-The kid’s dead.
-Last night. Overdose. Fucker had a taste too much of that bad shit.
-For fuck’s sake. His ma know yet?
-Nope. Billy told me he passed this morning. Found him under the bridge on Fullerton Ave. Pockets emptied with the needle still stuck in his arm.
-Shit. God knows he’s been out of control for a long while. Now the bastard got what he wanted.
-Death is bound to get your ass when you’re chasing it the way he was. The kid was shooting anything he could get his hands on.
-Yeah. I guess when you chase it that hard, what’d you expect? The mother fucker is bound to show up.
-He’s so young, though. Never thought he’d catch it at his age.
-The mother fucker don’t discriminate. Act out and it’ll get your ass. Fucking kid.
-Fucking kid… Any word on the shit he got that did it? I don’t want to be fucking around with that shit. The kid was a fucking stud. If it got his ass, it’ll get us.
-Billy said it was that shit down south. Those mother fuckers always got that stomped on, chemical bullshit.
-Mother fuckers always do. Trying to make an extra buck.
-I told him to stay away from that shit. But it’s cheap. No young junkie I know going to turn down a cheap high.
-He didn’t know no better. Poor fucking kid.
-Well, whatcha going to do? Shit happens.
-Yeah it does.
-God I fucking need a taste.
-Let’s hit up Division, Billy says they have that good shit.
-Fuck it, let’s go.
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It’s Saturday, time to write my weekly post, and I’m faced with the same problem that’s been nagging me for months now: I can’t seem to write anything that’s even remotely funny.
I used to be able to with no problem. I’d sit down at my computer, and the humor would come pouring out of me.
I’d write about the countless tragically humorous stories that have happened in my life. I’d write about funny stuff that happened to other people. Hell, if I couldn’t think of any true stories to tell, I’d just make something up.
And it was always a hit with the thousands of readers that frequent this site.
But I don’t know what’s going on lately. I just can’t manage one funny story to save my life.
Even if something comical does happen to me or someone else I know, by the time I transfer it from my brain down onto the page, it’s lost its funny edge.
I don’t want to lose this sweet gig. You know, with great pay and perks, it’d be a shame to get fired cause I’ve lost my funny edge. I mean, it is a humor website.
They recently called me into a meeting at our plush Michigan Ave. offices.
The moment I stepped out of the elevator, I knew it was going to be a rough meeting. I could hear Milo cursing at an intern in Serbian for buying the wrong brand of whiskey and smokes for his mid-morning drink and smoke break.
“Govedo jedno, how many times do I have to tell you I don’t drink or smoke this shit?” he roared.
“I’m sorry, Milo, it’s just that….”
“My ass. You’re fired, Kurac. Get out of my face.”
The poor intern ran passed me in tears as I made my way down the hallway and into our offices.
Luckily for me, though, I picked up a bottle of Slivovitz for Milo and a box of Popeyes for Benny Jay on the way in to help smooth things over.
When I walked into the office, I handed Milo the bottle and Benny Jay the chicken.
Milo looked at me suspiciously, unscrewed the top and took a big pull from the bottle.
“Sit down, fuck face,” he said
I went to sit down on a chair across from them.
Benny Jay had already started to go to work on the chicken before I was in my seat.
He paused for moment, mouth full of fried chicken, and said: “The stuff you’re turning in is shit.”
“Complete horseshit,” Milo chimed in as he drank from the bottle again.
“I mean, I know it hasn’t been my best stuff, but….”
“But nothing, asshole. We do humor here and your shit ain’t funny.”
“Well maybe it’s not funny to you guys, but I’m sure it’s funny to some people. Like our younger readers.”
Benny Jay stopped eating the chicken and looked at Milo, then he hit the speaker phone button and dialed a number.
By the sound of the voice that answered on the other end I could tell it was No Blaise.
“Yeah,” she answered.
“No, darling, it’s Milo, we got fuck face over here. What do you think about his writing lately?”
“It’s shit, Milo. Actually, horseshit. Not one funny word to it.”
Milo took another long pull from the bottle and gave me a stern look, as if to say, ‘We told you so.’
“Alright, babe, we’ll let you go,” Benny Jay said, mouth still full of fried chicken. “You’re a superstar, remember that. That last bit you did was hilarious.”
“Thanks, Benny,” she said.
Benny Jay hung up and looked me in the eyes.
“She’s around your age. She thinks it’s shit,” he said, both sides of his mouth stuffed with chicken and his hands and face all greasy. “What should we do, then?”
I just stared back. I didn’t have an answer. I just hoped he wouldn’t fire me.
Out of the corner of my eyes, I could see Milo periodically taking swigs from the bottle.
It felt like an eternity.
The stare was so intense that I broke eye contact for moment and looked to the ground.
Then I heard two thuds and looked up to see Milo passed out drunk on the floor and Benny Jay in a food comma face first in a box of fried chicken.
I tiptoed out of there and made my way outside.
As I was walking down Michigan Ave., I thought, ‘Huh, saved by Slivovitz and a box of Popeyes.’
Let’s just hope I get my funnies back before the bosses wake up.
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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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My old man is an old school kind of guy. He grew up in Chicago in the 60′s and 70′s in different neighborhoods throughout the city.
So needless to say, he spent a lot of time on the streets playing sports. And truth be told, my old man can play them all.
So growing up, he always made sure me and my brother played sports. He’d take us out and play fast pitch with us. He’d take us to the park and play basketball with us. Hell, he’d wake us up every Saturday morning and challenge us to a wrestling match. He wanted his boys to be tough and active.
But my old man isn’t like most. He wouldn’t take it easy on us cause we were kids. He’d give us a real ass whipping, and he’d enjoy it.
“It will make you tough,” he’d say.
I remember for years we’d play basketball and he’d be ruthless. He would beat me up in the post, playing as physical as if he were playing and adult. He’d block my shots and talk smack.
His favorite saying after he would demolish me in a game would be: “One day, son. One day you will beat me, but not today.”
I was probably 11 or 12 when this was going on.
Like I said, my old man isn’t like most. He’s a competitive son of a gun. He doesn’t like to lose. Even if it’s to his own kids. And he was like that all through our childhood and teenage years.
A couple years back, my dad, my brother and I decided to start a round of weekly games of racquetball at our local YMCA.
My old man–in his 50′s now–thought it would be good for us as a family to get some regular sporting activities in together.
So one day we’re at our Y playing a game.
It’s the three of us, and we’re playing a round of cut throat.
My pops is all over the court, has the accuracy of a marksman when it comes to placing that little blue ball. He has me and my brother running all over the court, chasing his well-placed serves.
Then he and my brother get into an argument about a call. My brother says the ball hit off the floor before hitting off the front wall. My dad says it didn’t. They go back and forth for a while, both passionately arguing their cases.
Normally my dad would let it go. But my brother is arguing in a high-pitched falsetto voice for some reason. Has been talking like that the whole game. He does crazy stuff like that sometimes, just to throw us off.
“Nah, daddy, the ball hit the ground,” he said in a high-pitch voice.
“The ball did not hit the ground, boy,” my dad replied. “And why are you talking like that?”
“It hit the ground, daddy. I saw it, and you’re wrong,” my brother replied in that same high-pitched voice.
“Boy, I’m telling you it didn’t.”
“You’re wrong daddy, just wrong.”
My dad let it go. But I could see in his eyes that he was planning something.
On his next serve it become evident what he was planning on doing.
My brother was on the front line of the court, I was just behind him, and my dad behind me.
We all set up, ready for his serve. I looked over as my dad threw the ball in the air, reached back as far as he could with his racquet and with an evil grin on his face, proceeded to hit the ball as hard as he could right into the center of my brother’s back.
My brother let out a squeal, threw both his hands up and arched his back with his chest sticking out forward.
He dropped to his knees and then fell to the ground as if he had been shot.
“Oh, God,” he screamed.
My dad walked over to him with a smile on his face, laughing.
“What’s a matter, boy?”
My brother just rolled around on the ground in pain.
My old man is a vet of the racquetball courts. Blasting someone in the back was how you intimidated someone, or paid them back for something you were unhappy about.
From that moment forward, my brother ditched the high-pitched voice, and we both cringed every time my pops served the ball.
We both lost that game.
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I was sitting at my parents’ house the other day, talking with my old man about stuff, when an old memory from my childhood came up.
“Hey, Pa, you remember that time you scared me halfway to death in the Old Church?” I asked.
“What are you talking about?” he responded.
“Yeah, you told me to go get your bible one day after Sunday evening service and the lights in the sanctury were off and I was scared but I went anyway cause you told me to.”
His eyes glimmered and he grinned as the memory slowly returned to the forefront of his mind.
“I’m not sure….”
But they’ve worked. He’s raised two seemingly normal boys.
Well, almost normal….
Anyway, so I continued to recount that night as I remembered it.
“We were in the basement in Pastor’s office and you realized you’d left your bible in the front pew where you always sat. You told me to go up there and get it. Remember, I was like 8?”
“Ok,” he said as the grin reappeared on his face.
“So I went up there. But all the lights were off and it was hard to see. I was scared.”
“Why were you scared?”
“The Old Church was creepy at night, those large stain glass windows and that two story painting of Jesus ascending into heaven, it freaked me out.”
“Ok, so what happened then?” he asked wearing that same grin.
“I walked slowly up the main aisle toward the front where you used to sit. I scanned the empty church in every direction.”
“What were you looking for?”
“I don’t know. I was 8-years-old. I was looking for demons or ghosts or something.”
We were brought up in the Church. So that meant we were taught to believe in Jesus, God and angels and their much maligned counterparts the Devil and his demons.
Good versus evil; Holy versus sinful.
You get the idea.
So bumping into a demon was a very real and scary idea to me at the age of 8. It was like my boogie man.
I continued telling him the story.
“So I moved slowly and carefuly up the aisle. I was midway to the first pew when I saw a shadowy figure move quickly up the left aisle, then disappear in a dark spot.”
“Ok?” he said, fully remembering that night. I could tell because he broke out from a grin into a full smile. “Go on.”
“It freaked me out. I thought a demon was moving around the sanctuary.”
“Why would you think that?” he said as he laughed.
“Because, in my mind, it looked like those villain characters in the old cartoons, the ones that walked around on their tippy toes with hunched backs and their hands pulled up into a doggy paddle position.”
“Alright, so you saw the shadow, then what?”
“I decided to move quickly and get the hell out of there. I ran up to the first pew and grabbed your bible.”
“And, that’s when you grabbed my ankle and screamed like a mad man.”
He couldn’t even respond, he just busted out into laughter.
“I ran out of there so quickly, I almost tumbled down the stairs.”
He kept on laughing uncontrollably.
“That was cruel. I was 8 and you scared the hell out of me.”
He continued to laugh as he said, “I know, but that was hilarious. You got to admit, that was good.”
My 8-year-old self didn’t agree, but my 33-year-old grown self had to admit, it was a good prank.
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When it comes to great fathers, my dad is probably as good as they come. He always worked his ass off to make sure his family had what we needed, and he always put our needs before his.
In raising my brother and me, my old man, who is also named Rolando, was tough but fair.
He didn’t put up with dishonesty or disrespect. He always made sure we respected him and our mother. If we didn’t, he was quick to discipline us.
It was this upbringing that shaped who we are as men today.
It’s safe to say that you could pretty much attribute any good qualities we have as a men to him, and if I do become a father, I plan to follow his example.
But there are certain aspects of his parenting methods that I won’t be using if I have children.
My dad is a sink or swim type of guy—literally.
When we were babies—around five or six—we’d always take a yearly summer trip to Florida. We’d go to the beach and Disney World and enjoy all that Florida had to offer.
Those were some of the most memorable moments of our childhood.
But mixed in with those good memories, are some traumatizing memories that still haunt us today.
My dad, who is an excellent swimmer, took it upon himself during these trips to teach his sons how to swim.
We would learn early and we would learn well — that was his theory.
I’ll never forget it…
We were at the Days Inn in Clearwater, FL. I was around five-years-old. We woke up early that day cause my dad said we were going down to the pool to swim.
Excited by the thought of a day at the pool, I threw on my trunks, gathered my floaties and eagerly followed my old man as we made our way down to the pool.
It was a typical hot summer day and the other hotel guests were out enjoying the sun. Kids were jumping into the pool and splashing in the water.
I was eager to join in on the fun. I had my floaties around my arms and was ready to jump in when my dad called to me.
“Come here, son,” he said lovingly.
“I want to go play, daddy,” I said.
“You will, son, but come here first.”
I walked towards him and he picked me up, looked into my eyes and smiled a great big smile.
“I’m going to teach you how to swim today, son,” he said as he began removing one floatie from my arm.
I thought nothing of it.
“Alright, daddy,” I said.
He then removed the other floatie and started to walk towards the deep end of the pool.
I still thought nothing of it. He was my dad — surely, he would cause me no harm.
When we got to the deep end, my dad said these now infamous words: “Son, today you will learn how to swim.”
Before I knew what was happening, I was six-feet in the air, free-falling into the deep end of the pool.
As I fell towards the clear blue water, it still hadn’t registered what was happening to me. It wasn’t until I came splashing down into the pool that the reality hit me.
My first reaction was to scream, which caused me to swallow water. I splashed and flailed my arms as I struggled to keep my head above water.
I can remember popping my head above water as I struggled to make it to the edge of the pool and seeing my dad with his arms crossed, standing there, screaming: “Swim or drown. Swim or drown, boy.”
When I finally made it to the edge and out of the pool, my dad, proud because I had “learned how to swim,” picked me up and tried to explain to me how “humans are actually born knowing how to swim and all we have to do is get past the fear of drowning to realize it.”
I was too hysterical. All I could do was cry and punch at him for throwing in to the pool.
For the rest of that trip I wouldn’t go near the pool unless my mom was present.
More than twenty years later, my dad remains unapologetic for his unusual teaching method.
Whenever it comes up during family dinners he always says: “Let me ask you a question — do you know how to swim?”
To which I can only respond: “Yes.”
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-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.
-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.
-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?
-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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