At an age when most kids are just getting rid of the training wheels on their bicycle, Ray Shasho entered into a crazy world of secret lingo and bullying sales tactics at the Chin Lung Art Gallery, his father’s retail store on the corner of Thirteenth and F Street in Washington, DC.
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Check the Gs
Check the Gs
Check the Gs is the true story of how this bizarre family business changed his world forever. 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 of 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.
At 3:45, the store got packed with customers, and everyone had a G that they were waiting on. I had the wall case door slid wide open and was demonstrating a Sanyo Boombox. In a flash, a husho grabbed one of the other Boomboxes off the shelf, and then ran out the front door and down the street. Without thought or hesitation, I ran after him. I chased him down 14th street. During the chase, I yelled at him, “Stop, I’ve got a gun!” and then pulled out my comb. I quickly drew the attention of the crowd walking up and down the city street. The husho looked back at me to see if I really had a weapon. Then I did one of the stupidest things ever. I aimed my comb at the running husho and screamed, “Bang! Bang!” After that I lost all respect from the crowd that walked by me. And I saw and heard their bursts of laughter, but I still continued my pursuit. Finally, I did the unthinkable and followed the husho into a deserted alleyway. I couldn’t see where he ran off to, but I continued to walk slowly through the alley anyway. Then, in a remarkable turn of events, I saw two black dudes walking towards me carrying the same Boombox stolen by the husho. They both walked over to me, one of them asked, “Is this your Box man?”
I said, “Yea, I work around the corner and the dude I was chasing stole it from our store.” Then, the guy holding the recovered Sanyo Boombox handed it to me. Apparently, those two black dudes had stolen it from the husho that had stolen it from us.
Pacific Book Review
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.
Excellent reflection of the childhood we all grew up with
This autobiography shows us an amazing story of what it means to be a self-made person. Through all of life's struggles we experience and how it leads to opportunity and meeting the love of a lifetime. This is the definition of living the American Dream and exceeds the meaning for our pursuit for happiness as we journey through life.
I recommend everyone to read this for you will find through our diversity we all share the challenges and struggles that make us into the people we are today. The author does an excellent job showing us how lucky we are and that hope always lies in our perseverance for finding happiness.
This book takes you away to a time that will never be repeated in America. Where families worked together, ate together, and passed down the family business. Ray tells us his story and you are locked in from the first page. You live inside his family's retail store; when retail meant something before the Best Buys & WalMarts took away the shopping "experience." You're next to Ray when he attends rock concerts by real artists in the Baltimore & Washington DC area. This is a guy that lives & breathes two things: family & music. A beautifully written book that I couldn't put down. Highly recommended!
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