Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Uncle JJ

My brother sent me some pictures of our mother, taken in her college days. In the group of pictures was one of my Uncle JJ, sitting with his soon to be wife Jean, my mother's roommate.I had not thought of uncle JJ in awhile. The family has not mentioned him much since my father hired a private detective to try to track him down. It was strange to see his picture, as he was years before I ever knew him, a handsome college kid.But JJ always was a handsome fellow, even later in life, it was part of his charm.

Some people have relatives that they refer to, in jest, as con men.JJ really was a con man.Not always, he just sort of inevetiably slipped into it over time. It was simply meant to be. Anyone who spent five minutes with him would realize that that is where his talents lay. I'm sure he'd have been a good legitimate salesman, but that would have bored him. He was just meant for the con.

My first memories of JJ are at his home in Dallas, he had a whole passle of kids, five I think, but I knew only three of them well. The three boys.J Lindsey, Bubba and Pete. J. was probably 6 or 7 years older than me, Bubba, 2 or 3, Pete was my age. During one visit my father took us all down to a 7/11 and let us pick any toy we wanted off of the spinning metal toy rack. These things are not found much anymore, but they were a staple at every convenience store (ice house) while I was growing up. They were right next to the spinning comic book stand where you loitered at your own peril. Most 7/11 owners spent the majority of their working lives in those days yelling at kids not to read the comic books.

Back to the toys. I recall I picked out some plastic army men, or cowboys and Indians. Those were my standard toys.You could not walk through my room without stepping on dozens of plastic men, most of whom were lying down, having been killed in one battle or another.Back to the story, I don't recall what J. and Pete picked out. I do recall Bubba's toy. It was a set of Zorro toys which included a Zorro mask, a Zorro pistol, and a Zorro rope.It was a nice set and probably set my dad back the better part of a dollar.As I sat in JJ's living room, playing with my army men, I noticed that Bubba was talking quietly to J. Bubba was wearing the zorro mask, and a black cowboy hat, which he had retrieved from his room in an attempt to match the accessorizing he was doing.Bubba was nodding quietly and, much to my surprise, fell to the floor, face down. J. then took the Zorro rope and "hog tied " Bubba, the rope extending from around Bubba's neck to his feet, where it was attached to his legs, which were bent at the knee at 90 degree angles. In my eyes, the genius of the rope job was that as Bubba moved his legs, the rope pulled tighter on his neck, eventually turning his face quite red, as he thrashed around the room, to the uproarious laughter of the rest of the children in the audience.

I don't recall Bubba ever being let out of this predicament until it was bed time. I may be wrong. This kind of thing would have horrofied my parents, my mother especially ,who spent a good deal of her spare time at junck yards, prying the hinges off of old refrigirators, so some child would not get stuck in one. She was a very careful mother.At any rate, that was the kind of thing that passed for good fun at JJ's house.

As I got older, I began to realize that my father, who had roomed with JJ in college, and was his cousin (hence my honorary Uncle) looked upon JJ with a little less respect in certian areas. He told me of a particularly hair raising experience he had had while visiting JJ's house in Arizona. Some IRS goons had come into the house and were actually taking pictures off of the wall when my father, somewhat unnerved, asked JJ what was going on. "Oh, don't worry about this", he said, "it is just a matter of money."I also began to perceive that my mother had little respect for JJ. He apparently had quite a roving eye and perhaps (actaully for sure) other parts of him were known to roam as well. My mother, who dearly loved his wife, would grieve over this.

JJ dropped out of sight for a coupleof years and ended up in Houston, where he started showing up at our house to talk over his schemes .He was constantly sweet talking my mother into doing art work for his "businesses" which he swore that he was going to pay for. Alas, he never did, and after a few more years JJ dropped out of site again. By then his family at home had given up on ever seeing much of him .After awhile, my Uncle Hilton, who was another card in his own right, and whom we shall deal with later, came to town.Hilton and his wife, my dad's sister Fanny Fay,along with my folks and JJ and Jean had painted most of Dallas red in their college days. Fanny Fay tells stories of Hilton having to let JJ and my dad into the house at all hours and putting them to bed when they "could not make it home." At any rate, we got to talking about JJ, and Hilton said, "I saw him". Where ? At a Holiday Inn in Tampa, he and a partner had passed out flyers around town about some investment scheme and Hilton, spotting JJ, went down to the Holiday Inn to see him. As Hilton told it, he asked, "this what I think it is ?" The answer was a good natured affirmative, followed by my favorite J.J. line. "I'm glad you came down tonight, as you might imagine, we don't stay in one place for very long."JJ had finally graduated to the big con. No member of the family ever saw him again after that. All efforts to find him were futile. Whether JJ ended up in jail, or killed, according to the family the two most likely scenarios, no one ever knew. The trail just became cold.

But I think of JJ every now and then. He was a fellow worth knowing, as most con men are, as long as you don't invest with them. He was slick and funny, fast on his feet, and the life of every party.He had tremendous potential, which he chose to use in a way that was not necessarily to his credit, but he was one hell of a guy.

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