Raised by a Cuban Catholic mother and Syrian Jewish father, Shasho made his first sale at the age of six and never looked back. Life in the family business (and in the Shasho family) was never boring. From FBI interrogations to angry mobs, each new day at the Chin Lung Art Gallery brought with it new adventures.
Check the Gs tells a story for everyone who is proud their family and heritage but not afraid to laugh at its many eccentricities, and for anyone who has ever worked in retail and experienced its humorous situations and misadventures.
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.81(d)|
Check the GsThe True Story of an Eclectic American Family and Their Wacky Family Business
By RAY SHASHO
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2011 Ray Shasho
All right reserved.
Chapter OneChin Lung Art Gallery
It was 1962 when Dad and his twin brother, Joey, opened their retail store on the corner of Thirteenth and F Street in Washington DC. The three-story building had the best show windows in town. Only three blocks away was 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW and its very famous house. Inside the house was a man named Kennedy, who was busy dealing with an incident called the Cuban missile crisis.
Three years later on a Saturday in April, my father insisted that I go downtown with him and work at the store. I was six years old. The only time I had visited Washington DC was when I straddled my dad's shoulder's and witnessed beautiful white horses pulling President Kennedy's coffin draped with an American flag down Pennsylvania Avenue. It was a sad day; so many people cried. Mom dressed me up in a white long sleeve shirt with a red bow tie and a red vest that had some kind of emblem printed on the left side. My pants were perfectly ironed, and my shoes were shined. My head didn't have a hair out of place thanks to Dad's Vitalis.
Yesterday, Mom had taken me to the barbershop on Edmondson Avenue. That place was neat; they had real monkeys in their windows. My older brother Howard had always shared his experiences of working at the store and how it felt to break the ice, to make your first sale. I guessed it was going to be my time to share now. After I got dressed, I started thinking about the day to come and got really antsy. It was the first time that I'd get to see dad's store in the city. I was excited. I sat down at the kitchen table with Dad while Abuela, my grandmother, served the both of us bagels with cream cheese. Abuela was intelligent, sweet, and soft. Her hair had always been gray since I could remember. She wore 1950s prescription glasses attached to a chain that dangled down. Even with the chain attached around her neck, she'd still sometimes wonder where her glasses were.
My cousin Tony arrived at our home at 7:45. He should have been here at 7:30, but he was late after he decided to cook a big Saturday morning breakfast for his kids. Tony stood at six foot two, but I always imagined him to be much taller. Tony was one of the camera experts at my dad's store on F Street. He and his wife, Gigi, were definitely my oldest cousins and were old enough to be my aunt and uncle. He had the heaviest Cuban accent I had ever heard; it took me years to finally understand what the heck he was talking about. He was the type of person who would do anything in the world for you, without hesitation. He was a good soul and funny as shit, or as Tony would say, "chit." He had a great sense of humor, and when he told a funny joke or story, it was even funnier because of his accent.
I finished my breakfast and then sat quietly watching Dad as he got in his last cup of coffee. Dad made more of a slurping sound than a sip, and after every slurp he'd swallow and let out a euphoric "Ah." While holding his coffee mug by his mouth, he glanced at the wall clock and then said in his best Sergeant Joe Friday impersonation, "Let's go!" I immediately sat up from my chair and ran into Mom's bedroom to kiss her good-bye. She was resting in bed with Terry, our black and white terrier. She wished me good luck as she hugged and kissed me.
I ran back into the kitchen to say good-bye to Abuela. She wasn't wearing her glasses, so she fumbled around her upper chest area looking for them. When she couldn't find them easily, she cried out in her nervous Cuban accent, "Donde estan mis espeuelos?" (Where are my glasses?) I laughingly explain to her, "Abuela, they're around your neck." She'd look down and see them dangling below her chest and then burst into a quiet laughter. Our charming skit would be performed frequently over the years to come. My brother Howard was still sleeping; he had plans and wasn't coming downtown with us today.
We marched out the front door to a beautiful summer day, walking down cement stairs and to the driveway where Dad's navy blue Oldsmobile 98 parked. I gazed over to the middle of our front yard where Howard and I had planted sunflowers. We had a contest to see who could grow the biggest sunflower. Howard's flower looked to be around six inches taller than mine. He always beat me at everything, but then he was seven years older than me. Tony climbed into the driver's seat, Dad sat up front with him, and I sat in the back seat. I was one of the men now. We pulled out of our driveway onto Johnnycake Road. Ten minutes later, Tony pulled into a Shell gasoline station. He asked for ten dollars of gas, but the attendant pumped in only eight dollars. Poor Tony always had a hard time asking for gas at the service station; attendants always pumped in the wrong amount of gas because they never understood him.
We finally got on the interstate and headed south for Washington DC. We passed by the Carling Brewery as we left Baltimore. After about an hour or so, we were getting closer to the downtown Washington area. We were moving slowly in a lot of traffic, and it seemed like we were always stopping at a traffic light. Then I saw these really old, rundown buildings and groups of black men hanging out on a street corner laughing. I looked ahead through the windshield window and spotted the Washington Monument. I hoped that we were almost there.
After fidgeting in the backseat of my dad's Oldsmobile for an hour and inhaling massive amounts of cigar smoke from both Dad and Tony during the trip, we finally turned into the Twelfth Street parking garage. My clothes reeked of cigar smoke, and I desperately needed to get out of the car. When the car came to a complete stop inside the parking garage, I was the first one to jump out. I felt kind of puny from the smoke and the long car ride. I needed fresh air. The windows were completely shut during the entire trip because the air-conditioning was on. I could see thick black soot lying on top of the dashboard from all the cigar-smoked trips that Dad and Tony had made into downtown; all the ashtrays contained a pyramid of ashes. I didn't want to complain about the smoke and seem wimpy, so I kept quiet and watched the scenery out my window. I wanted to be a tough guy like my dad and Tony. A black man handed dad a parking stub and quickly drove his car away. We walked on the city sidewalk toward the end of the block. We couldn't cross the street because a blinking sign at the end of the block told us not to walk. I walked behind Dad and Tony the whole time since coming out of the parking garage, but when we stopped to wait for the light to change, all of us stood close together. It actually gave me a break because their cigar smoke kept drifting back toward my face.
I took a minute to take my first good look at downtown. The first thing I noticed was a man throwing food scraps at a group of pigeons. I never got a chance to watch pigeons. They don't seem like very smart birds and always hung out in the city for some reason. They looked kind of fat and clumsy and seemed to want to walk rather than fly. I got bored watching the pigeons eating, so I focused my attention on all the different kinds of people wearing serious faces as they marched up and down the street. It was a bright and sunny day when I left Johnnycake Road, but now everything kind of looked old and gray; I guessed the sun was hiding behind one of those big buildings. The cars and busses looked like they weren't sure what lane they wanted to stay in, and I heard engines revving and horns beeping. With every step I took, I smelled bus fumes. We crossed the street when the sign finally said walk. The next light also said walk, so we kept crossing streets. Then we headed up a really steep sidewalk. I felt like I was leaning over like one of those ski jumpers in the Olympics. We passed by a hamburger place called Little Tavern Shops. I smelled the burgers as we walked by, and it was a refreshing odor; it gave me a nice break from inhaling all those crappy bus fumes. The scenery quickly turned into old and dirty brick walls with huge metal doors. Sitting on stoops outside the metal doors were scary-looking bums staring back at us. Some of the tramps focused their attention to what was inside their crinkly brown paper bags. One of them stared right at me, and I sped up and walked in between Dad and Tony. I tried to concentrate on looking straight ahead so that I wouldn't see anymore bums, but I just had to turn my head one last time to see if they were still staring at us. They weren't, so I concentrated next on a glass window that took up almost half of the block. It was part of Dad's corner store. Two green signs that crossed each other with white lettering stood tall on the corner and read, "13th St NW/F Street NW." We rounded the corner to another glass window loaded with merchandise and prepared to enter the corner building.
Dad, Tony, and I walked into the store lobby and entered the opened double doors; I could hear the Supremes song "Stop! In the Name of Love" playing through an outside lobby speaker. We all walked in, and I led the way. I immediately heard Uncle Moey shouting at me, "Wow, look, my nephew Ray-Ray is here!"
Bernadette's face was all smiles, she was a fantastic salesgirl. "Aw Raymond, you look like a little man."
I saw Uncle Joey in the distance sneering at me. "Are you ready to work, sonny boy?"
Then Fat Bobby walked over to shake hands. Fat Bobby had a baseball bat–sized cigar in his mouth, and his stomach was really huge. When he walked over to shake my hand, I could only stare at his fat stomach. When Bobby came to a complete stop, I actually felt his stomach touching me. Somehow he was able to talk with me with that cigar in his mouth/ "Ray-Ray, nice to see you again." I always thought of him as an uncle, but he wasn't related to me. Fat Bobby was a really nice man and was fun to talk with, but his gigantic stomach was a bit scary. I thought it would open up and swallow me whole.
I started to walk around my dad's store, checking out all the great stuff like I owned the place. All the merchandise was lined up like soldiers and filled every available space inside the lit glass showcases and wall cases. Even the walls were crowded with hanging merchandise. I saw chandeliers with hanging price tags for sale on the ceilings. There were expensive table clothes that were kept in a curtained-off secret back room, figurines of hobos and clowns that scared the crap out of me, and oil paintings of landscapes that stood perfect and slanted in rows above the wall cases. Rows of suitcases filled the open spaces above the wall cases, and each wall case was devoted to a certain line of merchandise. There were transistor and shortwave radios loaded with batteries and ready for demo, reel-to-reel tape recorders, portable record players, binoculars, travel clocks, and clock radios, mini black-and-white television sets, Princess style rotary telephones, and all kinds of cameras.
The showcases were stocked with carefully lined-up watches, rings, sunglasses, knives, fancy cigarette holders, and lighters. Sitting on top of the glass showcases stood ashtrays for people that smoked and a round mirror for trying on sunglasses. There was a revolving display of Washington DC slides for sale, a smaller revolving display case containing charms of Washington DC, and a spinning display of postcards.
Souvenirs of the nation's capital that said "Made in Hong Kong" and an assortment of smaller gift items sat orderly on large open show bins running down the middle of the store. One of their fastest selling items was displayed in one of those bins: a personal massager. A handwritten sign sat on top of the display that read, "One Thousand and One Uses." The item came in pink or white and in three different sizes, medium, large, and extra large. I actually watched a pretty lady buy one. Everyone in the store seemed to make a big deal about it too, especially when the lady bought the extra large personal massager.
All the stuff for sale had to look clean and spotless to try and lure the customers into buying. Showcases were squirted down with Windex and wiped down for a sparkling clear invisible shine every twenty minutes or when smudges were noticed. Everyone used the feather duster to keep the dust off an item until it was sold.
I walked over to stand next to my dad, behind the showcase filled with rows and rows of sunglasses. I was proud to be with him—my father and me, finally working together at his store. There he was, with his perfectly combed, curly, oiled hair; white short sleeves; and skinny black tie. He looked down at me with a strange look on his face and said, "I'm not your father." Oh no! Could I have mistaken Uncle Joey for Dad? They were identical twins, so I really shouldn't feel too stupid. But I did feel stupid, so I snuck over behind the register counter and hid. The register counter was really tall; no one could see me because I was so little. It felt like a place that I really shouldn't be hanging around because I think all the money was kept back there. I started looking around and saw an old-fashioned cash register with a large safety pin taped to it. I asked Uncle Joey what the safety pin was for, and he said it was for good luck. I started to realize that they were really superstitious, especially when it came to making money. I noticed later that if business was slow, they would try and change the luck by walking outside or standing in different spots around the store. The biggest unthinkable was folding your arms; it was considered a jinx. I got hollered at twice the first day for folding my arms.
Other neat stuff behind the register counter was a really loud adding machine used to ring up lots of items at one time. Below the register in very special slots was an assortment of brown paper bags that included the sizes of very small, small, medium, large, and a shopping bag with handles. If a customer bought a lot of stuff, Dad would wrap the merchandise up in brown paper and tie it with twine, so it would be easier to carry out the door. Dad liked wrapping up packages; he took his time and made sure the twine was tied extra tight and perfect so that a customer would be able to carry their stuff home comfortably. There were other things behind the tall register counter, like a stubborn credit card swipe machine (I knew it was stubborn because I tried playing with it), a black rotary telephone hung on the wall, tissue paper to wrap up the Washington DC souvenirs, and a bell. It was the kind of bell you might see ringing during Christmas at a Salvation Army stand. Dad said that the bell was used to stir up excitement during a lull period. Dad or Uncle Joey would ring the bell and shout out, "All right, second shift now reporting for duty!"
Handwritten signs on brown paper bags were everywhere. My dad claimed to be the inventor of writing sales signs on brown paper bags. The signs shouted out messages to bring in business, like "Look" (with eyes drawn in the Os). Other paper bag sales signs were "Sale, Lowest Prices in Town," "Clearance," "Save, Save, Save," "Buy Now and Save," and my favorite, "Going Out for Business. There were smaller handwritten signs inside the outside show windows too.
I had fun exploring around my dad's store. Something else that really caught my attention was a colorful selection of paper money from all over the world. Dad said that foreign customers would donate a sample of their money to be displayed up on the wall. I didn't realize that there were that many countries in the world. There must have been over a hundred different types of paper money. It was really something to see.
After I stared at the money on the wall for about twenty minutes, Dad told me to go upstairs and look around at the rest of the store. I didn't even know there was a rest of the store. He showed me the steps that led upstairs to another floor. I was a little nervous going upstairs all by myself, but I wanted to be tough like everyone else, so I didn't say anything. I counted fifteen carpeted stairs to the second floor. On the way up I noticed a really old, dusty gray hanging lamp. It must have been really old because it wasn't working. I could kind of tip the lamp when I tried to reach for it. When I took a closer look at the lamp, I noticed that someone wrote their initials into the dust. I thought it was pretty cool that someone had thought of doing that. I finally left the lamp alone and continued my trek to the second floor. I peeked inside three small rooms that looked like closets, where they kept all the stuff that wouldn't fit above the wall cases downstairs. Dad called it inventory. There was a huge desk up there too, so I started to peek inside the drawers.
For some reason, anytime I'd start sneaking around somewhere without anybody else knowing, it made me feel like I was going to crap in my pants. I quickly hunted for a bathroom. I walked around a large stack of brand-new portable record players and saw another room that led to some more steps. I walked inside the room and found a really old bathroom. It had a pull-down chain for flushing the toilet and a window on the ceiling. Because I found the bathroom, I decided to use it fast; being sneaky made me have to go. I almost needed a stepstool to climb up on the giant toilet. I always hated using strange bathrooms. It was disgusting! Sitting there all by myself, on that huge disgusting toilet, it felt like I was in the olden times. I could have fallen off that disgusting toilet and broken my neck, and nobody would hear me screaming for help. It was a scary ordeal for a little kid, so I did my business fast and got out of there.
I was still a little nervous from the olden bathroom, but I decided to check out the third floor anyway. Steeper, uncarpeted stairs led me to the third floor. The third floor was the scariest place of all. I heard the rattling noises of dishes from the Blue Mirror Grill below us. The third floor had hundreds and hundreds of stacked boxes and Washington DC souvenirs everywhere. The third floor felt like hanging out at a haunted warehouse. I just didn't want to be there alone. It was like someone or something was always watching me. At any minute, I could be startled by something, maybe a giant rat or perhaps a psycho killer in hiding. Then all of a sudden I got really scared and ran all the way down to the sales floor. I calmed down once I saw Dad smoking his cigar behind a showcase. Nobody was going to see me scared! But I sure wasn't going back upstairs to the third floor again ... not alone anyway.
Excerpted from Check the Gs by RAY SHASHO Copyright © 2011 by Ray Shasho. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
ContentsChapter 1 Chin Lung Art Gallery....................1
Chapter 2 Change the Luck....................10
Chapter 3 Saff Their Brains Out!....................21
Chapter 4 Johnnycake Road....................31
Chapter 5 Bye-Bye, Baltimore....................45
Chapter 6 Dark Days ... "By and By"....................59
Chapter 7 Visiting Bensonhurst....................68
Chapter 8 Psychedelic Days....................84
Chapter 9 The Basement....................94
Chapter 10 The Newport-Miami Beach....................104
Chapter 11 Long Live the King of the Jungle!....................112
Chapter 12 Who's Going to Make the Next Ale-say?....................121
Chapter 13 "Rock" Raymond....................138
Chapter 14 That's My Cousin, You Asshole!....................149
Chapter 15 Brown Institute of Broadcasting....................160
Chapter 16 "This Is Ray Richards on 1340 WSEB"....................174
Chapter 17 Worldwide Electronics....................184
Chapter 18 Throwing Tomatoes for Justice....................198
Chapter 19 Do You Want to Meet My Friends?....................209
Chapter 20 Is the Grass Really Blue?....................218
Chapter 21 Hail to Mr. and Mrs. Shashow ... and the Redskins....................228
Chapter 22 Sight & Sound Camera and Electronics....................238
Chapter 23 Farewell to a Friend....................250
Chapter 24 Celebrity Gs and Almost the Pope....................259
Chapter 25 Everything Was Sold to the Bare Walls ... Even the Toilet....................267
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Original, Entertaining and Hilarious-- This book hsd all the elements of a classic in the making. The novel is centralized around Raymond, a boy growing up around up in the family store in Washington, DC...but that is just the tip of the plot. The dynamic characters really make this memoir. Think My Big Fat Greek Wedding...but with "Cuberians", the families made up name for what you get when you mix Cubans with Syrians from Brooklyn. Plus, the family store gets a lot of traffic from Famous Actors/Actresses, politicians...and crazies. It captures moments of a unique family but as the reader, I could really relate to the tribulations, awkward moments, and inside jokes. Check this book out!
Ray Shasho has quite a memory, especially when it comes to what songs played on the radio during important times throughout his youth. Combining his nostalgic recant of Billboard¿s Top 100, like some infomercial for a Time-Life Oldies CD collector¿s set, along with his detailed whimsical recollections while growing up, and you have the ¿soundtrack ¿ for a truly enjoyable story called Check the Gs: The True Story of an Eclectic American Family and Their Wacky Family Business.Spiraling like a 33 rpm vinyl record around his father¿s retail gift store in Washington DC, a block away from the White House, Ray began his career at the age of 6 (going on 16), when he put down the Windex and paper towels to sell a pair of shades to his first customer. ¿Ale-Say,¿Pig Latin for ¿sale,¿ was said by the guy¿s comical and secretive comments hollered around the store owned by his dad and his uncle ~ both identical twins. Between Cuban slang, Spanish, mathematical pricing algorithms, made up words, and yes, ¿Ig-Pay Atin-Lay,¿ the atmosphere in the store was as clouded with unrevealed slang to thwart customers¿ understanding the pricing of merchandise as the perpetual second-hand smoke laid a fog from the owner¿s cigars. What a tumultuous time in this country¿s history. The babies were booming, the racial tensions post Kennedy¿s and Martin Luther King¿s assassinations threw the USA into a riot drivencountry. However the dollar had value. The store had radios, TVs, cameras, binoculars, rings and jewelry, souvenirs and ¿you name it¿ all stocked behind sparkling clean glass cabinets, with shelves higher than can be reached without a ladder and items displayed in the front window precisely as a masterpiece of jigsaw placement.Ray, raised by a Cuban Catholic mother and a Syrian Jewish father was 100% street smart. What impressed me most was when Ray was older, so did his style of writing change into a more mature written voice. For example, his early years, the first third of Check the Gs, had observations as seen through a kid¿s perspective. I actually felt a kid was narrating the story in first person! Yet as Ray matured, his storytelling had more to do with his meeting all sorts of people, falling in love, but still selling gadgets, and making a PR (profit).Ray Shasho is a product of the second half of the 20th century, made in the USA from parts around the world, and within him is every trend in music, television, politics and culture contributing to his philosophical and comically analytical reflections collected in his fine book of memories. I found Check the Gs to be pure entertainment, fantastic fun and a catalyst to igniting so many memories of my own life, as I too am within a few years of Ray. So to all, I say if you have a bit of grey hair (or no hair), buy this book! It¿s a great gift for your ¿over-the-hill¿ friends, or for their kids, if they are the history buffs of younger generations trying to figure out why we are the way we are. ...Pacific Book Review
DIS ISH AWSHUM!!!
Check the Gs by author Ray Shasho is the story of a family and the business that sustained them from the author's childhood through early adulthood. Shasho shares the humor and inside sales secrets of the family business originally called the Chin Lung Art Gallery. Various members of this eclectic family are showcased including the author who began working in the family store at the age of six. In 1965, six-year-old "Ray-Ray" went to work in the store owned by his father and his uncle for the first time. The store, located in the District of Columbia, had been open for three years and was one of many stores owned by various members of the Shasho family. The Chin Lung Art Gallery's inventory (electronics, jewelry, cameras, artwork, and more) was as varied as the international clientele that frequented it and the Shasho family itself headed by Ray's Syrian Jewish father and Cuban Catholic mother. The life skills the author learned from working in his father's store helped him to become a fearless adult with a head for business and a strong sense of family. There are trials and problems peppered throughout Shasho's memoir (the time the store was robbed and the death of his beloved grandmother), but the focal points of the story are the antics that took place in the store while it was open for business six days a week. While English and Spanish were the primary languages spoken in the store, this did not limit the Shasho brothers from selling merchandise to Nigerians, Russians, and others for steep, steep profits. Young Shasho, who made his first sell on his very first day of work, was quickly schooled on the jargon that allowed the sales staff to communicate so effectively right in front of the customers. A "G" was a customer and selling a customer merchandise for an outrageous profit was to "saff their brains out". Shasho explains that the jargon and the pricing system used at his father's store were used by every Syrian-owned store during that time. Shasho is open and honest in his depiction of his family and their business practices. He describes the closeness of family members and the dissension that ultimately led to the original family store being sold and transformed into one and then two stores. As the story progresses, Shasho offers firsthand accounts of the D.C. riots following Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination, the murder of John F. Kennedy, and meeting celebrities like Muhammad Ali, Chuck Norris, and Sugar Ray Leonard. After seven years of running one of the businesses himself, Shasho closed the last family store and walked away with a full appreciation for what he had learned from the work: "Over the years, the business taught me to be many things-a salesman, an entrepreneur, a diplomat, an actor, and a clown. But more important, it taught me to be a man. (274)." Check the Gs is a delightful, heartwarming portrayal of an American family that lived the dream in their own animated, humorous and bazaar way. Melissa Brown Levine for Independent Professional Book Reviewers
Ray Shasho has quite a memory, especially when it comes to what songs played on the radio during important times throughout his youth. Combining his nostalgic recant of Billboard's Top 100, like some infomercial for a Time-Life Oldies CD collector's set, along with his detailed whimsical recollections while growing up, and you have the "soundtrack " for a truly enjoyable story called "Check the Gs: The True Story of an Eclectic American Family and Their Wacky Family Business." Spiraling like a 33 rpm vinyl record around his father's retail gift store in Washington DC, a block away from the White House, Ray began his career at the age of 6 (going on 16), when he put down the Windex and paper towels to sell a pair of shades to his first customer. "Ale-Say," Pig Latin for "sale," was said by the guy's comical and secretive comments hollered around the store owned by his dad and his uncle ~ both identical twins. Between Cuban slang, Spanish, mathematical pricing algorithms, made up words, and yes, "Ig-Pay Atin-Lay," the atmosphere in the store was as clouded with unrevealed slang to thwart customers' understanding the pricing of merchandise as the perpetual second-hand smoke laid a fog from the owner's cigars. What a tumultuous time in this country's history. The babies were booming, the racial tensions post Kennedy's and Martin Luther King's assassinations threw the USA into a riot driven country. However the dollar had value. The store had radios, TVs, cameras, binoculars, rings and jewelry, souvenirs and "you name it" all stocked behind sparkling clean glass cabinets, with shelves higher than can be reached without a ladder and items displayed in the front window precisely as a masterpiece of jigsaw placement. Ray, raised by a Cuban Catholic mother and a Syrian Jewish father was 100% street smart. What impressed me most was when Ray was older, so did his style of writing change into a more mature written voice. For example, his early years, the first third of "Check the Gs," had observations as seen through a kid's perspective. I actually felt a kid was narrating the story in first person! Yet as Ray matured, his storytelling had more to do with his meeting all sorts of people, falling in love, but still selling gadgets, and making a PR (profit). Ray Shasho is a product of the second half of the 20th century, made in the USA from parts around the world, and within him is every trend in music, television, politics and culture contributing to his philosophical and comically analytical reflections collected in his fine book of memories. I found "Check the Gs" to be pure entertainment, fantastic fun and a catalyst to igniting so many memories of my own life, as I too am within a few years of Ray. So to all, I say if you have a bit of grey hair (or no hair), buy this book! It's a great gift for your "over-the-hill" friends, or for their kids, if they are the history buffs of younger generations trying to figure out why we are the way we are.
The story is about a kid from Baltimore that got dragged to work at a very early age to his fathers business in Washington DC. You journey through his personal trials and tribulations. The character is confused from being brought up in a Catholic/Jewish/Cuban/Syrian household. And on becoming streetwise at an early age in Washington DC. He has a difficult time adapting to the simple ways of being a kid- because he feels that he has been forced to become an adult at his fathers business. There is lots of craziness surrounding his fathers techniques and ideas for operating a retail store. The story is funny,mind-boggling,bizarre and reminiscent to many of our own personal trials and tribulations. I loved the story and especially the way he described the characters. The characters in the book are awesome! I recommend you buy this book, you'll love it!