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The Works of John Leguizamo
Freak, Spic-o-rama, Mambo Mouth, and Sexaholix
I've changed my parents' names to Fausto and Lala, to protect the innocent, namely me. I was born in Latin America, cause my moms was there. And when I was born, my moms was in labor for forty-eight hours, but she didn't care because she was enthralled with the miracle of creating life. "Ow! Desgraciado, get this parasite out of me! Get it out of me now!! Coño."
And my dad's going, "If I had a nickel for every time I heard that."
The doctor was also a little anxious. "Push! Ms. Liquidzamo, Ms. Legs and amo, leg of lamb . . . Just push ma'am!"
"With what, cabron! With what?!!"
And Dad says, "I'm paying you, doctor! Why don't you pull!?"
"I am pulling! He's a stubborn little fuck."
"Then leave him in there. Get up, woman, we're leaving."
"But Fausto, he's half out."
"So wear something loose. Come on, woman."
So they walked out and my first view of the world was upside down and between my moms' legs. And they wonder why I have problems.
My parents left Latin America during the big plantain famine of the late sixties, and when they arrived in New York City they had such thick accents they couldn't even understand each other. My moms got all her English from watching television. "Fausto, chock full of nuts is the heavenly coffee, they're creepy and they're cookie, that . . . that . . . that's all folks!"
"Woman, what the hell did you just say?"
"How should I know? I'm speaking English."
At the airport, the nice, verywhite, very southern customs officer comes over to help. "Come now, strip naked! Deep cavity search time. Last week we found five Nicaraguans inside one of you people."
He starts searching my moms.
"OOhh, his hands are cold. Fausto, why don't you touch me like this?"
"Cause I'm not looking for anything. Hey, Mr. Officer, if we're being searched, why are you naked?"
"Shut up and bend over!"
He puts on a rubber glove and welcomes my dad to America.
"No, mister, please no! ow, ow, ow!" Then my dad started singing, "America America God shed his grace on thee."
The shuttle from the airport said "Miserable and Huddled Masses" and my pops is like, "This is our bus," so we jumped on and ended up in the present-day Ellis Island—Jackson Heights, Queens. Our tenement building was like the modern Tower of Babel. When I walked through the streets I'd see every ethnicity under the sun. The Hindi guy would be like, "You want curry candy? It burn the shit out of your buttocks. Ring of fire." Then the Jamaican rasta, "You people multiply like roaches go back, blood clots, batty fufu, chatty chatty. Tinga linga ling hear the money ring. Buyaca buyaca." And the Korean newsstand guy, "This is not a library, little punks. You buy magazine or kick your ass."
My parents worked twenty-eight hours a day, fourteen days a week. I'm not bad at math; it's just that Latin people have to make the most of their time. But my pops always took time out of his busy schedule to tell us his own version of an American bedtime story. "Once upon a time there was a Little Red Riding Hood and she went into the woods and got a green card and lived happily ever after. Now shut the fuck up and go to sleep!"
Of course, we Latin guys are always treated like little kings by our moms, and that's where we get that macho shit going to the max. And my moms would fill my head with it even when I was a baby in my high chair getting fed.
"You, you are the center of the universe. You are all things to me. Don't be tan estupid. Let the world come to you. Fuck everyone else, mijo, you are the prize—ah-ah, learn to share!" (Moms couldn't resist my strained carrots.)
"And remember, mijo, any woman that fucks you will probably fuck somebody else, okay? And you don't want to marry a whore! Cause no woman's good enough for my little Latin King."
At this point she would usually break down. I'd be like, "What's a whore, mommy?"
Slap! Right across my innocent chubby little face.
"Don't you ever repeat back to me what I say to you in the afternoons when I've been drinking a little."
Now, I have a theory that everybody's got a nice grandmother and a mean, evil, insane one. And I was always afraid that if they ever touched, their converse powers would mutually annihilate each other. I was eight when I first learned which was which. I was at a family barbecue with forty or fifty of my cousins carpooling on one hibachi. And my gramps was there on his life support system. We were keeping him alive against his will. Because my pops wanted him to live long enough so he would suffer what he had made my pops suffer. He would always motion me over, then he'd be like . . . "Pull the plug. No one's looking, John, pull the plug!"
"But, abuelito, you know I'm not supposed to touch your iron lung . . ."
"Just do it. Just do it. Mother@#$%*!"
"Okay, Goodbye, Gramps."
I'd give him a kiss, then pull the plug. But my dad had an uncanny ability to sense my grandfather escaping. He'd rush over just in time . . . "Hey, you know you're not supposed to put your grandfather out of his misery."
Then he'd plug him back in. "Nice try, old man."
I always tried to avoid my cousins Speedy and Boulevard, cause the games they played with the police by day, they reenacted on me by weekend. "Johnny, ven, mira, ven, quiero hablar contigo. Let's play police brutality. I'm a cop and tu eres un criminal. Aqui, take this gun!"
And they would toss a gun into my hand.The Works of John Leguizamo
Freak, Spic-o-rama, Mambo Mouth, and Sexaholix. Copyright © by John Leguizamo. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold. <%END%>