Zi Funz was born in 1867 in Palma Campania, Italy, and he immigrated to America in 1890. Zi Funz was a bit of an eccentric character in his old age and he enjoyed telling stories to his nieces and nephews. One of his nephews, my husband’s Uncle Al, used to repeat the stories for the next generation and the generation after that. Uncle Al passed away in 2013, but in the late 1990’s, I recorded him telling Zi Funz’s stories to my children and I thought it would be a nice tribute to both Uncle Al and Zi Funz to write down the stories so that future generations could also enjoy them. Whether if you choose to believe they actually happened or not, well, I leave that up to you. (You need to read the stories with the Italian accent so they sound more authentic.)
Story #1. Zi Funz and Enrico Caruso, Part 1
One’a time, in the old country, my brother had a grocery store. One day, these boys’a were in front of the store, singing and playing on the organ, bee-beep, bee-beep, bee-beep. My brother used to say, “Go on, get out of here you lousy bastards.” The boys’a, they run away. I run’a after them and I say, “Come’a back! Come’a back! Which’a one of you boy’s sing?” One boy says, “I sing,” I reach’a into my pocket and I give’a the boy two cents. In those days in the old country, you could’a buy a house for’a two cents. I asked the little boy’a, “What’s your name?” He said, “My name is’a Encrico Caruso, Signore.”
One’a time, my brother in the grocery store asked me to make a delivery, Bologna, Salami, provolone, mozzarella, I don’t’a remember any more’a. I went to this neighborhood’a with the noise and the stink’a and the fisher monger, oh, Madonna! I see a house’a, on the house’a is a bell’a, on the bell’a is a name’a . . . Enrico Caruso. Hey, he’s a particular friend of mine! I push’a the button and the boy answers. The boy says, “Hey Signore, remember me?” “Yes, you were the little boy that sings. You are a particular friend of mine!”
Zi Funz and Enrico Caruso, Part 2
One time I was in Pros-a-pec-ta Park in Brookleen. (Prospect Park in Brooklyn) I see a lot of police and people running. There’s a parade coming up’a the block. A big’a man in front, with a big’a hat. I ask, “Hey, who’s in the parade?” The police officer says, “Enrico Caruso.” “Ah, he’s a particular friend of mine.” I tell the police officer “one time, in the old country these little boys, they sing and play the organ, bee-beep, bee-beep, bee-beep!” The police officer say, “Get out’a here, Zi Funz.” I say, “Hey! Mr. Caruso! Remember me? From the old country? One’a day, I give you two cents.” “Oh, hello Zi Funz! I’m ‘a little busy right now. I’m ‘a in the parade. I can’t ‘a stop.”
Zi Funz and Enrico Caruso, Part 3
One a time, I’m ‘a going to visit my friend, Luigi. Luigi, he lives ‘a on Mulberry Street. Luigi says, “Hey Zi Funz, a friend of mine is coming for supper tonight. You want to stay?” “Well, who is your friend?” “Enrico Caruso.” “Oh! He’s a particular friend of mine.” I said, “Luigi, I’d like to stay and have supper with Enrico Caruso, but my wife, Maria, she’s in’a Brookleen on Bleecker Street.” We had no phone in those ‘a days. “I gott’a tell my wife.” “Oh, I send’a my son, Ludwig. Ludwig, he will take the Grand ‘a Street Ferry, then the trolley car to Myrtle Avenue, and he tell ‘a your wife you stay for supper.” So Ludwig, he took the Grand Street Ferry to go to Brookleen, he took the trolley car to Myrtle Avenue. He tell ‘a my wife I’m ‘a not coming home for supper. Then Ludwig takes the trolley car to the ferry, he take the ferry to Grand’a Street and he come ‘a back home. I wait, I have supper . . . Enrico Caruso never show up’a.
Zi Funz and Lupo Panara
In the old country we used to have Lupo Panara. A man that’s a wolf. One day a year, on February 2nd, Lupo Panara can rub a salve on himself and then he can fly. A friend of mine and I, we hide ‘a the salve. We put ‘a butter in the jar. Lupo Panara in Palma, in the old country, he put ‘a the salve on him and he jump ‘a out the window . . . smash.
http://www.theresadodaro.com Author of The Tin Box Trilogy