘roids. Big G will always be thirty….”
“Twenty-eight baby. NYC!” Gene screamed.
“So we are going outside to throw our balls at each other. If the ball explodes on you, you win. It’s full of poop. Then Big G is gonna ride a skateboard with a shopping cart carrying an old freezer on top down a ice hill and over a ramp, over the house into a poop puddle.” Annie Jr. explained.
“Annie,” I said looking straight at Annie Jr.’s Mom-mom who was wearing sunglasses, a pair of Nikes and NBA shorts and a jersey that said Big A with a pink ball bag over her shoulder. So much for hating sports, Big G loved sports so at least Grandfather liked him because sports was a popular channel now. “Some one is going to get killed! With your shenanigans.”
Annie took off her sunglasses and her eyes began that crazy blinking thing as she stared blankly at me. They all trooped out the door, and I could hear Annie screaming through her bullhorn, “Suck it up looser!”
“NYC Baby!” Big G. yelled.
“What about me?” yelled Big D.