-Best thing in the world….
-Die of a massive heart attack.
-It’s the best way to go–massive heart attack.
–How would you know?
-Well, hell, it’s got to be better than fucking cancer. I’m dying piece by miserable piece, instead of all in one bang.
–Why would you want that? It’s so sudden, you don’t even see it coming.
-Exactly. I don’t want to know about it or sit around thinking about it. Save all the bull shit and get it over with already.
–I get what you’re saying, but at least you get to take care of any loose ends and spend some time with your family. Get yourself right with the man upstairs. That’s got count for something.
-Fuck if it does. This is no way to go on living. The whole thing is twisted and fucked.
-And what’s with the man upstairs crap? You think any man, woman or thing up there gives a crap about me? If they did they would’ve killed me quick and called it day. Not this shit.
–People get spiritual when they’re facing the end, try and connect to a higher power. I just thought you might be in to that.
-There was this guy, a surgeon, on the news the other day. He slipped into a coma and was dying. While he was in the coma, he said he saw God. He ended up waking up from that coma. He never believed in God or in an after life before the coma, but after it, he believed.
–That wouldn’t be the first time that happened to someone or the last.
-Well I say good. Good for him. He believes. I’m happy that he does, but I don’t. I wish that I could, but I don’t. There’s nothing after this.
–You don’t know that for sure.
-Kid, as sure as this fucking cancer is eating away at my body, I know. You live, then you die and that’s it. Some lucky bastards get to go quicker then others.
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A week had passed since the whole swag incident happened, and things had returned to normal at our plush Michigan Ave offices.
Benny Jay was cooped up in his office, the smell of Popeyes fried chicken permeated from behind his closed door. You could hear the occasional snore as he slipped into a fried chicken coma, then the sound of a gasp for air as he snapped out of it.
Milo was back to verbally abusing interns for messing up the personal errands he had them run during business hours.
“Come here, you little prick,” I heard him scream as he chased one poor intern down the hall. “I said I wanted a pack of Bugler tobacco, not this American Spirit hippy bull shit.”
“I’m sorry, Milo…”
“You’re damn right, you’re sorry. You little chicken shit.”
And the staff, well, we were doing what we always do: work our asses off generating content for the site.
I was seated in my cubicle, banging away on my keyboard, trying to produce a Third City-caliber story, when I felt someone standing behind me.
I turned around and Benny Jay was standing at the entrance to my cubicle with a chicken wing in his right hand and a packet of Louisiana hot sauce in the other.
“So, how’s it going, fuck face?” he asked as he spread Louisiana hot sauce all over the wing.
“Hey, Benny,” I replied. “Uh, things are ok, I guess. Just working on this piece.”
“Ok, Ok… what’s it about?” he said as he bit into the chicken wing.
“Um, It’s set in a bar and you and Milo are drunk and you get into it over who has the best fried chicken. You say Popeyes and Milo says Church’s,” I said, hoping he would show some sign of interest.
“It’s a shit piece. Everyone knows Popeyes has the best fried chicken,” he said as he threw the remains of the chicken wing at my computer screen. “It’ll never get published. Trash it.”
Benny Jay stormed away and I sat at my desk and watched as the chicken wing stuck to the computer screen for a moment, then slowly slid down and fell onto my keyboard, leaving a streak of Louisiana hot sauce in its path.
‘Fucking, Benny,’ I thought, as I grabbed a tissue and cleaned my screen off. ‘He always is a wild card whenever he’s hopped up on fried chicken.’
I finished cleaning my computer screen, threw out the chewed-up chicken wing and got back to work.
About 15 minutes later I was clacking away again on my keyboard when I felt someone else was standing behind me.
I looked, and it was Milo this time.
“Hey,” he said as he knocked back a swig of booze. “You want to go out back and blaze one up?”
“Milo, I’m working, man. Plus, it’s 10 in the morning,” I said.
“Don’t tell me you’re one of those bastards,” he said as he knocked another one back.
“One of who?”
“You know, you know, one of those, ‘Oh, I don’t drink or rip bong hits cause it’s too early,’ fuckers.”
“We’re at work, Milo,” I said.
“Benny Jay is right: You are a fuck face.”
He took one last swig of the can of Pabst Blue Ribbon, crushed it on his forehead, and bounced it off my head.
I don’t know how your work place is, but like I said, things have returned to normal around here.
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“We’ve been waiting for for forty minutes for this god damn bus, I’m freezing my ass off.”
“Calm the hell down, it’s only been fifteen.”
“Fifteen minutes my ass. We’ve been out here so long I can’t feel my damn ears or my fingers.”
“Well who told your dumb ass to leave the crib without your hat and gloves?”
“I thought we were driving to the party. You told me we were going to ‘roll up to the party’–your words. I didn’t know that rolling up meant on the damn bus.”
“Well my sister needed to borrow my car for work. She’s working the night shift tonight and I didn’t want her to walk home in the morning.”
“Your sister could have taken her ass on the bus. It’s just work. How are we going to look? I’ll tell you, like two assholes rolling up to a party trying to snag some ladies with a couple of bus passes. How do you think that’s going to work out for us?”
“We’ll be just fine.”
“I’m not trying to be just fine. I’m trying to be just getting some.”
“What’s stopping you?”
“My frostbitten balls–fuck it’s cold out here.”
“Here, take a swig off this pint, It’ll warm you up.”
“It’s about time. That’s the first descent thing you’ve done all night. Pass that shit.”
“Man, I hope that red head is there tonight.”
“The short one, with the blue eyes and the sexy ass legs. You know, the one that can dance her ass off.”
“Oh, that one. That girl is fine as hell.”
“Man I’ve been wanting to get with that so bad, but I never have the balls to talk to her.”
“Why? I’m sure she wants you.”
“You think so?”
“Hell yeah. I can tell.”
“By the way she looks at you. The shit is so obvious.”
“Yeah, man. Don’t be a fool. Step to her tonight and just talk to her.”
“You think I should? I don’t know, I get nervous around her.”
“Just walk up to her, introduce yourself and talk to her, and if that fails, show her your fucking bus pass and see what that does for you chances.”
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I commute to work on my bicycle year round. Whether it’s cold and snowy, or rainy, or warm and sunny–I’m out there cruising along on my bike.
I consider myself to be a tough enough guy when it comes to handling bad weather. I was born and raised in Chicago, so inclement weather during winter is nothing new to me.
I always make sure I have the right cold-weather gear to help fight off the cold and I’m usually fine.
But damn this winter. I mean it’s really kicking my ass. Day after day of subzero temps. Forget the cold weather stuff I’m wearing, I need Antarctica gear out there.
And this shitty weather is really wearing on my resolve. I know my friends and family have been wondering this all along, but I’m starting to question if biking through this winter is a smart thing to do.
This self doubt reached its peak a few nights ago on my commute home. It was close to midnight when I left work and the temp was -1, with a windchill of-20.
I geared up with three layers, my snow boots, two pairs of gloves, a mask and a skull cap–only my eyes were exposed–popped in my earbuds and headed home.
The initial ten-minute period I allow for my body to warm up had came and went and instead of getting warmer as I usually do after that span of physical activity, I was getting colder.
After five more minutes had passed I began to feel a sharp stinging pain in both my hands and my feet. My eyelashes began to freeze together and I could feel the outside of my mask freezing up.
Five more painfully cold minutes passed and I reached a point in my ride home where I had to make a decision.
I could suck it up and ride the rest of the 30 minutes home, or change course and hop on a train.
I rode my ass over to the train stop with out a second thought.
When I arrived both my hands and feet felt like they were going to fall off. I got off my bike and made my way into the station. As I walked in, I noticed an older black woman, who was wrapped up like that kid in the Christmas Story, pointing at my face and saying something.
I couldn’t hear cause I still had my music playing, but she just kept pointing at my face and screaming.
I didn’t want to stop. I was too cold and wanted to get under those heater lamps they have at the stops to warm up. But the lady had a look on her face of pure concern.
So I stopped, took off one of my gloves and popped an earbud out so I could hear.
“What’d you say?” I asked.
“Yo face is frozen,” she said, still pointing at my face. “I mean, really frozen.”
I turned and looked at the window the station attendant sits behind and saw that my eyelashes and eyebrows had frost on them and my mask and skull cap had a sheet of ice on them.
When I finally made it home that night, I peeled off all my gear and sat on my sofa in the warmth of my apartment and thought: ‘I don’t know if I want to do this anymore.’
I was on my bike headed to work the next morning. I know, I must be some kind of crazy to be out there in that cold.
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She woke up the next day in an alcohol-induced daze. Immediately, all the anger and the rage and sadness and sorrow returned. It cut through her hangover as she lay in her bed, unable to move because of it all.
She slowly tried to to open her eyes. Crust lined the corners of her eye lids and her eyes were dry and they ached.
She could smell the whisky and beer coming through her pores and it disgusted her. The only thing that comforted her was the warmth of the sunlight that crept through her bedroom window.
She was too tired and hungover to move, so she stayed motionless, letting the sun warm her face.
After a few minutes, she looked out the window onto the street below through blood shot eyes. It was a cold January morning and apparently it had been snowing all night. Snow blanketed all the cars that lined both sides of Paulina Ave.
Her car was parked somewhere down there. She couldn’t remember where she had parked it, though. She couldn’t even remember driving home or at what time she left the neighborhood dive she was drinking at last night.
It was all a blur.
All she could remember from the night before was that she had been pacing back-and-forth in her apartment trying to find ways to keep her mind off it all.
After a short while she began to drink. She finished off what she had left of a bottle of whiskey, grabbed her car keys and drove down to the neighborhood bar and starting drinking double shots of whisky chased down with Old Style tall boys.
Then it all went black. It annoyed her that she couldn’t remember the entire night. She tried to, but couldn’t piece things together.
This was the fourth time that month she blacked out after a night of drinking. And with each time that she blacked out, her memories of the previous night became foggier.
It was a fact that troubled her in her sober moments, but she wasn’t sober, and she was currently preoccupied with the roaring hangover that she was experiencing, the nasty, acidic taste in her mouth, the comforting warmth of the sun and where the fuck she had parked her car.
After about an hour laying in bed and trying to remember the events of the previous night, she gave up and decided to go back to sleep.
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I’m pretty sure I know how I’m going to die. In fact, I’m almost certain not only do I know how I’ll die, but I also know how my coworkers in the ER are all going to die, as well.
Not from work-related stress. That’d be too easy.
I’m pretty sure an unsatisfied customer is going to do us all in by poisoning.
How’d I come to that conclusion you might be thinking?
Walk into our ER on a busy day and I guarantee you our folks our running around like crazy, trying to deal with various levels of ”emergencies” of which can include everything from someone who is genuinely sick and near death’s door, to a crazed psych patient, to someone who has had a cold for a day and hasn’t thought to take anything for it–all of which are demanding immediate attention.
We don’t have time for the simple things like bathroom breaks or lunches. So most of the time we’re running around with full bladders and empty stomachs trying deal with “emergencies”–both real and imagined–while trying to keep it all together.
This is where my theory comes in.
From time-to-time, food just shows up in our ER. I mean, not magically, but someone drops it off for the staff. Sometimes it’s a pizza, a tray of sandwiches, Chinese takeout–one minute we’re running around hungry and the next there’s food sitting in the middle of the nurses’ station and we’re all at it like a pack of wild wolves.
It usually starts off like this.
Someone will receive the food from a mysterious donor and place at the nurses’ station. Next, someone will open it up and eat some and spread the word that there’s food.
Then the mad swarm happens and within minutes we’re all happily munching away and wondering out loud who brought the food.
“God I was starving.”
“Yeah, me too.”
“Who ordered Jimmy John’s?”
“Fuck if I know, Tony said some guy dropped it off at the front desk and said to enjoy them.”
“I don’t know, some guy.”
“That’s strange…. Pass me another turkey sandwich.”
You see? That’s how they’ll get us. Now chances are it was the manager down at the sandwich shop trying to drum up some business by bringing over some free sampler sandwiches.
But who knows for sure?
Now up to this point no one has keeled over after eating free food that shows up at our door.
And if I’m being honest, no one probably ever will. But if you ever hear on the news that our entire ER staff was wiped out all at once, my bet is it was the free food.
Hell, at least we’ll all go out with full stomachs.
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Editor’s note: Thethirdcity editorial board has confirmed that Rolando is currently in hiding for fear of retaliation due to this thoroughly-reported and factual account of his childhood. His mother, aunt, grandmothers, and Pina have all put out a “Slap on Sight” order on him to all Puerto Rican women in the Chicagoland area. His chances of survival are slim. Our prayers are with him.
Being that I have old school Puerto Rican parents, I got whipped a lot as a child. Now, I know that is a touchy subject when it comes to parenting these days.
There are those out there who say hitting your child is wrong and it does more harm then good. They say you should try to reason with your children and talk things out.
To that I say: Try raising bad-ass Puerto Rican kids without smacking them around once and a while. Good luck. They’ll eat you alive.
Now it was common practice for our parents to discipline us by dishing out some form of spanking. It’s just how Ricans keep their children in line.
But each one of them had there own particular style and preference.
Take for example my parents.
My mom was a fan of the backhand. I remember when I was about nine-years-old. I was headed to little league practice when my mom told me to throw out the garbage.
To which I replied: “I don’t want to. You throw it out.” Or something like that.
Before I knew what hit me, my mom dished out a backhand across my face.
There was a loud smack and then stars. I became disorientated and scared. I should have let it go and thrown the garbage out.
But instead of taking a submissive position and doing what she told me, I postured up and gave her my meanest, “That didn’t hurt” face.
She reached as far back as she could and let a back hand fly that knocked me off my feet. I landed on my bed and didn’t wake up until six days later….
Will Smith has a similar technique to my Mom’s….
Now take my Grandmothers Lela and Mama. They have a technique that has been passed down from mother to daughter for centuries in Puerto Rico.
It took many, many years of hard work and dedication to perfect, but once they had it perfected, it became a deadly tool that terrorized all of us.
And of course, as tradition dictates, they also made sure to pass it down to our mothers.
The move was called the “Chancla Voladora,” or the flying flip-flop in English.
It was a tricky move because it started off with a backhand. If you were successfully able to avoid it by ducking and running away, then the second and most severe phase of the move took place. Just as you thought you had escaped a beating, it then turned into a long distance chancla slap.
My Cousin Pito, the oldest of all my cousins, fell victim to this technique the most.
He recently shared his memories of his experiences of the flying flip-flop technique with me.
“Cuz, they’d swing at me and I’d duck and run,” he said. “I mean, I’d book it down the street laughing cause I thought I got away. Then I’d hear this high-pitched whistle. Like a missile.”
“What was it?” I asked.
“It was my mom’s chancla headed right for my head,” he said. “I freaked out. I didn’t know what to do, so I sprinted and turned the corner and tried to avoid it.”
“Stop playing, bro. What happened then?”
“Cuz, the chancla turned the corner with me and slapped me right upside my head. I didn‘t wake up until six days later.”
That thing was like a heat seeking missile….
Now take my boy, Danny Blanco, a long-time friend. His mom, Pina, was fierce.
The woman is tiny, under five-feet, but she’d kick ass first and ask questions later.
Once, when we were younger, I witnessed her give Blanco a whipping that forever made me afraid of her.
We were walking down a street, headed to church, when Blanco did something to mess with his younger brother, Dimi.
Before any of us knew what was happening, Pina, had some how grabbed a branch from a tree, stripped it from its leaves and began whipping Blanco on his legs.
She worked that switch like a ninja with a sword and all Blanco could do was jump up and down, trying to avoid his mother’s fury.
When it was all said and done, Blanco didn’t wake up for six days….
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