I’m Out With The Insiders – Mano Figo and The Barbarossa Insult #4

Published December 31, 2009 by Larry Fisher

Santa’s busting open safes for a week straight is not a normal event, even for the streets of New York… I have spent my whole life working towards finding out un-normal events to do.
I feel lucky that I found my crew of Junkmen. We were all outsiders looking in. Most outsiders are apparently locked up in Jail, (that according to most of the Junkmen who did time before they realized that they could just be invited into houses to remove items, instead of sneaking into the homes in the dead of night.)
I just wanted to have an interesting life. I didn’t mind not being rich. I wanted to come home every night from my job and be able to tell my family an interesting story at the dinner table. Living as a Junkman gave me that.
Of course, the concept of something frightful happening, was always a possibility. I was one of the only Junkmen, who hasn’t done time and who is College Educated.
I have an Art Degree and I make art in degrees. I would never call myself an Artist though. I just take my Junk and make Junk-KO-Lage after I put the family to sleep.
I tell my stories and I make my art. It’s simple really. I don’t need movies or entertainment of any sort… except for cooking for the family. That is my only recreation.
I guess after you read this story and will have dragged your feet in my shoes, you’ll see why I don’t really need diversion from my life and I’m sure you’ll feel better about your life and how you don’t have to spend any more time in my shoes. You’ll probably treat yourself to a new pair of shoes.
So, I guess it is apparent at this point that something frightful happened as all the Junkmen were cracking open safe, day after day for a week, at the outset of the New Year.
Oh, more than one thing went frightful during that week. Let us begin with the Mano Figa…
The Mano Figa is made by making a fist with your thumb sticking out between the first two fingers. Your thumb gets red and well it is supposed to be representational of a clitoris, or you could look at it as a penis entering a vagina.
I grew up with alot of Italians in The Bronx and then in Flushing. I’d see the Mano Figa get used in alot of different ways. If a kid wanted to get “lucky”, he would flash his Mano Figa. If a Homosexual would pass by, someone would flash the Mano Figa to show that a man of questionable sexuality passed by. It was also used to absorb the “evil eye.” That’s why you see Italians wearing the Mano Figa amulet around their necks. Sometimes, you see the horns, and sometimes you see Mano Figa or sometimes you don’t see it. Some Italian people will hide their amulets, they want you to know they are wearing Mano Figa, but they don’t want to show you the pussy that is going to absorb the shocks of the “evil eye.”
Well, after the first safe was cracked open by Sonny, I learned a whole new meaning to the Mano Figa, a whole new meaning…

Santa’s and their Elf helpers were really just getting started opening up old safes, when the first real excitement happened. Sonny, cut throught the concrete of the bottom of a safe and looked inside. He was happily excited. It wasn’t often that Sonny got excited happily. He usually was angrily excited. He was like a Joe Pesci kind of guy; small, tough, no nonsense. So, we all ran over to Sonny because we thought he made a score.
Cameras started taking photo’s. People started screaming,”What’s in the safe?” There was a buzz about the contents of the safe.
In the moment, it took me to walk over to the guys, I heard,”I bet there’s a million dollars in there.”
“I bet there’s a head in there.”
I saw Manny and Luigi start arguing. Manny looked one more time in the safe, pulled out the Mano Figo from around his neck and kissed it. Luigi made a finger purse to Sonny. Sonny put his hands to his head and started screaming something.
“Gentlemen, what the fuck is going on? Do we have a score, or dirty underwear or what?”
I watched the three of them look in the busted safe and continue to make different hand gestures to each other and scream in Italian.
“What the fuck is in there?” I said and put my hand in there.
Manny screamed,” Don’t touch it. Don’t touch it. You’ll be cursed.”
I pulled the toy of a donkey out of the safe.
Sonny said,”He touched it. He’ll be cursed. I just can get the money. He becomes my partner. Sonny flashed Italian horn sign at Manny and at Luigi.
Manny looked up at the sky, like a safe was going to land on our heads,”Let’s get inside. Hurry up.”
I held the metal toy of the donkey and what looked like a man milking the donkey under my arm like a football, and got past all the other Santa’s and Elves and the growing excited crowd.
“That’s what all the excitement is about. Some dumb toy.”
Manny put his thumb on his teeth and flicked it at the spectator. He screamed a curse,”This act of humiliation shall haunt you my friend and one day your head will be up a donkey’s ass searching for a fig.”
At first the spectator was shocked and then he said,”What?”He probably wanted to get a “Fuck You! screamed at Manny but was too thrown by the strange curse Manny had thrown out.
Inside, the door closed, I said,”O.K. you Italianos. What is going on?
“Don’t tell him. It’s enough to know, this is gold and old and that it is going to Sotheby’s tomorrow, and you are in possession of the Barbarossa Insult now, and you are my partner, only by having the curse on your head, and that I am only the partner that makes the money on it.”
Sonny sat and crossed his fingers. The Italians started screaming at each other and making more hand gestures. Manny put his hands in front of him and spread his fingers . Sonny put his finger on his cheek and screwed it and twirled it. Luigi screamed at him and pulled open his eyelid.
“Fella’s, can someone tell me what is going on.”
Luigi stopped and said,”You are a gonner.” The three Italians all nodded at me.
They had me in a coffin already,”Can you tell a dead man what this cute donkey is all about?”
..Luigi turned to Manny and said,”Tell him. Tell him what Sonny has cursed us this New Year’s Day.
“Mano Figo is a gesture that has been kept alive by the Barbarossa Insult.”
“The what?”
“There was a situation many years ago when men took the King’s wife and insulted her and made her ride out of town on a donkey’s ass backwards.”
“That doesn’t sound so bad. Sounds like a practical joke by a bunch of Frat boys.”
“Well King Barbarossa didn’t think it was so funny. He recaptured Milan and forced the Frat boys to extract figs out of anus of that same mule. Mano Figo.”
Manny started babbling on in Italian to Sonny. He slapped him across the face.
I looked at Luigi,”The Old Man has finally cracked up right?”
“Take a closer look at that so-called toy you have in your hands?”
I took it out from under my arm and examined the toy. It was a donkey and… Oh my God, it had a mechanism that when you pulled the lever, shoved the man’s head up the donkey’s ass. This truly was not a Mattel toy.
“Not the same as the toy donkey distributing cigarettes out of it’s ass.
Luigi was referring to a toy all my friends and myself had as a kid. It was something that we would pick up in Coney Island or any Playland.
“So, we have to throw this piece of shit out right.”
Sonny said,” You can’t throw it out. It’s made of gold. It’s the oldest thing I’ve ever had. It’s a historical piece.”
“Then here take it. I don’t want to hold it.”

Sonny shook his fingers at me. I’m not saying this isn’t a powerful little toy. Hey, tomorrow we drop it off at Sotheby’s and I’ll give you half the money. I swear on my mother’s life.”
“Your mother is dead.”
“I still can swear on her life… O.K. her eternal soul. I swear on her eternal soul.
“O.K. I’ll hold it till tomorrow and then we get rid of this curse.”
Manny shook his head in disapproval,”The Donkey’s name is Thacor.”
“And the man’s name?” Luigi asked
“That is yet to be seen.” Manny said.
“Jesus Christ. This is the stuff nightmares are made of.”

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