Rolando: An ER Death

June 17th, 2017

I’m pretty sure I know how I’m going to die. In fact, I’m almost certain not only do I know how I’ll die, but I also know how my coworkers in the ER are all going to die, as well.

Not from work-related stress. That’d be too easy.


I’m pretty sure an unsatisfied customer is going to do us all in by poisoning.

How’d I come to that conclusion you might be thinking?

It’s simple.

Walk into our ER on a busy day and I guarantee you our folks are running around like crazy, trying to deal with various levels of  “emergencies” of which can include everything from someone who is genuinely sick and near death’s door, to a crazed psych patient, to someone who has had a cold for a day and hasn’t thought to take anything for it–all of which are demanding immediate attention.

We don’t have time for the simple things like bathroom breaks or lunches. So most of the time we’re running around with full bladders and empty stomachs trying deal with “emergencies”–both real and imagined–while trying to keep it all together.

This is where my theory comes in.

From time-to-time, food just shows up in our ER. I mean, not magically, but someone drops it off for the staff. Sometimes it’s a pizza, a tray of sandwiches, Chinese takeout–one minute we’re running around hungry and the next there’s food sitting in the middle of the nurses’ station and we’re all at it like a pack of wild wolves.

It usually starts off like this.

Someone will receive the food from a mysterious donor and place it at the nurses’ station. Next, someone will open it up and eat some and spread the word that there’s food.

Then the mad swarm happens and within minutes we’re all happily munching away and wondering out loud who brought the food.

“God I was starving.”

“Yeah, me too.”

“Who ordered Jimmy John’s?”

“Fuck if I know, Tony said some guy dropped it off at the front desk and said to enjoy them.”

“What guy?”

“I don’t know, some guy.”

“That’s strange…. Pass me another turkey sandwich.”

You see? That’s how they’ll get us. Now chances are it was the manager down at the sandwich shop trying to drum up some business by bringing over some free sampler sandwiches.

But who knows for sure?

Now up to this point no one has keeled over after eating free food that shows up at our door.

And if I’m being honest, no one probably ever will. But if you ever hear on the news that our entire ER staff was wiped out all at once, my bet is it was the free food.

Hell, at least we’ll all go out with full stomachs.

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Rolando: Help Yourself to a Handful

June 10th, 2017

“How’s it going, Ro?”

“I’m good.”

“You sure? You seem a little off.”

“No, I’m good, Stevie.”

“Alright. How was the ride in?”

“It was fine. Took the redline in. It’s Saturday night, so you already know it was packed with assholes.”

“Dude, I like not having to pay for parking when I take the train, but sometimes it’s worth paying the extra cash to avoid mixing in with the riff raff.”

“You’re right. I shouldn’t have been such a cheap ass and paid for parking tonight. So Stupid.”

“Dude, you sure you’re ok?”

“Listen, I’m going to tell you something.”


“But you can’t tell anyone else.”


“You just can’t…”

“…Jesus, dude, alright. Out with it already.”

“I’m pretty sure I got sexually assaulted on my way out of the subway station just now.”

“What do you mean by ‘sexually assaulted’ and by who?”

“I mean I got off the escalator at Chicago and State and started walking to work and got sexually assaulted.”

“What? Like someone attacked you on the street? Sexually assaulted how?”

“Stevie, I’m walking up Chicago towards Michigan Ave and someone grabs my ass.”

“Well, first, that’s not really a sexual assault. That’s some dude grabbing your ass as you walk by him…”

“…Whoa, who said it was a dude?”

“It wasn’t?”

“No, it was a girl.”

“You sure about that? That sounds like a perv dude thing to do.”

“I’m positive, I turned around and there was a group of girls walking past. Not a dude in sight.”

“You freakin’ kidding me? Was she hot?”

“I don’t know, I only saw her back. She had one of those long North Face coats girls wear and some knee-high boots on.”

“So let me get this straight, you’re walking to work and a girl, who may or may not have been hot–but probably was hot–grabbed your ass and you’re all bent out of shape about it? Get over it, already.”

“Stevie, it was an unwanted advance. I’m a gentleman. You can’t just go around grabbing my ass. And besides, I have a girlfriend. I’m sure she wouldn’t appreciate some random chic fondling me on the street.”

“Well did you tell her about it?”


“What’d she say?”

“She made some jokes about it and said, ‘You do have a nice butt.'”

“Ha! You see, even your girlfriend can see the humor in it.”

“Whatever, man. It’s creepy. And a double standard. And not funny.”

“Sensitive Nancy over here… I wish girls would grab my ass. I’d take it as a compliment.”

“Well I should’ve chased her down and slapped her on the ass.”

“Whoa, whoa, man. You can’t be doing that.”

“What? Why the hell not?”

“Cause that’s just creepy, and wrong and not funny at all. She’s a lady. You can’t be slapping a random lady’s ass.”

“You’re an asshole.”

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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.


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.”


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


“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.


-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?'”


“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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