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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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 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.
Benny Jay is probably still passed out from his fried chicken binge on my back seat.
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I have two very distinct sleeping disorders that should not exist in the same place.
First, I have trouble sleeping. It runs in my family. My dad has trouble sleeping, so does my brother.
I haven’t been diagnosed with insomnia. And I’m pretty sure that I’m not an insomniac, because it’s not that I never sleep. I do sleep. But very infrequently.
But I can go two days without getting one minute of sleep. I just lie in bed and stare at the ceiling while my mind races a million miles an hour.
You see, I think that’s part of the problem. I can’t shut my mind off.
I think about anything and everything, and one thought leads to another, which leads to another, and on and on….
It can really drive a person insane. Fortunately I’ve been able to stay on the right side of sanity up until this point (I’m sure several of my colleagues at The Third City would argue otherwise.)
Now, the sleepless nights are a pain in the ass. Drives me nuts. But that’s not the worse of it.
On the nights that I am able to fall asleep, I occasionally sleepwalk.
I fall asleep on my bed and wake up on my sofa. Doesn’t happen often, maybe once or twice a month.
But lately I’ve been ending up in some pretty weird situations.
About a month ago I fell asleep on my bed and when I woke up, I had some how managed to bring my pillow and blanket and tuck my self into my bathtub.
I thought I was dreaming but when I felt the pain in my neck from having had it bent in an awkward position for god knows how long, I realized it was for real.
Two months ago I woke up in the hallway seated at the top of my stairs in nothing but my underwear and one sock. Fortunately it was 4 a.m. and I assume none of my neighbors saw me.
It really messes with my head because I’m thinking, ‘How the hell did I end up here?’ And of course I don’t know. There’s no way to know, I did it in my sleep.
It actually is adding to the sleepless nights because I’m afraid to fall asleep because I wonder how far it could go.
Will I attempt to climb out of an open window in my sleep? Try to get into my car and go for a drive? Knock on a neighbor’s door butt naked and ask for some brown sugar?
I don’t know what to do. But if any of you fine and noble readers of this here website see me walking down the street at some ungodly hour with my eyes close and mumbling gibberish, please put me in your cars and take me home. Because who knows what I’ll do the next time I sleepwalk.
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-Did you sleep last night?
-What do you mean did I sleep last night?
-I mean did you sleep alright?
-I woke up in the middle of the night, in the country side of Ireland, to an aggressive ass sheep, bahing like motherfucker.
-I didn’t hear anything.
-You didn’t hear the sheep, bahing like a belligerent asshole?
-No, I guess I slept through it.
-Slept through it… I’m pretty sure that sheep was being fucked last night and you slept through that?
-There are sheep across the road, they make noise at night.
-Well, there aren’t any sheep in Chicago, or Puerto Rico, so no, I didn’t sleep through the sheep getting fucked last night. That’s the type of thing that’ll wake me up.
-Alright, alright, so you didn’t sleep, stop being a baby about it. And, yes, you’re in Ireland, and there are sheep in the country side, deal with it. You’re here for the next week.
-I know I am. Doesn’t mean it isn’t weird for me.
-You flew all the way to Ireland to propose to me, don’t be an ass and freak out about a couple sheep out in the country. Embrace it.
-I’m good here, I’m just saying, it’s a little weird.
-It’s green and beautiful and we’re here together with my family, isn’t that what you wanted?
-Good. So tomorrow night, when you hear the sheep fucking, do like the rest of us country side Irish, and mind your own business and go to sleep.
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-What’s up man?
-I’m here, right?
-I know it.
-Let me get this shit show started. What’d you got?
-Room 12 needs blood cultures drawn…. 16 is a real asshole, but you need to get a urine sample for the Utox screen, doc won’t let him go until you get that…. 20 needs a post mold on his right hand…
-…Motherfucker did you do any work today?
-We were slammed, bro.
-Slammed my ass. I saw you bull shitting in the hallway with that one Asian transporter chic.
-I got her number, though.
-Must’ve took you all day with what little your ass got done.
-I got it, though.
-Fuck it. Tell me what else I gotta do to clean up your mess.
-That’s it, bro. Shit, you got time, you’re here all night. I don’t know why you’re bugging out. I’d clean your shit up if you needed me to.
-My bad, man. I’m fucking tired. I got home this morning and they’re doing construction on my block. I couldn’t sleep.
-Working nights is a bitch.
-Working nights is a bitch. Working nights in this ER, is a motherfucker.
-You going to pay my rent? You feeding me, too? Cause lord knows I can barely afford to do both with what we get paid.
-I know what’s up, bro. But it sounds nice, right? ‘Just quit.’
-It sure does.
–‘Just quit.’ Fuck it.
-On some, “Half Baked” shit, right?
-Yeah, “Fuck you, fuck you, you’re cool, fuck you, I quit.”
-No, straight up, how’d you do it, quit?
-I’d put some trauma sheers to my scrubs, cut the sleeves off my top and most of the legs on my pants, start there, walk around with some short, shorts scrub pants and sleeveless top.
-Knee-high socks with your short scrubs?
-There’s no other way.
-Then I’d make my rounds with the asshole frequent flyers that treat us like shit and freak them the fuck out.
-What about Mrs. Avers?
–‘Ma’am, I know you came into the ER tonight to have your chronic sniffle checked out, but we ran some extra tests and found that you have exactly one hour, nine minutes, 12 seconds to live due to a fatal sniffle disease called “People get colds in the winter time.” Yes, ma’am, I am a medical professional. Yes, ma’am, I am wearing short, shorts scrubs.’
–Yes, ma’am, turkey sandwiches are all we have in the ER. Yes, ma’am, I know that after your sixth one, it can kind of get disgusting. No, ma’am, we don’t have ham, so your seventh one will probably make you feel worse than your sixth one.
-What about Percy Hawkins?
–‘Mr. Hawkins, sir, Mr. Hawkins. Have you slept your hangover off? You feel better? Good. Get the fuck out, asshole. And yes, I’m wearing short, shorts scrubs.
-You are stupid.
-That’s how I’d do it.
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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 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.
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