No Days Off – Give It All You’ve Got

We all want to succeed. We all want to achieve our potential. It takes effort. It takes commitment. It takes a deep personal belief that deep inside a voice says, “yes, you can do this.” Of course we can. If we commit to the hard work. If we commit to the effort. If we commit to rising above the stumbles. Commit to giving it everything you’ve got. Don’t hold back. As they say in the video, “No Days Off.”

 

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She Got a Boyfriend?

It has to be a dream. I know it isn’t. I’ve entered the alt ego world and can’t find my way back.

Tony holds my right arm and Fredo my left as they guide me toward Mario’s Ice Storage. The door opens. Lil Carlo steps out wearing a winter cap pulled down over his ears. He has a thick winter overcoat dropping down over his ankles. A thick woolen scarf wrapped four times around his neck. His hands are thrusts into his coat pockets. He looks like a capybaras, the dog size rat now in Florida.

“Here’s da package Carlo,” said Fredo.

The rodent speaks, “Hey, how many times I gonna to tell use to calls me Lil Carlo so’s nobody gets confused me with Bigger Carlo, and Really Big Carlo? I ought to put a bullet where you don’t want me to put a bullet if use knows what I means.”

Fredo raises his hand.

“What?” barks Lil Carlo.

“Five times?”

Lil Carlo ponders the suggestion. Then says, “Three.”

Fredo says, “Deal.”

“Go get some clothes for this guy, he’ll freeze his nuts off,” said Lil Carlo.

“Hey, it’s a family blog. Cut that language out,” I said.

“I forgets. Anyway, everybody likes peanuts, the roasted kinds with lots of salt. Me, personally, I likes the kind with Sriracha sauce. It’s new on the market.”

“I believe peanuts are a legume, not a nut,” I said.

Lil Carlo pulls a gun out of the coat pocket. He points it at me. He said, “I believes use is incorrectly mistaken and appropriating the wrong meaning to peanuts. It looks like a nut. It tastes like a nut, so, I asks use, it must be a …”

“Nut?” I said.

“Good choice,” said Lil Carlo slipping his gun back into his overcoat pocket.

Tony brings me a stocking hat, gloves, overcoat, and cashmere scarf. “You’ll be okay if use don’t stay in the freezer for more than a half hour. If use in there more than a half hour, maybe your nose gets frozen. Although, I never heard of a nose falling off from frostbite, but if it did, it gots to hurt. Use looks like you could lose a inch or two and still be okay.”

“Thanks for the compliment,” I said.

“No problem. That’s the second thing I did for use. Use remembers the first thing?” said Tony.

Before I can answer, Big Carmen comes up to me and gives me a bear hug. I hope he didn’t break two ribs. He squeezed the air out of my lungs.

“I sees use is noy verse since use is having a hard time breathing. This is a normal reduction for peoples who applied for this position,” said Big Carmen.

I gasp, “I, I didn’t apply.”

“Ssshhhh. Use don’t want the family to hears that I did you a favor of a lifeline.”

Lifeline? Did he mean lifetime? I can’t follow these guys. How am I supposed to communicate with them?

Big Carmen turns me toward the back of the room. I don’t see anyone. “Where is everyone?” I ask.

“In da freezer.”

“In the freezer?”

“What I just say? I hates to repeat myself or repeat others. It’s like seeing reruns, which I never liked because I know how the ending ends,” said Big Carmen.

“Why, the freezer?” I ask.

“Why not?” said Big Carmen. Then he added, “I just teached (yes, he said teached) use a lesson. The lesson being never answer a question unless use answers a question with a question. Lets me gives use an example. Suppose the cops are grilling use and they say, ‘What can use tell us about Big Carmen?” Use say, “Big Carmen? or “Do use know how big Big Carmen is?” See what I’m saying?”

“I see what you’re saying.”

“Exactly. See, noboby ever got convicted of asking a question. They only get convicted for answering a question. Use follow me?”

“Every place you go,” I said.

“Now that is not true. Use do not follow me to the toilet. Nobody follows me there. Use don’t follow me to the confessional, which by the way is where I am every Saturday so I remain holy just in case.”

“I follow you,” I said.

He opened the door to the freezer. I’m staring at three guys with ski masks, stocking hats, winter coats, boots, gloves, and cataract sunglasses.

Big Carmen said, “The person of no interest on the right goes by Pepper cause he gots a hot temper. The person of some interest in the middle goes by Whale since he encourages those who disagrees with him to go whale watching. The person of considerable interest on the left goes by 5th cause that’s what he’s always pleading.”

“Very interesting,” I said.

“No, it is not interesting to use, never. If it is never interesting use can’t remember what is was that wasn’t interesting in which case if use are ever asked if use discovered something interesting in use job, use answers truthfully, use can even pass the lie inspector test.” said Big Carmen.

He turned to  the three ski masks, “Dis is Ray, Fredo suggests we calls him Toe Food cause that what he likes to eat if anyone displeases him, if use knows what I means.”

Pepper, Whale, and 5th nod as if they’ve practiced the wave. I’m freezing. My teeth are chattering. I’ve goosebumps on my goosebumps. I read someplace what I’m experiencing is like canoeing down the Amazon and the canoe is surrounded by piranha. All you can do is paddle.

 

“So’s use is the new manager if we says use is the news manager,” said Whale.

“I don’t like the news. I never watch it,” I said.

The 5th stared at me, then huddled with the other two.

They broke the huddle. Pepper gestured to me with a crooked index finger the size of a brat. He said, “Perfect answer. Use is hired.”

At that moment, the alt ego universe stood still, if, for only a second. The door burst open, Tony and Fredo pulled guns. Big Carmen said, “Chill, it’s the beautiful, tough, and edgy model for Carmen’s Pizzeria.”

Pepper took off his cataract glasses and said, “She’s hot.”

Whale removed his cataract glasses and said, “How’d use get her Big Carmen?”

The 5th took off his cataract glasses, drool spilled over his lower lip. He said, “She got a boyfriend?”

Before Big Carmen can speak, La Flor said, “You can’t have Ray. He’s my agent. If you sign him up as manager, I won’t do anymore ads for Big Carmen.”

I wanted to kiss La Flor. I’ll never say a bad word about her again. La Flor, beautiful, tough, and edgy whatever she wants to be is my hero.

La Flor, wrapped in a $10,000 waist length fur coat, black leather spiked heel boots that clung to her calfs, her hands on her hips, glared at the Whale.

The Whale said, “The dame’s tough.”

Pepper said, “Yah, buts she’s beautiful.”

And the 5th said, “She’s edgy.”

Big Carmen said, “I can lose use Ray, but I can’t lose the beautiful, tough and edgy one. She’ll break my boy’s heart and step on it with those heels. Besides, my pizza sales are through the roof. Take them home Tony and Fredo.

“Can we makes a deal with the beautiful, tough, and edgy one to be his administrative assistant. She don’t have to do nothing cept looks beautiful, tough, and edgy. The three of us likes the eye candy.”

“How much will you pay me? What perks do I get?” asked La Flor.

“Huh?” Will this circus ever end?

 

 

The Quest Written On Your Heart

It’s never easy to set out on a quest where there is no guarantee of success. I’ve met people who said, “I could have . . . I would have …. but . . .” There is always an excuse. A manufactured reason they didn’t dare go on their quest. Your quest, the quest written on your heart is calling you. It’s begging you to start. Don’t be afraid. Don’t make excuses. Enter the quest and don’t look back. The following YouTube video will motivate you to take action and begin the journey for the quest written on your heart.

 

Mob Hits – It’s Not The Movies

I buy my suits at Men’s Wearhouse. I’ve never worn a $4000 dollar suit. The shirt cost I’m wearing costs more than all the suits in my closet combined. The shoes, tie, and cufflinks they handed me? If I purchased them, I’d need a second mortgage. Why am I doing this? It’s my blog, I can rewrite the script. Yet, there is an alien force alive in the alt ego world pulling me deeper and deeper into its parallel universe. What have I got to lose? To start with, the little sanity I have left after bringing La Flor into the mix.

The voice from the living room brings me out of my reverie, “Use ready, we don’t want to keep the family waiting. It won’t look good for anybody and that means nobody,” said Tony.

I need to pick up mob speak as a second language. I did a final check in the mirror, pulled my cuffs out. Have to admit I look good. First born Italian sons always have a gigantic ego. Even when it is not deserved.

Tony is wearing a black leather driving cap. He has black driving gloves. Black T-shirt, black pants. For an instant, I wonder if I’m going to a funeral. He opens the back door to the black stretch limo. I get in and Fredo slides in next to me. His dress is the same except for the hat. He’s wearing dark shades.

“I don’t want use to gets lonely,” said Fredo. He takes out a pair of earplugs, pops them into his ears and starts watching a video on his phone.

I want to make conversation, “What movie are you watching?”

“Hey Tony, he wants to know what movie I’m watching.”

Tony starts laughing so hard, he bangs his right palm on the dash board. Fredo, pauses his movie. He’s laughing too. He stops laughing, he wipes the tears from his face. He turns to me and said, “Mob hits. It’s not the movies.”

Mob hits. It’s not the movies?”

“How shall I puts it to use? Use know how ESPN does the best plays of the day from the day before in case use didn’t see them?”

“Yes?”

Fredo says, “Something like that. Let’s say it is a training film made from real experience. Like a reality show, but it is not a reality show.”

Enough. As soon as I get back I’m calling the FBI and entering the witness protection program against the alt ego mob. What am I saying? I created the alt egos.

“Dis is use problem, if I may say so. Noticed I did not use use name because if I did use use name, somebody who’s not supposed to hear what I am saying will hear what I am saying and use may come under discussion. If use knows what I mean. Shake your head if use follows my logical,” said Fredo.

Is there a grammatical rule against using use use back to back? Of course there is, please don’t email, text, or call and explain the rule to me. I did not follow his logic because there is no logic to follow. Fredo speaks in convoluted sentences without a sentence structure. I nod my head. What else can I do?

Fredo goes back to his training film. Tony hollers back, “Use need a stiff drink to calm use nervousness before use interview?”

“I don’t drink,” I said.

“This is a mistake,” said Tony.

“Why? I do it for health reasons.”

“I gonna gives use a clue. Now if they accepts use for the position which everyone knows use is interviewing for, I want use to remember hows I went about to help use prepare. Everybody who’s gonna interview use is gonna be drinking wine. They gonna offer use wine, if use don’t drink it, they’s gonna think there is something wrong with use. Use won’t get the job.”

I try to play this cool, seeing my way out of my predicament. I wonder if I can keep the suit. I say, “I eat tofu too.”

“Hey, Fredo, use hears what he jus said? He said he eats toe food.”

Fredo pulls out his earplugs, “Use eats toe food?”

I assumed this is there way of speaking, I nod.

“They gonna love this man, Tony. He’s a cannonball. He’s not gonna take any cannoli from anybody likes the last guy.”

I think he meant to say cannibal instead of cannonball. I let it go, instead, I ask, “The last guy?”

“Yah, he’s coming up on my training film. He made a nice exit if use knows what I mean. He coulda made the Olympic swim team if they have diving from overpass on I-35 at rush hour. You wants to see it?

“Not now, Fredo, we’s here,” said Tony out of the corner of his mouth.

Tony pulls the limo to a stop in the warehouse district. Tony says, “We’s at cooperate.”

“You mean corporate?”

“Whad I say?”

Mario’s Ice Storage? Corporate? A sign on the door, Reopens When We Reopens. 

 

 

Never Quit – Never Quit

Our innate ability to bounce back from tragedy amazes me. It is part of our DNA if we dare tap into it. We’re not taught how to bounce back in school, or become emotionally prepared for great challenges. When we’re knocked down, we can’t stay down. We MUST get up off the floor and continue. Time and again, life asks us to rise and press forward. This four-minute Vimeo video shows the resilience of Filipino young people after a typhoon. Their courage and resilience are my teachers. I hope they are yours as well.

 

 

 

If The Suit Fits – Wear It

I listen to my ringtone play Theme From The Godfather. I consider letting it go to messages. Then, I think Big Carmen will walk through my door, locked or unlocked. What could he want? I know what he wants. I don’t want what he wants. I don’t want him in the house where he’ll twist my arm,

“Dis is Big Carmen,” The voice on the other end. Really? I’d never guess, duh!

I said, “How’s it going?”

“What chu talking bout?  You talking bout this thing, or that thing, and the other thing. Maybe use mean nothing, see what I’m saying?”

Does the whole family talk this way? Who taught them to speak this way? Are they products of public education? I digress. I said, “I hear you.”

“I said, ‘do you see what I’m saying,’ which is quite different from ‘hear what I’m saying.’ I didn’t ask if use hear. I asks if use see. See what I’m saying?”

I’m a quick learner. I said, “I see what you’re saying?”

“Use talking about the first thing or the second thing or both things?”

I want to ask if this is a multiple-choice exam with free retakes. Instead, I say the first thing that comes to mind, which I immediately regret, “All of the above.”

There is silence. Did he hang up. No, I hear a voice in the background holler, ‘extra cheese, double anchovies.’ I wonder if Big Carmen is working and talking at the same time. He finally speaks, “I pause my thinking because use answer was deep, deeper than the deep dish pizza Struzzerio makes, which use hid under use sofa while I was at use house. Use should have offered me a piece. Even if I hate the Stuzzerios, I loves their deep dish. I make Lil Carlo go in disguise to get me one every now and then.”

“What kind of disguise does he wear when he orders one,” I asked.

“Is use phone got termites, if use know what I means?”

“I know what you mean and my phone doesn’t have termites or ants or roaches.”

“Use can never be too careful. This is why and that is why referring to how use answered my above question why I am going to brings you to the board of directors today for use interview for the position for which I am grooming use.”

I need to change the subject. I said, “What is Lil Carlo’s disguise?”

“See what I’m saying? Use is a detail man. Nobody is going to ask that question because it is one of those hidden questions. The answer is a stocking mask with eye holes just big enough for his thick black rimmed glasses. He looks like a freak when he wears it, let me tell use. If I didn’t knows it was him, he’d scared the crap out of me. But since I know’d it was him, I still haven’t gone. What do use thinks I should take for being plugged up?”

I’ve got to figure out how to escape from the alt ego world. While I’m stuck on the alt ego treadmill I’ll play the game. I said, “I see what you’re saying. Now, about being plugged up, have you thought of adding fiber to the pizza crust?”

“Dis is a joke, right? Use is pulling my legs, maybe both at the same time? Except for California, who ever heard of fiber? Know what I uses fiber for?”

I afraid to ask and afraid not to ask. The better choice, ask, “What?”

“Well, not me, but some people I happen to know who might now and then do a favor or two or three for me. In case anybody is trying to listen, everything I’m saying is on the up and up. They use it for health reasons.”

“That’s what fiber is for. It helps to keep you regular,” I said.

“What the hell use talking about, Ray. They uses it for the health of a third or fourth or fifth party after which the third, or fourth, or fifth party doesn’t have health problems never again. It’s like miracle medicine, which Doc Oz won’t use because he might consider it an edgy alternative medicine. Use reading between the lines and under the covers and in a darkened room, get my drifting?”

“I get your drifting. Thanks for calling. I enjoyed our chat. I got to run. Ciao,” I said.

“Not so fast. Is use mind slipping. I won’t say anything to the family, but don’t let it slip again because the family is forgiving up to a point. What I am telling use for your own good in use interview…”

“Interview? I didn’t apply for a job,” I’m working hard to control my bladder.

“This is a point in your favor, which does away with the other point, which was not in your favor. We saves on paper and personnel when we don’t accept applications. Use interview is in fifteen minutes.”

“But, but, my suit is in the cleaners. My shoes aren’t shined. I don’t have a starched shirt. I have had my sixth cup of coffee,” I said hoping something sticks.

“Taken care of. Tony and Fredo are outside your door. Tony has your Italian made silk suit, shoes, shirt, and tie. Fredo gots use venti coffee with four shots of espresso. He also gots gold cuff links he picked up last night from Hastings Jewelry. See you in fifteen minutes, Ciao.”

“Hey, Ray. Can use dress use self or use going to need help?” asks Tony, a five foot eleven fire hydrant with dark black hair, sunglasses, gold bracelet and chains.

“I can dress myself,” I said.

His twin, I assume Fredo, comes in with my coffee and cuff links. Fredo said, “We dress like this to fit the TV image. Nobody in their right mind dresses this way.”

An interview with the family?

Can I get into the witness protection business?

I hope the suit fits.

 

Age Is Only A Number

Age is only a number. Its number does not prevent us from giving the gift of ourselves to others. We are never too young or too old to offer our gift that will brighten someone’s life. Don’t wait until tomorrow, tomorrow may never come. Now is your time. Now is the moment someone is waiting for your gift. The following short Vimeo video shares the gift of a 95-year-old woman and a song she wrote. You can tell by looking at her, she is a woman filled with love.

 

Are We Done?

“I gonna call a meeting to protect us from forces even too big for the government to stop. Even too big for Big Carmen and the Mob to threaten. Use sees, if I don’t do nothing then nobody is going to do nothing, no how, no way, no time,” said Little Carmen.

“Are you going to do nothing? Is that what you’re saying?” I said.

“That’s exactly my point, Ray-mo. Thanks for asking da question. Like I said, which I didn’t say hold the questions. If you got one question raise your hand with one finger, but not the middle one in the case of misinterruption. If use has two questions raise your hand with two fingers and in this case, use may use the middle finger provision it comes up second and is in the basement to the next finger. If the next finger is cut off use got to use your pinky and ring finger,” said Little Carmen.

“You are so smart, LC. Ray and TT could take lessons from you,” said La Flor checking her social media and unfollowing anyone who she thought was unattractive or a potential competitor.

“What are you talking about?” I asked.

“The question about hows I’m gonna donates use eyes back to use if use don’t have any eyes,” said Little Carmen.

I held up my hand, “Does anyone have a clue as to what Little Carmen is talking about? He’s way over my head?” Sometimes I’ll say anything to keep peace among these four.

“We don’t have mucho time, Ray-mo. The beautiful, tough, and edgy fancy is teaching me to speaks Spinglish.”

“Do you mean fiancé?” I said.

“That’s what I said,” Little Carmen replied.

“What’s Spinglish?” I asked.

TT raises his hand.

“Yes, TT,” I said.

“If I may, perhaps I can help. Spinglish is a combo Spanish, English and street trash talk often found among the uneducated, buffoons of the lower Malgoola River in New Zealand. As far as the first part, he’s talking about the moon and the sun at the celestial cotillion on Monday.”

I used to think TT had more on the ball than the rest, he’s tottering on the edge of a precipice and if he falls, there is no coming back.

“Thanks for the clear if ick a shun,” said Little Carmen believing he was sounding intelligent because he slowly enunciated each syllable of a word.

“Are we finished, LC? I have a nail appointment in twenty minutes,” said La Flor while she was reading her texts.

“Give me five more minutes beautiful, tough, edgy who is wearing a rock so big it will be the envy of every woman who lived or will live.”

“What about extra-terrestrial women?” asked La Flor.

“Great question my beautiful, tough, and edgy mentor,” said Carmela.

“Huh. Is that like the women who wear too much makeup?”

TT nods. Carmela sees TT nod and does the same. La Flor not wanting to lose her audience nods as well and adds, “Too much makeup takes away from one’s natural beauty. But, of course, you have to have natural beauty like me.”

“Well said, my beautiful, tough, and edgy mentor,” Carmela doing her best to suck up to La Flor.

Five more minutes, then I’m out of here, I tell myself. Nothing useful is coming out of this household meeting.

“Likes I was salivating, if use looks directly into the mirror during the e-slips, use will lose your irises and once use lose them, the only place to find them is in the lost and found if somebody turns them in.”

La Flor shouted, “Bravo. We’re done. I don’t have to look into the mirror because I’m perfect. Anyone disagree?”

La Flor looked for a show of hands, “We’re all in agreement. Carmela pay careful attention to how I make the nail techs to do my nails. If you don’t they can be pushy. And, while I’m having my nails done, I want you to go and get me my fav Starbucks drink. You’ll have to hold it up for me to drink because I don’t want to mess my nails.”

“Uh huh,” obeyed Carmela.

The thought of an empty house almost overwhelms me with gratitude. Los cuatro amigos out for the afternoon and perhaps longer. My mind races with plans. A few phone calls and I’ll have dinner with a friend and intelligent conversation. Until . . .

My iPhone rings with a special ringtone for someone I hope never calls me. The ringtone plays the theme from the Godfather.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Year of Grieving

August 19 – Today is the first anniversary of the death of my best friend, soul mate, and wife, Barb Calabrese. I called her Babe. A remarkable woman who taught me more about love than all the words I’ve read on the subject. She touched a large Twitter following, @Barb_Calabrese, reaching out in simple, love-filled ways.

My year has been a year of learning to dance with grieving. A year of learning how to live without someone whom I shared the most intimate secrets of my soul. A year of grappling with why? And, discovering I’ll never know the answer. A year of discovering I am not alone on this journey. All who have suffered a deep loss understand the grieving experience without speaking. They understand by looking into each other’s eyes. Their messages travel silently from heart to heart.

In my year of grieving, I rediscovered a deep faith in God. For unexplained reasons people I know, and strangers enter my life as messengers of love at unexpected times, times when I am low; times when sadness knocks at my door. They pick me up. Make me smile. And, encourage me. I find the strength to go on another day.

Each day, I grow stronger. Each day, I grow more optimistic. And, each day I find my path forward unfolding before me. How does it happen? I believe it is grace. I have no other explanation for it. I don’t think grieving ever ends. But I choose to dance with it.

To all my brothers and sisters who grieve over the loss of a loved one, together let’s find the strength and courage to go on. Together, let’s smile more often. Together, let’s sing joyful and happy songs. Together, let’s celebrate the gift of the life of the person we loved and love; and, together let’s not waste a moment of the wonderful gift of life you and I still share.

Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga Sang For Us

I’m sitting at the table. My yogurt, oatmeal, fruit sit in from of me. My cup of hot dark roast coffee in my hand. Everyone is sleeping. I turn on my iPad and tap the USA Today app to check the headlines. Everything is normal. Chaos in Washington. Chaos in Europe. Chaos in the Middle East. Chaos in Asia. I click on sports, the Sox beat the Yanks in the first game of a crucial three-game series. I click on local news. Two headlines grab my attention:

Thieves Hit Steinberg’s Jewelry Boutique Cleaned Out In Overnight Heist

Strange Breakin at the Museum of Rare Small Boxes

My right-hand starts shaking. I set my coffee down spilling some on the table. Will La Flor be sporting a Steinberg’s classic diamond? I enter into stage one, denial. Impossible. Big Carmen wouldn’t do this. Lil Carlo is too old to try. Little Carmen, not smart enough. I feel better. Until . . .

“Ray, Ray, Ray look at my ring?” La Flor prances into the dining room in her pajamas. Her right hand extended in front of her. I’m nearly blinded by the flashes of light given off by a ring so large I can’t see her knuckle.

“Ray, Ray, Ray look at La Flor’s ring,” said La Flor’s echo, AKA Carmela.

“Did I do good, Ray-mo?” asked Little Carmen.

“Can I get you coffee C,” said TT to Carmela.

C? TT and C?

La Flor sidled up next to me and whispered in my ear, “Don’t worry, TT is practice. He doesn’t stand a chance.”

“When did Little Carmen give you the ring?” I asked.

“You missed it. It was so romantic. I thought Carmela and TT were going to pass out.”

“Where did this happen? How did it happen? You sure it’s not hot?”

“Think like a romantic, Ray. You’re tabloid, hemorrhoid, anthropoid, and typhoid,” La Flor said with a hint of edge.

“Did you mean paranoid?”

“Toss that one in too,” she said.

“Where did you get those words?”

“We played Scrabble after our Romantic dinner.”

“Scrabble after an evening of romance?”

“It was TT’s idea. Never listen to him. He has no clue. Good thing LC made him help me so I could win,” said La Flor.

“He was playing against you. Yet, you made him help you?”

“I didn’t. LC did. We went to Carmen’s Pizzeria for our romantic date.”

“A pizzeria?”

“Yes. He closed it just for the four of us. He had a four-piece band and Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga sang for us.”

“Bennett and Gaga?”

“What’d I say? Big Carmen brings out a hot pizza with all my favorite toppings, cooked the way I like it, and a bottle of Chateau Mouton-Rothschild 1945.”

I ask Siri what that bottle of wine costs. Siri replies, “23 grand. Enjoy.”

“I’m worth every cent. On top of the pizza is a little wooden stand in the middle. On the wooden stand is a small expensive rare box that one can only find at a guarded museum that is probably worth more than everything you own. LC picks up the box. Opens it. And, gives it to me.”

“Did he ask you to marry him?”

“Details, Ray. Details. I’m a big picture woman.”

“He put this rock on my finger. You’ll have to cut my finger off to take it from me.”

I want to ask, “Did it come with a gift receipt? Did Amazon deliver it?”

“You didn’t hear the best part,” La Flor said.

“I didn’t?”

“Big Carmen comes over and gives me a hug. Then he goes and gives Tony Bennett a hug. Then he hugs Lady Gaga.”

“That’s the best part?”

“No, after he whispered something to them, Tony and Lady Gaga came over to request my autograph.”

“Huh?”