Rolando: Rich People Food

May 27th, 2017

When we were younger we’d always hang out over at the Oglesby Monument which stands on a hill next to the North Pond, in a park just west of Diversy Harbor.

We liked the place because it was on a pond and it had a good view of the downtown skyline and when we did the things that teenagers do on warm summer nights, the reflection of the downtown skyline on the pond’s surface added a trippy, surreal element to the hangout.

There was also the added benefit of being up on a hill with a 360 degrees view of the surrounding area. It was almost always after park hours when we were up there and it helped that we could see the cops coming and scurry down the other side of the hill and out of the park.

I spent a lot of time on that hill, staring up into the evening skies, thinking about life, or just zoned out, not thinking about anything at all, feeling the city whirl around me.

There were other times where my mind would head down this weird path and I would become obsessed with this little restaurant at the base of the hill that overlooks the pond: North Pond.

It looked like a fancy joint from the outside, looked expensive, I don’t know what made me think that, maybe it was the lack of signage and that it was tucked away and hidden from the rest of the city.

It was like a secret, ‘A rich people secret,’ I would think. ‘The kind that only rich people can enjoy. And definitely didn’t want to share with my broke ass.’

I’d hike down the hill and peer into the restaurant’s windows, trying to take in as much as I could about the place.

‘I wonder what kind of food they serve in there? What do rich people eat?’

I knew Puerto Rican food. I knew there was Italian and Mexican and Chinese food. I wasn’t so sure about rich people food.

‘I’m going to eat here one day,’ I’d say to myself. ‘Probably not ever going to be rich people rich enough, but I’m going to eat here, somehow.’

“I’m going to eat there one day,” I’d say to my buddies as I hiked back up the hill.

“Yeah, and we’re going to be the kings of the world,” the smart asses would say.

Fast forward 17 years…

I never thought about the place again. Life happened. I grew up, had other food related experiences, travelled to other countries.

About a month ago the wife and I are in the car and we pass the hill, the old hangout. And I mentioned in passing how as a kid I always swore I’d eat at the North Pond place one day.

Being the amazing and thoughtful woman that she is, a few weeks later, she surprised me for my 35th birthday with a dinner at the rich people spot.

It was a great experience. Of course because the food was amazing and fresh and something entirely different than what I am used to.

But also because of the memories it brought back of my late teens, those years where I spent so much time dreaming about many of the things that I have been able to experience in the nearly two decades that have passed since those times spent staring at the city’s nighttime sky or peering into those windows.

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Rolando: Old Lady Talk

May 20th, 2017

Ask anyone, I love a person who can really curse.

There’s something about a person that can string a set of carefully chosen curse words together that really cracks me up.

I work in an ER that serves an elderly population, so I get my kicks from the large amount of old male veterans from WWII that come to our ER. They can curse with the best of them. It’s truly a delight.

But they aren’t the ones that make me laugh the hardest. No, it’s their female counterparts that really get me cracking up.

Why?

Well, it’s because it’s funny as hell to hear these women, many of them in their 80’s or 90’s, sound off like  fouled-mouth soldiers.

And, man, do they sound off….

Ms. Feinberg gave me an earful the other day when she realized that she wouldn’t be getting the MRI her doctor sent her to the ER for: “Well why did that sizzle dick, som-of-a-bitch tell me that before I got here?”

“I don’t know, mam,” I said, holding back my laughter.

“Don’t give me that mam shit, you and that damned sissy can kiss my ass, fuckers.”

“Well, we don’t normally do MRIs in the ER, it’s not an emergency procedure,” I said.”

“Well, fuck you very much,” she said.

I damned near fell over with laughter.

Thank you, old lady, for the laughs….

Ms. Jenkins came at me from a whole other angle.

“You married, son?” she asked.

“No, mam,” I replied.

” Good, you’re young, get you as much poo-tang as you can.”

“What?”

“You heard me, boy,” she said, “Get you as much ass as you can while you’re single.”

“Ok.”

“Then lock it down after you’re married, cause that’s the only ass you’re going to get for the rest of your life.”

I wasn’t sure how to respond to that, so I just kind of agreed with her.

“Yes, mam, I will.”

“God damn right you will, you brown bastard.”

It’s weird, maybe because they come from a time where “ladies” weren’t allowed to speak like that publicly,  but they got their curse on somehow, and now, in their old age, they just let it fly with no regard.

And I love it….

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Rolando–Nursing Home Tales (We Got a Guy)

May 13th, 2017

-I don’t mean anything by it, but aren’t you too old to be driving, Nana?

-What, “too old?” I’m still breathing and walking. Why can’t I drive?

-Well, you’re going to be 80 this month, and your vision isn’t too great. I just figured it would be hard for you to take the driving test.

-Oh, I pass every time, no problem. We got a guy.

-What do you mean, “you got a guy?”

-We got guy–at the nursing home–that takes care of things.

-What things? What guy?

-Javier, the maintenance guy. He’s from Costa Rica. He’s a doll.

-Nana, what things does this Javier take care of?

-Just things, you know, stuff you need.

-Ok. Like?

-Like driving tests. Javier has a cousin at the DMV, that for a twenty spot, helps us memorize the eye chart and all the other stuff for the test.

-You cheat on the driving test?

-It’s not cheating. We all do it. Plus, I know I can drive. Been doing it for all my life.

-But you can barely see because of your bad eyes, Nana.

-Well, that’s another thing he helps with. Javier has a cousin that can get primo grass.

-Grass?

-Weed, honey. I think you kids call it that now. Javier’s other cousin gets us good pot. It helps me focus.

-Nana, I know what it is, I’m, just…you smoke weed? This guy’s getting you weed, too?

-Yeah. I’m old and I’m in a nursing home. Why the hell not? What else am I going to do?

-I don’t know, not smoke weed and cheat on driver license exams cause it’s illegal?

-Yeah, no. You survive to a certain age and you kind of get to do what the hell you want. I earned it. Besides, I’m not hurting anyone, and who’s going to stop an old lady from smoking a little pot and taking a cruise in my car?

-The cops?

-Them? I hit them with the old, “I’m old enough to be your grandma. Of course I’m not under the influence of marijuana, officer.” and they let me be.

-And that works?

-Oh, it works. If not, I call Javier and he’s got another cousin who’s a cop and can get me off.

-Seems like this Javier can get things done.

-Like I said, we got a guy.

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Rolando: That Ain’t How You Say It

May 6th, 2017

We’re sitting around work the other day, bored, chatting about nothing in particular, when we somehow stumble into a conversation about grammar.

Now everyone that I work with knows that I write. So they all expect me to be some expert on grammar. When the truth is, I’m no grammarian.

So every once and a while I like to play stupid.

“The plural of moose is moose,” one of my coworkers, Blue,  said.

“You sure?” I said jokingly. “It’s not mooses?”

“No, I’m sure. It’s moose.”

“I don’t know,” I said. “So you’d say, ‘There are ten moose in that forest?'”

“Yes.”

“Sounds wrong to me, but whatever.”

“Well I’m telling you, it’s moose.”

“How ’bout meese? If the plural of goose is geese, why isn’t the plural of moose, meese?”

“I don’t know, Rolando, it just isn’t. And you sound like a damn fool saying meese, anyway. Aren’t you a writer or something? Shouldn’t you know this stuff?”

“All I’m saying is that it sounds more consistent to say meese. Does that seem so far fetched being that we say geese?”

“You’re an idiot….”

“So I’m guessing you’re going to tell me the plural of fish is fish, not fishes?”

“Are you kidding me? What school did you go to? It is fish.”

“I’m pretty sure you’re wrong about that one. I’m almost positive it’s fishes.”

“Wow, you really are stupid.”

“Yeah, like, there’s a school of fishes.”

“I have no words for that, Rolando. I thought you were a serious writer.”

“I am.”

“Not writing like that, you sound like an idiot,” she said as she walked away in disbelief.

Truth is, I do think meese sounds a lot better. But again, I’m no grammarian.

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Rolando: Sunday Morning Torture

April 29th, 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: A Puerto Rican, Tacos and Blog Posts (The Boss is Watching)

April 22nd, 2017

Up top, I’ll clarify the title of this post: I’m the Puerto Rican, I love tacos and I occasionally write blog posts–The boss is watching part, I’ll explain that later.

The first three are things that typically don’t mean much together, and almost never intersect, but, today, this day that my Saturday blog post is due, along with the last part–the boss is watching–have some how magically formed the basis of what you’re reading right now.

So the easy part, both my folks were born on the island. So through birth, I’m of Puerto Rican ancestry. Simple enough.

The taco part, harder to explain–logically at least, anyway. It wasn’t the stuff mom was making at home when we were kids. And don’t get it twisted, the Puerto Rican fare my mom cooked is still some of my favorite stuff in the world to eat. Period.

But, tacos. I love them shits. Love them. When I was a kid, me and my crew of buddies would save our little dollars and order as many tacos we could pay for and have taco eating contests after Sunday services. Our boy Jorgie still holds the record.

To this day, I try and make it a point to eat tacos de carne asada, cilantro and onions only, with a little bit of lime,  one to two times a week.

The third part of the title, like the first, is simple enough: I write blog posts for this site. I have for quite some time now.

Now, “The boss is watching,” and how all those things have tied together to form this post?

Here it goes…

I’m being Puerto Rican today, and loving tacos, and half thinking about writing this post today–half thinking about it, I’m primarily thinking about getting some tacos for lunch.

So I head to my spot, Taqueria Traspasadas at the intersection where California and Elston meet. I’ve been going to this spot for well over a decade. They have amazing food, but are also famous for their black salsa.

I sit down at a booth, order my tacos and tuck into the complimentary cup of soup and noodles they give you before your meal.

Time passes, I’m eating my food, I’m staring out of the window at traffic passing by, I’m doing the same shit I do the thousand times before over the last decade that I’ve been coming to this joint. The last thing I’m thinking about is my post.

Only, this time, for some reason, I look up at a picture frame above my booth. What’s there, you might ask?

A cut out of a picture and article written by the Big Boss of The Third City, Benny Jay, and the Lovely Mrs. Benny Jay, sitting at the same booth I’m sitting at on this fine Saturday afternoon.

If that’s not a sign to get writing, I don’t know what is.

I sat there, being Puerto Rican, still loving tacos and being the occasional blog post writer, with the boss watching and immediately started writing this post on my phone.

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Rolando: Night Out With the Boys

April 15th, 2017

Things have been really stressful at work the last few weeks. I’ve been putting in long, hard hours and haven’t been really sleeping much.

I’ve been needing a way to blow off some steam.

So when Milo called me the last night and asked if I wanted to go out with him and Benny Jay to have some drinks, I jumped at the opportunity.

“Hey fuck face,” he said when I picked up the call, “You want to go and get hammered with me and Benny?”

“Sure, Milo,” I responded with complete delight.

“Good. Pick us up at my house in a half an hour.”

Excited for what was undoubtedly going to be a great night, I jumped in my car and headed over to Milo’s house.

When I pulled up to his house, Benny Jay and Milo were sitting on the porch knocking back a couple of 40s of Old English and smoking a joint.

“What’s up boys? Ready to get shit faced?” I said as I walked up to them.

“Quiet down, fuck face,” Milo said as he took a big hit of the joint.  “The Lovely Ms. Milo isn’t too happy about our outing and I don’t want her to come out here and give me shit about it.”

“Sorry, Milo.”

“Sorry my ass, let’s get the hell out of here.”

We walked to my car and hoped in. I found it a little strange that both Benny Jay and Milo sat in back.

“Why are both of you guys sitting in back?” I asked.

“Just drive, dick” Benny Jay said.

“Alright, where to? Swilligan’s?”

“Jack ass, that place has been closed for months,” Milo snapped back as he ashed his cigarette on the floor of my car. “Just head over to Johnny’s bar, you know, the one on Armitage.”

So I headed over to Johnny’s bar, find parking and we all get out my car and walked into the bar.

Milo ordered us up a round of Slivovitz and the next thing I know I’m waking up today on my sofa with a nasty hangover.

I tried to piece the events of the night before but couldn’t remember past that first round of Slivovitz.

So I called Milo to see if he could fill me in on what happened.

“What do you want, fuck face?” he said. “I’m hungover as shit.”

“Milo I can’t remembered what happened last night.”

“We got shit faced, what is there to remember?” he barked and hung up.

But as today moved on and my mind began to clear up, I slowly began remembering bits and pieces of the night.

I remember that at some point, Milo broke an empty bottle of Slivovitz over this guys head and threatened to cut his guts out because the guy said he didn’t like Serbs.

I remember driving down Ashland Ave and Benny Jay suddenly grabbing the wheel to turn in the direction of a Popeyes because he needed a fix.

I remember Benny Jay slipping into a fried chicken food coma in the back seat.

I remember dropping Milo off.

But I don’t remember dropping Benny off.

In fact, I’m pretty sure I went straight home after dropping Milo off.

Oh shit….

Benny Jay is probably still passed out from his fried chicken binge on my back seat.

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