Interview with Giovanni Santiago by Ana Puga and Victor Espinosa, 20 August 2017. Transcription and editing by Harmony Bench, December 2017.
AP: Okay, so can you tell me your name, and the date, and let me know if I have your consent to interview you for the Be the Street project.
GS: Yes, Giovanni Santiago. The date, what is it, the 20th? August 20th. And yes, definitely you have my consent for the project.
AP: Great, thank you. So do you want to tell me a little bit about Hilltop and how you came to be there? What your earliest memories of the place are?
GS: Earliest memories of Hilltop. We came from San Diego, California and when we landed in Columbus, Ohio it was the West Side. And first I went to this school called Pleasant View Middle School, and then right after that I went to Bishop Brady High School, and that’s pretty much dead in the center of the Hilltop.
AP: Bishop Brady?
GS: Yes, so I would say that’s my earliest experience. And from there, when I graduated I opened up a shop. I think it was a year after I graduated, I opened up a shop at the Westland flea market and painted t-shirts and cars–did airbrushing, pretty much. And then from there…
AP: Cars, like big cars? Full size cars?
GS: Yeah, people would bring their cars and I’d paint on their hoods or their motorcycles. I think, in the flea market, actually, a client that worked at Puma West Pavilion or Puma West Promotions found me and asked me if I could paint a motorcycle for Kid Rock. So that was one of the first pretty big projects that I had from there. And then she asked me to do a motorcycle for Leonard Skinner. I think they ended up autographing it and gifting it to a lucky fan or something like that. So flea market—I’m not sure how many years I was there, I lost track. I want to say at least three?
AP: What year did you graduate from high school?
GS: 2002. And then from the flea market, because that was only on the weekends and I was getting so busy, I decided to open up a shop on Demarest Road, which is still in the Hilltop. It’s a little more closer towards Grove City. And so I opened up there and I was there about three or four years and shook things up.
AP: What kind of shop was it?
GS: We called it a graffiti tease. So we spray-painted on t-shirts and same thing as the thing. We did all sorts of things–body painting, and customization of people’s things. I think I had some people bring me in their prosthetic limbs. Yeah it was a little weird at first but after you think about it it’s like oh I’m doing a tattoo on this guy’s leg or whatever. It was real cool. And what I liked the most is the kids that were in the area. There’s a low-income apartments right there, and they would all come and hang out after school. It was neat. You had some little kids that had that little, what, four or five year old kids… it was funny because at first they would come in–this is like one of the most, I don’t know, vibrant memories that I have from there, is how these kids when they first came in they [imitating child’s voice] “give me a dollar.” And so I’m like what the hell you doin’? [laughter] And so that’s something that I take pride in is that I taught them to ask me if I had any work for them or they could take out the trash or do some vacuuming or something, during the three years that I was there, so. And I still run into a lot of these kids. They always tell me thank you. And then after that shop we moved down to the Short North and were there a few years and then I just shut down the shops because I needed to see the world.
AP: Lots of the Short North got kind of expensive, didn’t it?
GS: You know, we made a lot of money there. It got expensive, and the fact that I would go and eat in those restaurants go out and party every night, it’s like that’s where it got expensive. But as far as…
VE: What about the rent?
GS: I mean it was above 2,000, but we were making it. Actually Ohio State went over there–I forget who it was that I worked with–but I feel that a lot of my clients that went over there that were a little more elite, they would feel more comfortable than going to Demarest Road, and having all these little hooligans out there, and the risk of someone getting shot, which, that happened a couple of times. Yeah, and so you know my clients were more comfortable and I was able to charge more, so.
AP: So let’s go back to when you came as a middle school student to Columbus. So how old were you?
GS: I want to say 13?
AP: And do you have brothers or sisters who came with you?
GS: Yeah, lil sister. Gabrielle Santiago.
AP: And she must have been what age when you came?
GS: So she’s seven years younger than me so whatever the math is on that.
AP: 13-7 is 6.
GS: So five or six years old? We were on that twelve to thirteen because we moved during the summer and both of our birthdays are–mine’s in May and hers is in July.
AP: And do you remember any first impressions of Ohio? Of Hilltop? Did you live in an apartment or house?
GS: Apartment—Danbury Meadows. First impressions. It’s the change of the nature. There’s more greenery here. California is more… [phone rings: “Hey Aaron can I call you back in about an hour? … Bye.”]
AP: Does it seem more green to here?
GS: Yeah, you know. With the exception of the coast, it’s pretty much all desert, I felt like. So there’s a lot more greenery. A lot more flat land here. Lack of Latinos. Big, big lack of Latinos. You know, I went to school in Tijuana, Mexico and so I was so accustomed to seeing our culture around. Come over here and they don’t know what I was. [imitating child’s voice] “Where the hell you from?” They called me a Mexican meatball, because my name is Giovanni Santiago, and so I think that’s where they got it. Very smart kids. [laughter] The meatball comes from Giovanni. I never understood it when I was a kid. Now that I’m older, man these kids are genius! [laughter] Yeah, so let me see, what other first impressions that I had coming here? You know it was just weird being almost like picked up and taken to another environment. And we did it because my dad had a job over here and so… We missed him. I think he was here three years. And so finally, we were like “You know what? Let’s go.” And we came and visited, and he always hyped it more. [imitating] “It’s so nice. The buckeyes. It snows.” I was like “oh, sounds kinda interesting.”
AP: What kind of work did your dad do?
AP: So for those three years he was coming and working here, but the family was back in San Diego?
GS: Yeah. We were living in Tijuana. My mom’s side of the family’s from San Diego, from La Jolla. It’s interesting cuz I feel like I have the best of both worlds you know? I don’t know if you guys have ever been to La Jolla, but it’s so fancy. And then I lived in Tijuana, so I was kind of just like a confused kid growing up. You know, during the week we would be in Tijuana and see all these, you know, some of my friends are just like… I had one little buddy that would go down and sell Chiclets you know? My nanny called him a “morenito.” And then we would go to La Jolla and [imitating] “Where’s my macchiato?” Yeah, so, I told you that when we sat down, I think that’s where a lot of my perspectives derive from.
AP: So is your mom Mexican? Is your dad Mexican?
GS: Dad’s Mexican. Mom is Mexican … I want to say. Well, her dad was American and her mom was Mexican. Her dad, well, she never got to meet him. They have a fascinating story because they came from [inaudible]. And this was great-great-grandma. And the revolution broke out and she did very well for herself. She opened up a Hacienda. And she was forced into that because the man that impregnated her left…it seems to be common trend going on, on my mom’s side of the family is what I’ve been noticing lately. Kind of puts a little more pressure on me to be a good man. But you know, nevertheless she did her thing and earned money to get a Hacienda and make money there. And next thing you know that revolution broke out and the poor are stealing from the rich, and people told her–she had ties with the government–they’re like “you need to get out of here.” And so she was running around Mexico with a kid and a gun and a bag of money and made it to Tijuana. And that’s where they settled.
AP: So you were actually living in Mexico?
AP: So it wasn’t just a change from one city to another, it was a change from one country to another, so a change in language, too, right? How was your English?
GS: Real well.
AP: Your English was good before.
GS: Yes, mom’s a stickler on that.
AP: Okay, so you grew up speaking English, so that wasn’t a problem.
GS: No. Little things. Yeah, she’s always been a stickler on that and I love her for it. I’d say “world” and she’s like [over-enunciated] “wor-l-d, wor-l-d,” and I’m like “I hate this!!!”
AP: My dad used to do the same thing where he’d tell me to pronounce the T in tenty–the second T in twenty. Crazy. So, when you got here, you didn’t have an accent or anything that kids would pick on you for?
GS: You know, maybe. I don’t remember that part of myself. I’ve always been kind of a weird kid. More introverted. Just kind of in my head. I got in trouble a lot in Tijuana, Mexico because—I didn’t pay too much attention in class. I was always just kind of daydreaming at my desk.
AP: So when you came here, you were in like seventh grade? Sixth grade?
GS: Sixth grade.
AP: And did you get in trouble here or were you …
GS: No, I was a quiet kid. Very creative—artistic. My teacher Mrs. Brown was the first teacher that I had and she—and we still stay in contact today. Yeah she’s awesome. She always just encouraged me to keep drawing, and all of that.
AP: She was at Pleasant View Middle School?
AP: And was she an art teacher or just a regular, like home room teacher?
GS: She was, I wanna say history? History and language arts, and I forget what else. Social studies, I think. We had two teachers in sixth grade, so she did those and then we had another teacher that did math and science.
AP: That kind of makes sense. Some people are better at math and science, and others better at language arts. So she saw that you like to draw. Were you drawing a lot at that point?
GS: Oh yeah, constantly. It was so weird. When I look back on my life, I wonder if I was autistic or something because I just didn’t do anything but draw since I was a little kid. And I kind of lied my way into it. Well, I loved it to begin with. But in Tijuana, I don’t know if I told you this, but we had a school project and my neighbor Marta was a phenomenal artist and I had to do this project, and I was like, “can you draw these animals for me?” And she drew them out and made them all beautiful, and I take them to school and everyone’s like “oh that’s sweet!” and I lied, and then “did you do this?” and I’m like “Yeah!” And next thing you know everyone was like “can you draw something for me?” so I had to get good real quick.
AP: Oh that’s an interesting way to become an artist. You had to fake it. But then your drawing skills did improve.
GS: They did. And they weren’t too good to begin with. They weren’t too good. I remember a very clear memory of me being a kid and I had the this book called The Moodys and then along with some Dr. Seuss books and I would just mimic them. Mom made a big deal, hang them up on the fridge. She was a very encouraging mom.
AP: You illustrated The Moodys? Or what do you mean?
GS: I just mimicked this kids book just on the side on the side paper. It turned out real good! I’m still proud of that lil sketch. I don’t think I have it anymore.
AP: What was it a sketch of?
GS: Just the little characters in the kids books. And now I’m working on a kids book. Did I tell you I was working on a kid’s book? I was working on it down there in Ecuador. We won’t talk about that, I just show you guys.
AP: So, Hilltop. Has Hilltop changed from when you were–let’s see what year was that, that you came here? If you graduated from high school in 2002…
GS: I think it was ’96. Yeah, cuz I think that’s when Shaq went from Orlando Magic to the Lakers. That was a big big big move. He finally started winning some champions over there.
AP: So it was ’96 and what was the street that you lived on like?
GS: That was peaceful. That wasn’t in the Hilltop, that was on the outer skirts. That was actually Galloway. We’re still in that region. There were some kids, and I got to play football with these kids. I was welcomed. It was cool.
AP: But then did you live in the Hilltop when you were going to the Bishop Brady high school?
GS: No, no same area. I think the bus came for me. And then as I got older I had a friend that started driving when she lived in the same area. I’d go with her and she’d yell at me all the time for being late.
AP: So the high school was in Hilltop, but you didn’t live in Hilltop.
AP: And was this the closest high school to your house?
GS: No. There was Westland High School. There was Franklin Heights.
AP: People from Galloway go to Westland High School in Franklin Heights?
GS: Yes. No, Franklin Heights is more the top of the Hilltop, that’s more, like, Demerest and, what is it, West Gate. But Bishop Brady’s a private school. My parents take a lot of pride in the schools that they put us in. Did it make a difference? I think so. I think it did. You know, it definitely did. We — one of the things that interest me a lot is religion, and Bishop Brady had a theology class and they would teach all religions not just Catholic. It was awesome. And I wish all schools did that. And I just got in trouble because I went to Upper Arlington–three days after I landed from Ecuador, I got invited to go and speak at Upper Arlington and I just delivered a knowledge … I did a poem. I’ll tell you the beginning of it. It’s called “Couldn’t Sleep,” because I couldn’t sleep. And I said “Some say the wicked are blessed and the good are cursed. The book of [[???]] teaches us that that reverses. I’ve been reading verses from Genesis to Exodus from Moses busting oceans open to David versus giant person. Faith is obviously the fear of the Angel Gabriel is most common to appear. He told Mary about Jesus he stayed in [[Mohammed’s ???]] Mount Hira the Shites say he welcomed him the Sunni say he scared. Sit down at the Buddha organized the bowls of rice Sujatha must have cared. I told you I’m a poet no time to cut my hair. Then studying the gods, East and Western Hemisphere. Sumerian tablets prove others were around. I own a Mesopotamian piece with cuneiform around it.” And so I said that and the principal got all upset–but the kids were loving it!! They’re all out of their seat [imitating] “yay!” And I said, “You know what else?” I said, “I don’t want to have any more weekdays. I want to have strong days.” [imitating] “Whoa, yeah.” The teacher, the principal got upset and one of the PTA people came and let me know, and I let her know. See, I got upset, then. They would want to inhibit their kids and not let them know about the different cultures in the world. I think religion is culture and that’s gonna inhibit their future if they don’t pursue that — close their mind.
AP: Why was the principal upset?
GS: Because it’s a public school. You’re not supposed to talk about that.
AP: Oh, you’re not supposed to talk about religion.
GS: I guess. I guess that’s what it is. You know what’s funny is I just had a meeting with the PTA lady. She seemed to like me, and we have an event September 3rd, so… You know what’s crazy, is I keep getting invited to that school and I keep talking… I want to say shit… I do! I keep talking about real shit and–stop inviting me! It’s that simple.
AP: Maybe it’s like a love/hate thing. They just can’t stay away.
GS: [imitating] “We’re so disappointed in you…You’re coming back next year, right?” [laughter] I’m going to show you this Mesopotamia piece that I was talking about. Did you see this the last time? And then I just recently acquired a little chunk of the Berlin Wall. So what they say is that you would put a stick in there and roll it and that’s that it could be a signature… basically an ancient typewriter.
AP: You would put ink on it and it would make an image?
GS: Not ink. You just put it into fresh clay. I’m going to do some art pieces like this, and then bury them, you know? So that they can know what was really going on.
AP: So a hundred years from now, people will find it.
GS: A hundred? This is 2000 BC.
AP: So in another 2,000 years they can find your work.
GS: 4000. I don’t care if they know if it was me or not, I just want them to know what was really going on.
VE: Where did you find that piece?
GS: Grandpa gave it to me. One of his work clients, a billionaire client passed away and the son started throwing all sorts of artifacts out.
AP: So tell me more about Bishop Brady.
GS: They taught theology. I was in marching band. And the art teacher was awesome.
AP: What did you play?
GS: Saxophone. And the art teacher was awesome, very very encouraging. And you know what? My buddy — when I first came over here I met a best friend, Alexa McAllister. And I met her at Pleasant View and she was one of the few that went from Pleasant View to Bishop Brady just like, I did and it was neat just to continue that bond. She recently passed away, last year.
AP: Oh! She must have been very young.
GS: Yeah, I think she was like 31. What helped me cope with it was Japanese music. And like a week or two into listening to Japanese music I got a call from a buddy and he was like, “Are you ready to go to Japan?” I can’t believe it. But I can believe it because, you guys know, everything lines up, everything the universe.
AP: Did you go to Japan?
GS: Yeah, you betcha.
AP: Great. You know, I lived in Japan for a year. When I graduated from college, I went to Japan. I studied Japanese in college. I’d had a couple of years of Japanese, and then I studied some more Japanese. And then maybe I could just like speak a little bit cuz it’s a really tough language. So after three years I could say like “good morning.” No a little more than that, but yeah it’s an uphill language.
GS: Sure. How’d you like it?
AP: I liked it a lot. I lived in Tokyo by the fish market Tsukiji. It was great to see a little fish. You know, the different booths, different types of seafood and shellfish, and then the enormous tunas, salmon.
GS: I didn’t trust the fish too much this last time that I went. Well, they had the whole radiation spill.
AP: Oh right, yeah that’s right.
GS: I was I bit wary about eating their seafood. But I ate it anyway.
AP: Yeah, that’s true. Fukushima.
GS: That’s real cool, though.
AP: So, were you mainly in Tokyo when you went?
GS: Yeah, in the business district. I wanted to go see more of the nature, Mount Fuji and all that…
AP: So tell me more about Alexa McAllister, when you guys met. What was it that made you friends?
GS: Yeah, she was so gung-ho. I didn’t like her at first. She was real bossy. She’s a leader. Even towards the end she had a radio show called No Excuses. She was on the radio show Auto Smarts for You. She did NASCAR announcing, all sorts of stuff. She was in The Sopranos, she did some Broadway musicals, she was in New York for a while. Very inspiring woman.
AP: She was an actor in The Sopranos?
GS: I wanna to say that she did behind the scenes. But she was in there like once or twice.
AP: But you knew her when she was a little girl.
AP: And what was she like as a little girl?
GS: The boss. Yeah. If she saw anybody picking on somebody she would definitely make sure that she let those people have it. But the she would turn around and pick on the kid again — on the kid that was getting picked on! Sometimes would be me.
AP: Oh yeah? Were you picked on?
GS: You know what, people would talk shit because of the Hispanic thing I think. Latinos at Pleasant View–might’ve just been me and this kid named Jose Something. So people said things definitely. Did it hurt me or affect me? Nah, I don’t care. It just was an eye-opener because I never went through that in San Diego or Tijuana.
AP: But mainly it was just saying things like the “Mexican meatball”?
GS: [laughter] This feels like therapy right now!
AP: Nobody actually got physical and started fights or anything?
GS: Yeah, yeah, we got in a couple fights. I also knew how to defend myself. But I was just more of an introvert. I didn’t do all that extra. And to this day, I’m still like that. I’d rather just sit and read or play some chess with somebody. And all my buddies want to go out and drink. It’s the way the world is, I think. People are so extra [extroverted] … and looking at other people judgmentally. I don’t get that. I did a painting based on that, actually. It’s a grocery store scene and everyone in the grocery store is a judge. Pushing a little cart, picking an apple, but they’re all looking at you.
AP: Wearing black robes?
GS: Yes. With little hammer and stuff.
AP: I think [inaudible] Yeah that’s a stupid move. Right off the bat. So that’s a pawn?
GS: That might have been strategically moved.
AP: Yeah that was my strategy. Alright, okay. Now I’m mad.
[end of recording; new recording]
AP: So, community. What was the sense of community like at the flea market when you were there? Do you remember?
GS: It was cool! So tight knit. Everybody messed with everybody, the Latinos with the white people and the Africans and we had some Asian people–Chinese ladies selling little throwing knives and samurai swords and I don’t know what. It was very neat. I don’t think I appreciated it as much then as I do now. You know what, partly because, I hate to say this, but you used to be allowed to smoke cigarettes inside of the flea market, and I think that was for me was like, “I have to get out of here!” For me, I’m a little particular, and so there’s some things that bug me but for the most part it was just awesome. So many Latinos, and they were the ones that were buying my t-shirts, and I started making more money selling t-shirts than working at the hospital–at Ohio State. I was working in interpreting. And next thing you know, so like I said, I’m making more money doing shirts! So I forget who it was over at the interpreting thing, so I’m like, “Hey, guys, I appreciate…” I was there three years. It seems like three is a common number isn’t it?
AP: It was the same three that you were at the flea market for this? You ended up leaving the hospital to concentrate full-time on the t-shirt stuff? Cuz then you opened your own shop.
GS: Yeah. It was a real good feeling. And then what happened, there was a little spell where I started dating somebody and I was focusing so much on her that I kind of let my business go. Business came to a screeching halt and I started looking for jobs, and I called chase. And Chase was going to hire me, and, I kid you not, the day that I was going to go in for the interview, or actually the day that they told me “you’re hired,” an hour or two before I got the call from Chase saying I was hired–because I was panicking, I was running out of money, and I couldn’t pay for my apartment–I get a call from this guy named George Tanjeske and he’s is opening a Graffiti Burger. And he’s like “Hey, we thought about you, and we want to get this going–we need this done ASAP.” And I was like “huh,” and so like an hour or two later I get a call from Chase, like “Hey, we love your resume, you know, we want you to come in.” And I told them I said you know what hold off on that, I’ll get ahold of you guys. And then the next day I met up with George and we figured out some numbers, designs, and got it going. It saved my career because they opened up four Graffiti Burgers.
VE: So you painted all four Graffiti Burgers? Really?
GS: Yeah it was like 20,000 [dollars] each project. I was able to get back on my feet.
VE: What year was that?
GS: I don’t know, I can’t tell you. It was just unfortunate to see, they closed down I think partly well–their competition was Five Guys, and that’s a tough tough competition. And then the other thing is I think is we were in an era when a lot of people were going vegan, and watching what they ate, and the burger thing wasn’t too popular. The other thing was the owner ended up passing away. Rest in peace to Jim. I still see his family all the time, but…
AP: Do you remember how you first started, how you got the idea of working in the flea market?
GS: This guy Dale. Do you know Dale? Is he still there?
AP: Yeah, he’s still the owner.
GS: Get out a here!
AP: Well he is the owner now, but he wasn’t the owner then, right?
GS: No, he wasn’t the owner then. Yeah, something happened. I went in there personally, spoke to Dale, and then he said there’s no spots open right now.
AP: He was a manager?
GS: I think so. And then something happened where a spot opened up and I made my way in there with another partner of mine we both paid for the spot.
AP: How much did the spot cost, do you remember?
GS: Oh, it wasn’t much. It was like $50 a weekend, which I guess still add up to $200 a month.
AP: So you have to sell quite a bit to make it worthwhile. Did you have any special selling techniques or anything? Did you use anything to grab people’s attention?
GS: I think just the live performances–right then and there. Doing a t-shirt with Cantinflas’s face on there. Everyone would just corral. I’d look back and there’s 15-20 people, and the guy in the booth next door selling music was like “Hey, can you guys move out the way?” I was really attracting them.
VE: So it was a performance of painting? How was the process?
GS: That was so tough! That made me a better artist because you have all of these eyes looking at you. And, I don’t want to sound pessimistic, but you almost feel like they want to see you mess up. [laughter, imitative sounds] And they’d see me pour that, whatever it was that line to finish that “S,” or that Mexican eagle, or something, and I pulled it off, and their like [gasp] “He did it!”
VE: So you’d be doing all those moves just to get attention?
GS: No, it’s just really what you have to do when you’re painting and you’re using an airbrush or a spray can. It’s an air-based paint so you really want to hurry up and do that line quick. That’s what I learned throughout. Because if you’re going slowly, you’re gonna be shaky. And it’s not gonna look smooth.
VE: You’d have to have very good hands, very spontaneous.
GS: That’s what the ladies say, man. I don’t know.
VE: I mean people like to see this kind of movement?
GS: Yeah. Yeah. I’m glad you said that. I need to start promoting more performances.
VE: Yeah. You have to perform like, feet thinking. It’s magic. Because it’s nothing, then suddenly things start… like the stuff that Natalia is doing.[Natalia is another local artist.] Taking the photos and seeing how the painting is developing. You see that?
GS: Oh, and she makes her own music. OH! She’s awesome. I just hung out with her like two days ago. She’s very cool. But you know one thing that I have to say, and I noticed it more since I got back from Ecuador, and I think it’s due to the increase of the population in the city as well as an increase of the artistry which is a beautiful thing. I love everyone to embrace their heart and leave their hieroglyphics to be specific. But I’ve been doing performances and shows, we did a few for Ohio State, and 10,000 [dollars] for one day. But we did a damn good job and really entertained everybody. One of them was for the incoming freshmen with live painting. We did one for the Short North gala. I mean we’ve done probably 20-30 performances. All of them, again, 5-10,000. No problem, people. Here you’re good at what you do. As soon as I come back, I kid you not, these last two months I’ve been getting calls and they’re like “We see what you do” da da da, “we’d love to have you” and they have no budget. What’s going on with everybody? Why does everyone all of a sudden want us to provide free entertainment for your guests that are making large donations, or buying a ticket for a hundred or two hundred dollars. Naw, get out of here. And so that’s really irking me a lot lately. That’s why we opened the taco stand. I talked to Sean, and I said “You know what? We’re not gonna play these games.” I think that people are starting to see that there’s a lot of people looking for exposure and so these companies want to take advantage, save themselves some money and provide some entertainment. And there’s talent out there. But they want me to do it? No, get outa here. I had to tell two people just last week, get outa here.
VE: And there are more people moving into the graffiti field, because there are jobs? After they are going to paint graffiti, they are going to paint murals?
GS: I don’t think more people are moving into graffiti, I think they’ve always been there. They’ve always been doing things underground and under the bridges and stuff like that. Just being in Ecuador, the first thing I noticed being a muralist, is [voten Podesta presidente voten Podesta coca-cola coca-cola voten Podesta Dorito, Dorito] you know there’s propaganda everywhere and so I think that a lot of companies instead of paying Orange Barrel Media to do their billboard, and what’s the Orange Barrel Media gonna charge you? I don’t know 30, 40, 50, 100 thousand. And you can get starving artists to do this for nothing. For free! That’s the stuff that got me mad. And so, you know, I’m in the community and I talk to a lot of my peers and I tell them that. And we just had an event, I forget what it’s called, the Ohio State has a little room here–you know what I’m talking about, right? It’s it it’s in the corner, you guys have your own–it’s beautiful. So we had an event there for a whole month and I was telling all the artists, I’m all, “Don’t give your stuff away for free!”
AP: Did you also used to paint portraits at the flea market? Besides t-shirts?
GS: Yeah, portraits. People would pass away.
AP: So people would bring you like, a photo of someone?
GS: They’d bring a photo. That’s a very good point, because I had to get good because there’s a couple of my portraits that the eyeball was a little crooked or something like that. And Latinos will let you know, too!! And then dad, dude, dad’s an awesome artist. I don’t have any of his work here. I’ll text you one of his pieces. He does wood sculpting. He would shit on me. [in Spanish] And I’d get mad, but that would make me good.
AP: Did your dad also work at the flea market?
GS: No, he would go in there just [visit]. Dad’s awesome. I love him. He’s, man, he’s a trooper. He’s had a heart attack and back surgery, and he’s still going at it.
AP: Still living in Galloway?
GS: Closer to Hilliard.
AP: Well if any other memories come to you in the middle of the night, feel free to text me or something.
GS: I will! I was thinking about that on my way here. It really made me appreciate the bottom of the ground of my career.
VE: You told me about, that you were like a mentor for many kids who wanted to learn how to paint.
GS: Yeah over there at the flea market. One of my buddies, Chino, I don’t know if you know Chino. Frankie. A lot of people. I can get ahold of them also so that you can talk to them. Chino would be a great person to interview. He was at the flea market with us.
VE: Chino is the Mexican one?
GS: Yeah, little guy.
VE: Why they call him Chino?
GS: Cuz he looks Chinese. [inaudible]
VE: Did you mentor him?
GS: Yeah, you could say that. That sounds like such a responsibility. I’d rather be humble but yeah.
VE: Because he’s younger than you, yeah?
GS: Yeah, I thought you said stronger. I’m like “Naw, man, I’m pretty sure I could kick Chino’s ass!” But I don’t know, you never know. We’ve put on the boxing gloves before. I have more of a reach. He gets in there. Little tank.
AP: So tell me about your friendship with Chino.
GS: Pretty much another brother. I would say him and [inaudible]. What is there to say? I love the guy.
AP: How did you meet? Did he come up to you one day at the flea market?
GS: Yes and a lot of people would come up to me and they would ask me if I could teach them and I would say yeah, come in next weekend and I’ll teach you. And no one, none of them would show up. He was the only one that actually showed up. Brought a airbrush. Came prepared. He came prepared and he’s definitely one of the guys that has helped me stay humble because of his story. He would always tell me how they had to get into America they had to cross through the desert. He had to drink his own pee at one point. So you hear things like that and it’s like …
AP: Does he still live around here?
GS: Yeah. He’s in the Hilltop also, I think? I don’t know they had a few houses. Harrisburg Pike, Hilltop,
AP: Yeah, I’d be happy to talk to him if he’s willing. If you wouldn’t mind passing along my information.
GS: I will, definitely.
[end of recording]