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¿Por Que, Lupe? September 16, 2007

Posted by flyingsirkus in Friends.
1 comment so far

Someone was so thoughtful as to write an online memorial for Daniel Rilleau, for whom my son was named. I never met that Daniel, but he was one of my husband’s best friends and I was really touched to read all of the wonderful memories people associate with him. Another friend of mine recently wrote about how the ages in obituaries seem younger and younger to her. It’s time to contribute an online memorial for an old friend.
I used to work as a personal banker for Bank of America in Sarasota, FL. Before that, I worked as a waitress in a few restaurants around town. One of the restaurants where I worked was a waterfront seafood house called Bart’s Bayside.

There was a line cook who worked there who never failed to crack me up. His name was Lupe, and he was a teddybear pothead, always easygoing about the frantic pace of the kitchen and with a grin like a five year old’s. I remember one of the first conversations we had. Lupe must’ve just finished smoking a joint, because his eyes had that happy-sleepy red tint to them. I was walking by him in a hallway, and I stopped and said, “Lupe! You look sooooo….


I know he was expecting me to say he looked high. But when I said ‘tired’, he just grinned with relief in his shy goofy way and said, “Yeah, yeah, I’m really tired.” We both knew he was stoned. But it was a funny little moment, the kind that you never forget because the moment is just so sweetly silly.

I worked with Lupe for about three years. Sometimes we’d drink beers together after work at the bar, but mostly we just worked together, me goofing up, him just fixing the problem, then clean up, clock out, and Lupe was off in his Buicky low-rider.

Some maturity bug was biting at my ass about two years into my employment there, and I started realizing that if I didn’t stop drinking so much that the bartender would regularly let me pass out in the bathroom to sleep it off, I was going to be one of those fifty year old waitresses with the husky voice and the gin blossoms. I have always had a devil-may-care attitude toward life, but I KNEW fifty year old waitresses and they all carried huge purses to accomodate the mind-rattling number of prescription pill bottles necessary for them to function.

No, thanks.

So I started working as a bank teller at age twenty-two, mostly to curtail my blossoming alcoholism. Don’t let the twenty-two fool you. I had a fake ID at 18 when I lived in Las Vegas, and I left for Italy, where there was no legal drinking age restriction, at 19. I moved to Florida at twenty and turned twenty-one four months later. Every restaurant I worked in had a bar where I’d drink every day I worked. I’d been bar drinking for a good long while by twenty-two.

I surprised myself by being good at responsible office jobbing. I was good enough at it that I was promoted after a year of tellering to teller manager, then to personal banker. Personal bankers are the ones who sit at the desks and open accounts. In a town like Sarasota, it was really easy to get to know the same elderly people who came in every week to open a new CD or roll over an old one, and it was our practice as PB’s to read the obituaries in the papers in the breakroom, since Sarasota is second only to St. Petersburg in earning the nickname “God’s Waiting Room.” EVERYONE in Sarasota is grandparent age or older. So you read the obits to keep up with your customers, and you know to expect the estate paperwork and unfamiliar family members.

I was working as a PB at a bank inside a grocery store, and, since it was a nice day, I had decided to take my lunch outside. I was eating a sandwich and reading the obits, not really thinking about what I was reading, when the name GUADALUPE SERNA jumped out at me like a nightmare terror.

My thoughts were competing with the panicked thunder of my heartbeats for dominance in my brain. “It can’t be Lupe,” I thought. “Maybe it’s his dad?”

No. Guadalupe Serna. Born 1977. My age. My friend.

I saw the name of the funeral home and the date and time of the memorial service. I was sure I wouldn’t know anyone there. But I knew I had to be there to find out what happened, why Lupe. Bart’s Bayside was where I picked up a lot of my early Spanish, and I remember I used to have a little catch-phrase poem to greet my friend: “Hey hey, Por Que, Lupe?”

¿Por Que?

I got to the funeral home as most of the mourners were arriving. The parking lot was full of dark Mexicans, so sad, though the little children were playing together gleefully in their Sunday Mass best. To my relief, the first person I recognized was another server I had worked with at Bart’s. She and Lupe had been the closest of friends, and it was she who told me what had happened.

Lupe had been playing football in the afternoon with some friends. Midway through the game, he said he didn’t feel well, so he decided to drive home. As he was driving, he had an aneurysm and lost control of the car. His car crashed. He died on impact.

The funeral was only the second one I’d ever been to. I had never seen an open casket, and the shock was tremendous. Lupe was in his white football jersey, and he looked for all the world like he was in the middle of a sweet dream. I don’t remember the priest’s words at the funeral. But I do remember a friend of Lupe’s, whom I’d never met, sang and played one of Lupe’s favorite songs to say goodbye.

I still tear up and smile when I hear Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here.”


Glurge and Snark September 6, 2007

Posted by flyingsirkus in Jesusitis.
1 comment so far

A woman on one of my Atheist parenting boards posted this email she was sent by a friend:

Breakfast at McDonald’s

This is a good story and is true, please read it all the way through until the end! (After the story, there are some very interesting facts!):

I am a mother of three (ages 14, 12, 3) and have recently completed my college degree. The last class I had to take was Sociology. The teacher was absolutely inspiring with the qualities that I wish every human being had been graced with.

Her last project of the term was called, “Smile.” The class was asked to go out and smile at three people and document their reactions. I am a very friendly person and always smile at everyone and say hello anyway. So, I thought this would be a piece of cake, literally.

Soon after we were assigned the project, my husband, youngest son, and I went out to McDonald’s one crisp March morning. It was just our way of sharing special playtime with our son. We were standing in line, waiting to be served, when all of a sudden everyone around us began to back away, and then even my husband did.

I did not move an inch… an overwhelming feeling of panic welled up inside of me as I turned to see why they had moved.

As I turned around I smelled a horrible “dirty body” smell, and there standing behind me were two poor homeless men. As I looked down at the short gentleman, close to me, he was “smiling”. His beautiful sky blue eyes were full of God’s Light as he searched for acceptance.

He said, “Good day” as he counted the few coins he had been clutching.

The second man fumbled with his hands as he stood behind his friend. I realized the second man was mentally challenged and the blue-eyed gentleman was his salvation. I held my tears as I stood there with them. The young lady at the counter asked him what they wanted.

He said, “Coffee is all Miss” because that was all they could afford. (If they wanted to sit in the restaurant and warm up, they had to buy something. He just wanted to be warm).

Then I really felt it – the compulsion was so great I almost reached out and embraced the little man with the blue eyes. That is when I noticed all eyes in the restaurant were set on me, judging my every action. I smiled and asked the young lady behind the counter to give me two more breakfast meals on a separate tray. I then walked around the corner to the table that the men had chosen as a resting spot. I put the tray on the table and laid my hand on the blue-eyed gentleman’s cold hand.

He looked up at me, with tears in his eyes, and said, “Thank you.”

I leaned over, began to pat his hand and said, “I did not do this for you. God is here working through me to give you hope.”

I started to cry as I walked away to join my husband and son. When I sat down my husband smiled at me and said, “That is why God gave you to me, Honey, to give me hope.” We held hands for a moment and at that time, we knew that only because of the Grace that we had been given were we able to give. We are not church goers, but we are believers. That day showed me the pure Light of God’s sweet love.

I returned to college, on the last evening of class, with this story in hand. I turned in “my project” and the instructor read it.

Then she looked up at me and said, “Can I share this?”

I slowly nodded as she got the attention of the class. She began to read and that is when I knew that we as human beings and being part of God share this need to heal people and to be healed. In my own way I had touched the people at McDonald’s, my son, instructor, and every soul that shared the classroom on the last night I spent as a college student. I graduated with one of the biggest lessons I would ever learn: UNCONDITIONAL ACCEPTANCE.

Much love and compassion is sent to each and every person who may read this and learn how to LOVE PEOPLE AND USE THINGS – NOT LOVE THINGS AND USE PEOPLE.


This is a great example of glurge, and very poorly written glurge at that. If you are a big fan of glurge, then please read no further. You’ll just get upset. If, on the other hand, glurge makes you go all snarky (like me), then please enjoy my alternate ending.

I leaned over, began to pat his hand and said, “I did not do this for you. God is here working through me to give you hope.”

I started to cry as I walked away to join my husband and son. When I sat down my husband smiled at me and said, “That is why God gave you to me, Honey, to give me hope.”

We held hands for a moment and at that time, we knew that only because of the Grace that we had been given were we able to give….

Well, we all sat down to eat our blessed McBounty, and the homeless men sat a few booths away. We were laughing, having a great time as a family, sharing our favorite Bible verses about how Daddy is the Boss of the Household and how Mommy had better ask next time before spending Daddy’s hard-earned money on fucking bums, because Loving Heavenly Father had given ME to HIM, not the other way around. Then, my little boy said to me, “Mommy, that man is choking.”

I looked over to where he was pointing and saw that the smelly man God had just blessed with free McMuffins was clutching his throat, much like he had clutched his coins earlier. The gagging sounds he was making sounded like the noise my Hummer was making right before we discovered those other homeless people huddled beneath the hood, looking for a little warmth. He fell to the floor, blue with lack of oxygen where he had once been blue with lack of warmth.

The homeless man’s friend looked at me, with pleading eyes. “Ma’am,” he said, fumbling his words, “my friend needs mouth to mouth. Can you please help?”

I turned to my son. “How lucky you are to see this!” I said to him. “Jesus is calling this man home to Heaven!”

With that, we all rushed out the door into the roomy comfort of my megaSUV, where we sang Bible tunes as we sped off toward home, our voices echoing in the cavernous vehicle with all the wonder of Gregorian chant.

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Yes, I’m callous…when I’m calling BULLSHIT. Chicken soup supersaturated with sugar…I heart Barbara Mikkelson.