“I can’t find it.”
“Can’t find what?”
“Damn son of a bitch, my shit’s missing.”
“Don’t start this shit, Ron. It’s time to go.”
“My eye patch. Where the hell is my eye patch?”
“What eye patch, Ron?”
“My eye patch, mother fucker. I had an eye patch with my shit. Now it’s gone.”
“Ron, everything you came in with is in this bag, so cut the shit.”
“Not my eye patch. The shit’s not here.”
“Why the hell do you have an eye patch for?”
“Cause I do.”
“Come on, Ron, it’s time to go. You’ve been here all night, we’ve let you sleep, now you have to go. Stop stalling.”
“I ain’t stalling, I want my patch. Hell, you probably stole my shit.”
“Me? Me? Ron, I have two functioning eyes. Why the hell would I steal an eye patch?”
“Cause you’re a dirty, no good thief.”
“Ron, you have two functioning eyes, so why the hell do you have an eye patch anyway?”
“Cause I do, asshole. Now give it here and I’ll be on my way.”
“Alright, Ron. Enough. Get out, or I’ll call security to get you out.”
“You’re one rotten mother fucker. Alright. Alright. I’m leaving. But if I see you on the street with my patch, I’m whipping your ass.”
“Good enough, Ron. I’ll take that chance.”
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I’m fucking tired.
It’s late and the end of a long day of work and an even longer week and I just want to go home.
I’m waiting at the Howard Terminal for the #22 Clark bus, looking around at the madness that’s playing out all around me.
A steady stream of junkies make their way back and forth between a couple dudes standing in the tunnel that leads to the terminal and then back out to Howard Street.
Each time there’s a quick handshake with the first guy and then a quick exchange with another dude who’s further up the tunnel.
Across Paulina Street, a woman is pacing back and forth, having an argument with herself about who finished the last of the cognac.
And all around me people are moving quickly trying to make it to work or home or whever the hell people go to at midnight on a Saturday night.
Then I hear, “Say, big brother.”
I turn to the left and this guy in a shirt and basketball shorts with sandals and socks on is standing there, smiling at me.
Right away I know he’s on a hustle. That’d be the only reason why a much bigger and older guy would start off a conversation with that phrase. He’s trying to soften me up for the pitch.
“What’s up, bro?”
“Can I ask you a question, big brother?”
“Do you love The Constitution of these United States?”
I stare at him for minute, trying to find his angle. He has to be working some angle at a hustle. I doubt this dude wants to engage in a scholarly discussion on the intracies of our Constituion at midnight at the damn Howard Terminal of all places.
“What the fuck do you want, bro? Get on with it.”
He reaches behind his back and into his shorts with that same stupid grin on his face.
I jump back and throw my hands up, “Whoa, what the fuck, man.” For a moment I’m conviced this asshole has a gun and I’m fucked.
“Cause I have this copy of the Constitution test study guide and I’d be willing to part with it for five dollars.”
“Bro, a Constitution test study guide? Do I look like I’m in eigth grade? Get the fuck out of here with that shit.”
“I’m saying, big brother, with the way things are going on in this country with polices, it’d do a brother alright to know his constitutionally afforded rights.”
“Hey, man, take that shit back to whatever kid you jacked that from, they’ll need it to pass 8th grade.”
“And get another hustle that doesn’t involve selling school books at midnight.”
I go on waiting and wishing to hell that this stupid bus gets here so I can go home. A few minutes pass and I see that same guy walk into the tunnel and approach the two guys inside it, “Say, big brothers…”
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I like riding Chicago’s CTA train systems, especially the El system. Been doing it all my life. There’s something about zipping through the city on train tracks high above the ground that brings a sense of nostalgia that links me to the old Chicago.
Besides, it’s convenient, economical, and environmentally friendly. And it’s exciting.
I mean, if rocking back and forth on a set of old rickety train tracks at speeds of up to 50 mph doesn’t get your adrenaline going, I don’t know what to tell you.
It sure as hell gets me pumped. Not to mention the characters you come across when you ride the train system.
So whenever I can, I ride the El….
A few nights ago I decided to ride the Red Line to this thing I had to do.
I’m sitting on the platform at the Granville stop listening to some music to pass the time.
Train rolls up, I get on and find a seat.
At the next stop the doors open and this old, scruffy looking white guy walks in and sits down on the seat next to me.
I scoot over to give him some space and keep on listening to my music, when I hear a muffled: “Hey, man.”
I pop my right earbud out and turn to him and say: “What?”
“Hey, man,” he says as he pulls out a joint from his coat pocket. “You wanna hit this?”
“No, I’m good, bro,” I say. “Besides, I’m pretty sure you can’t smoke on the train.”
“What the fuck? When did that start?”
“Well weed? Probably since forever, but tobacco, well over ten years now.”
“That’s bull shit, man,” he says as he shoves the joint back in his pocket.
I pop my earbud back into my ear and keep on listening to my music.
A few minutes go by and the old, scruffy white man keeps quiet.
Then, again, a muffled: “Hey, man.”
“What?” I say as I pop the earbud back out.
“You ever wonder what direction this train is heading in?”
“What the hell are you talking about?”
“I mean, it can be conducted from both sides, so, are we headed forwards or backwards, man?”
“We’re headed south. That’s where we’re headed. And if we were headed the other way, we’d be going north.”
“Shit, man. That’s crazy.”
“It’s not crazy. You can go north, south, east or west on these trains. Forwards or backwards is irrelevant.”
“That’s some crazy shit, man. Did you go to college or something? You’re a smart dude.”
“Yes, but that has nothing to do with it….”
Frustrated, I pop my earbud back in and try to ignore the guy as best I could, hoping that he wouldn’t bother me again.
After a few more stops: “Hey, man.”
“Bro, what the fuck?” I snap as I pop my earbud out for the last time.
“Whoa, whoa, man. I don’t like your negative energy. I’m just going to have to find my self another seat in this car where the vibes aren’t so dark. I just wanted to see if you wanted to hit this joint.”
“I told you no and that you can’t smoke on the train.”
“Well here I thought you were a really cool dude with your “north and south” talk but it turns out you’re a douche.”
He gets up, walks to the other side of the train where he begins the same routine with another passenger.
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-Hey, New Kid, you got a minute?
-Yeah, Frank. Whatcha need?
-I just need help with this guy in room 19.
-You got it, Frank.
-Great, grab some patient labels off the counter there for this guy and come on in. It’ll only take a minute.
-Ok….Why are all the lights off?
-Cause we do that sometimes for the families.
-Hold on, I need to grab a bag out of the closet….
-A bag for what, Frank?
-For the patient, dummy. You get those labels?
-Yeah, Frank. Here you go.
-Let’s see…. One for the belongings, one for the outside of the bag and one for the toe. Alright, we’re set.
-Hey, New Kid, you wanna learn something, or what? Stop with all the questions and pull that sheet off the patient. I’m trying to teach you the job.
-Alright, alright. It’s just that… Oh, fuck. It’s a dead body.
-Of course it’s a dead body. The patient died an hour ago. Where the fuck were you when the radio nurse screamed out “arrest” and all the loud alarms were dinging and a dozen people were screaming shit back-and-forth, like, he doesn’t have a pulse?
-I don’t know. In another room. I’ve never seen a dead body before.
-Hey, sit the fuck down before you pass out. You look like shit.
-I’m fine. No, I’m good. Let’s do this, Frank.
-For fuck’s sake, New Kid. They’ll just hire any bastard that watched a medical TV show and thought it’d be cool to work in an ER, won’t they?
-I’m sorry, Frank. Seriously, I’m good.
-You pass out, or throw up, or piss your pants and you won’t get no sympathy, we’ll just send your sorry ass out on the floor all pissy and vomity to finish up your shift.
-I’m good. Really.
-Alright, roll the body to your side. But cover the mouth with this towel cause shit tends to come out and you don’t want it all over your scrubs or shoes.
-I’ll slide the bag under and we’ll flip the patient to my side and you can pull the bag under to your side.
-Keep your shit together, New Kid. It’s just a dead body.
-I’ve never seen a dead body, I’ve never touched a dead body….
-We’ll guess what, today you get to do both. Now flip the guy to your side. I wanna get this over with so I can go eat lunch.
-Alright, here I go.
-There, was that so difficult? It’s like touching any other human being, only a dead one.
-I feel sick to my stomach…. Oh God did it just move?
-Yes, asshole, cause you just moved it. Bodies tend to shift when you move them. For fuck’s sake….
-I’m sorry, Frank.
-Now I’ll flip him my way and unroll the bag under him, we tag him, zip it up and we’re done. There you go.
-Sorry I got all squeamish on you, Frank. And thanks for taking the time to teach me the job.
-Don’t worry about it, New Kid. We’ve all been there.
-So were you just like me when you started the job?
-Fuck no, are you kidding me? I wasn’t half the chump you are. You looked like you were ready to pass out. And you’re no where as good looking as me, so no, New Kid, we’re nothing alike.
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So as the title may suggest, I’m in good ol’ Mexico on vacation and on a little personal business as well. Actually the fiancé and I are both down here.
Last night the fiancé and I are at the local bar, having some drinks and shooting some pool. A little friendly, yet competitive game, only we both suck at it. So the only interesting thing about the game is the shit talking every forth or so shot that we actually get to go in.
Her: That’s right, sucker.
Me: That’s how I do.
Back and forth, in one variation or another, one extended game after another of pure shit. But we’re having fun. So we keep at it.
Then in the middle of one of the games I find myself having flash backs to memories of my old man and time we spent shooting pool when I was a kid.
Things like him teaching me how to “put some English on the ball” and “the last pocket rule” and, what I realize triggered all of it as I find myself trying to make a shot and not being able to find a descent angle, the “sissy stick.”
Now I’ve written about my old man’s unusual style of parenting. Whether it was his twisted sense of humor or his equally twisted style of teaching his sons to swim. My pop’s way of teaching his boys how to shoot pool was just as harsh yet loving and full of the same sense of don’t-take-yourself-too-seriously-it’s-just-a-game-but-I’m-your-father-and-I’ll-whip-your-butt approach.
To this day I don’t even know what the proper term is for the pool cue stick with the attachment at the end that improves your chances of making a shot at a bad angle, usually beyond what you’d normally be able to reach with a normal cue.
The sissy stick, guys….
It’d go somethings like this: ‘Dad I can’t reach.’
‘Figure out the angle.’
‘I can’t. It’s too far.’
‘Let me see. Oh, yeah you can reach it.’
‘We’re shooting pool here, son. It’s all math. You can. Just figure it out.’
‘But I can’t.’
‘Oh, ok, just use the sissy stick then.’
I remember not knowing what the “sissy stick” was and knowing it wasn’t a personal attack on me, but I knew it wasn’t something I was going to use by the tone in his voice.
He’d place the stick on the table and say, “Go ‘head. Use it.”
Looking back it wasn’t a challenge to my manhood(actually boyhood at the time) my old man wasnt calling me a sissy if I used something to aide my shot, he was using terminology he’d picked up growing up in the 70’s in some of the roughest Puerto Rican neighborhoods in Chicago to motivate me to try harder.
To figure it out. There’s always an angle. Some times you just got to work harder to find it.
It’s helped me in life, unfortunately it hasn’t helped my pool game. I still suck.
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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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-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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