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‘Conquista’s boy toy Bruno is based on false impressions and cultivated memories of my Uncle Joe, who I never met and who most likely didn’t exist, at least not his strictly legendary aspects.

I suppose lots of families have a relation like Uncle Joe skulking in the wings, a shadowy figure to whom foggy tales of escapade and crime stick like cotton candy. No one was ever sure exactly what capers our uncle was supposed to have pulled off, but believe you me it was a big deal with some made guys in someplace swank or other.

Some of Uncle Joe’s verifiable escapades include getting a righteous heat-on during the proceedings of a cold Christmas eve and busting up the furniture to burn in lieu of firewood, or the balmy Summer night he had himself hauled off to the lockup in cuffs by a half-dozen cops for ‘discussing’ the merits of the Phillies’ second string lineup with some fellow fans on the unburned remains of his front porch. Although I must admit even Uncle Joe’s rep can’t beat my late, lamented Cousin Wreck (a.k.a. Rick) in the matter of bumptious arrests. Wreck apparently, at least according to his own account, once head-butted an officer of the law during questioning, with all the unfortunate attendant legal consequences. But that’s an apocryphal tale for another day.

In the end I suppose everyone’s Uncle Joe represents a wistful longing for freedom from drudgery and disappointment, the breezy life of a guy who has it all because he just plain takes it. Problem is, when the unembellished truth of everyone’s favorite uncle’s crime wave comes to light it's usually something about how he spotted a case of Kools fall off a semi on the New Jersey Turnpike in 1971 and then brought ‘em home free and clear.

And thus from that momentary lapse no bigger than a mustard seed sprang the Sequoia redwood of his life of crime.


Pepperpot Piper is written & illustrated by Joseph Kelly
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