"He lives right here! The king of the Gypsies lives right here!"
The middle-aged woman's boyfriend and I can't keep from laughing as we pass through a nondescript residential intersection in outer Northeast. The thought of the king of the Gypsies living in a semi-suburban ranch home, lurking behind the drawn curtains and managing his covert empire of colorfully dressed fortune tellers and pickpockets, is a bit much. I express my amazement that he lives in Portland.
"Well, I don't think he's the king of all of the Gypsies in the world, just the ones around here," she says, and this sets us back to laughing.
"I'm completely serious!" she exclaims. The Gypsies, apparently, are no joke. Despite what we may think, she explains to us that real Gypsies aren't nomadic livestock thieves, but in fact have been living in her neighborhood for decades. And they're very bad neighbors.
"When I was a little girl, I was twirling my baton over at my friend's driveway, and the Gypsies next door ran out, stole my baton, and started beating me with it! And when they go to Safeway, they just yell at each other all the time! It's the adults making a distraction so that the kids can steal as much as possible! Their whole family structure revolves around who can lie, cheat and steal the best," she explains.
"Sounds like they'd make good cab drivers," I respond.
We all laugh.