I hate working the fucking holidays. It’s always one shit show or another when I’m on. Never fails.
That one Thanksgiving morning with the Army Ranger that was visiting family on leave when he dropped dead while jogging along the path, the New Year’s Eve with the kid that walked into his brother’s room and found him hanging by his belt off his closet door knob–there’s always some shit.
Now it’s three in the morning on Christmas Day and nothing’s happened yet. A couple drunks trying to sleep it off somewhere warm, some psych patients and an occasional sickie have braved the cold and made it through our ER doors.
I wish the shit would happen already so we can get this night over with and I can go home and sleep.
Fuck, I’m tired. FUUUCCKK.
You can check the trauma room. Make sure everything is stocked. That’ll kill 30 mins. That leaves four hours to shift change. That’s forever in ER time.
Ok, that’s the paramedic radio, here it comes.
Twenty-two-year-old male, GSW to the head, has a pulse and blood pressure. Patient is intubated.
I get up, walk to the trauma bay, start my prep. Surgical eyewear, glove up, mask up and gown up. Untangle cardiac monitor cables, check and double check suction. Grab trauma shears.
Within a minute the room fills with other medical personnel–nurses, ER docs, trauma surgeons, x-ray techs, respiratory techs, medical students–everyone standing in their pre assigned spots, ready to work or observe.
Everyone is moving around quickly, yet controlled and with purpose.
Paramedics roll in an begin giving bedside report: “Doc, we got a twenty-two-year-old male, found down, shot in the back of the head in an alley, police say execution style, vitals are stable, he is intubated and we got a 18 gauge IV in his left arm.”
I set him up on the monitor, another ER tech shears his clothes off. His pressure is stable, his pulse elevated, he’s completely unresponsive. Nurses are drawing blood, starting other IVs and pushing fluids. Docs are doing trauma assessments, neurological exams. It’s an all out blitz to try and save this kid.
He’s got an entrance wound in the back of his head but not an exit wound, probably a small caliber weapon. And besides a pulse and pressure, he’s got nothing else. I hear one of the Docs say he’s not going to make it.
Look at you. You’re a kid. What the fuck are you doing here, eyes glassed over, laying on this cart, in this trauma bay, in the middle of the night on Christmas, with your brains all shot up? You’re fucked, kid.
Doc says get him over to CT for a head scan, we pack him up and roll him over, get him on the table and go into the control room.
Then the adrenaline starts to subside, and we’re in the CT control room looking at the kid from behind the glass, him looking like a normal 22-year-old getting a routine scan.
Fuuucckk I’m tired. What time is it? Four o’clock? Shit. Sheryl always loves to play holiday music on her little radio when she scans. It’s annoying as fuck… “It’s the most, wonderful time of the year….”
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Exactly one year ago, the fiancé and I made our first trip down to New Orleans. It was a switch up from our usual mid-winter Mexico trip. Good food, better music, it was an easy decision.
We hit the usual tourist traps, had our fair share of beignets and seafood. Typical shit. Then on a Sunday night, completely by chance, we ended up on Frenchman Street.
To those of you who don’t know, it’s a strip that has several music venues and restaurants that’s a little off the beaten path of your typical NOLA tourist to do list.
So we hit the block, have dinner at a little spot on the strip, and start bouncing in and out of the music spots.
A brass band, a jazz band, a rock band, and then, we walk into Blue Nile–and, Mykia Jovan.
There’s, maybe, 12 people in the room–a drummer, bass player and a dude on the keys.
And from the stage, behind a microphone, there’s this young black woman. And she’s singing. No, she’s bearing her soul.
And we sit, and witness.
And we’re speechless. We’re, both of us, sitting in silence, and watching and listening as this woman, this force, sings her song.
It was a new one she was singing, the band hadn’t worked it out yet. “Forgive us, ya’ll, we’re still trying to figure it out.”
A year later, we’re back in NOLA, doing our same shit, eating great food and checking out great bands. I’m pissed off at myself because we missed the great Kermit Ruffins who was performing on Frenchman Street on a Saturday night.
But Sunday night comes around and we head back to the Blue Nile and who is performing? This time to a packed house? Mykia Jovan.
Same set up, a drummer, a bass player, a dude on the keys–this time a dude on a sax.
And damn, sister is still killing it. We walked in mid-way through her set, and she’s doing a rendition of Robert Glasper’s “Afro blue” featuring Erykah Badu.
Same reaction on our part, we sit there, mesmerized, watching and listening to her sing her songs. Only this time it’s not as cozy of an audience, we don’t have her to ourselves, we’re sharing her with a crowd of drunken assholes who talk, laugh and scream as if she wasn’t up there doing her thing.
It was clear that they couldn’t recognize what they were witnessing–a true talent, an original voice, some shit you don’t hear everyday.
At one point, the fiancé turns to me and says, “She looks like she’s frustrated, like she’s annoyed.”
I didn’t pick up on it, but, of course, she was right. Mykia stood in front of the microphone and as politely as someone who was trying to perform in front of a group of assholes could, talked about her struggles performing, week after week, in front of such crowds.
She wasn’t complaining. No, it was more of a call for folks to appreciate people who give their lives to creating and sharing live music. A call for an appreciation of artists. A call for a little respect from those in the crowd, for those who dare to be on stage, for our sake.
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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.
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FUUUUUCCCKKKK, I’m tired. What time is it? It’s gotta be at least three. No, maybe it’s four. If it’s four, that’ll mean four more hours to go. I can manage four more hours of being this tired.
One o’clock? Only fucking one o’clock? I’m not going to make it. I’ll die before morning. They’ll walk into this EKG room and find me slumped over in this chair, face down on this keyboard—death by sleepiness they’ll call it.
‘He was a good man. A young man.’
‘It’s a shame how he passed.’
‘How’d he go again?’
‘From lack of sleep.’
Ok, get up and wipe down the cart and EKG machine again. Do something. Anything. Can’t fall asleep. You just got this job. Can’t fuck it up. Cart and EKG machine are clean. What next? What next….
I can’t be in this tiny ass room anymore. Feels like the walls are closing in on me.
Damn, I’m so tired.
Stop being a baby. There are worse things that you could be doing right now than making money. So it’s a little slow tonight and you’re tired. Get over it.
I know. Write your blog post. Yes! I’ll write my post. That’ll kill some time. At least an hour or two.
I’m writing my post….
Yeah, this is good. I’m writing this am I’m not tired anymore. Good shit here, writing this post….
God I’m still tired. Still fucking tired.
Only 15 minutes have passed? Shit! SHHHIITTTTT!
I know, I’ll wipe the cart and EKG machine down again. That’ll kill some time…
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We had just finished hiking up a mountain, and were feeling pretty good about ourselves.
We had spent about an hour on the mountain’s peak, taking in the breath-taking views, drinking the celebratory bottle of wine we brought along and generally feeling good about the day’s accomplishments.
After, the group of us, which included a close friend and his girlfriend, began to make the hike back down the mountain.
Fifteen minutes into our descent, we ran into a couple of hikers who were making their way up the mountain.
We exchanged a few words and wished each other well and continued on our way.
We got about hundred feet away from them when one of the hikers called out to us from up the trail: “At the fork in the road at the end of the trail, take a right. The left side has a bunch of houses with crazy dogs.”
“Thanks,” I yelled back as we continued on our way.
We kept on and a couple hours later, we reached the fork in the road. The hiker had said to take the right, but it was more of the same, rocky trail that continued to wind down the mountain. The left side was a paved road lined by very large, expensive-looking houses.
“I say we go left, guys,” I said. “We’ve been hiking half the day on this mountain and still have another hour to go. A paved road will be a lot easier on the body.”
“What about the dogs?” my friend’s girlfriend asked. “The guy said go right.”
“Look at those huge-ass houses. There aren’t going to be any rabid dogs roaming around on the road trying to eat us,” I said. “I’m tired, let’s go left.”
We were all tired, so nobody put up much of a fight.
We made our way down the paved road and past the houses. Some of them had locked steel gates with dogs behind them.
The dogs barked as we passed by, it was a little nerve wrecking at first, but we didn’t seem to be in any real danger.
“You see,” I said, confident that the hiker who warned us had overreacted. “The dogs are locked up and are probably used to protect the houses from burglars.”
We kept on down the road. The dogs kept barking, but none of them posed a threat. After 30 minutes of this, we became fairly confident that we weren’t going to be killed by crazy dogs.
We got about 20 minutes away from the end of our hike when we came across a house with this janky-looking gate that had this huge German Shepard. The damn thing was going ape shit. I mean, really trying to get at us.
He kept slamming against the gate. It was loosely held together by a chain that allowed his head to stick out between the gates all the way to his neck, as he tried to get free.
All the confidence we had built up over our last 40 minutes of hiking drained from our bodies.
“Shit, bro,” my friend said as he moved away from the dog to the far-side of the road, dragging his girlfriend with him. “That dog is trying to get at us like he hasn’t had anything to eat in a long time.”
“Man that’s a damn beast of a dog,” I said. “Let’s get the hell out of here before that fucker gets free.”
We moved ahead, my friend and his girlfriend trailing just behind me, when all of a sudden, the prankster in me struck.
I looked back at my friend and his girlfriend, they looked terrified as the dog continued to slam against the gate, but they kept moving, not turning to look at the dog, but choosing to move as quickly as possible away from the thing.
I waited for the dog to slam against the gate again and then I turned and screamed: “Oh shit the fucking dog is loose. Run!”
I turned and started sprinting down the road while screaming: “Oh, fuck. Oh, fuck. That fucker is coming.”
After about 30 feet, I stopped and turned to see if it had worked.
And damn did it work. Both my friend and his girlfriend were sprinting down the road with looks of complete horror on their faces. I’m talking, ‘Oh my god I’m going to die’ looks.
But that wasn’t the best part. The best part was the move my friend pulled on his girlfriend.
They were side-by-side for most of the sprint, until my friend pulled what is called a swim move.
In a swooping motion, he swung his right hand across her chest and swept her back, creating about two feet of separation between them, and kept on running.
It wasn’t until he ran past me that he realized what was going on.
“You motha fucka,” he screamed as he struggled to catch his breath. “You think that’s funny?”
“What, man?” I said, doubled over with laughter. “It was just a joke. Nothing bad happened.”
“You’re an asshole,” he said as a slight grin appeared on his face, which promptly disappeared when his girlfriend caught up.
“I can’t believe you,” she roared. “You pushed me behind so you could get away.”
“Babe, but the dog wasn’t even chasing us. Rolando was just fucking around.”
“You didn’t know that until after you left me behind for dog bait….”
They argued the rest of the way down the mountain.
It was a bit of a dick move, I admit that, but it was funny as hell.
And they ended up getting over it, anyway.
So it all ended well.
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I grew up in a fairly conservative Christian home. And part of growing up that way, included two, three hour-church services on Sundays, a two-hour service on Tuesday nights and the occasional all night prayer vigil at the church on a Friday.
I know what you may be thinking, that’s a whole lot of Jesus.
But as a kid, it wasn’t too bad. All my childhood friends went to my church. So we’d always had a chance to hang out. In between Sunday services, my dad almost always took us out to our favorite Mexican restaurant or our favorite pizza joint.
The church services were long, and as a kid, I almost never had the attention span to pay attention to an hour-long sermon–never mind that it was mostly in Spanish.
There was also the confusion caused by not being able to take part in most of the activities my friends out side of our church took part in.
And the nagging fear of potentially coming home one day and my entire family having been lifted up to heaven in the rapture and me being left behind in the apocalypse because of my sins–heavy shit to wrap my head around as an 11 year old.
No, that wasn’t too bad to deal with.
What really did me in, the thing that made me question the meaning of life, the thing that had the longest lasting psychologically damaging effect was our Sunday morning wake up call.
Every Sunday morning, I’d be deep asleep, dreaming the dreams that sweet, innocent, Puerto Rican children dream, when the door to my bedroom would burst open–Boom!!!– and standing at the door way was my dad.
“Time for church, boy. Get up.”
“Huh?” I’d ask, still half asleep. “Ok, pa.”
My dad would disappear and, inevitably, I’d fall back asleep.
Few minutes later–Boom!!!
“Huh, huh, I’m up.”
“It’s Sunday, that means it’s God’s day. Get up.”
“I’m up. It’s God’s day, I’m up.”
My dad would leave and once again, I’d go back to sleep.
Now the first two rude awakenings were bad enough, but this last and final move my dad would make, was torture.
Again, the door would blast open, and again my dad would be standing in the door way, but this time he’d have Christian contemporary music blasting from the stereo in the living room, and he’d be singing–scream singing, really–“RISE AND SHINE AND GIVE GOD THE GLORY, GLORY. RISE AND SHINE AND GIVE GOD THE GLORY, GLORY. RISE AND SHINE AND, GIVE GOD THE GLORY, GLORY. CHILDREN OF THE LORD.”
He’d do it over and over until I finally jumped out of bed and stomped my way to the shower to get ready for the day, all the while muttering, “I’m up, It’s God’s day, I’m up.”
Until this day I cringe when I think about those Sunday mornings. And every once in a while on a Sunday morning, even if I don’t have to be up for anything, I’ll wake up in a cold sweat, and mutter, “I’m up. It’s God’s day, I’m up.”
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-Where you headed?
–I finna go over by Mike’s and them house over there right off the Jarvis stop.
-What you gonna do over there?
-Can I come with?
–You know damn well Mike and them don’t fuck with yo dumb ass.
-Well fuck ‘em anyway. I’m on my own shit.
–Yeah? What you finna do?
-I got me this here pint of Cognac and a fresh pack of Newports. I’m going to the crib and get it right tonight, baby.
–You got you some Newports and some yak?
-Best believe I do, baby.
–Can I get a square off you then?
-Nope, can’t even do it. But I’ll sell you one for 75 cent.
–See, that’s why nobody wanna fuck with yo ass. You too god damn cheap.
-I tell you what. Why don’t you come over the crib and you can get more than a square. You can get some of this bottle and a little bit of some break you off right delight.
–Fool, you done lost your damn mind? Ain’t all the Newports or yak in the world gonna make me go home with you.
-I’ll treat you right, baby.
–You’ll treat me dead. I’d have to kill myself if I ever laid down with yo scrawny, dirty, no front teeth having, ass.
-It’s all the same to me, baby. I’mma get mines with or with out you. This my stop. See ya later, baby.
– Last chance, baby. We can… Turn off the lights, and light a candle. Tonight I’m in a romantic mood….
–Boy, take yo dumb ass on.
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