When Benny Jay and Milo called me to tell me the news that they were sending me and one guest down to Mexico on the company’s dime for a job well done, well, let’s just say I was a little skeptical.
I was at home, clacking away at my keyboard, hard at work, when Benny Jay and Milo called.
“Hey, Fuck Face, it’s Benny. I got Milo on the line, too. Whatcha doing?”
“Hey, Benny, just hard at work banging out this week’s copy,” I said. “What’s up?”
“Nothing. Me and Milo been talking and we decided it’d be good if you got out of the country for a little while.”
“What? Why? Has Milo been using my name to place his bets at the bookies again…”
“Hey, asshole, that was once and you only had to spend a couple weeks in the wonderful and always pleasant, Gary, IN until I sorted things out for you,” Milo interrupted.
“Oh, yeah. I remember. Thanks for that, Milo.”
“No, no, nothing like that you ungrateful bastard,” Benny Jay said. “We’re talking about sending down to Mexico for a few days cause you been doing some solid work for us.”
“Are you serious? You’re not fucking with me, are you?”
“Nope. And bring that nice girlfriend of yours,” Milo added.
“Yeah,” Benny Jay said. “You know, the one that is way too good looking for you and obviously out of your league…”
“Ok, Benny. I know who you’re talking about. And I happen to think we’re evenly matched.”
“Whatever you say kid, you’re both going to Mexico,” Benny said. “The company car will be by to pick you up this Thursday to take you to the airport. We’ll call you with details about your return trip in a couple of days’”
“Well, shit, guys. Thanks.”
I called my girlfriend to tell her the news and she, like me, met it with skepticism. But, hell, a free trip to Mexico? Who’s going to turn that down?
The next thing we know we’re on a plane and then we’re in Mexico.
I’m talking sunny skies with warm weather and beautiful beaches.
And everything is great, only our trip is nearly over now and we haven’t heard from Benny or Milo. I’m not too worried about it. I know how the guys can be sometimes.
My girlfriend isn’t haven’t it, though. She’s knows how the guys can be, too.
“What’s going on with those motherfuckers?” She’s asks me one morning as we lounged on the beach. “Not that I’m complaining about my current situation, but this feels a lot like the time Milo used your name to place bets at the bookies and we had to stay in that shithole Gary for two weeks.”
“I don’t know if you looked around, babe, but this isn’t Gary.”
Secretly I had a feeling she was right but I didn’t want to admit it until I got word from Milo or Benny. Two days later Milo finally called: “Hey, bud, how ya doing down in sunny Mexico?”
I already knew where it was headed…
“So why don’t you and that lovely lady stay down there a couple more weeks…”
Damn it, Milo.
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Let me start this post off by saying, fuck cancer. It’s a miserable disease that often times takes those that don’t deserve to go, certainly not in the horrible manner that it plays its self out; With months, if not years, of suffering.
Let me follow up by saying that the folks in the ER I work in have lost one of the kindest, most compassionate, human beings we have known: Mary Margret Fisher.
She was our boss. The little lady with the white hair in charge. A lovely woman. One of the kindest souls I’ve ever met.
She would put her own personal problems behind to tend to ours. Never mind that she had just been through a shit storm of a chemo session, you had a personal problem? Come see her.
She would leave her office door open, an extended invitation for anyone to come in and off load their own bull shit, no matter how insignificant it was in comparison to her problems.
She cared. She cared.
She cared about her staff. She knew we were under constant stress, dealing with, but not always getting full support for the situations we were in.
She was, herself, a nurse. An ER nurse. She was our boss, but never went into the dark side of administration–that place where some go where they forget what it is to be on the front lines, the trenches.
And above all, she had our sense of humor.
I remember one of our first evaluations. It’s those things where the company mandates that its managers evaluates its employees on a yearly basis.
In most situations, it’s a serious thing. You were pulled into the office and forced to account for the previous year. What you did good, what you did bad.
I sat in her office. She had recently been promoted to ED manager. And, I, of course, was in a mood to test her, see if I could make her uncomfortable. (It’s a thing that I do, I like to make people squirm.)
You can’t fire me for being a smart ass, right?
So we go through the regular questions: What are my goals, what are my strengths and weaknesses, how do I plan to improve.
“So what would you say is one of the things that would be your strong suit,” she said as she looked at my file.
With out any hesitation, and with the intent to throw her off, I said: “My good looks. I believe my good looks and boyish charm is what I bring to the table. I’m a fine looking man and the nurses appreciate that.”
To which she replied: “Yeah, I don’t see it. You’re going to have to work on that. And, I’m a nurse, and you’re just an alright looking man.”
How can you not love that?
Rest in peace MMF.
I consider myself to be a pretty tough guy. I mean, I’m not wrestling gators for fun or any shit like that but I think I can hold my own. I like to consider myself a man’s man; I do my work, accept full responsibility for the good and the bad things that I do and try not to complain much.
Having put that out there, I recently had a couple of experiences that have called my toughness into question.
The first happened about two weeks ago.
I’m walking home down Thorndale after a long day at work. I have my earbuds in and I’m jamming to something intense, completely zoned out.
Now mind you, the stretch between Broadway and Clark on Thorndale is dark as shit. There are old trees that line both sides of the street, blocking out the street lamps. So I can’t see shit.
I’m marching along past one of the larger apartment buildings when I hit the corner and run into a little white woman about half my size.
“Oh, shit,” she screams as she damn near falls to the ground, absolutely paralyzed with fear. Her fear was almost immediately replaced with embarrassment for her reaction at the unexpected sight of a big, bald brown man harmlessly walking home.
My response? I was a bit startled.
Actually, if I’m being absolutely honest with the readers of this fine and reputable website, I let out a squeal like a little school girl at a haunted house.
Well, shit…. She scared me. It was late and I was zoned out jamming to my music and mentally on another planet. I didn’t expect to bump into anyone.
You might as well try to wake me from a nightmare or trance or whatever dream-like states you’re not supposed to wake folks from.
Whatever…. I punked out at the unexpected sight of a little white woman. Who cares?
The second event happened a week later. I’m walking to work and I stop at a light where I see a couple fire rigs rolling by that belong to the town I work in.
I was curious because three of our ER boys had recently made the cut and were in training.
As I look into one of the rigs, I see one of our guys sitting to the left , which made me happy.
Those boys worked their asses off to get on the department and it brought a genuine sense of joy to see one of them living out their dream.
So naturally, and enthusiastically, I smile and wave. Only, the fire rigs are moving so fast that our guy catches a brief glimpse of me and the guy seated on the right–who I didn’t know and had caught a full glimpse of my goofy ass smiling and waving–was left to wonder why a fully grown man was smiling and waving like a five year old boy who’s dreaming of being a firefighter one day as fire trucks steamed by.
All that was missing was for me to scream out while jumping up and down: “Yeeeeeaaaahhhhh!!!!!! Fire trucks!!!!Awesome!!!!!”
Anyway…. Just two of the many of my not so proudest moments as a man’s man.
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I was sitting at work, a day like any other, when Beth, a nurse, walked up to me and said: “Hey, Ro, can you help me clean and change room 22?”
“Yeah, no problem,” I said as we walked over to the room.
“It’s this cute little old black lady,” Beth said as we walked. “She’s 98-years-old.”
“Alright,” I said.
We got to the room and Beth opened up the door and we both walked in.
“Ms. Smith,” Beth said, “We’re going to clean you up and change you.”
“Ok,” Ms. Smith replied. “Oh, lord, who is this man right there? Handsome devil.”
“This is my friend, Ro,” Beth said as she giggled.
“Hi, Ms. Smith,” I said. “I’m going to help Beth change and clean you. We just have to take off these blankets and your depends.”
“For what, so you can get ready to come over here and lay on me?” she asked with a smirk on her face.
Beth’s nearly inaudible giggle turned to a full out laugh.
“No, Ms. Smith,” I said. “No one is going to be laying on anyone around here.”
“Well it’s a damn shame, I tell you, cause I’m ready.”
Beth and I both started laughing. We couldn’t help it. Was I really being propositioned by a 98-year-old lady for a booty call?
“Well I tell you what, when you ready to come get you some, you come see me,” she said as she began winking at me and blowing me kisses.
I guess that’s exactly what was happening.
“Ms. Smith, you’re going to get me in trouble. Beth here knows my girlfriend.”
“I don’t care. I got something for your girlfriend,” she said as she balled up fists in a boxing stance and starting throwing punches. “Pew, pew, pew, POW!”
At that point, Beth and I were practically in tears. Here’s this little old lady, old enough to be my great grandmother, and she was as feisty as could be.
Not only was she trying to “get some” but she was also willing to whip my girlfriend’s ass to get it.
We finished cleaning her up and I told her I was leaving.
To which she replied: “You know I’m just talking crazy.”
“I know Ms. Smith, it’s good to have a sense of humor. I’ll check on you later.”
“Ok, Big Daddy,” she said as I left the room with that same smirk on her face.
Time flew by, we got busy as hell, and I almost forgot about Ms. Smith. That is, until, Beth walked up to me with her own smirk on her face and asked: “Hey, do you want to take your girlfriend in 22 up to her room?”
“Why the hell not?”
I walked back to her room, opened the door and announced: “Ms. Smith, I’m here to take you up to your room.”
“Let’s go, daddy,” she said, smirking again. “You think we’ll have some alone time up there.”
“Probably not, but we’ll at least have the trip up together.”
“Fine by me.”
I packed her stuff on the cart and off we went. I turned left at the main hallway that connects our ER to the main hospital. It was mid afternoon so the hallway was packed with traffic. People going back-and-forth to the various parts of the hospital. No one really paying attention me or the little ball of energy that sat on the cart.
To be honest, I was surprised at how well she was behaving. I thought for sure she would act out in front of anyone who could be a potential audience for her nutty antics.
We got to the staff elevators and a few people were waiting to go up. Then she started again.
“Hey, mam,” she said to a young female transporter. “Ain’t he pretty? Tell me he ain’t pretty with that beard and that face.”
The poor woman, she had no idea what to say. I could tell she didn’t want to offend me or the old lady, so she said: “Yes. Yes he is pretty. With that beard and that face.”
Luckily the elevator arrived at the first floor and I got her in it as quickly as I could.
As we made our way up to the fourth floor of the hospital. Ms. Smith turned to me, smiled and said: “Baby, you know I’m just talking crazy, right? I’m old, and I don’t got much. No family, no friends. All I got me is some talking crazy to keep me from going crazy. Smile before I cry. You know what I’m telling you?”
“I get it, Ms. Smith,” I said. “I’ll take a laugh over a cry any day.”
Just then the doors opened and I pushed her out into the busy hallway.
“Lord or lord, I hope there’s some pretty men up here. Not that one, he’s too fat. But that one, yes, that one’ll do.”
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I freakin hate the holidays.
Ok, maybe hate is too strong a word. Let’s just say I really, really dislike them.
It’s nothing new. I’ve always disliked them. A season that is meant to be filled with joy and happiness, ends up, for me, being filled with angst and frustration.
The why doesn’t matter as much as that it does. It just does, people. And I can’t help it.
I’m known for not wanting to participate in office holiday parties, secret Santa gift exchanges, or anything of the sort.
But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that it isn’t always about what I want, and that there are people in my life who hold a very special place in their hearts for the holidays.
And, I need to be a man, suck it up and cut the scrooge act. Or at least make an attempt.
So over the last two years I’ve been trying. I’ve been putting more effort towards attending holiday parties, spending more effort and thought towards getting my family gifts and overall just trying to be less of a Grinch.
It’s been going alright. But, then, enter: Christmas Crackers.
If you don’t know what they are, don’t feel bad. I spent 31 years on this planet not knowing what they were myself.
My girlfriend’s mom is from across the pond and her mom’s family all have roots in England and Ireland. And they love Christmas. I mean love the hell out of it.
And apparently, a very English thing to do during Christmas is to open what are called Christmas Crackers.
I first learned about them last year as we were drove to her mom’s house for Christmas dinner.
“So my mom usually does a roast with gravy and different potato dishes and veggies for dinner,” she said as we drove up to the suburbs.
“Oh yeah, that sounds good,” I said.
“And there are gifts and tree gifts and she hands them out and we all open them together.”
“Oh, OK,” I said.
“And there’s Christmas Crackers.”
“What, like Christmas-themed cookies?”
“No, they’re cardboard tubes that twist off at the ends that pop when you pull them apart. They’re stuffed with a little trinket and a paper crown. You wear the crown during dinner.”
“I’m not wearing a paper crown while I eat dinner.”
“Why not? You have to.”
“I don’t and I won’t.”
“It’s our Christmas tradition.”
I sat there during the rest of the ride telling my self I wouldn’t do it. But then that part of me that’s trying to ditch the scrooge act, that part that’s realized that sometimes you have to suck it up to make your loved ones happy, came through.
So in the end, did I wear the damn thing? You bet your ass I did. Sat there eating a roast and taters with my paper crown.
Hell I even put it on again this last Christmas and took a picture with it on that’s now on Facebook. Look it up if you think I’m lying.
I still really, really dislike Christmas, though. But, hey, I’m trying.
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-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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When it comes to great fathers, my dad is probably as good as they come. He always worked his ass off to make sure his family had what we needed, and he always put our needs before his.
In raising my brother and me, my old man, who is also named Rolando, was tough but fair.
He didn’t put up with dishonesty or disrespect. He always made sure we respected him and our mother. If we didn’t, he was quick to discipline us.
It was this upbringing that shaped who we are as men today.
It’s safe to say that you could pretty much attribute any good qualities we have as a men to him, and if I do become a father, I plan to follow his example.
But there are certain aspects of his parenting methods that I won’t be using if I have children.
My dad is a sink or swim type of guy—literally.
When we were babies—around five or six—we’d always take a yearly summer trip to Florida. We’d go to the beach and Disney World and enjoy all that Florida had to offer.
Those were some of the most memorable moments of our childhood.
But mixed in with those good memories, are some traumatizing memories that still haunt us today.
My dad, who is an excellent swimmer, took it upon himself during these trips to teach his sons how to swim.
We would learn early and we would learn well — that was his theory.
Get in there, boy!
I’ll never forget it…
We were at the Days Inn in Clearwater, FL. I was around five-years-old. We woke up early that day cause my dad said we were going down to the pool to swim.
Excited by the thought of a day at the pool, I threw on my trunks, gathered my floaties and eagerly followed my old man as we made our way down to the pool.
It was a typical hot summer day and the other hotel guests were out enjoying the sun. Kids were jumping into the pool and splashing in the water.
I was eager to join in on the fun. I had my floaties around my arms and was ready to jump in when my dad called to me.
“Come here, son,” he said lovingly.
“I want to go play, daddy,” I said.
“You will, son, but come here first.”
I walked towards him and he picked me up, looked into my eyes and smiled a great big smile.
“I’m going to teach you how to swim today, son,” he said as he began removing one floatie from my arm.
I thought nothing of it.
“Alright, daddy,” I said.
He then removed the other floatie and started to walk towards the deep end of the pool.
I still thought nothing of it. He was my dad — surely, he would cause me no harm.
Now I swim like Michael Phelps….
When we got to the deep end, my dad said these now infamous words: “Son, today you will learn how to swim.”
Before I knew what was happening, I was six-feet in the air, free-falling into the deep end of the pool.
As I fell towards the clear blue water, it still hadn’t registered what was happening to me. It wasn’t until I came splashing down into the pool that the reality hit me.
My first reaction was to scream, which caused me to swallow water. I splashed and flailed my arms as I struggled to keep my head above water.
I can remember popping my head above water as I struggled to make it to the edge of the pool and seeing my dad with his arms crossed, standing there, screaming: “Swim or drown. Swim or drown, boy.”
When I finally made it to the edge and out of the pool, my dad, proud because I had “learned how to swim,” picked me up and tried to explain to me how “humans are actually born knowing how to swim and all we have to do is get past the fear of drowning to realize it.”
I was too hysterical. All I could do was cry and punch at him for throwing in to the pool.
For the rest of that trip I wouldn’t go near the pool unless my mom was present.
More than twenty years later, my dad remains unapologetic for his unusual teaching method.
Whenever it comes up during family dinners he always says: “Let me ask you a question — do you know how to swim?”
To which I can only respond: “Yes.”
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