I get a lot of weird looks and odd questions whenever I tell someone my last name.
We prounounce it ih-thee-err.
Typically, the first thing people ask is, ‘What kind of last name is that?’
To which I usually respond,”It’s French, from the south of France, specifically.”
What usually follows that question is, “But you’re Puerto Rican, aren’t you?”
To which I reply, “Yes, I am.”
Now the questions that follow after those initial ones depends on the person I’m dealing with.
You get those types that speak a little French that try and correct the way I pronounce my last name.
“It’s pronounce ih-tee-ay,” one such douchebag said to me the other day. “You’re mispronouncing your name.”
“That’s one way of pronouncing it,” I replied.
“No, that’s the proper way, the French way.”
“Well I’m from Chicago, and it’s my name, so I’ll pronounce it the way I want to.”
Then you have my fellow Ricans, some of who tend to not focus so much on the pronounciation of my last name, but on the fact that I’m of Puerto Rican ancestary and I have a French last name.
“That doesn’t even make sense, bro” one of my childhood friends said to me when he first learned my last name. “You’re Puerto Rican, you’re brown and you have a French last name?”
“What can I say? I didn’t choose it.”
“Do they even have Puerto Ricans in France?” he asked. “Do they even have brown people?”
“I’m sure they have a couple,” I said amused by his line of questioning. “I’m sure they have black people too.”
“That’s crazy, bro,” he said in disbelief. “Brown and black people in France?”
“I know, right?”
“That’s cool, bro. Your like a Puerto Rican French dude.”
I just let it go. It’s amazing the hassle a French last name can cause
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It’s Friday, May 10th, and it’s game three of the Heat vs Bulls playoff series. I’m thinking about the game all day–being that the dastardly Heat embarrassed the hell out of us a few nights before during their game two blowout of our boys.
Tip off was set for 7 p.m….
I couldn’t wait to watch the game.
If the previous two games were any indication of how the two sides were expected to play, it was going to be a real fight.
Our boys were playing that real rough-and-tumble basketball, that old school, beat-you-up style of ball. And I love that style.
I don’t own a television, so I met up with a friend and we went to a local bar to get some beer and wings, and watch the game.
I was pumped to watch the game; All my energy and attention were focused on watching this game.
Our boys were going to get the win, and I didn’t want to miss any bit of this game, which was no doubt going to be another rough battle.
So we sit down, put in our orders and wait for the game to start.
We’re talking about the game and how exciting it was going to be, when I hear this little, high-pitched voice behind me say: “I’m so excited about this game.”
The frequency and pitch of her voice makes me cringe. I think, ‘Dear God, that voice is annoying as hell.’
I brush it off and refocus on the game. The game starts and everyone in the bar is focused on the intense battle that is unfolding in front of our eyes.
Both sides are at each other, Noah sets the tone after getting a technical for shoving Andersen.
This game is really intensifying…. I love it.
“Go Bulls, you got this,” the annoyingly high-pitched voice squeals behind me as Belinelli drains a three.
Again, I cringe at the sound of it. ‘Shut the hell up,’ I think to myself as I try to forget about the annoying voice and focus on the game.
Butler gets called for a bullshit foul and everyone goes crazy in the bar. I’m besides my self. I’m screaming at the television, the black dude next to me is screaming at the television, the white boy next to him is screaming at the television.
It’s a complete bull shit call….
Then I hear it again, “What happened,” the squeaky voice says. “I don’t understand, why did he get a foul? That’s just horrible.”
I fight the urge to turn around and tell her to shut the hell up.
Our boys are getting a rough deal and the last thing I need is her annoying-ass voice in my ear.
But I play it cool….
My friend looks at me and I know we’re thinking the same thing: ‘Shut the hell up, asshole.’
Then the chants for defense at the stadium start to ring out. If you’ve ever been to a game you know the drill: “Defense. Clap-Clap. Defense. Clap-Clap.” And she starts cheering along in her squeaky voice.
And I’m thinking, ‘Chick, they can’t hear you in the stadium, you’re contributing nothing to the team. On the other hand, I can hear you loud and clear, and you’re driving me nuts.’
The games goes on, and we all know the result. It was disappointing to have lost that game the way we did.
But when I think about that day in the future, it’s the memory of squeaky voice that will bother me the most.
I got a call from a very energetic and nervous Benny Jay this morning.
“Hey, Benny,” I said. ”What’s up?”
“I don’t have time for your small talk bull shit,’ he said. “Do you own any Bulls gear?”
“What?” I said. “Why?”
“Fuck face, do you have anything?” he asked as if it were the most important question ever. “An old Jordan jersey, a jacket or shirt, anything with a Bulls logo?”
“I don’t know, I might.”
“Well check, asshole.”
I wasn’t sure why the hell Benny Jay was asking me if I had any Bulls gear, but it seemed important enough to him, whatever the reason.
“Alright, I’ll go check,” I said as I put the phone down to go check my closet.
After about a minute I picked up the phone and said: “Yeah.”
“Yeah, I have some gear.”
“What’d you got?”
“Uh… A couple of shirts and a warm up top,” I said as I looked at what I had in my hand. “Benny, you still haven’t told me what this is all about.”
“Put them on, right now.”
“What, all at once? No.”"
“Hey, asshole, my beloved Bulls tip off for Game 7 tonight and we need all the good vibes we can manage.”
“So you’re saying that by me putting on all this gear, that’ll help the Bulls win their Game 7 tonight?”
“Yes, it’s a little playoff juju,” he said. “Every little thing helps.”
“What are you wearing?” I asked, curious to see to what length he was willing to go to support the Bulls.
“I have a Pippen and Jordan jersey on, a Bulls shirt over that, a warm up jump suit, a Bulls cap and a pair of Jordans.”
“Jesus, Benny, that is a whole lot of gear,” I said.
“No such thing as overkill with this,” he said. “I even have the wife and kids done up the same way.”
“You really think it’ll help?”
“Oh, it’s going to work,” he said. “Now put that shit on and spread the word.”
What the hell? I don’t want to be the guy to blame for not doing his part.
Editor’s Note: Rolando is working his ass off in the ER this weekend, so we’re rerunning this old post. He’ll be back next week.
I’m a damn fine looking man. I’m not afraid to admit it.
I know, I know, you’re proba bly thinking to yourself, ‘Who’s this conceited prick?’
Let me stop you right there, people.
I say this not as a means to inflate my ego, but, rather, as a simple statement of truth.
I look good.
I really do.
And the ladies, well, they love me. They think I’m hot. They want my BB ( for those of who don’t know, that means bedroom body.)
Now I’m not against some of the attention the ladies lavish on me, but sometimes it gets a little out of hand and a bit awkward.
Now take, for example, the attention I get at work. It’s common knowledge among my ER coworkers that I do really well with the 70 and older crowd.
They’re some of my biggest adoring fans. I mean, if you’re older than 70, you love me.
Hands down, old ladies love my big, brown self.
And I’m ok with that. I mean, if my incredibly good looks can bring some joy to a dying old lady, so be it.
But sometimes my coworkers take advantage of the fact that old ladies love me.
Like the other day….
One of the nurses, we’ll call him Big Rob, called me into a room to help get a patient situated.
I go in and start to help undress this older Russian lady.
“Hello, mam,” Big Rob said as we both helped her into a gown, “This is Ro, he’s going to be taking care of you today.”
“Oi, can’t breath,” the old lady said.
“It’s ok, mam. We’re going to help you with that, and after, Ro is going to give you a massage.”
“Oi, I like. Very nice,” she said as a huge smile crept up on her face.
“You like,” Big Rob said as he chuckled.
“Yes, boy very nice,” she said as she smiled at me sheepishly.
I can’t say for sure, but I’m pretty sure I turned red.
We finished what we had to do and got out of the room.
“You damn asshole,” I said as we prepared to go into the next patient’s room.
“What, baby?” Big Rob said, “I’m going to have you work for me. That’s how I’m going to strike it big.”
The day progressed and I forgot about the whole thing. Big Rob went home and the next shift came in.
Then one of the nurses told me to go help the lady out in one of the rooms. Her daughter was there and they were going to go home.
So I went into the room and sure enough, it’s the old Russian lady.
She said some shit in Russian to her daughter and her daughter flashed me that same sheepish smile.
“He massage me, boy very nice,” the old Russian lady said as she smiled at me.
I kind of chuckled and tried to get her into a wheel chair.
Then the daughter looked at me and said: “Very good. You make secrets on her?” and both of them begin to crack up like they knew a secret about me that no one else knew.
Now I don’t know what “Make secrets on her” meant, but it made me feel like a cheap whore.
But, again, if it made that old Russian lady’s day, I guess I can take one for the team.
Damn these good looks.
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I was messing around on the Internet earlier today when I realized that today is a holiday.
That’s right folks, it’s 420. Happy weed day.
Now some people might point out that 420 isn’t an official holiday, and if they mean to say that it isn’t a federally recognized holiday, then I guess they’re right.
But to millions of people in this country and around the world, today is a day for celebration. It’s a day for musical and cultural events. But more importantly, it’s a day to kick back, relax and enjoy life.
So be that as it is, I decided I was going to take the day off and celebrate.
I grabbed my phone and called Benny Jay to let him know that I was taking the day off on the count of it being a holiday.
“Hey Benny, I’m not coming in to work today,” I said. “Today’s a holiday.”
“The fuck you aren’t, fuck face. Today’s not a holiday.”
Convinced that he must have forgotten that today was indeed a holiday, I replied: “But it’s 420.”
“I don’t give a shit about that stoner bull shit,” he said. “I’m not giving you a day off so you can run around and get high and eat Doritos all day.”
“This is bull shit, Benny.”
“I don’t give a rat’s ass, get your ass to work,” he said as he hung up.
What could I do? The boss says get my ass to work, I get my ass to work.
But when I walked into our office, I noticed it was empty. I ran down the hall and took a peak into Milo’s office, nothing. Same for Benny Jay’s office.
I picked up my phone and called Benny Jay.
When he picked up all could hear was Milo laughing in the background and Benny Jay coughing up a lung.
When he finally stopped he muttered: “Yeah.”
“Benny, what the hell, man. I’m the only one here.”
In the background I could hear Milo ask, “Who is that?”
“It’s fuck face,” Benny said to Milo. “He’s bitching about being the only one at work today.”
“Well does he know it’s 420?” Milo said. “It’s a fucking holiday, man.”
“Yes! I know it’s 420,” I screamed. “Benny, I was the one that told you in the first place.”
“Whoa, fuck face, calm down, you’re blowing my vibe, man,” Benny said.
“Blowing your vibe? Are you high right now?”
“No, man, I’m just hanging with Milo, man.”
“Why are you using the word “man” so much now?”
In a whispered voice, I could hear as he turned to Milo and said: “Hey, man, you got any Doritos?”
“Unbelievable, did you just ask Milo for Doritos?”
He covered up the phone and said something to Milo that I couldn’t understand, then I heard them bust into laughter and the call went dead.
I guess I’m working today. I’ll just put on Peter Tosh’s Legalize It and get to writing.
Happy 420 to all.
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Mischief runs in my family’s genes. For some reason, there’s this underlying compulsion that exists in our nature that always has us trying to execute the perfect prank. The more shocking the prank, the better. It goes back at least three generations.
Take for example my grandma, my dad’s mom–we call her Lela.
When I was 10, she was visiting us and my parents decided that she would share our room. Me and my brother shared bunk beds. I slept on the top and my brother slept on the bottom. While she stayed with us, my brother slept on the floor and she slept on his bunk.
One night before we went to bed, we were laying in our beds, talking about something.
My brother had already fallen asleep and my grandmother was telling me a story.
All of a sudden, mid sentence, she stopped talking. I waited a few seconds for her to continue with the story.
So I waited some more.
So I sat up in bed and leaned over the side to look down at my grandma.
She was laying there, with her eyes closed, motionless.
“Lela,” I called down to her.
“Lela, are you ok?”
She didn’t respond. Hell, she didn’t even move. It was too dark to tell, but from where I was, it looked like she wasn’t even breathing.
Fear started to set in as the most horrific of thoughts started formulating in my head: “Was Lela dead?”
A knot formed in my stomach and throat as I quickly jumped off my bunk and moved in closer to look at her face.
She looked dead….
I wanted to scream for my parents but I couldn’t. Fear left me mute. All I could manage was a faint and trembling: “Lela, are you ok?”
‘Oh my God,’ I thought, ‘Lela is dead.’
I was almost in tears when she jumped up and let out a loud scream. I screamed like a frightened school girl and jumped back, stunned and terrified by my grandma’s passing and her miraculous resurrection.
Then she started laughing. I mean laughing so hard her tears were coming out. She laughed like it was the funniest thing she had ever seen. There I was, cowering on the floor, terrified because she had just played dead and scared the crap out of me, and she thought it was funny.
I got so mad that I jumped back on my bunk and pulled the sheets over my head and turned towards the wall.
I could still hear her giggling to her self for at least another 10 minutes before I fell asleep.
The next morning at breakfast she looked across the table at me and flashed me a mischievous smile.
I was still mad and I’m pretty sure I gave her a scowl.
She laughed as she went stiff, wrapped both her hands around her neck, stuck out her tongue, closed her eyes and played dead.
I was so angry that all I could manage to do was scream at her: “That’s not funny, Lela.”
She was in tears as she told my parents and my brother what happened the night before.
It took a while, but as I got older, and my very own mischievous nature began to develop, I grew to appreciate the mastery and artfulness it took to recognize and execute that prank.
A little more than a week has passed since my car was towed. During this past week, I’ve been able to calm myself down a bit and put the whole frustrating experience into perspective.
I’ve realized that I actually learned a lot from it.
It was a lesson on how some of the systems this city has put in place can create an environment where its residents–in my experience at the pound, disenfranchised and poor folks–are left with very few viable options to rectify a wrong.
What do I mean by this?
Ok, let’s say you get your car towed to one of the city’s pounds. And for my buddy Brucey boy’s sake (see the comment section of my last post), let’s just say you deserved it.
You now owe the City of Chicago $150 for the tow and $10 for one day storage fee. No negotiations, no payment plans, you pay or your car stays impounded.
Moving forward, the amount you owe the city will increase $10 a day for the first five, then it increases to $30 a day after that.
Let’s just forget about the daily storage fees for a second. That initial $160 fee is a lot of money to a lot of people.
During the 13 hours over two days I spent at the pound, person after person complained that they didn’t have the money to pay the fee to get their car released.
There were single mothers, old folks, some college students, your everyday blue collar workers–people, who for everyone of them, coming up with 160 bucks out of pocket was damn near impossible.
So you can see the problem this creates. If they can’t afford the 160 up front, what makes you think they’ll be able to pay the $200 after five days or the $470 after two weeks?
So many are left with these choices: Come up with the money to get your car out, or rack up fees until the city crushes your car and sells it for scrap. Oh, and by the way, you’ll still owe all the fees.
It’s a real messed up situation to be in, regardless of the reason you got into it in the first place.
As one of the guys I was standing in line with said it: “The city just pimps our assess. You get them their money or it’s yo ass.”
Faced with the reality of owing hundreds, if not thousands of dollars and still losing your car, some turned to an alternative method.
That alternative for some came in the form of hustlers who acted almost as their legal representatives.
They’d come in with the person who’s car was towed, fill out the paper work with them, ask or answer any questions. If needed, they’d provide their driver’s license with the paper work and act as if they were going to be driving the car home. Then they’d drive the car off the lot and hand over the keys to the vehicle’s owner.
I didn’t hear enough to figure out the financial agreement between them, but it was clear that the car owner owed them money.
I over heard one say, “You know you got to get me back on this quick. I ain’t fucking around.”
It’s probably safe to assume that these individuals aren’t doing it out of the kindness of their heart and I’m sure they aren’t charging reasonable interest rates either.
Who knows what the consequences for not paying these guys back are, but I’m sure it’s not having your name submitted to a collection agency.
But it shows to what extent people will go when they’re left with no choice.
Most people need their cars. It’s not a luxury, but a necessity for many.
But for this revenue hungry city, messing with someone’s livelihood by impounding their vehicles and charging exorbitant fees, whether the person can afford it or not, the end justifies the means.
The same goes for the hustlers, who profit off the city’s system at the people’s expense.
I guess you just have to chose between the lesser of two evils.