SO RIGHT AFTER confessing publicly that I stole this line from the bride and gave it to the Phantom…
… she says to me: Did you ever get those test results?
That’ll make more sense if I back up four or five years. The question then was: Whatever happened to the DNA test kit I gave you?
Gave translates roughly into instructed you to complete. But you knew that.
It’s not that she wants to clone me back into her life should I meet a motorman’s fate. She’s just been after me for years to spit in a test tube and mail it off to Ancestry dot com because she’s into genealogy.
In a nutshell, I don’t really care that much. We’re all one human family as far as I’m concerned. You don’t have to travel very far before you discover that. I don’t feel a need to document all the dead Italians I’m related to.
Her genealogy I find interesting, because it’s about others. I guess that’s why I became a journalist, then a saddle bum. I want to see what’s going on out there.
So here I am writing about my own genealogy, but the truth is I’m mostly sitting here listening to this on a loop in another window.
When she handed me the DNA test kit, I said yeah yeah, blah blah, I read history, I can tell you the test results right now. Anybody from southern Italy and Sicily has goombahs all over the Mediterranean, in Spain, Greece, the Balkans, the Middle East…
Sicily is a strategic crossroads, everybody in the ancient world within striking distance fought over it. And when the war machine is in town, our species tends to date locally.
There are Greek temples all over Southern Italy and Sicily. They were already old when the Romans and the Carthaginians went to war over the real estate.
Carthage was a Phoenician settlement in present-day Tunisia, as short a boat ride to Sicily as Florida is from Cuba, so there’s my Middle Eastern and North African roots. North African because the Phoenicians colonized the Mediterranean coast of what’s now Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco; and Middle Eastern because the Phoenicians were from Lebanon and Syria and thereabouts, got tired of fighting over stuff there, decided to invade North Africa and become Carthaginians.
Consider the old man, the Sicilian who went on the long Nazi-sighting tour in France and Germany; which is to say, sighting them down the barrel of an M1 carbine.
Drop him into Lawrence of Arabia, see if anybody notices. With the right headgear he could go on the Hajj and boogie around the Kaaba. Blend right in.
I already know all this, who cares about a lab test? But when I fail to follow instructions the bride invariably reissues them. Ultimately, she breaks down my will to continue to fail to follow instructions.
Long story short, I spit in the tube, mail it in, months later Ancestry sends me an email with a link to the results. I look them over and, meh, told you.
A few nights ago she says, Did you ever get those test results? Yes, I got them, babe. Same results I told you five years ago.
And then I can’t find the email, can’t find the link, don’t know my password…
She instructs me to resolve those issues. So, you know, I… I just do.
Could have told you this but my people are from here.
A wider lens on it… the places that co-mingle to a greater or lesser degree with my Southern-Italian bloodline.
Then the migration west. Around 1850 we split for New York, New York, helluva town, Bronx is up, Battery down.
And more of us by 1875. We’re landing in Chicago now, and New Orleans.
By 1900, it’s like incoming from the Mamalukes Belt. All over North America it’s raining Tonys, Vitos, Guidos…
Some of my people, of course, missed the boat, literally missed it and were still fighting over stuff in Sicily in 1925, when came the war between the fascists and the Mafia. Here’s hoping they sided with the Mafia.
So now the bride’s excited about getting online and researching my roots. She has a mathematical mind, has always been a scary-smart puzzle solver and a relentless detective. She makes Columbo look as if he’s not paying attention.
She’ll get the goods on every Sicilian dirt farmer, fisherman, smuggler, orange picker, cattle rustler and carabinieri who ever had anything to do with me being here today to scribble at you to a jazz loop. Before long she’ll be introducing me to every eighth cousin of mine who’s making carbon dioxide somewhere in the world. It won’t matter that I can count on one hand the times in the last 50 years I’ve been close enough to a first cousin to bean her with a bocce ball.
Now, if Chaka Khan and I were going to turn out to be cousins I’d be digging this process way more.
I close by amending the above in one respect. I didn’t think my people would go as far east as they do.
Check it out.
I figured the bloodline would play out in the Middle East and on the Arabian Peninsula. But 11 percent of me keeps going east into the Caucasus, across the Black Sea and beyond the far shore of the Caspian, then straight out of Europe to the ‘stans of Central Asia. So apparently I share a bit of DNA with people as far east as Afghanistan.
That explains this weird, inborn desire I’ve always had to experience the thrill of racing a motorcycle through the Khyber Pass while being shot at. Preferably by someone who’s not very good at it.
Tony DePaul, February 10, 2018, Cranston, Rhode Island, USA