Rolando: Sunday Morning Torture

July 22nd, 2017

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.

It was.

But as a kid, it wasn’t too bad. All my childhood friends went to my church. So we 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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Rolando: Puerto Rican TV Star

July 15th, 2017

It was Spring 1996 and I was sitting on a coach bus with twenty other kids in front of Newberry Math and Science Academy, ready to start our eighth grade class trip to Washington DC.

I was out of my mind. I was about to go on my first cross country trip without parents.

There were other firsts that trip, too, things that had a profound impact on me.

Like when my buddy, and bus mate, Pete, introduced me to the late great Cuban bassist, Israel “Cachao” Lopez. I listened to him on repeat all through Ohio. And that record shop in DC where, for the first time, I found and listened to a copy of Dizzy Gillespie’s, “Night in Tunisia” and my teacher had to physically pull me out of the shop because I was so entranced and delaying the tour.

And of course the experience of being in DC and seeing all the monuments and just being in a city I had never been to before–all memorable experiences.

Then there was, well, let’s just call her Nancy for the sake of anonymity.

On that trip, amongst the many other firsts that I experienced, at the wise and ripened old age of 13, Nancy became the “woman” that I was going to marry. My true and eternal love.

We had so much in common–so my 13 year old mind reasoned. Nancy is Puerto Rican. am Puerto Rican. Nancy is cute as hell. am sexy as hell. Nancy is on this trip. am on this trip, too!

That’s all I based the idea of our impending marriage on.

The problem was, Nancy and I were always friendly, but she never paid much attention to me beyond a “hello”  back in Chicago. And there was also that I was a chicken shit, too afraid to say anything to her.

One day about three days into the trip my bus mate sat down next to me and said, “Dude, dude, Nancy is back there with Gina and Lisa talking about how cute your are.”

“What?” I said. “Stop playing, bro.”

“I’m serious, bro. I went to the bathroom and could hear them.”

“Tell me exactly what she said.”

“I heard Lisa tell Nancy, “Don’t you think Ro cute?”And then Nancy said, “He is.” Then she said, “He reminds me of Eddie, right? With his hair.” And then they all laughed.”

“Eddie? I remind her of Eddie, with my hair? And why did they laugh?”

“That’s what she said, bro.”

I sat with that for a few hours as we travelled. ‘Eddie with my hair? Who is Eddie?’ 

Then it hit me. Eddie Torres the Puerto Rican detective in the TV show New York Undercover.

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Eddie Torres–originator of the Puerto Rican Duck Lips.

“Yo, she thinks I look like Eddie Torres, bro. The cop on that TV show.”

“Oh, shit, bro…. Wait, you look nothing like that dude. I mean, you’re both Puerto Rican, but that’s it.”

“Nah, that’s it bro. She likes me cause I got that star quality about me.”

The rest of the trip goes by and I don’t say a word to her. I’m just content that she thinks I’m cute, and that I remind her of a Puerto Rican TV star.

Finally, at a truck stop on the way home, I built up enough courage to talk to her.

I approached Nancy, who happened to be with Lisa.

“Hey, Nancy, you have a good trip?”

“Yeah, Ro. You?”

“Yeah. A real good trip.”

“That’s cool.”

“Yeah it is. Listen, I know you think I’m cute and all, and that I remind you of Eddie Torres from that TV show, I just wanted to tell you I think you’re cute too.”

“Oh, I….”

“What?”

“Who told you that?”

“Nah, I just know things and that’s cool that you feel that way. I mean he kind of does look like me, only a lot older.”

Then came another first, happily and at the same time cruelly  provided by Lisa.

“Boy, she don’t think you look like no Eddie Torres from the TV show, that man is fine,  you look like Eddie Munster with your Widow’s Peak.”

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“Eddie… with his hair”

‘Oh no. My Widow’s Peak. I’m not a sexy Puerto Rican TV star, I’m a Puerto Rican version of a black and white freak from a 60’s sitcom about monsters,’ I think as I try to figure  a way out.  

The best I could do was, “Well you’re both stupid. And prevalence of the Widow’s Peak in the male population in this country is less then 3%. So that’s makes me pretty unique, ok?”

Needless to say we never got married.

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Rolando: Bus Stop Chatter

July 8th, 2017

“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.”

“Which one?”

“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.”

“How?”

“By the way she looks at you. The shit is so obvious.”

“Really?”

“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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Rolando: The Red One

July 1st, 2017

We were all down in Mexico a few weeks back for our wedding shindig. All our friends and family, all of us having a good time and enjoying the tropical weather and change of scenery.

There were about 50 of us down at this resort in Cancun and everyday, groups of us would set up at the various spots in the resort and shuffle back and forth between each hang out spot through out the day.

Every evening, we’d meet for dinner at one of the restaurants, or for drinks at the bar and continue the hang out from earlier that day.

Now it was a mid-sized resort, so it didn’t take more than a day for most of us to be come familiar–at least by sight–with the other guests and staff at the resort.

It was kind of inevitable. Also, not a big deal or anything worth discussing. Tourists on vacation, nothing to talk about.

Except for this one guy.

By the end of day one, this guy had emerged as sort of a mythical figure that everyone in our group talked about. And almost everyone had some variation of the same response when they first talked about  him: ‘You see that red dude? What the fuck?’

The guy was this five foot five,  200-pound body builder dude that walked around with a NYPD hat and a tank top and shorts. He never smiled, he always could be seen in the same crew that include one other  guy and girl, and he always looked like he had somewhere to be, even when he was lying on the beach.

And by the time the first members of our group had arrived at the resort, and spotted him, he had already probably spent a few hours too many in the sun.

Better put, he was burned as shit.

And what made him a mythical figure, someone that caused us to speak in hush tones as he passed us on the beach or in the hotel lobby, was not the simple fact that he had a bad sun burn. It’s an all-inclusive resort in Mexico with a bunch of tourists over indulging in food, booze and beach activities, sunbathing included.

No, what made this guy stand out is that despite his already bright red burnt skin, he continued to sunbath–and, by some unexplained phenomenon, continue to get redder.

So much so, that we began referring to him only as, “The Red One.” And our conversations went from curiosity on why he felt the need to be out in the sun for so long to speculation on how he could survive it, to an overall concern for his well being.

Conversations would go like this:

“You see The Red One out on the beach this morning doing body weight squats?”

“Yeah, man, dude had a spaghetti strap tank top on, out there sweating his ass off.”

“You think he realizes how burned as shit he is?”

“I’m sure he doesn’t think he’s tanned at all. Why else would he be out there 10 hours a day in that Mexican sun?”

“Some one needs to tell him to cover up.

“At least he had some sunblock lotion on his nose.”

Or: “You see The Red One at the buffet this morning?

“Yeah, he likes his omelettes, huh?”

“Son of a bitch had three of them.”

“Eggs got vitamin d in ’em, right? That’s good for your skin. Maybe that’s why he can stay out in the sun so long.”

Or: “The Red One is purple now.”

“I hate to say it, but I’m pretty sure he’s going to die of sun poisoning.”

“There’s no way he doesn’t.”

“At least he went out having a good time.”

The rest of the trip went on pretty much the same. Hanging out on the beach or at the pool, meeting for dinner or drinks at night and a little The Red One talk spread throughout.

In the end, we all left and flew back to our respective homes. No one actually knows what became of The Red One, where he’s from, why he continued to sunbath, or if he ever made it out of Mexico alive.

I’m pretty sure once we all left Mexico, no one even cared.

But in my mind, though, I picture him still out on the beach walking around in all his burned and muscled glory, crushing omelettes and not giving a fuck about skin cancer. Long live The Red One.

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Rolando: To Hell With Wendy

June 24th, 2017

Last week I was riding home on my bike after hanging out at a friend’s house when I decided to stop over at a Wendy’s for a little late night snack.

I had a little to drink at my buddies, so the thought of munching on a juicy double stack burger and a junior bacon cheeseburger sounded just right.

I rolled onto the sidewalk and locked up my bike against a poll out in front of the Wendy’s.

I tried to open the door, but it was locked. I looked at my phone and it was 11:30 p.m. The restaurant was closed, but, lucky for me, the drive-thru was still open.

So, I unlocked my bike, hopped on, and rode up to the speaker and waited for them to take my order.

Five minutes went by and nothing….

“Hello,” I said into the speaker. “I’m trying to order some food.”

Still nothing….

Two cars pulled up behind me, waiting to place an order.

“Hey, you’re holding up traffic here. I”m ready to order.”

Still no response. So I decided to ride up to the first window and place my order there.

When I got to the first window, there was a short Mexican kid at the register.

“Hey, bro, I think your speaker system isn’t working,” I said. “Can I get a double stack and a junior….”

“I can’t serve you, sir,” the little bastard interrupted. “You’re not in a car.”

“What?”

“I’m sorry, that’s our policy.”

“That’s bullshit,” I said. “Money is money. Just get me a double stack and….”

“Sir, I can’t serve you if you’re not in a car.”

“Listen, man, just take my order and I’ll get my food and be out of here; There are people waiting behind me.”

All I wanted was a double stack….

He disappeared for a few seconds and returned with an even shorter Mexican lady who turned out to be the night shift supervisor.

“Sirrr, I’m ehsorry, but we cannot serve ju if ju are not een a carrr,” she said in a heavy Spanish accent.

“Lady, that doesn’t even make sense, you mean to tell me Wendy’s is willing to turn down money just because I’m in your drive-thru on a bicycle?”

“Jes.”

“Hey, I want a double stack and I’m not moving until you take my order,” I snapped. “All these people behind me are going to wait.”

Now, that was a bad move on several different levels.

First, let’s say some how by brute stubborn force, I had convinced them to actually serve me, it’s almost a sure bet that they would have done unspeakable things to my burgers before serving them to me.

Second,  they could have decided to just call the cops to get my stubborn, slightly more-than-buzzed ass out of there, which the little Mexican lady threatened to do.

She reached for a phone and said: “I’m going to call the policia pendejo.”

To which I responded as I pedaled away: “I just wanted a fucking double stack pendeja.”

I rode to the end of the block and stopped. I looked back at the Wendy’s sign, with that little red-headed, pig-tailed, freckled-face asshole smiling down at me.

That damn asshole was taunting me….

‘To hell with you Wendy,’ I thought. ‘You bastard.’

Damn, I wanted a double stack so badly, though.

Then I had a thought. I could roll up to the speaker again, hide in the bushes and ask the next car that rolled up to place an order for me and give them the money to pay for it.

It was a brilliant idea.

Luckily I was sober enough to give it a second thought, upon which I realized that a big, bald, brown man hiding in the bushes, asking for a favor, might be the type of situation that could get me arrested.

Left with a bitter taste in my mouth, I abandoned my hopes of eating a juicy double stack and rode home.

I made myself a plain ham sandwich and fell asleep with bitterness in my heart.

To hell with Wendy’s.

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Rolando: An ER Death

June 17th, 2017

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.

Nope….

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?

It’s simple.

Walk into our ER on a busy day and I guarantee you our folks are 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 it 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.”

“What guy?”

“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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Rolando: Help Yourself to a Handful

June 10th, 2017

“How’s it going, Ro?”

“I’m good.”

“You sure? You seem a little off.”

“No, I’m good, Stevie.”

“Alright. How was the ride in?”

“It was fine. Took the redline in. It’s Saturday night, so you already know it was packed with assholes.”

“Dude, I like not having to pay for parking when I take the train, but sometimes it’s worth paying the extra cash to avoid mixing in with the riff raff.”

“You’re right. I shouldn’t have been such a cheap ass and paid for parking tonight. So Stupid.”

“Dude, you sure you’re ok?”

“Listen, I’m going to tell you something.”

“Alright.”

“But you can’t tell anyone else.”

“Alright.”

“You just can’t…”

“…Jesus, dude, alright. Out with it already.”

“I’m pretty sure I got sexually assaulted on my way out of the subway station just now.”

“What do you mean by ‘sexually assaulted’ and by who?”

“I mean I got off the escalator at Chicago and State and started walking to work and got sexually assaulted.”

“What? Like someone attacked you on the street? Sexually assaulted how?”

“Stevie, I’m walking up Chicago towards Michigan Ave and someone grabs my ass.”

“Well, first, that’s not really a sexual assault. That’s some dude grabbing your ass as you walk by him…”

“…Whoa, who said it was a dude?”

“It wasn’t?”

“No, it was a girl.”

“You sure about that? That sounds like a perv dude thing to do.”

“I’m positive, I turned around and there was a group of girls walking past. Not a dude in sight.”

“You freakin’ kidding me? Was she hot?”

“I don’t know, I only saw her back. She had one of those long North Face coats girls wear and some knee-high boots on.”

“So let me get this straight, you’re walking to work and a girl, who may or may not have been hot–but probably was hot–grabbed your ass and you’re all bent out of shape about it? Get over it, already.”

“Stevie, it was an unwanted advance. I’m a gentleman. You can’t just go around grabbing my ass. And besides, I have a girlfriend. I’m sure she wouldn’t appreciate some random chic fondling me on the street.”

“Well did you tell her about it?”

“Yeah.”

“What’d she say?”

“She made some jokes about it and said, ‘You do have a nice butt.'”

“Ha! You see, even your girlfriend can see the humor in it.”

“Whatever, man. It’s creepy. And a double standard. And not funny.”

“Sensitive Nancy over here… I wish girls would grab my ass. I’d take it as a compliment.”

“Well I should’ve chased her down and slapped her on the ass.”

“Whoa, whoa, man. You can’t be doing that.”

“What? Why the hell not?”

“Cause that’s just creepy, and wrong and not funny at all. She’s a lady. You can’t be slapping a random lady’s ass.”

“You’re an asshole.”

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