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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-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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Rolando: The Time Grandma Died
MARCH 28TH, 2015
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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-The way you blew that guy off.
-I didn’t blow the guy off. I returned his iPod. That’s a damned noble thing to do. I could’ve kept it.
-Yeah but he tried to thank you and you practically shoved the poor guy to the floor.
-That’s cause he tried to go in for a hug. And I didn’t shove him. I just put my arm up to stop him like a stiff arm.
-The guy was just happy to get his iPod back. It was a genuine act of gratitude you damn caveman.
-A simple thank you would’ve been just fine. There’s no reason for us to embrace over a lost iPod.
-You’re unfit to live in a society. You don’t know how to behave like a normal human being. That was an asshole move.
-Hey, I’m pleasant as fuck. I just don’t go beyond a handshake with strangers. I know the guy 30 seconds and he already wants to touch chests? I’m good.
-It’s not just the touching thing. There’s also the way you avoid interacting with people in almost every social situation imaginable.
-So I don’t engage in conversations on the street with complete strangers. I would say that’s pretty normal.
-I’ve seen you pop in your earbuds in line at the grocery store so you don’t to talk to the checkout person.
-I’m there to buy food not have a discussion about how my or their day is going.
-Or how about the way you pretend to be reading something really engaging on your phone when you see someone you know on the L and don’t want to talk?
-That’s cause I usually am.
-Reading Joe Rogan tweets can’t be that captivating.
-What do you want me to say? So I’m not very sociable. That doesn’t mean I should be cast off to some penal colony for the antisocial
-No that would too easy for you. You’d be in heaven. I’d send to a place where every one is super friendly and talkative and happy. And where you can’t avoid people and every interaction begins and ends with a hug.
-Jesus that sounds like hell.
-Sure it does.
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I was a bizarre kid with a lot of weird ideas when I was growing up. And lately for some odd reason, I’ve been revisiting a lot of memories from my childhood and having a good laugh in the process.
I mean, the crazy shit that I used to think up. Most of it was based almost entirely on my own imagination, some of it was based on observations my young mind would make, but almost all of it–now that I look back as an adult–was hilarious.
Take, for example, my take on some of the differences between white folks and brown folks. I can remember clearly, at the age of seven or eight, believing that white people did not feel cold the same way brown people felt it.
I was convinced that white people didn’t feel cold on their legs or arms.
How did I come to this conclusion? Well, it was simple, really. We’d be in my dad’s car, driving down the street, and I’d see a white person, jogging, with shorts, a t-shirt and gloves and a skull cap on. In the middle of winter. Just bare arms and bare legs.
I saw this repeatedly. So I formed an opinion: White people’s arms and legs don’t get cold.
Or take for example my belief that, as a young, nine-year-old little league baseball player, if I were transported back to the twenties or thirties, I would be as good, if not better than the pro ball players of that era.
The Babe and all those old timers? I’d show them how to knock it out of the park. I’d run faster, hit harder, throw missiles from any position on the field–they’d have to rewrite the history books about this young Puerto Rican kid phenom who was killing the league.
How would I be able to do these things at the tender age of nine? Well clearly (in my mind) the human body had progressed so much in the intervening six or so decades, that a nine-year-old in the early nineties, was much stronger and a more capable athlete than someone from the twenties or thirties.
If only I could’ve gotten a fully-functioning time machine. I would’ve been a star.
The funny thing about all this is that I don’t remember at what age I stop believing these things or what it was that finally made me understand that things didn’t quite work that way.
They were just beliefs that I held true until they weren’t.
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So we’re hanging out one summer day in the back yard of my parents’ house, bored to death, trying to figure what we’re going to do with ourselves for the rest of the day.
Grade school had just let out, and my buddy, my little bro and myself were eager to get our summer started on some exciting adventure.
“Wanna go throw rocks at the bums over at the Blue Line stop on Pulaski?” my buddy asked.
“Nah… We did that yesterday,” I said. “Besides, that one bum that’s always there with the mohawk, he’s going to kill us if he sees us over there again.”
“Let’s go to the park,” my little brother chimed in.
“We’re not going to the park,” I said. “We wanna do something fun.”
“The park is fun,” my brother said. “We can mess around in the playground.”
“No it’s not,” my buddy said. “Well, I guess it is if you’re a little baby.”
“I’m not a baby….”
“I got it,” I said. “How ’bout we go steal some Chick O’ Sticks from the corner store?”
“That’s stupid,” both my brother and buddy said.
“Well what the hell are we going to do?” I asked, as if stealing Chick O’ Sticks was the best option.
“I’ll tell you what we can do,” my buddy said. “I’ve got this lighter, let’s go set shit on fire.”
“Yeah…Let’s set shit on fire.”
So we set out to set shit on fire. First it was little things, like a pile of twigs, or a stack of old newspapers we found in the alley.
Then we moved on to slightly larger things, like a card board box for a TV and a few plastic containers.
We delighted in each act of fiery destruction. We were appealing to our most caveman of instincts: Fire, good. Fire, warm. Fire, pretty.
With each thing we burned, we stood, watching, our little pyromaniac minds filled by the desire to want to burn something bigger, and better. Watch it burn to ashes. But all we had was the lighter, and the larger the object, the more difficult it was to set on fire with just the simple flame.
We came across a discarded kitchen cabinet. My buddy gave it a rip with the lighter, but it wouldn’t take.
Then I had an idea, an epiphany, really. We needed an accelerant.
“We need gas, or lighter fluid,” I said. “You know, to get the flames going.”
“Where the hell are we going to get that?” my buddy asked? “You got money to go buy some?”
“Nah, I’m broke.”
“We can use mom’s hairspray,” my brother said. “That’ll light on fire.”
“Yeah, yeah it will,” I said.
“You little genius,” my buddy added.
“Run inside and get it,” I said.
My little brother ran and got the spray and came back out to the alley where we had the kitchen cabinet.
We sprayed the cabinet all over with the hairspray and lit it with the lighter.
And, man, did the thing go up. But the hairspray wasn’t as flammable as we thought, and the fire soon died down with out completely burning the cabinet.
Disappointed by the results, we decided to give up on setting shit on fire, and returned to the backyard.
Bored once again, we tried to find ways to pass the time. We threw clumps of dirt at each other, took turns jumping the fence into the neighbor’s yard and doused each other with water from the garden hose.
Then, it hit me: Flame thrower.
“Give me the lighter,” I told my buddy.
“Just give it here.”
He tossed it to me and I ran and grabbed the hairspray and began to let out bursts of flames.
“It’s a flame thrower, guys.”
We all laughed and watched in awe as I let out burst after burst of flames into the air.
Then I got an idea, that at the time seemed like a good one: I began chasing my buddy and little brother as I shot bursts of flames at them.
It was fun and games at first. I chased my buddy for a while, then turned my attention to my brother. I chased him down the side walk and into the corner between the garage and the gate the led to the alley, which was closed.
My brother, never thinking to open the gate to make an escape down the alley, just sat there against the gate, trapped and cowering in fear.
I shot a burst towards him, thinking that it would be inches short, you know, enough to scare him, but not actually hit him.
Then I heard a sizzle and my brother scream out and saw a puff of smoke go up.
In my mind I thought, ‘Oh shit I just burned my brother, God is he ok?’
For a few seconds it was pure terror. I wasn’t sure how badly I had burned him. I was blinded by fear.
But then he screamed out, “You burned my hair you asshole.”
Then my thoughts turned to,’Oh shit, my parents are going to kick my ass.’
We spent the rest of the day trying to get the burn smell out of my little brother’s hair.
We tried washing his head repeatedly with the garden hose, went to my buddy’s house to get some hair gel to try and mask the smell, we even tried clipping some of the burnt ends off.
In the end, it wasn’t that bad, I had just burned the tips of hair on one side of his head.
And my parents never noticed. And my brother never ratted me out.
So, you know, I got away with it. That is, until my parents read this.
And then I’ll be writing next week about how a 32-year-old man got an ass whipping for something he did when he was 13.
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-You’re late, fucker. Your shift started 45 minutes ago.
-Wow, you’re real observant. What’s got you all twisted?
-Hey, it’s been a long, shitty shift. And it feels like it’s only getting busier.
-I saw three ambulances headed out on my way in. I’m sure they’ll be headed over here.
-Dude, it’s been like that all night. One after another.
-God, it’s going to be a long night.
-Sure the fuck is. So what the hell happened to you?
-I got stuck on the red line. Some asshole jumped the tracks and killed himself.
-I know. We were stuck for an hour while they scraped his ass off the tracks.
-Isn’t that annoying? Selfish fuck.
-I know. I mean, If you want to end it all, who am I to stop you? But do you gotta make me late for work in the process?
-You gotta admire the determination, though, right? Dude wasn’t playing around.
-Fuck yeah, you do.
-That’s not like all these attention seeking assholes we get that take a bunch of pills then call 911 crying, talking about ‘I want to kill myself.’
-Then they get brought to ED and they cry some more and say how they didn’t mean to hurt themselves.
-Nope, you’ve made up your mind once you commit and jump in front of a train.
-No turning back.
-That’s called going out with a bang.
-Oh man, you’re an asshole.
-What? I thought we agreed that the guy was an asshole.
-”Going out with a bang,” though?
-Alright, maybe that’s a little too much.
-What’d you bring for lunch?
-Steak and cheese sandwich.
-Let me get half.
-Fuck no I’m not giving you half. That’s the only thing I got to look forward to tonight.
-You really are an asshole.
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