When I first started this website in 2004 - I had no idea what to name it. I was on the phone with a friend of mine. We were trying to come up with a fun name. I was walking around a Japanese grocery store in Arlington Heights Illinois. I read him some names from packages on the shelves. Somehow we came up with Bighappyfunhouse. Later that day I contacted the guy I hired to design the site. I told him the name - he asked me if there was anything else I wanted on the header. I blurted out - Free Pie. I remember him asking me - why that? I didn't know why. I just said , it's what people like. Free Pie.
A couple of years later - I was drinking with a friend of mine. He asked about the "free pie" on the site. I started to tell him that it was just what people liked - but them I remembered - everything.
My parents divorced when I was 8 or 9. The break-up wasn't pretty. Guns, fighting, cops - the whole nine yards. My mother fled with 2 kids in tow. We ended up at a large apartment complex in Oak Lawn Illinois . It was a called Heritage Manor. The place was a collage of people and personalities. It consisted of three huge buildings and a peanut shaped pool in the middle of the grounds.
Mom was suddenly single. It was weird to be at the peanut pool and seeing the local guys hitting on my mother. She was in her mid thirties and just got out of a relationship where the man beat her on a regular basis. ( and I thank god I share none of his genes). Any attention my mom got from the folks at the pool was gladly accepted by her. That apartment scene - It was a different life. Freedom. She was a star at that pool. In her married life, he never let her have friends. The imprisonment - the wife of an alcoholic. This place was different. Heritage Manor provided a release. For once, it was nice to see her enjoying life. meeting new people allowed her to see that there was a good, giving side to people. We left that abusive horror because of a lack of his humanity. Here in this crappy apartment complex was compassion. Most every one who lived there has a reason for doing so. It sometimes wasn't pretty, but it was a place to escape. And escape we did.
There was a truck that was parked in the parking lot of Heritage Manor. It was a delivery van with "Fasano Pies" in huge block letters on the side. As kids we thought nothing of it. It was someone who worked at the pie place who lived in the building. Then one day something changed.
It was fall. November had just started. 2 weeks until my birthday. I walked in the front door of Heritage Manor. Walking down the hallway - I smelled different things - curry from the Indian family - two doors down, the guy who smoked pot all day and night (mom told us to run by his door so we wouldn't get high) - usually, I scurried by Mr Potheads's door and made my way "home". The place never felt like a home. it was like we were living in a motel. Behind in rent? In those days the landlord came by and threw your ass out. There was no court. No legal proceedings. if you didn't pay your rent - the landlord came in and threw all of your stuff in the dumpster. Us kids, we loved the end of the month. it was christmas 12 times a year. We hit those dumpsters like hungry wolves. I found some great stuff there. It was the beginning of my photo collecting.
That fall afternoon, I made it past the pothead apartment. (OK, I admit I walked slowly and inhaled). I went inside our place and got the usual "Hi how are ya" - Gave me a big hug and asked about my day. Mom was great for making you feel loved. It was all we had really. Love and each other.
I went into the kitchen - there on the counter were 2 pies. Gleaming, shining, magnificent pies. We were dirt ass poor. Pie? No way. "Mom" I called. "It's from Sam, upstairs. Go ahead and help yourself".
Sam? Who the fuck was Sam? The pie truck in the parking lot. The pie in front of me. Sam.
I grabbed a big ass knife from the drawer and stood over my victim. Not the wimpy cherry pie. The pumpkin. My weakness. Geometry became a thing warped by my vision. Ok, 4 people lived in the apartment (mom, sister, me and a cousin - in a 2 bedroom) - 1/2 of a pumpkin pie equaled my share of the pie. I loaded the half of a pie onto a plate and quietly ate the whole damed thing in the kitchen.
Sam had become a god in my eyes. Over the next months - pies would appear at our house on a regular basis. Sometimes it was 2 pies, sometimes it was 5. At one point we were suffering from pie overload. We ended up giving pies to my grandma and others in need. Pie was the one thing we had in abundance.
Little did I know that the reason we were getting pies - Sam was trying to get into my moms pants. Well, we knew he wasn't her type. But the pies kept coming. It was like he was casting a lure. I was unconcerned with the fishing technique. I just wanted the pie stream to continue. I knew my mom. Sam would never get his way.
Then a terrible thing happened. One day the pies stopped. I don't know if my mom finally rebuked Sam the Pieman or if he found another love interest. It was a week of waiting for a pie that never arrived. A week of hell. No pie. It was as if you were excommunicated from church. The church of pie. The golden flow of pie had ceased to be. I'd ask my mom to buy a pie when she went shopping. " We can't afford it" was the reply. I realized that the cost of pie is relative to what you're willing to give up for it. I respected her decision.
It took a while to realize that the "Free Pie " - that has always been on the header of Bighappyfunhouse - came from Sam the Pieman. I just want to take a moment and thank him. I didn't have much back then - but now I realize now that I had more than most. I had free pie.